BLACKBURN by Bradley Denton


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 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.

Pub Date: Feb. 25th, 1993
ISBN: 0-312-08705-5
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1992


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