cover image Damascus


Joshua Mohr. Two Dollar Radio (Consortium, dist.), $16 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-0-9826848-9-4

Browbeaten characters belly up to a San Francisco saloon in Mohr’s third novel, rife with themes of humanity, passion, and determined resilience. Damascus, a seedy Mission District dive bar (where “every interchange was a con, every night, a pitiful costume party”), is the home away from home for a ragtag troupe of oddballs headlined by cancer patient “No Eyebrows”; hand-job hooker Irene, aka “Shambles”; the numbingly insecure bar owner, Owen, of an unfortunate birth mark who dresses as Santa; and local artist Syl, best friend to Owen’s lesbian niece, Daphne. Syl is debuting her controversial painting installation of 12 dead soldiers at Damascus, much to the furyof injured Iraq war veteran Byron Settles, who, over the course of the story, conspires to destroy both the artwork and the bar. More impressive, however, is the coupling of Shambles and No Eyebrows. Her growing affection for the rapidly deteriorating cancer victim makes for an unlikely yet intense pairing that Mohr (Termite Parade) lovingly develops with unfettered affection. It’s the story line that carries the rest of the book. Not all the circumstances gel; a street scene confrontation with Owen and the father of a little girl who comments that Owen looks like Adolf Hitler feels contrived as does the overwritten hostage scene and firestorm at Damascus, but this accom-plished effort demonstrates Mohr’s rich, resonant prose, authentically rendered settings, and deft characterization. (Oct.)