Uproarious fiction debut by New York Press columnist Knipfel (Quitting the Nairobi Trio, 2000, etc.), in which a semi-deranged newspaperman finds that the world can be even madder than he imagined.
Roscoe Baragon is in charge of the “kook beat” at a New York daily that tries to think of itself as respectable, responsible, and fair. Roscoe knows better. Guided by his cardinal rules of journalism (“There are some stories that simply cannot be told” and “Everyone’s a liar”), he files articles on the Ancient Curse of the Museum of Natural History (a homeless man named Chief Tokesalot is one of his sources) and interviews ex-mental patients who tell him tales of being abducted and raped by the State of Alaska. He is continually on the verge of being fired by his put-upon editor, but now and then Roscoe gets a scoop too big to be overlooked—like his scoring an exclusive interview with Abraham Campbell, the demented arsonist who killed 175 people when he set fire to a Brooklyn church. How does Roscoe do it? Mainly by having a ready ear for all the apparent lunatics who call city desks from across the country and spout the kind of gibberish that usually gets them a dial tone in a minute flat. Campbell, for instance, has a long story of a secret war between the Soviets (this is pre-1991) and the Seatopian Republic (whatever that is). Roscoe doesn’t believe him, but he listens—and remembers it later when his girlfriend Emily (who works at the morgue) tells him about a radioactive corpse found one night in Tompkins Square. The deeper Roscoe digs, the weirder the story becomes—and the more adamant the authorities become that Roscoe stop prying. Meanwhile, a series of earthquakes erupt in the Arctic, possibly set off by nuclear explosions. Just who are these Seatopians? What’s going on in Alaska? Just because you’re insane doesn’t mean you’re wrong.
Hilarious and genuinely exciting: the kind of story that could restore your faith in journalism—if only it were true.