Tamper by Bill Ectric

Review by Eric D. Lehman

Tamper, the new book by Bill Ectric, frames itself as a boy named Whit’s effort to comprehend his past.  Did
he have a prophetic dream about a bag of bones on the side of the road?  Did his friend Paul Clemmons
really disappear in a pile of leaves, never to emerge?  It is not at all clear.  What is clear is that Whit and his
friend Roger live on the border of what we would call reality.  They spend their teenage years searching for
hidden doors and paranormal evidence, publishing their findings in a newspaper, Astral Beat.  They often
seem to be looking for a guide, like the mysterious Olsen Archer, who will hopefully hand over the secret
keys and confirm their suspicions.  This culminates in a quest far from their small town of Hansburg, Virginia
to the island of Malta, for a descent into the mysterious Hypogeum catacombs over an eventful Spring Break.

Coincidences mount throughout Tamper, and the reader, told in chapter one that the narrator may be
insane, loses that certainty.  The things Whit encounters range from the weird to the downright fantastic, but
Ectric never asks for our full conviction.  By framing this tale of the supernatural as a coming of age story
and telling it in first person, Ectric never asks us to test our own beliefs.  Rather, we are allowed to join Whit
on his quest of discovery, to be just a surprised as he is by the events and conclusions. Like Kurt Vonnegut
often does, Ectric jumps back and forth in time, unsettling our sense of reality, while at the same time
keeping us on the edge of our seats.  And as in his other works, the author grounds everything in specific
details of time and place, in seemingly mundane American suburbia.

Early in the book, Ectric titles a chapter “Treasure Hunt,” and in a way the entire book is a treasure hunt, for
both the characters and reader.  As the supernatural-seeking companions search the normal and
paranormal worlds for meaning and certainty, the reader follows, searching for the truth of this somehow
familiar tale of memory lost.  “There’s still so much I don’t know,” the narrator tells us, and he’s right.  We
may hope that the transition from childhood to adulthood will involve some sort of passing of knowledge, of
some exchange of innocence for knowledge.  But as Tamper reminds us, truth is a tricky thing, and for those
of us fed on the literature of the imagination, it often doesn’t have a ghost of a chance.
Bill Ectric - Home
Tamper available at
Eric D. Lehman is a Senior Lecturer in
English at the University of Bridgeport in
Connecticut and has previously published
reviews, essays, fiction, and poetry in
various journals, such as Empty Mirror
Books, Umbrella, Artistry of Life, Red River
Review, Identity Theory, Entelechy,
Switchback, Hackwriters, and Nexus: The
International Henry Miller Journal. His book
Bridgeport: Tales from the Park City is
forthcoming from The History Press.
Eric D. Lehman's Website