Butch Fatale is a Los Angeles-based private dick just barely scrapping by on whatever cases come her way. While having sex with an old friend, a new case walks in the door– another butch is looking for her missing ex-girlfriend, Angie. Butch suspects Angie is just another fallen ex-junkie, but decides to follow the leads where they may take her. As it turns out, straight into trouble– Armenian gangsters, high-priced escort services, murder, mayhem, etc. And a lot more sex.
Faust has written an odd book that reads as both a tribute and a farcical take on the classic mystery pulps of yore. I can’t say it worked for me, but I think there is definitely a niche out there for interested readers. As a devoted fan of romance novels, I was surprised to find myself thinking the sex gratuitous and overly-explict. The first third of the book read like the filler plot in a porno and I was frustrated by the lack of a concrete story. The sex scenes were not there to develop characters or plot and so I found them more distracting then titillating.
Once the mystery started to unravel, however, the story picked up and I enjoyed it. When Faust lets Butch do her mystery-solving thing, both the writing and the character shine. I also liked Faust’s command of setting– modern day LA became a seedy, rich setting for a classic noir tale.
Except that as the story continued into the final third, Butch got lucky one too many times for me. A common trope in pulp fiction is the literally down-trodden hero– so beat upon as to almost not function, yet also somehow able to save the day with his wits and his luck. Butch got so lucky, so often, that I stopped believing she was good at her job. A couple of promising scenes were utterly wasted when Butch took so long telling me about all of the mental connections she was making and clues she was putting together to beat the bad guy instead of just throwing the right punch at the right moment.
I also wasn’t really sure who this book was written for– a queer reader? Pulp afficionados? Straight men? There were a few inside jokes I adored, like the character named Brink Bannon (Ann Bannon wrote the classic Beebo Brinker lesbian pulp novels). But other times, Butch’s narrative voice veered into a preachy tone that rang false for a book written for queer audiences. And the way Butch sexualizes every single woman she comes across made me rather uncomfortable– I wasn’t participating in it and it never hooked me, as a queer reader.