In earlier fiction, Brite used the music of Charlie Parker, the life and art of R. Crumb (the brilliant Drawing Blood, 1993), the necrophilia of Jeffrey Dahmer, and the anchovy shape and wormwood flavor of H. P. Lovecraft as entrance points into her own sparkling fantasy life in print. This time, it’s John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
The fact remains that Brite’s most original novel is still her first, Lost Souls (1992), a wildly eloquent, Deep South blues and rock ’n’ roll variation on vampirism among white-trash musicians, a work seemingly not based on famous originals, though we could be wrong. Plastic Jesus, a novella also illustrated by the author, turns Lennon and McCartney into Seth Grealy and Peyton Masters, who begin as straights with girls crawling all over them but later become lovers and even are married by a rogue priest in one of Amsterdam’s newly legalized cannabis coffee shops. The career of the two, beginning with teenage years in Leyborough (read Liverpool), follows quite closely that of the Beatles, although Ringo and George (as Dennis and Mark) are barely minor characters. The first turning point comes when the musicians’ manager, Harold (read Brian), more or less seduces Seth and is later murdered by some rough trade. Seth goes into a deep slump from which only Peyton’s love can rescue him, a love, however, that also gives Peyton control of the band. The lovers go public at Stonewall Inn after the gay riots in Greenwich Village. Seth is assassinated, and afterward Peyton goes to Seth’s shrink, Jonathan Pumphrey, and tells him their life-story. The story’s thin suspense comes when Peyton focuses on killing the assassin.
Missing: Brite’s lyricism and soaring fantasy (as when R. Crumb physically enters Parker’s music in Birdland), the very qualities germane to psychedelics, the Beatles, and the Peter Max years. Here, the originals overpower Brite’s march of whimsy.