Tamper - Review by Mayowa Atte
One of the greatest benefits of exploring the blogosphere is the
opportunity to meet unique people. The connections we make are as
varied in nature as a marathon session of ChatRoulette, with all the
latter's potential for shock, disgust and genuine connection. That's sort of
how I met Bill Ectric. I'd noted and appreciated Bill's comments on one of
my favorite literary blogs, LitKicks and I stopped by his blog to say hello.
Bill was kind enough to send me a copy of his novel, Tamper.
Tamper follows young protagonist Whit, his best friend Roger and a small
cadre of friends from childhood in the 60's to adulthood. Whit is sensitive
and seeks the answers to many of life's questions and experiences but
that is where major resemblance to the classic bildungsroman end.
Tamper's true conceit is that Whit and his friends are obsessed with the
paranormal, the fantastic and scientific, the occult and the
unexplainable. The search for answers to these mysteries will lead Whit
and company to and through strange domes, abandoned churches, buried
phones, military duty in Spain, drug induced psychosis, first loves, and
Malta's ancient catacombs.
With this novel, Bill Ectric demonstrates why "write what you know" is
frequent writing advice. It soon becomes very clear to the reader that
the author knows his shit when it comes to the mysterious and esoteric
(he's been interested and involved in the area for many decades). The
writing shines with all of Bill's knowledge of the facts and that grounds
the reader in what is a fantastic tale.
"Tamper was the word used by pulp fiction writer Richard Shaver, who
sparked a controversy among the readers of the Amazing Stories Magazine
in the 1940s when he claimed that an ancient civilization of underground
mutants were tormenting his mind with invisible rays, 'tampering' with his
The above is not just a quote from the book, it's fact. Richard Shaver was
a pulp fiction writer in the 40s and he did make those outrageous claims.
Malta's ancient catacombs (the Hypogeum) do exist and possess a very
real reputation for being sources of numerous unexplained mysteries.
When you find out that the author spent time in Spain (like Whit) you
begin to wonder, how much is real and how much is imagined. Again and
again, the fantastic is based in reality and the reality in no way diminishes
The author also knows his way around narrative structures and
techniques. The story flashes forward and backwards, coiling about
repeated themes crucial to Whit's life. It is all done smoothly and
efficiently. Even when the author breaks into a stream of consciousness
for a few pages at a crucial moment, the transitions in and out of the
stream are seamless and the full impact of the moment is preserved. And
when the prose works, it really works. The word choice and structure in
these moments really capture the paranormal, freeze the unknowable
long enough for us to see and wonder before it scurries away into the
darkness. Here's one passage that gave me the shakes in a very good way:
“An opulent white cloud, slowly roiling into a cylindrical formation,
floated blimp-slow until it hovered directly over my house. Chills of dread
gripped me when the white mass turned solid and cracked open
lengthwise. Something dark slithered and pulsed inside until the fissure
split wide open.”
Better than all these though, is the fact that Tamper is good fun. Whit
and his friends have the sort of inquisitive innocence that made The
Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew so popular. Following these characters on
their adventures gives one a nostalgic pleasure, a memory of how much
we believed in our youth. Whit learns much about himself and the world
in the course of these adventures...this is a bildungsroman after all. Take
away all that is strange and weird about this book and the curious charm
of the story still propels you along with ease. Tamper is not always as
polished as one would like, but the compelling story, the author's purity
of intent, and the character's childlike belief more than make up for it.
Mayowa Atte is a Senior
Consultant in information
technology and services
software development in
Roseville, CA. He also
writes literary fiction and
conducts writing workshops.
His first novel is called In