Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Always the iconoclast striving for a kind of literary raunch, the internationally acclaimed Bukowski ( Ham on Rye ), who died recently, leaves us with this spoof of the hardboiled detective genre, featuring an L.A.-based private investigator named Nick Belane. As the title makes clear, this novel is dedicated to bad writing, and readers who choose to ignore this warning and plunge ahead will soon know why. A spoof should be funnier and sharper than what it is spoofing but, compared to Hammett and Chandler, Pulp is quite simply trash. In the opening pages, Belane is paid a visit by a lady in red named Lady Death, who turns out to be death itself looking for the French author Celine, who should have died a long time ago but hasn't. Belane's search for Celine leads him to some space aliens who have assumed human shape, and to some juvenile encounters with an unhappily married couple. Along the way, every woman he meets is a dish, and every man is a dumb thug. In every bar he visits, Belane is mistaken for somebody else, a mistake which invariably erupts in a murderous brawl. The prose is practically nonexistent, and you can forget character. All that's left is humor and philosophy, but Belane's humor is all bathroom and his philosophy can be summed up in the lines, ``I wasn't dead yet, just in a state of rapid decay. Who wasn't?'' Bukowski has taken the worst of the PI genre, stripped it bare, and added nothing but a dose of adolescent posturing. It's sad thatBukowski has left as his parting gesture a book so weak and thin. (June)
This is a darkly humorous takeoff of private eye novels, replete with the recently deceased Bukowski's usual scatalogical unpleasantries. Nick Belane, a hard-drinking, foul-mouthed Los Angeles detective who charges $6 per hour, is swatting flies in his office when in walks a ``glorious dizziness of flesh'' who introduces herself as Lady Death. She wants Belane to verify that a man she spotted in a bookstore is the long-dead writer Cline. The ``real Cline,'' she says, ``not just some half-assed wannabe. There are too many of those.'' He accepts the job, which, of course, takes him to every gin mill in the city. He's also hired to locate something called the Red Sparrow, to tail a cheating wife, and to investigate a voluptuous space alien named Jeannie Nitro who's been harassing a wimpy mortician and occupying his customers. All four cases, of course, dovetail into an existential nightmare. There are some truly funny moments, but many will find Bukowski's raw, ugly side repulsive and his negativity unbearable. Recommended for large literature collections.-Ron Antonucci, Hudson Lib. & Historical Society, Ohio
The late poet, novelist, and (spare the expression) man of letters, Charles Bukowski, is said to have left many books-worth of material in the can (so to speak), but this characteristically gritty piece of Bukowskiana is no patchwork, and was complete and in production at the time of his death. All of Bukowski will one day be essential to every collection--and never cheaper than now. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
"My eyes were blue and my shoes were old and nobody loved me. But I had things to do. I was Nicky Belane, private detective." You should know a few things about Mr. Belane: he's the hero of a novel "dedicated to bad writing" by the late cult favorite Charles Bukowski; his client is a femme fatale called Lady Death; and his assignment is to determine if the Louis-Ferdinand Celine-look-alike who's hanging out at Red Koldowsky's bookstore in Hollywood is really the French writer who supposedly died in 1961 or if he's just another weirdo. It's hard to tell for sure if Bukowski intends to celebrate the pulps or parody them--probably a little of both--but the result, like so much genre burlesque, is both hysterically funny and ultimately tiresome. Parodies are best handled in 20, not 200, pages. Still, nobody does down-and-out better than Bukowski: "I hated to look in the mirror but I did. And I saw depression and defeat. . . . My flesh looked like it wasn't trying. It looked like it hated being part of me." Finally, Bukowski can't quite decide if he wants to be Woody Allen writing a fiendishly clever parody of pulp writers, or if he just wants to be himself, the unreconstructed poet of the gutter whose work usually finds its emotional center somewhere between tears and laughter. Mainstream mystery readers won't have a clue what's going on here, but Bukowski's fans, probably a little bent themselves, will know instinctively when to laugh with Woody and cry with Charlie.
Read an Excerpt
I was sitting in my office, my lease had expired and McKelvey was starting eviction proceedings. It was a hellish hot day and the air conditioner was broken. A fly crawled across the top of my desk. I reached out with the open palm of my hand and sent him out of the game. I wiped my hand on my right pants leg as the phone rang.
I picked it up. "Ah yes," I said.
"Do you read Celine?" a female voice asked. Her voice sounded quite sexy. I had been lonely for some time. Decades.
"Celine," I said, "ummm".
"I want Celine," she said. "I've got to have him."
Such a sexy voice, it was getting to me, really.
"Celine?" I said. "Give me a little background. Talk to me, lady. Keep talking .
"Zip up," she said.
I looked down.
"How did you know?" I asked.
"Never mind. I want Celine."
"Celine is dead."
"He isn't. I want you to find him. I want him."
"I might find his bones."
"No, you fool, he's alive!"
"Hollywood. I hear he's been hanging around Red Koldowsky's bookstore."
"Then why don't you find him?"
"Because first I want to know if he's the real Celine. I'; have to be sure, quite sure. "
"But why did you come to me? There are a hundred dicks in this town."
"John Barton recommended you."
"Oh, Barton, yeah. Well, listen, I'll have to have some kind of advance. And I'll have to see you personally."
"I'll be there in a few minutes," she said.
She hung up. I zipped up.
And waited. Pulp. Copyright © byCharles Bukowski. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.