Did You Eat Your Bowl Of Darkness Today?

Toykoatnight

Sometimes I dream about traveling to far off countries, seeing historic sites, meeting new people. And then I think of using public toilets in a foreign country and I think: Nope. Nope. Nope. I have a problem using the toilets at work. Me, travel to a completely foreign country where I might get diarrhea forever? Or eat unrecognizable food. I might have to eat something raw from the ocean that is still opening and closing its mouth: Nope. Nope. Nope. I can’t imagine walking down a narrow street in Tokyo, thinking ‘What’s that smell?’ and ‘Am I ever going to see my mom again?’ and then WHUMP!  I vanish from the streets. Nobody saw anything. Nobody heard anything. I never existed.

peoplewhoeatdarknessAs detailed by Richard Parry in the true crime book People Who Eat Darkness, that’s exactly what happened to Lucie Blackman in the summer of 2000. Lucie was a 21-year-old British woman in serious debt. The kind of debt that would take a lifetime to pay off. She and her friend Louise heard that if they took jobs as bar hostesses in Tokyo, they could pay off their debts fast. A hostess is basically a kind of fetish for the Japanese man. A hostess, often a foreign woman, gets paid to sit down and talk with a client for a few hours at a bar. Does prostitution come into play? Here’s where it gets a little murky.

Women who are hostesses can also go out on paid ‘dates’ with these gentlemen. The hostess gets part of the money while the club they work for also gets a cut. The men who pay for these dates are their ‘dohans.’ What the women do on these dates with their dohans is up to them. The hostesses are expected to let the men talk, flatter them, sympathize with their daily lives, and so on. Even if they’re the ugliest, rudest, most boring human on the planet. Sounds like a blind date where you’re way too nice to pretend to use the bathroom and then slip out the restaurant’s kitchen, so you sit for HOURS listening to him talk about his garage band and how he’s living in his mom’s basement ‘temporarily.’

One evening Lucie goes out to meet her dohan and calls her best friend Louise and says the man is giving her a cell phone, which was a pretty big deal back in 2000. And that’s it. No one hears from Lucie ever again. A man with perfect English calls Louise the next day to tell her that Lucie has joined a cult and will not be in contact with friends or family members. Lucie was in no way religious but she upped and joined a cult? Thus begins an almost decade long battle for Lucie’s family to find justice for her.

The Japanese police seem baffled as to what they can do to help and initially refuse to search for Lucie. Lucie’s father and sister come from England and begin searching for her, holding media interviews and setting up the Lucie Blackman Trust. There’s something slightly off about the father, nothing horrendously evil but something just this side of smarmy. He doesn’t grieve in the way people think he should. We all react differently to loss and if someone loses a loved one, especially to murder, we expect them to gnash their teeth and tear their clothing. But some people are subtle and subdued grievers.

Lucie’s sister, looking eerily similar to her dead sister, faces the public with anger and bitterness. Other hostesses begin to come forward, telling stories of waking up naked in a strange bed with the night before a blur and no idea what happened to them. They too were dismissed by the Japanese police. They all described the same man: quiet and on the sweaty side. But the man who spoke perfect English on the phone proves to be elusive. It takes several years for this man to come to trial, but it isn’t the end of the heartbreak for Lucie’s family. That kind of pain leaves a stain.

Reading like a novel, People Who Eat Darkness studies not only the relations between foreign countries and differing ideas of justice, but also the relations between family members and the inevitable toll debt takes upon a person. It’s also about a family that refuses to give up on finding answers: living through ten years of court battles that continue on to this day. The darkest hearts don’t reside just in our backyards or the familiar streets of our cities. They are everywhere. They wear the masks of politeness, culture and genteel kindness. But evil lurks behind the most unsuspecting of facades.

Heartwood 5:4 – Journey by Moonlight

Journey by MoonlightWith the encroaching demands of respectability hovering over his life as a lawyer and confirmed bourgeoisie, Mihály leaves Budapest with his wife Erzsi for their honeymoon in Italy. But he seems to be happier wandering the dark back streets of Venice alone than spending time with his new wife. While at an outdoor café in Ravenna, János, an old rival of Mihály’s, speeds up on a scooter and urges him (while also insulting Erzsi) to help him find their mutual friend, Ervin, who recently became a monk and is living somewhere in northern Italy. This blast from the past launches Mihály on adventures and misadventures that find him boarding (accidentally?) a train that takes him on an Italian sojourn away from his new wife, feeling his sanity ebbing upon the edge of a psychic whirlpool, and foremost, seeking some kind of resolution to a past dominated by his deep friendship with the enigmatic and death-obsessed brother-and-sister, Tamás and Éva Ulpius.

