The Wolves that Live in Skin and Space is Christopher Zeischegg’s, better known as adult performer Danny Wylde, second novel. It’s also a deeply personal one that he described as “an autobiography horror hybrid” in an interview I conducted with him last month.
Given the first person point of view used throughout and the idea that the events taking place were based on, or were actually, “things that were happening in [his] life at the time” it became impossible for this reader and reviewer not to make his way through the book without mentally hearing the words in Zeischegg’s voice. Upon finishing the final, chilling page I was forced to ask myself the question: Does this novel only succeed given a reader’s connection with Chris himself?
While knowing the author, either as a performer or otherwise, may add another dimension to reading it I ultimately decided that it wasn’t necessary, and may even be unadvised as far as fully experiencing The Wolves that Live in Skin and Space is concerned.
If anything, actually having spoken to Zeischegg was a distraction as I caught myself wondering time and time again which of these catastrophic events had actually taken place. Given the setup in which the protagonist, himself alternately named Chris/Danny, has a friend shot just across the room he’s in, the plausibility remains high enough for those in the know to struggle with the veil between fiction and reality. Regardless of how readers come to this train of thought the fact is that it’s one of the cornerstones of the genre.
The idea that something horrific did or could happen is terrible to consider, especially when it comes to as crude and jarring an event as sudden violence. Zeischegg frames the incident and what follows like a much more experienced author, leading into it with the mundanity of day-to-day life and having its fallout wind down in the excitement and warm comfort of a burgeoning romantic relationship.
There are times when the novel feels like it’s left the trappings of horror, which is of course what makes it all the more successful when readers are brutally reminded of the genre. Days go by for the main character with life punctuated by letters from the one who wronged him, which never seem to have as troubling an effect on him as those following the narrative in real life.
An important facet of that life is spelled out on the back cover, which sets the book “amidst a dying adult film industry”. We’re given a peek at what happens behind the curtain in pornography, and while a number of scenes are very explicit [this novel is not for everyone] these have little to do with what takes place under well-positioned lights and in front of the camera. Instead the most visceral descriptions of sex are reserved for intimacy, whether that closeness be pleasant or not. For any who view porn as being sexy or exhilarating the difference between it and sex can be seen for any who choose to find it.
It doesn’t take knowing who Danny Wylde or Christopher Zeischegg is to appreciate or enjoy The Wolves that Live in Skin and Space. The protagonist’s voice remains gripping and real with or without the knowledge that it may recount actual events, and those that take place would absolutely remain disturbing regardless. The just under 200 pages turn quickly and conclude with a scene that may feel less believable, yet somehow ring just as true as the rest of it.
The Wolves that Live in Skin and Space
Written by Christopher Zeischegg aka Danny Wylde
A Barnacle Book, an imprint of Rare Bird Books