Peter Straub and Michael Easton’s The Green Woman

The Green Woman, written by Peter Straub and Michael Easton, is a hallucination in full color — the latter thanks to John Bolton’s art. Reality gets severely warped here — if we can figure out whose reality we’re seeing.

Fielding “Fee” Bandolier has had many names, but they all boil down to “FB.” He was once a Green Beret in Vietnam, and then a cop. Now he’s a serial killer who’s tired of it all — especially the ghosts who haunt him.

Bob Steele is a detective who’s been tracking FB, or trying to, through a series of murdered girls — teenagers, their corpses dressed in white. He has his own demons, starting with the fact that his father named him after a Hollywood cowboy star. Detective Steele isn’t really star quality, but he’s determined to stop FB. The trail leads to a pub in Belfast made of old timbers, from a ship on which the crew went mad and killed each other. The chase leads back to a midwestern bar, The Green Woman, which is where the figurehead of the ship wound up.

They do meet. The results are not what Steele expected.

Realities get interwoven here: these are two haunted men, and as their demons start to blend the narrative becomes even more of a fever dream. The overlap begins to blur the distinctions between the two when Steele, on a fishing trip, starts imagining that he has hooked Fee’s victims. Fee, watching an old Western starring Bob Steele on TV, is informed that Steele is coming to get him. Transitions become abrupt, when they exist at all, and sometimes we’re not entirely sure whose story we’re witnessing.

John Bolton’s art adds to the — well, call it a mood, for lack of a better word. Bolton paints his frames, and they veer from a near-photographic realism to a combination of expressionism and impressionism, sometimes in the same image. This painterly realism is coupled with a nightmarish quality to underscore the horror in the story while also adding a dimension of its own to the narrative. On that score I can say Bolton’s art is a perfect fit. Regrettably, what it doesn’t add is clarity, which would have helped, I think: the impact is greater if we know what we’re seeing.

I can’t fault the accomplishment here: it’s a gripping story, masterfully told. I just wish I had been able to figure out a little better what was going on.

(Vertigo, 2010)

About Robert Tilendis

Robert M. Tilendis lives a deceptively quiet life. He has made money as a dishwasher, errand boy, legal librarian, arts administrator, shipping expert, free-lance writer and editor, and probably a few other things he’s tried very hard to forget about. He has also been a student of history, art, theater, psychology, ceramics, and dance. Through it all, he has been an artist and poet, just to provide a little stability in his life. Along about January of every year, he wonders why he still lives someplace as mundane as Chicago; it must be that he likes it there.

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