Come to Thompson, New Jersey, home of longheads and Little Bing Bong, the apocalypse donkey.
Squid Pulp Blues by Jordan Krall is certainly different. It is a collection of three novellas (and one short story in the Kindle version) which focus primarily on the seedy underbelly of Thompson, New Jersey. It ties together in terms of theme with Krall’s other books I’ve read, Fistful of Feet and Beyond the Valley of the Apocalypse Donkeys. Like Fistful of Feet was a tribute to the western genre with a bizarro twist, so too is Squid Pulp Blues a tribute to pulp crime stories with a similar twist.
Most of the characters in these novellas are criminals in some form or another. In addition, there has been a war in which many of the veterans came back with elongated heads and exhibit weird behavior, hence the name “longheads.” There’s also a comic strip described in the novellas about Fauntleroy Leroux and his attempt to stop Little Bing Bong, the apocalypse donkey, something that may be more real than people think.
The first novella, “The Haberdasher,” focuses on the goings on one night near the Solar Lodge Motel, involving several criminal types, an unidentified crazy woman, and the Haberdasher himself, a bipolar mafioso captain with strange sexual fetishes. The second novella is “The Longheads,” which focuses on some other criminal types running from an incontinent partner out for revenge, all while the longheads in town begin exhibiting particularly weird behavior, even for them. Finally, we have “The Apocalypse Donkey,” following the comic artist of the current Fauntleroy Leroux comics, who becomes the victim of a case of mistaken identity. All the novellas loosely tie together.
The characters are generally interesting if somewhat cookie cutter. There does seem to be a common problem with some of the characters being able to control their bowels. Note to self: Bring your own water when visiting Thompson, New Jersey.
The main problem with the book comes in with the stories themselves. While the stories are all entertaining, they become predictable in the overall sense. The details are different, but as the second novella plays out, you realize that it’s going to end very similar to the first one, and there’s not much surprise with how the third one will play out. It’s mostly a question of who lives and who dies.
Despite this, the stories are fun reads and worth your time, especially if you like violence, depraved sex acts, squids, and donkeys.
Squid Pulp Blues by Jordan Krall earns 4 straight razors out of 5.