Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Review of The Pistol Poets by Victor Gischler (No Exit Press, 2004)

Wandering professor, Jay Morgan, has landed at East Oklahoma University to teach poetry on a one year contract.  Beyond the fact that his students have a distinct lack of talent, within a week of term starting he has major problem - there’s a dead co-ed in his bed, the victim of a dodgy drug overdose, and an overly keen student journalist is tailing him.  A potential benefactor to the university and aspiring poet comes to his rescue, helping him dispose of the body and cover his tracks.  He has two further problems, however.  First, the young woman’s parents have sent low life PI, Deke Stubbs, to find out what happened to her.  Second, St Louis drug lieutenant, Harold Jenks, has decided to try and go straight, well kind-of.  He’s stolen the identity of a kid who has a scholarship to EOU, skipping town with a hundred thousand dollars worth of cocaine, hoping that stolen rap lyrics and hallmark card greetings will be enough to edge him through Morgan’s poetry class.  In his wake he has left a very pissed off drug lord.  With the convergence of Jenks, Stubbs, Morgan’s slightly mad colleagues, and a St Louis gang, all hell is about to break loose.

The Pistol Poets is a screwball noir with a healthy dose of mayhem and madness.  As with all books in this sub-genre, plausibility is thin on the ground, but that’s hardly the point.  Instead, the plot skates the edges of credibility with a series of twists and turns, double-crosses, dead ends, and violent clashes, acted out with a weird and wonderful set of characters who are all slightly larger than life or are kooky in some way.  Moreover, the book is written in nice, tight, expressive prose, with a plot that is well choreographed.  I was hooked from pretty much the first page and they then flipped over at a steady pace.  It would have been quite easy for the various intersecting subplots to drift away into a bit of a mess, but Gischler has a firm hand on the tiller and keeps the whole thing together until the last page.  A very enjoyable bit of escapist noir.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Rob-I would like to include this on Friday if that's okay. I don't think it's ever been mentioned before.

Jerry House said...

Read this one two monhs ago and enjoyed it greatly.