#24 – Kiss Me, Judas

July 2, 2007

you’ve taken my heart and left the incision; while i’ll never heal, i admire your precisionWill Christopher Baer’s debut novel, Kiss Me, Judas, is a place you don’t want to spend too much time. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great book and very impressively written, but the world he creates is very uncomfortable. It’s dingy and confusing and usually cruel. Reading Will Christopher Baer is like reading Chuck Palahniuk at his most unsettling (well, maybe not his most unsettling), but without the same sense of anarchic glee, if I can get away with using a phrase that pretentious.

You know how Kiss Me, Judas begins: After taking a hooker home, a guy wakes up in a motel bathtub filled with ice, with a big scar in his side and a note reading “If you want to live, call 911”. That’s usually where the urban legend stops. However, the man in question here is Phineas Poe, an ex-cop fresh out of a mental hospital. Like some kind of cross between Philip Marlowe and Max Payne, Poe is a noir narrator who wants his kidney back and some answers, and not necessarily in that order.

Like in The Big Sleep, the plotline of Kiss Me, Judas is extremely hard to follow. Not only because the story is full of twists, but because everyone Poe meets, everyone, lies to him constantly. As the dust jacket says, this is “a world where perversion and betrayal are simply taken for granted”. Add that to the facts that Poe was just released from a psychiatric ward after his wife’s mysterious death and a nervous breakdown, he spends the entire book on some form of painkiller or another due to his black market surgery, and he may or may not have a huge bag of heroin in his large intestine which may or may not be leaking, and Phineas Poe basically redefines the concept of an unreliable narrator. Half the time it’s hard to tell what his motivation for acting is, and he doesn’t even seem to know.

It’s entirely possible that a great deal of Kiss Me, Judas went right over my head. By the climax, it’s clear that the story is not the same story I thought we were talking about at the beginning. I liked it nonetheless, it felt kind of like Memento as directed by David Fincher. I just kind of felt the need to take a shower or eat some vegetables or something when I finished. Wikipedia tells me that Kiss Me, Judas is actally the first in the a series of Phineas Poe books, but I think I might read some friendlier books for a while before I return to Will Christopher Baer’s universe.



  1. wow thanks for that palahniuk link… i literally think im gonna vomit…

  2. Rumour has it, 60 people passed out listening to that story over the course of Palahniuk’s book tour for Haunted. He’s creating a living legend for himself.

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