Vicki Hendricks goes all the way like precious fucking few authors are willing to today and Florida Gothic Stories proves my statement on damn near every fucking page. There are stories in this collection that are so fucking crazy that you can’t imagine even the right honorable Mayor of Storytown himself (who totally exists – don’t worry about it) could pull them off, but somehow Vicki Hendricks does. Though Florida and bizarreness are clearly the main threads connecting Florida Gothic Stories, the Nerd likes to think that they all hinged on a question that Hendricks might have asked herself during each story: How fucked up can I make this story while still making the reader care about the characters every step of the way?
And when I say “fucked up,” you shouldn’t be taking me lightly in the slightest. I mean, the collection kicks off with “Stormy, Mon Amour,” a story about a woman who is in love (and who no doubt gets boned by) a dolphin. “Must Bite!” is a classic femme fatale story in the Double Indemnity vein where the instrument of death is not a train accident but sex-crazed monkeys. “Cold-Blooded Lovers” is about a middle-aged man sexually obssessed with his pet iguana who he dresses up in sexy outfits.
But it’s not all down-and-dirty bestiality, dear readers, though that’d be more than fine with the Nerd – there’s sex and rape between two actual human beings too! “Sweet Dreams” is about two old ladies keeping a homeless guy around with septugenarian sex and booze so that they can eventually collect on the life insurance policy they take out on him, murder-wise of course. “Boozanne, Lemme Be” tells of a desperate B&E expert midget who has to choose between his love for the owners of the house he secretly squats in and the affections of the fun-loving gal who sleeps with him. “M-F Dog” and “ReBecca” are pretty much straight-up erotica stories, albeit the former’s about cockblocking dogs (there’s those animals again) and the latter involves siamese twins joined at the head. In the straight-up classic noir categories you have “The Big O,” “West End,” “Sinny and the Prince,” and “Gators,” though it’s doubtful you’ve ever read stories that go as far sexual explicitness-wise nor make fewer apologies for their fucked up, morally reprehensible protagonists.
But though Hendricks relishes a good, weird sex scene or a gut-churning murder like few writers alive, she always makes you understand her characters, sometimes even makes you feel deeply for them. Even if they are in a truly bizarre situation (like, say, pregnant with their dolphin lover’s child, for instance), Hendricks effortlessly brings you into the character’s head and heart the same as if it were the story of your uncle shopping for cat food or some everyday shit like that – she’s just that fucking good.
Florida Gothic Stories is lurid, gross, hilarious, nasty, hot, and even touching. It’s that great mix of sexy, messy one-handed reading and two-fisted full-dark crime thriller that we’ve come to expect from one of the modern day masters of noir, only with more wild-ass risks and crazy shit than any novel could possibly sustain. Though now that I think about it, I’d gladly read an entire Hendricks full-length novel as sick as “Must Bite!” any fucking day.