Disintegration: A Novel

Disintegration: A Novel

by Richard Thomas

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“A dark existential thriller of unexpected twists, featuring a drowning man determined to pull the rest of the world under with him, Disintegration is a stunning and vital piece of work.”—Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting

In a brilliantly stylish breakthrough thriller for fans of Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho and Will Christopher Baer’s Kiss Me, Judas, here is the compelling tale of a man who has lost it all—and is now navigating a crooked, harrowing path to redemption.

Once a suburban husband and father, now the man has lost all sense of time. He retains only a few keepsakes of his former life: a handmade dining room table, an armoire and dresser from the bedroom, and a tape of the last message his wife ever left on their answering machine. These are memories of a man who no longer exists. Booze and an affair with a beautiful woman provide little relief, with the only meaning left in his life coming from his assignments. An envelope slipped under the door of his apartment with the name and address of an unpunished evildoer. The unspoken directive to kill. And every time he does, he marks the occasion with a memento: a tattoo. He has a lot of tattoos.
But into this unchanging existence seep unsettling questions. How much of what he feels and sees can he trust? How much is a lie designed to control him? He will risk his own life—and the lives of everyone around him—to find out.

Advance praise for Disintegration
“Sweet hot hell, Richard Thomas writes like a man possessed, a man on fire, a guy with a gun to his head. And you’ll read Disintegration like there’s a gun to yours, too. It’s a twisted masterpiece.”—Chuck Wendig, author of Blackbirds and Double Dead
“This novel is so hard-hitting it should come with its own ice pack. Richard Thomas is the wild child of Raymond Chandler and Chuck Palahniuk, a neo-noirist who brings to life a gritty, shadow-soaked, bullet-pocked Chicago as the stage for this compulsively readable crime drama.”—Benjamin Percy, author of The Dead Lands, Red Moon, and The Wilding
“Richard Thomas builds his universe and its population with terse prose and dynamic, often horrifyingly visceral imagery that unspools with grand weirdness and intensity. Then he rips that universe apart, brick by bloody brick. Disintegration is provocative. It’s also damned fine noir.”—Laird Barron, author of The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All and The Croning
Disintegration is gritty neo-noir, a psycho-sexual descent into an unhinged psyche and an underworld Chicago that could very well stand in for one of the rings of Dante’s Hell. Richard Thomas’s depraved, doomed philosopher-hitman is your guide. I suggest you do as he says and follow him, if you know what’s good for you.”—Paul Tremblay, author of A Head Full of Ghosts and The Little Sleep

“Gritty, obsessive, and compulsively readable.”—Brian Evenson, author of Immobility

“In sharp, icy prose that cuts like a glacial wind, Richard Thomas’s dark Chicago tale keeps us absolutely riveted to the very end.”—Donald Ray Pollock, author of The Devil All the Time

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101882627
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/26/2015
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 223
Sales rank: 1,067,157
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Richard Thomas is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in more than a hundred publications. Nominated for five Pushcart Prizes, he is the author of the novel Transubstantiate and two short-story collections, Herniated Roots and Staring into the Abyss. Thomas lives with his family in the Chicago area.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

The manila envelope slides under my apartment door like the wrinkled skin of a snake, shed in a hurry. I don’t even turn to look, though my clenched fists are shaking, my eyes pressed shut. Sitting in the living room, darkness around me like a flea-infested blanket, my forearms rest on the mahogany table, my legs trembling in the high-backed leather chair. I am full again, about to overflow, and I’ve been waiting for that envelope for hours.



I don’t know. I’m not sure what day it is. I grit my teeth and take a deep breath. The muscles in my lower back are tightly coiled springs, ropes with knots tied that I’ll never get undone.

I know the plastic bottles sit in the medicine cabinet. I know those tiny black bottles are sitting there. Much like Vlad slides the envelope under my door, my next assignment, much like he provides me with this luxurious squalor within which to disintegrate, he is also my pusher. He provides my escape. Or maintenance, depending on how you look at it. Two very average, very normal bottles. They could be aspirin, or acetaminophen, or naproxen. But they are not. They are two dark tunnels, bottomless pits, and I stand at the openings breathing in the musty air, rich with soil and rotting bones.

