Wednesday, November 26, 2008


So I just blasted my way through David Peace's second offering in the Yorkshire Quartet, Nineteen Seventy Seven, and it has flooded my brain with some interesting questions about what makes a noir successful.

If you've been following this blog like an obsessive nerd (somebody out there is, I hope), then you have probably noticed that my personal favorite crime novels are ones that are both ambitious within the parameters of the genre while also meeting the essential requirements of hardcore violence, sex, suspense, and the like. This novel certainly is of that sort. It transcends (hateful choice of words, I know) its genre with its stylish prose and attention to historical detail, its sheer poetic-ness (how delightfully unpoetically put, Nerd), while giving you badass main characters, lots of shocking violence (REALLY SHOCKING) and even more shocking sex (most of which is of the rape-y variety).

But how far is too far when it comes to such ambitions? What is the point at which there is too much of the literary ambition and not enough of the satisfying pulp? This book, I think, takes the "high art" elements just a bit too far.

(Another example where this happened for me was with Dead I Well May Be by Adrian McKinty. He's got a great story and a great setting in there but he over-writes and over-writes until I had to start skimming. So much description and he had such an obvious love of his own clever voice that I could barely take it. If I were the editor I would have cut about a third of that shit out. Yes, I realize this is an unpopular opinion.)

The story follows two bad dudes looking for the Yorkshire Ripper, a killer (possibly killers) chopping up whores in disgusting ways. Jack Whitehead is a reporter for the Yorkshire Post who is mourning the mysterious death of his last girlfriend and generally coasting through his job drinking and fucking whores until the Ripper story brings him somewhat out of his funk. Bob Fraser is a detective with a wife and kid who is invested in the Ripper case for the safety of his mistress, a sexy prostitute that he cannot get enough of. Both these men doggedly follow the case, and uncover all sorts of corruption in the process.

Now Nineteen Seventy Seven is sure as hell entertaining and a quick enough read, but it left me feeling rather angry. Yeah, the story arc of the two main characters is brought to a pretty satisfying conclusion, but (MAJOR SPOILERS!!!): the Yorkshire Ripper is not identified in the end.

Naturally, this book is part of a series and the next two books will hopefully bring the story to some sort of conclusion, but I was really not prepared for absolutely no major break in the case to happen. I thought there would at least be SOMETHING conclusive to tide me over until the next book but nope. Not in the cards. What if I had read this when it first came out? I would be fucking pissed. I also wasn't prepared for this because the first book, Nineteen Seventy Four, actually had a conclusion to the mystery at the center of the story. I guess that's what I thought all the books would be about, a different serial killing in each book involving some of the same characters and possibly all connecting up in some way in the end. I was wrong.

I mean, if I had just read the back of Nineteen Eighty I would have known that the Yorkshire Ripper case was not closed at the end of Nineteen Seventy Seven but I refused to do that because, you know, who likes spoilers?

So I really think that Peace sort of crossed the line in a rather daring way but I just found it sort of maddening. It was a bold fuck you to the reader, something I often enjoy, but not here. That said, I still enjoyed the rest of the book and found it entertaining and am dying to know who the Ripper is. But I'm still kind of angry, sort of miffed.

I think I might take a break from the Quartet, come back to it after reading something else so that I can be more excited than slightly pissed. It was a really good book and had some truly great moments (the masturbating interrogation made me want pour bleach on myself in the shower), but it clearly left a bad taste in my mouth because of the lack of answers. Even those of us who are up for a challenge in their pulp fiction want a somewhat of a bone thrown their way now and then, especially with the ending.


(The RUMINATING IN MY PANTS series isn't really a review feature so much as it is just me rambling about shit. But hell, you'll figure that out toot-fucking-sweet 'cause you're so damned smart.)

