Sprawling, postmodern shaggy dog debut novel about a strange city made even stranger by new arrivals from the hinterlands.
Someplace in the decaying industrial heartland, inside a “gray donut of shuttered factories,” lies a place called “Loony Island,” most of whose residents live in Stalinist apartment blocks. The name is well earned if accidental, for in one of its quadrants stands a psychiatric hospital whose residents have been released to the streets, ministered to by an apparently self-appointed priest, bearded and denim-clad, who funds his church by means of a fat trust fund. Alas, Loony Island is run by a cabal of criminals who don’t have much time for the new insane constituency except to figure out how to rob them, of which Father Julius decidedly doesn’t approve. Among the bad guys are a would-be writer who’s “shit at it” and a young woman, tough as iron, who is far and away more competent than anyone else in the gang. Their efforts pale against the arrival of a very bad man from Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, home of Dollyworld and some very strange doings. Morris is on the trail of a young man named Gordy who appears to Father Julius as a flickering apparition. Morris, a Keyser Söze of the Smokies, drops his enemies, perceived and real, into “oubliettes,” or dungeonlike boxes, of which he is the proud inventor; it makes good sense, then, that he should tumble into a sewer whose manhole cover has been spirited away by the local tweakers. What Gordy has that Morris wants is—well, call it an instrument that allows “control over everything in the universe.” Against this background there are all sorts of memorable characters, including murderous rednecks from the Deliverance cutting-room floor, a bearded lady from a traveling circus, and the ever elusive Gordy’s worried father, who swears that he’ll never go back to Pigeon Forge as long as he lives. If the yarn doesn’t always add up and runs a bit long, it’s good fun to wind the characters up and watch them go.
Moxon’s storyline isn’t easy to follow, but it makes for a tasty entertainment.