Perverts, Pedophiles & Other Theologians - reviewed

Cover by Gene Colan & Jeff Amano

For several years now, Clifford Lawrence Meth has slowly but surely built up a loyal cult following for his short stories. As brief as they are brutal, Meth's stories tackle such everyday horrors as domestic abuse, child molestation, sexism, racism and just about any other dark aspect of human nature that we encounter in life. Some of his tales flirt with the supernatural or science-fiction aspects, while others are told as purely realistic fiction. Either way, a story by Meth is like shaving: you often don't realize you've been cut until you're completely through and you see the blood.

A quick glance at the contents of his new collection, PERVERTS, PEDOPHILES & OTHER THEOLOGIANS, will support that statement. The volume opens with "Deep Kimchee," a story about two everyday guys driving around with a corpse in the back of their truck. The story is very familiar of Joe R. Lansdale's writing in its casual portrayal of violence. Also delightfully morbid is "A Day in the Death of Martin Peel" which follows a lowlife whose committing suicide proves to be the high point of his day. And the tale "What They Don't Know" is 100% Meth -- disturbing and ultimately thought-provoking.

Meth offers some shorter pieces that are a little more experimental in nature, deliberately blurring the line between fiction and non-fiction. Among these is a satisfying vignette entitled "Another Joe Story" which humorously examines the ritual of authors using real-life acquaintances in their writing. Meth also tries his hand at poetry. Die-hard Meth fans may wish he had used the space for more stories, but those readers willing to give the poetry a chance will be pleased. The author manages to develop more character and story in a 500 word poem than many authors do in 5,000 words. Meth is at his best when he's either outright cynical, as in the poem "Cripples", or quietly pensive mixed with a dash of good humor, such as in "By Request."

The stories don't fall into a particular genre, and those looking for what's traditionally considered to be "horror" may be disappointed. But those readers looking to try fiction that sharply and unrelentingly holds up a magnifying glass to the dark side of human nature will be pleasantly surprised and eagerly awaiting further collections by Clifford Lawrence Meth -- one of dark fiction's best-kept secrets.

1997 Barnes & Noble On-line

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