Serial Killers Incorporated, by Andy Remic, is a contemporary serial killer novel that, fittingly, works very well as a serial. The first book from Mr. Remic's new Anarchy Press imprint, SKINC is consciously experimental - both in the text itself and in everything surrounding it.
The story follows Callaghan, a reprehensible, hedonistic reporter with a shameless tabloid. Callaghan's knack for capturing the nasty story - and his shamelessness in reporting it - has made him a very wealthy man. He lives in a gorgeous Docklands flat surrounded by high end drugs, high end booze and a shamelessly gymnastic part-time girlfriend. Life's good for the bad.
Callaghan's penchant for putting his bits where they don't belong soon gets him into trouble. He's been catting around with the foxy wife of a Eastern European gun-runner. She's irresistible, but her husband is terrifying. Callaghan wants to break it off, but the relationship keeps escalating out of control. The lovely Sophie's got him over a barrel (not literally, but she does get him over a few other things) and Callaghan is starting to get a bit twitchy.
Things get worse when Callaghan learns the key distinction between "not caring about other people" and "being a psychopath". Callaghan's job takes him into the circle of "Mr. Volos" - an enigmatic tipster who keeps leading the reporter to increasingly disturbing crime scenes. Whoever or whatever Volos is, he's tied into a series of unbelievably horrific murders. It isn't long before Callaghan is hunted by the police, haunted by Volos and dodging bullets from cuckolded gun runners. The intrepid reporter might be a bastard, but does he really deserve all this?
Per usual, Mr. Remic tries to push all the boundaries in this tale of splatterpunk excess. Dead people are really, really dead. Sex scenes are really, really squishy. Motorbikes go really, really fast. It isn't that Serial Killers Incorporated is turned to 11, the needle constantly hovers between 9 and 10. One action-packed, blood-splattering, scream-inducing scene follows another at breakneck speed.
What ties Serial Killers Incorporated together (and lifts it above, say, Kell's Legend) is the commitment to atmosphere. Within the book, it isn't just about the ceaselessly brutal action (well, it kind of is), but about the horrendously grim world surrounding it. Callaghan's life has a distinct comfort zone - a beautiful apartment, neat lines of drugs, gorgeous bottles of whiskey. The only chaos in his life is safe and self-inflicted - his hurricane of a girlfriend. The book's journey is his descent into madness, from the clean white walls of his apartment to the "gnarled, jagged, black peaks" of the mountain. One piece at a time, his elaborate life is demolished around him. By the book's conclusion, Callaghan's even swigging cheap whiskey.
As both author and publisher, Mr. Remic tried to extend this atmosphere by partnering with th3 m1ss1ng, an "indie junkie rockband" (I have no idea what that means). The group collaborated with Mr. Remic and developed three tracks that fit alongside the book. I don't pretend to be a music critic and the tracks aren't exactly my thing. However, they're both aggressive and grimly atmospheric, which makes for a tidy fit with the book's tone. Overall, this collaborative experimentation is a charming idea and really only comes up short because there's not enough of it.
In his quest for modernity, Mr. Remic has inadvertently recreated something quite classic: the serial. I'm not the most squeamish reader, but I knew coming in that the book was going to be deliberately brutal and unsettling. It was. I never could've read this book in one sitting, and don't recommend that anyone tries. However, it works really well in small pieces. Mr. Remic has a knack for adding in cliff-hangers at every chapter without making it feel forced or repetitive. Each short section is a self-contained adventure, but each steadily builds more and more of the overarching story. The stakes get higher and higher but without cheating everything that's gone before. The serial is a form that very few people get right, but Mr. Remic's nailed it in a go. Perhaps, in his publishing experimentation, that's something to play with going forwards.
Serial Killers Incorporated is a deliberately nasty piece of work. There's a gleeful sort of schadenfreude in watching the bad meet the evil, and Mr. Remic knows how to milk every last bit of it. Mr. Remic has such a fanatical commitment to dotting the horrible i's and spiking the gory t's that it is leading him to push at the boundaries of publishing itself. The result is a book that's an admirable experiment and an oddly, guiltily, enjoyable one.
Serial Killers Incorporated is available through the Anarchy Books site. It is available in ebook, dead-tree book and album formats.