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book review: Grundish and Askew

Ugly Tales and Parables

Grundish and Askew,

Novel by Lance Carbuncle
Vicious and Galoot Publishing, Tampa, FL, 2009

Reviewed by Kent Manthie

So many fans, a real “cult-following”, if you will, loved Lance Carbuncle’s first novel, Smashed, Squashed, Splattered, Chewed, Chunked and Spewed that he was motivated enough to write a follow-up. This came out in the form of the brand new Grundish and Askew, a strange and twisted tale of two life-long friends, Grundish (that’s all we know him by, never getting a first name) and Leroy Askew, scion of a long line of convicted criminals and prison fodder. But Askew hates to be called Leroy so most everyone calls him Askew. Everyone, that is, except his “great-aunt” Turleen, who only has one lung left and is under doctor’s orders not to smoke, so takes great enjoyment out of the secondhand smoke of someone else. “Blue Llama” is the fictitious name of the cigarettes that the duo smoke.

Anyway, Askew has one main goal in life and it is to not end up like his father, uncles, grandfather and great-grandfather all the way down the line, who’ve all been locked up in Eastern State Penitentiary, which closed for good in 1971, just after Askew’s father had been paroled from there. Darrell Askew’s one goal for his son was that he not follow the family tradition and get locked up like the last three generations of Askew males. So, according to Askew, “he put the fear of the hoosegow in me…”, telling him all kinds of ugly tales and parables just scary enough to make one want to never get in trouble.

Grundish, on the other hand, was a big guy, for one. When he was 16 he was already six-foot-three and 220 pounds and so was not one to get picked on or take any crap from anyone. Grundish, unlike his best friend, had been locked up – several times, going back to his juvenile days. He’d been locked up in and out of “juvee” many times. It seemed that Grundish had a liking for getting stuff, it’s just that he didn’t cotton to the “paying-for-them” part of it, which is what got him into so much trouble.

When Grundish was 16 his mother sent him to a drug rehab program that he initially thought would be better than going back to juvenile detention. But, man, was he wrong. So wrong that he escaped from there just to finish his time in juvee. [there really is a cult-like drug-rehab program called “The Straights” -and Carbuncle’s description of what he referred to in the book as “Straight, Inc.” is straight out of what is on freedomofmind.com, an anti-cult website, just type in “The Straights” in the search box and you’ll be able to read almost the exact same conditions that former members describe.  According to Steve Hassan, the founder of Freedom Of Mind, “The Straights are indeed a cult”; they fill all the criteria of a brainwashing, individual-separating, dogma-spouting organization – a cult in the worst sense of the word-KM]
Time passes, the two grow up, Askew manages to stay out of prison, but Grundish, on the other hand, does a few more stints in real prison, until, after his last lockup he vowed not to let himself get caught anymore.

From there on the pair live together in a trailer park, Askew delivering pizzas and Grundish would get by by breaking into a house where the occupants were out of town and basically stay there, eating their food, drinking their expensive liquor and wearing their expensive clothes, then stealing all the good stuff he could find and come home with tons of expensive meats, clothes, electronics, etc.

The two lived happily like this and then one day, after getting thrown out of the nursing home she was in for killing the home’s dog, Stubs, who she thought was an “angel of death”, because so many old folks seemed to die soon after Stubs was around them. A kind of “canine grim reaper” you could call him, Turleen, Askew’s “great-aunt” or some distant relative – neither were quite sure what else to call each other – moved in with the two because she didn’t really have anywhere else to go, no other family to take care of her. They didn’t really mind and she wasn’t much of a bother anyway.

Their adventure really begins when Askew suddenly starts to unravel and starts going psychotic, killing and maiming people who’ve done him wrong, and on and on.

One day, after Grundish goes a little nuts himself, throwing frozen stolen hot dogs at all the child molester-neighbors at the trailer park (they didn’t really have anywhere else to live, you wouldn’t want one as your neighbor, would you?) and then when one of them, known as “Bumpy D” comes at the pair, as if to fight back, but instead pulls his pants down and “ka-plooey” – all over Askew’s face, he goes into a blind rage and beats Bumpy D so savagely until his face looked like hamburger and he’s dead, they have to get the hell out of the trailer park ASAP and so, they take all they can, load up Askew’s beloved El Camino and take Aunt Turleen with them and hit the road. Going on an adventurous road trip that involves killing a couple other people, including Mr. Buttwynn, at whose house the trio was staying at because they knew the family was out of town. What they didn’t expect was for Mr. Buttwynn to sneak out of the vacation, leaving on the pretext of having to go back to work and instead heading home for some hot sex with this little teen-aged prostitute named Dora. Long story short, Buttwynn surprises the two drunken guys while playing pool on his pool table and it ends with Askew beating Buttwynn to death. They don’t kill Dora or hurt her, but end up taking her with, which is what she wants.

So now there’s four of them.

I’ve probably told you too much here anyway, so I’m just going to say that the book is very funny. In fact, I haven’t read a book where I’ve laughed out loud since I read (and reviewed) Watch Out! By Joseph Suglia.

Carbuncle is a very stylish writer, who is also very clever in his prose. He drops bits of song lyrics from Frank Zappa, (“Is that a real poncho, I mean, a Mexican poncho, or is that a Sears poncho?”) to Bob Dylan (“Your long-time curse hurts, but what’s worse is this pain in here/Ain’t it clear…”) Carbuncle’s writing style is a very enthralling one, the book is a veritable page turner, all the way to the end, which I am not going to spoil by giving it away, just that there includes two dogs (one is the ghost of Stubs) from another dimension and Alf, the Sacred Burro and an 89 year-old lover of Turleen’s who happens to be named Jerry Mathers.

The best part of the whole story is that it is not a predictable trashy, Danielle Steele-style kindling paper, but an imaginative, almost hallucinatory tale of madness, traveling and free spirits doing what they want.

So, to get to the heart of the matter, pick up Grundish and Askew at your local book dealer or, probably more easily, on Amazon.com.

– KM

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