Rick DeMarinis, Author . Dennis McMillan $30 (280p) ISBN 978-0-939767-47-2

Like a cold lake, this novel by the author of such books as Cinder and Year of the Zinc Penny is best entered by a plunge. Bleak, brutal, demented and cruel, the El Paso world inhabited by Uriah Walkinghorse shocks the system, sets nerve-ends tingling, numbs, then drags you into its thrall. Uri is suspended somewhere between a "normal" existence and a descent into the bizarre and desperate world that surrounds him. Strained but strong ties still bind him to his odd assortment of adopted siblings—black and white and Korean—who include a school principal, an addict, a delivery driver and a corporate lawyer. At 42, he has lost his wife, abandoned his quest for a master's and manages derelict apartments of derelicts in exchange for rent. His one accomplishment was a bodybuilding title, Mr. West Side, and he still maintains a diet and exercise program. DeMarinis's exceptionally sharp wit slashes through the prose as Uri undertakes an odyssey through a world of kinky sex, drugs, high finance and the most vicious, most wasted dregs of humanity on either side of the border. The argument between a huffer and a doper over which addiction is better is brilliantly macabre. Alternately trapped and fueled by futile dreams of a better life, Uri stumbles, perseveres and survives. DeMarinis somehow manages to invest even the most degenerate of characters with recognizable humanity in spite of his savage and bitter satire. (Oct.)

Forecast: Despite the quality of the writing, the worldview DeMarinis expresses is just too depressing for your average mystery reader. James Crumley's introduction at least will draw his fans' attention.

Reviewed on: 10/06/2003
Release date: 10/01/2003
Genre: Fiction
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