ISBN 978-0-9571213-2-4. Paperback. 477pp. Publication date: April 2012. Equus Press: London.
Price: € 10.00 (not including postage).
“Hunter S. Thompson, eat your dead heart out!” (Phil Shoenfelt, author of Junkie Love)
“A tapestry of a post-apocalyptic society whose debt-bound, clueless denizens are so anaesthetized from noise, shopping and drugs, prescription or otherwise, that they are unaware the calamity they fear as bogyman has already overtaken them.” (Jim Chaffee, nthposition)
“Thor Garcia has written a satirical novel that brings to mind the best bits of John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces; the novels and short stories of Charles Bukowski; Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho and the gonzo journalism of Hunter S. Thompson…” (Chris Crawford, BODY)
“It’s hard to imagine writing more energetic than this!” (The Prague Post)
“Fueled by prodigious amounts of alcohol and tobacco, sex and drugs, this narrative skips along from one bizarre episode to the next in the tortuous life of Thor, a young man whose dreams of a literary career have been sidetracked into an undemanding job as a ‘news clown’ for a small wire service in the crime-infested back alleys of Bay City. Meanwhile, as Thor struggles with his inner demons, the national news clowns are cheering on President Wolfgang G. Mnung as he threatens a Middle Eastern dictator who may have stockpiled ‘as many as 4,000 PlayStation video game units’ from which, according to sources, he might fashion a crude supercomputer to control weapons of untold devastation. A flashy, satirical style keeps the narrative fresh, entertaining and eminently readable throughout.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Hunter S. Thompson meets Russ Meyer’s Under the Valley of the Supervixens meets Daft Punk – wearing a press pass and a smiley badge to a San Francisco gangbang.” (Goodreads)
Thor Garcia’s monumental iconoclastic novel, News Clown, was a finalist in the 2009 Amazon.com Breakthrough Novel Award.
We were in a baseball bar, The Dugout it was called, most of it in the basement. Kate’s idea – one of her “favorite bars.” It was Friday night, tables of college geeks and office goofs, woofing it up in baseball heaven. Baseball hats and bats and pennants hung from the rafters, posters and photo shots of baseball players hung everywhere across the varnished dark red wood.
It was after the “Cuban food.” The Cuban food appeared to have been something involving bananas, eggplant and eucalyptus leaves, and already I was forgetting it. I was forgetting everything. I had a beer in front of me, along with a tall thin “Triple Play” – Cutty Sark, Scoresby, Tanqueray and cherry coke on ice, a dusting of crushed crackerjack. It was $10.50 per for these drinks, but Kate had insisted. She had demanded. Kate was wearing a light blue sleeveless blouse, a pink rag with yellow and purple flowers in her hair. She had been talking, talking.
She moved her ass snug against mine, rested her hand on my wrist.
“Your right eye is a little smaller than your left. Did you know that?”
“It is… Your eyebrow comes down lower on the right. It’s cute!”
“It doesn’t, Kate.”
“It does! Oh, it does!”
The waiter came by. I ordered another beer, along with a “Switch Hitter” – Jack Daniels, Finlandia, Kahlua Mudslide and Sprite, poured over crushed ice and powdered sugar.
I wanted to drink and drink. God, I deserved it. It had been a week. MOTHER CHARGED WITH MURDER AFTERSONDIES IN CLOTHES DRYER. MISSING NIGERIAN STUDENT’S BODY FOUND BURNED. FIRED EMPLOYEE KILLS WORKER AT MENTAL HEALTH CLINIC had been some of the choicest morsels – since Wednesday. I’d been called at 9:30 Thursday night to run my ass out to a fire at the Parchman Baptist Church across the water in East Bay. They hadn’t been able to save much of it. And I still had the Saturday afternoon shift to go.
“You’re starting to scare me with how much you drink!”
“Kate, relax. I haven’t drunk nothing…”
I got up to have another smoke. I was having to go out every ten minutes.
“My gosh, you smoke a cigarette every ten minutes! You’ll kill yourself! I’ve never seen anybody smoke like you.”
“Could be, Kate.”
I grabbed a handful of popcorn from the barrel on the table and went back up the stairs. We were in Nowell Heights, not far from where Kate lived. She had already told me twice about how the rent was more than half her salary, but it was O.K. because the live-in boyfriend, Joel, kicked in his half, making the rent and utilities “almost one-third” of her total pay.
