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Holiday Gift Guide Part 2: Christmas Craft Fair

by Garrett Cook

Damn. Christmas sure gives you a lot of things to hate about it. Crass commercialism. Carols everywhere. Bitter cold. Mechagodzilla.

Everyone is tired of your shit!

But worse and more excruciating than all of these things is the Christmas craft fair. Purchasing poorly wrought wooden reindeer to support your stupid kid’s school for jerks is nobody’s idea of fun. I know there are people that like Christmas craft fairs but there are also people that like bestiality and the two camps are just as difficult for me to understand. Telling me that you like the Christmas craft fair is like telling me that a particular pangolin you saw has got it goin’ on in all the right places.

So, how about an alternative to the Christmas Crap Fair? How about some weird, fun stuff that you might actually want hanging up in your home? I promise, no wooden reindeer.

Paintings and Prints

The most notoriously hangable of art works, paintings and prints are something we often think of as out of our price range or somehow culturally austere. We might own posters but actual paintings by a contemporary working artist aren’t as common in people’s homes as they could be. Particularly if you decide you want to do something about it.

Justin Coons

My alterego Henry Price is a lucky guy. Having gotten three covers from Justin Coons for my Satan’s Mummy novelettes, Henry’s work has been represented by a whole lot of monster kid whoopass. Justin Coons brings the weird and brings pulp art back to a Heavy Metal magazine kind of place.

Zooey Noir

Narwhal vs. Unicorn

Escape from Hamster Planet

Get it all here.

Ann Koi

Ann Koi is a gifted sculptor and artist. Her erotic and strange art and wonderful assortment of bone sculptures are sure to invigorate any discriminating Bizarro friendly residence.

Resin owl skull

Cthulhu Bust

The Undeniable Beauty of a Love in Decline

Jim Agpalza

Jim is one of the finest artists in the Bizarro community. His work is cartoonish, organic, filthy, fun and diverse. His shit is just plain awesome. You can view his stuff on the page below. And you should buy most or all of it.

Liv Rainey Smith

Liv’s woodblock prints and Lovecraftian stuff are great for the dark fiction and cosmic horror enthusiast in your life. Occult esoterica with class, distinction and a genuinely informed viewpoint on the subject matter. While possessing a modern perspective on the history behind the imagery, it hearkens back to a profoundly archaic style, wearing the influence of traditional alchemy on its sleeve.

Alexandria Pepera

Surrealism and psychedelia merge with Neopagan and Aquarian tradition in Pepera’s work. There is usually a space between the surreal, which is often thought cerebral, the province of manipulated logics instead of magicks and the sacred but Jodorowsky and Kenneth Anger and French Decadents never cottoned much to these boundaries and neither does Alexandria. These paintings are beautiful, colorful, distinctly sexual, tantalizingly dissassociative and pleasing to all three of our eyes. With a pop art color pallet, a strong narrative and a library of dream images, these psychedelics don’t patronize or pander or bring back memories of sparking up a jay to Umma Gumma.

Alien Shebamatahari

Akashic Chic

Down Below

For a full gallery of Alexandria’s work, check out the link below.

Nick Gucker

Grade A Monster Kid, class act and erudite, fun artist, Nick Gucker does cosmic horror and horror fandom in a way that has caught the attention of many publishers and collectors alike. Nick’s work graces Skurvy Ink’s Jimmy Plush t-shirt and the pages of Imperial Youth Review, the magazine I edit, so I’m a little biased but that bias certainly wouldn’t have existed in the first place without Nick doing stonecold fantastic stuff.

Alan M. Clark

Man. Myth. Icon and iconoclast, Alan Clark’s cover have adorned work by some of horror’s very finest. His paintings can adorn your home too. His longtime obsession with the Ripper murders has inspired not just his novels, which I highly recommend but some of his art. Visit his online store, The Imagination Aperture:


Phillip Lo Presti

Phil is a crass and smart poet with a ton of potential and exactly no fucks to give. If you know Phil online, you have probably at least on one occasion wanted to push him down a flight of stairs. But, he’s a good, generous, caring and often very funny guy and he does great work, with an irreverent eye and a lot of attitude.

