Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Fistful of Feet (review)

Fistful of Feet, by Jordan Krall

I've read a considerable amount a bizarro considering I only really started reading bizarro a couple of months ago. The more I read of particular authors, the more I get used to their style. Carlton Mellick III is certainly the most prolific writer in the genre (belting out new books left, right, and centre), but with those authors who've only got a few titles here and there, it's difficult to figure out exactly what they contribute to the genre until you read more.

Jordan Krall's Squid Pulp Blues was one of the first bizarro books I read (along with Mellick's Satan Burger and Cameron Pierce's Lost in Cat Brain Land). Now, I think what makes a good bizarro book is when the author tries to do something different, as opposed to tries to do something weird. Unique, as opposed to random. Squid Pulp Blues is a collection of three novellas, each connected through one crime-filled town. It's a weird, weird book, it's a no holds barred bizarro adventure, but it borrows stylistically from the noir genre. Fistful of Feet, evidently, continues on Krall's genre take on bizarro through its implementing of the western genre.

This is Krall's third published book and first full length novel, and I think as he progresses, his talent to tell a good story becomes just that extra bit better. I haven't read his first publication, Peacemeal June, which, from what I gather, is not so much a weird genre story, but a straight up bizarro story. I have, however, read his fourth published book, King Scratch, which was actually the first book he wrote. It's sort of like a predecessor to Squid Pulp Blues in its crime noir style, but I believe it's more for hardcore horror fans, as it takes precedence of fucked up shit over plot development. Which I guess brings me to Fistful of Feet.

It's a "weird western". That's a title that sums it up perfectly. It's a pretty wild novel, set in the town of Screwhorse, and follows Calamaro, a few other out-of-towners, and the townsfolk as frictions rise as crooks and cowboys and Indians draw themselves towards a chaotic, bloody mess. The local whorehouse specialises in some pretty weird fetishes, and while the simple townsfolk try to stand around and look innocent, they are anything but. Once this story gets going (and it gets going pretty early on), things quickly get out of hand, and stay that way for the majority of the book. At some points I just wanted the pace to slow down to build up a bit of tension, but this book is one of wild extremities. A lot of sex, a lot of violence, a lot of people getting what's coming to them.

As with Squid Pulp Blues, the narrative style of Fistful of Feet is one of disjointed, simultaneous plot lines. So while the plot runs linear, Krall is constantly switching between seemingly unconnected stories as they wind themselves towards eachother. The way certain plot points are foreshadowed in this book is probably my favourite part about it. Where certain characters or plots may seem to have dropped away to nothing, they're sitting dormant until the right time to make their dramatic entrance. It's not an easy thing to do with this style of narrative storytelling, but Krall pulls it off brilliantly. There were some points that I felt should have been pushed further in the book, such as the plot with the gold. It comes down to a matter of personal taste. I would have liked more suspense, and perhaps a closer correlation between the intersecting plot lines. But it's a great, weird, disturbing bizarro genre read, and I think Krall is becoming more ambitious with each book. I can't wait to see what he comes up with next.

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