In Extremis

Matt Duggan

Publisher: ManVsFilm Pages: 476 Price: (paperback) $14.99 ISBN: 9781733794343 Reviewed: May, 2024 Author Website: Visit »

In Extremis—the second novel in Matt Duggan’s “The Rosy Dream” trilogy—spotlights the 1990s Los Angeles misadventures of Jack Darmody, an aspiring writer determined to forge an artistic legacy.

When Jack was seven years old, his parents died in a car accident, and the night is seared into his memory. Now it’s 2008, and Jack is searching for purpose and meaning.

One morning while vacationing in California, he learns that his eccentric friend, Billy Barber, has been murdered. Soon after, Jack has a seizure and realizes he’s forgotten his medication. Paramedics are called, but Jack and his rescuers get caught in a fast-moving wildfire on the way to the hospital. Jack and one of the EMTs run to a nearby swimming pool. As they fight to stay awake in the pool, Jack shares stories about Billy.

Talking about his late friend conjures memories of when Jack was a 22-year-old transplant from the East Coast and include his relationship with his on-again-off-again girlfriend Sophia, stints as a film extra, and working as a barback at a swanky hotel. Jack also contemplates his since-lapsed obsession with Nietzsche, whose beliefs—particularly around religion and Christianity—fueled Jack’s hunger for creativity and devotion to atheism.

Duggan calls his novel “a historical work of nonfiction fiction,” and the first-person narrative firmly establishes the setting and time. Jack’s lingering trauma is effectively framed, and his romantic, introspective nature poignantly contrasts with Hollywood’s shallow glitz and glamor.

Duggan’s prose shines when exploring Jack’s sensitivity and vulnerability, but the narrative fails to consistently apply this same care to prominent secondary characters like Sophia. Much of Jack and Sophia’s relationship dynamics are told rather than shown, and the relationship’s eventual resolution feels somewhat anticlimactic, Additionally, some readers may tire of Jack’s hyper-focus on Nietzsche, which slows momentum.

Nonetheless, this story centered on a young man’s inner pilgrimage should entice readers with its realistic portrayal of the challenges and emotional turmoil of navigating adulthood.

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