Official Gary William Murning Web Site

Official Legend Press Web Site

A Review of Murning’s If I Never
By Jason Jordan, Sep 03, 2009

Gary William Murning makes his debut as a novelist with the 400-page If I Never (Legend Press, 2009). The story centers on the narrator Price, a single, unemployed man suffering from anosmia (lack of smell). His only friend George—a “frenemy” at best, if truth be told—eventually entrusts Price with a secret that becomes the main thrust of the narrative. All the while, Price obtains a gardening job under a man named Tony, courts George’s cousin Tara, and struggles to connect with those around him.

Though the adage about book covers still rings true, it need be said that If I Never is gorgeous. And Murning backs up the alluring art by delivering quality prose. In fact, there’s an awful lot to like. The characters come across as unique and easily distinguishable from one another, the dialogue is well done (despite the overuse of ellipses), and the plot is intriguing. Noteworthy, too, is the fact that the events are unpredictable, resulting in a mostly unforeseen and satisfying ending. Even from the beginning, bizarre circumstances prod the reader to continue: “The cat-cuddling woman promised something...yet, it would look odd if I didn’t do what I knew I must. To chase after a stranger was one thing—but to do it while my father was sitting in the car waiting for me to get in was another” (11).

However, Murning’s latest does have shortcomings. For example, the protagonist is somewhat dull and not as likeable as I’d prefer. When you spend 400 pages with a character, they better be worth the time and effort. Additionally, part of the narrative details the budding relationship between Price and Tara, which, frankly, is the least arresting portion. I’d agree that If I Never should contain bits about their relationship, but I also think their courtship occupies too many pages, slowing the pace to a detrimental degree. The use of past tense does alleviate some tension that naturally comes with present tense, but not to the point that it detracts.

In sum, If I Never is a solid first try that has its moments. I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it, but I do recommend reading the sample chapter to see if it hooks you. If it does, there’s a good chance you’ll like the rest. Or most of them, at least.

decomP Editor-in-Chief Jason Jordan has a large red beard. Visit him (and his beard) at his blog.