The Last Projector by David James Keaton (Broken River Books, October 31, 2014) – There are dozens, no, potentially a small gross of moments in David James Keaton’s debut novel, The Last Projector where I found myself saying, “What the f&$@?” This is not a negative comment. What Keaton unravels in this dense, challenging, and entertaining read has left a thin film over my brain for days.
I’m perfectly fine with that. Or maybe I’m not. I don’t think it really matters—maybe.
A cracked up porn director, amateur terrorists, a pair of victims, and a paramedic—sounds like they should walk into a bar—these are just the tip of iceberg of a cast that distorts and mutates throughout Keaton’s novel. Like driving on mescaline in a blizzard, there are moments where nothing seems right and the world before our eyes melts into a single glob of words and touch points, but it’s worth the mental and physical trip. I don’t think it’s an inaccurate statement that The Last Projector has all the elements of a very polarizing novel, but it’s rare that I would recommend it for that reason. It’s a story that needs to be read.
That owes a lot to Keaton’s complete mastery of voice. Ability, this guy has it, and he puts it to incredible use. That voice lends authority and complete engagement throughout The Last Projector’s labyrinthine and lengthy story. There are few authors out there that could hope to come within a football field’s length of what Keaton does here (and he makes it appear pretty effortless). John Carpenter movie references, bizarre bomb plots, the declined taboo of the tattoo and its effect on pornography—none of these elements should fit together so damn well, but in Keaton’s world, they were never separate to begin with.
At its core, though, The Last Projector is very much a mystery story. How do all these characters’ paths intertwine? What is real? Is the pitch black just under the Technicolor explosion real or just another illusion? The road to the answer just happens to be clogged up with the cult detritus of the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. As I read through, the keys would pop in and out of view. The more I think about it, and I may be entirely wrong, but Keaton may have written the first ever written representation of one of those 3D pictures from the 90’s. Thankfully, I didn’t have to cross my eyes and slap my face into the spine of the novel to read it (an idea for next time?)
Overall, kudos to Keaton for crafting such a fascinating debut novel and for his publisher, Broken River Books for going all out and producing one of the most interesting and unforgettable books I’ve read in a very long time. I recommend it wholeheartedly, even if you don’t think it’s for you. If that’s the case, definitely read it. An extra nod to the spectacular cover by Dyer Wilk. It may be one of the best I’ve ever seen.
A digital copy of The Last Projector was provided by the author