PENNY DREADFUL by Will Christopher Baer


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Please deposit four quarters to read the following, about a novel that bears bits of colored glass and has sex coming from

it in waves. A warning: Some will not grasp, and if they grasp will not like, Baer’s crazed world of death-chocolates and bloody

strawberries, all done in a neon noir express influenced by the Siamese Bills, Burroughs, and Gibson.

Baer’s superbly stylized debut novel, Kiss Me, Judas (1998), is Penny Dreadful’s prequel. That one opened with Internal

Affairs Division detective Phineas Poe ratting on his own agency in Denver, recovering from a nervous breakdown after his wife’s

death, picking up Jude in a bar, being given a horse tranquillizer, then waking in a bathtub full of ice with a kidney missing, his

side stapled closed and a phone nearby with the note "Phone 911 to save your life." A wonderful opening, with unrelenting

invention throughout. There’s no dimming of same here, either, although for sheer weirdness the storytelling rockets to even

higher levels of glowing semiconsciousness. The missing-kidney ploy is replaced by The Game, in which Chrome, the boyfriend

of the exquisite Goo (a.k.a. Eve), and assisted by Mingus the Breather (a.k.a. Matthew Roar), finds starved, bruised, and bombed-

out Tremblers in alleys and bites out, chews, and swallows their tongues. Phineas has returned penniless from South America and

Mexico and is put up by Eve/Goo. He calls his star-crossed buddy Detective Walter Moon for help, and Moon enlists him in

finding homicide cop Jimmy Sky, who has faded from sight along with 13 other deep-cover narcs and vice cops. Thus at last

Phineas is led to master villain Theseus the Glove.

Demanding, violently lighted changes of brainscape keep you blinking. The baffled reader often feels like someone sitting

at a red light with eyes shrunk to pinpricks and horns honking hysterically behind. Baer’s over-the-top magic, however, will attract

and lock in new members to his cult.

Pub Date: March 6th, 2000
ISBN: 0-670-88920-2
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2000


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