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Spotlight on: The Repairman Jack series by F. Paul Wilson
F. Paul Wilson, The Tomb (Repairman Jack #1)
F. Paul Wilson, Legacies (Repairman Jack #2)
F. Paul Wilson, Conspiracies (Repairman Jack #3)
F. Paul Wilson, All the Rage (Repairman Jack #4)
F. Paul Wilson's The Tomb, the second novel in his Adversary Cycle, introduces us to the character of Repairman Jack, a man without an official identity who works in and around New York fixing problems for people (not appliances). In this initial adventure, Jack comes into contact with the creatures who will haunt him for years, the rakoshi. Born of both man and myth, the rakoski are huge, scaly eating machines that threaten Jack and his new "family" -- girlfriend Gia and her daughter Vicky -- and that is simply not acceptable. The Tomb is a pure adventure tale, combining suspense, some supernatural elements, and a protagonist it is impossible not to admire. Living entirely outside the law, Jack still has a very strict moral code. (Libertarians especially have embraced Wilson's work, endowing him with several awards.)
First published in 1984, The Tomb was also a best-seller but, other than the role Jack plays in the saving of the world in Nightworld (the final volume in the Adversary Cycle), there were no further Repairman Jack tales (except for the occasional short story) until 1998's sequel, Legacies. A weak entry in comparison to its predecessor, Legacies is still a fun read, and it's particularly good to see Wilson getting a feel for his characters again. As Jack investigates the trouble behind pediatric AIDS doctor Alicia Clayton's house, we learn more about Jack and his loved ones: Abe, the lovable mensch (and arms dealer); Gia, Jack's (apparently) stunning Italian widowed girlfriend; and Vicky, whom Jack comes to treat very much as a daughter.
Getting the series back into fighting shape is the next novel, Conspiracies. Focusing on conspiracy theory, Jack also learns about the Otherness that is leading toward an inevitably tragic conclusion. (All the intervening novels in the Repairman Jack series are organized so as to take place between the time of The Tomb and Nightworld.) Conspiracies is the first sequel to really set that in motion with the reappearance (however minimally) of the rakoshi from The Tomb and the Molasar/Rasalom character from The Keep (the first novel in the Adversary Cycle), the being that orchestrates the apocalyptic events in Nightworld. (I know, it's all very complicated, but quite worth it to see the referencing if you've read the other books.) Molasar/Rasalom makes an appearance here in the anagrammatic form of "Sal Roma," a mysterious character that appears mostly off-screen in Conspiracies and its follow-up All the Rage but will keep cropping up throughout the series, and causing much more trouble along the way.
All the Rage continues the path toward destruction with the appearance of a strange new street drug call Berzerk (among other names) that increases the body's aggression factor. Everyone from athletes to businessmen are tapping into its power, but take too much and it ignites an uncontrollable murderous rage. Jack helps a young research scientist find out who is threatening her boss, and discovers that not only is Berzerk involved but that its source is something that Jack is all too familiar with. (Hint: A portion of All the Rage was republished by Overlook Connection Press under the title The Last Rakosh.)
And these books are just the beginning of a very involved (and involving) series of adventure novels. At least five more novels have been published at this writing (more are reviewed on this page) and Wilson has said he has no intention of stopping as long as there are readers. You can also check out his website (Repairman Jack.com) for more information, and a short story, "The Long Way Home," is an Amazon Shorts exclusive. Jack also stars in "A Day in the Life," available in Wilson's short story collection, The Barrens and Others.
F. Paul Wilson, Hosts (Repairman Jack #5)
I was introduced to F. Paul Wilson's work by my uncle during my horror phase in my late teens. (All I would read was King, Koontz, Matheson, etc.) He gave me a copy of a collection of short stories called Soft and Others and I just ate it up. Later I went to what was my local used bookstore (The Book Rack in Johnson City, TN)--where they have a specific "Weird" section (instead of "Horror")--and picked up The Keep. Couldn't put it down, as they say.
Then, when I was in college, during a trip to the library, I saw his name on the spine of a book entitled Nightworld that had just come out (this was around 1992). I read in the front that it was the end of what was being called "The Adversary Cycle" and that I had finished Book 1 (The Keep). This led me in pursuit of the other books and into another world.
Also included in that series is a novel called The Tomb (second in the series). Its hero is a guy known as Repairman Jack. Despite the phone calls he receives to the contrary, Repairman Jack is not an appliance repairman. Jack fixes situations for people who have used up all other avenues. He works at remaining completely anonymous. His medium-build, average-height, brown-haired, brown-eyed appearance works well for this. He has no Social Security number, no permanent address, an office rented under an alias, and the ability to drop everything and leave at a moment's notice.
Jack is a superhero type, but still human. A fan of classic movies and memorabilia, he has a girlfriend--Gia--who once left him upon finding out his occupation (she didn't want violence around her daughter Vicky), but has since decided to take the job along with the man.
In fact, in The Tomb, Gia enlists his help to find her aunt who has mysteriously disappeared. Earlier, he had been hired by a man named Kusum Bakhti to find a necklace stolen from his mother. This was a simple and easily accomplished task. However, it turns out that Kusum and his sister Kolabati are seeking ancient vengeance on Gia's family, the Westphalens--picking them off one by one--including Gia's daughter, little Vicky.
Wilson excels at writing this type of fantastic situation, a combination of suspense, mystery, and the supernatural which is common for Jack, and makes for riveting reading. In Hosts, we meet Jack's sister, Kate, whose partner, Jeanette, is experiencing a personality change. She is really acting differently than normal, including being seemingly led around by Terrence Holdstock, who holds meetings in his apartment where it seems that people just sit around, acting strangely.
