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The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death


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About the Author

Charlie Huston is the author of The Shotgun Rule, the Henry Thompson trilogy: Caught Stealing, Six Bad Things (an Edgar Award nominee), and A Dangerous Man, and the Joe Pitt novels: Already Dead, No Dominion, Half the Blood of Brooklyn, and Every Last Drop. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, the actress Virginia Louise Smith.


Huston's darkly comic slice of Southern California noir is filled with distinctive characters that leap from the page and, thanks to Paul Michael Garcia's remarkable versatility, speak in equally arresting voices. Chief among them is Web Goodhue, the novel's narrator, a slacker forced by circumstance into temp work with a crew that mops up messy postmortem residue. Just as Huston makes the outwardly obnoxious and brutally snarky protagonist sympathetic, Garcia layers self-doubt, sensitivity and intelligence beneath the arrogance and an overriding humanity that Web attempts to mask with his misanthropic (often very funny) remarks. The other characters are equally well matched vocally: Web's father speaks with the boozy rasp of a self-loathing alcoholic; Po Sin, the massive boss of the Clean Team, has a deep and rumbling delivery; and femme fatale Solidad tries to hide her naivete behind hard-boiled banter. Throw in a gallery of motor mouth crazies, flat-voiced killers and Web's amazingly tolerant best friend Chev, and you have a thrilling and smartly enacted audio package. A Ballantine hardcover (Reviews, Nov. 10). (Jan.) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

This isn't a typical mystery-readers don't encounter a murder until p. 192-and the protagonist isn't a typical investigator, but then Huston's previous works featuring a vampire PI (Joe Pitt Casebooks series) and a slacker hit man (Hank Thompson) are also atypical. In Huston's second stand-alone work (after Shotgun Rule), Web Goodhue, a thirtyish Hollywood elementary school teacher traumatized by the violent death of a student, quits his job and retreats into an emotional shell. Helping an acquaintance clean up crime scenes gets Web involved with a young woman whose father died in a very messy suicide. She and her maniacal brother entangle Web in stolen almonds, human smuggling, murderous criminals, and her own kidnapping. Huston tells a wild and fanciful tale with gritty and witty skill, although the graphic language may be too strong for some patrons. For most public libraries.-Roland Person, emeritus, Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

"There are many things to love about Charlie Huston's fiction-he's a brilliant storyteller, and writes the best dialogue since George V. Higgins-but what pushes my personal happy-button is his morbid sense of humor and seemingly effortless ability to create scary/funny bad guys who make Beavis and Butthead look like Rhodes Scholars. [Charlie Huston has] written several very good books, but this is the first authentically great one, a runaway freight that feels like a combination of William Burroughs and James Ellroy. Mystic Arts is, however, fiercely original-very much its own thing."--Stephen King"Smoking-hot... scorchingly good dialogue and banner-worthy chapter headings (like "Till His Neighbors Smelled Him" and "To Keep Him From Crushing My Spine."). And Mr. Huston, whose own brain matter is as much on display as the stuff that gets spattered here, finally delivers a book that anyone can admire. No strong stomach required."--New York Times"Huston has outdone himself by introducing disaster-prone Web Goodhue, the star of a comic masterpiece called The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death...Charlie Huston has for several years been one of the best-kept secrets in American fiction; this novel might move him into the mainstream. If you believe that the world is mad-a position that with each passing day becomes easier to accept-The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death will provide welcome support for your view. The novel had me laughing out loud many times, but of course, like all the best comic fiction (Catch-22 and Portnoy's Complaint come to mind), at bottom it is deadly serious. Life is violent, messy and all too short, and laughter is the best revenge."--Washington Post"Just when you think you've caught up with him on the curve, Charlie Huston drives right off the cliff, landing on a road no one else could see...Shockingly original...The outlandish characters are brazen originals, and the dialogue is the roar of a death-defying talent."--New York Times Book Review "A witty and amusing dark tale of friendship and family and all the problems that come with both. Web is a likeable character in spite of his personality disorder, one that the reader wants to see come out on top, which makes the book that much more fun to read." "Though most of the characters have all the noir subtlety of Sin City, this hard-shelled novel has a soft, sweet centre. Searching for a measure of healing and to repair the damage done them by their parents and the world, the good characters struggle toward redemption. [Huston] has found a way to cast a whole new generation into the noir genre and that can only be a good thing for its future." "Genre writers too often set the hook quickly and hard, glossing over the subtleties of character in their haste to reel in the reader, ultimately using plot as a club. Not so Huston...The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death is as darkly funny as it is graceful, not necessarily what you'd expect given that it's a novel about a guy whose livelihood involves mopping up blood and bone fragments...If one tends to find humor in unlikely places, Huston has created a work that is sly, twisted and surprising-one well worth the investment of time."--Denver Post"Huston's novels are among the most imaginative and compelling in the mystery and thriller genres...In The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death, Huston finds pathos and the sublime in a story about an occupation for which there is no training or career path."--Pittsburgh Tribune"It's a pretty neat trick to avert your eyes while you read, but The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death by Charlie Huston is so fresh, funny and original that I managed ...The characters range from the slightly odd to the bizarre-doesn't-even-begin. You might feel ashamed of yourself for laughing, but I won't tell. Just take a bath afterward, and remember to scrub out the tub."--Cleveland Plain Dealer"Hilarious, with the comedy getting darker and funnier as Web falls ever deeper into an intricate, overpowering mess that even he may not be able to clean up. Huston's characters are mostly loons, but his way with characterization and plot are so sure-handed and appealing, you'll find yourself desperately hoping they survive to live another day and star in a sequel, Clorox at the ready."--Dallas Morning News

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