Forced at gunpoint to take blackmail shots of high-ranking L.A. cop Dominic Sharps and a prostitute in flagrante delicto—a shoot that requires some improvising since Sharps had a fatal heart attack on the way to the studio—postmodern-chic photographer Elias McCabe runs for his life. Good idea since everyone he knows, including the most beautiful girls, is being indifferently slit, stabbed and shot to death by his pursuers.
A novelist (Internecine, 2010, etc.) and screenwriter (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning), Schow applies the "splatterpunk" style he helped create to this sardonic L.A. noir. McCabe, who paid his dues working for publications like Wet 'N Squishy and Nipplemania, has opened up his own studio in Los Angeles. He's got money, girls and a reputation (one of his masterworks superimposes naked bodies on shooting-gallery targets). When we meet him, he's climbing out of bed with the ex-wife of his mentor. Enter Chambers, a hit man working for an obese vegetarian who has been asked by powerful outside forces to ruin counterterrorism chief Sharps' reputation before a visit by the president. Chambers threatens to shoot McCabe with his beloved Kimber Pro Tactical 1911 .45 ACP if he doesn't accept an assignment that actually will pay the photographer $10,000 if he keeps his mouth shut. When not only words but also images of the evening's misdeeds end up on the Internet, it's off to the races for McCabe, who hopes to hide out working on a film with a director friend in New York. After suffering hideous injuries in his presence, Chambers is not about to let that happen. The book is told in alternating chapters by McCabe, who waxes cynical about Hollywood and theoretical about photography and sex, and Chambers, who delights in describing his adversary's pants-soiling response to having a gun shoved in his face. Their differing accounts provide some neat narrative ripples.
Schow is an acquired taste, to be sure. But as splatterpunk goes, this book won't be outdone. It's got more attitude than you can shake an AK-47 at.