The masking tape he rubbed on them with his filthy thumb and forefinger is slowly losing its tack. With a black Sharpie he wrote two words, and every time I look at them I see Alice dropping down the rabbit hole. And I want to join her.

One says: Happy.

The other: Sad.

It’s time for a bus ride. Soon.

I stand up slowly and open my eyes. The streetlights outside push in pale light, the blinds glowing as if the desert sun waits just beyond them. My bare feet on the hardwood floor ground me again. It’s why I keep them clean—the floors, not my feet. A faint whiff of lemon and orange, oils that reek of naked flesh and release. I need to touch things sometimes. I breathe in, brushing the wrinkles out of my jeans, running my hands down my thighs, again and again. It relaxes me. Shirtless, I run my hands over my bare, hairless chest, back and forth, to make the blood flow again.

There are only three choices: the French doors to my bedroom; the manila envelope that rests just inside the door, an opening that leads out to the hallway of this six-flat; and the path to the kitchen. The lone window in the kitchen is cracked open and a soft, cool breeze pushes the blinds aside. A flash and bare tree branches. A glimmer and the telephone lines. A gust and wrought iron, green feline eyes, and a blur of fur. My stalker. She won’t stay, I know that much. I will myself forward to the open space of the kitchen. A sawhorse sits in the middle of the room. A two-by-four lies on top of it, secured to it by tall gray nails. I pick up the hammer, an old friend from a different life, and the weight in my hands is comforting. A dozen metal heads poke out of the mangled piece of wood, riddled with holes and dents. In quick succession I pound them flat.

There is a skittering on the back porch as my friend runs away. My biceps flex, forearms tight as I bring the silver hammer head down, again and again. It is louder than the peace I just disturbed, but surprisingly muffled by the old apartment walls. A sheen of sweat breaks out on my forehead as I make the nails disappear. The retort echoes off the gunmetal walls, my feet growing cold on the dirty, faded tiles. The floor is the color of a sidewalk covered with grime the day after the snow melts, littered with debris, scratched and ignored. It meets the walls like an ocean floor, and I feel myself going under. I grunt in the dark room, raising the hammer over my head, slamming it down with a sharp bang, fighting the currents, wincing in the night. And they are gone.

I drop the hammer on the floor, out of breath, chest rising. With a turn of my neck I turn to the slice of yellow that calls to me from the other room. My enabler, my cure.

Customer Reviews

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Disintegration 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
ClarkP More than 1 year ago
This book was excellent.  It was a crazy ride from beginning to end.  Richard Thomas' book TRANSUBSTANTIATE was an excellent debut --making him an author to watch for.  Now with DISINTEGRATION, Richard Thomas moves from an author to watch for to a must-read author.  I cannot wait to see what he comes up with next.  This was a great book by a great author and for only $2.99 there is nothing else to say.  Read it.
BrandieC More than 1 year ago
4.5 stars Disintegration is the first book in Richard Thomas's Windy City Dark Mystery series, and the key word here is "dark." Thomas has written a first-class example of that subset of noir fiction known as "hard-boiled," offering a bleak vision of America, set against a dark and gritty urban scene and populated by a protagonist whose amorality and ruthlessness make him at times indistinguishable from the villains. Nevertheless, we care about Disintegration's unnamed "hero" because he didn't start out this way: "Maybe those with the most to lose have the furthest to fall. Maybe the ones with everything, the American dream realized, they become the best soldiers. Because without love, there cannot be hate. Without a fullness, there cannot be a void. To be fractured, you must be solid once, a presence, a rock, complete." As is the case in the best hard-boiled fiction, it is precisely the negative aspects of his broken character which make his ultimate sacrifice all the more powerful. Strangely, it was this self-same emotional denouement which dropped my rating from 5 stars to 4.5. I won't disclose what bothered me here, so as to avoid spoiling the climax for other readers, but I have asked about it above and would be delighted if another Goodreads member (or, even better, Mr. Thomas himself!) would answer my question. Suffice it to say that I found the ending illogical, though still gut-wrenching. Disintegration's designation as part of a series is a bit misleading. The continuing presence in these novels is not a character whose personality might develop over the course of the series, but Chicago, the Windy City itself. Each book stands, and can be fully enjoyed, alone. Whether you start with Disintegration or Thomas's latest book Breaker, you are in for a fantastic reading experience. I received a free copy of Disintegration through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.