Subterranean Press, 2016, 120 pages
What do you do if the man you've vowed to kill dies before you can kill him?
In college, Tom Holbrook worshipped Shasta DiMaio from afar, but she married the arrogant John Atwater—and Atwater eventually murdered her.
All that's left for Tom is revenge. He has devoted the rest of his life to finding Atwater and killing him—but when he finally finds him, Atwater is in a bag in the Los Angeles County morgue.
How do you kill a man who has already died?
Down and Out in Purgatory is basically a revenge story. Tom Holbrook is the type of guy who falls in love with the hot girl in his friends circle and just can't get over the fact that she chose someone else. I kept thinking of this xkcd comic while reading this novella:
This is the second Tim Powers story I've read. It's an imaginative, surreal story, with souls wandering around in a sometimes confusing Hollywood-like purgatory.
Tom loved Shasta, but Shasta married John. They were all so close they got tattooed together. But then John murdered Shasta. So Tom is going to kill John, but then John goes and dies in a car crash. So Tom seeks out a Ouiji board-using spiritualist to send him to the Other Side where he can permanently erase his nemesis good and proper. And maybe hook up with Shasta too.
So basically, our protagonist is an obsessive Nice Guy mooning over the girl who chose someone else, and even after they're both dead he wants to ride in as a white knight and save her in the afterlife. Needless to say, things aren't going to work out the way he wants.
The descriptions of seances, of purgatory, of the behavior of souls in purgatory, are all a bit eerie and atmospheric and appropriate. But I just wanted there to be more to the story.
Also by Tim Powers: My review of The Anubis Gates.
My complete list of book reviews.