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Word Made Flesh

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In Quinsigamond, a worn-out New England factory town, a soulless cabal has come to rule the streets. Gilrein knows this dark world, and experienced its treacheries firsthand when his wife, a fellow police officer, was supposedly killed in the line of duty. Now Gilrein has exchanged his badge for the wheel of a Checker cab, yet he still cannot let go of the past or the long-buried instincts he honed on the beat. When he discovers startling and dangerous evidence concerning his wife's death, he begins an ...
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(Harper Perennial, 2000, 336) paperback-has remainder mark. Fine. What one has come to expect from O'Connell-mysterious, humorous and very dark.

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Overview

In Quinsigamond, a worn-out New England factory town, a soulless cabal has come to rule the streets. Gilrein knows this dark world, and experienced its treacheries firsthand when his wife, a fellow police officer, was supposedly killed in the line of duty. Now Gilrein has exchanged his badge for the wheel of a Checker cab, yet he still cannot let go of the past or the long-buried instincts he honed on the beat. When he discovers startling and dangerous evidence concerning his wife's death, he begins an investigation that will plumb the deaths of a macabre conspiracy and pit him against a force more sinister than any he's encountered before. Gilrein has only an eccentric grab bag of alleged allies, including a refugee from an Eastern European country who is haunted by memories of a terrible day there; the aloof Inspector with his uncanny ability to make criminals talk; and Gilrein's ex-lover, a young academic obsessed with a century-old murder.
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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Once again, O'Connell (The Skin Palace, 1996, etc.) tests the boundaries of noir mystery/suspense in this latest mind-boggling installment from Quinsigamond, Mass. Here's the story: A cabbie named Gilrein, who left the police force three years ago after his wife and colleague Ceil was killed in a raid on a bomb factory, picks up Leonardo Tani, a mid-level fence he's driven many times before, for what turns out to be his last ride. Tani falls afoul of a business rivalry between Hermann Kinsky, the unofficial mayor of the Bohemian Wing, and his aspiring lieutenant August Kroger, and gets taken out of the picture in the churningly vivid opening scene. Everyone involved, especially Kroger, is convinced Gilrein's in possession of a mysterious book missing from Tani's possession. Kroger and his creatures apply pressure. Jack responds by looking for the book. Now here's why you should take that familiar story with a grain of salt: Everyone in Quinsigamond is obsessed with horrors from the past. Gilrein can't forget the events that led up to Ceil's death. Otto Langer, the ventriloquist who drives a cab alongside Gilrein, is haunted by the Holocaustic sufferings of a girl named Alicia at the hands of Meyrink, the Censor of Maisel. Gilrein's ex-lover Wylie Brown, a former cop who's now serving as Kroger's librarian and archivist, ceaselessly gathers information about Quinsigamond legend Edgar Carwin Brockden, a visionary who killed his family and himself before any of the current cast were born. Inspector Emil Lacazze, the Jesuit who founded the Dunot Precinct's Eschatology Squad, lives to perfect the Methodology by which he bores into the hearts of the criminals he hunts. All of them, asO'Connell makes clear, are trapped in the inability of language to communicate, and the agonizing need to act out their messages instead of speaking or writing them. Under the conventions of crime and punishment, O'Connell's nightmarishly original vision of incarnation unflinchingly displays the various of harrowing ways words can indeed be made flesh.
From the Publisher
"Hyper-real noir. A grotesque romance about genocide, language, bibliomania, doubt, obsession, worms, epidermis and sanctuary!"  —James Ellroy

 

"The dark incantations that open and close Word Made Flesh are mesmerizing. The scope of the book links enormous and terrifying acts of imagination . . . A potent cocktail of Lovecraft, Poe, and hardcore American noir."  —Katherine Dunn, author, Geek Love
 

"A hardcore work of art, equal parts ultraviolence and poetry. Sucks you in and doesn't let go." - Poppy Z. Brite, author, Lost Souls

“To call Jack O’Connell’s novels imaginative, or even original, doesn’t begin to say it. . . . There’s something both exciting and unnerving about [his] kind of hallucinatory writing.”  —New York Times Book Review

"A wildly original novel, part hard-boiled crime novel, part literary thriller, and part postapocalyptic cartoon. Scenes, characters, and the locale of Quinsigamond, a failed industrial city west of Boston, conjure echoes of the ever-nocturnal Gotham City from Tim Burton's Batman films . . . readers should follow Gilrein into the dark night of Quinsigamond."  —Booklist

"Once again, O'Connell . . . tests the boundaries of noir mystery/suspense in this latest mind-boggling installment . . . nightmarishly original."  —Kirkus Reviews 

"Jack O'Connell has riffed on language, fire-cleansed genre conventions, and stripped the artifice from the modern noir novel, creating a body of work both exciting and entirely original."  —George Pelacanos, author, Night Gardener

"Made the hair stand up on the back of my mind. Dark, cunning, and wickedly clever, it outsmarts you at just about every turn. Terrific stuff."  —Jonathan Carroll, author, The Land of Laughs

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061097225
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/28/2000
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 5.34 (w) x 8.03 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Meet the Author

Jack O'Connell is the critically acclaimed author of Box Nine, The Resurrectionist, The Skin Palace, and Wireless. He lives in Massachusetts.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Someone must have been telling lies about me is all Gilrein can think as they squeeze open his mouth and lay the barrel of the Glock on his tongue. Softly, as if it were a communion wafer.

