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Review of Wild Turkey by Michael Hemmingson

Review of Wild Turkey by Michael Hemmingson



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Published by Tim W. Brown
Review of Wild Turkey, a novel by Michael Hemmingson. Originally appeared in the Spring 2002 edition of Rain Taxi Online.
Review of Wild Turkey, a novel by Michael Hemmingson. Originally appeared in the Spring 2002 edition of Rain Taxi Online.

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Published by: Tim W. Brown on Jul 12, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Wild Turkey
. A novel by Michael Hemmingson. New York: Forge (a division of TomDoherty Associates), hardcover, 156 pages, $21.95.By Tim W. BrownAfter reading Michael Hemmingson’s fiction for several years I finally had theopportunity to meet the author in fall 2001 at Death Equinox ’01, a literary conferenceheld in Denver, where transgressive fiction and practice intersected. The climax of theevent involved chaining the conference chairperson facedown on a table, stripping her tothe waist and torturing her with electricity, fire, razor blades and -- I’m not making thisup -- live leaches that writhed ecstatically on her bloody back. While most of us in theconference room looked on with a mixture of curiosity and horror, Hemmingson was busy videotaping the event, no doubt thinking about how he could incorporate the sceneinto his fiction.If Hemmingson is not yet the high priest of transgressive fiction, then he certainlyis among the church’s leading members. The author of several novels and storycollections and editor of the recent
What the Fuck: The Avant Porn Anthology
(Soft SkullPress), he has spent the past decade pushing the envelope in literary fiction. At firstglance his latest effort, the novel
Wild Turkey
, departs from the transgressive formula (if one can be said to exist). It takes the form of a contemporary noir thriller with a murder to solve, a conflicted hero and a beautiful woman who leads the hero along a path of self-destruction.Philip Lansdale is a disbarred attorney now living as a stay-at-home dad. He becomes infatuated with a gorgeous woman, Cassandra Payne, who lives across thestreet. His neighbor Bryan, a retired cop, shares his interest, and they spend their time
 boozing and observing her comings and goings, fantasizing about sex with her, andwondering why mysterious strangers visit her at all hours of the day and night. Not long after she captures their attention, Cassandra’s husband is ambushed andkilled. Convinced that Cassandra is responsible for the murder, Bryan and Philip joinforces to investigate. The watchful neighbor soon turns into a voyeur as he peers into her  bedroom window and spies on her activities. Infatuation grows into obsession, which begets midnight trysts after she discovers him peeping. Ignoring the obvious dangers of tangling with a possible murderess, Philip yields to her seductions, and the coupleembarks on a twisted relationship:“Friday night, Mr. Lansdale,” she said, “come back Friday night at the same time,and let’s see how we shall transgress our little affair.”Affair. I guess this was what it was -- I was being unfaithful to my wife, in certainways. In many ways. I was committing adultery and I wanted to keep doing it and Iwanted to “transgress.” (p. 70)As the plot further unfolds, it is clear that Mickey Spillane has been cross-hybridized with Kathy Acker. Additional death and mayhem ensue, involving Las Vegasgamblers, counterfeiters, transsexuals, hit men, pyromaniacs, treasury agents, armedshowgirls, paraplegics and desert rats. The bloody resolution to the story would makeSpillane proud. Acker, the late queen of transgressive fiction, would have loved the bizarre characters that burst from the shadows.Despite the potential for lapsing into utter nihilism,
Wild Turkey
is fundamentallya story of transgression, punishment and redemption. With sentences firing straight as bullets into the reader’s brain, Hemmingson fashions scenes full of steamy sex,exhilarating violence and unbearable pain. Transformed into voyeurs themselves, readers

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