Author: Rodd Clark
Publisher: Driven Press
Pages/Word Count: 254 Pages
At a Glance: Not a bad story, but doesn’t live up to its fullest potential.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Gabriel Church knows you can’t take a life without first understanding just how feeble life is, how tentative and weak it stands alone. If you desire murder, you hold a life in your hand. Whether you release it to grant life or grip tighter to end it, it is at your command and discretion. Gabriel is a serial killer with a story he wants told.
Christian Maxwell studied abnormal psychology in college but chose instead to focus on a career in writing. His background comes in handy when he thinks of writing about a serial killer. He can’t think of anyone more qualified to write the story of Gabriel Lee Church, and do so in the murderer’s own words. It’s been done before, but never with a killer who has yet to be captured or convicted.
There was never anything more than a gentleman’s understanding between the two men that Christian would record Gabriel’s life story. The killer did not ask for his complicity in any crimes, nor did he ever ask for his silence. Christian’s interest in the man, though, is fast becoming something more than academic. When the writer and his subject become unexpected friends and then lovers, the question remains: What is Gabriel’s endgame . . . and why does he want his story told?
Review: The mind and motives of a serial killer are rich soil from which an author may reap myriad plots. The killer, after all, is the ultimate antihero—immoral, unrepentant, an insane man skirting social norms while participating in the day-to-day lives of unsuspecting humans. This while he studies and bides his time, the predator awaiting a moment of inspiration and a viable opportunity to present itself so he may successfully cull an unwitting sheep from the herd of victims.
Abnormal psychology and atypical behavior are the norm in Rodd Clark’s Rubble and the Wreckage, a book with a fantastic premise and a wealth of suspense that should have been waiting to unfold within its pages. There are no definably sane characters found in this novel, other than the possibility of it being Gabriel Church’s victims, but amongst the living, they are each suffering from bouts of psychopathy, sociopathy, or simply display a disturbing penchant toward obsessive bouts of fantasy.
Christian Maxwell is the author who, through feats of investigative prowess and deductive reasoning, has discovered the identity of this book’s antagonist, Church, a prolific serial killer. There may be some suspension of disbelief required to accept Maxwell has done what neither local authorities nor the FBI have been able to accomplish; Church having admitted to committing some forty murders across state lines, yet eluding capture. Christian, however, tracks Gabriel Church down in Seattle and sets out to interview the man, thus hoping to collect enough material to pen the ultimate biographical account of a killer, in that killer’s own words, while he remains at large and unfettered by the legal system.
As is expected with a premise such as this, there are questions raised, the most significant perhaps being Christian’s legal and ethical obligation where Gabriel’s crimes and identity are concerned. This is addressed in a couple of ways—the first being Christian’s own admitted antisocial personality, which allows him the leeway to behave other than how we’d expect; though, to his credit, he does suffer pangs of doubt and conscience from time to time. The second is Church’s own charisma and magnetism to which Christian, who had up to then been portrayed as asexual, succumbs as the two men spend more time together. When the question of God comes into play during the interview process, the names Christian, Gabriel (man of God), and the obvious Church all play cleverly into the story’s plot as well, as the religious motif contrasts the ultra-secular behavior of these characters, also juxtaposing quite nicely Gabriel’s justification for doing what he does.
Of course, as Christian and Church delve into a sexual relationship, the chemistry and composition of the biographer/killer relationship changes as well, bringing along with it the expected complications and questions, the most complex being what sort of a future can these men possibly have together, regardless of whether or not Christian’s book is published? Will Gabriel quit killing for Christian, or will Christian deign to accept his lover is a mass murderer? This case in point provides for the greatest of conflicts and ultimately, would be the saboteur of any sort of relationship.
There is a lot to sink one’s mental chops into in this novel, much of which I enjoyed, but where I feel this book fails itself is in the execution. The third person omniscient narration offers a great deal of telling but not much showing throughout. All the murderous events being recounted in hindsight, told in third person rather than in the first in Gabriel’s own words, leaves the reader with the unfortunate byproduct of a peripheral view of the crime scenes. The result of this detached delivery, in what could have been a quite chilling narration, is no more effective in eliciting an emotional response to the events as they occurred than if one were reading a newspaper article about the crimes weeks, months, or years after they’d occurred—somewhat dry and rote.
Sadly, this same sense of detachment plagues the development of these characters and the relationship between Christian and Gabriel as well, again leaving the reader a spectator of the events as they’re being told rather than our being drawn into the privacy and intimacy of their growing bond by being made privy to more dialogue rather than an extensive narrative prose. This issue coupled with the apparent lack of a good solid editing to smooth transitions, eliminate grammatical errors, and do away with extraneous or repetitious content which neither advanced the plot nor further developed the characters were each a detriment to this novel’s delivery.
As the dénouement of Rubble and the Wreckage approaches, the snake in the tree of knowledge is introduced and becomes the metaphorical apple of temptation upon which Church feeds. This particular character appears every bit as atypical as either Church or Christian, fantasizing a meet-cute with Church, then displaying a stalker level of behavior which placed her dead-center on target as a convenient means of climactic catalyst for the two men. I must say this character felt more a caricature than a portent of conflict at times but did provide a viable means for the author to wind down to the end of this novel, and was also the perfect method for allowing Church to display his “Scorpion” nature to Christian’s “Frog”, which I enjoyed.
Rubble and the Wreckage is labeled the first book in the Gabriel Church series. As this book seems to have concluded quite decisively, I’m not sure where the next will go, but there’s a wealth of chills and horror which could be tapped into with this character. I can only say I hope it’s mined more effectively in the books to come. Overall, this wasn’t a bad novel, not by any stretch, but, as I see it, simply didn’t live up to its fullest potential.
You can buy Rubble and the Wreckage here: