HIGH LIFE

Matthew Stokoe, Author
Matthew Stokoe, Author . Akashic $16.95 (326p) ISBN 978-1-888451-32-0
Reviewed on: 07/08/2002
Release date: 01/01/2002
Paperback - 333 pages - 978-1-933354-53-8
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Set against the sweltering, noirish backdrop of Los Angeles where "money is part of the architecture of the city," this bleak, violent novel upholds English author Stokoe's reputation for gritty, sordid fiction (Cows). Jack, a drugged-out tabloid fanatic and wannabe Hollywood star, grows worried when his wife, Karen, a street prostitute, goes missing for several days. He discovers that she has been murdered ("gutted like a fish") and that he is under investigation by Ryan, a sleazy minor vice cop, who takes on the homicide case himself since he was previously one of Karen's customers. Jack makes a promise to himself to find Karen's killer while supporting himself by becoming a hustler. Stokoe's plot thickens by way of urban legend. Before her disappearance, Karen confessed to Jack that she had sold one of her kidneys for $30,000 to a mysterious doctor trawling Hollywood Boulevard. After a succession of vile sex dates, Jack winds up face-to-face with Bella and Powell Vernier, an incestuous father and daughter surgical team who might be implicated in Karen's murder. Accusations and dead bodies (not to mention necrophilia) emerge just as Jack's acting career begins to take off. Stokoe's in-your-face prose and raw, unnerving scenes give way to a skillfully plotted (though largely implausible) tale that will keep readers glued to the page, if they can stomach the gratuitous obscenities and the excessively graphic descriptions of sex and violence (and violent sex). Stokoe's protagonist is as gritty and brutal as they come, which will frighten away the chaste crowd, but the author's target Bret Easton Ellis audience could turn this one into a word-of-mouth success. (Aug.)

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