Douglas Sanderson: World's toughest sort-of Canadian
Like Rabe's The Box and Highsmith's The Tremor of Forgery, Cry Wolfram is a story of foreigners at loose ends in a warm country just as likely to bite them in the ass as it is to give them a suntan. (In this case the foreigners are in Spain chasing down a lucrative concession to mine wolfram — also known as tungsten — hence the book’s delicious pun of a title.)
Like Highsmith and Rabe, Sanderson offers a convincing portrait of a setting outside his own country. Scenes of bull-fighting, religious festivals, and the eerie calm of a small town at night, and of how the latter can scare the bejeebers out of a visitor, are beautifully rendered. While these scenes may not want to make you visit Sanderson's Spain, they will surely give you a vivid picture of what to expect if you do
Cry Wolfram also reminds me a bit of Charles Williams. Like Williams and Rabe at their best, Sanderson could write gracefully and artfully enough to satisfy the demands of a “literary” novel without, however, sacrificing suspense and tough-guy credibility. (Highsmith, of course, was so good as not to need mentioning in this respect.) In only one paragraph — one sentence, really — does Cry Wolfram come even close to literary preciousness. Disregard those eight words, if you like, and enjoy the rest of the book.
(Sanderson came by his knowledge of Spain honestly. Born in England, he moved to Montreal as a young man, then hit the road, settling eventually in Spain, where he married and had a son, according to the good folks at Stark House Press, who publish Cry Wolfram in a twofer edition with Sanderson’s Night of the Horns.)
© Peter Rozovsky 2015