DIRT ANGEL by Jeanne Wilmot


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Junkies, rapists, musicians from the projects, and other tenants of the urban underworld populate this uneven first collection by a former Manhattan attorney, whose short fiction has appeared in The North American Review, Antioch Review, etc. Wilmot opens on a decidedly depressing note with her title story--in which a former cheerleader, now an East Harlem junkie, gives birth to a still-born child and hangs herself--and it only goes downhill from there. In ""Madonna,"" an Italian-American cop turns hysterical when confronted with the days-old corpse of a black woman who's committed suicide. ""Red Gables"" tells of a young woman's dreary life with a bedridden mother and a father who eventually drowns beneath the surface a frozen pond. In ""Survivors,"" a would-be debutante tosses down pills as she meditates on the state-ordered execution of a former classmate turned murderer. In each of these stories, a dark, moody, jazzy atmosphere prevails, while the reader is sometimes pressed to discern what exactly is happening to the characters. The longer pieces, in which a plot is allowed to develop, are more engrossing--particularly ""Spade in the Minstrel Mask,"" about a black musician's wife who struggles to save the life of his junkie sister. Too often, though, Wilmot's voice comes off as overwritten and melodramatic (""My mother's swollen alcoholic belly pressing against an organ that eventually turned her yellow and filled her tissues with the excrement of a body gone mad was my ticket out"") or simply written in code. Morbid, disturbing, and often obscure--but convincingly rendered for those with a passion for noir.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1997
Page count: 147pp
Publisher: Ontario Review--dist. by Braziller