Friday’s Forgotten Books: Mall by Eric Bogosian

May 7, 2010

mall eric bogosianI’ve been a fan or Eric Bogosian’s for just about 20 years I suppose having discovered him sometime in high school. That chance discovery of Sex, Drugs & Rock and Roll made an impression and eve gave me a line which I still remember to this day ‘every once in awhile you just have to go up to the devil and spit in his eye just to make sure your still alive’. If you look at his monologues there are a couple of immediately noticeable Bogosian hallmarks: Voice, darkness, intensity and the ability to create captivating characters with detailed and interesting backgrounds. Talk Radio ain’t a walk in the petting zoo. If you look at the monologue where that line was taken from then you’ll even see him flirting with the criminal milieu at the very least.

Well did you know that when Eric Bogosian published his first novel that it was a crime novel? A straight up violent and dark crime novel at that. I mean we’re talking one the basement crazies wouldn’t have to be embarrassed about being seen reading. Mall was published in 2001 and of Bogosian’s work seems to be one that doesn’t get referred to and seems to be even more invisible in the crime fiction community.

Just so we are all on the same page here all of us know who Eric Bogosian is so yeah this guy wrote a crime novel.

Mall uses Bogosian’s strengths with monologues and background with one man shows to create four main POV characters and rotate them around a rampaging mall shooting by a fifth POV character. Mall has a great opening with cranked out Mal killing his mother and setting her house on fire before kicking his plan into motion at the epicenter of suburban consumerism. By the end of the novel the body count will start to hit HFS* proportions.

The four main characters are all like satellites orbiting around Mal’s narrative. While Mal may get the least amount of page time this whole story is his and his presence dominates it. The other characters are dissatisfied suburbanites: the stoner teen, the restless housewife, the father with a kinky but kinda tame secret that all engage in some level of self loathing. They aren’t fully happy with their lives and by extension who they are. Whether they are actually shaken out of their ennui and stasis by the events of the night remains to be seen by the end.

The pace of the book is unbearably fast and the tension continues to build and when the reader believes that a lull has been reached Bogosian ramps everything up to a new unforeseen level.

Bottom line is that this crime novel by a guy we all all know doesn’t deserve to go unremembered any longer. Its intense, its violent, it has an opinion and most importantly, its deserving of your time.

When I sat down to write Mall, which was really my first novel, I wrote it by understanding that I’m not the most sophisticated prose writer. I had been writing a lot of screenplays and even some television, so I had learned a lot about how to tell a story. I decided to create a very clear spine on which to hang a lot of things, a very clear arc. That arc was kind of a thriller. Mall is about a guy who’s a disgruntled employee and he goes to a shopping mall to shoot the place up.

*Holy Fucking Shit

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Brian Lindenmuth

Brian is the non-fiction editor of Spinetingler magazine and one of the fiction editors of Snubnose Press. In addition to Spinetingler his work has appeared in Crimespree magazine and at BSC Review, Galleycat and the Mulholland Books website. He also heads the Spinetingler Award committee.

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3 Responses to Friday’s Forgotten Books: Mall by Eric Bogosian

  1. Patti Abbott on May 7, 2010 at 9:05 am

    I had no idea about this one. Thanks for reminding us.

  2. Todd Mason on May 7, 2010 at 11:03 am

    As a non-fan of TALK RADIO (and of most Oliver Stone films), I still was struck by Bogosian’s physical resemblance to my old friend, the other writer A. A. (Al) Attanasio. I’ve enjoyed some of Bogosian’s monolg work since, and should give this a look.

  3. Calum Macleod on May 7, 2010 at 11:51 am

    For a British take on the same subject, a spree shooting in a glossy shopping centre, check out Mall Time by Chaz Brenchley.