badbadbad by Jesus Angel Garcia – review

Jesus Angel Garcia’s debut novel badbadbad is the story of, wouldn’t ya’ fuckin’ know it, Jesus Angel Garcia, a low-rent webmaster for the First Church of the Church Before Church who is trying to regain custody of his young son from his estranged wife.  But while JAG may be playing the part of the nice Southern Christian for the sake of his job and his day in court, secretly he is a self-styled sexual healer, finding kinky women on the alternative lifestyle website fallenangels and shaping his online profile and himself to meet their specific needs.  To say that the bipolarity of his existence is eventually his undoing is a given,  it’s just too bad it takes until the last ten pages of the novel for such tumultuous shit to finally befall our hero.

I think Garcia has a shit-ton of talent and that badbadbad has a lot of potential.  The novel has a lot to say about religion and sexuality, the Deep South and the internet age in general.  It also deals very nicely with loneliness and identity, shit that’s the bread and butter of a lot of classic noir.  Dude’s prose, dialogue and characters are rock solid, his sex scenes refreshingly unembarrassing, and this shit’s often funny and wicked smahht.  Thing is, story-wise, badbadbad just kind of hangs there for two hundred pages then abruptly ends.

I mean, the set-up is tight as fuck: You got dude managing church sites and forums while banging all sorts of chicks off-the-clock.  You’ve got scenes of JAG listening to fire-and-brimstone, politically-charged sermons from the preacher then going to crazy punk rock venues with sex rooms in the basement with the preacher’s rebellious son.  You’ve got the preacher’s son and JAG talking about great music and what it means to them.  You’ve got JAG pining for his son and hating his bitch wife.  You’ve got JAG meeting up with a bunch of different girls of varying sanity and sexual tastes and then thinking that he’s some sort of savior through his willingness to play the part of whatever their fantasies may be to a ridiculous degree.  (“Jesus Angel” indeed)  Now if only that set up had been the springboard for a nasty downward spiral instead of being damn near the whole book, the aforementioned scenes just episodically playing on repeat for pages upon pages.

Naturally, your enjoyment of this shit, dear reader, could just be a matter of managing your expectations.  There is foreshadowing throughout the book that leads us to believe that this shit is heading toward “psycho noir” territory (like his purchase of a gun and JAG, the narrator, withholding from the reader what lead to his wife keeping his son away from him) and, indeed, the ending certainly has some violence and revelations, but other than that I wouldn’t really call this crime fiction – more of a satire, maybe.  The Nerd, despite his dumbass moniker, ain’t opposed to that shit.  If I’d just randomly read the jacket of this book?  New Pulp Press behind it or not, yeah, I’d crack the spine.  Shit, even if the noir element wasn’t even detectable in the novel I’d probably still read it.  But crime novel or not, badbadbad needs something to keep it moving beyond the reader just marveling at its themes and style while waiting for the shoe to, you know, just fucking drop already.

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Jack Getze

Spinetingler's Fiction Editor is a former newspaper reporter and author of five crime novels from Down and Out Books. His short fiction has been published on the web at BEAT TO A PULP, A TWIST OF NOIR and THE BIG ADIOS.

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About Jack Getze

Spinetingler's Fiction Editor is a former newspaper reporter and author of five crime novels from Down and Out Books. His short fiction has been published on the web at BEAT TO A PULP, A TWIST OF NOIR and THE BIG ADIOS.

4 Replies to “badbadbad by Jesus Angel Garcia – review”

  1. Love the review Nerd. I’m disappointed that the noir element is lacking, I may have picked up bad,bad,bad otherwise. I think the pulp cover is dynamite.

  2. Man, I gotta beg to differ with you here. I LOVED this book, loved it. So, JAG doesn’t spiral into outright insanity straight out of the gate and start offing people 1/4 of the way through the book- and? It isn’t a crime novel in my opinion, it’s a psychological thriller that gives us a deep look into this guy’s mind as he ever-so-subtly loses it. I thought it was fascinating and found it very easy to sympathize with JAG, *even when* he is so to speak, a not-so-nice guy. I thought the author did a fabulous job of showing what’s essentially a descent into manic delirium.

    That it doesn’t follow the *traditional* forumula is a bonus in my opinion- most crime novels/thrillers have become so predictable as to be downright boring. This one, like so few others I’ve read, is worth not only discussion and praise, but a second and third re-read. I’ve even gone so far as to send copies to two of my family members that I knew would also appreciate it, and that, I must say, I *never* do.

    Chad, you ought to look at some of the other reviews for it and get a few more opinions before writing it off. It creeped me right the fuck out, and there is no shortage of suspense, contrary to what this guy is stating. Almost not even sure we were reading the same book, haha!

  3. Dear Sally,

    Glad you’re passionate about it. Have fun on the 2nd and 3rd re-read. Very interested to hear how your family members like it.


  4. I agree with The Nerd in that there is no suspense and that it suddenly ends.

    Doesn’t mean that it’s a terrible book, just sort of unsatisfying, but then, maybe that’s appropriate, given how confused the main character is supposed to be? Perhaps there would be more suspense if I had connected with the main character, but I didn’t. He is just sort of a lost loser right from the start. I’ve read books where I don’t like the main character,but in those I find the character flaws psychologically interesting. This guy was flat. His actions were interesting,but he lacked a challenging internal dialog, he was too simple for my tastes.

    All this said, Individual scenes are really well written and I could envision them as tv or on the big screen. Would be better than much of mainstream tv.