cover image Wireless


Jack O'Connell, Jack C'Connell. Mysterious Press, $19.95 (402pp) ISBN 978-0-89296-546-5

As in his masterful and hallucinatory debut, Box Nine , O'Connell again conjures up the decaying postindustrial New England city of Quinsigamond, peopling its neon-spattered darkness with the weirdest collection of dysfunctional oddballs this side of TV's Twin Peaks. Police Detective Hannah Shaw must infiltrate the world of illegal radio ``jammers'' to find a killer whose first victim was a liberal parish priest with a popular radio show. The perp is a deranged former FBI agent waging war on ``anarchist scumbags,'' targeting in particular the jammers, who gather in a club named Wireless. Notable among these is G. T. Flynn, a silver-tongued life insurance salesman; Wallace Browning, a dwarf accountant/dancer and his wife Olga; Hazel, a punkette who sells herself to an Asian ganglord; and Ronnie, a female deejay whose late night show, Libido Liveline , runs on a station whose transmission is often disrupted. Operating offstage are the O'Zebedee brothers, whose outlaw broadcasts take up purloined airtime, and Det. Shaw's missing mentor, speed freak/cop Lenore Thomas. O'Connell creates a wildly colored narrative collage without losing grip of his story line in which factionalized jammers are seen as a kind of conflict-ridden family. His prose, without surface flash or affectation, showcases his characters, giving them an unexpected warmth and credibility, and lending their quirky insubstantial radio world a kind of meta-reality. Author tour. (Nov.)