BY VICKI HENDRICKS
By K. Robert Einarson
Renata or 'Rennie' is a prostitute. She enjoys it and it's
who she is. Julie is her next-door neighbor in the hotel
they both live in. She is an aspiring novelist, trying to
prove to her father that she can survive on her own and
isn't sure if she is in love with Rennie. Rennie has a number
of clients but one, Richard, wants to be far more. His life
is in a holding pattern with a job and wife he wants to
leave behind and he wants Rennie to be part of that change.
Both Julie and Richard want to help Rennie to change into
their vision for her and they both think they are in love
with her. Francisco is a male prostitute and a kindred spirit
to Rennie and one of the few people she depends on.
Hendricks has a talent for vivid descriptive prose that
is rarely matched in the genre today. The comparisons to
James M. Cain's style are very appropriate.
But as with many books that are hybrid genres, one genre
dominates the work. In the case of Cruel Poetry, which is
classified as erotic noir, the erotic is the most dominate.
The sex scenes are vividly described and proceed in a slow
measured pace. This is Hendricks at her best. When the novel
moves to the noir side of the story however, the pacing
becomes erratic; at times racing ahead and other times stalling.
This was especially evident with the ending where the tension
was just deflated and it ends.
The central issue I had with this book was the characters.
The characters of Richard, his wife and Julie felt stereotyped.
I was never surprised by anything they did and that reduced
my enjoyment dramatically. With the character of Renata,
I would have found her actions more believable if she was
a drug addict. She seemed to be in a semi-oblivious dreamy
state. The events around her never seemed to affect her
It felt to me that she was written as an idealized image
of a pleasure driven woman and therefore no real harm should
come to her. Others would give up their lives to protect
her because she was perfect in their eyes. But I just felt
it rang as false.
Hendricks can write and does so very well but this novel
just doesn't seem to showcase that talent.
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