This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books
Book: King of the Perverts
Author: Steve Lowe
Type of Book: Bizarro, novella, (borders on) pornographic (but not in a particularly sexy way)
Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: Lowe created the “sexcathlon” and what I hoped were made-up sexual acts but weren’t, god help me.
Availability: Published in 2012 by Grindhouse Press, you can get a copy here:
Comments: I was expecting something far different when I received this book in the mail. The cover, featuring a sleazy flasher with a bouquet of red flowers hiding his crotch, made my mind go to some very gross and demented places. While this book was quite disgusting in some areas, it wasn’t The Diary of a Rapist made modern and set in a bizarro world. It wasn’t even as subversively gross as some of R. Crumb’s drawings. But it’s interesting to note how the absence of a continual onslaught of over-the-top sexual darkness made this book all the odder. Not that there isn’t some disturbing content. There is. It’s just disturbing content mixed with a lot of humor.
Steve Lowe is an odd duck, which seems like a no-brainer because he is a bizarro writer. Of course he’s a little odd, right? Sure, but what sets Lowe apart from some of his bizarro brethren is that while he employs odd environments and strange plot details, he also manages to write excellent character-driven fiction. And he manages to write character-driven fiction as he discusses arcane and/or wholly fictional (one hoped and one’s hopes were completely dashed) sex acts like the “Abe Lincoln” and the “Alligator Fuckhouse.” There were points during this novel when Lowe relied on caricatures, like the evil, money-grubbing ex-wife, and the protagonist, Dennis, sometimes was a bit too sad-sack for my tastes, but every step he takes in this book is a perverse step in regaining control of his life.
And yeah, the ending is… sort of rom-com-ish once you get past the horrifying, deeply disturbing section that takes place just before, but who cares when there’s violence, the mob, disgusting sex acts and even more disgusting sex acts.
I was a bit concerned when I realized that Lowe was mining a familiar vein – man down on his luck auditions for a controversial game show – but sometimes very interesting stories can be told within somewhat hackneyed settings, and Lowe does indeed tell an interesting story. Hilarious too, but then again I’ve always found the scatological far funnier than the average person.
The story begins in medias res with Dennis contemplating how it is he is going to complete a particular sex act, for he has entered into a reality television contest wherein men compete to see who can complete the most esoteric and perverse sex acts. Dennis is quickly in over his head, his innate decency at war with his desire to win enough money to take care of all the problems he faces after his financially and sexually profligate wife, Carrie, left him. Dennis, who is actually a very nice and sexually average guy, is faced with completing a golden shower with an imposingly pretty woman. Overcome by nerves, he is trying to get it all over with as easily as he can, but nothing really comes easy for Dennis, or without a lot of rumination:
Asking her to pee on me would go over better than asking if I could pee on her. As far as I understand the rules of the game, a golden shower is a golden shower, regardless of the recipient. So better me than her.
But I can’t honestly claim chivalry here. There’s a performance anxiety element to this, like trying to piss at one of those cattle troughs in a football stadium, where you’re shoulder to shoulder with dozens of guys, staring at the wall in front of you, forcing your eyes to remain locked straight ahead and not wonder if you had the guy next to you beat in the meat packing department. Nothing was worse than holding up the shuffling, drunken queue behind you because you couldn’t make wee-wee when the moment of truth arrived.
So how does his first golden shower work out for Dennis?
Waterboarded by a babe.
Dennis is clearly not into the experience.
I cough and blow urine from my sinuses, gagging on the bitter burning in the back of my throat. When I can see again, I look up at her. She’s dry heaving, holding her bucking guts with both hands, preparing to add an appletini chaser to my golden shower. I scramble, slipping on the soiled slick tile flooring, spinning my tires in the puddle of piss beneath me. I almost get away in time.
Poor Dennis is clearly not an emetophiliac. And we can also learn a very good lesson from this – never ask a very drunk woman to piss on your head. You may end up covered in far more bodily emissions than you bargained for.
