BABES IN GANGLAND
By Bix Skahill
Review by Katrina Monroe
From the cover:
No Woman Could Change His Ways, Only His Diaper…
When Marrowburg’s most fearsome gangster, Kid Phoenix, gets gunned down behind Stripping Through History (a titty bar that combines nudity with feminist history), there is a silver lining: he gets a second chance at life.
Coming back as Baby Jaydon, whose perpetual five o’clock shadow and penchant for swearing aren’t going to win him any friends on the playground, he’s adopted by a well-to-do family and goes to live in the suburbs with no memory of his former life. But after a chance run-in with his ex-henchman, Ram Bountybar, Baby Jaydon begins to recall fragments of his former underworld life. He forsakes his quiet existence of building blocks and afternoon naps to find out who put five slugs in his back behind Stripping Through History.
With the help of Ram and Kid’s former moll, Ruby Redd, who’s now a nun, Baby Jaydon goes on a dangerous journey through Marrowburg’s twisted underworld to find out who killed him. Blood and formula flow as Baby Jaydon, Ram, and Ruby Redd encounter onion and chive-scented mobsters, rabid ocelots, and the world’s angriest travel agent.
The best thing about bizarro fiction is the anticipation of the unexpected. Picking up a story like BABES IN GANGLAND, you know you’re going to get something insane and you just hope your psyche is malleable enough to take it in.
The tone is set right away—noirish without boxing itself into the genre. Bad guys and cops. Dames with bodies men kill to get a closer look at. But surrounding it all is an air of what-the-fuck. Is there such a thing as subtle bizarro? If not, Skahill might be its founder. Details like a tanning salon/hospital and a feminist strip joint that features ladies attempting to teach their patrons while grinding on them come at the reader from left and right, jarring the story just enough to knock the reader around a bit before getting on with the plot.
“It’s always a fucking surprise when I see my fucking reflection.”
“The darkness is scary and Berry Bear protects me from that shit.”
I’ve only read one other novel with a baby point of view and it wasn’t pretty. The tool can typically go one of two ways: badly, or less badly. But Skahill pulls it off with hilarious results. Baby Jaydon is the epitome of what parents, over-tired and frustrated, imagine their infants to be beneath all the goo-gooing and glazed smiles—tyrants who wouldn’t banish the thought of putting a bullet between your eyes if you don’t hurry up with that binky.
After his mom’s—er—untimely death, Baby Jaydon and his loyal henchman, Ram Bountybar, set off to seek revenge on the sonofabitch who twitched him. At a little less than a hundred and twenty pages, this story moves quickly, with a straightforward style that pushes the reader to keep up, lest she get left in the dust. Move too fast, though, and you’ll miss little details that send the bizarre of the story over the top.
And some of these details hide within the characters themselves. Each has a quirk that makes him memorable—French onion B.O., progeria, an I (heart) snatch tattoo. With few words, Skahill gives the reader just enough that you’re certain you know these people, though you’re scared to wonder what unfortunate bender introduced you to them in the first place.
BABES IN GANGLAND is one of those books that, once the last page is turned, the reader hugs her knees to her chest and rocks, gently, murmuring until the white coats come to pick her up. Strange, monumentally screwed up, but a pleasure to read.