review and interview by Andy Laughton

D I S C U S S I O N  F O R U M  |  R E T U R N  T O  S T  O N L I N E




two novels by David S. Grant

Publisher: Offense Mechanisms

ISBN-10: 0-9815191-0-5
ISBN-13: 978-0-9815191-0-4

312 pages

paperback: $16.99 $19.99 + S/H

[click for details]




R E V I E W   O F   B L E A C H  |  B L A C K O U T :

"This story probably isn't for you."

So begins Bleach, the first of two new novels by David S. Grant packaged in one curiously mind bending volume by Offense Mechanisms, Silverthought's slutty little sister of an imprint. Truer opening words have probably been said before, but in this case, this opener is true enough for most, but not for me. This story, and the following story of Blackout, are for me, and maybe you, too.

Bleach does not necessarily cover new ground. Those who have read Grant's previous ST title, Corporate Porn, will immediately recognize the initial setting of a bland, oppressive office space and the thirtysomething protagonist who can't wait to get out of it. If you've ever clocked in your time staring at cubicle walls, sitting through monotonous, agonizing meetings, or having to explain the most basic functions of a spreedsheet program, this story is for you. Bleach introduces us to Jeremy, a young man who's looking for home. Leaving NYC and returning to his hometown in Wisconsin for the holidays, Jeremy has a little secret. His cheating girlfriend knows, his Magnum, P.I.-obsessed parents know, but his best friends Chip and Stoner don't know. This secret initiates a reevaluation of his life—is there more to the concept of home than partying like a rock star with old friends? How do you define home—is it a place you return to or a place you haven't found yet? Through rolling flashbacks that depict previous New Year's Eves, we see what brought Jeremy to his present disenchantment. The book builds on that framework and culminates in New Year's Eve 2004. The booze is flowing, the shrooms are questionable, and someone has a shotgun.

Blackout, the second book in this edition, is by far a more frantic read, less grounded in quiet contemplation of home and growing up, more dealing with the desire for revenge, for living life to its fullest. It opens in Vegas, in one of the best stream of consciousness full tank of gas full bag of blow full-on hard-on bachelor party scenes I've ever read. Jeremy and Chip are in Vegas for Stoner's bachelor party, and let's just say there may have been a murder. Blackout follows the uncertainty our protagonists feel—what really happened? How will the trial end? To what lengths will friends go to avenge a murder? This is an older Jeremy, someone who has been changed by the events of Bleach, but someone who is still searching. Has he found home? Has he found someone special in Mary? How will he live with loss—and how will he seek revenge? Shorter than Bleach, Blackout is still a fine piece of writing in its wreckless depiction of both shameless debauchery and the quiet questions that emerge from loss.

Yeah, these books are for me. Are they for the typical reader? Maybe not. Some might find the constant drinking and drugging and screwing overwhelming or monotonous, but Grant's strength lies in his almost clinical detachment from these events. Those not well versed in the substance abuse scene might not believe that someone could live like this and keep living, but let's face it, those readers probably aren't OM's target demographic. Reading B|B brought back many fond and not so fond memories. I saw a lot of myself and my buddies in Grant's characters, the conversations about, well, nothing, the endless supply of grass and beer, the quick basement fucks you might regret later when the girl ends up overdose dead. Sometimes these books read like an encyclopedia article on all the things your parents told you never to do, but it's Grant's ability to insert absolutely hilarious quips and pop culture references and ridiculous situations into this play by play account of wreckless youth that makes it so very worthwhile. We all need escapes; we all need to find home. David Grant's Bleach | Blackout has a lot of heart buried deep down under the cigarette butts. Pick up B|B for a quick, sexy slice of awesome. Sure, it might smell like smoke, but it tastes like Nicolas Cage.


I N T E R V I E W :

Andy Laughton: I see a lot of Corporate Porn in Bleach and Blackout, not just the style but the theme of
resistance against the corporate machine. What do you see as the main similarities and differences between the books?

David S. Grant: I have and still do spend most of my life in the corporate environment. The mundane events form a nice backdrop for the moral issues most of my characters have. These books are definitely similar in that the characters want to find a way out. It's perfectly natural on a summer day to be looking out your office window, see the guy working construction and wish you were him. The construction worker is looking up at the office, wishing he was there. A twisted circle of life.

