Reviews -- The Man Who Walked to The Moon

"Near the end of Howard McCord's novella, the narrator says his story is "a veritable account of a lucid insanity of long duration, an oblique confession, an apologia pro vita sum, a fantasy spun in a cold winter, or out of night." This serves as an apt description of a tightly squeezed, haunting tale told primarily by William Gaspar, a recluse whose voice sounds at times like those of Poe's insane, criminal storytellers. Paul Bowles's gruesome story "Doña Faustina" also comes to mind. Gaspar says at one point, well into the book, that he has killed 127 people. Only gradually, though, do we begin to learn of the narrator's vocation (besides walking, that is). This, in fact, is what in part creates the suspense. What is this man doing in the desolate regions of Nevada, obsessively climbing on a mountain called the Moon? He reveals, little by little, his obsession with guns. And we realize that he himself is now being hunted down on the mountain, by a "Palug cat," a hunter who seems to be a henchman of a hag-spirit-woman called Cerridwen whom he first met during a crisis as a soldier in the Korean War. Realism is gradually eroded by the delusions of a deranged mind. McCord skillfully portrays both the psychological terrain of his assassin-narrator and the physical terrain of the mountain. As in many of Cormac McCarthy's novels, the natural world seems completely indifferent to what we call moral considerations. A work of great imaginative force and sharp, penetrating prose, The Man Who Walked to the Moon leaves the reader on edge for days, thinking how many William Gaspars might be loose in the world."
-- The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Spring 1998
"...all around the stars were bright, bitter lights in the night..."
William Gasper, obsessed with freedom, guilty of capital crimes in 23 countries, prefers walking alone to most other activities, and walk alone he does -- up, over, and beyond the Steen Mountains of Nevada. In this chilling tale of an assassin, Gasper admits, "I...could well have been the second gunman, the man on the bushy knoll." He learned his trade from the Marines, who taught him "to avert my eyes from nothing." Gail Henry, Gasper's friend and business associate, says he is "as solitary a creature as I have ever come across." Solitary except for the stealthy creatures that follow him: Cerridwen, with her misused magical caldron, and the sleuth-like Palug, a clawing "cat" in human form. Gasper met Cerridwen as a young Marine private on a reconnaissance patrol south of the Majon, but he has to keep her a secred because "when you start gassing off about cloak-clad ladies who disappear in a puff of light and whose faces are sometimes the moon, you are headed toward a Secion 8." The first team of "hit men" arrive at Gail Henry's, searching for Gasper, who becomes both the hunted and the hunter, and while pursuing his freedom, observes with a poet's eye how "the spring flowers on the ridge whipped back and forth as though jerked by hidden strings." Only at the end does William Gasper show he is human, but by then McCord's hypnotic tale has convinced us otherwise.
-- Gretchen Geralds, Ohioana Quarterly
"Howard McCord of Bowling Green, Ohio, is author of more than 25 books of poetry and is a world-class hiker who has walked the Greenland ice cap, the Jornada del Muerto in New Mexico, and has tramped in Iceland, Lapland, Greece and India. He knows walking, and in this slim first novel, he takes the reader into the mind of a strange ex-Marine named William Gasper who lives in and tramps the dim trails of The Moon, a menacing mountain in Nevada. Gasper is a cold-blooded loner who admits to an 'icy mind,' who says 'I do nothing for a living but live, simply,' and who seems to have no avocation but walking and thinking. But he is more than he admits he is a trained killer and he is being stalked on The Moon by another killer, armed with a scoped rifle. McCord has an eerie, poetic touch in this offbeat cat-and-mouse story, and evokes some uncomfortable thinking about life and death and fate. The Man Who Walked to The Moon is a polished little gem of a story that would win a novella contest in a walk."
-- Dale L. Walker, Rocky Mountain News
"The mind and soul of an assassin are plumbed to a fare-thee-well on a bare Nevada mountain in this startling debut novella by poet and essayist McCord."
-- Kirkus Reviews
"This first novel by poet and short story writer McCord mixes suspense with amoral observations on life, death, fate, and the human psyche. [It] may be too fantastic for mystery readers and too cynical for fantasy fans but could become a cult classic."
-- Library Journal
"This is serious fiction, with a keen intelligence obvious in every sentence, every allusion and every trenchant observation".
-- Washington Post Book World and International Herald Tribune
"It is a stunning achievement for a first novelist: a brief, brilliantly written philosophical adventure story that will endure."
-- Michael Perkins, Screw
"I loved the technicalities of geology, landscape description, climbing, hunting, weaponry and the allusions to Wittgenstein, Chaung Tzu, Kier-kegaard, and especially the several references to the science of physics. And I like Gaspar although I would probably feel uncomfortable in his presence...not from fear of harm but from the in-tensity and complexity of his being. His belief in unbelief (a kind of faith in itself) is convincing, barely arguable....Finally, Gasper is a man of right instincts and he is spiritual because he believes in things unseen, and his instincts arise from a kind of inscrutable and irrational wisdom which is nonetheless moral, whether he recognizes it or not."
-- Professor Lawrence Gunter
"A compelling and eclectic novella, The Man Who Walked to The Moon is a successful mix of mystery, fantasy, and philosophical treatise. It is a look at a human being both magnificent and flawed, supremely intelligent and coldly logical, yet still driven by instinct."
-- John Haynes, Illusions
"I found it a gripping, extraordinarily memorable read."
-- Jan Libourel, Gun World
Written by a Korean War veteran, marathon runner, and university teacher of 43 years' experience, The Man Who Walked to the Moon is the story of an ex-Marine sniper turned professional lone wolf. Set amid the mountains of Nevada, including one particularly imposing peak dubbed "The Moon", it follows the protagonist's tale of a life without illusions yet brought to the brink of a mystic spirituality, and denounces the decadence of civilization and over- reliance upon luxuries. Mystery, threat, and military reminiscence combine in this transcendental work of austere literature. -- The Midwest Book Review

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