Depraved Indifference

Depraved Indifference

by Gary Indiana

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Gary Indiana takes us on a dizzying ride along with the sociopathic yet charming Evangeline. A dead ringer for Elizabeth Taylor, she is driven by the thrill of seducing and killing. No one—not her husband, children, or friends—is exempt from her bizarre compulsions and gradiosity. She draws them all, without remorse, into a series of gambits that build to


Gary Indiana takes us on a dizzying ride along with the sociopathic yet charming Evangeline. A dead ringer for Elizabeth Taylor, she is driven by the thrill of seducing and killing. No one—not her husband, children, or friends—is exempt from her bizarre compulsions and gradiosity. She draws them all, without remorse, into a series of gambits that build to the ultimate payoff.

With a devastating wit, Indiana portrays the warped cultural nexus in which social misfits and their prey converge. Depraved Indifference is a brilliantly incisive commentary on the underbelly of American society.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
For 30 years Gary Indiana has been cooking up caustic commentary on art and culture and anything we egocentrically characterize as "American." And paramount among our American peccadilloes is our love of the good ol' serial killer. Indiana nourishes our fascination with these devil-spawns, who often spring from the heartland, feeding us the licentious thrills we crave.

Depraved Indifference is the final installment in Indiana's American crime trilogy, which began with the 1995 release of Resentment, inspired by the infamous Menendez brothers trial. Three Month Fever: The Andrew Cunanan Story neatly meshed fact and conjecture as Indiana dissected the motivations of a serial killer whose rampage might have gone unnoticed by America and the mass media if Cunanan had not punctuated it with the murder of the rich and famous Gianni Versace.

Depraved Indifference is based on the Kenneth and Sante Kimes crime spree, which culminated in the disappearance of elderly Manhattan millionairess Irene Silverman, of whose murder the Kimeses were convicted in 2000. It takes us back to the fictionalized point of origin of this apparently incestuous pair, whose plots and designs began long before they ever hit New York. "Con" -- short for both confidence game and confidence in their ability to outwit, outthink, and outmaneuver any "mark" -- is what the novel's Devin Slote aspires to and what his mother, Evangeline, cultivates: "She collected future marks like lottery tickets. She operated by reflex. Any public room she entered was a pristine harvest of human information." Short con or long, Indiana divulges the secret, weaselly machinations of these soulless grifters.

The rapid-fire barrage of dense language, released in staccato bursts from an amphetamine-primed tongue, will leave you feeling as if you've just survived America's wildest roller-coaster ride. Each twist and turn is an adrenaline thrill; afterward, you're relieved you're still alive. But as sure as America loves apple pie and deviants, you're also raring to get back in line for another ride. (Ann Kashickey)

Daniel Woodrell
This is a greatly entertaining novel with dozens of passages of sharp insight and dark humor.
Washington Post Book World
Any group can be an index of American change: politicians, evangelists, sports stars—or, in Indiana's new novel, gold diggers. "Baby" Claymore, an extra in Esther Williams films, marries a real-estate mogul in 1949, moves into a New York City mansion and becomes a refined hostess. Then there's Evangeline Slote: A Welcome Wagon hostess in Sacramento, California, she marries a motel builder, becomes a crooked lobbyist, pretends to be Liz Taylor, engages in insurance and mail fraud, imprisons illegal aliens in her home, commits incest with her son and, at seventy-two, tries to cheat Baby out of her valuable home. The first half of the book is a constantly entertaining, tour de force account of Evangeline's scams. Like her, Indiana is devoted to "the long con," elaborate and time-consuming schemes, but the novel's second half forces the two gold diggers together and diffuses into random satire. Indiana speaks the "vernacular of swift-moving deals," and his last pages of Evangeline pleading her innocence on Larry King Live are perfect, but not even Indiana's pith and vinegar carry the novel through its long final grift.
—Tom LeClair

