The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch, Vol. 1: At the Edge of Empire by Daniel Kraus
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In recent months, I've been working to find a good YA historical piece, often with poor results (as was the case with Salt To The Sea or Razorhurst.) This brick of a book from Daniel Kraus, with a larger-than-life title to match, fits the bill a little better, perhaps better than any YA historical I've read since The Monstrumologist. Appropriate, given that the first Kraus book I read, Rotters, had some strong Monstrumologist vibes in the modern day, whereas this book follows its corpse-y title character throughout a long stretch of history from the late nineteenth century through World War I, the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression years (spent in Old Hollywood), and finally leaving off right at the start of World War II, with the implied promise that the second book will cover everything from there to the present day.
It's a long, long journey for Zebulon Finch, perpetually seventeen and always seeking redemption, though, like an erection without blood flow (it makes sense in context), it may be very damn near impossible to come by for him. You can tell that Kraus, that "esteemed fictionist," had a blast writing this book, sprawling and disgusting and engrossing as it is. It's a look at the seedy underbelly of US history at this time, dealing heavily in organized crime, ethnically-marked gang wars, horrors in the trenches, scam artistry, prostitution and hedonism among celebrities, and other assorted politically incorrect subject matter.
It's not for everyone, not by a long shot, but if you happen upon a copy of this book, do give it a shot.
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