Jim Snorfleet

Jim Snorfleet came highly recommended by my friend pinup model, Sauda Namir due to his horror pinup work. His photos are eerie, fun and confrontational and his models are well chosen. For the fan of burlesque and gothic imagery, these photos will go great on their walls.


Midnight Lover


Scupture and Craft

Sheryl Westleigh, Noadi on Etsy, is a sculptor and jeweler par excellence. For the geek, the pervert and the worshiper of Elder Gods, Sheryl is a person you gotta know with stuff that will make you exceptionally happy. Her Etsy store features things like fetus earrings, tentacle pendants, octopia, cuttlefish, bacteria and everything squirmy. Mad science chic.

Specimen Jar Necklace

Sanity Check Pendant

Fetus Specimen Jar Earrings

Bizarro Holiday Gift Guide Part 1: The NBAS

Seasons greetings to all. And a Happy Holidays. And….

Ha ha ha! Not this time, Kirk Cameron! You’ll have to get your holly jollies elsewhere, Seaver.

It seems the holidays are upon us. Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Black Friday, Hawkman’s birthday, Take Your Lion to Work Day….

The harder you push, the less I give, Cameron.

At any rate, the gift giving holidays are upon us. We in the Bizarro community know that this is the most important part of the season. Because what the fuck else is there? Family? Togetherness? Jesus. Fuck that noise. This is about choosing the swag that is swaggiest and therefore most worthy of the very conditional love of the people in your life whose presence is almost completely contingent on said swag. How are you going to make sure your lovers don’t find other lovers and your family does not replace you with someone younger, smarter and more successful? With gifts, that’s how. And we’re here to help you pick the right ones, the gifts that will make your lovers give Mr or Mrs. Right Now the heave ho and get your parents to return the replacement son or daughter to the Serbian baby farm they came from.

Why? Because we’re young, we’re hip, we’re weird and we don’t let certain sitcom stars from the 80s boss us around.

Except for the one guy.

Gordon Shumway, CEO of the Bizarro Trilateral Conspiracy, Buyin’ Low and Sellin’ High

As in our Vienna sausage eating contests, the newest Bizarros, the authors of the New Bizarro Author Series have to go first. Mostly just to make sure that no important Bizarros are mauled by gift hating Communist tigers. We know you’re out there.

Or not. Well, anyhow, here are Tom Lucas, author of Pax Titanus and Scott Cole, author of Superghost with some most excellent holiday gift suggestions, the things they themselves want for Christmas.


TOM LUCAS- Author of Pax Titanus 

1) The Art of Sean Brants:

I’ll take any one of his custom rock show posters. I mean, just look as these. Painted for those with a third eye for aesthetics. Hang one on the wall and decorate your personal oblivion with panache.

2) Armor from Prince Armory:

Continuing with the idea that I’m not picky (please see my extensive list of ex-girlfriends), I will simply state that I would take ANYTHING made by Prince Armory. These custom armor kits and individual pieces are so fucking epic that even complete lameass normies can’t dispute their glory.

3) Codex Seraphinianus by Luigi Serafini:

I’m requesting this as a gift because it’s a wallet-buster at $125.00. However, I’ve seen a copy and it’s so beautiful it makes unborn babies cry. Why this didn’t replace the Gideon Bible in every hotel room is crime against art and the human race. Rather than diminish the work with my mediocre vocabulary, I’ll just give you the Amazon blurb:

An extraordinary and surreal art book, this edition has been redesigned by the author and includes new illustrations. Ever since the Codex Seraphinianus was first published in 1981, the book has been recognized as one of the strangest and most beautiful art books ever made. This visual encyclopedia of an unknown world written in an unknown language has fueled much debate over its meaning. Written for the information age and addressing the import of coding and decoding in genetics, literary criticism, and computer science, the Codex confused, fascinated, and enchanted a generation.


