My Razzle Dazzle: An Outsider’s True Story by Todd Peterson is a candidate for the great, American novel in my expert opinion. I’m bringing it to people’s attention because it is one of those rare works that is both important to read and great to read. A lot of books accomplish one or the other, but I believe this one is both.
It is the American story told through the experiences of a boy growing up through the second half of the 20th century into adulthood. It captures the history of that time from global events down to a personal level. It is about any person that deals with bullying and finding self. The character deals with being gay in America and while the story delivers that narrative in a powerful way, this is a character that anyone can relate to in the universality of his struggle just to be.
In full disclosure, my name is in the thank you section. I had the opportunity to beta read this work and have been looking forward to it coming out (excuse the pun) for a while. It was brilliant in its early drafts and it is a masterpiece in the published version.
This is not a generic biography. Without giving away plot points, you will be transported behind the scenes of some of the craziest and coolest showbiz evolutions in Americana. I really want to ruin this book for you and tell some of the cool, iconic moments that make an appearance in this true story. This was a life that had to be told and one that every American or anyone that is fascinated by the oddities of Americana and the American landscape through modern history must read.
With the conflict in America all across the political and social spectrum over the place of gay Americans culturally in our nation, this book is immeasurably important. It tells this experience in a very personal way that will touch every reader’s heart regardless of background, orientation, or beliefs. Reading this book will reveal that the timeliness of this story is in its timelessness. The story of gay Americans at all ages, in all places, and at all times in our history has been a vital part of the American fabric. Whether a reader identifies as gay or not, is beside the point. This story is our story. It is the American story. You will see yourself and your family in these pages in a powerful way in our shared experiences and our shared identity as Americans.
I identify as a Christian. I’m not sure I’m a very good one, but I am one. My politics are strongly libertarian in the “let people live their lives even if you don’t like what they do with their freedom” strain. These things often stand in conflict, but all people are a mess on contradictions, so I embrace that in myself. I write horror, zombie stories, science fiction, and other speculative fiction. This book is outside my genre in reading and my work. I found the references and the experiences deeply moving and relateable even being outside some of the circles represented. From a religious perspective, young Todd’s experiences with church were realistically and fairly written. I took a message from his life in that regard from my standpoint as the reader. The narrative does not preach an agenda, but one cannot help but to understand the meaning and layers of meaning in the prose. I really want to ruin some of the great moments in this book to illustrate the power in the words from a story perspective, a character perspective, and a literary perspective.
This book needs to be read. It does not pull punches in its storytelling, but it is also expert in the blows it lands. There are some very raw moments as the book unfolds. Todd tells his whole story without cutting out any of the difficult pieces. Sons to fathers, brothers to brothers, teacher to learner, insider to outsider, and every other important relationship in a person’s life is explored with power in this epic journey through our land and history.
I root for Todd. His victories are sweet from the perspective of his struggle and well earned. You feel every step in a very personal and powerful way both with the positive and negative moments. There are no empty, stock characters. Every scene and every soul is presented with complexity and depth.
I cannot possibly recommend this work highly enough. As I said, it is the American story told for every one of us. It will mean something big to those that take the time to read it.
Jay Wilburn is an author of speculative fiction. He has stories in Best Horror of the Year volume 5, Shadows Over Mainstreet, Fat Zombie, and Zombies: More Recent Dead. His novel series The Dead Song Legend Dodecology includes a musical soundtrack of songs recorded as if by the characters in the story during the apocalypse. Hear the story even as you read it with The Sound May Suffer: Songs from the Dead Song Legend. Each book comes with a new soundtrack EP of mini radio play songs. Coming in May 2015 and continuing for twelve apocalyptic installments.