Cover image for High life
High life
Stokoe, Matthew.
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Publication Information:
New York : Akashic, [2002]

Physical Description:
326 pages ; 21 cm.
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Hollywood, the City of Dreams. Jack had come here with one ambition: to become famous, a star - in exactly what way, he didn't care. In his second novel, Matthew Stokoe proves himself a worthy heir to the great tradition of California noir. Brutal and unflinching in its depiction of violence and sex, his book is like an unholy hybrid of Raymond Chandler's best work and Brett Ellis's American Psycho.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Set against the sweltering, noirish backdrop of Los Angeles where "money is part of the architecture of the city," this bleak, violent novel upholds English author Stokoe's reputation for gritty, sordid fiction (Cows). Jack, a drugged-out tabloid fanatic and wannabe Hollywood star, grows worried when his wife, Karen, a street prostitute, goes missing for several days. He discovers that she has been murdered ("gutted like a fish") and that he is under investigation by Ryan, a sleazy minor vice cop, who takes on the homicide case himself since he was previously one of Karen's customers. Jack makes a promise to himself to find Karen's killer while supporting himself by becoming a hustler. Stokoe's plot thickens by way of urban legend. Before her disappearance, Karen confessed to Jack that she had sold one of her kidneys for $30,000 to a mysterious doctor trawling Hollywood Boulevard. After a succession of vile sex dates, Jack winds up face-to-face with Bella and Powell Vernier, an incestuous father and daughter surgical team who might be implicated in Karen's murder. Accusations and dead bodies (not to mention necrophilia) emerge just as Jack's acting career begins to take off. Stokoe's in-your-face prose and raw, unnerving scenes give way to a skillfully plotted (though largely implausible) tale that will keep readers glued to the page, if they can stomach the gratuitous obscenities and the excessively graphic descriptions of sex and violence (and violent sex). Stokoe's protagonist is as gritty and brutal as they come, which will frighten away the chaste crowd, but the author's target Bret Easton Ellis audience could turn this one into a word-of-mouth success. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

How does a contemporary author update classic noir writers like James M. Cain and Jim Thompson? For Stokoe (Cows), the solution is to ratchet up the sex by several notches. Jack, an English transplant to Los Angeles, is totally immersed not only in bodily fluids but also in the mythos of Hollywood. He gains sustenance from obsessing about the lives of every Tom, Brad, and Leonardo in Hollywood - which comes at the expense of what passes for his real life. For about a year, he's been married to a practicing prostitute who has recently sold one of her kidneys. When she goes missing, he goes out to find her (or her body), an attempt that plops him amid a cast of kinky characters, including porn-star Rex and police officer Ryan, who leaves a trail of slime in his wake. Above all, though, are Bella and Powell, who give new meaning to the concept of keeping their marriage fresh. While Stokoe has the noir cadences and atmosphere down pat, and Ryan is a character of quintessential sleaziness, the relentless rough sex ultimately becomes as boring and mechanical as thumbing through Richard von Krafft-Ebing's Psychopathia Sexualis. Purchase where demand warrants. - Bob Lunn, Kansas City P.L., MO (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.