Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle

Book Review by Ross McIndoe | 02 Jul 2015
Book title: Wolf in White Van
Author: John Darnielle

With his debut novel, John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats fame takes the soft, melancholy lyricism of his music and draws it out into a strange, sad novel. He features the kid who everyone thinks is a little off, who has long hair and likes weird music, who doesn't quite seem to fit – this figure also crops up throughout Darnielle's music.

The Goats' latest album, Beat the Champ, hazily recalled his nights spent gazing through the looking glass of the TV screen into the world of professional wrestling, where gargantuan heroes fought for honour and justice, a world where good prevailed each week in spectacular somersaulting fashion.

After a lonely childhood and an 'accident', the full horror of which is only gradually revealed, Wolf in White Van's own iteration of him channels that same need to escape reality towards a role-playing game of his own creation called Trace Italian. When two young players try to live out the game in the real world, reality comes tearing into his imaginary hiding place to drag him back into the cold, hard light.

Dark humour wrapped around a soft human heart, a combination that has made Darnielle one of the most revered songwriters of his generation – now also announce him as a novelist to be reckoned with.

Out now, published by Granta Books, RRP £7.99