It seems that Jeanette recently had an experimental treatment for a brain tumor. A virus infected the treatment and is turning her and the other patients into the Village of the Damned. Kate wants Jeanette to return to herself, but Jeanette sees no problem, despite the fact that every so often, she screams for Kate to help her.
Earlier that day, Jack had been the one person to stop a man's psychotic shooting rampage on a subway car--a subway car that just happened to also contain a tabloid reporter looking to make his name, and who is now looking to interview Jack for the front page. This definitely does not fit in with Jack's plans for anonymity. Add to this a mysterious Russian lady who tells Jack he is the world's only hope and a couple of bomb experts seeking vengeance on a previous case that ruined them and Jack certainly has his work cut out for him.
It has been said that, although proficient at all genres, Wilson is at his best when mixing them up to create something original. And the type of mystery-suspense-horror-medical thriller contained in Hosts is a perfect example. One both never and always knows what to expect from F. Paul Wilson.
F. Paul Wilson, The Haunted Air (Repairman Jack #6)
Read more about my history with the Repairman Jack series -- and F. Paul Wilson's work in general -- in my review of the previous book in the series, Hosts.
F. Paul Wilson continues his popular (and constantly improving) Repairman Jack series while putting his own stamp on the familiar haunted house tale. Repairman Jack is absolutely the most intriguing series character running today -- a mercenary with no official identity but a solid moral foundation, he "fixes" situations that are outside the realm of normal legal channels and that generally involve some supernatural elements. And I wait eagerly for the release of each succeeding entry.
The Haunted Air is by far the best novel in the series that I have read since the inaugural The Tomb. I thought Hosts was great until I read this one. Wilson has really caught his stride and is able to further develop the characters of Jack, his girlfriend Gia (and her daughter Vicky), and his friend and supplier Abe -- as well as their relationships to each other -- while continuing to invent plausible fantastic scenarios that put them deeper and deeper in peril. The Repairman Jack series can always be counted on for thought-provoking storylines as well as heart-pounding, pulse-racing, eye-widening climaxes.
Two brothers, Lyle and Charlie Kenton, run a sham psychic business out of their historic home, Menelaus Manor, under the names Ifasen and Kehinde, respectively. They have, over the years, quickly boosted their clientele by stealing them from competing psychics, and somebody has decided to get revenge. Drive-by shootings and mysterious door openings and closings are only the beginning. Once Jack gets involved, however, the intensity is turned way up as he decides to confront the suspects -- a competing psychic -- on her own turf; he gets to scam the scam artist.
Further investigation brings up secrets about the house, its previous owner, and a spirit out for revenge. On top of all this, Gia fears she may be pregnant. How can a child have a father with no identity? Would Jack be willing to give up his Repairman Jack lifestyle to become Citizen Jack?
It is this extra layer of emotion that raises The Haunted Air above the usual fare. Wilson gets into the minds of his characters, especially tricky with a man like Jack who is such a physical presence, and lets us know how they feel about the events, as well as taking us on a rollercoaster ride of fear, thrills, and suspense--all the while dropping clues to the upcoming confrontation with The Otherness--making sure to deliver a whiz-bang conclusion that tops anything else he has written.
F. Paul Wilson, Gateways (Repairman Jack #7)
Read more about my history with the Repairman Jack series -- and F. Paul Wilson's work in general -- in my review of the previous books in the series, starting at the top of the page.
F. Paul Wilson continues his enormously popular Repairman Jack series and tells his readers more about Jack's family history in the seventh exciting volume, Gateways. Repairman Jack is absolutely the most intriguing series character running today -- a mercenary with no official identity but a solid moral foundation, he "fixes" situations that are outside the realm of normal legal channels and that generally involve some supernatural elements. And I wait eagerly for the release of each succeeding entry.
When a hit-and-run puts his father Tom in a coma, Jack is the only family member available to go to the Florida Everglades–area retirement village where Tom lives (also called Gateways) and find out what happened. There he discovers odd animal behaviors, and learns more about his father than he ever expected. He also learns even more about his role in the plan to defeat the Otherness, and how he has increasingly less control over the events that surround him. And he finally meets the Adversary (the enigmatic "Sal Roma") face to face.
He also meets two women who have major influences on what happens: Tom's friend and neighbor Anya, who knows more than she lets on (and has an even more important role as the story progresses); and Semmelee, a young, white-haired zoomancer with ambitions that can only get her into real trouble. These two will help and hinder Jack in their own particular ways as he faces his biggest and most important repair job yet.
Kudos to F. Paul Wilson for crafting a nearly perfect thriller that can stand on its own, and also manages to continue a larger story within its pages. Also for threading environmental concerns within Gateways in a way that is only noticeable if you are looking for it. Some authors would make their agenda too heavy for the story to handle, but Wilson's subtlety lends a lightness to those sections, so you can see the mutant creatures as something that humans have caused, or simply as horrific obstacles that Jack must overcome — much like in Hugh B. Cave's The Dawning. Meanwhile, more people die and Jack really learns what it means to have coincidence removed from his life. (Lesser kudos to Wilson for also managing to write, so far, two novels involving various of Jack's family members without once mentioning their last name. That must have required a lot of work in itself, especially since I didn't realize it until I was finished with this one.)
Gateways felt a little long in spots (though The Haunted Air is one hundred pages longer), but there is that extra layer of emotion present (as Jack's relationship with his father takes center stage) that makes it into more than just a pure thriller. Abe, Gia, and Vicky hardly appear at all, which makes me believe that a lot of cutting was required to even get it down to this manageable length. Seven novels in, however (with heavy revisions on at least two Repairman Jack–related books), Wilson has not lost any steam. In fact, I would say that, with the larger story working toward its conclusion, the books from this point on can only get even more exciting.
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