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Inferno heights.

by John Mitzel

Calamus Books. 249 pages, $15.95

This novel, which reads more like a series of satiric set pieces, takes place in hell. Its narrator is Bunny LaRue, a fabulously wealthy real estate titan who decides to open up new territory in the "swank circle of hell" where there's no historical memory. There, people just make things up as they go along. Whether or not Bunny will be successful in his empire-building is this book's conceit, but there's no real suspense. Imagine a cross between a squalid Potemkin village and a planned retirement community in Florida. Ecological catastrophes have rotted all the flora and fauna, and the residents have fared even worse.

Firmly set in the 20th century, when pagers were the most annoying personal electronic device around, Inferno Heights is short on character development (none of the characters seems to have had a previous existence) and plot, but has a fair amount of snappy dialogue and many vivid descriptions of this imaginary world. Bunny finds backers, sycophants, and colorful personalities at every turn. Among other characters, there's Big Louie, a straight man who wants to get exclusive rights to a chain of X-rated porn houses; Fluffy, a drag queen who could have featured in any early John Waters film and who stages S&M scenes in his home; and Bunny's assistant, Helen Shumway, a lesbian who's somewhat less repellent than the other characters. The narrator is given to ranting on topics such as the politics of the Reagan years, cooking shows, poetry slams (or, as he calls them, "poet laureate contests"), the sociology of victimization, grand opera, and pretentious magazines. It should be noted that the author owns Calamus, a well-stocked GLBT bookstore in Boston. He's been a force in Boston's gay publishing scene for many years and has written under several pseudonyms. One could grumble that the narrative doesn't go anywhere, but then, where is there to go in hell?
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Title Annotation:BRIEFS
Author:Stone, Martha E.
Publication:The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide
Article Type:Brief article
Date:Nov 1, 2009
Words:324
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