#HumpDayReviews: XXX Shamus by Red Hammond

This week’s Hump Day Review is actually of a book that appears on the surface to be erotic, but is, in true point of fact… NOT EROTIC AT ALL!

XXXshamus-188x300Has your mind been blown? Well hang onto your hats, kids, because there’s more where that came from.

First of all, let me say that I put off reading this book for a while, because the author himself (Red Hammond, a pseudonym for crime writer Anthony Neil Smith) informed me that it contained lots of sex, but that none of it was sexy.

How can sex not be sexy you ask? Indeed!

As an erotica writer, I actually totally understand this concept. Whether you’re simply burnt out from writing too many sex scenes in a row, from watching too much porn for “research” purposes, or simply find yourself disgusted at some of the sub-genres listed in the Erotica category on Amazon (“hucows”? really?!), there’s plenty of stuff that can turn a guy or gal off. And eventually, even the most hardened of hardcore enthusiasts will simply find the act of intercourse itself repulsive.

So starting from this premise, that sex is not in fact sexy, but more disturbing, disgusting, or physically repulsive, you’ll find XXX Shamus ready to leap a mile over this line with every coupling.

The book itself is quite transgressive, despite the fact that much of the sex depicted is actually consensual. (There are, however, a number of rape scenes, so trigger warning and spoiler alert for those that need it.) But despite the fact that this is a book where sex is oozing out of every page, it’s not an erotic novel, nor is it meant to get one off.

This book is actually a a private eye story, and a very deep, dark noir in the classic sense.

The protagonist – Hopper Garland, PI – is a man with a problem. A problem many man would probably kill to have. You see, women love him. And not just from afar, but up close and personal, in full color, and with all the sloppy smacking sounds that go with it.

It’s a bizarre conceit, really: a private dick who’s got some kind of magical, mystery dick that all women are addicted to, attracted to, pulled like a magnet to. No matter where he goes or what he’s doing, there’s a horny harlot lying in wait, rubbing her pussy up against him, begging for it.

I’m not exaggerating.

This lends itself to a very Lolita-esque narration, told from Hopper’s point of view, always humping away at anything remotely female. He can barely keep it in his pants, and he never wears underwear.

The unreliable narrator at his finest. A Humbert Humbert, claiming “she came onto me!” as his defense every time.

Like he never wanted it? Like he cared if she didn’t?

Oh, and before we go any further… Hopper’s got another problem. He’s fucking his sister.

Not his step-sister, like they do in the rest of the oh-so-screwed-up “incest” genre, but his actual sister.

Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure this is why Amazon banned the book. They’ll let you publish all manner of filth and exploitation in your novels, but if you show a fictional character fucking his fictional sister, no sir, that’s just plain wrong!

But I digress.

Hopper is, ostensibly, out to track down a missing girl. He’s good at that, probably because of his aforementioned magical, mystery dick. But he’s having some problems along the way. This is, after all, post-Katrina New Orleans, and shit is pretty well fucked. A great setting for a modern-day noir.

To me, one of the most interesting things about this book is that while there are many, many women with many different motives moving in and out of the frame, none of them get to have a voice except for Sister. And although Sister does have a given name (Violet, if you’re wondering – perhaps another nod to the genre, where all the women seem to have violet eyes?), Hopper “silences” her with his refusal to address her by name. Strange, don’t you think, for a guy who’s obsessed with, stuck with, or simply under the thumb of his evil, predatory sister?

So who’s the victim here? The lost girl Hopper’s supposed to find? Sister, luring Hopper into her bed time after time? Hopper himself?

That’s the thing about noir. Everyone’s a victim, and no one is. We all make our choices. We all make our mistakes. And then there’s a gun to solve everything. Or maybe something worse…

As a quote from Victor Gischler on the back of the book puts it:

“There are a lot of people that think they like it tough and raw, a lot of hardboiled wannabes. Okay, you tough readers. You like it so raw? Time to put up or shut up. Stick your face into the pages of XXX SHAMUS. Turn away before the last page and I’ll kick your fucking teeth out. Take it. Take it all.”

I’ve never professed to be a fan of hardboiled fiction, per se. I do like my detectives a bit rough and rugged, but I also like the Philip Marlowes with their snappy comebacks and bad attitudes. There’s something sexy about a private eye, I suppose, always watching, always on the prowl, living outside the law… but then again, who are these guys, really? Creeps and sneaks in cheap fedoras and trenchcoats, always tailing you, spying on you, stealing your private moments, watching your every move. And for what? To prove something that’s already plainly obvious to the person that hired them? To recover some missing property? Are women still “property” these days? Hmm.

What does “hmm” mean? It means “hmm.”

If you’re up for the challenge, grab yourself a copy of XXX Shamus. I give it two thumbs and a bloody dildo up. It ain’t for the faint of heart, though, and it ain’t gonna be bedtime reading. You can only buy it from the publisher direct, at Broken River Books.

And if you want to know the truth, I don’t think you’ve got the guts, Slim.

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