Reviewed by Wendy Hawkin
Cross-genre novels present the best of diverse worlds. In Mahoney’s Camaro, Michael J. Clark offers a tongue-in-cheek paranormal mystery guaranteed to make you smile.
To begin with, the story is set in 1985 Winnipeg. Laced with street-talk, the odd bit of casual sex, and the necessary obscenities, it comes with an Eighties soundtrack that will have you humming along with the car radio. Time travel back to the days of video store rentals, Beta and VHS cassettes, Consumer’s Distributing outlets, answering machines, and Sony Walkmans.
Clark also offers readers a window into the genesis of crack-cocaine which is just blowing in from the United States and is hitting the Winnipeg streets. It’s killing people who are unprepared for the shift in quality and turning recreational users into addicts. At the same time, business people who’ve been using pagers are being romanced by the notion of a cellular phone. How amazing would it be if you could make a sale on the go, rather than wait till you’re back at the office to make that callback?
But Clark’s real niche lies in his intricate knowledge of the automotive industry. He began his career by winning national awards for writing and photography in automotive journalism. Mahoney’s Camaro is a book that car guys and gals will adore. Well-peppered with allusions to makes, models, and years, any vintage enthusiast will be able to cruise along beside Mahoney with visions of cars in their head.
The book is plot-driven. There’s no complex character development—just a pack of car hounds who’ll keep you smiling.
Steve Mahoney is a nice guy—the kind of guy who’ll help you out and be glad to do it—a mechanic and tow-truck driver who pulls night shifts in “Unit 36 . . . the oldest member of the Hook Me Up Towing company fleet . . . a ’73 Chevrolet C30 chassis cab.” He lives on fast food and little sleep and finds his girlfriend while picking up a lock-out.
When he’s called out to the Red River to retrieve a submerged Camaro, Mahoney discovers a body inside—a woman handcuffed to the wheel. The police assume it’s a suicide so our hero takes the car off to be cleaned. Later, he discovers the story might not be so simple. You see, Mahoney needs spare parts to rebuild his damaged ’67 Camaro and this haul is perfect. He outbids another buyer at a salvage auction, pays $1200 for the cleaned-up purple Camaro, and gets his vehicle back on the street. The only problem is, his new Hot Rod comes with its own ghost. Heather Price.
Paranormal writers all present ghosts in their own unique way. Heather knows she’s deceased, though she’s sketchy on the why and how of it. She can make the Camaro do things. Communicate through the radio. Inspire terrifying visions. Appear in several guises including a shimmering spectre with kaleidoscope eyes and floating hair and, conversely, the corpse Mahoney pulled out of the Red River. Our hero’s not the only person who can see her, and her appearances incite mixed reactions. The woman just wants to go home. If Mahoney can solve the riddle behind her untimely demise and see justice served, perhaps he’ll get his car back. Then his girlfriend won’t be so jealous.
Mahoney’s Camaro is a quick, fun read, perfect for summer travel. You might find yourself vehicle-gazing on the highway, or hitting a vintage car rally. Fans who enjoy reading Dietrich Kalteis, A.J. Devlin, and Ron Corbett will want to join the joyride.
Mahoney’s Camaro is published by ECW Press.