A community college professor and aspiring writer becomes obsessed with disproving his sister’s claim that their father was responsible for the notorious Black Dahlia murder.
In his debut novel, Allardice introduces failed novelist Paul McWeeney and his journey into a maddening obsession with discrediting the claims made in his sister’s published book. Written in the form of a letter to his sister’s publisher and in a stream-of-consciousness style (which includes nods to Marcel Proust and Hunter S. Thompson), McWeeney threatens legal action to prevent the publication of a book that claims his father killed Elizabeth “Betty” Short (aka the Black Dahlia) during a failed medical procedure. What starts as a seemingly succinct letter quickly becomes a running commentary on McWeeney’s maniacal voyage into the creation of memories; reflections about his lack of teaching abilities, unusual family and intimate relationships; and his slipping grip on reality as he falls deeper into isolation. At the center of the story is how McWeeney and his sister, Edie, offer differing recollections of their deceased parents (a mother who leaves the family for a life in Africa and a father who wrote for a Dragnet-esque television show). The irreconcilable gap between the conflicting narratives becomes a central ingredient for McWeeney’s self-destruction and marginalization. The most enjoyable portions of this book are McWeeney’s constant diatribes, bursting with academic jargon, analysis to the point of absurdity and a strict policy of discounting any notion that strays from his view of a given topic.
A humorous, well-written account of the damaging consequences of an intellectual obsession.