John Dahl is still doing good work. He's directing episodes for major television shows like Battlestar Galactica, True Blood, Californication, and Dexter. Last year's You Kill Me was a thoroughly enjoyable rom-com/mob thriller with some great work by Tea Leoni and Ben Kingsley that was unjustly over-looked. And I really like his middle period work like horror thriller Joy Ride (arguably his best movie) and Rounders (it single-handedly made hold 'em cool, don't argue with me).

But that being said, I miss the days when he was America's noir auteur.

I caught his debut, Kill Me Again (1989), on one of the Encore channels the other night and it reminded me of my youth. No, not in the sense that as a boy I was involved in faking people's deaths and owed money to the mob - that didn't come about until I had a driver's license. When I was in middle school I recall reading a Roger Ebert review of The Last Seduction (1994) and then promptly going out and renting that and the other two Dahl noirs, the aforementioned Kill Me Again and 1992's Red Rock West and having an absolute nerdgasm in my parent's basement (Don't worry, I cleaned up afterwards).

These three movies were fine modern examples of the films I pored over in elementary school when I was forced, due to my parent's strict no R-rated movies policy, to watch nothing but old movies. Back then I figured that if I couldn't watch "adult" movies of the current generation, why not catch up with all those "adult" movies in the back of the video store with no ratings on them? And no, I am not talking about "the back of the video store" as in "behind the beaded curtain back of the video store." I'm talking about the "classics" section.

It was there that I discovered that the best movies were almost always film noirs, the edgiest offerings of the post-WWII era. These movies had cool stars like Humphrey Bogart, Robert Mitchum, John Garfield, Sterling Hayden, and Richard Widmark doing badass things that you could only get away with in B-movies. They had lots of violence and their stories were complicated and surprising. But the thing that most impressed me was that they almost always felt dangerous, like anything could happen, that there would be no simple moral at the end like most of the entertainment aimed at kids my age.

Okay, so I was a fucked up nerdy little kid. Not much has changed, I guess...

But back to Dahl, when I was finally able to get my parents' congress to pass my "R-rated movies are okay" amendment, I soon figured out that the early nineties had had a mini golden age of neo-noir filmmaking, and that John Dahl was leading the pack. Kill Me Again was like an even more twisted Double Indemnity with an added bonus of a crazy villain played by a young Michael Madsen. Red Rock West played like Dahl had put about ten old B-movies in a blender and hit "puree" then took the cap off and let the mess cover the room (translation: it was awesome). And The Last Seduction was basically the end-all-be-all of femme fatale films, taking the classic icon of B-movies as far as it could possibly go and never looking back.

None of them were necessarily going to edge out any other pictures and make my "Ultimate Noir Canon" list, but they were all super-solid and I was convinced that Dahl was going to develop into one of the great genre directors, that he was going to hack at it and hack at it until he had made the greatest neo-noir ever.

Then I saw Unforgettable with Ray Liotta and I lost all hope. Jesus, what a piece of shit.

As I said up top, dude still makes some damn fine movies that are nothing to balk at. The guy has proven himself at sports movies (Rounders), horror movies (Joy Ride), war movies (The Great Raid) and rom coms (You Kill Me), all of them with elements of film noir thrown in. I just wish that he could get his hands on motherfucker of a crime film script - or hell, that he'd start writing again. After all, he wrote Kill Me Again and Red Rock West all by his lonesome in the beginning.

According to imdb, Dahl has nothing in the works at the moment. Mr. Dahl, since you no doubt check this site every morning, I implore you: make another noir, even if it's just for your lonely fan the Nerd of Noir.

I can promise you my business. Shit, I might even go twice.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


For all you paranoid noir lovers out there lemme just say this:

I, the Nerd of Noir, am not receiving any monetary or sexual favors from Serpent's Tail Independent Publishers. Not that I'm like, you know, above that sort of thing, but I swear I'm not. It is mere coinkydink that I've been reading so many of their books lately. I swear on the coke bottle lenses of my dorky glasses and my original copy of The Kill-Off. No money or bodily fluids have changed hands or orifices. Also of concern: I have not emigrated to the U.K., nor have I given up black coffee for tea.

