When I started reading bizarro, I bought and read three books to kick things off. The first one was “Lost in Cat Brain Land”, by Cameron Pierce. The second was “Satan Burger”, by Carlton Mellick III. The third was “Squid Pulp Blues”, by Jordan Krall.
Squid Pulp Blues is a mess of three weird, dark, gritty tales of bizarro squid fetish noir. If that doesn’t interest you, then maybe Krall’s not for you. Or maybe there’s something else in his books that’ll get your attention. If I’m totally honest, I’m not a fan of the collective works of Krall. I love some of his stuff, and others… not so much. And I’ve told him this, too, as a fan of some of his books, I’d love him to write more like that, and less like the dead babies and urine fetish shit that goes down in King Scratch. That’s because I’m not an all out bizarro-fetish fan. But I do understand that I’m one person asking for one thing, and if more people are asking for the sick fetish stories, I can’t really blame him for writing sick fetish stories.
So I read Squid Pulp Blues, which had a bit of the squid fetish, but backed it up with a whole lot of stylish genre badassery. Then I read King Scratch and I was left wanting more of that sweet gritty genre style. Then I read Fistful of Feet, which has got some pretty graphic freaky fetish material, but it’s backed up by a heavy dose of weird western/spaghetti western influence. And I’m glad I pursued with Krall.
After that, I got the first book he published; a novella called “Piecemeal June”. And man, that one is waaaaaaay gross out. Not my favourite Krall, but if you like sick shit, be my guest. I mean, at the very least, he has the common decency to make a story out of it. It’s not just ramming sick shit down our throats. He’s got his story, characters, he builds interest, conflict, development. But he does so with graphic detail. I read it anyway, but some things I just don’t want to read. It’s personal preference.
By the time I read Beyond the Valley of the Apocalypse Donkeys, I was used to his writing. I knew I was going to read some things that are pretty sick. But I was also informed that it was toned down in this book, which it was. And at this point I got a couple of signed Kralls. Apocalypse Donkeys and Fistful of Feet. And the book delivered its promise of sick shit, while keeping it stripped back and focused on the plot. And it was glorious. A throwback to the time I read Squid Pulp Blues, an introduction to something weird and disturbing and graphic. Something that makes me a little uncomfortable, but it’s a something that I’m glad I read.
So, Jordan Krall loves his graphic, awkward fetishes, and he loves his genres. I haven’t read anything since, but his latest books are definitely on my radar. An apocalypse genre novel called “Tentacle Death Trip”, and a novelette called “False Magic Kingdom”, which is (according to the man, himself) unlike his usual bizarro genre books and more like J.G. Ballard, William Burroughs, and Barry Malzberg. Both of these sound like stories I could really get into.
And I guess that’s why I like reading Jordan Krall. He’s bizarre, he’s got some cool genre things going on, but he also likes to mix things up a bit. And while I like some of his books more than others, I admire his ability to write those scenes of shockingly graphic perversity. I know some people love it. And while I hate reading some of it, I love being placed in that position of discomfort.
And I’d love to see him keep putting out the books that he so evidently loves writing. It’s a great thing to see writers who are so passionate about their own work that they practically live and breathe it. Even if I don’t love every single one of his books (chances are that I won’t), I’ll probably still read them and take the good with the not-my-cup-of-tea.
I’d also like to wish happy birthday to Jordan Krall, best of luck for your future. And I hope to hell you’re not writing anything from personal experience…