REVIEW: Coyote by Colin Winnette

It is a wonder that Colin Winnette still remains relatively obscure. Like some kind of evil genius biding his time, he has put out roughly one book a year since 2011 — each one a concentrated flashbang of precise writing published by a different independent press. Indie editors would do well to get their hands on a Winnette manuscript quickly before he inevitably gains the critical momentum to land on the desk of somebody at one of the bigger houses.

Much of Winnette’s work has the timeless quality of myth — nameless characters whose stories feel more like refractions of something eternal than concrete events being narrated. Coyote, out in January from Les Figues Press, unfolds over a quick series of vignette-like chapters, the longest of which runs just a couple of pages, while the shortest clocks in at four words. The book is over in a heartbeat — all the better to reread it and spend some time burrowing into some of the exquisitely crafted sentences.

In some unnamed setting that is home to both coyotes and wild boars, a mother narrates the aftermath of her daughter’s disappearance and the resulting darkness that seeps into every corner of the house. The husband is referred to only as “her Dad,” and it is clear that this is not a marriage that is disintegrating, but one that never really existed in the first place. The couple is terribly violent to each other, both physically assaulting each other and engaging in mechanical, dispassionate sex that is compared uncomfortably to the chest-burster in Alien.

Winnette has a talent for conjuring characters and situations that exist purely to serve his work. These people are faceless with no discernible backstory, creating an unsettling alternate reality that we can dip into for 80 pages or so. The book leaves an impression not unlike a dream, as if you’ve just witnessed something troubling, but out of the corner of your eye or through the confounding texture of a sheer curtain. Like his detective Mick Something, Winnette has “this simmering determination all about him,” that is bound to take him and his work to increasingly prominent places, and Coyote is yet another defiant step in that direction.

To purchase Coyote, click here to be directed to Less Figues Press’s site.

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