With that out the muthafuckin waaaayyy... David Peace's Nineteen Seventy Four just kicked my ass and then spit in my bloody, gaping eyesocket. This is my first Peace book and damn, dude can write. This is the darkness, the depths, the despair, the dire, the fucking low-goddamn-down, my dear nerds. In the words of Senator Clay Davis, "Sheee-it!"

Nineteen Seventy Four is the story of our most humble narrator Edward Dunford, crime reporter for the Yorkshire Post, a right prick of a man who has just landed the front page story of a missing ten-year-old girl, a case shockingly similar to two other little girl disappearances a few years back. Oh, by the way, the year of our story is, amazingly, the year of our lord nineteen and seventy-four, imagine that. Anyway, Dunford is trying to get the scoop on the latest disappearance from the corrupt police department while keeping his hot story out of the hands of ace reporter (and world-class douchebag) Jack Fucking Whitehead. It doesn't take long before sure enough, the little girl lost cases turn out to be related and the cover-ups go all the way to the higher-ups, the big boys of power!

Now, I know what you're thinking, "Nerd, I've glanced at your stupid little site before and it seems to me that you don't much cotton to mysteries and serial killer thrillers." Well, confoundingly southern-ish imaginary reader, you're right, I'm not big on mysteries or serial killer stuff, but this is more along the lines of the great exalted James Ellroy than to local boy John Sanford. Think The Black Dahlia (not De Palma's interesting misfire, Ellroy's first masterpiece of many) instead of Silent Prey or whatever book my Minnesota bro wrote last. Yeah, there are elements that qualify it as part of that not-my-thing serial killer mystery camp, but the most obvious comparisons are to Ellroy. Shit, look at the fucking book jacket and that's the first thing that'll catch your eye, the blurbs relating Peace's Yorkshire Quartet to Ellroy's L.A. Quartet. Well, I'm with the choir on this one.

And that is some damned high praise, not praise that even an over-caffeinated fanboy like myself tosses off lightly.

Peace does some crazy shit in this book, not as crazy as Ellroy but awfully damned close. You won't have any insane shocks like your protagonist getting killed half-way through the book or whatever but his stuff is hyper-dark just the same. It's ultraviolent, oversexed, and packed with cynicism and dread. The language is punchy and staccato, but moves faster than say, The Cold Six-Thousand where though the sentences are short, you have to over-think every little word in some passages. No, with 1974 the sentences just fly by like a Charlie Huston novel.

Another similarity is that your protagonist is also a fucker and a half who is generally a dick to almost every in the book, and not in a cool tough guy way either. He treats women ridiculously poorly and when he really starts getting in over his head he makes some terrible decisions. But he isn't totally irredeemable. Awfully damned close, mind you, but not totally.

Also like an Ellroy opus, this book has one labrynthine bitch of a plot. Shit gets complicated and I'm not sure it totally works itself out in the end. You get the big picture ending for sure, but certain little events and secrets are never fully explained to my liking when the dust clears. But you don't really notice such things until the book is over and the dust has settled since you're too busy racing alongside Eddie as he runs from one horrifying revelation to the next.

I'm already started on book two in the quartet, Nineteen Seventy Seven, and good lord is it awesome as well. The craziest thing so far is this: Jack Fucking Whitehead is one of the protagonists this time out! That guy's a douche! I guess I'll have to learn to like him this time out, though. One of your enemies is the hero? Doesn't get much Ellroy-ian than that right there.

Rock on, Peace, you sick, demented man.


The second book in Charlie Williams' Royston Blake trilogy is a solid work, some would debate it's even more so than Deadfolk. Williams is even more sure in his storytelling, taking it out there even further than before. Thing is, Fags and Lager just didn't work for me the quite the way the first novel did.

