SMACK GODDESS by Richard Stratton


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A lumpish, intermittently energetic mulligan stew of a novel showing what happens--everything that happens--when ultra-chic Sonia Byrne-Downes, ""dealer to the stars,"" gets busted for possession (two kilos, $450K) and conspiracy to distribute from punk-rocker Rickie Rude's New York brownstone. Rickie's practiced lawyer Aaron Held calls on his longtime friend and associate Arthur Grimm (""A.G."") to investigate Sonny--as well as to keep Rickie out of the jail cell that the local cops and the DEA are warming up for him--and A.G. sets off on the trail of six million dollars Sonny, an experienced businesswoman who makes no bones about her guilt, says has vanished from her place. Gopher Karl Landgren disappeared at the same time as the money, and it doesn't take long for A.G. to find Karl (dead in the trunk of his rented car), just as the DEA closes in on A.G., but the money is gone. When Karl is unmasked as a federal agent, the cops, desperate to keep their case against Sonny and Rickie from falling apart in the absence of their star witness, turn up the heat; and Sonny's mob bosses, Jack Moriarty and Guy Stash, are too busy suspecting each other to offer much protection. A.G., increasingly drawn to Sonny (read: great sex in the prison conference room) despite his dalliance with young Cassy Steiger, and determined to keep childlike, iconoclastic Rickie out of stir, watches Held do his stuff as Stratton switches to the courtroom mode. Even after the trial's unexpected ending, there's more: Sonny's escape from the federal pen; A.G.'s showdown with Jack Moriarty; the casual (and predictable) revelation of who killed Karl and lifted the money. Though first-novelist Stratton (inevitably an ex-druggie and ex-con himself) doesn't hit on all cylinders--Sonny never comes across as the glamorous enigma she's supposed to be, and Rickie's windy pop philosophy is a hoot--A.G.'s powerfully jaundiced view of the drag industry helps smooth out the bumps.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1990
Publisher: Birch Lane/Carol