cover image Still Life with Volkswagens

Still Life with Volkswagens

Geoff Nicholson. Overlook Press, $21.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-87951-616-1

Nicholson (Everything and More) hilariously reunites the cast of characters from his first novel, Street Sleeper, saddling them with varying degrees of obsession with Volkswagens. Charles Lederer, recently deinstitutionalized former member of Parliament, hitchhikes through England in a fugue state, discovering that ``wherever there's trouble, there's always a Volkswagen'' and concluding, therefore, that the Bug is ``quite clearly the car of the devil.'' Barry Osgathorpe, a Zen environmentalist loath to drive because of the pollution it causes, is propelled back into his souped-up black Beetle to search variously for Lederer, a missing Veedub collector and the cause of an epidemic of mysterious Volkswagen explosions. Phelan, a sinisterly charismatic retro-Nazi, leads a band of skinheads in a fleet of evilly customized Bugs on a demented hunt for the ultimate piece of Volkswagen memorabilia. Nicholson deftly adds more bizarre characters, all linked by their Volkswagen mania. In addition to his motley pit crew, Nicholson also crisscrosses their story lines with vignettes of famous Beetles--Bugs of Elvis, Charles Manson, Ted Bundy and, the ur-Volkswagen fan, Adolf Hitler. The novel's pile-up finale has a bit of deus ex machina to it. But so what. It's a mad, mad, mad world, and Nicholson's satiric talent has enough horsepower to make thrilling a meandering ride to nowhere in particular. (Oct.)