With his debut novel, John Claude Smith has taken the template for zany drugged-out strange fiction and tore it a new asshole, as the saying goes. I mean, I grew up reading the works of William Burroughs Junior and Senior and Hunter S. Thompson and they were all a bit strange. This book takes the last hulking piece of strange cake.
The premise is a disarmingly simple one- a woman hires a private detective to help her track down her brother who is on a dark and weird scavenger hunt of highs known as "Riding The Centipede. " He is on a literal quest from one location and deed to another to get the little highs that will eventually take him to the ultimate high, one supplied by the master William Burroughs himself.
That is the bare bones break down of this book. It is wallpapered with chases and murder, aliens and insectoids, hallucinations and hookers. It is like Cronenberg's cinematic version of Naked Lunch meets that weird 1979 David Naughton flick, Midnight Madness. It would be a fun, ridiculous romp were it not so damned bleak and dark.
Smith carves his prose from a thick trunk of words. He slithers from traditional structure to experimental lines. His characters are intricate and desolate and completely untrustworthy, except when you need to trust them. There is symbolism and then there are things that are to be taken precisely as they are presented. Sometimes a wound is just a wound, except when it smiles and shows teeth.
Riding The Centipede is available from Omnium Gatherum Press, and Amazon