At the center of the quest is the spirit of Tamás, who committed suicide young, and Mihály’s realization that he has always been in love with Éva. Hungarian author, Antal Szerb has fun weaving various plotlines together in a casually-paced and satisfying fashion, reconnecting the remaining far-flung friends in ways that are filled with mystery and ambiguity. The story unfolds with unexpected developments and insights in ways that are warm, exploratory, intelligent, paradoxical, sensitive and, at times, ridiculous (but never gratuitously so, never over-the-top).

So what can you expect to find in Journey by Moonlight? Life and death, infatuation and love, the struggle against conformity. The intensities of youthful friendships. Romanticism, individuality, spirituality, the piled-up ruins of history. Impermanence and the lure of the past. The seeming link between eroticism and death. The supernatural is another recurring theme. Is there an afterlife? Do spirits of the dead return? And beneath it all – amid the ambiance of Venice, Tuscany and Rome – the question of whether it is better to die than to sacrifice the ideals of youth to the mundane concerns of the workaday world.

This book really got under my skin and, even with its fixation on mortality, I’d say it’s one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in recent years.

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A review in Words without Borders calls Journey by Moonlight a “masterpiece of high modernism,” and notes that “Szerb’s novel has rightly become a cult classic in Hungary, a book read by all Hungarian students in much the same way that American students read J. D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye.” It goes on to list some of Szerb’s accomplishments: “president of the Hungarian Literary Academy by the age of thirty-two, full professor at Szeged University by the time he published Journey by Moonlight, two-time winner of the Baumgarten Prize (1935, 1937), brilliant literary scholar (An Outline of English Literature (1929), History of Hungarian Literature (1934), History of World Literature (3 vols., 1934)) and talented translator of writers and critics such as J. Huizinga, R. B. Sheridan, P. G. Wodehouse, and Henry Walpole.” Szerb was placed in a forced-labor camp in 1944 and died there in 1945.

Fear the Banana Man

We didn’t have any urban legends in the neighborhood I grew up in. Not unless you count the story about Timmy eating yellow snow and it ended up being radioactive snow and now there’s a super hero called Pee Boy, but that’s a whole different story. As a kid, we kept our boogeymen where they belonged: in the closet and under the bed. And sometimes in the bathtub behind the shower curtain that flutters when there’s no breeze. Creepy. Where was I? Oh. Urban legends. Which brings me to the book What We Knew by Barbara Stewart.

whatweknew16-year-old Tracy and her best friend Lisa have the entire summer stretching out in front of them. They spend the hot nights drinking wine coolers and smoking pot in the jerk Trent’s bedroom. (Trent’s a jerk because he’d trip a 3-year-old just to watch him fall down and cry.) One night as the group of drunken teenagers walk around town, they start to talk about Banana Man. Banana Man is a boogeyman/pedophile urban legend who supposedly lives in a shack in the woods. He’s called the Banana Man because…..well, what does a banana look like? Yeah. Gross.

All the kids in the town have grown up hearing the legend of Banana Man: that he kidnaps small children and that they’re never seen again. While wandering the town, Trent says he knows where the boogeyman’s house is in the woods. Like a bunch of dumb teens in a horror movie they traipse out into the darkness (the only way you’re going to get me out into the woods at night where there might be some paranormal thing happening is to spike my Captain Crunch with Ketamine). This is the point where I started yelling at the book like I do when I watch horror movies: “Why are you going into the basement? Oh, the basement light doesn’t work? Better go all the way to the bottom of the stairs and call out ‘Who’s there?’ so the killer/monster can find you faster.”

This drunken Scooby Gang find a rambling structure of boards and tarps, not even a shack but a Frankenstein house cobbled together from found parts. Inside, there’s furniture, a piano, and a kitchen with boxed food in it. And a collection of glass eyes. GLASS EYES. People have been dumping stuff in the woods for years and the Banana Man collected it. There’s no sign of the boogeyman himself. The teens set about wrecking the place, breaking dishes, tearing cupboards apart. Trent, being the jerk that he is, pees in a corner. Tracy becomes uneasy and they all begin to freak each other out and run. Lisa loses her necklace and a flip-flop.

This is the beginning of the terror for Tracy and Lisa.

