Exquisite Corpse (1996) is a gem that caught my eye from a display table back when I was starting to make up for about a decade of (university imposed) fiction deprivation. Poppy Z Brite regales the story of Andrew Compton, an infamous UK serial killer who fakes his own death to escape from prison. By chance (and bloodshed) he makes his way to the lush, pre-Katrina New Orleans to indulge in young victims submersed in the drugs, sex and HIV culture consuming the mid 90’s. He eventually collides and coalesces with Jay Byrne, an antisocial and successful (i.e. uncaught) serial killer of young, transient men. Jay moves Andrew to explore cannibalism in its “raw” form, with both of them eventually rolling around naked in guts and bile and rivers of blood. (Oh, my!)
Ok, I have to admit it, none of the characters in Exquisite Corpse, killers nor victims, are redeemable in many (if any) ways. Even the author, Poppy Z. Brite, says as much on her website and declares no desire to revisit them. But here is where I come clean about certain quirks in my entertainment criteria…call me shallow, but give me poetic and unique descriptions of gore and I can easily overlook minor things like sympathetic or fully arc-ed characters. (See my Killer-works article on Dexter for more proof of this!)
In Exquisite Corpse every sexual act, evisceration, and dismemberment is described in equally poetic detail. Lack of redeemable qualities seem beside the point when you have Andrew, “The killer with a thin scrim of blood still greasing his nail beds…” describing his exploits, “The eye socket sucked sensually at the scalpel as I pulled it out.” and “I’d always liked blondes….their blood-soaked hair is like pale silk seen through ruby glass.”
This vivid tale of two 30-something, gay serial killers slaying their way into each others lives quickly led me back to the path of voraciously indulging my passion for hunting down elegantly disturbing fiction…and ultimately planted a seed for the birth of Killer-works.com!