Publication Date: May 17, 2007
List Price US $10.99
List Price US $13.95
A novel about obsession that makes for obsessive reading.
All Owen Patterson wants is an normal life, a happy marriage, and a stable family. But following the brutal and random murder of his brother-in-law, that dream is shattered. A year later, his wife is still in mourning and his in-laws won’t talk about anything but their dead son.
The murderer, Henry Joseph Raven, has been put in prison, but as far as Owen is concerned, prison isn’t punishment enough. He embarks on a quest to “balance the scales of justice,” writing letters to Henry Raven under the pseudonym Lily Hazelton. His plan: to seduce the murderer, make him fall in love with his fictional correspondent, and then break his heart. From one letter to the next, Lily Hazelton develops into a curious amalgam of details from Owen’s imagination, snatches of his difficult childhood, and memories of his cousin Eileen, a suicide who was his first true love. Not entirely in control of his own creation, Owen dives headfirst into the correspondence, only to find himself caught in the trap he’s set for Henry Raven.
Bringing together an epistolary game of cat and mouse with the harrowing record of one man’s psychological collapse, The Interloper is a compelling and original debut from a bold new writer.
Excerpt from The Interloper
“As assured and sumptuously written as any first novel I’ve encountered—Antoine Wilson’s prose sings, and the story he tells here is both clever and compelling. This is writing at its very best.” — T. Coraghessan Boyle
“Although his pedigree is impressive (Iowa Writer’s Workshop, the Paris Review, “Best New American Voices”), Wilson has come seemingly out of nowhere to deliver a novel that is confident, well-paced and very, very creepy. Were he to meddle in literary affairs again and again, the world would be the better for it.” —San Diego Union-Tribune
“The pathos, delusion and hope festering within Owen will carry readers through.” —Publishers Weekly
“The pleasures of this wry debut novel lie not in wondering if things will turn out badly for Owen but in how badly they will go and how unreliable his narrative really is. Was his father a frustrated inventor or a drug-lab operator? Are his manuals brilliant or perennially late and barely readable? Is he just a bit odd or a full-blown nutter? Either way, Owen keeps his mind on the rails long enough to deliver an amusing account of the train wreck.” —Booklist
“Wilson takes his readers down a dark spiraling path with an ever-increasing tempo where past childhood memories and hatred collide with resounding tragedy.” —ForeWord Magazine
OH, what thrilling dread, falling in with a character as twisted as the narrator of Antoine Wilson’s terrific first novel, The Interloper. It’s like leaving a party with a designated driver, only to discover as you swerve down the driveway that your new friend is drunker than you are. Or worse, completely insane…..Wilson writes a clean, restrained line that works well for the setup and for the creeping fun that follows: a manic, darkly comic descent into delusional obsession.” —Los Angeles Times
“LA Times loved it…Yes, it is that good. The creepy factor is high as Owen tries to avenge his brother-in-law’s death by assuming the identity of a woman and writing love letters (as a woman!) to his brother-in-law’s imprisoned killer. Creepy but funny.” —LAist
“Antoine Wilson’s debut novel, The Interloper, is a thoroughly dark and uncannily disturbing assessment of psychological breakdown. It is a story that makes you think about what is normal and what is abnormal—and about the ends justifying the means….Wilson’s well-written prose examines how obsession can lead to one’s demise. With its disturbing plot and characters, The Interloper shows just how far a person will go to seek revenge…it is definitely worth a close read. Wilson has a promising career ahead of him.” —Baltimore City Paper
“[A] standout, tautly-written debut novel…At times horrifying and at times laugh out loud funny, The Interloper makes for compulsive reading…Wilson tightly orchestrates the entire disaster, leaving us wondering how badly things will end up…succeeding to write a gripping first novel that defies expectations.” —Brooklyn Rail
1. Why do you think the title of the book is The Interloper? Who or what is the interloper?
2. The Interloper portrays very different responses to death: the silent approach that denies death and the openly obsessional response of the Stocking family. How does Owen react to and embody the varied forms of mourning?
3. The Stockings are not seeking revenge. What do you think is involved in Owen’s decision to seek revenge for CJ’s death?
4. Owen thinks he is “in fine shape medically and psychologically” and considers himself “a civilized person, probably around 80% acclimated to the society” in which he lives. How does his lack of self-awareness set the tone for the book?
5. What other clues indicate that Owen’s account might not be entirely reliable?
6. In a very dark manner, The Interloper intertwines comedy with tragedy. What aspects of the book did you find humorous?
7. In a version of epistolary cross-dressing, Owen names his female correspondent based on his deceased cousin, “lethal Lily Hazelton. Hazel-eyed Hazelton, Lily the lily, a trumpet on a slender stem. An invitation for Raven to tend or pluck.” Lily evokes Nabokov’s nicknamed Lolita, “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins, my sin, my soul,” whose full name was Dolores Haze. How does Owen’s own unspoken mourning for his lost forbidden love merge with the mourning around him?
8. How does the manipulation of gender work its effects on Owen?
9. When Calvin’s diary reveals something about what he was like, how does it reverberate with his family’s obsessive mourning for him and with Owen’s demented program of revenge?
10. Did you find the ending to be a surprise? What do you think Owen’s intentions were when he met Henry Joseph Raven and what do you think happened—in his own mind and from an external point of view?