Tale tall, thin and terrific

[attach]1989[/attach]Blind Luck, Scott Carter, Darkstar Fiction, trade $18.95.

Lucky us, to have author Scott Carter among us.

The Beach-bred and Riverdale-dwelling teacher and screenwriter has produced his first novel, Blind Luck, and it’s a terrific read.

Not a particularly heavy read though, despite the narrative hinging on a horrifying, tragic incident. That event, coming early in the novel, caught me off-guard despite my having been warned of it by another reader, such is the appeal of Carter’s jaunty writing style.

On a day like any other, accountant Dave Bolden, who has spent his life avoiding risk, is suddenly cast as the sole survivor of a freak accident that wipes out his colleagues and friends. The quirk of fate that kept him safe (he was in the washroom) leads him understandably to experience a severe case of survivor guilt.

But it also leads others to consider him inherently lucky. Among them is a wealthy entrepreneur who aims to add to his millions by marketing Dave’s good luck. He starts by backing guesses Dave makes on sports games and the stock market but ends up coercing him into criminal and bloody “extreme betting” situations.

Meanwhile, Dave also hooks up with a notoriously unlucky young woman in hopes that his luck will rub off on her. But it doesn’t seem to work that way, at least not at first.

Throughout all this he refuses to believe in luck, despite mounting evidence to the contrary. This is the part of the novel that belies credibility. Firstly, it’s bizarre that his wildest guesses about bank account figures, about the mauling targets of, about strangers’ names keep coming true — that’s not luck, it’s miracles. And secondly, it’s beyond belief that these repeated incredible results don’t affect his opinion of his own abilities.

Complicating his thinking is his aged father, an inveterate and impoverished gambler Dave is keeping in a care facility. His dad doesn’t believe in a person being naturally lucky or unlucky either: he just figures a person should take risks in order to sometimes be fortunate. You can’t win without a ticket, as they say.

But in the end it’s resolved that … well, I don’t know what is resolved. You can take the concluding events — pulling together all plot threads and presented all very excitingly — as either confirming or refuting the personal luck thesis. It’s life-affirming in a general kind of take-a-chance-on-life way.

Sounds very high concept, doesn’t it. Throughout I was thinking what an interesting movie this would make, perhaps starring Nicholas Cage as the guilt-ridden ordinary man pushed by unusual circumstances into discovering his own extraordinary talents — and dealing with dangerous friends and opponents along the way.

Great flicks are often made from slight books. Blind Luck, the novel, doesn’t go much deeper into the issues raised about
personal fate or fortune than such a movie treatment would. Which is too bad because Carter’s intelligent way with words suggests he could bring enlightening reflection on serious matters to a popular audience.

But Blind Luck is an engaging, if tallish, tale as it is.