ZOODOGS by Stewart Dowing


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A tale of surpassing anomie set in a grim, late-night electronic-game arcade.

Kurt Black is 20 years old and at loose ends, pulling the night shift at a foul, coin-operated gaming parlor aptly named Warzone Amusements in Perth, Australia. It is the kind of sticky-linoleum, mangy-carpet place that should only exist in bad dreams. Early on, Black appears to be a wounded soul with a bit of poet lurking under his hard-bitten exterior: “Solvent-intoxicated memories crept from every corner and the B.O. of fear could be traced leaching from the walls and ceiling.” The clientele is mostly down-and-out Aborigines, glue sniffers and gang bangers who detest the white Black, a feeling that is reciprocated. Newcomer Dowing has Black rub very close to bigotry, but never tip into it. Rather, he sours to the human race and “the sewer they called modern life; a shit-city extravaganza of violence and perversions and hopelessness and depravity and cold cola and greasy chips between the struggle, the thieving and the cheating for money.” Black has never been shy when it comes to confrontations, but Dowing works him slowly but steadily into a lather of hormone-fueled rage, progressing from bare fists to spiked brass-knuckles to a sawed-off shotgun. The author introduces characters who may pull Black back from total spiritual annihilation, but they are fleeting–the ghost of a dead man, some ill-starred girlfriends, a Bible-thumper–and give Black only pause to reflect on his downward spiral, a junkyard dog in a place that’s little more than a feral zoo. The writing is of such a visceral quality that it is tempting to think Dowing has been down this road, a road littered with car wrecks it is impossible to peel one’s eyes from. Hopefully not. If Black is shatterproof, he’s also mean, too mean to ever meet his definition of a hero–the common man who soldiers on despite the odds. For Black, the world’s dark and fit for mayhem.

An achingly drawn despair, the kind that leads to high body counts and unhappy endings.

Pub Date: Dec. 29th, 2007
ISBN: 978-1-84799-383-0
Program: Kirkus Indie
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