We pick up with Blake a few months after the events that closed Deadfolk. Blake is in charge of Hopper's, though in reality Nathan the bar man is running the show from the shadows. Things couldn't be better in Blake's thick, delusional eyes. Well, his main squeeze Sal could stand to lose a few pounds, and yeah, maybe he's more fat than he is actually strong these days...and his clientele at Hopper's is mainly wanker kids who don't actually buy drinks, just come in stoned on something called Joey and fuck the place up - but that is neither here nor there.

Blake is approached by Doug the shopkeeper to rough up an outsider who is messing around with his teenage daughter. The bounty: four hundred fags and four hundred cans of lager. Sure, the beer is past sell-by and he could probably go through a carton of smokes in a week's time, but shit, Blake never claimed to be the brightest of bulbs. Well, okay, maybe he has made such a claim but whatever. He's just not that smart. His swede ain't what it should be, now ennit?

Turns out the dude he's supposed to rough up is his new boss, Nick Nopoly, who has purchased Hopper's from Nathan so that he can sell Joey to its underage patrons. So there's now a conflict of interest and then Blake kills some folks and fucks some shit up and things go this way and that and you have another fun, tough-as-nails novel like Deadfolk.

At least, that's what you'd think.

The first problem I had with this book are the little newspaper articles that precede every chapter. They're all from the local paper and they keep the reader informed of matters outside the limited knowledge of Royston Blake for the sake of storytelling. But the articles are so silly and cheeky that they just take you right out of it. With Deadfolk I was under the impression that I was in a fairly realistic world but the events were skewed because of the fact that a crazy person was telling the story. In Fags and Lager I quickly learned that everyone, even the press, is just as crazy as Royston Blake. It threw me for a loop, I tells ya.

Then there's the matter of the voice this go around: it's too funny. Now I know you're saying, 'The fuck's your deal, Nerd? Funny is good in my book.' Well, I generally agree with you, Imaginary Reader, I really do, but this time I feel like Williams takes it too far with the funny to the point that it dilutes the "noir" too much for my liking. Blake is constantly talking directly to the reader for comedic effect, telling the reader to fuck off and such and generally calling attention to the narration device itself. I'm not against post-modern tricks, no sir. I loves me some Bruen and God knows he fucks with stuff like that, especially in the Brixton precinct novels, but I really feel like the jokey-ness of the tone gets in the way of the darkness a bit too much.

But it is still a dark book, for sure. Blake does some more terrible things and the last few pages are surprisingly dire and depressing, a truly bleak ending for such a funny, satirical book. Still, though, there are a few too many cartoonish elements this go around. The whole "sweets" drug thing, a major part of the book, is a little too cute and reminded me of shitty action movies where the villains come up with their own super-lethal-addictive-green-glowing-drug ("Its streetname is BLOODBREEZE and it is a thousand times more potent than heroin!"), and certain other plot points were a little too out-sized for my tastes as well (Blake may be dumb, but no way he didn't know a certain character was in fetish gear instead of butcher gear. I mean, come on!).

But my complaints aren't meant to trash the book, merely show how miffed I was by the slightly more ridiculous elements in the book. I balls-out fucking adored Deadfolk and simply didn't LOVE the shit out of Fags and Lager. I liked it and it read fast as a motherfucker, but it just doesn't quite live up to its predecessor. I don't know if King of the Road is closer to Fags and Lager or Deadfolk, but either way I'm eager to read the shit out of it. It sure is harder to get a copy of than the other two in the U.S., though. The fuck's with that Serpent's Tail?

Thursday, November 13, 2008


What is up with these nasty fuckers from the U-fucking-K? How did the Irish, Brits and Scots manage to wrestle the hard-boiled title away from the Americans, the folks who forged the belt out of U.S.-fucking-Steel all those years ago? Ken Bruen, Allan Guthrie, Ray Banks, Charlie Williams - seems these dandies with funny accents are out-noir-ing us like gangbusters with each new release. If you need proof of this shameful fact, look no further than Williams' Deadfolk, the first novel in his Royston Blake trilogy.

