A fond memoir of life with a prolific writer of science fiction and pornography.
Screenwriter (True Blood, Weeds) and essayist Offutt (No Heroes: A Memoir of Coming Home, 2002, etc.) describes his father, Andrew, as “fiercely self-reliant, a dark genius, cruel, selfish, and eternally optimistic.” In the opening chapters, the author charts his father’s declining health and grave prognosis from alcohol-induced cirrhosis, which spurred the author to return home to Kentucky in the midst of his own divorce. Offutt delves deep into his father’s history as a former traveling salesman who carted his family around to sci-fi conventions and who harbored a temperamental persona with a penchant for creating alter egos. Beginning with an Old West novel written when he was just 12, Andrew was in many ways “an old-school pulp writer” whose early novels, penned in the hushed privacy of a locked home office and often under pseudonyms, helped finance Offutt’s desperately needed orthodontia. Upon his death in 2013, the mother lode of his father’s squirreled away gemstones, coins, and assorted clutter was unearthed, but it was the 1,800 pounds of manuscripts and papers bequeathed to Offutt that exposed Andrew’s true nature and later career as a “workhorse in the field of written pornography.” The author’s father produced an incredibly imaginative oeuvre of hard-core graphic erotica, from ghost porn to inquisition torture, incrementally (and chillingly) escalating in violence against women as time went on—something Andrew believed prevented him from becoming a serial killer. Admitting to his mother that his “Dad was the most interesting character I’ve ever met” speaks volumes about not only the kind of father Andrew was to his son, but also the kind of son Offutt became because of (and in spite of) the things he’d been taught.
Though his relationship with his father was distant, melancholic, and precarious, Offutt quite movingly weaves his personal history into a fascinating tapestry of a compulsive writer with a knack for the naughty.