Author: Anthony Neil Smith
Publisher: Blasted Heath
Release Date: January 2015
In the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota, new guys are known as ‘worms’. Ferret (real name Finn) is one such worm – a mild-mannered Alabama native who is desperate enough to take a job on the Wild West-like oil fields in an effort to kick-start a new life for his wife and daughter. His boss, a dirty mobbed-up mad-man called Pancrazio, has his fingers in plenty of pies, and is in the process of building up a lucrative meth business on the prairie. Money-hungry Ferret quickly falls in with his sinister boss, and his cohorts: enigmatic hard-man Gene Handy and a pair of low-lives known as Good and Bad Russell. Ferret becomes a driver to earn some extra cash, but not one of his new acquaintances is who they seem, and he is dangerously out of his depth before he even realises it…
Anthony Neil Smith’s reputation precedes him, and Worm is every bit as good as you might hope. The seething, lawless North Dakota setting provides a memorably inglorious back drop to the action, and desperate men from all over the US rub shoulders at the ‘man camp’ and the multitude of booze-soaked strip-clubs that have sprung up nearby to keep them entertained. All of the protagonists – bar Ferret – have dark episodes in their pasts, and every single one of them will experience far worse in their bleak, respective futures.
Worm is a tremendous, unflinching piece of writing. Smith’s queasy detail-heavy prose stomps you into submission from the get-go, and keeps on stomping until you are a fucking mess. This is an excellent book.
Reviewed by Tom Leins