Protagonist Stuart, a twenty-four-year-old orphan from New Zealand, finds himself broke and stateside, involved in a strange threesome with Gabe and Gabe’s girlfriend, Jenna. Gabe enlists Stuart’s help executing the ill-advised robbery of a Vegas club and Stuart in lust and in love agrees. After the poorly planned heist, Stuart is picked up by Jenna and the two escape into the hot, endless desert. With Gabe incommunicado, Stuart and Jenna debate whether or not they should spend the illicit cash and if they will be caught. The two fugitives are attracted to each other, repulsed by each other and mostly drawn together by both of their complicated relationships with Gabe.
David Bath’s narrative in DID YOU HEAR ABOUT STUART’S DESERT BURIAL? is dreamy and sexy, full of fugitive motel stays, canyon land, dusty towns, retro diners and tan, tattooed motorcycle riders. Shadowy mafioso type figures stalk the trio (Gabe reappears without much explanation) through the desert and when Stuart tries to save Gabe from these avenging gangsters, Jenna takes off. With both Jenna and Gabe in the wind, Stuart is kidnapped by the robbed club owner and buried alive in East Jesus, Arizona. Fed through a pipe in the dirt, Stuart is tortured for Gabe’s whereabouts.
Interlacing all this are Stuart’s memories of his dead parents and a resort in Fiji where he first met Gabe and Jenna. Bath teases with hints of Stuart’s dangerous and haunting past, while Stuart’s present madness and paranoia grow and become abstract poetic thought images on the page. As Stuart longs for Gabe to come rescue him, Bath builds to a suspenseful and morbidly beautiful ending. Though the chain of events gets a bit blurry and feels like we have skipped over some narrative steps, this adds a sort of surreal David Lynch vision to the book. If the writing sometimes obscures or confuses characters and time sequence of events in plot, it is also good enough that readers will be compelled to go along for the ride regardless.
David Bath brings noir to the deserts of Las Vegas, Moab and Arizona in DID YOU HEAR ABOUT STUART’S DESERT BURIAL?, a deliciously dark, moody novel which adds a sexy, modern twist to the classic American heist and road trip tale.
~Royal Young for IndieReader