Pain Killers: A Novel

Pain Killers: A Novel

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by Jerry Stahl
     
 

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From the acclaimed and controversial author of Permanent Midnight comes one of the most vividly subversive, savagely funny, and explosive novels yet unleashed in our tender century. Pain Killers is a violent and mind-wrenching masterpiece in the gonzo noir style that has earned Jerry Stahl his legion of avid fans.

Down-and-out ex-cop and

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Overview

From the acclaimed and controversial author of Permanent Midnight comes one of the most vividly subversive, savagely funny, and explosive novels yet unleashed in our tender century. Pain Killers is a violent and mind-wrenching masterpiece in the gonzo noir style that has earned Jerry Stahl his legion of avid fans.

Down-and-out ex-cop and not-quite-reformed addict Manny Rupert accepts a job going undercover to find out if an old man locked up in a California prison is who he claims to be: the despicable—and allegedly dead—Josef Mengele, aka the Angel of Death. What if, instead of drowning thirty years ago, the sadistic legend whose Auschwitz crimes still horrify faked his own death and is now locked up in San Quentin, ranting and bitter about being denied the adulation he craves for his contribution to keeping the Master Race pure—if no longer masterful?

After accidentally reuniting with ex-wife and love of his life, Tina, at San Quentin—they first met at the crime scene where Tina murdered her first husband with Drano-laced Lucky Charms—Manny spends a bad night imbibing boxed wine and questionable World War One morphine, hunched over a trove of photos showing live genital dissections that plant him in the middle of a conspiracy involving genocide, drugs, eugenics, human experiments, and America's secret history of collusion with German believers in Nordic superiority.

Manny's quest sends him careening from one extreme of apocalypse-adjacent reality to the other: from SS-inked Jewish shotcallers to meth-crazed virgin hookers, from Mexican gangbangers to Big Pharma–financed prison research to an animal shelter that gasses more than stray dogs and cats . . .

Pain Killers captures one man's struggle against a perverse and demented scheme of global proportions, in a literary tour de force as outrageous, compelling, and dangerous as history itself. Not for the faint of heart, the novel hurtles readers into a disturbing, original, and alarmingly real world filled with some of the kinkiest sex, most horrific violence, and screaming wit ever found on the page—proving yet again that Stahl is, as The New Yorker described him, "a better-than-Burroughs virtuoso."

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

The last place Manny Rupert wants to go is prison. But when the opportunity arises to investigate an inmate's claim to be Nazi war criminal Dr. Josef Mengele, it's too much for the ex-cop-turned-PI-last seen in 2002's Plainclothes Dead -to pass up. Masquerading as a drug counselor-despite his own addictions-Manny meets the nonagenarian who calls himself Mengele and hears firsthand of the torturous experiments the "Angel of Death" conducted at Auschwitz. Add to the mix the reappearance of Manny's ex-wife, Tina, whom he sees cavorting in the conjugal trailer with the prison's resident Jewish skinhead. It turns out that Tina not only works for an Internet Christian escort service secretly run by one of the prisoners but is also in league with the same man who hired Manny to spy on Mengele. Lines soon blur between justified revenge and outright cruelty, and it's up to Manny to keep everything straight or die trying. Stahl is no stranger to smashing social taboos, and his trademark blend of ballsy, blacker-than-black humor and wry social commentary lets him find humor in the Third Reich. (Mar.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
Manic private eye Manny Rupert (Plainclothes Naked, 2001) darts across a fetid landscape after the infamous Dr. Mengele, who may be alive and well in San Quentin. In the opening scene, Harry Zell breaks into Rupert's house, cold cocks him (pretty impressive for a 72-year-old with a walker), then revives him to make a pitch. Zell says a San Quentin inmate claims he's Josef Mengele, the Nazi doctor who performed horrifying experiments on prisoners at Auschwitz. He offers Rupert ten grand to see if the old geezer really is Mengele. Threatened with foreclosure, the ex-drug addict with two ex-wives takes the gig. He'll pose as a drug-rehab therapist and observe Mengele in group sessions. What follows may not be everyone's cup of bilge water, as Stahl (Love Without, 2007, etc.) lays out-and lays on-the execrable details of life in the Big House. Soon after Rupert checks in, he spots second ex-wife Tina having a conjugal visit with a prisoner. Tina, who finished off her first husband by lacing his Lucky Charms with broken glass and Drano, confides that she's also onsite at Zell's behest, leaving Rupert to ponder Zell's motives for uncovering Mengele. Does he want the Nazi killed in revenge? Or do American pharmaceutical companies, who may have used Mengele's methods to experiment on detainees in Abu Ghraib, want to silence the Doctor of Death? In wild sessions with a demented crew of would-be ex-addicts, Rupert hears the cagey man who may be Mengele suggest that he might be experimenting on humans at San Quentin. The final solution is at once pedestrian and profound. Stahl fires off great, if rude, one-liners while raising disturbing questions. But he lets the inmates hijack the narrative untilthe tiresome ranting on all sides upstages the case. Los Angeles and New York regional author appearances

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061940170
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
05/05/2009
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
448
Sales rank:
1,046,060
File size:
1 MB

Read an Excerpt


Pain Killers

A Novel



By Jerry Stahl
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2009

Jerry Stahl
All right reserved.



