“Kelso and Bradley have joined forces to deliver a work of unadulterated Bizarro genius.”
Stalwarts of the Bizarro fiction scene, a collaboration between Tom Bradley and Chris Kelso seemed inevitable. With over twenty books in print—both fiction and non-fiction—Bradley has received praise from venues such as Forbes magazine and 3A.M. Magazine as well as numerous award nominations. According to American LGBT magazine, The Advocate, his seventh book, Lemur (Raw Dog Screaming Press, 2008) “… could do as much to raise the rainbow flag as two medium-size Midwestern Stonewall Day parades.” Young Scottish author Chris Kelso is fast gaining a reputation as one of today’s most prolific and hard-working writers in speculative fiction. His wide-ranging work has been published by Journalstone, Omnium Gatherum and Bizarro Pulp Press as well as many others. Now Kelso and Bradley have joined forces to deliver a work of unadulterated Bizarro genius.
Dispatched to discover the whereabouts of a reality television star, jaded journalist Fulton and his sarcastic and much younger mentee, Cheryl, are preparing for their day’s work when they are disturbed by unexpected visitors at their hotel room door; Mormons. But protagonist Fulton suspects there is something untoward regarding these missionaries. Especially when one of them pours a blue powder into the teapot that is delivered by room service. But given Fulton’s reputation as a sleazy reporter with little integrity, and his previous attempts to discredit the Mormon faith, he simply puts its down to an occupational hazard, an assassination attempt.
Neither Fulton or Cheryl may be instantly likeable, but they are certainly recognisable. In the older, experienced Fulton the authors have created a witty and street-smart hustler while Cheryl, younger but by no means innocent, holds her own on the mean streets of London. They are both well-versed in the London vernacular, which only adds to the solidity of the characters, and the readiness of the reader to accompany them on their quest for the truth.
What begins as a search for Bryan Fix, runaway from the set of Celebrity Crack Den, soon leads to an intriguing mystery where one group of Church of Latter-Day Saints members play an integral part. This isn’t a story for the easily-offended or the pious reader; Bradley and Kelso, through Fulton, take aim at organised religion (in general) and LDS (in particular) to hilarious effect. Seemingly infiltrating every level of society in London, from “the female MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington” to the employees of local sex shop Comparative Lit/Imperative Clit, this cult uses the blue powder (Blue Lotus) to “help” potential members gain an audience with their deity, Sheila the She-God. Only Sheila, a wife of Brigham Young, can reveal their true goal to those she deems worthy. And what a horrifying goal it is.
From the moment we are introduced to Fulton and Cheryl, the story quickly gathers pace as we follow them on their investigation, from the streets of London to the dimly lit sex shop, a traditionally grimy London pub to the smog-filled skies overhead that Sheila considers home. Bradley and Kelso expertly blend description of setting with entertaining dialogue and an exciting story. It’s certainly aimed at mature readers, with some colourful references to genitalia and the bodily fluids that the cult offers up as sacrifice to Sheila. But all of that just adds to the entertainment value of the overall story.
The combination of the separate author voices is seamless, as though Bradley and Kelso melded minds to create one writing consciousness. The language used is consistent throughout, as is the high quality of storytelling and characterisation. And the authors combine the dramatic elements with moments of laugh-out-loud comedy (especially “Empty-ton” and the “portmanteau term” Fulton’s employer invents to refer to the members of the cult at the end of the book) in a very effective way. If you enjoy your humour on the dark and irreverent side, and you can look at the wonderful Nick Patterson artwork on the cover and feel compelled to learn more about Sheila and her mysterious followers, you’ll enjoy the hell out of this book.
Release Date: 6th January 2018
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