THE ORCHID EATER by Marc Laidlaw


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Another well-written but depressing dystopian thriller by Laidlaw (Kalifornia, 1992; Dad's Nuke, 1985). Laidlaw always enjoys drawing truly screwed up families, with neighborhood wars in Dad's Nuke and a new baby that turns out to be a living processor of nuclear waste, and a family in Kalifornia so crazily cooked up that its deformities can't be encapsuled in a sentence. This time, we have the orphaned brothers, Sal Diaz, an open gay who teaches karate and tai chi and drives around in a black van looking for young boys to seduce, and Lupe Diaz, who bears a bright switchblade and looks girlishly smoothfaced because he has no testicles (he dreams that they were burned off with a blowtorch), though he does have an imaginary gang he carries around in his head. Let's add -- in clearing up the title -- that the Greek root for ""testicle"" means orchid (as in orchidectomy). And then there's the ex-con biker Hawk, a Bible-beater who more or less invents his own Jesus for his band of youthful converts-Hank's girlfriend calls him Peter Pan. Lupe has been released from the hospital and comes looking for Sal in Shangri-La, a part of Bohemia Bay where Hawk's gang gathers somewhere outside of Los Angeles. Then there's high-school art student Mike James, who draws dragons and has fallen in with a low-brow gang from the Alternative School. As it happens, Lupe is an artist as well as a rather femininely attractive serial killer, though his sketches are of his victims whose life-power he has eaten -- that mute gang crawling around in his head ""like baby rats."" Everybody belongs to some gang, and Hawk's and Sal's gangs fall out, and make peace -- but then Sal's found dead with Hawk's crucifix up his rectum.... The urge for gang buddyhood among boys is woven with the obsessions of a serial killer their age bent on eating...orchids. Not heartwarming.

Pub Date: March 17th, 1994
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: St. Martin's