SHOCK RADIO by Leigh Clark


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 Masked, ultraviolent psychokiller pursues a Los Angeles radio shock-jock in a gory, gruesome tale that even Howard Stern would call sick. Clark (Evil Reincarnate, 1994) gives us the foulmouthed Aaron ``Sunset'' Scott, whose vulgar, pointlessly abusive on-the-air style (on KRAS-FM) has made him the city's most popular talk show host. He takes a call from an unidentified male who says he is the city's current torture-murderer. Unprintable expletives fly and, faster than Scott can play ``Misty'' for the killer, the caller has gained a moniker--the Phantom--and a purpose: to slash, burn, slice, and machine-gun his way into Scott's life. Brutal on the air, Scott (whose last name is really Steinberg) is tender only to his Jewish bubbe mother, Leah, an ancient waitress at a kosher delicatessen, and his super-shiksa-bombshell girlfriend, TV news reporter Samantha Collier. With as much subtlety as the Phantom's gesture of sending decapitated heads to Scott via FedEx, the author compares the hateful intent in his protagonist's verbal antagonism (which has something to do with growing up Jewish and never knowing who his father was) to the sociopathic rage that inspires the Phantom's nauseatingly inventive executions. We are led to believe that they're both creations of America's violence and celebrity- obsessed media. Trite oversimplifications, half-baked ruminations about masks and sincerity, hideous gore, a monotonous traipse through L.A. sex clubs, a couple of Armani-clad cops, plus a preposterous plot twist that connects the seemingly unkillable Phantom (he takes a slug in the knee and keeps running) to Scott's past, make for a kind of Ed Wood movie that even the hipsters won't watch: A nightmare that annoys instead of thrills. An overdose of gore, perverted family values, a pathetically loathsome antihero, and an L.A. setting that we've seen done much better elsewhere.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-312-85721-4
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Forge
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1996