THE CONTORTIONIST’S HANDBOOK by Craig Clevenger
Kirkus Star

THE CONTORTIONIST’S HANDBOOK

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A brisk, savvy debut gives new meaning to the term “identity crisis,” as Clevenger builds a neo-noir cliffhanger from the story of an unusually gifted man whose migraines drive him to drug overdoses—but who then has to reinvent himself to stay one step ahead of his past.

For John Dolan Vincent, the predicament is familiar: Following yet another resuscitation by the EMT and ER personnel, he’s awaiting psychiatric evaluation in a Hollywood hospital to determine whether he’s suicidal. He knows the drill, but he also has another advantage—as far as his minders know, he’s Daniel John Fletcher. When his Evaluator arrives and the questions begin, Johnny knows he has to be credible in order to be released, and once released that he immediately has to manufacture a new identity. As a child, a troubled family and antisocial tendencies, exacerbated by his having a sixth finger on his left hand, hid his phenomenal intelligence and his gifts for math and mimicry. Doing homework for hire and forging his parents’ signatures naturally led to more trouble, until an arrest for forging a prescription gave him a juvenile record and jail time. Now in his 20s, any digging into one of his forged personas—which would be inevitable should he fail one of the suicide evaluations—would unmask him and bring more jail time. More than that, some of his work as a master forger has been for the mob, and what he knows is extremely dangerous to them. Having escaped them in the past, they’ve now found him as Daniel Fletcher—and have come to the hospital to wait for his release. Even worse, Johnny is in love, and Keara’s life hangs in the balance too.

Immaculately detailed and emotionally explosive: this is roiling, riveting stuff, of a piece with stylish, edgy movies like Memento and Requiem For a Dream.

Pub Date: Sept. 26th, 2002
ISBN: 1-931561-15-X
Page count: 201pp
Publisher: MacAdam/Cage
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2002