Snitch Factory

Peter Plate, Author
Peter Plate, Author Incommunicado Press $13 (184p) ISBN 978-1-888277-02-9
Paperback - 208 pages - 978-1-58322-258-4
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San Francisco's precarious welfare bureaucracy shudders with random acts of violence and corruption in this poorly realized account of urban decay set in the city's seamy Mission district. Social worker Charlene Hassler has abandoned whatever political ambitions she once held and now concentrates on giving people food stamps and helping them get the most they can from the welfare system. But as if dealing with the hostility of her clients, the rampant crime and violence in the neighborhood and the Byzantine regulations of social-service agencies weren't enough, someone at work is out to get her fired. Plate (One Foot Off the Gutter) fills the novel with evocative details of Mission street life, but elsewhere can't seem to decide whether he wants gritty urban realism or broad satire--Charlene's boss is named Petard, her work rival is named Lavoris. Worse, in Charlene's first-person narration, he substitute's numerous heavy-handed and gratuitous anatomical references--menstrual stains, yeast infections, bra rash, labia rings etc. (""Have you ever been in debt? I hate it worse than getting a Pap smear"")--for a subtler evocation of a woman's voice. Ultimately, there is little plot and the supporting characters are ciphers, leaving the reader with a few glimpses of the welfare system and the Mission and some vague social comment buried under a muddle of bad writing. (Dec.)
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