Whup Jamboree by Garret Schuelke REVIEW

Whup Jamboree

DISCLAIMER: Garret Schuelke has previously written for Cultured Vultures.

Garret Schuelke’s second full-length book, Whup Jamboree, is a collection of fourteen stories that show snapshots of the lives of three separate characters. Floyd Spicer is a working class hot head from small town Michigan, Imogene McDonald a crust punk in Kalamazoo, and Godan a superhero with wolf-like powers operating in Chicago. Each of the characters’ stories fall into different genres, yet remain recognizable as Schuelke’s work.

Floyd Spicer was the protagonist of Schuelke’s first book Anamakee. That book followed Floyd’s failing college career. The stories here follow Floyd a few years later through his various misadventures with work, family, and romance. The title story, named after a sea shanty, has Floyd and his friends working on a boat in the Michigan-Illinois area. He encounters a crackhead, fights with co-workers, and meets a woman in Chicago.

Like Anamakee, Floyd’s stories have little in the way of overall plot. Instead, they follow the often turbulent and funny life of Floyd the Midwestern working man. Take, for example, “Cracked Tale” wherein Floyd meets with his extended family for an uncomfortably hilarious Thanksgiving dinner. Floyd realizes how little he knows about his cousins and aunts and uncles, yet he knows he has to treat them like family. Schuelke writes in a very simple, Carver-esque manner that helps the subtle humor in stories like this.

“’Well, I don’t think I’ve met you until now. So hi, other cousin.’”

Floyd’s stories are easily my favorite in this collection.

Imogene McDonald only has two stories here. Both stories are about her dealing with shitty housemates. In “Black Doom of Options,” Imogene is being evicted due to her junkie roommate D-Fly. While trying to take out her anger on D-Fly, a group of teenagers show up and cause more problems. In “The Wolf and the Odin,” she goes for a walk with an annoying housemate named Johnny and fights with him the entire way.

I found Imogene’s stories to be the weakest. While there are some funny and entertaining moments in her stories, Imogene doesn’t have much character beyond being a hardheaded crust punk. This book would have benefited from having at least one more story to develop her more.

Godan’s stories depart from the dirty realism of the Floyd and Imogene’s into speculative fiction. Godan is a superhero based in Chicago who fights criminals, evil robots, and supervillains all over the United States and Canada. Schuelke’s simple prose style fits very well in these pieces, making them read like hardboiled pulp action stories.

Despite being in a different genre, Godan isn’t a complete depature from the other stories. Schulke’s theme of turbulent relationships play a big part in Godan’s adventures as does the cynicism displayed by Floyd and Imogene.

In “The Bullgods,” Godan visits his friend Joe aka Wolf Savage in Ontario. He happens to arrive just as Joe is kicking out his now ex-boyfriend Randy. While Wolf Savage and Godan try to teach Godan’s sidekick Murrieta to fly, Randy attacks, revealing that he has the same superpowers as Wolf Savage. Even when Wolf Savage defeats Randy with the help of Godan and Murrieta, he still can’t help but have feelings for him.

“The CBC commentators debated the subject of superhumans while footage of Randy, close up and unmasked, being loaded into the ambulance was played. Joseph materialized his rapier, and blasted the television. He threw the rapier to the side, and sank further into the couch.”

In “Lycaon,” we learn some of Godan’s background. Like Floyd, he was originally from Alpena, Michigan. He travels there to confront the one responsible for giving him his superpowers, a “werewolf” named Lycaon. Lycaon is planning to use the serum that turned him and Godan into the part wolf beings they are to create an army to serve him. What follows is a bloody and suspenseful confrontation between the two. Stories like this show that Schuelke is a more than capable writer of action as well as everyday life. I hope he comes back to this character in a future work.

Review copy provided

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Whup Jamboree
Whup Jamboree is an entertaining collection of stories ranging from the action packed to the mundane, and Garret Schuelke skillfully moves between the two. There are a couple forgettable stories and the genre hopping may cause some to not be able latch on to the book, but it's still well worth your time. Garret Schuelke came out with a great debut and his sophomore effort is not disappointing at all.