4) Blast Knuckles:

Whoever the guy was who said: “Man, I love these brass knuckles. I just wish they had a taser built in.” – he’s a muthafukin’ genius. These bad boys will make anyone a ghetto superhero. I think they should be sold in pairs for maximum asskicking.

5) The Holy Land Experience:

You can keep your stupidface Mickey Mouse House. This is the amusement park you want to visit Orlando for. The Holy Land experience, where Jesus is crucified every day at 4pm. Grab a corndog and watch the show.


If you are religious, I have no idea why you would want to do this. Commodification of your sacred beliefs should offend you. I’m a staunch agnostic and this shit turns my stomach. These people have serious intentions. How in the world is this OK?

I’d never pay to go here but if someone gave me tickets, I’d get up bright and early. I’ll bring you back a t-shirt if you hook me up.

6) Eraserhead Press New Bizarro Author Series:

This six-year running series introduces new authors to the Bizarro community. Many of them go on to Bizarro greatness. You should read all of them, but please start with mine, Pax Titanus, because…


At least I own my shit. You should try it some time. Makes you a better person.-

Tom Lucas


It won’t just be Tom giving you recommendations this year. Scott Cole, who’s also great, has some ideas. He’s got some pretty choice swag here, particularly for those of you shopping for Scott Cole. I hear he’s a wandering polygamist with several families, so that’s probably a lot of you.
Scott Cole, author of Superghost

Comics are so much more than costumed crimefighters. Junji Ito’s manga masterpiece UZUMAKI is one of the best, creepiest comics around, and this hardcover edition collects the complete run of the series. Set in a fishing town where people are becoming obsessed with spiral patterns, Uzumaki is an imaginative tale with plenty of…ahem…twists.—1-Deluxe-vols/dp/1421561328/Maybe you’re cooking a splattery meal, and you need to protect yourself with a human flesh apron. Or perhaps you need to accessorize your newest outfit with an eyeball and teeth necklace. Or you need a Save The Date in the form of a finger. IT CAME FROM UNDER MY BED may be your one stop shop.

Not all zombie movies can claim to feature vehicles made from human body parts, chainsaw swords, and zombified baby projectiles. But HELLDRIVER can. If that zombie fan in your life is getting a little bored with zombies, give them the gift of truly bizarre Japanese cinema.

Do you need a candle in the form of the titular character from The Incredible Melting Man? A USB thumb drive in the form of a cockroach? Handmade toys inspired by movies like From Beyond, Basket Case, or Motel Hell? Visit NOVELTIES BY STEXE on Etsy.

Al Columbia is, in my opinion, one of the most tragically underappreciated comics creators around. Actually, that’s not completely true; For the most part, those who know his work love it. It’s just that not enough people seem to know it. It’s weird and dark and twisted, fusing horror, discomfort, and a 1930s cartoon aesthetic into a delightfully disturbing package. PIM & FRANCIE: THE GOLDEN BEAR DAYS collects a bunch of Columbia’s art (but don’t be afraid to dig deeper and track down some of his old contributions to comics anthologies like Zero Zero and Blab!, or both issues of The Biologic Show if you can find them on eBay).

Do you wish your fingers had fingers? Try FINGER HANDS! But why stop there? Archee McPhee has tons of cheap weirdness, from Krampus Christmas tree ornaments to literary action figures.

Scott Cole
Brian Auspice, author of Deep Blue, seems to in fact have been eaten by gift hating Communists tigers. Buy his book to honor his memory.
Well, that’s all for this segment of the Bizarro holiday gift guide. The holidays are long and tedious and full of despair, self loathing and bizarre sexual intrigues that often lead to regicide. But we’re here to help. Unless everyone just gets high and wanders off. Which is not altogether unlikely.

