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High Life

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  545 ratings  ·  71 reviews
Fiction. Jack had gone to Hollywood with one ambition: to become famous, a star, exactly how he didn't care. He just wanted to be like the people whose lives he followed in gossip magazines...Instead he found a world more seedy than anything he could have imagined, a world of whores and deceit, snuff shows, incest, drugs-and despair. After his wife, Karen, a hooker, is mur ...more
Paperback, 331 pages
Published January 1st 2002 by Akashic Books
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Average rating 3.96  · 
Rating details
 ·  545 ratings  ·  71 reviews

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Jul 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Utterly revolting. Almost unspeakably vile. I feel worse every time a pick it up. A great book...
Paul Bryant
Jul 28, 2010 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Kraft-Ebbing-style researchers
“Roll up, roll up, step right this way” – hey, it’s that guy again! He keeps turning up in my reviews – he’s played by Tom Waits in a bowler hat – (memo to finance department - please don't squander your entire budget hiring cool singer/songwriter/actors to do bit parts in these reviews, I hope they can stand up on their own without such indulgencies) - anyway, what's he saying this time?

“It’s a continuous show, you pays your money and you takes just as long as you likes inside, yes sir! We have
May 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2013
So romantic. Would recommend to blossoming lovers. Truly an inspiring work of fiction. 5/5 would read again.
Sep 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
After reading this, I feel like Stokoe has just relieved himself into a wound hacked into my abdomen. And that's, in a weird way a good thing. This is a delirious, sickening novel of the nightmare hidden world of fame-addicted Los Angeles. The alternation of nausea and degradation with the surface gleam of the city's media factories hack out the rhythm of a sort of gorgeous deranged poetry, a texture that reads like the unholy union of J.G. Ballard and Raymond Chandler. This is a sick book, and ...more
Jun 02, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Plot:

Jack's prostitute wife disappears & he later learns she has been found murdered & “gutted like a fish”. Ryan, a sleazy vice cop, takes a personal interest in the prostitute's murder as he was one of her clients. Karen, Jack's murdered wife, confesses to Jack before she disappears, she was paid $30,000 for one of her kidneys & Jack decides to find out who Karen sold her kidney to, as her body, when found, has all her other organs removed. Jack meets an incestuous, wealthy, father & dau
Mar 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I do not read very much, until now. I have decided to pick up reading as my new hobby. My friend and former English professor suggested this book as my first real read in my new hobby. Wow, what a story to begin with!

I may not write a review like most of the people on here as I am new to this.

This story reads nice and the pace is steady. The story itself starts out with an interesting character named Jack. He goes through various situations that are sick, twisted, demented and at times grotesqu
Michele St. Martin
Just finished it last night on the train going home. If I could give this bitch more stars I would...

What a visceral, fucked-up, shank in the inner guts this book was. I'm trying to remember the last time I read a book so twisted & sick. I have some nasty stuff in my library, but DAAAAAAAYM...

And I want MORE.

Mr. Stokoe, please write some more. I loved this!
Lindy Loo
Jan 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
I think this is the filthiest most graphic thing I've ever read. And yet, it was actually kind of good for what it was. Really nasty noir-type novel. ...more
Michael Seidlinger
Apr 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
This plus watching A Serbian Film for the first time rank in as pieces of writing that leave you feeling as filthy as the whores and sadists chronicled in both stories.
Eric Wojcik
May 14, 2014 rated it it was ok
A bit surprised by how poor this is. Certainly some set pieces that work for shock value, but much of the book is filler, with maybe about fifty pages of three hundred worth reading. Part of the problem is a central narrative that manages to be utterly boring (who killed the narrator's hateful hooker wife? will he find out? who cares?), but there are writerly issues, as well. Tons of pointless dialogue, pages upon pages of it, and characters that barely register as B-grade on the believability s ...more
ABC Group
Aug 18, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is pretty over the top--in a good way. Akin to Bataille's "Story of an Eye," Stokoe shoots from the hip with a disgusting array of extreme sex scenes...scat, murder, organs, you name it.

It's a great read but not for the faint at heart. Sometimes the narrative suffers from an easy obsession with the more extreme content, but that makes me wonder if that's the point. The inner urges are not ones I can share but I was surprised at how comfortable I became with them by the end. This is my
Feb 14, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror
Absolute filth! If this had been written several hundred years ago, the author would have been locked up to protect the innocence of society. This is the only modern book I have read which comes close to the spirit of the works of Marquis de Sade. Imagine the most heartless deviant sexual acts combined with gratuitous drug use in a Hollywood setting and you have High Life.
Jan 26, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Regardless of the atrocious aura this book emanates, it is superbly written. His sentence structure is outstanding, verbose yet not flowery - an inspiration to my own writing. Yes it is a wee bit nasty, but if you know the kind of reads I like, this is a gem!
Mar 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Laughably vulgar and disturbing to an extreme degree noir book.
Joe Kraus
May 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: hardboiled-noir
This book comes just short of being a depraved masterpiece.

Emphasis on the depraved.

Emphatic emphasis.

This book opens with Jack discovering the body of his wife, intact-looking from a distance but with all its internal organs surgically removed. Oh and, yeah, somebody has masturbated into the empty chest cavity.

