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“LONG LOST DOG OF IT,” by Michael Kazepis (Book Review)

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Let’s face it. This world is a hard fucking place to keep your balance in. Whatever you choose to anchor on – who you love, what you do for a living, where you live, how you try to get by, and what it means (if anything) – just isn’t your choice.

It’s the hand you got dealt, smacking face-to-face against every other person’s hand and face.

And in just about every observant person’s life, there comes a point of despair where you look around and think, “Man, is everybody here lost? Cuz I don’t think it’s just me!”

This kind of existentialist nightmare perspective is true cosmic horror, stripped of both gods and Lovecraftian monsters. It’s just us, blundering around in a world we can’t begin to control, much less understand. Make sense of the world? We can’t make sense of ourselves, the crazy impulses that rise up out of nowhere to enslave us.

It is with this cheery bowl of cherries that I present LONG LOST DOG OF IT, the fascinating first novel by Michael Kazepis. It’s not horror in the conventional sense – the publisher, Broken River Press, specializes in crime – but if THE RAID 2 and Quentin Tarantino can be featured in Fango (as well they should be), then so the fuck can this.

The book takes place in Athens, Greece, in the summer of 2011. Hundreds of thousands are gathering in the streets to protest austerity measures that will make them even poorer than they already are, clutching at the fringes of survival. Riot police are at the ready. But this isn’t about that. That is merely the backdrop.

Instead, we are rolled PULP FICTION style through a kaleidoscopic gallery of ruthless killers and broken losers, all met at street level with awesome veracity. Like Tarantino in the very best way, their dialogue brings them alive with surprises, deep personal moments amazingly unfurled.

First we meet the exiled cop, toothless and homeless, running from his violently tragic past. A pair of hot, rootless bohemian lesbians near the end of their love affair: one sexing herself toward oblivion, the other thinking more in terms of shedding blood. A pair of SOPRANOS-worthy dumbfuck bouncers at a shitty bar, discussing their hilarious Hollywood pitch for GHOST WRAITH (a movie that must be made!), and taking a hallucinogen no human being should ever take.

At that point, Kazepis introduces a trio of pivotal government-sponsored professional psychotics on an intercept course. And that’s where the long slow build to the shit-hitting fan gains its focus.

And believe you me, the shit hits the fan. Just not the way you expect it. This is a book so allergic to doing anything normally – so systematically averse to catering to “plot-style” narrative clichés – that it almost cock-blocks itself.

But then come the surprises. Over and over and over. In fact, my overall reaction to this book was “I can’t believe how constantly all those little intimate human details hit me hard, shook me out of my normosphere. And how they all clicked together, in the end, while still leaving me hanging.”

So the punchline here is: this is a book that both entrances and bugs me. The bug is an itch in my head. I want Michael Kazepis to grow older and wiser, and write more books. His observational skills on the human condition are sharper than fuck, with verbal skills to match. And every writer should care as much as this.

It’s entirely possible that he will never even attempt to write a popular book. Cult for him, all the way. If I have any advice, it is to take off the leash of restraint. There are points where he over-subtles himself so much that he’s his own worst enemy, when push comes to shove.

But I gotta tell ya: there are a couple death scenes in here that are truly transcendent. Face-of-God moments, without a speck of faith in God.

Honestly, the last book I recently read that triggered so many resonant echoes, and haunted me this hard, was Don DeLillo’s WHITE NOISE. A very different book. But sensorially the closest.

I hope this makes you want to read it.

I am really glad I did.

About the author
John Skipp
John Skipp is a New York Times bestselling author/editor/filmmaker, zombie godfather, compulsive collaborator, musical pornographer, black-humored optimist and all-around Renaissance mutant. His early novels from the 1980s and 90s pioneered the graphic, subversive, high-energy form known as splatterpunk. His anthology Book of the Dead was the beginning of modern post-Romero zombie literature. His work ranges from hardcore horror to whacked-out Bizarro to scathing social satire, all brought together with his trademark cinematic pace and intimate, unflinching, unmistakable voice. From young agitator to hilarious elder statesman, Skipp remains one of genre fiction's most colorful characters. Visit him at Facebook, or on Twitter @YerPalSkipp
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