John Hood's Reviews > Plainclothes Naked

Plainclothes Naked by Jerry Stahl
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Jul 12, 2008

it was amazing

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Crack Got Your Tongue?
If Elmore Leonard smoked crack and wrote with a monkey on his back he might write a romp as wicked tight and pitch black bright as Jerry Stahl's Plainclothes Naked (Morrow $25).

Not that Sir Elmore is lacking in the tight and bright department, mind you, but there is some question as to his addict status. Not so Stahl, the cat behind the junkie memoir cum movie, Permanent Midnight, and a heroic anti-hero to dope fiends everywhere. Plainclothes Naked puts his speedball pedigree to good abuse.

And what abuse it is. In Stahl's world everyone's either on drugs or severely affected by someone who's on drugs, which may be true in the real world but here enters a realm even Artaud would call absurd. Gloriously, spectacularly, patently absurd.

The bad guys - a rank Zank and a cocoa mini-Dean named McCardle - are what is known in certain circles as 'rock stars'; that is their crack act has reached mythic proportion. Driven to singular distraction by a next last chance they don't have coming, the two pipe enough ready to run over priests, cut through trannies and drop not-so-nice little old ladies from windows, but not nearly enough to get what they're after. Further, like all crackheads, each hit leaves them emboldened beyond delusion, so it never occurs to the pair that the bloody mess they're making just may bring forth the fuzz.

Enter pill-popping policeman Manny Rupert. Hot on the trail of Tweedledum & Tweedledumber, he's even hotter for a scarred and feathered murderess named Tina, who plays a whip-smart Bonnie to the good detective's Clyde. As a cop, Rupert's as crooked as they come, only worse, which means he's better at it than most. Think the Bad Lieutenant in Jesus' Son and you get the idea. Forever in the "the Opiate Zone," the place of "pure brain and rushing insight." This is one cop who's got one up on all the competition. Tina makes two.

Between the blood and the guts and the mayhem, though, there's very little time for handholding - but who needs touchy feelly? When things move this fast and get this furious it's the incidental contact that counts. And anyway, when life matters this much yet means so little, reflection and pain can get a person killed. Stahl knows this; you should too. So there.

Stahl, a been there done-that cat of I'll take you there dimension is just the kind of hip, slick storyteller to have 'round the raging bonfire, his work an incendiary testament to the burn rate within us all. Like life, it may not always be neat, and it's rarely ever clean, but it'll get you. That is, unless you get it first - dig?

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