"In my own mind, I was some kind of unique hybrid of Jim Morrison and T.S. Eliot . . ."

Tom Wolfe meets Hunter S. Thompson in this intoxicating escapade. It’s 1980, and after alcohol aversion therapy, Mike Ridley has progressed from stenciling addresses on curbs in Santa Monica and Brentwood with a pint in his back pocket to functioning as an impressive cog in the wheel of a Southern California boiler room scheme where he makes the sale of copier toner or a box of pens sound like a steal. And it is, what with all the cons that accompany sales. He soon becomes enmeshed in a coworker’s pseudo-psychological, fifteen-hour a day, fast-track program to spiritual enlightenment that brings back the haunting voices: “after the dime-store varnish of LifeAware had peeled away and the fear-infested, half-rotted wood pilings that through the years had become my mind . . . I was a Student, a Teacher, and a Prophet all rolled up in one glorious entity of enlightenment.”

Meanwhile, Mike’s wife of eight years is sick and tired of ghosts from his drug-fueled past and his habit of falling off the wagon after rehab. So Mike takes his spiritual glory to a cheap apartment sans bathroom and soon hooks up with sex goddess Genesta—art therapist, former muse of Salvador Dali, and, like himself, a force of nature.

The scenes in this labyrinth move quickly, and the reader is in danger of getting whiplash in the ricochet between backstory and narrative. This nonlinear reading is either a recipe for confusion or aids the flailing mental health ambiance, depending upon one’s tolerance for mounting a substance abuse whirlwind. The strong writing and fascinating characterizations keep the story anchored and the pages turning. While this novel isn’t quite a tour-de-force, it is a window into the mind of a talented writer from which many will want to see more work.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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