– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –
Today I’m not on a blogtour, but I’m sharing an excerpt of “Born Slippy” written by Tom Lutz to promote this book.
About the Author :
Tom Lutz is a writer of books, articles, and screenplays, the founder of the Los Angeles Review of Books, and is now Distinguished Professor at UC Riverside. His books include American Book Award winner Doing Nothing, New York Times notable books Crying and American Nervousness, 1903, the travel books And the Monkey Learned Nothing and Drinking Mare’s Milk on the Roof of the World, and coming on January 14, 2020, Born Slippy: A Novel.
He has written for television and film, and appeared in scores of national and international newspapers, magazines, academic journals, and edited collections. He is working with a Los Angeles-based production company on a television show set in the 1920s, is finishing a third collection of travel pieces, a book on the 1920s (The Modern Surface), and is in the early stages of a book on global conflict along the aridity line.
Title: Born Slippy: A Novel
Author’s name: Tom Lutz
Genre: noir, thriller
Publish date: January 14, 2020
Publisher: Repeater/Penguin Random House
Page count: 296
A provocative, globe-trotting, time-shifting novel about the seductions of – and resistance to – toxic masculinity.
“Frank knew as well as anyone how stories start and how they end. This fiery mess, or something like it, was bound to happen. He had been expecting it for years.”
Frank Baltimore is a bit of a loser, struggling by as a carpenter and handyman in rural New England when he gets his big break, building a mansion in the executive suburbs of Hartford. One of his workers is a charismatic eighteen-year-old kid from Liverpool, Dmitry, in the US in the summer before university. Dmitry is a charming sociopath, who develops a fascination with his autodidactic philosopher boss, perhaps thinking that, if he could figure out what made Frank tick, he could be less of a pig. Dmitry heads to Asia and makes a neo-imperialist fortune, with a trail of corpses in his wake. When Dmitry’s office building in Taipei explodes in an enormous fireball, Frank heads to Asia, falls in love with Dmitry’s wife, and things go from bad to worse.
Combining the best elements of literary thriller, noir and political satire, Born Slippy is a darkly comic and honest meditation on modern life under global capitalism.
The blast was felt for blocks. The concussion, the shattering glass, the rip of steel, the roar of falling concrete. The thick, evil odor lasted for days, as crews dug through the rubble and gathered debris-encrusted body parts. Passersby choked on the dust. Frank, when he first saw the images online, felt like he had been there, like the explosion was memory, not a photograph.
He had seen the building, the Credit Lyonnais branch in Taipei, only once, months before, during a brief, very distracted visit to see Dmitry, who was the head of their office there, or head of the region. It had been his first time in Asia. They had stopped in front of the building on Frank’s way out of town, that was all.
But when the Taipei Times website came up on his normal breakfast internet rounds, he immediately recognized the “before” picture. He felt shredded, felt the guilt of all survivors, obsessed with the cruel idea that he could have prevented it.
Which was ridiculous, he knew. Only Dmitry could have.
Something had caught up with him, Frank thought later that day — Dmitry’s voracious rapacity had finally met its match. He didn’t know how, or who, but he knew its karmic inevitability. Al Jazeera turned up some shaky video the next day, accompanied by the idea that separatist Xinjiang Muslims were responsible, which Frank thought unlikely — Dmitry had, by his own account, made many enemies, lots of them much closer to home. The video showed smoke blowing out of what had once been ten or twelve gleaming stories, now not much more than a maw, spewing black and noxious billows.
Did he see it coming? Like sharks and chum, like the Three Stooges with a ladder, like falling in love where you shouldn’t — Frank knew as well as anyone how stories start and how they end. This fiery mess, or something like it, was bound to happen. He had been expecting it for years.
He blamed himself, if not for everything, for not doing better. After all, he was the one who pretended to be Dmitry’s conscience. He was the one not paying attention, the one who had forsaken his duty, the one who had reneged on the implicit bargain he had made those many years earlier, without telling anyone, without telling Dmitry — without even telling himself. He was supposed to fix Dmitry. But he didn’t. He was inconstant.
He was, after all, the one who fell in love with Dmitry’s wife. He’d set some kind of bomb, too.
Frank Baltimore had first met Dmitry Heald on a building site in the Connecticut hills a dozen years earlier, when the eighteen-year-old Dmitry had come to America — in his Liverpudlian accent it sounded like Ameriker — trailing whatever dusty innocence he might still have had, looking for a little work, wanting to earn some quick money and then wander around for the rest of the summer doing a low- rent grand tour, reeling through the Big Lonesome West, as he always called it. Then he’d fly back to England for university: Leeds or Reading, Frank could never remember which, and didn’t know what the names meant, where they were on the status hierarchy — Ivy League-ish? Loserville? Frank had never gone to college. He had tried once, failed, quit. He had a chip on his shoulder about it, he knew.
He was a kid himself back then, having just turned twenty-eight. Like many people approaching thirty he was haunted by a sense that time was short, that he might remain an irredeemable failure into the flaky, moldy decrepitude that lurked around the bend. This house he was building was his big break, his move up from what he had always called a remodeling business, even though he had been nothing but a glorified handyman. This new house, nestled in the woods at the advancing edge of Hartford’s northwestern insurance-executive suburbs, had been his move into actual contractorland. He never made billions, like Dmitry did, but in the end he did all right. And, he said to himself, looking at the mayhem on his computer screen, he did it without killing or maiming anyone, either.
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