Bleach is much more grounded than both Corporate Porn and Blackout. I don't believe there are many parts of Bleach where the reader may not be able to picture this happening. Maybe not relate exactly, but heard about similar situations. In Blackout and Corporate Porn there were liberties taken that you can only take when writing fiction. Specifically the courtroom scene in Blackout—I don't think many saw that episode of "Law and Order."

AL: What's your target readership? The typical reader probably won't dig the sex, drugs and rock 'n roll in B|B, but as someone who's lived both the drunk college life and suffered through the twentysomething corporate machine, I think you really captured it perfectly.

DSG: Damn good question. I do struggle with this at times, but not for a very long time. In the end, I don't care—that has never been the point. That being said, I do think many people have either lived part of it, or have always wanted to, and use stories like mine as an escape. Personally, for me, it's a little of both.

AL: The concept of "going home" is a strong thread throughout Bleach. Could you talk a little bit about that? Is there a place in your life that generates that feeling in you, not necessarily your hometown, just a place or time you're drawn back to?

DSG: Bleach was about Jeremy going home, but once he's there he realizes that maybe that isn't home anymore. Unless you live in the same hometown you grew up, most will struggle with this predicament. When writing Bleach I always felt this was the end of a phase for him and that he would settle down (surgery permitting). Of course, we now know with Blackout that that never happened.

AL: You list your major writing influences as Bret Easton Ellis, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chuck Palahniuk, and Hunter S. Thompson. What did you take from each of them to use in your own writing practice?

DSG: The way Ellis creates a scene by describing the emotions and actions, not the color of the coffee table or how many plants are in the room. The language of Hunter S. Thompson, how it bites you as you read his work. The romance with an edge of F. Scott Fitzerald. The Beautiful and Damned is a book I always pick up and always have difficulty putting down. And of course, Palahniuk's ability to shock through social commentary.

AL: Your flash/short pieces are always reader favorites on Silverthought. Could you discuss the differences if any in your writing practice between short fiction and longer forms like novels?

DSG: For novels I need a high level outline and an ending. Not that I'll necessarily keep the ending, but I learned early that having an end in sight keeps me motivated. My writing practice is somewhat unorthodox in that I very much binge. Once I start a book I continue on it until I finish, rarely taking breaks longer than one day.

AL: How much of yourself do you put into your characters? Are Jeremy, Stoner and Chip all different parts of you or based on friends or people you know, or are they completely fictional?

DSG: A combination of myself, friends, people I know, and fiction. The funny thing is you probably wouldn't guess correctly the parts based on truth vs. fiction. The main narrator usually has a lot of my thoughts because I always feel like as I am writing my books I'm walking in their shoes. When they shoot heroin, I shoot heroin. Fictionally speaking, of course.

AL: What was the last book you read, movie you saw, song you loved, drink you had?

DSG: Book—Pure Sunshine, movie—27 Club, song—the new Mariah Carey. Actually I'm just kidding, it's been a while since I've fallen in love with a song. I pretty much like anything with two guitars or more in the band, but seriously though, I'm just kidding about Mariah Carey. Drink—ten pints of Stella. (Is there any other way to drink Stella?)

AL: Do you believe that children are our future? What would you say to a child who wants to go into finance? Is B|B a cautionary tale, or should young people revel in the debauchery before they're locked into lives of corporate servitude?

DSG: I think if you read between the lines you'll find that the point is that you can have it both ways if you want, but you need balance. Everyone has their "edge". It's important to push yourself to that edge. Just remember, some edges are higher than others.

AL: What's next for David Grant? Writing projects, screenplays, movie deals and superstardom? Have any juicy details you'd like to share about Bliss, the prequel to Bleach?

DSG: I have recently published a short story collection, Emotionless Souls, and a novella, The Last Breakfast. I am in the process of writing Bliss, the prequel to Bleach, which takes a look at the senior year of high school of Jeremy, Stoner, and Chip. Spoiler alert: There are drugs involved.


Copyright © 2008 Andy Laughton

A B O U T   T H E   A U T H O R:

Andy Laughton is the Forum Administrator of Silverthought. This explains his reviewing and interviewing skills.

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