Today I’m delighted to be hosting the final day of the blog tour for Coyote Fork by James Wilson. I’ll be chatting briefly about the book and also sharing a fascinating Q&A with author, James Wilson. Read on dear reader, read on.
British journalist Robert Lovelace travels to California to report on the social media giant Global Village. He’s horrified by what he finds: a company—guided by the ruthless vision of its founder, Evan Bone—that seems to be making journalism itself redundant. Appalled, he decides to abandon the project and return home.
But as he leaves he has a disconcerting encounter that sends him off in a totally different direction. Soon he finds himself embarking on an increasingly fraught and dangerous mission. The aim: to uncover the murky truth about Evan Bone’s past and his pathological disregard for the human cost of the behemoth he has created.
Robert’s quest takes him from San Francisco to a small college town in the Midwest, to the site of a former hippie commune in northern California, introducing us to a range of vivid characters and confronting us with the price we pay—online trolling, the loss of privacy, professional ruin—for living in an “interconnected” world. Finally, he makes a startling discovery—and is thrown into a completely unforeseen existential dilemma.
A timely, stylishly written, and brilliantly conceived metaphysical thriller, Coyote Fork carries us on an unforgettable journey, before bringing us face to face with the darkness at the heart of Silicon Valley itself.
My process as a book reviewer is simple. I’ll read a book if it tugs at my attention. If I enjoy it, then I’ll write about it and share the book love. So when I received the email inviting me to take part in this blog tour I have to say it immediately grabbed my attention. It was a combination of the blurb and the cover. It sounded fascinating and incredibly topical, so I was really looking forward to diving in. I am happy to say I wasn’t disappointed. Not one bit.
I love the writing style. It is told in first person, holding the suspense well throughout the story as we only know as much as Robert Lovelace. I loved that. I enjoy first person. That feeling that you’re right there with them as the story unfolds, like a shadow. You have access to their thoughts, feelings and James does that really well for us with Robert. I loved that Robert was British as well. He could have walked away and come home but he found himself compelled to continue and get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding Evan Bone. A mystery that could just have deadly consequences.
This is a sharp, engaging novel that seems to merge several genres and yet, in our ever unpredictable world, at times seems to be totally plausible. Immense power in the wrong hands is extremely worrying and this novel highlights that, amongst other things. I admit I believe we now live in a world where anything is possible. Even the unthinkable. There is so much within this story that made me deeply uneasy. That feeling of having someone in my mind. Also the control that technology now offers. In the right hands it is a thing of wonder. But in the wring hands. Well, it’s simply terrifying. The hope, I guess, is that there are more and more people out there still willing to hold the monsters accountable. Yes, this story did make me think. It made me look over my shoulder (in a virtual sense). But most of all it had me hooked from beginning to end. And oh what a FANTASTIC end. Absolutely loved it.
My thanks go to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and to the publisher, Slant Books for sending me a gorgeous copy to review. I absolutely loved the cover by the way. It looked and felt amazing. I just can’t keep picking it up.
About the author
James Wilson is a London-based writer. His previous novels include The Dark Clue, The Bastard Boy, The Woman in the Picture, Consolation, and The Summer of Broken Stories. He has written BBC TV and radio documentaries, and is the author of a work of narrative nonfiction, The Earth Shall Weep: A History of Native America, which won a Myers Outstanding Book Award.
This is your first foray into the world of crime fiction—why did you decide this was the right form for the story you wanted to tell?
Most of my novels center on a quest of some kind, though there’s not always a criminal element. With Coyote Fork I tried a number of different approaches – including science fiction—before finally settling on this form. In part, my decision was dictated by the themes of the book, the characters I wanted to introduce, and the setting (predominantly California). But my love of classic U.S. crime fiction—Chandler, Ross McDonald, James Lee Burke, Elmore Leonard—also played an important role.
Do you read a lot of other fiction when you are deep into the writing process, or do you prefer to keep your reading and writing identities separate?
I know that many novelists can’t read fiction by other authors when they’re writing. But me-as-writer (nit-picky and anxious about every word) and me-as-reader (childishly happy to abandon myself to a story) are so separate that— provided the themes are not too close to mine – I actually find it relaxing to lose myself in someone else’s imaginative world. And, of course, it’s only by constant reading that one starts to glimpse the astonishing range of what fiction can do.
One contrast stands out in the novel: between the world of hippie communes on the one hand, and the realm of the high-tech, social-media, internet-dominated world of Silicon Valley. Are you suggesting that there are some deep cultural connections between these seemingly disparate worlds?
A good question. The Silicon Valley revolution has hit us so quickly, and transformed the way we view with the world so powerfully, that it’s come to seem almost an immutable fact of life, a bit like electricity or the force of gravity.
But – as Franklin Foer shows, in his excellent book World Without Mind – it is an entirely human creation, the improbable lovechild of two radically contradictory visions. On the one side is the heroic individualism of the arch-libertarian writer Ayn Rand (her novels Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead regularly feature on the favorite books lists of many Silicon Valley titans, including Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and Peter Thiel). On the other is the hippie movement of the sixties and seventies, whose anarchistic, anti- authority ethos fuelled the rapid spread of the personal computer. (By democratizing access to information, so the argument went, you undermine the elite’s ability to hide the truth.)
And – for all that, a company like Google is now one of the most successful capitalist enterprises in the history of the planet – it still retains traces of its countercultural origins: e.g., its “laid-back” attitude towards privacy and copyright, its belief in the power of the collective mind, its view of itself (still!) as a visionary David fighting against the corruption and self-interest of the establishment Goliath. This strange genesis – as well, of course, as the extraordinary technology it has given rise to – makes the tech giants exceptionally difficult to categorize, and to assimilate to any of our preexisting structures.
You mentioned a small Native American community that plays a role in the novel. You have also written an important work on Native American history. There is a sense in the book that we not only need to remain concerned about the legacy of injustice to Native Americans but also to learn from what these peoples can teach us about how to live. Can you say something about that?
Few populations anywhere in the world can have been the subject of so many reckless generalizations – the bulk of them self-serving, and profoundly ill-informed – as Native Americans. I am therefore conscious of the need to answer this question very carefully! But I think it is true to say that, for all their immense differences, most native groups derive (or derived) much of their sense of identity from their relationship with a specific landscape – that mountain, this spring – for which they are spiritually responsible. That feels to me very different from the globalized, utilitarian concern for “the environment” that is so prevalent in nonnativesociety. And I do believe that the rest of us can learn something from it, if only because its richness and fullness and intricacy answer a deep human hunger for meaning and beauty that our flat materialism can’t satisfy.
If you could spend an afternoon with any other writer (dead or alive), who would that be?
The answer to that changes from day to day. At this precise moment, it would be Robert Louis Stevenson, whose adventurous spirit and ability to keep polar opposites in a kind of dramatic tension had a profound influence, not only on Coyote Fork, but on all my books.
How much of the plot was mapped out before you started writing the individual sections of the book? Do you prefer preplanning at the macro level, or letting the writing tell you where it wants to go?
In embarking on any book, there is always a dilemma: if the story is over-plotted, the writing tends to come out desiccated and lifeless; if it’s under-plotted, then the result can appear flabby and aimless. Eventually—rather like a cook, who can tell when something is done simply by the consistency—you learn to recognize when you have enough of an outline, but not too much. For me, the two absolutely essential prerequisites before I start writing are a) a narrative voice that I know can carry me through the whole imaginative landscape of the book; and b) a clear sense of what the ending will be.