Saturday, September 8, 2012

Done: "Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death" by Charlie Huston

Done: Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death by Charlie Huston, 2009, 9780345501110.

Very, very good.  Another Huston novel, another fuck-up as protagonist.  Huston almost always has really fun stuff.  I'm in the middle of a Duane Switzkerlyminskydee novel and the and the similar setting and humor keep mixing the two in my mind.  Spoilers to follow.

Web is a pain-in-the-ass-guy in his late 20s living in Los Angeles.  His roommate and best pal Chev owns a tattoo shop.  Web has no job but plenty of allusions are made to a traumatic past.  Po Sin picks up the tattoo shop's medical waste - bloody clothes, used tattoo needles - and knows Web.  Po Sin offers Web a day job.  Web just broke Chev's phone and also owes him rent money so he takes the $10 an hour gig.

Po Sin's main business service is cleaning biohazard.  Crime scenes, suicides, and decompsoing bodies are Po Sin's beat.  Insults and emotional distance are Web's beat.  Web meets grieving daughter at suicide clean-up.  Web and grieving daughter hit it off in a weird, post traumatic way.  The girl, Soledad, calls late at night to ask Web to clean blood from a motel room.  Motel room houses her dirtbag half brother and blood spray.

Web gets pulled into crime story involving Dirtbag Half Brother and Soledad.  Web bangs Soledad.  Web's boss's van is stolen.  Web is pulled into Po Sin's cleaning business rivalry subplot.  Web assaulted by other dirtbags.  Soledad kidnapped.  Web has to deliver Other Dirtbag's property to rescue Soledad.

Anyway.  Characters have lots of character.  Web deals with his estranged father.  Violence ensues.  Romance ensues.  Tales of PTSD ensue.  Web was a teacher on a school  field trip when his school bus drives through a gang gunfight.  Wisecracks are abundant.  Web wonders if Soledad killed her dad.  Everything ends happily ever after except for the dead people.

1.  Huston's standard dialogue with stops, starts, pauses, and half-finished sentences.
2.  Web comments on the surrealness of the situations he gets in.  Web's father was a famous screenwriter and movie plots versus reality are commented on.  Suspension of disbelief challenged by being discussed.
3.  Plenty of humor.
4.  The clean-up business seems to have brought this novel a fair amount of attention.  That is a fairly small part of the story.  I presume Huston heard about the business and thought it would be neat to write about.  The focus is on the characters not crime scene detail.
5.  I'm thinking this was nominated or won an Edgar or something.  I will not bother checking on this. 


J F Norris said...

Great book! I'd love to see this as a movie. Huston is so under appreciated. I think CAUGHT STEALING is one of the best neo-noirs. Ever. I was so impressed by it I wrote him a fan letter - something I'd not done since I was a teenager. Wish he would make a visit to the crime fiction conferences. He'd be very popular, I'm sure. But I gather it's not his scene at all.

Gerard Saylor said...

I, too, think the Hank Thompson books are fantastic.

From the very little I have read about Huston he does not at all seem like a conference goer.

Jerry House said...

I really enjoyed this one and have several more by Huston on Mount TBR.