BRAINFADE by Peter Barthelme


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Barthelme's third novel (Push, Meet Shove; Tart, With a Silken Finish) about Houston adman-snoop-avenger Beaumont, now semiretired to the sleepy fishing town of Victoria, begins with his landing a well-heeled new client--Amazonian psychiatrist Melissa Stone--and then rapidly shows what a dangerous enemy a psychiatrist can be. Part of Beaumont's payment for the ad campaign for Dr. Stone's clinics is therapy for his anorexic former secretary Tammy. (Another part is evidently his fierce d…lliance--fishing, billiards, porno tapes of her group-therapy clients, lots of sex--with the predatory Melissa.) When Tammy's whisked away to another clinic, location unspecified, Beaumont does a little detective work, locates her, inadvertently uncovers an insurance scant run by Melissa and her partner Dr. Natelson, and confronts her with his knowledge. Big mistake. Next thing you know, Beaumont is restrained and doped at the clinic; and even after he escapes, her legal threat--a complaint she's sworn against him as an escaped mental patient--leads to a stalemate that each side keeps trying to break, even as Beaumont goes back to work for her while plotting revenge. The first two-thirds here are charged with a wonderfully funny, sexy paranoia; it's only when Beaumont's revenge--characteristically drawing on his ad skills and his budding romance with the unlikely stripper Kandy--sends Melissa around the bend that the story flattens from absurdism to absurdity.

Pub Date: Aug. 27th, 1989
Publisher: St. Martin's