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Cover / Jack Ketchum

Leisure Books / June 2009
Reviewed by: Martel Sardina

One of the most frequently asked questions a writer gets is “Where do you get your ideas?” In the Foreword to Cover, Ketchum answers that question as it applies to this book. The short answer is from a segment on the HBO documentary series, America Undercover. Ketchum saw an interview with a Vietnam Vet who lived out in the woods because the horrors of war made it unsafe for him to be around other people. The Vet is married and his wife has stayed with him despite the risk to her own life because she is certain that if she leaves he will die out there. The wife’s words haunted Ketchum, dredging up old feelings about the war and new ones about what it would be like to try and live a life without love.

In Cover, Ketchum introduces us to Lee Moravian, a Vietnam Vet who lives out in the woods with his wife, Alma, their son, Lee Jr. and faithful dog, Pavlov. While Lee generally refers to Alma by name, Ketchum shows the reader that Lee disassociates from his son and his loyal companion, by calling them simply, “the dog” and “the boy.” Lee earns a living by growing and selling marijuana to McCann, a fellow Vet that he’s known since their days in basic training.

McCann warns Lee that a thief is on the loose. Someone has been snooping around the forest and stealing pot plants from one of their other compadres. The thief hasn’t hit Lee’s stash, but the McCann’s warning has put Lee on guard. A new wave of paranoia is about to set in.

Meanwhile, Kelsey is man many would envy. He has money, good looks and two women who love him. This wouldn’t be as big of a problem if Kelsey were single. And while his wife of nearly twenty years, Caroline, is well aware of his relationship with Michelle, the general public might not be as understanding. Kelsey is a writer. Michelle is a model. If the press gets wind that the two are involved, it could be bad for both of them career-wise. Their “cover” will be blown especially if anyone learns that Michelle is pregnant.

Kelsey decides to take the girls and a few other friends out for a weekend camping trip. All is going well until the group discovers Lee’s stash while hiking. They are unaware that Lee is watching. Lee assesses the group and determines that they are a threat to his livelihood. He remembers his days in Vietnam and how even the seemingly innocent could not be trusted. It’s time for Lee to turn hunter. Kelsey and company are his prey.

Lee’s descent into madness is filled with flashbacks of his Vietnam experience. While the scenes are brutal, Ketchum is able to show readers how Lee has been shaped by the war. Readers can’t help feeling empathy for Lee. Ketchum doesn’t excuse Lee’s behavior (then or now) but makes him honestly face what kind of man he’s become.

Ketchum went to great lengths make Lee authentic, giving readers an in-depth look at the mental degradation many Vets suffered upon their return to civilian life. And as far as the question of whether or not it’s possible to live a life without love is concerned (a theme that comes up from time to time in his works) Ketchum proves once again that it is not.

Purchase Cover by Jack Ketchum.

Posted on Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 10:38AM by Registered CommenterDark Scribe Magazine in | Comments Off

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