Lisa’s mom works the night shift at a local diner. Her strict stepfather works days so it’s up to Lisa to watch over her 11-year-old sister Katie. After going to the Banana Man’s tarp house in the woods, Lisa becomes obsessed with it. She wants to go back to find her necklace and her lost flip-flop. She also thinks the Banana Man has been coming into her room. She even wakes up one morning to find a glass eye on her dresser. Lisa’s paranoia starts to get to Tracy. Her friend’s fear invades every part of Tracy’s daily life, from her relationship with her boyfriend to her feelings about her deadbeat father and her mother who is struggling to pick up the pieces of her life.

Lisa begins to deteriorate further, pushing Tracy and everyone else away. Other secrets increase the sense of paranoia and fear with dark deeds coming to light. Tracy is sitting on her own secret, something that happened that she hasn’t told Lisa about, something she’s not sure she ever wants to talk about.

I thought What We Knew would be a book about a supernatural entity living in the woods that preys on young people. Actually, it’s more about long hot summer days and nights with your future spread out in front of you, but still not being able to let go of your past. There are secrets that are destroying you on the inside, but you believe it’ll be better to keep everything in. It’s about seeing your parents as something other than parents. It’s about trying to be a best friend and feeling like you’ve failed miserably.

Darkly intense and full of teenage despair and ennui, What We Knew will make you face your fears. And make you think twice about venturing into the woods in the night. Or during the middle of the day. Or any time at all.

Jeepers Creepers Where’d You Get Those Peepers?

I once saw something that almost made me go crazy. I was in the ladies changing room at the public pool. I was putting my socks on (I dress and undress in a bathroom stall because like a normal woman, I hate my body) and all of a sudden the room turned into an 80 year old’s version of Girls Gone Wild. Boobs and nether regions flapping around, sagging butts, sagging fronts. Sagging everything. I didn’t know my eyes could snap so fast to the ceiling so I wouldn’t see anything.

Then again, this was from a 17 year old’s view. Now almost 38, I admire the comfort and ease with which these woman glide around the locker room naked, talking in groups like they’re having a cocktail on someone’s back porch. Will I ever reach that ease? God no. I‘d change my clothes in the trunk of my car before getting undressed in front of anyone.

birdboxJosh Malerman’s dystopian novel Bird Box centers on Malorie who seems utterly unflappable. She moves into an apartment with her sister Shannon and then goes out on a date and gets knocked up. Oh yeah, also the world is coming to an end and in the most horrific way possible. There are news reports out of Russia of people going insane, killing themselves or violently killing anyone around them. But that’s okay with Malorie because it’s happening far away. Over There. It’s not happening Here. Plus, she’s pregnant so that kind of gets in the way of thinking about some bizarre plague happening worlds away.

But IT begins to move across Canada and into the United states. People start hanging themselves from trees, entire families killing themselves or being killed by a loved one. No one is positive about what is happening. The consensus is that a person sees something so horrible that the only thing to do is kill themselves or anyone near them. The sisters haven’t heard from their parents in days so you know that’s not good. They stop leaving the house, even for groceries. Shannon stays glued to the television watching the mess unfold. Malorie isn’t paying attention because she’s knocked up, hasn’t told the father yet and you know, generally busy creating life and trying not to think too much about the future.

She barely notices her sister covering all of the mirrors and windows, getting spooked and paranoid. Soon, there are rumors that people are seeing “creatures” ( a less panic-inducing word than monsters) as in “There’s something in my backyard, something not found in any episode of National Geographic.” But nobody knows what these creatures look like because they’re all busy boarding up windows, putting up heavy curtains and keeping their eyes squeezed shut. Malorie sees an ad in a newspaper that says a group of people have gotten together in a safe place to ride this thing out. Sounds good. Sounds bad. It could be a house of serial killers but by this time, the world’s gone to hell and she’s pregnant and trying not to think about giving birth in a world where one look at a ‘creature’ can send you stark raving mad. I think I would ignore my pregnancy: “Oh that? That’s a nacho gut. I love nachos.”

So she figures “Screw it, I don’t want to be alone at the end of the world.  Let me go find these people and hopefully they won’t try to kill or eat me or eat me and kill me.  Whatever.”

While she’s heavy with both pregnancy (or nacho gut) and dread she’s pretty cool-headed. She goes to this house in an abandoned neighborhood. She gets to the door and knocks. Someone on the other side asks if she’s alone and tells her to close her eyes. The door opens, she scurries in, and the door is slammed behind her. She opens her eyes and sees some very terrified but normal people in the room. At least they don’t look like cannibals. Yet. They look like what they are: scared people who have no idea what’s going to happen to them.