I stood out front and lit one. College kids and vagrants walked by under a golden dark sky churning with burnt orange clouds. There was a brief buzz and the rows of streetlights flicked on together. In the bookstore window next door, a fellow in striped long sleeves and acid-wash jeans searched for a clue in the section labeled Maps & Atlases. A portly woman in a black sweater walked by with a paper cup of coffee and the new copy of DOLLS & DOLLHOUSES TODAY.
I came back to find Kate on the phone again. She hung up.
“So Kate,” I said, “how’s Joel doing?”
“Don’t worry, I told him I was going out with work people. It’s fine…”
“One of those type of deals, huh?”
“What type of deals? We’re out having dinner and a drink after work. It’s not like we’re having sex in some sleazy hotel.” She laughed.
I drank some beer, had three or four sips of the “Switch Hitter.” It tasted like cold pancake syrup, they all did. On the TV, Jon Bon Jovi was walking through a Hindu temple wearing sunglasses, his hair flowing and rippling. A small Asian child smiled. Somebody in a soldier’s costume snapped photos and pointed a gun. Shirtless longhairs from Bon Jovi’s band grimaced and stroked guitars. Karate boxers did slow-motion kicks, a Chinese woman smiled. Hindu temple shots rolled in grainy black and white. The Chinese woman appeared in her underwear, sitting next to Bon Jovi on a bed in dim lighting. Bon Jovi looked troubled, pained, majestic. The camera panned across his tangled carpet of chest hair…
Kate started talking about Miami again. At her newspaper, she had worked on a series about refugees who had escaped the war zone in some hellhole, finally making it to America. One woman’s husband had gone off to fight the war, leaving everyone behind. Then one day, bad guys from the other team dropped by the village. They were very bad guys. Nobody, somehow, had thought it might happen.
The bad guys killed or chased off the few men who had stayed behind, then beat the woman, beat her sister, beat her daughter, then raped all three repeatedly for four or five days and nights. They tied the 14-year-old son to a chair and made him watch, declining to even let him use the bathroom for several days. Then they chained up the son in the barn, next to the cows they had shot with machine guns.
The bad guys went through the houses and shops, boiling eggs and eating sausages and stealing anything of any possible worth, even door hinges, knobs from the oven, silverware with plastic handles. What they didn’t eat or steal, they burned. Finally they left, taking the son to go fight the war for their team. Stupidly, the females continued to stay in the town until a different group of bad guys from the other team came. The lady and her sister and daughter were split up and taken to “rape camps.” They were raped several times per day. The soldiers would get drunk, rape them and beat them and rape them again. The soldiers burned them with cigarettes, carved swastikas on their breasts, called them horrible names.
Then one day a peace agreement was announced. The bad guys ran away. American soldiers showed up and gave the women food and medicine and drove them to town. Unfortunately, the soldiers had got the lady’s sister pregnant and she had a baby. She killed it. The daughter also got pregnant, but she kept hers. The lady found her son in the hospital. He had lost a leg and a hand and suffered spinal damage in a land mine blast. He couldn’t talk, only drool.
Eventually, the whole pack of them applied to the U.S. embassy and got permission to come to America. The U.S. government set them up with an apartment and money. The daughter works at a beauty salon and her rapist offspring son goes to daycare. The lady’s son sits in a wheelchair at the YMCA and plays chess. The lady sits and cries to reporters. It was a long story.
“Over what?” Kate said. “That really proved to me there’s evil in this world.”
“You bet there is, Kate…”
I downed swallows of beer, scarfed popcorn, looked at baseball flags and pictures of baseball players. The waiter came up.
“Want another drink, Kate?”
“Sure, I’ll have one more!”
Kate got a “Grand Slam.” I got a beer and an “Extra Innings” – Chinaco, E & J Gold and Hypnotiq, mixed with pineapple juice and 7-Up.
“So what’s your dad do?” said Kate.
“He’s a submarine pilot…”
“No, he’s a fry-cook… He used to have his own restaurants, but they failed. He lives in Wisconsin. They have a contest for the worst beard in town and he wins every year. They put him in a little jail and roll him down the street and everybody claps. He’s been married five times.”
“Five times! Different women? Wow, how fascinating!”
“Yeah, he’s a real hero. Never met a woman who’ll say no to him.”
“Oh, wow,” said Kate, laughing. “What about your mom?”
“She works in a lab. She does tests on blood, shit and piss for the hospital.”
Kate came forward and touched her nose to mine, ran her fingers through my hair. She turned away, cheeks flushing pink.
