Peter van der Walt
Rowdy Parrot, Ltd. (2019)
Reviewed by Mark Sneed for Reader Views (11/2020)
When I began reading “Under Fire” by Peter van der Walt I was immediately skeptical. There was a lot to unpack. The retirement of Paul Draker, the main character, to a sleepy town seems pretty normal, at face-value. Paul is gay and a former Combat Rescue Officer living in the woods in Fairbridge, a small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina with a bunch of issues. Draker is only trying to live out his life peacefully when things begin to turn ugly Fairbridge.
Peter van der Walt has a way of writing that holds the reader’s attention. It is fast-paced and lively. At times, the writing reminded me of Thomas Harris, when he wrote “Silence of the Lambs.” There was this uneasiness in the book and as I was reading I kept waiting for something terrible to happen. And happen it did. The novel revolves around a rising mega church and its charismatic evangelical preacher in a surprisingly sizeable LGBTQ community. For a while there is an uneasy peace between the two unlikely communities and it is the unease that holds the novel together. Something is always just about to happen. So, when the clash of the two cultures in the small town happens it is not surprising. What is surprising is the extent.
The novelist weaves an interesting tale. This is one of those “it could happen” kind of reads. As I read I was continually thinking that this represents the hypocrisy of Christianity in the nation. Love your neighbor? Brotherly love? Have these things just become bumper stickers with no belief or compassion or empathy behind the words in the nation?
I truly enjoyed reading Under Fire by Peter van der Walt. It made me think about the injustices faced by the LGBTQ community, but more importantly all minorities in the nation and the need for people to stand up to injustice. 5 stars.