cover image Stray Bullets: Innocence of Nihilism

Stray Bullets: Innocence of Nihilism

David Lapham, Dave Lapham, . . El Capitn, $19.95 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-9727145-6-3

This unforgettable epic of lowlife criminals in Baltimore in the 1980s pulls no punches. An obsessed junior gunsel in love with a corpse; an abused little girl who takes refuge in violent fantasies of robbing banks; a lonely woman who picks up a teenage boy; a hit man who looks like Jesus Christ—these are only a few of the indelible characters caught up in Lapham's ultra-violent saga. Jumping in time from 1977 to 1997, the seven stories in this book are interrelated in subtle ways. Joey, the murderous youth from the first story, appears in another piece, set 17 years earlier, as a boy walking in on his mother having sex with a random guy at a party. Ginny Applejack, in a sad tale of child abuse, is transmogrified into Amy Racecar, a nihilistic antiheroine who is Bonnie and Clyde rolled into one. Lapham's heartbreaking yet detached stories show how petty criminals delude themselves into thinking they're just one score away from leaving it all behind. But even the most sympathetic characters can't break free, like Led, a young punk who finds true love at a wild party and thinks nothing of robbing a liquor store when the party runs out of beer. Lapham's fluid, keenly observed art elevates even the melodramatic moments into stunning instants of shattering truths and savage consequences. (Mar.)