Humbled - John C. Foster
The website of horror writer John C. Foster.
horror, fiction, Mister White, Dead Men, Baby Powder
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31 Aug Humbled

I’m absolutely humbled by this Goodreads review by one of the excellent hosts (James) of Boneheads Weekly podcast:

“Rooster did something I rarely feel books do. While one is watching the character of Rooster crash through the seedy underworld with brutal efficiency fed by his lived experience and his own struggles with the value of his life, it functions as a travelogue of sorts. Rooster is being pursued on all sides and it readily shows, but as he careens through locations, the author richly describes those locations as almost living, grasping, hungry locations. Foster’s words paint a picture of the cities as engines of indifference that are always hungry for fuel provided seemingly by the suffering of those in them – they do not care about Rooster or their other citizens because one gets the sense they will progress and continue on regardless of the outcomes as they are not as dependent on the people in them as the people are dependent on them. I begin the review with this observation because it is indicative of how powerful and efficient Foster’s work is – while the world of Rooster may be one of violence, chaos, and survival, it is richly and efficiently realized. The darkness at the core of the story infects and bounces off everything as underbellies are exposed and questions are answered only to leave new questions – but all to good effect.

Foster’s protagonist plays narrator and guide, but he is troubled on so many levels that he became, for me, an examination of his own rights. For Rooster, the gears are always turning, the losses always mounting, and the values are always fluid, but yet there is something written into the character that seems so consistent as well. Rooster is not a hero, nor is he a villain. He is somewhere between a product of society and a force of nature – and he does not know what he can do about it, but he does know what he can do for it – and that is exact tolls on those he is paid to and, then, on those who pursue him.

There’s been many assassins on the run stories, but Foster’s protagonist is neither flawlessly efficient or ultracool. He is a rare breed of hired gun in this type of fiction – he is the troubled everyman type who finds himself trapped often by his actions, but unrelenting in his ability to keep going, even when part of him pushes to resign himself to death.

In a world where games like Hitman give us the ultra cool assassins, where ladies’ man spies are a dime a dozen, and where villains can be stock, Foster gives us something more – he gives us a hired gun that is just as likely to turn that gun on himself – to question his actions, to cope with their outcomes, and to almost end his own life.

Rooster is worth a read for all these reasons. In my thinking, if one merged Divine Right’s Trip with The Bourne Identity and spiraled in just a taste of The Stranger , one might get a sense of this book. Those are elements that, to me, seem to echo here. Rooster is most assuredly a murderer for hire, but he also has to piece together why the tables have turned and to do so, he goes on one winding road trip.

This is the type of novel that my father, a man who was obsessed with action packed, shoot ’em up, explosive movies- would say would be a great movie… and in all fairness, it would be, but also because it packs something so human into the protagonist. There’s self loathing, yet a will to survive. There’s loss and pain, but the ability to move forward and take the next job or survive the next day. It could be that Rooster is arriving at just the right time – because we may not all be assassins trying to find why the tables have turned, but we are all finding ways to keep moving forward in a world that has changed. Rooster is the hitman we need in these pandemic times, perhaps.

A rapid fire read, you can read it for action and enjoy it, but you may get hit by the more problematic and humanitarian plights woven into it as well. A rare feat well done by Foster!”

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