. . . .wait, before you think it’s a mystical novel, it’s not. Charlie Huston’s The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death: A Novel, is not mystical. It’s pulp noir, violent and not always easy to read.
Slacker Webster Goodhue is forced to get a job to pay off breaking a borrowed cell phone. He stumbles into a job as a crime scene cleaner. You’ll find out more about this job than you might want to know–how to clean brain splatter off a wall, how to get body fluids out of the carpet, particularly if the victim died weeks ago and has been lying on the carpet. You’ll discover that in this part of LA, people commit suicide in more grisly ways than overdosing. No, no, they blow their brains out with a mouthful of water to increase the force of the explosion, and that isn’t the worst of it.
So Webster doesn’t exactly have a career position, but the owner of the company, Po-Sin, has ambitions. So do the rival crime-scene gangs, er, companies. Expect violence that no one wants to clean up, including kidnapping, extortion, mayhem and, ass-whupping.
What is it about? Well, you know, Web sees girl (Soledad, who comes attached with brother Jamie, who’s in trouble), Web loses girl (almonds, kidnapping, and her father’s suicide), Web gets in lots of trouble through Soledad, human smuggling, rival gangs, and Web gets girl again, sort of.
If that isn’t enough to keep you reading, there is another whole story of Web’s parents (his mom is a rich hippie, his dad is a drunk script-repairman) and his background–he used to teach school until a student got killed and Web wound up with Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome.
If this whole turmoil is not enough, the book has lots of dialog and no quotation marks or “he said”s. Still enjoyable in a Tarantino kind of way. Definitely pulp noir, not for the squeamish.
–Quinn McDonald is a writer, life- and creativity coach who trains people in communications with family and business partners.