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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Sometimes it happens ...

...that a story is way better than the writing that's gone into it. Fer example, The Handmaids Tale—compared to Atwood’s other stories, the writing in this utterly gripping, horror show, struck me as clunky. Jarring even. I realize now that this may’ve been the plan—a way of bludgeoning home the point, the message. I almost, on initial perusal in the mid/late ‘80s, put it down though. It was the written equivalent of a buggy ride on a bumpy, unpaved farm road after a bad storm. I didn’t stop reading though. I couldn't—the story had me by the throat.
In the mid-1980s near Boston, Massachusetts, a cabal of rightwing fundamentalists murders the U.S. President and members of Congress, disenfranchises women by impounding their credit cards and denying them jobs and education, and sets up Gilead, a repressively conservative state bent on annihilating homosexuals, abortionists, and religious sects other than their own, and resettling Jews, old women, and nonwhite people in radioactive territory, known as the Colonies. (source)
Yeah, apparently Cruz and the rest of the god-rapers on the “right” read this not as dystopian, future shock fiction but as a blue print.

In any case, I just finished The Ghost of the Cuban Queen Bordello: A Story of a 1920's Jerome, Arizona Madam. The title promises incredible thrills, chills, SEX and ragtime, all with an invitingly sordid overtone. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

By the by, I’m just wild for Jerome, Arizona. If I could jump back in time, I'd love to visit this former wickedest town in the West in its 1920s heydays. Reading some of its skeevy history has to tide me over until I can get my hands on, say, a DeLorean DMC-12 or Bill and Ted's phone booth.

Here’s the thing, the author, Peggy Hicks, is no Margaret Atwood. Nope, not even in the same star system. Her book starts as ghost story (*cough* plot device! *cough*), plunges quickly into biography, history, then fiction (Hicks includes character’s imagined thoughts and conversations) and eventually comes around, at the end, to the ghost story/plot device again.

It’s a confused, insufficiently edited jumble. Sentences and sometimes entire paragraphs are repeated from one section to another. Hicks jumps around in the story and seems to forget whether she’s already included this tidbit or that.

Also, someone should buy this woman a thesaurus or, at least, point her in the direction of

Interestingly, Jelly Roll Morton plays a big part. He and the Queen met when they were both working in the bordellos of Storyville and had a lifelong friendship of sorts.

The Cuban Queen’s life is definitely, nastily fascinating. As much as Hicks’ writing, at points, actually pissed me off with its graceless, shoddiness, I couldn’t put the book down. It’s a movie waiting to be made. Except, of course, you’d need to hire an honest to Bast decent, talented writer to fix this hot mess.

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