Corrosion by John Bassoff (Dark Fuse, 2013)
Corrosion by Jon Bassoff is an impressive first novel (at least under his own name). I’m not sure I’d agree with Desmind Reddick at Dread Media and say it was the “best thing I ever read”, but it is an impressive start. The author describes himself as a “noir writer” and the influences of Jim Thompson are evident. He has a few more in the works, one due out this October.
The novel is divided into 4 parts, told from 3 different points of view, who may be 3 different people. Or not. It only becomes clear in the final chapter and even then, there is a certain amount of ambiguity.
Corrosion is a trip inside the mind of a psycho killer. I don’t want to give any more detail, as I hate spoiling the plot for potential readers. You get to see the progression of someone into a state of total insanity. And you are left wondering if it ever could have been prevented. There are many questions left unanswered in this book, but such is the author’s intent. This isn’t a pretty book: if you are offended by scenes of violence against women, you might want to read something else.
The first narrator, Joseph Downs, claims to be a war veteran. He’s travelling to somewhere in Colorado when he gets stuck in a disgusting post-industrial nightmare town. His first action is to punch out a man abusing a woman at a bar. Later Joseph begins an affair with her as he works in town. Downs has a face scared beyond recognition and claims it to be the result of an enemy attack in Iraq.
The second narrator, Benton Faulk, is a disturbed kid living on a mountain in Colorado. His father is trying to create his own cure for Benton’s mother who appears to be dying of cancer. Benton avoids school and spends his time reading war comics. He also has a hide-out in the hills he created from an abandoned miner’s cabin. And Benton has an unhealthy interest in a waitress at the local diner.
The author writes conversation without quotation marks:
The office door was closed and locked. I pounded on the door a few times and waited. Some time passed before an old lady with long gray hair and a long gray nightgown appeared. Her face was groggy as she peered out the window. She unlocked the door and opened it. It’s late, she said.
Can you give me a room? I said. I’ve been traveling all day.She sighed. All right. Come on in.
In the corner of the office there was a potbelly stove burning and I walked over and warmed my hands. It’s getting cold, I said.She saw the blood on my hand, and her eyes narrowed. You okay there, son?
Sure, I said. Never better.
She handed me a key. Room three, she said. Check out is eleven. That’ll be thirty-eight dollars.
I pulled out my wallet and handed her the money. Sorry for waking you, I said. I just need a few hours of sleep.
Don’t worry about it, sugar. You have a good night.
It takes a little getting used to, but after a while, you don’t really notice.
The final narrator, and the most brief, is a crazed street preacher. He doesn’t have “Good” and “Evil” tattooed on his knuckles,but does wear a rubber mask.
I have to admit, I am getting sick of books and movies about crazed inbred hillbillies who go on the rampage. I had hoped Tucker and Dale Vs Evil would’ve sunk the genre in the swamp. But I guess there will always need to be a group the better educated and connected can despise.
This is a very dark book. Not for those used to happy and neat endings.