After that, it starts to get disturbing.

This is a book that flaunts its sense of the wildest, kinkiest, most depraved acts I can imagine. Most go well beyond what I can imagine. There’s
Alex Murphy
This has been on my to-read list for a while, after seeing it on one of those Amazon people also brought suggestions. A dark, gritty crime story in LA seemed like something that would appeal to me.

But boy, was it gritty and increasingly perverted and depressing as I read it. Which, given the nature of the story fitted it well.

The plot follows Jack, an early thirties wannabe celebrity, eking a life out in LA, waiting for a big break that’s not coming, addicted to a mix of drugs and desperation
Ms. Nikki
This read made me think of the music from Cypress Hill:

I want to get high so high!
I want to get high so high!
I want to get high so high!
I want to get high so high!
Well that's the funk elastic the blunt I twist it
The slamafied (buddafied) funk on your discus
Oh what you messed with you got to bare witness
Catch a ho and another ho Merry Christmas
Yes I smoke shit straight off the roach clip
I roach it roll the blunt at once to approach it
Forward motion make you sway like the ocean
The herb is more tha
Dec 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
Sexually disgusting noir-trip.
Matthew Stokoe's prose completely got me. The way he describes LA, the way he climbs into the mind of a man so desperate for fame, the way he lets the story unfold,...not a scene seems out of place. Our protagonist Jack is a disgusting pervert at his core, but yet he makes for not only an interesting protagonist but also one you would like to see the story unfold through.
At heart High Life is indeed noir , but Stokoe also delves into hardcore scenes with necrophili
Aug 14, 2012 rated it liked it
Too much for some, but a fun read.

If you can get through the moments when you find yourself cringing and hoping no one around you knows exactly what you're reading, this is definitely an okay book to pick up.

Much of the often horrific sexual exploits that take place in this novel will make you cringe and almost retch with disgust, but will probably not make you put the book down (maybe once, but only for a minute). Think of the movies Saw, that human centipede one, and a cheap porno all being ed
Ben Arzate
May 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-own
Full Review

High Life is often excruciatingly unpleasant to read, but it’s an excellently crafted novel. Stokoe’s prose is vivid and easily moves between painting scenes of the wealthiest in LA and the worst dregs of its streets. Its harsh criticisms of Hollywood have proven to be extremely prescient and more relevant than ever. It does all this and remains an entertaining, page-turner mystery if one can adjust to the extremely disturbing imagery.
Sep 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Matthew Stokoe does it again! Cows blew my mind and "High Life" may have been less surreal and more "realistic" and gritty in some ways but I still don't know how to properly convey my emotions beyond reverence and amazement. Much like cows this is obviously not for the squeamish or faint at heart but..a definite underrated masterpiece. People can rave about chuck palahniuk all they want but people like Matthew Stokoe are the REAL masters! ...more
Aug 26, 2012 rated it liked it

I was torn between giving this 3 or 4 stars because I was concerned if I gave it 4 it would look like I was as sick, twisted and depraved as this book was! Haha There was alot of really sick shit (literally as well as figuratively) in here but the mystery kept me wanting to know who done it!! I could have done without the jackhammer scene and the necro stuff though and I am now worried that there are some really sick people in the world!
Jan 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I found Stokoe by reading Cows, which I heard was just over the top insanity (and it was, in all the best ways.) After that joyride, I needed more. High Life is just as crazy, but in a different way. The gore and raunchiness isn't the focus though; the story is really compelling, and I found myself unable to put the book down - I just wanted to know how things were going to play out. ...more
Jul 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just finished it last night on the train going home. If I could give this bitch more stars I would...

What a visceral, fucked-up, shank in the inner guts this book was. I'm trying to remember the last time I read a book so twisted & sick. I have some nasty stuff in my library, but DAAAAAAAYM...

And I want MORE.

Mr. Stokoe, please write some more. I loved this!!!
Sep 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Our protagonist is Jack and his blank voice is brought vividly to life by Mr Stokoe who understands noir fiction's rhythm and detached humour.
One can almost hear the sleazy saxaphone riffs blazing through our anti-hero's sojourns into darkest (and brightest) Hollywood. None of it is any good and that makes it all the more attractive!
Nov 19, 2008 marked it as to-read
Honestly, I'm a little weary of reading this. I read Stokoe's other book, Cows, and given how disgusting that was, I'm not sure if I want to subject myself to something of that caliber again.

That said, I'm just a little curious...
Aug 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
the honesty and reality of this book made me shiver and read on
Sep 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Weirdest book I ever read.
Dec 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Easily the most vile and fucked up book I've ever read. Enter at your own risk, there are things in High Life that I wish I could unremember. It's an unforgettable detective story. ...more
Anna Anthropy
Jan 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
an accurate portrayal of what you have to do to find success in hollywood.
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“He parked his car carefully, made sure he'd set all the locks and the alarm. On the steps he kept looking behind him, snapping glances into shadows like he expected this to be a set-up with my gang waiting to roll him. Nervous. But I got this feeling the possibility of danger was all part of it for him. What he wanted was something with an edge to it, something stamped as unmistakable bad.

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