If you had the power to change yourself and the world around you, would you?
I remember during one stage of dissertation writing staring sadly through the window, wishing for the clarity and focus that would allow me to slay the beast residing coyly in my laptop screen. All I wanted was to be free. My attention did nothing but wander with every thought and word planned. In Alan Glynn’s The Dark Fields (2001), he explores what one tiny drug can do to a man’s focus.
Meet Edward “Eddie” Spinola, a man plateauing in every trade of life: a divorcee from his college sweetheart, and trapped in the mire of an unfulfilling copywriting job in the depths of New York City. However, with the help of his ex brother-in-law and the “designer drug” MDT-48, Eddie transforms into a brand new man. With his newfound focus, he takes the economic and business world by storm. In the space of a few short months, he plays an active part in one of the biggest corporate mergers ever seen.
However, for all the vision and focus that MDT gives Eddie, it comes at a harrowing cost. Soon he’s plagued by bouts of paranoia, hallucinations, and most worryingly, blackouts. He fights to stave the symptoms of his cognitive deterioration, whilst juggling the storm of his personal and professional life.
For a novel dealing with the power of the mind, and the potential one could have if they had complete control of it, I found myself completely transfixed by Glynn’s writing; it was impossible to put down. When I read The Dark Fields, I was Eddie. I ingested each MDT pill, watched as I became the center of attention, being the complete focus of the room. Whatever Eddie felt, I felt also just moments later. It was a remarkable feeling.
The novel is told in a reassuring conversational style, which makes the narrative feel more comforting, almost as if it was told to you by a close friend. However, one thing that violently threw me out of Glynn’s fictional world was the sheer density of the business lingo. Obviously in his defence Glynn put the time and research into the mechanics of Wall Street and financial trading. But when I read of Eddie’s exploits into day trading and the mechanics behind it, I found myself less than transfixed by his explanation.
Eddie’s problems not only originate from the personal vein, admittedly. Our loveable protagonist of The Dark Fields encounters a variety of different levels of criminality. From the back-room dealings, horrific deaths, and actual criminals, the perspective of Eddie, whom is plagued constantly by blackouts, adds a certain tension in Eddie’s words.
Ultimately, I enjoyed The Dark Fields. It’ll always be memorable to me as it was the first novel I had the pleasure of reading without feeling the pressure of my academic life. With its crisp wit, intriguing protagonist and tense moments, Alan Glynn shows us that even in the best of times, there are no shortcuts to success.