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Book Review: Lead Tears

Lead Tears. Wes Payton. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, May 12, 2016, Trade Paperback and Kindle editions, 200 pages.

Reviewed by Ed Sarna.

I loved Wes Payton’s debut novel, Lead Tears, but find it as hard to categorize, as it was to put down. While words play a lead role in all novels, in Lead Tears they should have their own dressing room. The dialogue throughout is clever, intelligent, and revealing. The importance of the word play by Mr. Payton is hinted at before you open the book through its homographic title.

If I were forced to categorize the book, I’d say it was a combination satire/love story/societal warning/existential discourse, with motorcycles. The action takes place over a few days in the near future. The story, for the most part, revolves around the life of Vert, a lost soul working in a new profession called Witnessing. The object of a Witness is to observe and document events, sometimes to make sense of seemingly senseless situations, and sometimes for no apparent reasons at all. The documents they create are colloquially known as CYAs (Cover Your Assets), and are often not even read by those who hire the Witnesses. However, the Witness is required to write the reports anyway.

The chapters alternate, with some exceptions, between first person CYA Reports and traditional third person chapters, although not much in this book is traditional. Throughout the story, Vert comes in contact with various individuals, some unhappy in their life, some not who they appear to be, but all interesting and well drawn. It is through these interactions with others that the story progresses and Vert’s life, or his perceptions, begin to change. While this is not a mystery, it does drop hints in early sections that culminate in an unexpected but quite satisfying conclusion.

The dichotomous nature of the world these characters inhabit is both dour and hopeful. Mr. Payton presents us with deliciously biting descriptions, as when he describes his boss, Darby, “. . . a swollen jackass of a man who looks as if he was born directly into middle age, opting perhaps to skip the unprofitable years of childhood.” Or in describing one of the eateries he frequents, he states, “In a city revered for its purveyors of fine sausages, few restaurants would claim to offer the equal of those that can be had at The Spackle and Trowel. If they did, they’d soon go out of business.”

I have to confess to reaching for the dictionary on more than one occasion. It’s not that I could not have followed the story without, but I would have missed a good deal of the humor. I highly recommend Lead Tears to anyone looking for a funny, quick, and thought-provoking read. If you are looking for an escape from reality or an out-of-the-box explanation, this is the book for you.


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