ISBN: 9780060506650


Chapter One

Home Invasion

Sun Myung Moon looked great in a bikini.

The sight did not inspire me to schedule gender reassignment, but it was undeniably engaging. As my eyes strayed to the other eight-by-ten glossies on the bedroom dresser, I found myself wondering if the arrangement was random or if there was some coded message in the way things had been laid out.

The buxom Sun Myung, sandwiched between a muu-muu'd Pope Benedict and a severely hog-tied Clarence Thomas, floated directly over Jerry Falwell, who appeared to be reading the Bible while spanking a hefty, ball-gagged blonde with Choose Life branded across her coccyx. Of the four, Falwell was the only one who looked like he was enjoying himself. Maybe that was the message the home invader meant to convey: Party like Falwell! Or maybe, in the manner of burglars who relieve themselves on the carpet after stealing your silverware, the message was the fact that they were able to leave anything at all. The message was: Hey, asshole, look what we can do!

There was, certainly, a lesson in Justice Thomas's comportment. Despite the obvious pain and degradation, his expression was one of infinite patience. Gentle understanding. I had never been a fan, but his stoic bearing won me over. The man had nobility.

I basked inthat thought for a moment, then reality clawed me again. My home invader might still be in my home. I cried out, feeling like an idiot, "I'm a cop!" That's when I noticed a black and white photo, smaller than the others, wedged behind a dresser leg.

This one showed a smiling, gap-toothed fellow in a uniform. He might have been Jack Lemmon's cousin, if Jack Lemmon's cousin had a trim mustache and served in the SS. The twin lightning bolts on the lapels were a dead giveaway. The officer in the photo was in a laboratory, a forbidding nurse at his side. He clamped calipers in both hands, simultaneously measuring the budding breasts of naked, pubescent twin girls on his left and right. Stamped under the shot, in block letters, was Beidhändig. Below that, in a looping scrawl, someone had penned the translation: ambidextrous.

The ex-cop in me knew I should stop staring and deal with the situation—however it is you deal with strangers planting celebrity perv pics in your bedroom. But the image of that smiling SS man and his calipers was so disturbing, my eyes retreated to the puckish Moon. Why shouldn't the Korean messiah enjoy some dress-up? Think what early Christians would have done if Jesus had been resurrected with cleavage!

All speculation was shattered by a gravelly voice behind me. "They're not real!" Before I could react, something cracked the back of my head. I don't remember going down. I only remember coming to, blinking away twirling stars, in a forced crouch. Trapped in a tiny aluminum jail.

"Christ!" I cried.

"Him, I got no photos."

I blinked some more and realized I wasn't in jail. I was cramped within the four legs of a walker. A heavily jowled old man waited for me to raise my eyes, then spat an inch from my knee.

"Putz!"

I considered punching the senior intruder in the testicles. They were, in my Guantánamo crouch, at eye level, drooping prominently behind the shiny weave of his poly-blend Sansabelt trousers.

"What kind of schmohawk gets mugged by a seventy-two-year-old with a walker?"

"Happens all the time." I yanked myself up by a walker leg so that my new friend and I were jammed face-to-face, like two guys squeezed into a telephone booth. "Just last week an old lady brained me with her orthopedic cane, and the day before that some prick with Alzheimer's kicked me down a flight of stairs, then forgot he did it and kicked me down another flight."

"Oh, a funny guy."

"That's me," I said. "May I?"

I lifted one of his hands off the grip and eased by him. The old man's breath stank of sardines and horseradish. When he picked something fleshy off his tongue and flicked it at me, I slapped him. "That's disgusting."

My attacker rubbed his face, his mouth forming a smile that looked like it was made of other people's lips. "How 'bout that, the kid's not a complete pussy."

I kicked the walker away and caught him when he fell forward. I was that tough.

"How about you shut the fuck up so I can decide whether to strangle you or not? It'd be legal—you broke in!"

This seemed to make the jowly old man even happier. "So what's stopping you?"

"I'm curious. You make a habit of hobbling around, planting bad tabloid shots in people's houses? There money in that?"

The old guy spat out another fleck and I backhanded him.

"I live here, Pops. Stop hocking on my carpet."

He spat again. This time when I tried to slap him, he caught my hand. His grip was a shock, but no more than his reflexes. He kept grinning until he let my hand drop. "Bad habit," he said.

I winced, which I knew he'd enjoy. Then I righted the fallen walker and handed it back it to him. "You still haven't told me about the pictures."

"I got a job for you."

"So that's why you Walker Texas Rangered me?"

"I wanted to get your attention. The pics are fakes. Photoshop."

