Wagon Buddy: Steve Stred

The first time I saw The Pop Group, way back in 1978, I was on my way to the bar when they took to the stage. I was intending to sit in there and drink while they performed. Why? Their name. It just didn’t appeal to me. Yes, it had a tinge of irony, but even so I expected something trite and less than invigorating. When the maniacal cacophony started, I slowed my step, and as the twisted wave of splintered sound came crashing down around me, I stopped.

Yes, I was wrong, but as someone who makes gut-based judgements, it wasn’t the first time I was wrong, nor was it the last. That said, I’ve also made a few brilliant decisions based on a gut feeling, but today’s not the day for self-inflation. Today is about getting it wrong.

Don’t ask why, but when I first became aware of Wagon Buddy, I was intrigued. My immediate mental image was of a wagon train, and I thought about a dark western with macabre and violent insanity. Then I saw the cover: a child’s trolley, and I thought, fuck that for a game of soldiers. However, people seemed to rate it so I dived in.

I won’t talk plot nor will I address style. I shall say one thing about this book, and one thing only.

My wife was watching TV in bed, something about women who’d had plastic surgery and it had gone horribly wrong. Sadly, none had arms sewn onto their backs or legs attached to their foreheads or anything that really was horribly wrong in the true sense of the phrase, so I started Wagon Buddy.

I read about 40 per cent of it in the first sitting. At some point during that time she turned off the TV and light and went to sleep. Feeling tired, I put it down and also went to sleep. I awoke a few hours later, at around 3am. I tend to sleep fitfully. Usually I just think about something I’m writing and wait for sleep to resume, but this time I couldn’t. I needed to know, wanted to know how the story ended. I still had 60 per cent of the novella to go, but I couldn’t wait to resume reading.

So I picked up Wagon Buddy and dived back in. I had an early start the next day and really should have slept, but I wanted to read the book, so I did, until the end. And no, I didn’t regret my decision.

It receives a good solid four ape heads, and I shall be reading more Steve Stred soon.

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