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Dirty Boots

by Mike E Purfield

(Writers Club Press, 235 pages, $14.95, paperback; November 2001.)

Here's a strange one -- and in fact a very good cover scanone, despite a blizzard of proofing errors and a lack of copy-editing, as one generally expects from Writers Club/iUniverse books.

Page has AIDS, and decides there's little for her at home in New Jersey; she might as well hit the road. Sam's problems are almost worse: an orphan of unknown antecedents, when asleep he is a focus of poltergeist-like activity, and on waking his physical appearance -- skin colour, hair colour, etc. -- takes a while to settle down. He also has clairvoyant bursts, which are reflected in his drawings; and it is these that tell him he should make his way to Sedona (read Noplace), Arizona. A long string of foster-parents have been unable to tolerate his freakishness; when the latest look set to stand idly by while he's murdered by a lynch mob, he too hits the road -- for Sedona. En route he encounters Page, and she agrees, on the grounds that she has no other fixed destination in mind, to go with him to Sedona.

Dan is a psychopathic serial killer. The first of his countless victims was his elder sister, who came across him eviscerating a pet. But he believes that just because he killed her doesn't mean she's dead; he periodically recognizes her among the people around him, and must kill her all over again. He realizes that Page is the latest "reincarnation" of his sister, and sets himself to murder her and anyone who gets in his way. Of course, he has the minor problem of not knowing where she is, because she's left town for parts unknown; but he kidnaps psychic Perry and forces her to guide him in pursuit.

On arrival in Sedona, Page and Sam introduce themselves to Scott, an artist whose painting of one of the local churches has loomed large in Sam's clairvoyant visions. But Scott proves to be a Satanist who'd like to sacrifice Page...

But that's probably enough of the plot, and I've not even started on Uncle Ivan, who's violently rousted from a years-long coma and is likewise drawn to Sedona, or the bizarre secret within an Arizona mountain that will unlock the door to the mysteries of Sam's existence.

Dirty Boots is, if you like, the weirdest road movie you ever came across, a nightmarish comedy that makes one chuckle with guilt. While reading it I kept thinking of writers whose heyday was in the 1970s or a little earlier -- writers like Richard Brautigan and Richard Fariña, or even the early Thomas Pynchon -- but really Purfield has his own voice, and his own distinctly skewed worldview. Despite the irritations I mentioned at the outset, the fluidity of his prose makes the pages turn quickly, and the entertainment rarely if ever flags. It's much to be hoped that a non-vanity press will pick this book up, edit and proofread it properly, and reissue it in a better edition. But the book's recommended even in its current form.

Review by John Grant.

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