This is the debut novel of JT Wilson, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at a recent convention in Swansea. Joe is a very warm, and increasingly funny guy, full of great anecdotes and random facts, with his very own take on fashion. His novel is very like him; it’s warm and welcoming, with a level of humour that increases the deeper you get into it, and it’s full of great and random facts and anecdotes about life. It also follows its very own style.
Cemetery Drive follows the crazy road-trip towards death of Robbie Adams and Alexa Ribiera, two people with very different outlooks on Death. Robbie is intent on committing suicide, but not just any old slash-the-wrist kind of suicide, oh no, for he has to go out in a blaze of glory so that he will forever be remembered, since Robbie is convinced his seventeen plus years so far have been pretty much a waste, and he doesn’t see that changing any time soon. Alexa has somehow cheated Death, although she won’t say how initially, and is now, as a result, seemingly immortal. Only she doesn’t want to be. And so after a chance encounter Robbie and Alexa decide to go on a road trip in an attempt to escape Death, whom Alexa is sure will be after her. Or something like that!
It’s starts off in a very disjointed fashion, but after the first chapter which leaves the reader none-the-wiser, and possibly having second doubts, the story soon levels out. On the downside, I found that there was so much more to this book than we were shown. A much bigger story was going on, and of the months Robbie and Alexa spent on the road we see so little off, merely snapshots of that trip. This leaves the reader feeling as though he never got to see them really hook up, and certainly not fall in love – ‘cause by the end of the book it’s very clear they have fallen deeply in love, in their acerbic and sarcastic, sexually charged manner. What we do get to see of their journey, though, is certainly interesting. They are being pursued by Zan, who’s a soul that got stuck in Limbo and entered the employ of Death; it’s his mission to collect the souls of the lay person while Death takes care of more important cases. Zan gets increasingly frustrated in his search, and occasionally seeks the help of demons Beelzebub and Astoroth, a pair of wise-cracking goof balls. Quite possibly the most inept demons I have ever read about, and although they are, in some ways, a bit caricature, they still made me laugh each time they appeared. Fortunately Robbie, Alexa and Zan are well rounded characters, with plenty of hidden depth and full of potential. Robbie is a particularly good character; a bit odd ball, but he follows his own logic and that keeps him interesting.
Ultimately it was a fine debut, but I do feel the best is yet to come from Joe. That this book came from a short story puzzles me; I imagine many elements were added to the mix when Joe turned it into a novel, and as a result it left the book feeling like only half the story it ought to be (and at only 157 pages it is a relatively short novel). There was something very grand and epic going on in this novel, especially the stuff off Earth, and it’s a real shame we did not get to see Joe explore that more. I for one, look forward to his next tale, and wait for him to really unleash the story within!
Cemetery Drive is published by Hirst Publishing, at £7.99. You can purchase a copy directly from Hirst, or any good book stockists, including Waterstones and Borders.