12th May 2010
Let Me Die a Woman by Alan Kelly
Let Me Die a Woman is the first book by young Irish writer Alan Kelly. If you’ve got a better memory than me, you’ll remember I mentioned when I bought it, at the Pulp Press party back in April. I’ve been engrossed in it ever since. Published in handy pocketbook format, Pulp Press‘ manifesto is all about escapism; “turning off the TV and discovering fiction like it used to be.”And in Let Me Die a Woman, Alan definitely delivers.
The book is a fast-paced, Grand Guignol-inspired cartoon-kitsch narrative, described in the lurid, technicolour detail of 50s dime store paperbacks and B-movies. It opens in rural Ireland, where a sulky redhead teen called Jessica is being coerced by her mother into visiting a Scarecrow Festival in a village nearby. Sounds like a innocent and twee start to the story, but the button-eyed straw-stuffed sackcloths are soon revealed to be far more sinister than they first seem. They’re monstrous, murderous alien creatures, hell-bent on domination and destruction, no matter how much human flesh they have to farm to multiply and take over.
Flash-forward several years and the novella is now focused on horror magazine editor Bunny Flask, a woman being muscled out of her job by misogynistic magazine proprietor Mick Jones. Impulsive and slightly insane as all iconic, revenge-crazed heroines are, Bunny teams up with friend (and Jones’ ex-wife), Kiffany Boston-Gifford, in order to teach Jones a thing or two. But they haven’t reckoned on Alice Fiend, Jones’ new recruit to the magazine, who has an agenda all her own. At a dizzying pace, the text uncovers each of the characters’ dark and seedy secrets, leading to a violent, action-packed climax.
Alan is a skilled author, with a razor-sharp wit and potty-mouthed eloquence that resonates with the reader long after they’ve finished the book. The evocative language he uses, despite taking its cues from old-school pulp fiction staples, somehow manages to be both visceral and visual, so that in the gore-splattered blood ‘n’ guts scenes, I found myself grimacing at every impact and injury.
He has a particular talent for descriptive throwaway lines, delivered with deadpan comic timing. In one scene, Kiffany admires an artist’s portrait of her hung over the fireplace in her ex’s home. “She liked the picture,” the narrator explains. “It made her look like an insouciant French slut.” In another, Bunny dismisses the excuses Mick uses for booting her out of her job, claiming his actions are more motivated by the fact that “I wouldn’t suck your squirrel’s dick.”
And although at times the text could have benefited from a heavier-handed sub-editor and perhaps a more in-depth introduction of the central characters, Let Me Die a Woman is a completely engrossing and enjoyable read, with potential to become a cult classic.
Post by Jane Bradley