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|| REVIEWS ||
Remorse is relentless in the pursuit of those of us capable of feeling it.
Two things were meaningful to Slim Purdoux, his son and his chance to cultivate good books as an editor. The world took his son from him and "market realities" took the other. Now he's on a mission. A mission to get the dealer who sold his kid the drugs that took his life. But this ain't the kinda mission where saints guide you. For this kind of task you need the likes of Wendell, a pimp and a player who is always one step ahead of something, and his crew -- Red, a French Canadian small-time crook, and Latesha and Dulcet, his girls. Purdoux -- an ex-addict and inmate, street-savvy and gun-wise -- picks them up in his doomed cowboy existentialist slipstream and draws them into his scheme. Not that Wendell's in this game on any frigging mission of vengeance for angry daddies, he's in it to score the big bucks that have always been just beyond his grasp -- and this cowboy won't be standing in his way.
Careening at break-neck speed around corners of San Francisco where angels would fear to tread, SPIDER MOON places its characters and the reader on the razor's edge of reality. Shirley mixes a lunatic gunman, a mission of vengeance, pimps, whores, chasing the dragon, bounty hunters, dealers, and more with his unique perspective, talent and style to invent a new kind of crime novel: gritty, real, wild, and heart-breakingly poignant.
Spider Moon Reviews
Edward Bryant, LOCUS (Issue 500, Sept 2002)
John Shirley's SPIDER MOON is a crime fiction short novel that does everything his dedicated horror fiction does best, except without the intrusion of the supernatural. Mordantly funny stuff, trenchant social commentary, perceptions from altered sensibilities, material that's alternately brutally violent, unashamedly grisly, grotesquely horrifying and emotionally effective to the near brink of sentimentality. Shirley does it all with aplomb. He makes it look easy, and that's just part of the skill involved. SPIDER MOON has a plot we've all seen before or at least think we have. A loving father's son gets mixed up with a bad crowd and terminally ODs from toxic designer drugs. Driven by the impulse toward revenge, Dad goes after the bad guys. Only John Shirley does it his way. Slim Purdoux is a literary fiction editor working for a San Francisco publisher that's been acquired by a multinational in search of larger market shares and bloated profit margins. Slim's a Texas boy, an ex-addict and ex-con, a talented guy who was given a second chance by the publishing house's former owner. Now he knows his days are severely numbered under the new regime. But things accelerate when the marketing manager goes postal and starts blowing away all his problematic new colleagues. Slim arrives in the middle of the mass murder shortly after getting the news that his son's lying dead in the hospital. Wacko circumstance puts him in the eye of police suspicion, even as he is junking any conventional barrier toward throwing all common sense aside and going after the dealers he feels are responsible for his kid's death. The novel's hyperkinetic pace rarely slows down for a breath. Slim finds himself in company with am unsavory street crew of downhill-sliding ne'er-do-wells who think he is going to lead them to a major score. Slim, in the meantime, is discovering that any conventionally civilized patina that might separate him from the street has rapidly evaporated. He's still moral, after his fashion, but he's unashamedly lethal. In a world of consensual artifice, Slim Purdoux is a spinning dynamo revving to illuminate the heart of darkness. Nothing will get in his way for long. SPIDER MOON gives you vivid characters, seductively accelerated story, and genuine passion. Sometimes writers better known for their horror or science fiction do some of their best work when ignoring the elements of the out-and-out irrational. Dan Simmons has been doing it in his series of Joe Kurtz crime novels beginning with HARDCASE. John Shirley does it here with SPIDER MOON.
Publishers Weekly (July 15, 2002):
On the eye-catching cover of Shirley's latest, a full moon radiates light over the head of a young woman, probing beneath her skin to trace for veins and bones. That image captures this slim and stinging novel's effect, as Shirley (DEMONS) probes an array of characters, most of them criminals, to reveal their deep humanity. Things go very wrong all at once for narrator Slim Purdoux, an editor at a San Francisco publishing house just bought by an international conglomerate. During a meeting in which he's told he's being transferred to New York, he gets a call alerting him that his teenage son has just died of tainted illegal drugs. After visiting the hospital, Slim returns to work and walks into a bloodbath caused by a gun-toting, alienated employee; when the cops arrive, they mistake Slim for the killer, and he flees -- determined to exact revenge on whoever sold his son the drugs. Soon he picks tip four rough companions -- a middle-aged black pimp, the pimp's white sidekick and his two whores (one white, one black) -- offering them the dealer's stash and money in exchange for help in capturing him. What follows is a violent rush around the city in which several die and Slim gains his vengeance, albeit with the knowledge that he is running, running from some deep truth -- but what? The novel vibrates with energy, but it's Shirley's ability to present without condemnation the wild hopes and shattered dreams, the raw essence of each of his characters that marks this as a novel that's not only grittily exciting but wise as well. (Aug.)