Though Lowe handles quite well Dennis’ progression from abandoned schlub to a man who manages his life and has a chance at genuine affection with an honest, decent woman, I think the reason to read this book is for the hilarious and bizarre descriptions of Dennis’ attempt to win the title of King of the Perverts. To avoid spoiling the plot, I’ll have to restrain myself from going into too much detail but I really want to share some more of Lowe’s demented sense of humor. He also has an excellent ear for dialogue and a style that is very appealing in its simplicity. His clean and fluid style enabled me to read the squickiest of details without feeling overwhelmed by the sexually… interesting parts.
And there were many sexually interesting (and gross and hilarious) parts, a couple of which I swore had to be the result of Lowe’s fevered imagination. Alas, a Google proved me wrong. An “Alligator Fuckhouse” is a thing, people, though the online descriptions varied, as they so often do in such matters. The “Abe Lincoln?” Totally not made up and, interestingly, a source of great guilt for Dennis once he finishes the act. So in a way, this book was an education of sorts. A deeply gross education. I’ll give a little context for the quotes but not too much.
Here’s a funny scene, when the game show organizer is giving Dennis a critique on his performance:
Peter’s voice kicks up an octave with excitement as he explains, “We had to tweak the order of the challenges a little bit, but you managed to pull off two of them tonight in one spectacular performance.”
“Yes, you did! First, you hung in like a trooper and went the distance to finish off that donkey punch but then you went the extra mile and snuck in an angry pirate.
“An angry wha-wha?”
“Technically, there were a couple of things not quite right with your angry pirate. You nailed the cumshot to the eyes to produce a squint, but for a proper AP, you were supposed to follow with a kick to the shin to get her hopping around like she has a ‘peg leg’.” He makes air quotes when he says peg leg.
“Your little bunny did that to herself tonight by running into the dresser, but the result ended up being the same – one pissed off bunny hopping around on one leg, squinting. The angry pirate!”
It’s indeed a perverse world wherein one can find out one has completed an angry pirate without even knowing such a thing exists. It was hard not to pity Dennis. He feels very uncomfortable involving unsuspecting women in the perversions he is asked to perform, but his situation in real life is so dire (his ex has left him in horrible debt and gave birth to another man’s child while married to him, putting him on the hook for child support so he really needs the money from winning the contest) that he forces himself to continue. And when he feels he wants to stop, he has a lunatic handler named Mongo who forces him onward in his perverse quest.
It’s also a perverse quest of the damned. Poor Dennis. His dirty sanchez does not end well and he wakes in the ER with no memory of the night before and a nurse named Sarah mocking his plight.
Was there a bar fight? Did I get hit with a bottle? That doesn’t seem familiar at all.
I can see stairs.
Did I fall down stairs?
And why do I still smell ass? Something in here definitely smells like a butt. I wonder if another patient in the ER has shit themselves, but Sarah sees me sniffing the air like I’m tracking foxes on a morning hunt. She solves the mystery for me by pointing at the tiny sink set in the wall next to the tiny desk.
“That smell is you,” she says. “Wash your hands and face really well with that antibacterial soap. Wouldn’t want anybody getting E. coli because of you, Señor.”
Oh, Dennis… But perhaps this was his instant karmic-payback for involving unsuspecting women in his quest for the title of King of the Perverts.
This is novella-length book, coming in at 111 pages, and Lowe manages to cram a lot into those pages. There are moments when it feels rushed but I also think that Dennis’ mess and desperation of his life had to be handled in a rushed manner. What is remarkable about this book is how full a character Dennis is. Lowe has a gift for creating believable characters with depth even in the middle of a ludicrous or extreme plot line. I remember the body-switched husband and father in Muscle Memory, a man who is having to deal with horrible realities as the world around him is going mad in a comedic way. This is not something you see a lot of in bizarro – excellent character development and growth are at times thin on the ground in the genre. You can lose track of his excellent characterization in the midst of his extreme plot, but it’s there.
All in all, this was a very good follow-up to Muscle Memory. Lowe’s humor, ear for dialogue, love of the nasty, fine characterization and willingness to plumb the depths of absurdity make King of the Perverts an excellent book. It has its problems – like the rom-com sort of ending I alluded to earlier – but that which works in this book far outweighs that which doesn’t. I recommend this book and would love to hear from anyone who managed to complete an Alligator Fuckhouse without going to jail afterward.