Neal Barrett, Jr., Author Subterranean $40 (200p) ISBN 978-1-931081-23-8

The lowlifes of Piggs Bar and Chinese Restaurant (Mexican Wells, Tex.) in this crime novel from veteran Barrett (The Hereafter Gang) make the regulars of the bar in The Iceman Cometh look classy by comparison. At least O'Neill's characters had hope. These people have nothing to live for. Cecil R. Dupree, the proprietor, rules his subjects like a Caligula in overalls, among them such dregs as Rhino, who runs the restaurant, and Ahmed, the Arab-Chinese chef. Jack, an ex-con who washes dishes and is about as close as Barrett gets to a hero, hasn't been able to get his life together since he left prison, but at least he's found a new purpose in life: Gloria, the stripper/go-go girl. He wants to take her away from this sordid life, but he can't see that she's not interested in him or in any alternative existence he could offer her. For Gloria, Piggs is a chance to dance, and dancing is what matters to her most. Jack's dream is to commit a couple of robberies that will give him enough to escape. When he finally gets his chance, he predictably fails to rise to the occasion. The author's portrait of the denizens of Piggs is deliciously sordid, if just a bit tedious, in the last half before the big shoot-'em-up climax. Still, his array of dismal characters is fascinating to watch, his novel fun to read. (Sept. 10)

Forecast:Chiefly known for his offbeat fantasy fiction, Barrett will appeal to the same audience that appreciates the dark humor of Joe R. Lansdale.

Reviewed on: 08/27/2001
Release date: 12/01/2001
Genre: Fiction
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