I was somewhat apprehensive as I dipped into this novel with an opening line that certainly sets the tone for a surprising reading experience.
That opening line?
TRIXIE LOATHED HER PENIS.
Welcome to Sweetville and Secrets Of The Weird
Secrets Of The Weird is set in the early 90’s, references to presidents (Clinton) and musicians (The Cure, The Smiths) ground this novel in reality but it’s key setting, Sweetville, is a fictional City populated by a wild assortment of characters. From the relatively normal residents going about their day-to-day lives, to the neo-Nazis club scene to drag queens, prostitution and even cannibalism. Sweetville is also under the cloud of a powerful new designer drug, Sweet Candy. It’s streets are full of the lost and the lonely with an unusual cult, that speaks in a tongue that only the broken minded can understand, the Withering Wyldes are only too happy to prey on the weak.
Secrets Of The Weird is relatively light of plot, but that really didn’t matter. The central story is about Trixie, a strong young woman born male, trying to earn enough money to complete her transition. It’s a powerful story but not preachy in the slightest. Stroup uses Trixie’s diary entries to let us know about her past and her hopes and fears for the future. A clever mechanic that added a grounded reality to some of the madness going on in the present. Trixie is a fantastic protagonist that I’d love to read more about. More that I’d like to read about are the plethora of Sweetville residents that we briefly meet in pushing Trixies’s story along. There are so many interesting characters populating this City that it’ll be a crime if Stroup doesn’t bring us back.
Prose is tight and very well written, Stroud has created a believable world that’s filled with the unbelievable. I must warn you that there are scenes that do not make for a particularly easy read, but Stroud is skillful in being explicit without going into details (The Zane brothers first encounter with Trixie springs to mind). As well as the gritty side of the story there are many good-humoured moments, with a Crying Game reference making me laugh.
Secrets Of The Weird is not a book I would have ordinarily picked up. I don’t believe I have read much in the way of ‘weird’ fiction and after Secrets I feel I may be missing out on something. In Sweetville, Stroup has created a City full of adventure, danger and eroticism populated with a range of characters that simply jumped off the page and with his lead Trixie, he has created a strong female character that I absolutely want to read more about.
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