“You act so tough,” said Kate, “like the toughest guy in the world – like you don’t care, like you got it all figured out… But you’re not so tough, everyone can see! You’ve got all this, this – this, I don’t know, hope!”
“You’re drunk, Kate…”
“I’m not drunk!”
Kate ran her finger down my cheek, traced it around my jaw. Her lips and eyes were moist, she looked tired. She lifted her leg off my thigh, leaned forward and kissed me – not so much a kiss really, as a bumping of her lips against mine.
“There,” she said. “I did it.”
“That’s fine, Kate…”
“You’re so strong,” she said, her hands massaging my biceps. “Young and strong…”
She kissed me again, harder, and tried to stick her tongue in. I squirmed to the side so she couldn’t get it all the way in. She reached down and stroked the inside of my thigh. I turned away, then turned back. Kate punched her tongue into my mouth. The tongue poked around wildly, straining as if to leap down my throat. Without really meaning it to, my hand came up under her blouse. My fingers moved on their own, dancing amongst her braless breasts, rolling them from side to side, pulling at the nipples. Her slippery tongue flipped and twisted inside my mouth.
I leaned back, pulled out my hand, turned away.
“I know, I know.” Kate grabbed for her phone. “I’ll call a taxi.”
“Look, I’ve got a 10-dollar bill…” I started to reach in my pocket.
“I’ve got it,” said Kate, waving a credit card. “You can get it next time.”
Kate put her arms around my waist as we walked out, pit-a-peppering my neck with kisses. I lit a smoke as we stood in front waiting. Streetlights and neon bounced about, ricocheting against car windshields and storefronts, caroming off reflectors and stop signs. A motorcycle screamed past at about 90, the geek suddenly stomping the brake just as the light went red. He idled at the crosswalk, gunning the motor.
I gushed smoke. I was still thirsty, thirstier than ever.
“We could go to my place,” said Kate. “You should see it… It’s got a great balcony.”
“What about Joel?”
“He’s probably asleep. Maybe he’ll want to have a few beers… We can get a 12-pack and play the new Johnny Cash album.”
She got in the taxi, leaving the door open.
“See you later, Kate.”
“You’re not coming? We can drop you at your place…”
“Kate, no – it’s all right, I’ll walk. It’s not so far…”
She threw a sad face, blew me a kiss.
“See ya later, Thor.” She slammed the door, the taxi tore off.
Silvertown wasn’t close at all, it was going to be a 45-minute walk. I saw a liquor store and went in. A bottle of vodka caught my eye first thing. They didn’t keep it on shelves behind Plexiglas out here, but under the counter, behind glass. It came to $9.13. The fellow put it in a brown paper sack, and I slipped it into my coat pocket. This would get me into the pad and then some.
I cruised along, feeling better and better. Kate was O.K., but I was better off with the vodka.
The vodka got easier, the gagging stopped, I was taking bigger and bigger slugs. I hit the Silvertown border, the bottle about half gone. I had begun to stagger every so often, toes not quite lifting all the way off the pavement.
Dammit, I thought – I had kissed Kate. I had grabbed her boobs.
I wobbled deeper in. Silvertown guys peered out from doorways. Guys squatted under streetlamps. Guys slammed car hoods. Skinny Silvertown guys flashed hand signals, whistled at windows, licked their fingers, smoothed down mustaches. Drug guys starting rushing me, smacking into me, about four per block. I lipped vodka, pushing forward.
“What you looking for, dude?”
Smack-smack-smack. I swerved past dudes monitoring pedestrian traffic in front of the Hacienda, swam past grab-ass guys in front of the Pinkeye and Jet Rainbow. I bumped into a large bunch of them doing the smashed potato in the square by the Old Beacon Theater. I weaved and smacked and knocked my way through, swatting away various hands.
Dudes blocked the walk, groaning and playing bongos outside the Poly Vinyl. A siren wailed, a dumpster rattled down the curb. Dudes did hand-claps and jumps, singing ditties. Dudes smoked shit off cola cans and did spin moves. Dudes smashed the potato atop a stretch of spackled marble. An explosion went off somewhere. Dudes in stetson brims drove by in candy-apple cruisemobiles, booming tunes that made the blacktop turn to liquid.
Hey-ho, what do we know,
We from Ida-ho!
Hey-ho, what do we know,
We from Ida-ho!