An Interview with Alex S. Johnson

by Garrett Cook

While Bizarrocentral has a lot of material about Eraserhead authors like myself, the genre is growing bigger by the day. Just as when the Ramones and The New York Dolls took the stage at CBGB’s, kids strapped on their guitars to go forth and fuck shit up, the same thing is happening nowadays with literature. As a closet socialist snugglebunny, I like to look at the genre as a whole, not just as EHP and its imprints but as something growing from many different places. Alex S. Johnson is a contributor to Imperial Youth Review, the magazine I edit alongside Chris Kelso. His stories and poem appear often on our blog and one of his pieces will appear in Issue 3 of IYR. He wrote a Jason X tie in novel. He’s been around awhile but is finally starting to manifest. So let’s hear a little about him, shall we?

AlexprofileQ: How did you first get into the Bizarro and Extreme Horror scene?

A: I ‘d always been a fan of horror, starting as many do with Stephen King, Peter Straub, Richard Matheson, Ira Levin, William Peter Blatty, and of course the classics, H.P. Lovecraft, Arthur Machen, Edgar Allen Poe, Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley. When I was growing up, in high school and then in college, I read every horror magazine and book I could find, all the Whispers collections, anthologies, the Year’s Best Horror books edited by Karl Edward Wagner (whose writing I still adore, RIP). As an undergraduate at UC Davis, I wrote a regular column for the school paper called “New Frights” where I reviewed the latest books by Ramsey Campbell, Clive Barker, et al. The first really extreme/proto-splatter book I read was Live Girls by Ray Garton. I loved the balls-out inventiveness of that novel, and the seedy setting, the erotic element, all of that. Then The Kill Riff by David J. Schow. After that it was a matter of seeking out the most extreme and disturbing work I could get my mitts on. Moving to L.A., I was like a kid in a candy store. It blew my mind that I was living in the same town as all these writers who were my heroes, that I could actually talk with them and pick their brains. For a long time they had just been names in magazines, almost mythical.

Q: What are you currently doing to make your way in the Bizarro genre? How do you feel the response is? How do you feel about your support system?

A: Interesting question. If by making my way you mean gaining exposure for my work, networking, perfecting my skills and gaining knowledge, let me back track a bit and explain why and how I landed in the Bizarro world in the first place. Before I knew such a genre existed, I spent years cultivating what I think, and still think is a pretty unique writing voice. As I said before, along the way I have bent the ear of people who were doing work that excited me, and succeeding. Poppy Z. Brite, for example, gave me some insights into her working methods, the way she culled from her obsessional interests. My favorite writers have always been those who straddled multiple genre lines and used science fiction or horror motifs s they presented themselves, instead of just narrowly following a formula or a pre-established structure. William S. Burroughs, Hunter S. Thompson, Ray Bradbury, Kathy Acker, among others, created voices that were strong and recognizable because they listened to what the story was saying to them as opposed to what the market or current fashion dictated. All my work is hybridized, a mingling of extremes, the weirder and more transgressive the better. Last year, researching markets, I stumbled on Brent Millis and Full-Metal Orgasm. I sold him two stories which he suggested were squarely in the Bizarro mold, and recommended that I look at Eraserhead as a possible market. From there, it’s been a matter of familiarizing myself with the names and works of the genre. I didn’t so much tailor my stories to the Bizarro world as use what other Bizarro writers were doing to catalyze my own imagination. Apparently it’s working. The only coherent response to my work, for me, is whether it sells. While I have a lot to learn, I’m confident now that I can write credible Bizarro fiction and sell it. It was as though I were looking for a home, a community, and I found it. Other writers have been tremendously supportive, as well as a few editors. My support system could be a lot stronger, but it’s already developed far beyond my hopes.

Q: What Bizarro authors do you look up to?

A:There are so many. When I think of Bizarro, I think of all the writers who sort of prepared the way. In fact, there’s elements of Bizarro in a lot of great literature. Joseph Conrad, Franz Kafka, hell, Shakespeare; then there’s the magical realists, Borges, Julio Cortazar, Manuel Puig, et al. And Terry Southern, who wrote Candy, Dr. Strangelove, Easy Rider of course and some lesser-known stories like “Worm-ball Man,” which is in the Now Dig This collection. I adore Ed Lee, Joe R. Lansdale, John Skipp who I’ve mentioned; I like your stuff, Carlton Mellick, Jordan Krall, Nikki Guerlain, Kevin Strange, I could really go on and on. There’s an embarrassment of good work out there. As far as Bizarro authors I look up to, all of the above. I’m always learning. That’s what it’s all about, I think–being open to improvement.

