A stunningly intense debut novel about a talented young forger who continually reinvents himself to escape the authorities. 'I swear to God this is the best book I have read in easily five years. Easily. Maybe ten years.' Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club Following a near fatal overdose of painkillers, Daniel Fletcher is resuscitated in a Los Angeles emergency room and detained for psychiatric evaluation. Through a series of questions and tests, the psychiatrist must ascertain whether the patient intended to kill himself, or whether he can walk free. What the psychiatrist doesn't know is that 'Daniel Fletcher' is actually John - Johnny - Dolan Vincent, a brilliant young forger who continually changes his identity to save himself from a lifetime of incarceration. Johnny has done such assessments before - many, many times. As he creates an elaborate bluff for the evaluator, Johnny reveals the true story of his traumatic past - a broken family, descent into the sinister world of forgers and criminals, and his one chance of salvation in the beautiful and elusive Molly. But time is running out; as his underworld clients lose patience and the psychiatrist's net closes around him, Johnny has to negotiate the escape act of his life. Evoking the boulevards and strip bars of 1980s LA with cinematic intensity, The Contortionist's Handbook is a darkly hypnotic and stunningly original debut.
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Craig Clevenger was born in Dallas, Texas and raised in Southern California, where he studied English at California State University, Long Beach. He has travelled extensively and lived in Dublin and London, but currently resides in California where he is at work on his second novel, Dermaphoria.From Publishers Weekly:
Clevenger's debut novel is a well-crafted but underplotted character study of a brilliant, damaged man who struggles with mental illness and substance abuse as he bounces in and out of prison and a series of hospitals around Los Angeles. Most of the novel takes place in the latter setting; some tense early scenes pit protagonist John Dolan Vincent against a psychiatrist known as "The Evaluator," who probes Vincent's psyche to see if his recent overdose of muscle relaxants was really a botched attempt to cure his migraine, as Vincent claims, or a suicide attempt. The twist is that Vincent has checked into the hospital under an assumed name; after each of his previous overdoses he has changed his identity to avoid being placed in a mental hospital. The psychiatric interview provides a decent vehicle for telling the story of Vincent's difficult family life and his decision to use his mathematical talent to assist a murky criminal network. The trouble is that Clevenger has little to offer to push his story forward besides Vincent's efforts to protect Keadra, the woman he falls in love with during a hospital stint, from the thugs who are trying to track him down. Clevenger is a solid writer who does some good work when it comes to creating a noirish atmosphere and smart, compelling characters, but the pace is uneven at best. The quality of the writing warrants a follow-up effort; hopefully, Clevenger will know what to do with his characters the next time around.
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Book Description Fourth Estate Ltd, 2005. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 7194161