KISS IT AWAY
Carol Anne Davis
Subterranean Press, Eos/HarperCollins / 272 pages / May 2002
Some people salivate at the thought of a new Harry Potter adventure. Some wait impatiently for further pun-heavy titles from Robert Asprin. As for me, just the hint that Carol Anne Davis maybe about to write another book has me setting up camp at the mailbox. To be quite honest, I simply cannot get enough of her stuff. No one cuts so deep to the bone, laying before us, with such realism, the most chilling situations and the most terrifying of creatures: the human monster. And, worst of all, every novel is all the more unnerving because of their possibility…Wait, in our world it’s almost a probability.
Blazing a path of devastation through the lives of everyone in Kiss It Away is the steroid-powered Nick. A textbook example of antisocial personality disorder at his best, the ex-con is a bomb that continues to go off time and again as his consumption of anabolic steroids escalates out of control. When Ben has the misfortune to cross paths with Nick it sets off a series of tragedies that have the police in overdrive. To Ben’s horror, he finds that the focus of their investigation is himself, not the maniac who raped him in the park the night a woman was killed. Too ashamed to tell anyone of the humiliating violation, his behavioural changes are misinterpreted as guilt and Ben looks very guilty at the moment.
As Ben’s life is unravelling before his eyes, Nick’s is bursting at the seams. “Stacking” ever-increasing doses of steroids is destroying the body he has a pathologic need to build to its muscular limits. His madness transforms anyone who flickers, however briefly and benignly, on his personal radar into an enemy, just another worthless creature out to destroy him. Nick isn’t about to let all his efforts go to waste; murder is his tool of choice to eliminate any threat, and threats are coming at him from all sides. The steroids could put him out of commission, but will it be in time to prevent any further attacks?
The interaction of Rachel, Richard, Dawn, and the other characters is a fascinating portrait of life on the razor’s-edge of disaster. They go about their days, doing their best to find happiness, even though their images of a perfect life conflict at almost every turn. Seemingly insurmountable obstacles materialise to block their dreams, obstacles that would be revealed in all their triviality if they knew the horror poised to tear their lives apart. If Nick stumbles in, they will know what true desperation is. Ben could tell them all about that experience, if he could bring himself to tell them.
Kiss It Away is another stunning example of Davis’ mastery. No one does dark realism better. Every word builds the tension to an almost unbearable peak, and each situation terrifies with its plausibility. Just check Davis’ non-fiction work; we could only wish that comparable tragedies never really happened, that such people couldn’t actually exist. Carol Anne Davis knows better. We would do well to listen to what she has to say.