The Haunted Hillbilly by Derek McCormack (ECW), 124 pages, $18.95 paper. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Now that we can turn our backs on the excesses of loving Jesus in a commercial world for another 12 months, it's time to enjoy something lean and sinful. Since his debut collection, Dark Rides, Toronto author Derek McCormack has crafted taut, weird tales with irreverent wickedness and a cheeky playfulness.
Here, his talents for tightness and the comically macabre are at their peak.
Hank Williams needs a suit for his debut at the Grand Ole Opry, and that brown number his wife sewed just won't do. Nudie Cohn, "the Carnival Couturier" and narrator, offers to make Hank a suit that will literally make him shine.
For 37 years, the real Cohn was Nudie "the Rodeo Tailor," most famous for dressing Elvis Presley in $10,000 worth of gold lamé. Here, he's a gay couturier. And a vampire.
The suits Nudie makes for Hank win him instant celebrity and spark jealousy in an Opry rival. Nudie and his accomplice, Dr. Wertham, succeed in alienating everyone from Hank's life so they can keep his ass to themselves and do what they want to it while the country star is chloroformed. Divorce, drunkenness, beatings and penetrations of several varieties soon follow.
A sinister manipulator, Nudie sinks his fangs into everyone without their knowing it. His designs on Hank are far from innocent, and his plans for Hank's unborn child are downright creepy and as difficult for Hank and his new wife to see as a bat in the night. You want to scream, "Watch out! Can't you see how evil Nudie is!" But you also want more of the couturier's devilish exploits. That's what makes this taut little creepfest such an excellent read.