Plagiarism? Pastiche? Clinicality Press Push it with ‘The Bastardizer’

So perhaps I’m rather biased where this book’s concerned. After all, I was one of the first to adopt ‘clinical brutality’ as a mode of writing, and I’m not wholly disconnected from all that Clinicality Press does.

Nevertheless, I knew that I had in my possession something special when I first saw an early manuscript for ‘The Bastardizer.’ Really, it packs some clout from the very start, and the plot’s got more twists and turns than I care to count. Yet there’s a lot more to it than plot. Indeed, it’s all in the telling. Like ‘Columbo,’ it’s not about getting to the end, it’s the circuitous route that makes it really interesting.

Crime fiction is huge right now, and while I really dig the ‘classics,’ the pulp masters like Mickey Spillane, much of the contemporary stuff coming through is painfully cliché, and, worse still, ball-achingly long. Tess Gerritson and her ilk really aren’t a patch on McBain or Chandler. And while Ellroy has the clipped narrative down brilliantly, I’d much rather have seen ‘American Tabloid’ done in half the word count. The simple fact is that I’ve always much preferred the punchier pulpier stuff. Under 200 pages with really succinct narrative and snappy dialogue was always what did it for me.

It was reading Stewart Home’s ‘Slow Death’ that proved to be a pivotal moment for me: that a book was a revelation to me, in that it showed how it was possible to be at once clichéd and innovative. Insofar as parody and pastiche are concerned, Home’s early works scale truly admirable heights. So when I saw ‘The Bastardizer,’ I knew it had to be.

While perhaps not as trashy in its style as Home, or as superabundant in its use of cliché, Thunder’s debut at once reinvigorates and exhausts the well-worn detective / crime fiction genre, presenting a classic pulp first-person narrative with a contemporary and deeply misanthropic twist. Thunder doesn’t make any attempt to be a likeable or sympathetic narrator, but given the series of loathsome characters he comes face to face with, his stance seems justified, and in comparison to these other characters – even the good guys, including the intelligent but foul Roger Gash, he’s positively chummy.

The concept of clinical brutality emerged in the late ‘90s. It wasn’t hip to get factual in the middle of an action sequence back then. But this is the post-CSI generation. ‘The Bastardizer’ pushes the idea of incorporating technical biological detail to the point of absurdity, and yet delivers its mockery with a completely straight face. I daresay this will confuse a few people.

Similarly, I daresay the whole ‘Michael Jackson’ element of the story will prove problematic for some. Yes, a central thread of the story sees Thunder on the hunt for a missing man called Michael Jackson. Much dark hilarity ensues. What makes Thunder’s narrative unusual – apart from the attention to the most curious of detail – is his tendency for digression. In fact, it’s often easy to get carried away on the epic and often rather bizarre diversions and forget about the plot. This is perhaps as well, as there are points when the plot is clearly secondary to the action and the narrative form, and the ending comes as nothing if not a surprise. Yes, its far-fetched, but no more far-fetched than, say. Spillane’s ‘The Body Lovers.’ Of course, that’s the whole point. It’s designed to be ridiculous just as the extreme violence is designed to shock. What’s more it, succeeds.

Mediocre crime fiction it ain’t. If the prose was any more hard-boiled, demolition companies would be buying up copies of this book and using them as wrecking balls. I’m not kidding when I say this book should be huge. The question is, is the world ready for it?

‘The Bastardizer’ by Bill Thunder is out in August as a pocket edition on Clinicality Press, and will be followed by a trade paperback edition Spring 2010.

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