Trigger warning: rape, violence, murder, gore, drugs, and plenty of generally squicky things like necrophilia and cannibalism.
After escaping prison, serial killer Andrew Compton heads for New Orleans to pursue the art of what he calls “the art of killing boys.” He joins up with a dissolute playboy who has pushed his art to limits even Compton hadn’t imagined. Together they set their sights on a young Vietnamese-American runaway, whom they cast as the perfect victim.
I have to give some face time to one of my greatest book loves aside from YA, and that is horror. Are you familiar with Jeffrey Dahmer? Imagine if he acquired Dennis Nilsen as a partner at some time during his killing spree and lived in the French Quarter—that’s Exquisite Corpse in a nutshell.
So I have this tremendous love for Exquisite Corpse because it does two things that I love in horror fiction yet rarely see—the first is that it features gay protagonists. Yes, I love gay protagonists in everything, be it my YA or horror or fantasy or what have you. Poppy Z. Brite, in fact, has gay protagonists in all of his novels so if, like me, you’re kind of upset over the lack of queer representation in horror (or, for that matter, queer representation in contemporary lit about chefs in New Orleans), he’s always a good author to turn to.
The second thing is the twisted writing style. What could be more disturbing than the gruesome, gritty descriptions you might find in your typical horror novel? How about tender and loving and poetic? The sensuous tone of Exquisite Corpse is what sets it apart and makes it truly chilling. There is a quote on the back with which I have to agree:
“[Poppy Z. Brite] is the only writer I know who could write a guide-book to hell that would make me want to go there.”