Deadfolk is narrated by Blake himself, a doorman at Hoppers, a posh bar (for Mangel, anyway) owned by a dreaded outsider. Blake has been down since his wife was burned up in a suspicious fire, so down that folks around town suspect he's lost his bottle. Truth is, he has lost it. His new girl doesn't respect him, any punter comes through the door could give a shit he's manning it, and the Munton clan - a nasty groups of thick brothers - are giving him shit big time. When he finally is pushed too far, Blake comes out of his depressed stupor to prove everyone wrong.

Then a spot of murder happens and Blake's life really goes to pot.

The first thing that strikes you about Deadfolk is the voice, Blake's voice, that is. He speaks in the voice of small-town Britain, with "summats, bottlers, knackers, fags, mongs, scran, slash," and other such words foreign to my ignorant American ears. No worries, though, you catch on quick then it never lets up. Deadfolk reads ridiculously fast.

The other and most fascinating point that catches your eye is how absolutely thick and thuggish Blake is. I mean, he's our main character, our eyes and ears, and yet he's a nasty piece of work and actually pretty stupid most of the time. It's like if Lehane told the Kenzie/Gennaro books not through Patrick's eyes but through Bubba's. Actually, that might be a pretty good series...

But no, it is really messed up that Blake is a main character. He's sick, he's mean, he's delusional, he's a brute, etc., etc., but he's also hilarious and has a code. Okay, so he breaks his own code more often than not but still. He means well. Not all the time but...okay he's an asshole. It's quite a feat to have him at the center and do some absolutely horrible things (there's one murder by the riverside that almost lost me, a champion of evil characters everywhere), yet he's still our man. And it's not like with many Jason Starr novels where you're supposed to hate him, either. He's our hero, that Royston Blake.

But my favorite aspect of this novel is its simplicity. This is something I talked about way back when I reviewed Guthrie's Savage Night, the pleasure I get out of certain noir novels/movies where the author takes something simple and at human level and has events escalate into something much more complex and agonizing. Basically, the James M. Cain style of noir where there aren't major corruption plots to be uncovered or international spies to be exposed, just simple folk doing simple things for simple reasons...and then all the little things add up to something dizzyingly complicated.

So, my fellow Americans, read yourself some Charlie Williams and know thine enemy. We must not allow him and the rest of his monocle-wearing mates to beat us at our own game any longer.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


The second season of any good television drama is about opening up the world a bit, changing the rules. The Sopranos introduced new characters (Furio, Richie Aprile) and allowed the storytelling to breathe a bit, the show took its time now that the whole "mother ordering a hit on her son" storyline had been defused. Deadwood had Swearengen practically become the good guy when Tolliver and Hearst's man upped the evil quotient. The Wire gave us an entire new cast of characters when they introduced the stevedores in season two. Mad Men took The Sopranos route after the whole "will Don Draper's identity be revealed?" storyline closed in season one - took its time, paid more attention to minor characters, etc.

Brotherhood sort of follows this mold and sort of doesn't with its second season.

We start out a few months after the last episode of the first season. Michael Caffee has been demoted somewhat in Freddie Cork's crew following the brain damage he suffered from his attempted murder. His right hand man Pete has been working in a garage ever since their falling out over Pete's falling off the wagon. Michael is also shacking up with Kath pretty regular too (Lucky man. That's one thing about this show: There are certainly some attractive "real-looking" women in the cast.)

Tommy Caffee is campaigning for reelection as state rep for the seventh district - arguably the only thing keeping his marriage to Eileen together. He is civil with her ever since she told him about her cheating and drug abuse, but cold. After some prodding by the smarmy speaker of the house, Tommy takes to fucking around on Eileen out of a misplaced sense of revenge.