The tall one with the ludicrous overbite asks again, "Where is the package?" the voice accented and a little phlegmy.

The one with the face made of burn scars and the eye that won't close drives a fist into Gilrein's stomach and they all lurch away from the wall for a second, then they push Gilrein back against the bricks, drive the gun farther back toward the tonsils until the choking starts.

"Where is the package?"

Gilrein tries to shake his head, to indicate a lack of understanding, but they won't let him. He forces his eyes to stay open and sees the two men look at each other. The tall one tightens his grip on Gilrein's throat and the other nods and steps away.

A blast comes from the mouth of the alley, and all three look and in the lights from the Checker they see a silhouetted figure extending a shotgun in their direction.

A voice yells, "Blumfeld, Raban, let him go now."

Blumfeld and Raban glance at each other as Gilrein tries to suppress a gagging sound. Then the Glock is pulled out of the mouth and the tall one backhands him across the cheek and says, "This is not over."

The two of them walk out of the alley as Gilrein lets himself slide down the wall onto his ass and begin to vomit. His eyes are pressed closed and he's seeing bright flashes of light and there's an awful pain flowing through his temples, a building pressure that feels like it may never stop increasing. He makes himself hunch onto all fours andwhen his stomach empties, he tries to calm his breathing.

Finally, he's aware of the hand on his shoulder and he lets it guide him back to the wall. He wipes at his mouth with his forearm, takes some deep breaths. The intensity of the pain begins to diminish slightly. He lets his head come up and opens his eyes.

There's a face half hidden in shadow and when the voice comes -- "C'mon now, Gilly, you're okay" -- he realizes it's Bobby Oster.

He tries to speak and Oster shakes him off. The savior is down on one knee with the Ithaca pump resting on his shoulder as if he'd just completed some kind of urban cattle drive.

Oster moves into a sitting position next to Gilrein, his back against the alley wall. Pockets of steam gust around them and in the distance a stew of sounds becomes audible -- sirens, horns, the bleak purr of machinery.

"Blumfeld was the one with the Glock," Oster says. "Raban's his creature. They're both meatboys for August Kroger."

Gilrein tries to focus on his breathing, but he knows that as the shock dies out, the reality of the beating is going to arrive. In the kidneys and the stomach and in the groin.

"How bad did it get," Oster asks, "before I got here?"

Gilrein attempts the first words and stops before the tongue can deliver.

Oster stands up and says, "Can you walk?"

Gilrein nods without looking at him.

"We'll take your car," Oster says, reaching down, softly grabbing a forearm and pulling Gilrein up to standing. "You're going to be okay, Gilly."

Oster wheels the Checker up onto the interstate. Gilrein lets his head lean against the passenger window and in the reflection cast by the passing halogen lamps, he can see both eyes already starting to swell up. The inside of his mouth is cut and his tongue pokes at the pulp and initiates a flow of blood and a burning like a bee sting.

"You still keep a bottle in the glove box?"

Gilrein shifts to face the driver and says, "What were you doing there? "

"Looks like I was saving your ass."

Gilrein pops the glove box, pulls out a new pint of Buber Gold, and cracks the seal.

Oster says, "Just rinse and spit."

Gilrein cranks the window with one hand, takes a small draw from the bottle, and braces for the pain. It's a goddamn inferno and he holds it for a second, then gets his head out the window and swallows. and tears come to his eyes.

"You lose any teeth?"

Gilrein takes a breath and wipes a hand over his face.

The highway is deserted. It's still four or five hours until dawn. The air feels winter-cold for mid-April. A few drops of rain pock the windshield and then stop.

Oster runs a hand around the steering wheel and says, "I'd forgotten how sweet these babies are to drive."

They pass a chrome -strangled low rider pulled into the breakdown lane, a couple of kids sitting on its roof. There's half a moon showing in the west. Gilrein puts the cap back on the pint and stows it.

"What were you doing there, Bobby?"

Oster gives a smile, shakes his head just a bit.

"You always were a grateful little mother, weren't you, Gilly?" "Where are we going?"

"Promise you one thing, Gilly," as he takes an offramp. "My boys will find those bastards. And you'll get first chance to stomp some Maisel ass. How's that sound?"

Gilrein looks out the window and sits up in the seat, his heart punching.

"Where the hell are we going, Oster?" even though he knows.

The Checker slows, cruises toward the end of Bigelow Street, past the long-empty industrial park. They swing right onto Rome Avenue and the road narrows and after about a quarter mile the vacant lots on either side turn into a scraggly wood, nothing clean nor remotely majestic about it, just a lot of scrub and weed and gnarled, petrifying trees killed off by a century of toxic waste.

Gilrein turns and stares at Oster and says, "You should've just let them shoot me, you son of a bitch."

Oster bears left when the road forks and turns to gravel.

"It's just a place," he says. "It's just a goddamned building. It can't hurt you, all right? We're safe here."

The Checker rolls to a stop in a makeshift parking lot filled with a selection of perfectly restored muscle cars. Beyond the lot is a miniature trailer park, a couple aisles of shabby, dented-up RVs and campers on cinder blocks. And beyond the trailers is the place Gilrein never thought he'd see again. Kapernaum Printing & Binding...

Word Made Flesh. Copyright © by Jack O'Connell. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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