Serial killer have a little bit of an image problem, especially of late where terrorists (home grown and imported) and school shooters have taken over the spotlight and media headlines. Sure, there are still a few famous ones; Ted Bundy, William Colton Hughes, or Jeffrey Dahmer comes to mind, but otherwise there is not a lot of interesting bunch of them around anymore.
And it´s understandable, you can´t really go and kill people at random, nope, you need a mission, you need to make a statement, otherwise killing people just because doesn´t really cut it. That is definitely even more of a problem when you´re living in Hickory Town, Bumblefuck, where the jobs are rare, money is tight and besides a strip club not much left for entertainment.
The other problem is as an aspiring serial killer - meet Calvin Cantrell - you need some proper training but where to start? As every successful serial killer knows, you start with killing cats, that´s what you do. Just there is this tiny little problem that your neighbors might get suspicious if their beloved kittens go missing. Not easy. Plus you need a calling card, a recognizable M.O. Just in case you finally are making it into the papers coz you have made a name for yourself that strikes fear into people´s lives. That is important too when you are in and out of Hickory Town, Bumblefuck when you want to become someone when until then you are a no one.
I imagined Calvin back as a young one when some humble school teacher asking the kids what they want to become later in life. We all have been there. A doctor, an astronaut, a ballerina, and Calvin raising his hand, I want to become someone else.
And that is the gist of the novel, those might not be the smartest of the people, their circumstances going downhill a while back when nobody was looking, but still they hold some sort of integrity to their lives and try to make the best of it, even stripping might all they know how to do. Ironically that´s something that ties the characters together, a human treat of making the best out of it even there is not a lot to nothing to begin with.
At the end of the day those are mediocre people doing mediocre things, forgettable, unremarkable normally, if not for Eryk Pruitt giving them a place to shine. Or maybe he doesn´t shine a light on them exactly, but the jury´s still out on that.
Anyway, those are the obstacles Calvin has to deal with, but when opportunity strikes he knew he found his calling. Tied in to a failed school shooter, Philipp, another trailer park reject, he thinks it´s as good as anything to kill Tom London´s ex-wife who caused a little bit of a scene when wanting her son back in her custody. London is the biggest restaurant owner in town and as far as he is concerned the protoype of the good citizen. He simply cannot have it that his ex-wife interferes in his life again. Nope, his second wife wouldn´t want have any of that, and does nobody think of the children? Well, Tom London does.
Now of course if you have shit for brains, are dumber than a big pile of dog poop, and every day is a demon´s christmas carol for you, you are really, truly fucked. And fucked he is, Tom London that is. Mostly by his mistress, Rhonda, and even more so he is fucked over by his second wife Reyna, after things are going downhill fast for him. Not a woman ever to take kindly to adultry, or anything, really, she is out to get him good and proper.
The second chapter, can I call it a chapter?, those dealing with Tom London from his POV is the strongest of the three. He is a loathsome asshole of a restaurant owner, but justifies everything he does with his son. Raising prices or cutting down on the meat, treat his Mexican employers like shit, - because of Jason, obviously as he justifies everything in the name of his son. At first this sounds ridiculous, until it´s starting to just being plain funny. Still, once shit hits the fan I felt pity for him. Nevertheless he deserved all the shit he got in return, just how he got pooped at.. nope, sire, that ain´t right. So fuck you Mr Pruitt for making me care about some asshole.
And that is the biggest accomplishment of Dirtbags, coz D-bags they are all. There are zero saints, and there is a whole lotta lot of games being played, which comes to light more and more. The back and forth between past and present, the crossing and double-crossing takes some and some more. Pruitt, however, takes the satire and runs with it until the point of discomfort. It´s a bit of a distorted mirror where you see some parts that might make you question a thing or two about yourself, hence some sort of an ´it ain´t right´ feeling setting in. Until you start laughing coz it´s really too absurd of what you see.
The last part, those of Rhonda, is the weakest of the lot. Mainly because Pruitt had to fill in the gaps, go further into what role she is playing, being Calvin´s wife and all, and explain more of everything that is happening throughout the novel. So it partially fades simply away, even there is a big show down with a nice twist, and you get a good glimpse into her inner workings and what made her the woman she is today. For that alone it is worth reading though, even the special knack is kinda not there anymore.
The first, roughly, 15%-20% feels a bit lacking in confidence in his writing, maybe, and somehow doesn´t feel as tense and neat as later parts. Just at some point, a particular scene really, everything is falling together, the pieces make click and the writing itself started to surprise me. And I was hooked. The story telling in small and large is great, even the prose gets its tender treatment of poetic, even hellbent, justice. Maybe his #DaddySworeAnOath too to make him a reverend, preaching to the choir and all, but this I do not know.
The three different main POVs, those of Calvin, Tom and Rhonda, could most likely even stand alone as is, as some sort of novellas maybe. Much more fun are they of course as a part of the novel, the often quoted "bigger picture". The humor is black, it´s even ridiculously funny at times, the prose tight and a serial killer novel for people who don´t care one bit about serial killers. Alas, with the bits and pieces about serial killers thrown in arbritarily by Calvin into conversations you can learn a thing or two you missed in classes. Did you know that Ted Bundy rejected his steak before he was getting toasted? Nope? Now you do.
One thing Pruitt was getting right for sure,
"This is a plot convoluted enough for a shitty novelist or a B-movie. Scratch that. No novelist worth his salt would touch this plot."
And that pretty much sums up ´Dirtbags´.
I´m such a fierce bitch that I didn´t even cry, but you know...