Darkness on the Edge of Asbury
Asbury Park Press
March 2, 2003
BY MIKE RILEY
PRESS STAFF WRITER
Former Asbury Park Press Books Editor Wallace Stroby admits to being something of a Bruce Springsteen fan. So it's not surprising that the opening of his debut novel, "The Barbed-Wire Kiss" (St. Martin's Minotaur, $24.95) purports to be a conversation between protagonist Harry Rane and his therapist, concerning the former's penchant for taking late-night drives alone.
"You're trying to fix things ... that got away from you," the therapist says to Rane.
And you can't, he adds.
That echoes a story Springsteen once told a audience about a conversation he had with his own psychiatrist.
"I'm vaguely aware of that story," Stroby says. "But I've often driven for hours in the night."
Writers take their inspiration where they find it, and if the hard-edged, doomed romantic mythos of Springsteen and the ghost-town loneliness of hard-luck Shore towns where Stroby grew up and still lives is where the author finds his, that's fine.
He could do worse.
The Ocean Grove resident, who now works for the Star Ledger of Newark, has woven a story about Rane, a former New Jersey state trooper on early retirement trying to help an old friend who has come up on the wrong side of a Tony Soprano-type. Rane finds he's in over his head in all kinds of ways.
Stroby's dialogue is Jersey Shore Elmore Leonard; his descriptions sound like James Lee Burke has left the bayous of Louisiana behind and begun to experience the sights and sounds of, say, Asbury Park.
As a novel, "The Barbed-Wire Kiss" has the melancholy yet stripped-down feel of Springsteen music at its hard-driving best.