“Stone Cold Fever”

No, I have not put this blog to sleep.

Things are probably going to be sparse around here for a couple of months for reasons I won’t get into.

For instance, this is a story discussed on LibraryThing’s Deep Ones group three weeks ago.

Review: “Stone Cold Fever”, Joseph S. Pulver, Sr., 2009.

Stone Cold Fever
Illustration by Peter Szmer

As is if often the case, I wasn’t too fond of this Pulver story. 

It’s a noirish story that isn’t even a truly weird story, but a crime story about searching for a missing boy..

The story reveals some lazy tendencies of Pulver.

The story is told by a vigilante who works in collaboration with some other people. There’s the possibly psychic Shadow, Shade, and the boss, Toni, conveniently the sister-in-law of a state’s attorney general.

The crime to be investigated and avenged here is the disappearance of Kathy’s son.

Kathy just happens to be the sister of Pam, a possible girlfriend of the narrator’s when he was in a band and before he was drafted for the Vietnam War. Yes, he’s a maladjusted Vietnam Veteran: “They said the War was over, you can lie down now – I told them to kiss my ass.”

Adding to the cliches, when he returns from the war he just happens to come upon “five Nazi creeps” raping Pam with Kathy in a closet. Perhaps, Pulver is speaking metaphorically about the Nazis ‘cause real-life, honest-to-god Nazis are pretty scarce on the ground now and also in the 1970s and 1980s, about the time that scene takes place.

Pam winds up in the insane asylum for good. (Both Pam and the narrator seem rather psychologically delicate compared to most rape victims and Vietnam War veterans.)

It seems Kathy’s son came to the attention of some would-be black magician because the boy was into the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game.

Well, the boy is found, too late, but a few rounds are put in his murderer, and Toni puts out the story that murderer was into the Necronomicon, a book of “poisonous sex magic and blood”.) Pulver, of course, knows better than this, but it’s Toni’s pr story.

Besides the cliches of Nazis, an angry vet, and the oh-so 1980s and 1990s theme of child abduction and murder, the whole story is told in Pulver’s usual hyperbolic, elliptical, poetically heightened language:

‘Gone two days. Not good.’ His eyes said the same thing. And more . . . Shade was pissy when he was working. Anything that pulled him away from his headphones—always filled with Satie or Eno or spatial drifts of quietude—pissed him off.

I laid out the plan. We parted. Left our coffee to grow cold. Gathering before the hunt. Shadow on the phone to his connection at the police department. Toni over to Kathy’s in search of anything. Shade was on the other phone, calling in favors. The curtains to the underground were open. And we weren’t waiting in any line with forms in our hands . . . Me. I hit the Street. A thousand eyes. A thousand ears. And many of them know me, owe me. And those that don’t have heard the whisper stream in certain bars. In an hour, they’d know this one was personal and I was doing hard time. The cops—hell, they try, but they’re limited.

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