Detail from "Henry's Game" by David Elias (Hagios Press)
I don't think either you or I would much care for Henry in real life...Henry is utterly oblivious to anyone's needs other than his own. To be blunt, he is a selfish prick.
—Hubert O'Hearn on "Henry's Game" by David Elias
Henry's Game is essentially the story of two journeys, one external and one internal. The former, a long car trip from Winnipeg to Disneyland for Henry, his wife Cheryl and their two children, is accomplished quite successfully by David Elias, previous author of five books of fiction. The internal journey of Henry is equally interesting as the first, yet most unfortunately stumbles at the finish line.
The best of Elias's story is Henry himself. I'll go out on a limb here, however I do sincerely believe that the trickiest feat of fiction writing is maintaining a reader's interest in an unlikeable character. It is much easier in non-fiction: the great villains of history always make for compelling reads: Hitler, Caligula, various Czars, Bolsheviks and demented kings among them.
So why should fiction be so different? I suspect that it is the intimate nature of the genre that makes it so. Except in the most experimental of historical narratives, one never 'lives' inside the mind of Adolf Hitler.
In a novel though, the process of reader identification with the character definitely comes to the fore with the ever-present question being thought either consciously or sub-consciously: 'What would I do?' We make our decision, we compare to the character's decision and if we're in rough agreement, we cheerfully read on.
I don't think either you or I would much care for Henry in real life. Caligula threw better parties and one would not likely get accidentally locked in the bathroom at one, with the host indifferent to opening the door. Henry is utterly oblivious to anyone's needs other than his own. To be blunt, he is a selfish prick.
Cheryl has recently been diagnosed with a lump in her breast. Is it benign, is it cancer, if the latter have the lymph nodes been attacked, hell is his wife going to die? Quite understandably, Cheryl starts reading up on cancer, concentrating as fiercely as the victim in Samuel Johnson's famous line, "Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully." Henry, on the other hand, exhibits all the empathy of a bucket of nails.