by David Niall Wilson
Narrated by Chris Patton
Published by CrossRoad Press, 2010
Approx. 11.5 hours
“Crossroads or Cross-hairs, it’s all the same. There’s only one way through the pain and that’s through the music.” That’s what the mysterious old bluesman tells Brandt when Brandt learns he as a new musical power. This quote grabbed me in this novel by David Niall Wilson, and kept hold as Brandt, a burned out musician begins to play music that can absolve or dissolve people of their pain. But as Stan Lee says, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” What Brandt must do with this new found power is yet to be revealed.
David Niall Wilson has written a haunting tale of a down and out bar band that is either on the verge of making it or burning out. The band’s leader Brandt is trying to find that one thing in the music that is constantly eluding him, what that is he’s not sure, yet. After leaving their latest gig and being too drunk to drive Brandt walks home. As he’s walking he keeps hearing a haunting blues harmonica being played. When he arrives home he realizes he’s forgotten his keys and decides instead of walking all the way back he swigs some courage from the tequila bottle and decides to track down the mysterious musician. Who he finds is a ghostly figure of Wally, a harmonica playing old bluesman. Wally shows Brandt his hidden talent of playing music by absorbing others’ pain.
The night after learning this Brandt takes the stage with his band-mates and begins playing. As he plays he gets visions of Nazis killing Jews, American Indians being forced to walk the trail of tears and more painful events. Over his shoulder as he’s playing he hears Wally repeat the quote, “Crossroads or Cross-hairs, it’s all the same. There’s only one way through the pain and that’s through the music.” When Brandt finishes the audience is still and his band is staring at him all asking, “What was that?” Brandt leaves without an explanation.
The next night the band has a record exec in the audience, but no Brandt, this time the bassist Cynthia, takes her bass playing to new levels. She has always seen “angels” but tonight she seems to be playing for the angels. Before the angels never paid her any attention, but this time as she plays they are all looking at her and listening with intent. She finishes the song as she sees a vision of her mother, as she reaches out, the record exec breaks the vision and starts his schpiel. She is slightly frightened and leaves.
This now leaves the band down to the Drummer, Dexter, and the rhythm guitarist, Shaver. Shaver has been trying to find “The Song.” “The Song” being what Brandt and Cyn discovered. He plays so much he tears up his fingers so bad he cannot touch anything. His girlfriend Liz tends to his wounded hands and takes him back to Dexter’s apartment so they can find “The Song” and find Brandt and Cyn.
The band all seem to have strange pasts, Dexter was raised by a Church that handled snakes as part of worship (he was left at the steps of the church as an infant). Dexter could handle the snakes because he found the pattern in the snakes, the pattern that is existence. Cyn has always seen “angels,” by this I mean everywhere and all the time. Liz was raised in a church where as each member died the church held a service where food was placed over the body and a dark man known as “The Sin Eater” would gorge on all the food placed in the process eating the sin so the person can reach salvation.
The band meets a man named Payne who seems to be keeping them from their “mission.” But the band heads west to Liz’s home where her father is the “Sin Eater,” but the church is under new leadership and has forgotten their past and the “Sin Eater.” This is where the showdown between the band and Payne will be held.
Through some great musical imagery and excellent sub-plots, David Niall Wilson, has written a captivating story that is full of surprises. The reader, Chris Patton, fully captures the imagery in his excellent voice work and telling of this story. While listening I wasn’t sure if it was Wilson’s words or Patton’s voice, or the combination of the two, but I swear I heard the music in every scene.