Q: Finally, what are your current projects? What are your future projects?

A: My current projects are Satanic Rites of the Nuns of St. Sophia, which I’m writing for Jordan Krall; it’s a no-holds-barred nunsploitation seige, which means I’m having way more fun than a middle-aged white man has a right to; then there’s From Behind, a Lovecraftian Bizarro saga I’m writing with David Anderson. After that, I plan to write an epic novel with elements of meta-narrative, post-writing, fantasy, magical realism and more, titled The Ghost Highway. That’s all I will say about that one.

Q: Can Bill Cosby be stopped? What if he gets what he wants?

A: Bill Cosby will never be stopped. His sinister plan of global domination via Jello pudding will continue until every man, woman and child on the face of the planet has been reduced to a state of stupefied, chocolatey contentment. At first he used his powers for good, but since his secret induction into the CIA in the early 60s he has become a megalomaniac. He’s out there commanding troops, and he has become insane. Obviously insane.

Thank you, Alex! Buy Alex’s chapbooks for Jordan Krall’s awesome Dynatox Ministries, read his Cosbycentric serial Pudding Spooks at Imperial Youth Review and say hi to him on Facebook and invite him to your house for pudding pops.

What We Owe Pussy Riot

by Garrett Cook

I’m gonna keep this short and sweet. I’m assuming you read up on this. If you didn’t, Google it. Today, I found out that three young women about my age and the age of many of my friends in the Bizarro Community were jailed for hooliganism and blasphemy for standing up to the Russian government.  They dared call for the removal of Vladimir Putin in a church, a church apparently dedicated to the worship of Vladimir Putin since there would be no other good reason to call speaking out against Putin an act of blasphemy. Hooliganism. Blasphemy. We Bizarros call that a Monday. We Bizarros call out any man we think is wrong. We Bizarros toss meat at the ceiling. We Bizarros write about Baby Jesus Buttplugs. We Bizarros practice Voodoo, Chaos Magic and things even weirder and more incomprehensible. We Bizarros don’t get jailed all that often. I think we oughta remember that.

Three heroes are doing two years of hard labor. Read up on it. Share their videos.  Share everything filthy, everything bold, everything wrong. Broadcast, broadcast, Bizarro Brigadiers, because there but for the grace of God or Goddess or Ego or Spaghetti Monster go we.  Share our boldest videos, read our most flamboyant books on the subway, blare Pussy Riot through your ipod if you can.  Go forth and tag the world. Three heroes were jailed today. Let’s all be heroes.

In the Name of All That is Holy, Please Don’t Be a Fucking Spaz: A Nice Guy Gets Tough on Bizarro Etiquette

Hey, friend. What’s that you got there? Well, I’ll be! It’s a Bizarro book. How did you like it? Yeah, I read that one too. It’s super good. The guy or lady who wrote that is a friend of mine. No, I don’t have their phone number. I don’t own a phone. No, I will not log on to Facebook with your phone so I can message them and ask for their phone number right here. Because that’s rude. Rude. No, I am not implying that it has a fondness for ska music, I am saying it’s impolite. Oh…you still don’t understand.

I’m a nice guy. I do a lot of favors for a lot of people. Some of these people have returned these favors, some I never expect to. Some have punished me for my generosity and kindness. This is true with most nice people. And I’m not saying I’m a nice guy in the way Don Rickles says it. I try my damnedest to be nice to everyone, especially people trying to come into writing. There’s a good chance I may have already read your manuscript or story, given you advice on Bizarro or offered some words of encouragement even though chances are, you were only pretending to know who I was. I’m onto you, but that’s okay.


“David Crosby looks good with his beard like that.”

Everybody needs a helping hand. Everybody needs someone in their corner. Chances are, I or some fellow Bizarro is willing to give you said hand. But in seeking this assistance, please try to take note of the social contract and the following Bizarro rules of etiquette.

