Friday, September 23, 2011

Book Review: High Midnight by Rob Mosca

Full Disclosure: I know the author and he is a friend.

The book is an excellent read and masterfully crafted. For being his first novel, Rob Mosca seems to have harnessed magic in words. He has an intuitive sense of pacing, and makes an image in your mind of exactly what is going on without it being bogged down by excessive details. In truth, if there was a literary opposite to the works of Faulkner, High Midnight is such a work. Not that Faulkner is excessive in his details, rather, High Midnight hits the 'sweet spot' in my personal spectrum.

The genre I would call this would be 'Stew' in honor of a Passage in the 6th Dark Tower novel, "The Song of Susanna" in which the characters fret about the restrictions of genre in literature. Of course, at that point in the Dark Tower series it has begun to enter the bizarrely (but cool) metaficitonal stage. High Midnight blurs many genres but it does not break the 4th wall.

To give you an idea of how much I like the book, I'm adding it to my permanent library. Something only gets on that shelf if is something that I am going to read more than once. And I assure you, I will be reading this again. Some books are page turners, that you only get a proper sense of the second or third time that you read them.

Theme wise, the phrase, "High Midnight" is an excellent choice, since the original western upon which the name is based, "High Noon" is a good mirroring point. Though the townsfolk of Unity, Texas are not quite as craven as those in Hadleyville, the pattern still remains the same. A lone sheriff, defending what is right and good against impossible and deadly odds, despite the fact that he has strong personal interests not to. There is a strong sense of Good and Evil, properly shadowed by postmodern shades of gray. Evil is evil, but it is not cartoon evil. Good is good, but it is a slovenly harrowed good. Well, OK that Cartoon evil is not entirely correct, but for the most part it is.

I speak, of course, of Mooseburger, who I feel is the true protagonist. Now most people would regard Sheriff Laredo as the true hero of the story, and while it is true that he is definitely a figure that would feel right at home in any western you care to name (sans Mexican wrestling mask perhaps), no literary critique would be complete without a complete mangling of the original intent of the author. This is why I feel that this is really Mooseburger's story. A large, misunderstood man-child, who possesses extraordinary strength and physical resilience, it is his choices that make the difference in the story. It is his decision not to pick up a gun that gives the mayor enough courage to take on the gang, stalling for enough time for the sheriff. It is Mooseburger who chooses the brawling tactics in the dramatic fight scene between the Sheriff and the gang of clowns that ultimately allows Good to triumph over evil. Mooseburger keeps his word, when other, unnamed characters do not.

For despite the surface of schlock in Saturday afternoon action movies upon which, by declaration of the author that the story is based (Zombies, Psychopathic Clowns, Western Crptids of a menacing variety, Anthropomorphic Simians etc) deeper and more interesting themes manage to creep in none the less. There is a consistency of imagery and setting that only someone who's soul has gone to dwell in the town a while or for days and weeks at a time can truly manifest. To me, from a literary perspective, the billboard of the laughing cowboy, rotting away in all its mocking glory is no different than that found in the Great Gatsby with its accusatory menacity. (Yes that's a word, I just made it up.) Magic, the appropriateness of oaths, love, what love is, the physicality therein, tragedy, loss, sacrifice, honor, betrayal, friendship, bravery and even humanity itself are covered within its pages.

But it is also popcorn munching fun.

Just read the damn thing. Better yet, buy it.


  1. Very nice review. I've read High Midnight multiple times, and I love it more each time I read it. BEST read I've had in years.

  2. Thanks, I'm glad you liked it. :) It is fantastic.