Pop-pop go the guns of academe in a follow-up to the Edgar-nominated Gun Monkeys (not reviewed).
Why is the campus at Eastern Oklahoma U. suddenly littered with nonacademic corpses? It all starts when Harold Jenks, a second-banana drug dealer in East St. Louis, decides he needs a lifestyle change. His restlessness leads to murder, stolen identity, and the arrival of cold-blooded Jenks—taking the place of the late Sherman Ellis—at Eastern Oklahoma as a graduate student in English. In his poke is $100,000 worth of crack cocaine belonging to Red Zach, a top banana who will doubtless miss it. In the meantime, Jay Morgan, poet, boozer, womanizer, and one-year-contract professor, struggles in a sea of troubles. There’s a dead girl in his bed, and he can’t quite remember how she got there. From the ranks of the living come a crazed Pulitzer-winning poet who’s supposed to be in Prague but isn’t, and a small, tough, aging mobster who also writes “poetry on steroids.” Morgan, Jenks, and other picaresque types hook up just in time for the Red Zach gang to ride into town to reclaim the stolen stash and cue the gunfight at the admin building.
The tale, careening erratically between satire and shoot-’em-up, is violent, even brutal at times. Although some of it is funny, you’ll look in vain for a character to like in this sorry cast.