Kimberly Warner-Cohen
Ig Publishing, $13.95

by Tim W. Brown

The (anti-)heroine of Sex, Blood and Rock 'n' Roll, Cassie Chambers, is a normal young woman, at least by New York's East Village standards. She works at a clothing store on St. Mark's Place and lives with a boyfriend whose band plays regularly at clubs like CBGB and Continental. Although bothered that she isn't living up to her potential, she tolerates her menial job and enjoys a reasonably carefree life.

Cassie, however, is increasingly haunted by dreams of seducing and murdering men in imaginatively gory ways. Brief flashbacks suggest that her being molested as a young girl is responsible. Interestingly, Cassie isn't particularly disturbed by these dreams; in fact, they turn her on, and in one scene she lambastes her boyfriend for waking her up in the middle of a good one.

Seeking better pay but having misgivings, Cassie takes a job as a dominatrix for an elite agency. She quickly learns the—excuse the pun—ropes, perfecting her technique on a steady stream of clients. A former professional dominatrix herself, the author reveals a world that is clinical, seedy, and desperate all at once. This section of the novel proves fascinating to someone uninitiated in the for-pay S&M scene, and accounts for the finest writing in the book.

Trouble begins when Cassie's dream life and work life converge. She is attacked by a client, suffers a miscarriage, undergoes a lengthy rehabilitation, and goes back to work swearing revenge on the male sex. She feels nothing but contempt—scarily real, not playacted—for her clients, her boyfriend, and men in general:

All these men, these scumfucks . . . they want nothing more than to hurt the women who love them. Not that women are any better—suckers for not seeing what's in front of them, for being so fucking weak that they let these assholes in. I, on the other hand, was put on this earth for a higher purpose. S&M's just a stepping-stone.

The titillating subject matter of Sex, Blood and Rock 'n' Roll drives this novel more than its literary accomplishment. Interesting things are written about in affectless prose that conveys a too-cool-for-words sensibility. The author needs to slow down, take a breath, and fill in the emotional details available in the material. Greater attention paid to Cassie's earlier life would go far to explain satisfactorily her metamorphosis from Mistress to Monster.

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Rain Taxi Online Edition, Fall 2006 | © Rain Taxi, Inc. 2006