02 January 2006

Faking It

While checking out some of my regular web haunts one fine November morning, I stumbled upon a unique offer on Sam Sugar's very cool (but NSFW) blog:

If you run a blog on any topic, and it's been going a couple of months, email me your URL, name, and address, and I'll send you a free copy of Craig's first book The Contortionist's Handbook. You don't have to promise to write about it or, if you do, say anything other than what you feel. I think the quality of his writing will speak for itself. I just want you to read the book.
I'm a sucker for free stuff, and I met the criteria, so I e-mailed my info and a few weeks later, an autographed copy of Craig Clevenger's novel The Contortionist's Handbook turned up in the post. As I was working my way through a few other books, the novel sat at the bottom of the "to read" pile for a while, but I finally got around to reading it.

The book tells the story of John Vincent, a guy with a talent for forging documents who has spent much time in various juvenile detention halls, prisons and psych wards. Plagued by an extra finger on his left hand that brings him unwanted attention and, more seriously, painful headaches ("godsplitters") that he self-medicates with ever-higher doses of whatever narcotics he can procure, Vincent ends up in a mental hospital being questioned by a shrink who thinks the godsplitters are all in his head (get it?).

Vincent is a likable antihero and Clevenger's book is a good, compelling tale. His prose is well crafted and highly readable, for lack of a better word. There are a few self-consciously "writerly" passages scattered throughout the book, but that's to be expected in a debut novel. Regardless, I always like stories with a strong "how-to" component, and Contortionist's Handbook features passages that describe the tricks of Vincent's trade. It's cool to learn insider stuff, and as presented in the novel, it's totally believable. Whether Clevenger painstakingly researched how to forge birth certificates and passports or just made it all up is beside the point -- it's believably written.

I'd like to read more of Clevenger's work. Especially if Sam Sugar wants to send me more free books.


magdelena said...

Excellent review. Sam featured mine on the 29th December, should you be interested it features on his site and mine - be warned though, I am a sex blogger (tastefully so but best you are aware.)

I have my hard backed copy of Dermaphoria making it's way from Amazon and I'm really looking forward to its arrival.

Fantastic blog title incidentally.

Warmest Regards,


Vitamin J said...

Thanks for your kind words.