GunnShots: Winter 2011
A Roundup of Gay Crime Writing
This quarter the column features a masterful prison novel, two murder mysteries that follow unusual narrative patterns, a relatively light-hearted whodunit/romance, a historical mystery, and a supernatural tale.
BLOOD by Jack Remick
BLOOD by Jack Remick
For an author to choose as his explicit models Camus’s L’Etranger, Genet’s Notre Dame des Fleurs, and Sade’s Les 120 Journées de Sodom (all of which he has obviously read in French) and to earn the right to be mentioned in their company is quite a goal to strive for: one that only time will verify but that perhaps Jack Remick has indeed achieved.
Narrated by the sociopath Hank Mitchell, imprisoned for stealing women’s underwear from laundromats, this intensely poetic novel recounts his compulsive endeavor to record on paper his sordid life as a mercenary in Latin America, a hitman in France, a professional killer working for huge American corporations that hold themselves above the law. The world he describes, across which he strides as an agent of death, may be a record of the truth of the times in which we live; it may be self-created fiction that deliberately plays with the reader’s mind.
We are introduced to Hank’s dysfunctional and seemingly real family from whom he learned the art of deception and manipulation, and who want to return him to the outside to use for their own machinations. We meet his two lovers in prison, first René and then, after he is murdered, Squeaky. We watch the deterioration of one of the guards.
All the while, the iridescence of the language used to describe images of blood and corruption sweeps the reader through 120 chapters to arrive ultimately as curiously detached as Meursault describing the death of his mother in Camus’s novel — much as “The Rio Verde, a slender jungle river brown as chocolate, lazy as a tree sloth, meanders through Southern Mexico seeking a path to the Coast where it spills its dirty cargo into the deep and cleansing blue Pacific.”
A crime novel, an account of guerrilla warfare, a family tragedy — it is even more a remarkable novel about the act of writing and the art of reading, one that assumes a readership that is at ease with literature but a tad too complacent about the horrors unseen by bourgeois eyes.