G. Kent opens Bandits on the Rim like gangbusters. A cadillac barrels through the front wall of a convenience store and slams our narrator, Garret Kay, through the glass doors of a freezer cabinet pinning him among broken glass and ice cream. What exactly happens for the next 180-plus pages is in many ways open for discussion, and I recommend that you expand your tolerance for chaos when you take the book on.
Is Garrett in the hospital or out of it? Is he roommates with a cop who shot himself, or does the copy exist at all? Is Julie Christie his nurse, or is it a nurse who looks like Julie Christie or does Garrett just think she does? Is he on morphine or cocaine or chardonnay (an odd beverage of choice for a carouser, but maybe that’s the point.)?
Garrett is a hiker and a rock climber. A rock climber who cuts lines of coke after ascending Half-Dome. His drug-fueled fantasies (Or are the fantasies emanations from his unconscious mind while he lies comatose under the Cadillac’s grill?) formulate a specter in a long overcoat with a shotgun under it. The man/specter intends to kill or destroy him. Or maybe just beat him in a race. There’s a search for a lost gold mine and a connection between the specter and Kay’s recently-deceased grandfather. Butterscotch, or at least the smell of it, figures prominently.
Much of Bandits on the Rim–a true Zane Grey sort of title, and the book does have wild west overtones–is irreverent, funny–even if the humor is occasionally a bit forced–and the recurring characters and language and situations keep the action moving and will keep most readers paying attention, even when they don’t really know where they are or what’s happening.
Though I enjoyed a lot of the book, I ended up puzzled by what it was all about. Revealing the ending would ruin it for someone who hasn’t read it, but–and it’s probably just me missing something or being the wrong audience or something–the dreamscape wasn’t enough in and of itself to hold it all together for me. Kent has a lot of talent, writes cleverly, creates fine characters, but I simply didn’t find the “there.”