This small group lives the next few months as a tight-knit group. They all have their chores: like walking down a path in the backyard to the well to get clean water but doing it while their eyes are clapped shut. There is a cellar stocked with canned goods but that will last them only so long. Some of the men go out to gather more supplies. This takes days because it’s kind of hard to find a can of soup in a neighbor’s cupboard when your eyes are shut tight.

Malorie is getting huge, beginning to wonder how on earth is she going to give birth when there are no staffed hospitals. It seems like a whole lot of nothing is happening because there’s this group of scared people hanging out in a house where nobody can look out the window or go get a pail of water with their eyes open. But there’s this thick tension, the kind of tension that makes you want to jump out a window. The group can’t stay there forever. Food is going to run out and someone’s going to open their eyes while getting water (it’s kind of like when someone says “Don’t touch that wall because I just painted it.” What’s the first thing you do? Reach out and touch it.)

But then someone comes to the door. A man with a briefcase. Do they let him in or send him on his way? He gives off a bad vibe. His smile is too shiny and he holds onto that briefcase like it has the last set of shiny teeth trapped inside and only he can be their keeper. The group begins to whisper and fight amongst one another. Do they ask him to leave? Demand to see what’s in the case? The guy is obviously trying to divide them and set them fighting and it works.

A big bad happens. I wish I could write these reviews and be coyly mysterious without giving anything away but I’m incapable of that. It’s more likely that I’ll end up confusing everyone. And myself. Which happens a lot. Let’s just say there’s a lot of blood, confusion, the birth of twins, the world is still at an end and people are still going around blind-folded.

Told alternately (and with mega skill) between pregnant Malorie surviving the breakdown of the world and Malorie five years later as she takes her children away from the only safe place they know because it is no longer safe, Bird Box is more than a tale about the end of the world. It’s about finding people to ride out the end of the world with. And about monsters that may or may not exist and damn it, open your eyes so you can see them even if it drives you into murderous madness.

It’s the End of the World or Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller

ourendlessnumbereddaysThis was one messed up novel. If I were in a group of people and we were standing around talking about this book I would be the one raising my eyebrows, shoving another cocktail weenie in my mouth and shouting “Wasn’t that the most messed up book ever?”

Yeah, because that’s what I do. I go to parties where there are mini hotdogs, multi-colored Chinese lanterns, some hipster crap music playing in the background and me standing in a group of people talking about life. You don’t know me at all, do you? The only way you could get me to one of those parties would be:

1) Horse tranquilizers

2) Promise me an endless supply of mini hotdogs and my own bathroom; I’m not 20 anymore. My stomach doesn’t handle whatever organ meat hotdogs are made from anymore.

3) Promise me I can go through the pockets of all the coats piled on a bed. And keep what I find.

My best friend recommended Claire Fuller’s Our Endless Numbered Days to me. She did her own eyebrow raising thing and cryptically said “The ending is not what you’re expecting. At all.” So when I finished it, I texted her first, demanding that my questions be answered. And did she agree that this was one messed up novel?

Indeed, she agreed. It is one screwed up novel.

And I’m still puzzled about some of the bizarre things that went on in this book. I mean, puzzled to the point where I’m writing this sentence and thinking ‘What did that character mean by that?’ But you know the best part? The screwed uppedness (tell Webster I want this new word in his next dictionary edition) of this book doesn’t hit all at once. It unfolds like a quiet diabolical storm. You’re reading along and thinking ‘Huh, that’s weird. Hmmm…what’s going on?’ and then about 45 pages away from the ending you look up from reading and go ‘Shut the front door! What the frig is going on????!!!’

Here. Let me sell it to you.

It’s 1976 London and 8-year-old Peggy Hillcoat’s father is part of a group of men who are survivalists (yeah, I didn’t know England had them either). Peggy likes to listen to them but her mother, Ute, can’t stand them. Ute was a famous German classical pianist in her youth and spends most of her days like most former uppity musicians: looking at pictures of ‘Way Back When’, playing mournful elegies on the piano and carrying on as if she’s still the bomb.

Peggy’s father James and an American survivalist named Oliver grow close. I didn’t like this Oliver dude from the beginning. He’s not evil or anything. He’s just…annoying. Like ‘I’d really like to punch you in the face’ annoying. Oliver likes to egg James on. James, it turns out, is kind of an unstable fanatic but you can’t really tell which way he’s going yet: is he a fanatic like me with Doctor Who or is he a fanatic with a homemade bomb in a shoe box in the pantry behind the box of instant potatoes?