Declan Giggs has started drinking on the job and spending most of his nights at one of Freddie Cork's whorehouses ever since Cassie left him. However, this behavior does not get him kicked off the force but instead made part of an undercover task force. His CO figures that if he keeps fucking up, Freddie Cork or Michael Caffee will approach him about helping out on a few things. If only the CO knew how much Declan owes Cork and Caffee already...

So there's some pretty good stuff going on in season two. Good mob stuff, good dirty politics stuff, good "in too deep" undercover cop stuff, good family drama stuff. Good show. But when you look at the main storylines I laid out up top, not a whole lot really changed or changes later on in season two from season one. You really might as well have called it season 1.5 or something. I mean, it's good - really good, actually - but it isn't GREAT like I thought it might be, like I thought it had the potential to be.

A perfect example is what happens to Pete McGonagle. After I watched the first episode I was like, "Where the fuck is Pete fucking McGonagle?" The guy is far and away the coolest character (the fan favorite - like Silvio Dante or Dan Dority or Omar Little or Roger Sterling) and he doesn't even show up till episode three and then only as a fucking corpse? Fuck that! But I rolled with it, thought about what that meant for Michael Caffee now that he didn't have a right hand man and confidante.

But then Colin shows up. Colin is a cousin of Michael and Tommy from Belfast who shows up and promptly proves himself violent and charming and - waddaya know - Michael Caffee's brand new right hand man. So fan favorite Pete had not so much been lost to us as he was merely recast by a dude with an Irish accent. And don't get me wrong: Colin is a cool character, a definite fan favorite kind of guy. It's just that, well, I was hoping for a new dynamic, a new direction.

Same thing with the whole part about Tommy being the cheating spouse this time out instead of Eileen. Yeah, that's different for his character and we learn some new things about him through the journey, but it kind of feels cheap in that it is just a reversal of the roles instead of a fresh direction, a new story. Now Tommy gets to be a bastard and Eileen has call to complain instead of the other way around. I mean, it's solid but it ain't blowing your fucking hair back, is it (Though, like I said earlier, there are some very pretty women in this show and adultery is another excuse to see them naked and fucking. I must be pretty spoiled to be bitching about it.)

There are still plenty of reasons to watch Brotherhood even if it is not an astounding show like those mentioned up top. My favorite episode of season one was the hyper-eventful wedding reception finale episode where tons and tons of shit goes down in the span of just a few hours. This season has not one but two similar mini-movie episodes (read: episodes you submit for Peabody Awards) just like it.

The first and better episode is the one where Michael and a demented contract killer wait for their mark to come home so they can off him while we also follow Tommy's moral dilemmas on election day. The other Peabody contender takes place on Thanksgiving where we get to see numerous characters prepare and enjoy/fuck up their family dinners while major gangster shit/undercover cop shit goes down. These episodes, despite their gimmicky-ness, stand out for me the way the "College" episode in The Sopranos does: They hold up strongly on their own, rest of the show be damned.

In the end, Brotherhood remains a hell of a good show with many of the things I liked about the first season still holding true. Thing is, it just doesn't blow your mind or become a better, different show the way many of the modern TV canon has managed to do so as of late. Basically, my complaint is that the bridge was reinforced and painted pretty instead of blown up and reconstructed.

Friday, November 7, 2008


I'll grant you that The Given Day is a different for Lehane. It is twice as long as his other books and painstakingly researched, packed with historical events and figures. But The Given Day is still a "Dennis Lehane" novel, no doubt about it. This isn't the boring historical fiction that crowds the shelves of the "Barnes & Noble Recommends" section, no sir. This is historical fiction more along the lines of James Ellroy's The Cold Six-Thousand or Elmore Leonard's The Hot Kid. Shit, there's the blurb right there:

"Dennis Lehane's The Given Day reads like a frenzied mix of James Ellroy's The Cold Six-Thousand and Elmore Leonard's The Hot Kid."

