In a wildly careening plot that can only be described as crack noir, two pipeheads accidentally steal a photo of George W. Bush's presidential package and decide to blackmail the Republican Party. Before the crack-crazed thieves can follow through, however, gorgeous, whip-smart Nurse Tina, who's just offed her husband with a bowl of Drano-laced Lucky Charms, absconds with the goods. When Manny Rubert, a scarred ex-junkie turned codeine-popping detective, is called in to investigate the "foamer" hubby's untimely demise, love hits him like a wrench to the head.
Soon Manny and Tina are making plans of their own for the presidential pie -- and for their future together. But the meddling police chiefs and motel room sex-change surgeons of the world just won't leave them alone. And then there are those killer crackheads, still out there and closing in....
Wanton violence. Crushing drug addiction. Sexual abuse. It's the world according to Stahl, back with a third tale of whacked-out people in a whacked-out world (after Perv A Love Storyand a memoir, Permanent Midnight). The story plays out around the search for a photograph of George W. Bush having kinky sex with the mayor of a small town outside Pittsburgh. The photo was once in the possession of Tony Zank, a local crackhead who is desperately trying to get it back. Along with his partner, a wanted shovel-murderer named McCardle, Zank leaves a path of freakish, carnal destruction, eventually attracting the attention of Manny Rubert, a police detective with a serious codeine addiction. Rubert has his own reason for wanting the photo. He's the mayor's ex-husband and is curious how and why she did for President Bush what she'd never do for him. Several other misfits including a comically inept police chief and an alluring young woman who once force-fed her husband Drano and crushed glass inhabit the outer edges of the careening, overdeveloped plot. Stahl's talent for supplying a cast of mean yet oddly moving characters is evident, as is his talent for creating tactile, unsettling images. Knife wounds open up "like a wet pair of lips." Bedridden yet still-amorous old ladies whip back the sheets, "revealing seven decades of thigh." It comes all at once the comedy, the tragedy and, always, the vulgarity. The challenge is keeping the object of the mayhem in focus. Stahl's formula can be brutally compelling, but he uses it here to less striking effect.