"Fuck the pictures. What are you doing here?"

He shrugged. "You break into a man's home, you want to give him a show. Ha!"

The old man feinted left with a jab and cackled when I ducked. Enough strange things had happened in my life that the bar for "strange" was fairly high. But this was getting up there.

"Okay, I lied," the old man blurted. "They're not all fakes."

He tapped the gap-toothed SS man in my hand.

"This one is real. He's the only one I'm interested in."



Continues...


Excerpted from Pain Killers by Jerry Stahl Copyright © 2009 by Jerry Stahl. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Jerry Stahl is the author of the narcotic memoir Permanent Midnight and Perv—a Love Story, both Los Angeles Times bestsellers, as well as the acclaimed novels Pain Killers, Plainclothes Naked, and I, Fatty. He has written extensively for film and television.

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Pain Killers (P.S. Series) 3.6 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 12 reviews.
grumpydan More than 1 year ago
Pain Killers by Jerry Stahl is certainly not for the faint-hearted as it dives into the world of drug addicts, prison and Nazis. This novel is creative and witty but also disturbing and brutally graphic. It involves Manny Rupert who is an ex-cop, but not ex-drug addict is hired to find out if an inmate is the real Josef Mengele or a just a nut. From there he gets weirder. This is certainly not a book for everyone, myself included.
MicheleLeesBookLove More than 1 year ago
I received this book free an Early Readers Program. Manny Rupert, an addict, a cop kicked off the force, an the ex-husband of a murderer, is back for round two. This time he's been hired to go undercover in San Quentin and determine whether a sick old man in for vehicular manslaughter is really who he claims to be-the infamous Nazi Doctor of Death, Joseph Mengele. That's where Pain Killers starts, but where it goes is on an insane, gritty, noir venture through the darkest parts of society. Pain Killers is a humorous black romp if by humorous you mean "OMG they went there" and by romp you mean going by limo from prison snail back trailer to Christian film sets to meth houses and mansions and back again. This novel is, to steal a line, truly, truly outrageous. Stahl's humor is not for everyone, possibly not for anyone that possesses an iota of sensitivity about religion, psychology, the human condition, addiction, or just about any subject. But there's a sort of victorious feel to seeing character so truly messed up still intelligent and stubborn and taking on the face of human evil. There's more talking than action, so the pace is not forceful or fast. At times the conversations while interesting and amusing come off as off topic, when the point is to solve a mystery. And the WTH factor is, at times, very high. But it's a wild ride, different from everything else out there which certainly has an audience in today's marketplace.
dsoltez More than 1 year ago
Jerry Stahl's "Pain Killers" is dark, funny, disturbing, nauseating, and entertaining. The main character, Manny Rubert, is a stereotypical ex-undercover cop recovering junkie, but somehow that works. Manny and the other characters are well defined and interesting, if not particularly likable. The modern-day plot is coherent, compelling, and possibly even plausible. The story delves deeply into morality, but cleverly and without lectures, holding a mirror up for the reader to examine his own soul and potential behavior. The story also shines a light on history and the modern perceptions of history, reminding us that history books are written by the victors and to truly understand history, it is necessary to understand the context of events and delve deeply enough into historical events to truly understand what happened. Yes, the losers may have been evil, but that does not mean the victors were innocent angels.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Septuagenarian Harry Zell breaks into the home of former cop turned private investigator Manny Rupert. After knocking out the sleuth and reviving him, Harry hires Manny to investigate the claim of a nonagenarian San Quentin inmate who insists he is Nazi war criminal Dr. Josef Mengele. Though he would prefer to decline the case, Manny needs the $10,000 fee to meet his debts including two ex wives demanding their checks.

To get inside the prison, Manny pretends to be a drug counselor; a job he figures he knows personally having been a user. He meets Mengele who provides seemingly personal accounts of scientific experiments on humans at Auschwitz and San Quentin while also hinting at advising pharmaceutical companies on his scientific method applied at Abu Ghraib and other American prisons around the world. As Manny struggles with determining whether the old man is senile with one hell of a dark imagination or the ¿Angel of Death¿, he observes one of his former wives Tina frolicking with a prisoner. Thinking how charming his luck seems to run, she claims she is at the prison working for Manny. Harry wonders what is his client¿s true agenda.

This intriguing premise takes a deep shot at the market corrects itself philosophy as Jerry Stahl ties big government especially the prison industry to big business as warehousing and experimenting on people in which the bottom line is everything. Social, political and economic issues are raised throughout that will have the audience ponder the reason behind the Bush administration belief that everything is top secret . The plot cleverly skews ethical restraints starting with the Mengele ¿scientific method¿ applied in modern times apparently by a consortium of CIA, DOD and big pharmaceutical firms. However, at times the psychology sessions with the ex-addict prisoners drag the tale from its basic theme of hyperbole satirizing the ¿Big Bush¿ vision of the world, fans who enjoy something different will appreciate Mr. Stah¿s skewing.

Harriet Klausner
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