Monday, April 23, 2012
HOMEBOY, the only work by the sadly tragic writer (he was Janis Joplin's last boyfriend) Seth Morgan, is a wonderful, warped, wild foray into the drug-addled, sex-infused, violence-ridden criminal world of 1980s San Francisco and the penitentiary system of California during the AIDS explosion. Writing about what he knew---drug addiction, strip-club barking, robbery, and prison life---from personal experience, Morgan crafted a tough, eye-opening look at a world few would want to visit, and even fewer would wish to become trapped in. Morgan's prose cannot be sprinted through though; it is best bitten off in chunks and chewed. At times his words come together in beautiful rhythms, paragraphs that frankly are spine-tingling, while it can also become weirdly cramped and slang-filled. And he loves his alliterations, almost too much, like it was some sort of addiciton itself. No doubt the book was meant to shock, although in these jaded times there is little here that will startle anyone but the most isolated or overprotected (though certainly I would refrain from giving the book to anyone under 21). A colorful cast of cavorting criminal characters---including prostitutes, addicts, pimps, dealers, gamblers, convicts, brutal prison guards and thugs, lawyers, strippers, homosexuals, and just about anything you can think of from the denizens of vice---populate these purple pages of pain [Yeah, you see what I am doing! He is guilty, ad nauseum, of this prose, a wild poet gone amuk at times]. The basic story follows the convoluted tale of a small-time barker (Joe) who accidentally steals a diamond during a robbery. The rock was formerly in the possession of a brutal prostitute-killing pimp bent on using it for blackmail, and the pursuit of the stone by (among others) a single-minded hardboiled detective determined on putting the bastard on death row. Unfortunately, Morgan died not long after the publication of this book, and the world most likely lost some amazing literature had he lived to craft more tales, but this effort crackles with energy, opens doors on alternative lifestyles, and questions penal institutions. A brave book. I recommend it for those wishing a challenge, with an open mind to human behavior in all its cravings and perversions, but who also like an interesting tale, well told.