There is a thin line between crime and horror, Stephen King’s Misery and Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter series spring to mind. You can now add Anthony Neil Smith’s The Cyclist to this list. Smith’s latest book tells the story of Judd, a washed-out Navy SEAL in the US, who falls in love with Cat, a co-worker who lives in Scotland. Judd’s dismissal from the Navy was, shall we say, due to a colossal fuckup – in a panic, he fired live ammunition at his SEAL instructor and hit him several times. Dealing with this pain of being unceremoniously discharged, Judd returns home to Minnesota where he tries to bury his problems by cycling hundreds of miles at a time.
Cat asks Judd to visit and he abandons everything in Minnesota meet up with Cat for a cycling vacation of Scotland. It’s his final act of desperation as what better way to deal with his problems than to run away half-way around the world.
This is the second book I’ve read of Anthony Neil Smith and his third book published since August 2017. Smith may be more prolific than fellow crime writer Eric Beetner, but probably not. Like Castle Danger: Woman on Ice, Smith’s The Cyclist takes a strong turn half-way through as Judd goes from a shell of a man grasping for some sort of meaningful existence to a man desperately fighting for his life and others.
As I wrote at the beginning, Smith’s The Cyclist blurs the line between crime and horror. Smith had me turning my head away from the pages and wincing in pain at the terror. In a recent interview with author Tom Leins at Dirty Books, Leins asked, “Given the right break, The Cyclist feels like it could resonate with a mainstream audience – was that intentional?”. Smith replied:
Absolutely. I’ve written thirteen previous novels, all of which have attracted a “cult” audience, I’d say, and some of the early ones were really rough “gonzo noir.” And I love those books! However, I’ve always dreamed of a larger audience enjoying my books, the same way I enjoy a lot of mainstream thrillers and crime novels. So that’s a goal of mine: to learn how to write a book that can reach out and grab a very large swath of thriller readers. THE CYCLIST is another step on that journey. I mean, some writers may scoff at James Patterson or John Grisham, but they must know *something* I haven’t figured out yet in order to have so many people love to read them.
Not only do I agree with Leins that The Cyclist could, even should, connect with that mainstream audience, it can keep those fans of Smith’s earlier work happy as well. Currently selling for $2.99, The Cyclist is a steal compared to the $14.99 for Baldacci or Patterson’s latest thrillers. Pick it up, read it and then recommend Smith’s The Cyclist to your friends that only read Stephen King, Lee Child and the rest.