Ute goes off to Germany to play a gig for a few weeks leaving Peggy and James on their own. They set up a tent at the end of the garden, don’t bathe for days and become wild creatures. So one day James just kind of snaps and says “We’re going on an adventure. Pack some stuff. Let’s go.”

And on an adventure they do go, all the way to a tiny ramshackle cabin in the middle of nowhere. Really nowhere. I’m talking the nearest town is a five-day walk. Carved on the underside of a table in the cabin is the name Rueben. A mysterious name in a mysterious place. It’s all fun at first, hunting and gathering, making the small cabin into their own. But the hot summer wears on and Peggy starts to miss her mother and her home. She misses her best friend and school. Her dad starts showing signs of a complete mental breakdown. He’s good at this survivalist thing but the dude cannot cope with everyday life. He runs into the cabin one day and tells Peggy that the world is gone. The world ended and they are the last two people alive. And damn, she’s eight years old so she believes him.

For the next eight years it is as if they are the last two people alive.

And then someone comes out of the forest.

Failed Fiction Forays

I don’t usually set reading goals, but at the start of this year I felt that I’d fallen into a bit of a rut. A bit of a rut. A bit… (thud!) So I devised what middle management types call soft goals (unless I made this term up), meaning that it’s not so important whether I achieve said objectives. Mostly I’m looking to stretch myself in new literary directions, hence the vague guidelines for choosing reading materials.

Goal number one is to read fiction books written in 2015. Titles tackled so far include:

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The problem is, other than The Rosie Effect, none of these books have captured my interest enough to finish reading them. This is a bit unusual for me, to hit so many titles in a row that I put down unfinished. And once again I find myself turning to comfort books: detective pulp, cozy mysteries and nostalgic books I’ve read before. Maybe this makes a strong statement about my current psychological state, but for today let’s just look at the books I have abandoned.

Doctor Death:  A Madeleine Karno Mystery (2015) by Lene Kaaberbøl
This book contains a perfect blend of elements I look for in stories: Victorian times, early criminology techniques and a strong female character trying to transcend the role assigned to her. And yet, after about two-thirds of the book, I had no interest in continuing. Perhaps the story itself is not compelling, or a bit confusing, but this is one I really wanted to like but did not. Briefly, Madeleine’s father is a coroner. She assists him but is not allowed to do any of the fun, dirty work that she wants to do. When he’s injured and a murder occurs, she is called upon to do work that would normally fall to father. Finally, she gets a shot at the big league (so to speak). My excitement for the book is rekindling as I type this description, but still I cannot overlook that the story was slow-paced and didn’t seem to move forward.

The Rabbit Back Literature Society (2015) by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen
Described as quirky, even “Twin Peaks meets the Brothers Grimm,” by The Telegraph, this book seemed right up my alley. And there were some odd moments that partially fulfilled my need for the bizarre: classic books in the library rewriting themselves until discovery and destruction by the librarian, an incestuous group of authors bound together since childhood who regularly engage each other in a brutal game, and the supernatural disappearance of their mentor (amidst spontaneous localized weather inside of her house). However, the quirkiness was more sparse than expected and I found this to be another book I wanted to like but ultimately did not.

The Last American Vampire (2015) by Seth Grahame-Smith
The concept – vampire mythology mixed with historical events – is a potentially engaging one, but its realization (being interviews with and narratives by the main character done up in a journal/scrapbook fashion) left me cold. Then again, I have a low tolerance for vampires.

Dorothy Parker Drank Here (2015) by Ellen Meister
What if the ghost of Dorothy Parker spent decades haunting the barstools of the Algonquin, waiting for a worthy partner to spend eternity with? Well, what if? I became interested in Dorothy Parker through a historical fiction series set in early Hollywood, so I thought I might enjoy this book as well. Admittedly I’ve not got very far into the book, but on the other hand I don’t feel motivated to continue reading.

So what have I learned from this exercise? I seem to have entered my dotage. Rereading favorite books and sticking with favorite characters is where I’m currently at in the world of fiction. It’s not a bad place, and I’ll continue to try new titles, but for now … what were we talking about?

