More than zero: adventures in drugs and prostitute girlfriends, warmly related as if that were a good thing.

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A MUSICAL COMEDY

In this debut musical novel featuring several songs, the protagonist chronicles his free-form, oddly contented lifestyle among addicts, drug dealers, and prostitutes—a subculture he finds surprisingly appealing and profound.

An erudite, first-person narrator called Mark (which may not be his real name) hails from an upscale, college-educated background. In addition, he has worked in market research and teaching hospitals. Yet Mark has unapologetically (if rather inexplicably; possibly just for the walk-on-the-wild-side factor) immersed himself in an indolent existence of continual crack use and encounters with drug dealers in the hotels and motels of an unnamed American city. Vice is so rife that paraphernalia and wisdom come dispensed via a Whole Crack Catalog, and Mark finds the ubiquitous ex-convicts, prostitutes, junkies, and perverts surrounding him to be colorful, intellectually stimulating company, not cheap gangsters. The hero is particularly smitten with Bonnie, a tall, big-boned, divorced, middle-aged hooker who, despite herself, seems to captivate all men, regular customers who constantly orbit around her as “boyfriends” on various levels. Mark deliriously overintellectualizes Bonnie until another streetwalker plain-talks him into realizing she’s just all about the money. That’s basically the overarching plotline of Pettus’ tale. The author conceived this comic narrative as a “musical,” with accompanying embedded songs. His country/blues/rock harmonies should appeal to fans of such melodic outlaws as David Allan Coe, but the short book certainly holds its own minus the tunes. The individual chapter vignettes of misbehavior, whoring, and narcotics economics are wry, amusing, and free of lamentation or pity. One is reminded of Chuck Palahniuk with more humanity and less freak-sideshow shock elements—or what Hubert Selby Jr. might have written had he been channeling Garrison Keillor. 

More than zero: adventures in drugs and prostitute girlfriends, warmly related as if that were a good thing.

Pub Date: April 30, 2018

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 119

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2018

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless...

SPLIT SECOND

Two defrocked Secret Service Agents investigate the assassination of one presidential candidate and the kidnapping of another.

Baldacci (The Christmas Train, 2002, etc.) sets out with two plot strands. The first begins when something distracts Secret Service Agent Sean King and during that “split second,” presidential candidate Clyde Ritter is shot dead. King takes out the killer, but that’s not enough to save his reputation with the Secret Service. He retires and goes on to do often tedious but nonetheless always lucrative work (much like a legal thriller such as this) at a law practice. Plot two begins eight years later when another Secret Service Agent, Michelle Maxwell, lets presidential candidate John Bruno out of her sight for a few minutes at a wake for one of his close associates. He goes missing. Now Maxwell, too, gets in dutch with the SS. Though separated by time, the cases are similar and leave several questions unanswered. What distracted King at the rally? Bruno had claimed his friend’s widow called him to the funeral home. The widow (one of the few characters here to have any life) says she never called Bruno. Who set him up? Who did a chambermaid at Ritter’s hotel blackmail? And who is the man in the Buick shadowing King’s and Maxwell’s every move? King is a handsome, rich divorce, Maxwell an attractive marathon runner. Will they join forces and find each other kind of, well, appealing? But of course. The two former agents traverse the countryside, spinning endless hypotheses before the onset, at last, of a jerrybuilt conclusion that begs credibility and offers few surprises.

Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless concoction.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2003

ISBN: 0-446-53089-1

Page Count: 406

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2003

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