Tuesday, 21 September 2010


When a chap named The Hammer appears in Tony O’Neill’s new novel you immediately dread how he earned such a moniker. It only takes a couple of pages to discover it’s on account of the shape of his fourteen inch todger which he uses as the template for a hand crafted, monogrammed dildo that’s shoved so far up a young man’s arse it gets stuck inside him, kills him, and has to be gruesomely retrieved before the body is disposed of.

Sick City follows the degenerate junkie theme of previous novels Digging The Vein and Down and Out On Murder Mile but it’s less overtly personal and deviates, and expands upon those, by moving away from first person to a third person narrative, giving O’Neill ample scope to create a vast cast of increasingly grotesque characters, which he does with obvious relish. This is a writer letting loose and enjoying himself. The Hammer dildo passage (if you excuse the pun) is but one of many wickedly funny moments amid the scuzzy world of sex and drugs that equalizes LA junkies and whores with Hollywood execs, TV doctors and police chiefs.

The story centers on bereaved faggot Jeffrey and shittypants outcast Randal’s not unreasonable plan to sell a Hollywood sex tape (including Steve McQueen giving a portion to Sharon Tate and Mama Cass…) to the highest bidder and thus getting clean, straight and living happily ever after. Easy as that. But on their trail comes Pat, a psychopathic speed freak with – in a nod to that other American Psycho – a Phil Collins fixation who thinks nothing of pulling off nipples with pliers to the sound of Phil’s Greatest Hits.

Sick City’s vivid cinematic quality begs it to be made into a film. Whoever gets the screenplay gig will have a piss easy job, it’s all here already. As is Primal Scream’s soundtrack.

Sick City by Tony O’Neill is published by Harper Perennial, priced $13.99.

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