Rule Number 1: Do Your Research

Before trying to become a Bizarro writer because your work has weird elements like vampires or Canadians or people smoking (tee hee) MARIJUANA, go to Bizarrocentral and look at it thoroughly. If you’re reading this article, you’ve taken one step in the right direction. If you read one Bizarro book, you are headed in the right direction. If you read ten Bizarro books, you’re doin’ fine. Always know the work.  Always know the guidelines. Always know the players. Why? Because people don’t like doing huge favors for people who don’t know who the fuck they are.
There are some exceptions. But not many.

Rule 2: Don’t Walk Around With Your Genitals Hanging Out
Let’s say we’re at a bar. And I’m a person that you want to pick up.


A VERY likely scenario.
Do you:
a.) Approach me and strike up a conversation with me about a subject I might be interested in, like chainsaw massacres or the blues?
b.) Try to sell me a Rolex?
c.) Wave your genitals at me and scream “STUFF THINGS IN MY HOLES!”
If you answered anything but a, you will get no smooth, cool Bizarro style lovin’. Not just from me. From anyone in the community. Do not hound publishers about your work publicly on their Facebook wall. Do not mail them mounds of unsolicited material. Do not email me your manuscript and ask me to send it to Jeff or Cameron. Keep it in your pants. Be polite and inquisitive. Do your research. See Rule 1. Then see it again and fucking do it.

Rule 3 Come unarmed and humble
Do not approach Bizarro publishers material in hand preconceptions in head expecting them to take you on and that you’ll be the one exception because your book Horatio Wackypants and the Queef Machine is 250,000 words of pure surrealist gold. This might look like a rehash of rules 1 and 2. It isn’t. The best way into Bizarro right now is through The New Bizarro Author Series and Kevin Shamel is not going to make a gigantic exception to his 20,000 word limit to accommodate your magnum opus. Approach Kevin with humility and a willingness to learn.
And some rootbeer. And a map that leads out of the forest.

Approach Rose O’ Keefe, Cameron Pierce, Jeff Burk, Carlton Mellick and anyone else affiliated with Eraserhead with humility and a willingness to learn. If an Eraserhead author looks you right in the eyes and says “I’m sorry, this isn’t Bizarro”. Don’t ask “well, what do you know about Bizarro? Isn’t Bizarro whatever I want it to be? How hard do you think you can punch me in the-” Head back to the old drawing board. Understand that everybody gets rejected. My initial query to Eraserhead was a mishmash of PTSD and ignorance with a delightful soupcon of absolute naivete.  But I attended Bizarrocon, paid attention to my peers and read a shitload of books and now I have a contract. And so could you. But if you ain’t ready to learn, you’re ready to suck.

Ha ha, yes, even you Mechagodzilla!

Learn Bizarro From the Pros!

If you’re here on Bizarro Central, chances are you’ve read some Bizarro in your time and, unless you’re some kind of creep, you’re here because you liked it. And if you liked it, chances are, that somewhere in your heart, it created a longing to be a Bizarro author, swinging from tree to tree in the forests of British Columbia, with your best girl by your side and you’d sing, sing, SING! Ah, to be a Bizarro author!

Like Cameron Pierce


or Famous Author Mykle Hansen


or Mechagodzilla


(Bizarro novel forthcoming)

But wait…your fancy Marxist hug factory university doesn’t have a Bizarro program, which must feel like when you first realized six months ago that you probably can’t be Spiderman when you grow up. If only there was someone who could help you – someone dark and mysterious, but friendly and approachable who knows the Bizarro scene and has written Bizarro books and gotten nominated for a Wonderland Award and won the Ultimate Bizarro Showdown. I know someone who can help you. It’s me. Garrett Cook. Author of Archelon Ranch and Jimmy Plush, Teddy Bear Detective. I run a Bizarro writing workshop. And it’s cheap. Real cheap. And it get results. Real results. Several of my students had their first stories published while participating in my workshop. One finished a novella. It’s been a good online Bizarro writing workshop. But how could I make it better?