Publishers Weekly
Amphetamine fiction is alive and writhing in Indiana's ninth book, a caper novel of life on the grift. The narrative follows the exploits of a truly memorable villain called (among other aliases) Evangeline, a lowlife spawn of the Vegas mire (maybe) who rises from her station by sheer mania and depraved indifference to anyone around her. Based on real-life murderer Santee Kimes, Evangeline is a monster, "so compulsive she grifts herself when she runs out of other people." Her career was launched in the Vietnam era when she married a crooked real estate developer named Warren Slote. Now an apathetic has-been drinking himself to death, Warren watches with detached amusement as Evangeline tries to take him to the cleaners. Evangeline's desire is to live as a self-styled queen, and she usually takes her marks (their identities, assets, lives and all) while looking for ways to set up tacky palaces on someone else's tab. The novel, with its Vegas roots, its run-on sentences and gut-wrenching displays of venality, is a hyperkinetic depiction of unbridled greed, the American dream's septic tank. But the book's lightning jumps backward and forward through time, its ever-changing POVs and often confusing plot make its course too convoluted. This is the third of Indiana's recent works inspired by real-life crimes (Resentment took off on the Menendez trial, and Three Month Fever was a "nonfiction" novel about the killer of Gianni Versace). The blatant villainy of Santee Kimes and her son, Kenneth, have spawned a public avid for an interpretation of their sociopathic behavior. This novel is too complex and confusing to attract tabloid readers, but Indiana's fans will probably speed through it,focusing on some of the most hideous characters ever to congeal in the form. (Jan. 1) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
This final installment in Indiana's American crime trilogy, following Three Month Fever and Resentment: A Comedy, is based on the recent case of notorious grifters Sante and Kenneth Kimes. The central character is the sociopathic Evangeline Sloate, a Liz Taylor look-alike and con artist extraordinaire. After the death of Warren, her wealthy husband, with whom she has engaged in such illegalities as financial fraud, arson, and the enslavement of her Mexican housemaids (the one thing for which she has served time), she moves on to a series of increasingly ruthless cons. She and son Devin, who has taken Warren's place in her bed along with becoming her partner in crime, plot to take over ownership of a Manhattan townhouse that belongs to elderly socialite Wanda "Baby" Claymore a scheme that requires Mrs. Claymore's murder. Acidly satiric, the novel sets its sights on exposing both the "depraved indifference" of the Sloates and the larger society that breeds and abets them. Recommended for public libraries that own Indiana's two earlier works. Lawrence Rungren, Merrimack Valley Lib. Consortium, Andover, MA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The third installment in the author's American Crime trilogy, inspired by real-life mother-and-son team Sante and Kenneth Kimes. With trademark exuberance and venom, Indiana (Three-Month Fever, 1999, etc) here spins a dizzying tale of Evangeline (or is it Evelyn? Ellen? Eve?) and her son Devin, modern-day grifters with a peculiar genius for knowing exactly how to use people. Their "fanatical obdurate bravura" allows them to balance on the ragged edge of disaster with barely a wobble-other than Evangeline being jailed for four years or so for slave trafficking. Moving on the fringes of the American West-Arizona, Hawaii-they seek their marks, ranging from Evangeline's husband Warren (whose illegal activities and confidence schemes pale in comparison to those of his spouse) to her somewhat loyal employees to drifters whose usefulness Evangeline can size up in a split second. Indiana begins with chapters titled for characters touched by Evangeline-Varlene, the crank-addicted accountant; Otis, the sad-sack arsonist who can't understand how he ended up torching the Slotes' Hawaiian estate-but the story circles in ever more tightly as we approach Evvy's final project. Bald descriptions of Evangeline's incestuous acts with Devin are disturbing, but when the second half of the story introduces Baby Claymore, their latest victim, an extravagantly imagined millionairess (a former Esther Williams "aquabat" determined to create a foundation celebrating the seamstress's craft), the plot takes on the appeal of an elegantly executed train wreck. Indiana has plenty of room to send up what he sees as the strangely empty landscape of American culture, while his dashing prose sweeps the reader along to aclimax that is no less compelling for being inevitable.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
6.44(w) x 9.55(h) x 1.19(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


