Books by Bradley Denton

Released: Feb. 1, 1998

A debut collection from Denton, the author of several astonishing novels (Lunatics, 1996, etc.), comprises eight substantial if largely unclassifiable tales, seven dating from 198694, plus one original—a sort of sequel to Denton's 1993 novel, Blackburn. In alternate-history mode, Sam Clemens rides with a vicious band of Missouri bushwhackers until, despite his Confederate sympathies, he can no longer endure the brutality, injustice, and futility of it all. There is life after death, or so iconoclastic comedian Lenny Bruce discovers, but it's a grim, humorless existence, designed only to break the spirit and make him conform. And the company that owns a Janis Joplinlike singer re- creates her dead boyfriend in order to kick her back into creativity mood. Another tale reveals how it may be better not to kill your worst enemy. Elsewhere, a supernatural coyote takes revenge upon the hunters that torment his species; a performance artist sets herself aflame before diving off a high tower into a shallow tank of water; and, in the original entry, a Sicko schemes to obtain the ashes of executed serial killer Jimmy Blackburn in order to consume him and gain Blackburn's powers. Unsettling stuff, seemingly designed to provoke outcries (``Ugh!'' would be the least of them) by a probing and determined intelligence; what's missing, mostly, is the idiosyncratic, compulsive chemistry of Denton's novels. Read full book review >
LUNATICS by Bradley Denton
Released: June 1, 1996

Another oddball fantasy from the author of Blackburn (1993), etc.; this time, thirtysomething cuddles up with Moonstruck to revamp The Little Mermaid. In Austin, Texas, widower Jack sits naked in the moonlight in order to summon his new lover, Lily, down from the moon. Understandably, the police are none too impressed, so Jack must phone from jail for help. His friends are all former lovers: sexy Halle, who enjoys a series of casual relationships with men; Katy, smart, self-assured in all things but her marriage to the nerdish Stephen; and beautiful Carolyn, involved with the handsome and much younger Artie. All agree that Jack needs help- -under every full moon, he strips off and waits for Lily—so they take him to Halle's country cabin, where Jack can moonbathe with impunity. At times they catch glimpses of Lily, whose claim to be a goddess—clawed feet, wings, strange powers, and all—might well be justified. Jack's quite content as long as he has Lily every month, but her influence rubs off on the others, too, throwing their personal lives into turmoil. Eventually, from visiting Jack so often, Lily's immortality is compromised; she breaks off the affair, vowing never to return. Will true love triumph? Only Jack's friends, all acting in concert, might possibly call Lily back. Light, eccentric, thoughtful, and endearing: Planet Denton's a weird place but well worth a visit. Read full book review >
BLACKBURN by Bradley Denton
Released: Feb. 25, 1993

The rollicking, horrifying, ultimately elegiac career of serial killer Jimmy Blackburn, whose adventures take him from his father's Kansas chicken farm to a coast-to-coast odyssey of killing people who don't deserve to live. Denton (Buddy Holly is Alive and Well on Ganymede, 1991) traces Blackburn's hands-on approach to social engineering to the usual sources: his parents' shrilly failed marriage, his resentment of his father's beatings and a neighbor kid's bullying, the killing of a stray dog he befriends, and the spectacular inversion of his religious impulses after a run-in with a divinely inspired blind man whose internal guidance system turns out to be less reliable than he thought. Initially alternating between deadpan accounts of selections from the annals of Blackburn's killings (victims numbers 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 14, 15, 17, 19, 21) and flashbacks to his childhood abuses and increasingly ingenious acts of vengeance, Denton works up an uproarious head of steam as Blackburn matter-of-factly takes down a wife-beater, a swaggering band leader, a hypocritical Army recruiter, a philandering bridegroom, and miscellaneous sleazy retailers. But once the flashbacks begin to catch up with the murders, the mood darkens as Blackburn finds himself involved with people who make him question his self-ordained mission: a self-hating crime novelist, a sociopathic burglar who insists he's Blackburn's double, and a messianic mental patient who converts him to the Gospel According to Morton. The rest is silence, surrounded by a frieze of Texas troopers. A bracing anecdote to the pop sociologies of mass murder it so deftly skewers. The boldly abusive mixture of hilarity, despair, and cartoon eschatology recalls Flannery O'Connor and Miss Lonelyhearts. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 23, 1991

From the most disparate elements imaginable, Denton fashions an illogical, uproarious, yet ultimately memorable hardcover debut whose narrator, video salesman Oliver Vale, finds all the channels on his TV preempted by a live broadcast of long-dead legendary rocker Buddy Holly. Between songs, Holly advises his audience to call Oliver Vale for assistance! Unfortunately, Oliver has no idea why—though his late mother's personal religion involved rock music, UFOlogy and other New Age practices. However, the Holly broadcast occupies all channels on all TVs worldwide, and originates on Ganymede, so Oliver suddenly finds himself in great demand. Hoping to make sense of it all, he decides to head for Holly's gravesite in Lubbock, Texas, aboard his old motorbike Peggy Sue—only to be accosted by his neighbors Cathy and Jeremy (they turn out to be aliens) and their huge, smart dog Ringo (a cyborg). Pursued by a sinister government operative, the Bald Avenger, Oliver flees toward a showdown with rabble-rousing televangelist William Willard and yet more alien complications. Riotous doings, with oddball characters too numerous to mention, anchored in a sensitive and absorbing exploration of Oliver's relationship with his mother. The plot doesn't add up, or even make much sense: the parts of this gloriously mad, serious- hearted outing from an exceptionally promising new talent, are greater than the whole. Read full book review >