Friday, September 11, 2009

Killer Tease

Killer Tease
Written by: Danny Hogan
Paperback: 113 pages
Publisher: Pulp Press
Language: English
January 2009, $8.00
Genre: Fiction/Pulp

“Smiling, winking, pouting, hinting, allowing a quick peek – she was more titillating than a thousand dead-eyed cover girls who would show their all for cash and a taste of the highlife. She danced, punters watched. They didn’t touch. She had to perform –Burlesque was her reason to be.”

Eloise Murphy was a pure thoroughbred of the old school. It had taken her years of work to pay her dues; and she had paid them the old-fashioned way. Her ink was proof. She had fought tooth and nail for what she had. No-one was going to take away what she had earned, no matter what low-life, foul, under-hand schemes they threw at her.

Set in and around Kemp Town and the seafront pubs and clubs of Brighton, Killer Tease is a mean tale of getting up after being kicked to the ground.


A few years ago McSweeney’s put out an issue edited by Michael Chabon that was a collection of pulp fiction stories by authors like Stephen King, Dave Eggers and Nick Hornby. I loved it. The original pulp novels were printed on cheap wood pulp rather than slickness of more expensive magazines. And while authors like Raymond Chandler and Robert Heinlein wrote for pulps, they are mostly known for their cover art, and the exploitative stories that were within. It’s a great little genre. Usually they are gritty, unapologetic and a hell of a lot of fun just like their settings which are usually violent, crime ridden and just a little bit seedy. So when I got Killer Tease in the post and looked at the cover I was pleased as punch. Looking like a cheap dime novel with the faux distressed cover as if I’d found it in sitting among the penny dreadfuls at the local used boostore, it has our heroine looking tough and gritty with taglines of “Burlesque was her life but, in the seedy underbelly of Brighton, it might be the death of her.

Eloise Murphy is a burlesque dancer and though she may not bare it all she will crush your jaw if you manhandle her once she is off the stage. Likewise to the lap dancing cheap thrills upstarts who try to tell her she is a has been. Eloise is not a nice girl. She’s right out of Grindhouse exploitation film of the 60’s and 70’s, the girl with the razorblade smile who is too tough as nails for her to be sexy or glamorous. She’s had a hard life and has the scars both on the inside and outside to prove it.

After smashing a tumbler into a client who is trying to roofie her, Murphy finds herself out of a job and away from her beloved stage. Things only go from bad to worse when she finds a new gig from a wealthy club owner, especially when she is blackmailed into accepting the job when she realizes that there is something off about the whole thing. This is more than a burlesque job, when she gets on stage she discovers that it was all a ruse and every audience member is someone who saw her temper a time or two. They’re here to inflict pain and a lot of it. That is what they paid for after all.

Bruised and battered, Eloise goes for vengeance. Hell hath no fury is an understatement and what is left is a violent bloody romp that would make Tarantino proud.

Things I loved: You don’t like Eloise and yet you cannot help but root for her at the end. She is a mean, unappealing character and wears that title proudly just as her writer writes her unapologetically. But there is something endearing about her as much as you wouldn’t want to be on the same side of the street with her. She has attitude. She doesn’t take shit for anyone and despite that hardness you can’t help but admire her for not giving up, for not being the damsel in distress. Granted she becomes a berserker in a corset with a hatchet, but…you dig her. I want her to win and I want the bad guys to pay in really horrible ways. Maybe that is the horror fan in me.

Things I didn't love so much: The ending is a bit rushed and could have been stretched out a bit considering that the first half of the book is pure setup to the last bloody and brutal finale. It’s a quick read, but almost too much so. I wanted the holes to be filled in a bit more to make it truly wonderful just as I wanted character motivations to be a bit more clear. There is history between characters but I wasn’t quite sure what it was and I think it would have helped with the story.

Buy or Borrow: Buy if you are a fan of the pulp genre. Borrow if it is something you are not sure you will like. For me the pulp novels I usually like are Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe more than a Kill Bill sort of thing. But I wasn’t disappointed. There was nothing that said the book was going to be anything other than what it promised. In the end it just isn’t quite the thing I read frequently.

Part of: Stand Alone

Also Recommended: The above mentioned McSweeney’s, The Vengeful Virgin by Gil Brewer and Money Shot by Christa Faust.

3.25 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Have your own review? Let me know and I will post it.

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