Home > 2010, 21st Century, American Literature, Noir, Polar, TBR20, Uncategorized, Whitmer Benjamin > Pike by Benjamin Whitmer – Excellent American Neo-Noir

Pike by Benjamin Whitmer – Excellent American Neo-Noir

December 2, 2018 Leave a comment Go to comments

Pike by Benjamin Whitmer. (2015) French title: Pike. Translated by Jacques Mailhos.

We are now in December and I’m starting to realize I still have FIVE unwritten billets and that I have to catch up within a month. That’s going to be a challenge considering my current workload and family occupations. I would like to say that I have a method to tackle the pile, like alternating FIFO and LIFO methods but I don’t. So today, it’s going to be Pike by Benjamin Whitmer. It’s crime fiction again, a series of billets I might close with Wake in Fright by Kenneth Cook.

Set in the Appalachees and in the 1980s, Pike is American neo-Noir brought to the French public by the excellent publisher Gallmeister.

Douglas Pike is retired from crime and murder. He’s back in his hometown in the Apalachees and makes a living doing odd jobs with his partner, Rory. Pike tries to survive, to leave the past behind and takes care of Rory in a gruff and discreet way. His life changes when he discovers that his estranged daughter Sarah overdosed and he’s the only one left to take care of his twelve-year-old granddaughter Wendy. A granddaughter he’d never heard of until that day.

While he’s busy settling into a new life with a kid and bonding with Wendy, he soon realizes that Derrick Kreiger, a corrupt cop from Cincinnati, takes an unhealthy interest in his granddaughter. Protecting Wendy will push him to investigate what happened to his daughter and to try to understand what Derrick Kreiger does behind his police officer uniform.

Pike is a pure Noir gem with a great gallery of characters. Pike is still haunted by his past, does his best to move on but Wendy will force him to dive back into his old world. He’s taken Rory under his wing, being a father figure to this young adult who tries to do something with his life and defy the odds his background put against him. Iris is a waitress at a diner Rory and Pike go to. She has a soft spot for Pike and is part of his new “family” or support system in Nanticote. There’s all damaged by life. Here’s Pike and Wendy’s first meeting at the diner, under the Iris’ and Rory’s incredulous eyes.

It gives you a idea of Whitmer’s style, of the atmosphere of the novel and of Pike’s task with Wendy. She’s a tough cookie and she’s not ready to open herself to this stranger of a grandpa.

The other side of the book is the manhunt in Cincinnati, the depiction of a corrupted police force and its meddling with organized crime. Derrick Kreiger is not someone you want to mess up with and Pike arriving in the picture doesn’t sit well with him.

You’ll have to read it to know more…

As always, Gallmeister did a wonderful job of bringing excellent American literature to the French public. Pike will be a success with fans of classic Noir. It’s like watching a movie. Benjamin Whitmer was in bookstore in Lyon recently for a reading and a book signing. I wish I could have gone and met him. *sigh* I need to work on this quote by Michel Serres Travailler moins pour lire plus. (Work less to read more)

PS: I can’t help commenting the American and French cover of the book. The French one is so much better, at least for me. It conveys everything, the main protagonists, the atmosphere and the danger.

  1. December 3, 2018 at 5:14 pm

    I hadn’t heard of this one, so thanks for the review. I agree with you about the covers. The American one is awful.


    • December 3, 2018 at 9:43 pm

      I think it’s something you’d enjoy.


  2. December 4, 2018 at 10:25 pm

    It does sound good, very cinematic. The Appalachian region is a great setting for fiction. Have you ever read any of Ron Rash’s books? If not, I think you’d like them very much Several of his stories and novels are set in the area which gives them a strong sense of place.


    • December 4, 2018 at 10:50 pm

      It’s excellent, I think you’d like it.

      I have a Ron Rash on the shelf, je was at Quais du Polar. Very interesting writer.


  3. December 6, 2018 at 2:00 am

    Noir is entertaining reading, but no devastating blonde bursts into Pike’s office? You can’t have everything I suppose. I don’t think I have a granddaughter I don’t know about, but I do have one who’s 15 and in with a bad crowd – a little noir of my own.


    • December 6, 2018 at 8:36 am

      No Femme Fatale in this one, sorry.
      Pike is not a PI or a cop, he’s a reformed criminal who has to go into his old world for his granddaughter’s sake.

      I hope things get better with your granddaughter.


  4. December 7, 2018 at 9:31 pm

    I agree about the covers! The French one screams “noir”, whereas the American one doesn’t really convey anything apart from snow, which doesn’t seem that essential. And I love how French covers are often so spare and minimalist, trusting the title and imagery to do their job. British and American ones always have hyperbolic blurbs plastered all over them.


    • December 8, 2018 at 5:13 pm

      That’s exactly what I think. I often dislike British and American covers because I don’t find them true to the book and they’re often “too much”.
      But, it may only mean that I’m French and that Americal and British marketing guys know what they’re doing. They produce what their public enjoys and I come from another culture when it comes to book covers.
      As you say, they are minimalist and the most prestigious ones have no picture on the cover.
      The publisher Gallmeister pays a lot a attention to their book covers and they have hired a new illustrator for their collection. I really like their style.


  1. June 7, 2020 at 9:55 am
  2. October 14, 2020 at 2:00 pm

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