Thursday, June 4, 2015

Oedipus Wrecks Redux

Did you notice this - The Disassembled Man by Jon Bassoff has just been released by DarkFuse. Originally published under a Bassoff pseudonym and published by New Pulp Press. It was the first NPP book I read and it set the standard for Bassoff's interests/perversions/tone both in what he published at NPP (Pete Risley's Rabid Child, Heath Lowrance's The Bastard Hand, Jake Hinkson's Hell On Church Street, Jackson Meeks' While the Devil Waits, Stan Richards' Almost Gone) and the books that bear his name (and what a lead zeppelin that must be) Corrosion and Factory Town. Clearly influenced by mid-century voices of Americana-noir in the most ethyl-soaked nightmares of Jim Thompson and the Christ-hauntings of Flannery O'Connor, but brought into the new millennium with serious literary ideals and dark intent. So, here's the original review I wrote for the book and I stand by that shit today. Bassoff is a huge talent and a figure of terrible importance to my favorite corner of contemporary letters.

Nate Flexer’s debut novel The Disassembled Man, (New Pulp Press), is a wince-inducing front row seat to a soul shredding. It’s so unrelentingly dark, so hopeless and dank, that when the humor rears its fugly head you’ll want to wretch because you laughed. You will hate yourself for those laughs. But you will laugh. And then puke. And maybe chuckle sickly for a few days. And throw up in your mouth a bit. It's not funny. Sort of though.

Frankie Avicious has worked as a “sticker” at the Sunshine Foods plant for five short years. He slices the throats of the cattle that come down the line every few seconds, dangling from chains and hopefully dead already, but more often than not, just hurt and pissed off, crying and thrashing, before they’re skinned – again, hopefully already dead - at the next station. It’s a bloody, shitty job, but Frankie is an ex-con with a rather bovine wife at home to support – his needs are immediate and his options few. He’s also trying to prove himself to his disapproving father in law, the owner of Sunshine Foods, who seems more than content to let his only daughter and good for nothing son in law wallow in abject poverty while he enjoys the material rewards of clean living.

Frankie has also got some problems of a sexual nature including a non-functional marriage, an inappropriate relationship with his mother in law and a murky one with his own imprisoned mother, plus an infatuation with a stripper – an ugly one at that – who has two things going for her: she’s “one hiccup away from two black eyes” and bears a vague resemblance to a certain incarcerated family member… Frankie can’t quite put it together.

How does Frankie deal with it all? Binge drinking and biding time. After all, the old man can’t live forever right? He’s bound to die some day and leave his only daughter some dough, yeah? And a note on the drinking – Ken Bruen is famously frustrated when his Jack Taylor series is sighted as romanticizing the cups when his intentions are the opposite, but goodness gracious ol’ Jack’s blackouts sound like an Amish hay ride next to Frankie’s harai kari with a bottle.

Eventually his patience runs out and Frankie decides to get pro-active on a life improvement plan. This means money first – Pop’s got to go. The murder is simple, but Frankie is so bottled up that that first step into acting on his impulses really gets the better of him and he lets loose on the world with all the pain, rage and confusion he’s carried around for a lifetime. You will be amazed at the depths of his pain, rage and confusion. I dare say, you’ll get your fill of pain, rage and confusion. It’s a pain, rage and confusion fire sale, take all you can carry.

The prose is simple. There is no effort made to wow you with linguistics. Things are said simply or not at all, trusting the reader to read between the lines. Some authors write tough guys who are martyrs or thrill seekers of a macho or poetic leaning and good for vicarious punishment or cathartic suffering, but Flexer's Frankie is a tough guy just for getting out of bed in the morning, just for showing up at that horrible job every day and not once will the reader want to be him. In fact Frankie's problems will make you thankful for the shitty job, sour marriage or mother in law you've already got.

If Satan ever wiped his bunghole with a human being it was Frankie Avicious. At one point his nub of a conscience begins to irritate him when the bodies in the cellar "began rattling their bones. I was in the living room, drinking whiskey from a straw and cheating at solitaire, when I heard a faint "thump, thump, thump" coming from the basement. I didn't pay it any attention. It was probably just a rat, I told myself, or perhaps a harmless burglar. I kept on drinking, covering my ears with clenched fists. But the thumping became louder and more distinct. Footsteps. Human footsteps. I became paralyzed with fear. I didn't know what to do. I turned on the television."

When he’s bought his one way ticket and securely buckled in for his suicide trip, Frankie has a brief encounter with God.

“I close my eyes and suddenly felt His presence. My eyes welled up with tears. I dropped to my knees. To think that He had sent His only son to bleed and die on that cross for a wretch like me. I was overcome with gratitude. I didn’t deserve it, I know I didn’t deserve it. But I was going to make the most of it. I was going to go on killing and whoring and stealing and cheating, and there wasn’t a goddamn thing he could do about it. All my sins forever forgiven because of His never-ending love. Buyer beware…”

Whatever literary tag it's given, The Disassembled Man is a hell of a statement for New Pulp Press whose books you wont find on the shelves of your local bookstores. They're a small start-up group relying on word of mouth and internet orders to keep going - that said - they're far from the low quality print-on-demand, vanity presses that are springing up like weeds in the sunshine of affordable technology. Jon Bassoff and crew have put together a line up of hard bitten titles a step and a half removed from the main stream of crime writing and I expect good things.

1 comment:

Rusty Barnes said...

I liked Corrosion a lot. This one seems even more up my alley. Thank you sir for making me aware.