This novel coughs up the dregs of Toronto’s pre-millennial streets and introduces us to a world of drug dealing lawyers, transsexual deviants and delivers it all with a noir touch, leaving this reviewer feeling suffocated and thrilled all at the same time. The abject action rarely lets up in this, Philip Quinn’s latest novel The Skeleton Dance. Robert Walker, the novel’s protagonist, is a drug-addicted ad writer who always seems to be on the verge of intensified trouble. You could call him down and out, it would be a fair assessment.
The reader is close to all the dirty-doings through and through, whether or not one can sympathize with the circumstances depicted in the pages of the book doesn’t really matter, it’s all happening at hyper-speed, death-obsessed narration, with barbed dialogue and characters pitted against one another with the calculating cruelty of a brutal war. Robert seems to latch onto people he cannot trust, the drugs don’t help his situation either, he becomes more and more of a junkie as the story progresses, and his childhood best friend the lawyer Klin, one of the book’s most compelling characters, seems unwilling to help him from hitting rock bottom, even though he posts his bail when Robert gets into a car crash and is found with a weapon.
The novel is amusing, disturbing and full of all the grit you’d expect from Quinn, but it’s not for weaklings, that’s for sure. The sex and violence is so harsh at times, you’ll be cringing as you turn the page to see just how cruel and unusual things are going to get.
Rarely do these monstrous creatures come up for clean air. (Nathaniel G. Moore)
by Philip Quinn $18, 167 pgs, Anvil Press, 278 East 1st Ave., Vancouver, BC V5T 1A6, anvilpress.com