cover image Down and Out in Purgatory

Down and Out in Purgatory

Tim Powers. Subterranean, $30 (120p) ISBN 978-1-59606-781-3

This bite-size horror-comedy is toothsome, if not as satisfying as some of Powers’s longer works. Tom Holbrook hopes to find and take revenge on murderer John Atwater, who killed Holbrook’s beloved, Shasta DiMaio. He’s temporarily stymied when Atwater turns up dead. Still bent on vengeance, Holbrook asks sorcerer Martinez how to destroy a ghost. Descending into a purgatorial half-world of sexually aggressive phantoms and mentally shattered spirits, Holbrook continues hunting for Atwater, but his quest leads him to truths that shatter even dead hearts. Powers’s scathing wit fingers the misanthropic core of the human condition. His comedy of terrors barrages readers with the speed and calculated ridiculousness of a Looney Tunes cartoon. Powers (Medusa’s Web) crafts intimately defined characters who prevent this march through the Inferno from becoming too absurd. Moral, bodily, and spiritual isolation create uneasy friction between mishaps, and minimalist prose whips the plot along. Agent: Russell Galen, Scovil Galen Ghosh Literary. (June)