Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

February 18, 2015

Review: The Obituarist II: Dead Men’s Data by Patrick O’Duffy

Filed under: books of 2015,books read,reviewage — Tags: , , , — lexifab @ 12:00 pm

Patrick O’Duffy’s followup to his wildly entertaining 2012 crime novella The Obituarist opens with the attention-grabbing line “ECCENTRIC MILLIONAIRE COMMITS SUICIDE-BY-BEAR”, then immediately subverts that declaration of delirious intent with a snarky deconstruction of its own cynicism and deceptiveness.

The book holds the same mirror up to its protagonist. Kendall Barber returns as Port Virtue’s resident social media undertaker, a systems analyst specialising in discretely closing down the online presence of the recently deceased on behalf of grieving relatives who may not want to know what their loved ones got up to online.

As before, Barber is a study in contradictions – a cynical, shifty smartarse with the cracking skills of a Russian spammer playing the part of a sensitive online undertaker. He’s a beaten-down has-been with a shaky assumed identity and a driving sense of justice undermined by a fluid ethical framework. Considering the rough treatment he collected in the previous story – beaten up, run over with a car, etc – he also has a surprisingly undeveloped sense of self-preservation when it comes to keeping his mouth shut.

Basically, he’s a perfect modern noir anti-hero. This time around he’s caught between an investigation of his racist demagogue client’s affairs, fending off a hot but nosy investigative journalist, getting the snot beaten out of him by the usual collection of brutal low-rent criminals and playing a game of cat and mouse with Port Virtue’s corrupt, violent police department. Oh, and being mauled by unexpected wildlife.

The setting of Port Virtue gets a little more flesh on its bones with this installment – Barber’s client is the local eccentric scrap merchant king, with a notorious private zoo and an off-the-book business as a right-wing crank-for-profit. The discovery of a collection of body parts looms over the story like a winter cloud. And Kendall Barber clearly has a love-hate relationship with the town where nobody knows he’s a native.

The Obituarist II: Dead Men’s Data is coarse, violent and awash with the weary bitterness of optimism dashed one too many times. And that’s a terrible description, because this book is also hilarious and brimming with righteous (and yeah, sometime self-righteous) anger. Kendall Barber is more devil than saint, and he knows it, but he’s determined to do as much good as possible before Port Virtue grinds him up for good. He just doesn’t plan to walk a righteous path to do it, not when tricks and lies will do the job just as well. (Spoiler: they don’t).

It’s short, it’s wild and contains even more creative swearing, grotesque thuggery and cautions against lazy password administration than the previous book. If nothing else, after reading this you will almost certainly want to tighten up your online security habits.

October 25, 2013

TMoRP Day 9 – Review – Nine Flash Nine by Patrick O’Duffy

I like flash fiction, even though it’s not always done well. By my lights, good flash fiction gets in with one shining idea, fleshes it out with humour or at least sparkling prose, and gets out before anyone notices how thin the concept is. One thousand words or less, all boom.

I like weird fiction. The more off the wall, creepy and surreal the ideas presented, the better as far as I’m concerned. It’s one of the few areas in fiction where I’ll give ground on decent characters and something resembling a plot, if the weirdness is weird enough, or fun enough, or simply something I haven’t seen or thought of before.

Nine Flash Nine, Patrick O’Duffy’s collection of nine flash fiction pieces are mostly a bit weird, even if not all of it could be defined as weird fiction. Or at least very weird mutations of the rather traditional story types they are emulating.

There’s the touring band rocked by murder but more rocked by internal dimness.

There’s a ‘Dear Penthouse Forum’ letter which is epically explicit and hilarious, but decidely unusual.

There’s an invasion by impossibly giant monsters who don’t give a rat’s arse that physics forbids their existence.

There’s one about a ghost moustache.

There’s five other stories. One simple idea per story, executed well. O’Duffy’s a writer who has fun with his language. These stories gleam with his trademark wit and insight and the occasional moment of well-directed snark. Like all good flash fiction, they’re gone way too soon.