Man, I'm fucking awesome. Anyway, that is how The Given Day goes down: it has the down-and-dirty skinny on history that Ellroy relishes only it's delivered in a fluid prose sure to please any Leonard fan. Do not be put off by the length and cover of this book, it is a shit ton (that's metric, mind) of fucking fun. And on the plus side, you can fool your NPR tote-bag friends into thinking you're reading the next Memoirs of a Geisha while you're really having a pulpy good time, just with a "literary" cover.

The Given Day follows Danny Coughlin, the son of a prominent police captain, as he goes undercover to infiltrate the "Bolsheviki" unions in post-WWI Boston with the hope that his investigation will earn him a promotion to detective. Eventually, our other protagonist, Luther Laurence, crosses his path when he comes to Boston in hopes of hiding out from some vicious Tulsa gangsters he has recently run afoul of. The two become caught up in history as the turbulent times blah-blah-fucking-blah.

A summary only makes this book sound dry as fuck, something it definitely is NOT. The violence hits hard, the language is profane and funny, the characters are sharp, the pace is lightning fast, and the story is the stuff of high classic melodrama (that is a compliment, snobs). The Given Day is an epic written in blood and guts. It's like the best of American movies: lofty themes delivered via an entertaining genre story (Chinatown, Godfather, Wild Bunch).

So do not be put off by the sheer weight of the book or its pretentious cover or the historical setting. This book will kick your ass and make the pages fly just as fast as they did when you read Darkness, Take My Hand or Mystic River. Lehane may have branched out some, but he certainly did not alienate his devotees.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Psychosomatic is a nasty piece of work. It's one of those books where after you put it down, you feel both disturbed and assured by the knowledge that yes, there is someone out there who likes their escapism just as sick and wrong as you yourself do. This book is demented, gross, disturbing, and funny as all hell. In other words, it's only for members of the hardcore club. We're talking like Allan Guthrie hardcore, here, folks. Fucked up shit.

The books starts with a hot chick whose lost her arms and legs named Lydia. Her drug dealing ex-husband Ronnie has been a douche to her ever since she lost all her limbs in a car accident, going so far as to stop by her place with another woman and fuck her brains out while Lydia has to sit there helplessly and watch.

That shit will not play with Lydia.

She hires an idiot ex-prizefighter named Cap to beat the shit out of Ronnie for three grand, only to later learn that Cap is an old associate of Ronnie's. Cap tells Ronnie about his wife's scheme which gives Ronnie an idea. He gives fat loser Alan Crabtree forty bucks to film the fight, has him pose as an innocent Zapruder who just happened to have his camcorder with him at the right time. Crabtree agrees and films it, only to get footage of the idiot Cap accidentally killing Ronnie. Thinking fast, Crabtree kills Cap and makes it look like the two men did each other in. Afterwards he stops by Lydia's place to tell her what went down, only to get laid by the stumpy seductress.

Soon enough, Crabtree is Lydia's bitch, the femme fatale using her sexuality to turn Crabtree into her puppet, a puppet who will help her climb to the top of the drug trade. Throw in a pair of frat boys car-jackers turned cop-killers, a crazy goth girl in an old-fashioned nurse's uniform, a redneck X dealer, a few rapes, and a ton of murders and you have Psychosomatic, one of the craziest books I've read in a good goddamned while.

Now, as you can tell from the plot summary, this book boasts some bizarre low-lifes and a crazy plot, but what makes it really sing is its sharp prose, the hilarious dialogue, and the very original use of Gulf Coast locations. This is a world we've never seen before and Smith reveals it slyly and carefully despite the briskness of Psychosomatic's pace. Also, though the characters might sound like a bunch of wacky cartoons, somehow Smith makes them feel real, their motivations human.

I mean, hell, who wouldn't want to sleep with a hot amputee? Wait...did I just develop a new personal fetish? DAMN YOU SMITH!!!

So, if you like your fiction to completely cross the line, you can't go wrong with Psychosomatic.