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.