The other thing is – look, the collection is a buck on Smashwords, so it’s not a huge investment. Personally I would recommend browsing his entire self-published catalogue. There’s good stuff in there, of which I’ve reviewed several pieces. (I read this back in March, and I feel kind of bad that it’s taken me this long to recommend it. But I do recommend it, because it’s a delight).

October 21, 2013

TMoRP Day 5 – GenreCon 2013

Last weekend I went to Brisbane for GenreCon, a convention for writers of genre fiction held at the Queensland State Library. As opposed to the speculative fiction focus of Canberra’s Conflux convention, GenreCon aims a bit wider to include the larger, more popular branches of not-literary writing: romance, thriller, crime and mystery stories.

Ostensibly I was there to build up my writing networks, learn a few writing tricks and gab with other enthusiasts about the state of the industry. But while I did all of those things, the real reason I went was that one of the international Guests of Honour was the inestimable Chuck Wendig, on whom I have a not-especially-well-disguised writercrush.

So if you will permit me a moment of unmitigated fannish glee, I may have swooned slightly on the inside when I got the chance to say hi at the opening reception, because he recognised my name. Or my Twitter handle, at least, which is just as good. As it happens, that sparked a fun chat about how Twitter opens doors between fans and the writers they love, who they might otherwise feel are out of their class (as it were). Chuck admitted feeling exactly the same way about people like John Scalzi and Joe Hill, but he had his own visitation from the Squee Fairy when when Margaret Attwood started tweet-chatting with him. Yeah, I can grok that.

Before I reluctantly set Chuck aside to talk about the rest of the con, let me just add that he was an amazing addition to the con. As a panellist he was funny, insightful and generous with his advice. And I gather from his post-con tweets that he is now uncontrollably addicted to Tim Tams, so he will undoubtedly be looking for opportunities to come back to Australia. Con organisers, take note.

Okay, as for GenreCon itself, it was amazing. There were so many enthusiastic, sharp and gregarious people around that I barely slowed down all weekend. I caught up with several good friends and made a whole bunch of new ones. In particular I want to give a huge thanks to Chris Andrews and Jodi Cleghorn, who introduced me to a small army of friendly people and made my weekend complete. And to my good buddy Evan, who put me up for the weekend. I take it as a sign of the success of GenreCon that he succumbed to writery peer pressure and joined Twitter this morning. (Heh. Sucker.)

GenreCon was amazing. The thing I look for (and indeed need) from a convention is a sense of belonging to a community, and GenreCon had that by the warm, giving bucketload, from the happy crowd of cheeky romance writers who went out of their way to make everyone feel welcome to the charming and hilarious group of horror writers that took me for drinks on Saturday night (White Rabbit Ales at the Archive in West End – highly recommended).

My heartfelt congratulations for a job well done to GenreCon organisers Meg Vann and Peter Ball (well, they were the “faces” of the con, but of course there was an invisible cadre of ninjas slipping about making everything happen. Many of them get a shoutout at that link to Peter’s blog). The next GenreCon proper will be in Melbourne in 2015. I can’t recommend it highly enough for its fun, inviting atmosphere and good cheer.

For the next one, which I will attend if at all possible, I resolve only the following:

1) I will book for all events. This year I passed on the dinner because I figured I wouldn’t enjoy socialising. I understand now that this is, to put it mildly, crazypants thinking. By all accounts the banquet (themed “Kiminos and Cutlasses”) was a glittering affair, and the keynote addresses were hilarious. And dammit, I enjoyed socialising all the rest of the time, so why did I think I would feel shy? Dunno. Won’t make that mistake again.

2) I will stay until the end of the con. I had to catch an afternoon flight home on Sunday, which meant that I had to leave the con shortly before lunch. I missed the final three sessions. I was sad. (Especially since I could read all the tweets joyfulling arising from the sessions I was missing. Damn you, social media.)

3) I will make the time to chat with (among others) Patrick O’Duffy, with whom I was only able to share the most fleeting of encounters. And by not joining the impromptu karaoke outing, I missed out on seeing him to his now-infamous rendition of “Total Eclipse of the Heart”. Dammit.

Edit: Fixed a name’s spelling because I am dumb.

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