Clutching his heart outside the Wells Fargo Bank in La Jolla, Warren remembers the day he and Devin rode in this same teal Lincoln Town Car up to the Women's Federal Secure Facility a few miles out of Frontera. They were picking up Evangeline, who during her incarceration had sent no end of insane letters to what she referred to in one epic of dubious remorse as “the two great big men in my life,” meaning him, Warren, and Devin, who was thirteen at the time, along with the customary avalanche of legal papers, motions to dismiss in the insurance countersuit case, appellate briefs in the pilfered chinchilla case, an elaborate medical and psychiatric demur in still another case, all of these drafted in journeywoman legalese by Evangeline for polishing by whichever attorneys had not already been stiffed for their fees. There was a civil suit pending that is still pending, bolstered by Evangeline's conviction for coercing servitude or whatever, a case where Warren took a Harry Helmsley walk (albeit a pretty steep walk, if they don't settle the civil case soon and the lawyers for the so-called abused maids take whatever money Warren hasn't already squirreled away in the Caymans and whatever property Warren hasn't signed over in deed trust or what have you to various associates, confidantes, and whatever passes with Warren for a friend), as Warren would plainly admit, if it were the practice among the Slote family ever to plainly admit anything, including their own names. There were process servers lurking all over the countryside like kudzu on a Georgia pine barren, evenpoor Devin had had to deal with them, and until Evangeline's run of bad luck three years earlier (a richly deserved run, in Warren's view), they had been in incessant motion like a bunch of sharks between Oahu and Vegas and Nassau and Puerto Vallarta for god knew how many years, as if by just moving around and altering a few trifles of their public presentation such as name age and Social Security number, they could evade all sorts of unpleasant legalities, which had turned out to be true.

However, the slavery charges involved virtually all these jurisdictions, which made it a federal matter, because at one time or another most of the maids had been kept in all their houses and condos, Evangeline rotated them from residence to residence, as she believed this prevented them from “getting smart,” as she put it, getting rambunctious or above themselves, though she also obliged them to call her Mama and pretend they were part of the family, a family with which they had to make grueling daily efforts to get along, as they were going to be part of this family “forever.” “Forever” was sometimes a whole year, even longer, but some had gotten away during lulls in Evangeline's vigilance, slipped out windows or carelessly unlocked doors, or been dismissed after six months or eight months, Evangeline wanted everything in her realm spotless and shiny and perfect and not every one of these Mexican girls could live up to such imperious standards. Then too, they did not especially appreciate being kicked and punched by Devin at whatever age, or Devin feeling up their skirts for pussy, or being locked into their rooms at night, or being slapped around and pummelled by Evangeline.

Warren perfectly saw their view. In fact, he had even urged one of Evangeline's rather dim procurers, one of these titless wonders from god knew what dreary graduate schools in the midwest that Evangeline enticed via Internet as tutors for Devin, not to bring any new maids in from Mexico -- well, actually he had urged the young woman to bring not more than one or two, as opposed to the five or six that Evangeline was demanding, but he had really meant for her not to bring any. Warren fretted about Devin. He worried that things were happening to Devin that would have an irreversible ugly effect upon Devin. He could not oppose Evangeline in any more important way, so decided to voice his fear that Devin might grow up with Spanish as his first language. Warren said that in his experience, this could have a catastrophic impact on a child who would have to speak English all the time later on. Naturally Warren was drunk, as Warren had to be whenever he planned to sound an unwanted note of reality or even unreality in Evangeline's sensorium. It never got as far as Evangeline anyway, when he sobered up the next day he advised the girl, Janet or Christie or one of them anyway, to forget everything he'd spilled in his cups. He said if she told Evangeline about their conversation he would deny it ever occurred, and then where would Janet or Christie or whomever be? Mama would take Papa's word over any of these ungrateful young hicks who were getting the opportunity of a lifetime working for the Slotes: international travel, gourmet cuisine and so forth, gifts of scarves and trinkets, best of all the festive atmosphere that Mama spread around herself, as she herself said, not unlike the legendary Auntie Mame. Mama referred to the chaos and panic she generated everywhere as her “zest for living.”

Unfortunately, many who lacked this protean zest sooner or later turned against her. Mama believed that everybody made up stories to get away with something and that almost everybody who worked for them eventually hooked up with some implacable conspiracy fomented by Warren's ex-wife and their kids, and Warren's aunts, and Warren's cousins, and possibly a maverick government agency, along with something she referred to as the Honolulu Mob, all these accountants and lawyers and insurance adjustors who wriggled through their ken ended up getting bought off, paid for false depositions, menaced into perjured testimony by threats from the Honolulu Mob. According to Mama, Warren's...

Depraved Indifference. Copyright © by Gary Indiana. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Gary Indiana's novels include Resentment: A Comedy, Rent Boy, Gone Tomorrow, and Horse Crazy. He has published two collections of short fiction and a collection of essays, Let It Bleed. His plays include the award-winning Roy Cohn/Jack Smith, The Roman Polanski Story, and Phantoms of Louisiana. His nonfiction work has appeared in the Village Voice, Artforum, Details, Newsweek, the Los Angeles Times, and numerous other publications. He lives in New York and Los Angeles.

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