A briskly paced, splatter-filled crime novel to delight fans of directors Tarantino and Rodriguez.

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EVERYTHING UNDER THE MOON

A murderous, thieving werewolf gets tripped up plying his trade when he’s co-opted by a shadowy cabal.

Tattoo artist, musician, and writer Johnson chronicled his colorful life in a memoir, Tattoo Machine (2009), and here makes his first foray into fiction with a nasty, snarling bit of supernatural noir that’s reminiscent of the more gruesome novels of Chuck Wendig or Joe Hill. The protagonist of this Portland-based crime novel is Gelson Verber, a century-plus-old half-breed werewolf who’s learned a few tricks in his day but who's kind of having a bad run. “The Experiment wasn’t working,” he confesses as the book opens. That particular treatment involved damping down his furry ferocity by downing fistfuls of tranquilizers, gallons of scotch, and the not-so-occasional roofie. Gelson plies his trade by hunting down local scumbags and selling their belongings to his fence, Lemont. Things go awry when he encounters one Linda Morgan, aka “Miss Misery,” an employee of the mysterious Salt Street Development company. There, he learns that not only do they know who he is, but they also know what he is—and they intend to blackmail him into doing their dirty work for them. It’s here that Gelson finally meets another of his kind, Christophe, a werewolf who is faster, stronger, and far more dangerous. But it turns out there’s more to Gelson Verber than meets the eye. As the hard man of this particular slice of genre, the guy is a fantastic character: ruthless but not without humor, a master grifter who’s been doing this a very long time, and a stone-cold killer whose methods can be shocking even within the pages of this horror/crime fusion. Along the way, Johnson throws in Gelson’s target, a communications magnate who has gotten on Christophe’s bad side; Izelle Tatum, a savvy transsexual who’s only hustling to make the bread for sex-reassignment surgery; and a pair of plot reversals that are likely to leave readers with their jaws on the floor.

A briskly paced, splatter-filled crime novel to delight fans of directors Tarantino and Rodriguez.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-593-76648-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Soft Skull Press

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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