‘What’s the Point of This Story’ Girl Strikes Again

I know what my super power would be. Not invisibility. Not speed. Not flying. I would be called ‘What’s the Point of This Story’ Girl or ‘Could You Wrap This Story Up’ Girl. Sometimes I’ll be talking to a co-worker and I’ll see that glaze come over their eyes. You know what glaze I’m talking about. It’s the one where they appear to be listening to you but what they’re really doing is thinking about what they’re going to have for lunch. That flusters me as much as someone rolling their hand in the air in a “Jesus, will you finish talking already?” So I usually end up tripping over my words or my gum falls out of my mouth and I might blurt “That’s why I’m not allowed to eat oatmeal in Target anymore.” I sometimes panic in the middle of talking. Much like this entire paragraph.

lessthanheroG. Browne’s Less than Hero focuses on a group of men who are professional guinea pigs for pharmaceutical companies. They enroll in drug test trials. Everything from Viagra to blood pressure medicines. You know those pharmaceutical commercials on TV, the ones where they mumble the drug’s possible side effects that sound worse than the ailment? Those are the drugs tested on Less Than Hero’s leading man, Lloyd Prescott and his friends. Need an antidepressant? This pill may cause suicidal thoughts. Bladder control problems? This pill might send you into renal failure. Did your son take an anti-convulsing drug? He might grow boobs. Need to lose weight? This pill will make your IQ drop 20 points.

Lloyd Prescott isn’t a slacker. (On second thought, he is a slacker. I identified with him and didn’t want to call myself a slacker but hey, if the shoe fits…I probably won’t put it on because I’m too lazy to bend down to tie the laces). He’s been to college and has a marketing degree, but he’s nearly disabled by his own inertia. Being a guinea pig is easy money, even with all the horrendous side effects. Lloyd also pan handles in New York City’s well-traveled parks. But it’s clever pan handling. He holds up a sign that says ‘Will Take Verbal Abuse for Money.’

So would I. The junk food in the vending machine at work is getting more expensive.

When Lloyd isn’t being a guinea pig or panhandling he’s hanging out with other guinea pigs. There’s Charlie who is young and naïve, Randy who fancies himself as a ladies man (whether in his own head or for real, I don’t know), Frank who is a sturdily built dude who fights his weight constantly, and Vic who used to be a public school teacher and got fired. Vic doesn’t care for people much. There are a couple other guinea pigs they hang out with once in a while, but for the most part it’s Lloyd, Charlie, Vic, Frank, and Randy.

Life starts getting really weird really fast.

Lloyd is yawning one day, just idly staring at a girl as he opens his mouth wide. Next thing he knows the girl is out cold in the street, taking a hard nap. He asks himself did he do that or was it a bizarre coincidence?

One day while riding the subway with Randy, Lloyd notices a group of punks that have gotten on and are harassing people. And by punks I mean pants hanging halfway down to their ankles, wife beaters, and a meanness that gets people beaten to death. Randy stares at the punks, stares so hard that they begin to itch and claw at their skin which begins to erupt into welts and hives.

Lloyd begins to suspect that he and the other guinea pigs are manifesting the side effects of the drug trials.When they confess to one another that they’ve each been experiencing supernatural side effects they decide they’re going to use their powers for good and not evil. They go out at night and save homeless people from being beaten up and threatened by street kids. They don’t do it for the recognition but soon enough the media starts following their exploits.

Lloyd can make people spontaneously nap. The media nicknames him ‘Dr. Lullaby.’ Randy can give rashes. He’s called ‘the Rash.’ Vic can make people vomit.  He’s ‘Captain Vomit.’ Charlie can cause seizures. He’s dubbed ‘Convulsion Boy.’ Frank causes people to bloat until their clothes pop off. He’s known as ‘Big Fatty.’ Their real identities are safe….for a bit. But are there other guinea pigs out there who aren’t super heroes? News reports pop up about people having amnesia that lasts for a few hours. They come to find their wallets and valuables gone. There is definitely someone out there not fighting for justice.

What seems to give their lives purpose and meaning in the beginning begins to take its toll on the group. There are heavy physical and mental dues to pay. Relationships begin to break down. Panic begins to sweep the city as supervillains rise. Lloyd starts to think being a professional guinea pig and panhandling in parks isn’t the way to spend his life. He doesn’t just want to settle down. He wants to be happy. That’s a lot harder than it sounds.

Less Than Hero is a book for all of us who feel like losers, who feel like we haven’t found our way yet in life while everyone else has their lives together and you’re just sitting there thinking ‘I’ve been at the same job for almost 20 years. Didn’t I have dreams? Didn’t I have plans?’ Oops. Sorry. That got personal. Less Than Hero is about the everyday small things in life and how we treat one another while we’re here.

And it’s about making assholes vomit until someone screams for an exorcist.