Gone to the Wolves
“A hair-raising, head-banging, meet-the-Devil epic tale of love, youth and rock and roll." —Andrew Sean Greer, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Less Is Lost
Kip, Leslie, and Kira are outliers—even in the metal scene they love. In arch-conservative Gulf Coast Florida in the late 1980s, just listening to metal can get you arrested, but for the three of them the risk is well worth it, because metal is what leads them to one another.
Different as they are, Kip, Leslie, and Kira form a family of sorts that proves far safer, and more loving, than the families they come from. Together, they make the pilgrimage from Florida's swamp country to the fabled Sunset Strip in Hollywood. But in time, the delicate equilibrium they've found begins to crumble. Leslie moves home to live with his elderly parents; Kip struggles to find his footing in the sordid world of LA music journalism; and Kira, the most troubled of the three, finds herself drawn to ever darker and more extreme strains of metal. On a trip to northern Europe for her twenty-second birthday, in the middle of a show, she simply vanishes. Two years later, the truth about her disappearance reunites Kip with Leslie, who in order to bring Kira home alive must make greater sacrifices than they could ever have imagined.
In his most absorbing and ambitious novel yet, John Wray dives deep into the wild, funhouse world of heavy metal and death cults in the 1980s and '90s. Gone to the Wolves lays bare the intensity, tumult, and thrill of friendship in adolescence—a time when music can often feel like life or death.
Wray (Lowboy) returns with a masterly opus of Florida metalheads. Kip Norvald, Leslie Z, and Kira Carson bond as teens in the late 1980s during a drunken escapade that involves, among other things, a dude strapping himself to skis on the roof of an off-roading truck. Having survived the mischief, the three set out in search of something true. They find it in the death metal scene, where bands like Death, Morbid Angel, and Cannibal Corpse are flourishing. As Kira puts it: "That's what metal is for. It's a flamethrower, Norvald. It burns all the bullshit away." After high school, the trio are pulled in different directions. Leslie Z, the flamboyant, queer ringleader, struggles with heroin addiction, Kira tends bar at the Rainbow Room in Los Angeles, and Kip becomes a rock critic. Kip and Leslie reunite in 1990 to find Kira, who has since moved to Norway and been taken in by a black metal cult. Wray writes about music with the enthusiasm of a fan and the precision of a critic, packing the pages with spot-on details and cannily capturing the allure of extreme music. The pages of this anthem are as uncompromising as the music they depict.