Leslie Peter Wulff’s UNCLE BRUCKER THE RAT KILLER
by Robert Guffey on August 9
Back in April my editor at Night Shade/Skyhorse asked me if I would provide a blurb for Leslie Peter Wulff’s debut novel, Uncle Brucker the Rat Killer. He assured me the novel would be right up my alley. Since it was the beginning of midterms at CSU Long Beach, where I teach five English classes, I didn’t think I’d have time to read an entire novel, but I decided to take the impractical path instead and dive into the manuscript anyway. I was so glad I did.
As I said on the cover of the book, I knew this novel was going to be a winner as soon as I started reading it. What really clinched it was this line on p. 7: “…a family of rats living in a public library can learn to read an abridged dictionary.” The book is filled with absurd statements like this one, what appear to be scholarly facts about the secret lives of rats, all of which seem haunted by the magic realist imaginations of Jorge Luis Borges and Italo Calvino, but spiced with a homespun American twang.
The reader learns incredible revelations about rats from such fanciful texts as the Specialized Rat Encyclopedia, From A to Z. For example, did you know that there are 487 words in the rat vocabulary, that rat cakes can turn humans into interdimensional vermin, that rats originate from a place called Rat Land located in a universe somewhere next door to ours?
What is the central plot of Uncle Brucker the Rat Killer? Our sympathetic teenage hero, Walt (whose uncle is the titular character), lays it all out early on in this passage on pp. 55-56:
“After the Second Uprising [a savage war between rats and humans that occurred several years before the story begins] we pushed the rats back and they’ve been laying low since then. For six long years the rats have been gearing up, preparing, building the bridges and digging the tunnels that match up one dimension to the next.
“Now they were gathering at the other side of the Portal.
“A million rat army, waiting for the go code….
“But where was the Portal? Where were the rats coming through?
“Uncle Brucker was determined to locate that damn Portal and find out for himself. But it wouldn’t be easy. All he had to do was what the entire US Army and all its Generals could not accomplish.”