There are some readers who will take one look at this book and think, “It’s horror. I’m not gonna bother.” Little do they know that in doing so, they’re behaving exactly like its protagonist Cary Bouchard, a snobbish hack writer who writes horror because it’s the only thing he can get published. Wilson perfectly captures the mind of a man who’s bitter and arrogant, yet meek enough that he can’t express his contempt for nearly everyone around him. Cary is not a narcissist in the stereotypical sense and that’s what makes him such a fascinating character. Part of us takes a certain joy in watching his life and sanity fall apart while the other part roots for him because he’s a lot more like us than we care to admit.
And boy does Cary’s life fall apart! The Tragedy Man starts with a murder in the first chapter and keeps building from there, with things at first getting better then much, much worse for its hero. The urban setting and slow descent into madness and horror merit a comparison with Rosemary’s Baby, but at the same time The Tragedy Man is nothing like that at all. Nothing in the story goes the way you would expect and the ending will floor you the way only true originality can. What makes this book even more impressive is that Wilson is not just a writer: she’s also a filmmaker, a producer, a documentarian, a film critic, and an entertainment reporter who has interviewed many a celebrity. How she finds the time to do all these things so well I have no idea. If there’s truly a renaissance woman of the 21st century, it’s Staci Layne Wilson.