"I am not a good man.
I am not a bad man.
In seven days I will be dead.
My name is Peter Crumb.
This is what remains...."
If you decided that you had just seven days remaining on this planet, how would you choose to use the time? Visit friends and family? Take a trip to a beautiful place? Spend all your life savings? For Peter Crumb, the decision is easy. He's going to make his mark on the God-forsaken world that has left him so far behind. And Monday means Murder.....
In The Seven Days of Peter Crumb there's a cold brutality about Jonny Glynn's narrative style that gradually becomes more and more unsettling. As one ghastly event after another unfolds before the reader's eyes, it's easy to begin to question whether this is a work of fiction or whether this is actually a factual recount of a lunatic at play; and that's the genius of Peter Crumb.
With more than an affectionately passing nod to Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho, Peter Crumb is a first-person narrative that details every single event that takes place in the life of the titular character when he decides that in seven days he will end his life. It's not a hysterical, emotionally wrought decision. It's a very simple, matter-of-fact step in what is clearly a very damaged existence. What happens, however, is often rather unpredictable, occasionally bordering on the surreal, always verging on the boundaries of what taste dictates an author can actually say.
This is not a book for the squeamish; just the ghoulish cover art should tell you that. Crumb's blatant disregard for humanity is compelling and highly disturbing as he randomly butchers a newsagent with a hammer and brutally assaults a prostitute, all within the space of forty-eight hours. It isn't so much the acts themselves that are so chilling, it's the calm, educated attention to detail exhibited by Crumb that becomes the most disturbing part of the tale. As his first victim's skull shatters against the blow from a hammer head, Crumb observes calmly as the life oozes out of his victim like the rivulets of crimson blood pouring from the wound; and then smashes into her once more to put her out of her misery.
Crumb's complex character is gradually revealed as the seven days unfold. Glynn demonstrates the warped mentality of this character in a variety of ways. Crumb's seemingly inexhaustible appetite to describe and score his daily bowel movements, for example, enables the reader to quickly understand Crumb's state of mind, at least for the next few pages or so. Social situations expose Crumb's vulnerability and provide ammunition for the character to subsequently "take it all out" on the world. (A graphic exchange of dialogue with two teenaged females on a bus is a timely and realistic view of public life today.) It quickly becomes clear (although you can't help thinking that the author saw this as something of a reveal later in the novel) that Glynn is talking to an imaginary person. As he goes about his filthy business, somebody else is constantly criticising and chattering away at him and in the face of what appears to be a schizophrenic personality the shift from sane to psycho is quickly understood.
Glynn's style is simple and hard-hitting. It would be hard to describe his text as prosaic, given only that the audience should believe that the author has had to use his imagination to create this character, but there is an absence of symbolism or artistic representation here. Indeed, the vile language used by Crumb throughout the book is in its own way, curiously articulate and yet utterly revolting in equal doses. The real-time pace and structure is also very effective. The reader moves from one day to the next in a detailed, rather laboured manner that quickly becomes rather absorbing and this is one of those novels that lends itself to being read very quickly in very few sessions.
But whilst the outcome may seem inevitable, the author has a few surprises up his sleeve, including a rather bizarre plot twist that somehow seems to transform the lead character from being the vile despot of his own dark world into something of a hero. Whether this is entirely effective or not becomes a matter of choice for the reader, but the author should be credited for taking the novel in a particularly unexpected direction as the seventh day quickly looms.
The Seven Days of Peter Crumb is something of an acquired taste, but fans of this shocking genre of horror will almost certainly delight at the savage antics of the novel's lead character. For this reader at least, Crumb was an absorbing, if not rather disturbing, form of escapism that demanded attention from start to finish. Whether the book conveys any deeper message remains to be seen however; this is arguably a rather good book about a rather mad man and should probably be viewed as nothing else.
The Seven Days of Peter Crumb is author Jonny Glynn's first novel and was published in 2007.