Prosties in blue feathers splayed their legs beneath a row of palm trees, laughing. Prosties rushed forward, pawed at my crotch, blew in my ear. Peach-colored lights whirled over a guy writhing on the sidewalk, his eyes closed. Dudes in leather caps and chainwear did tap-dances, shaking the potato. An explosion went off. Shadows darted, shapes flew. A German shepherd rose on his hind legs, leaping for something a dude in goggles was dangling.
I leaned back on a bench and sucked vodka…
A guy with a thin black mustache came up and smacked me.
“Wanna buy a nice bitch?”
He sat down, slapped his thigh. “You know,man– a bitch.” He pointed his index finger at me, brought down his thumb, blew the top of his finger. “A real clean bitch.”
“Seventy-five, no, sixty, for you… Sixty-five for you.”
I leaned forward, drooling.
“Shit, lemme have a drink.”
He took a knock and handed it back.
“You ain’t with the police are you, man?”
“Oh, no… no…”
“You sure you ain’t with the police?”
I sucked drool back into my mouth. “I – I – I’m…”
He stuck out a hand. “‘Nother drink.”
He had his guzzle and stamped off. I stood and took a guzzle. A prostie bounced into me, cackled, danced off. I took a gurgle and spun out, leaning against a wall, checking my front and back pockets. I took another gulp, stepped, crashed into the wall.
Two foot-patrol cops holding foil-wrapped burritos walked back and forth, guarding an automatic bank machine.
An explosion went off. Cops jerked around. Didn’t see nothing.
I threw up in a bush near the Sunny Day Transition Home – “Helping Those Who CHOOSE To Help Themselves NO SOLICITORS PLEASE.” I fell to my knees and let go – it was like I was was spitting up pieces of my throat, my stomach squeezing and knotting. Popcorn and sauce came up, plenty of liquid…
Something hit my ear, the side of my face. I rolled, sports coat elbow slipping in the vomit. A man, apparently some kind of security guard, lifted me by the neck of the coat. He turned me, shoved and kicked me in the ass.
I tumbled a few steps, then was down again. The man roared, something I couldn’t make out. He charged at me, a silver flashlight swinging from his fist.
I rolled off the grass, knees tearing into the sidewalk. His boot made the side of my thigh. I rolled again, chin smacking the concrete. His boots bombed the pavement close to my head.
I hit a tire, clawed up the side of a car, started rolling down the block.
I hit The Quarter, 26th Street, 27th… The index and middle fingers of my right hand had got smushed. Blood rolled down my palm… drops falling from my wrist to my shoes and the cement. I pushed the hand into my sports coat pocket and kept going. I was getting closer, almost to the place now.
An explosion went off. Just another ten blocks to go…
I turned the corner. I could see the apartment, a block to the left. I slunk past a group standing around a can fire in the alley.
“Tole the bitch – tole her a tousand times, tole her – I say, getcher goddamn tubes tied! What I says to her. Says to her, getcher goddam tubes tied ‘cause I don’t want no more goddam rugrunts runnin’ ‘round here! Them sunbitches drive me crazy. Drown ‘em all. What I says to that bitch. DROWN ‘EMALL! Don’ wan’ no more a them goddam rugrunts! An’ that sunbitch, why, she ain’t nothin’ but a goddam ho, I says to her, GETCHER GODDAM TUBES TIED! I told that ho, GETCHER GODDAM TUBES TIED!”
About TUND, Garcia’s recent (2011) collection of short stories from Litteraria Pragensia, Jim Ruland in the San Diego City Beat writes: “I don’t think I read a stranger collection of short stories all year than Tund. Its author is a bit of a mystery. He’s from Long Beach but has lived in Prague since the mid-’90s. This makes for a peculiar worldview, which probably should be expected from someone with a name like Thor Garcia. Quote: ‘We idled languid, fragrant afternoons in hilly, statue-studded parks; munched flaky pastry at umbrella-shrouded pavilions along the river; stared in mute wonder at elaborate iron lamp posts and exquisite carved wooden door panels; floated across expansive sun-dashed cobblestone mezzanines, fawned over fabulously fusty friezes, frontispieces and fandulas; and roamed a seemingly endless cavalcade of crumbling castles, moss-drenched cemeteries, monstrous vaulted churches, time-encrusted bridges, dusty, decaying monasteries, graceful galleries… Yes, it was Europe–Eastern Europe, to be exact, in the time following what were popularly called revolutions.’”
See The News Clown on TNBBC’s The Next Best Book Blog
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Thor Garcia was born in Long Beach, California. He has worked as a journalist in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City and Prague, Czech Republic. His other books include the story collection TUND (Litteraria Pragensia, 2011).