Maybe Bradley Sands could help. He wrote Sorry I Ruined Your Orgy, It Came from Below the Belt and Rico Slade Will Fucking Kill You, edited Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens and is world renowned for his knowledge of the genre. Maybe we should team up. Like we did. We teamed up. And we’re going to rock this town, rock it inside out. With Bizarro knowledge. Which we will impart to you. For a small fee of course. 30 bucks for a month of Bizarro instruction with two Bizarro authors, both of which have appeared in a Bizarro Starter Kit isn’t bad at all. Especially when the workshop is endorsed by this man:


NBAS editor Kevin Shamel, the Cerberus of our wacky literary underworld, editor of the NBAS approves of this workshop like he approves of forests and recent photographs. He had this to say:

“Garrett Cook’s workshop has already helped writers produce books that have gotten my attention for the New Bizarro Author Series–throwing Bradley Sands into the mix can only bring better bizarro into being.”

So go HERE, read some testimonials from former students, find out a little more and find out how to sign up. Start living the dream. Admissions close April 1st. Workshop starts April 15th. It costs 30 dollars.

Naked Noir: A Review and Reflection on Laura Lee Bahr’s Haunt and Bizarro Noir

by Garrett Cook

When you put a trenchcoat and fedora on a character, it does something to who they are. They’re a detective, they’re a gangster, they’re a loner. These trappings change your perceptions of a person, of what they do and what they’ll get into. It’s a shortcut, maybe a shallow visual cue. I poke fun at this and examine this at the same time in my book Jimmy Plush, Teddy Bear Detective, a book that’s about whether we are what we look like or what body we’re in or what clothes we wear or even, in the case of fictional characters, which ones they’re dressed in. Sometimes that’s the only indication of a genre we have. A lot of the time genre itself is just a costume we slap on a piece of fiction.

Laura Lee Bahr’s Haunt is a Bizarro novel and a noir underneath its clothes, but something really interesting is going on, something you don’t see that often in crime fiction. While Haunt features a private dick, a femme fatale and a man obsessed who must confront his dark side, she doesn’t use these as a veneer. It’s noir whose trappings are what they are, whose strangeness is unabashedly what it is, pervading the architecture of the book and the voice of its narrators. It’s surreal, it’s transgressive and its more strange than it is anything else, but its strangeness and its noir-ness become one in ways you seldom see.

This is a traitorous whore of a book, a femme fatale that puts Barbara Stanwyck, Bette Davis and Joan Bennett to shame. It switches protagonists. It switches storylines. It’s not just the basic vicissitudes of plot or the revelation of facts. It outright turns on you. It’s turned on its author it seems. Bahr has blended fiction and lying. You are, like the book’s heroes part of its intrigues and the author might well be too. Noir is about shadows and identity schemes and broken confidences and people facing up to their dark sides. This is Bizarro noir that isn’t wearing a trench coat or anything at all.

Haunt is a book that doesn’t require a lot of violence, a lot of detective work, gangsters or grit. The violence occurs at the emotional and narrative level. It hurts the brain and it hurts the heart of the protagonist and the reader alike who have become one. I’m reminded of Frank Zappa’s statement “I don’t  do drugs. I am drugs.” It’s made of hurt and enigmas. Which is an impressive feat to say the least.

Bizarro noir is already a fine tradition. It comes out of a fine cinematic tradition, films like Mark Damon’s The Seventh Victim, David Lynch’s Blue Velvet  and Alex Proyas’ Dark City. Jordan Krall’s books alone are enough to validate the subgenre, but others came before it and more will come after it.  Haunt fits in with these films and with this tradition and reminds us why the two go together. Bizarro and noir are both at some level about reality being unreliable. They  both involve emotions and ideas becoming realities and changing
the physics of one’s universe. Naked, proud, honest weird noir Haunt reveals these connections and uses them the best they can be used.

Garrett Cook is the author of Jimmy Plush, Teddy Bear Detective and Archelon Ranch

Laura Lee Bahr’s HAUNT is available on amazon now!