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High Life [Kindle Edition]

Matthew Stokoe
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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  • Length: 330 pages
  • Word Wise: Enabled
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Book Description

One of the most brutal Los Angeles crime novels ever written.

Obsessed with celebrity gossip magazines and Entertainment TV, Jack moves to Los Angeles hoping to become a TV presenter. But, like a million others before him, he finds that dreams can die a slow death in the City of Angels. Two years later, working in a donut store and married to Karen, a prostitute who cares little for him, he figures he's destined for life's scrapheap.

But when Karen is found murdered - dumped in a drainage ditch and eviscerated - Jack is forced by this violent crime to reject the mainstream, workaday Californian world, and begin a journey through the underbelly of Hollywood as he pursues his twin goals of becoming a celebrity and finding Karen's killer.

In this neo-noir nightmare, Jack works as a hustler, turning tricks on the street and in the homes of the Hollywood wealthy, all the time trying to stay one step ahead of Ryan, a rogue cop intent on framing him for Karen's murder.

At a party for filmdom's elite, Jack meets Bella, a beautiful woman wealthy enough to make his TV dreams come true. But there's something about Bella and her ex-surgeon father that isn't quite right, something dark and sexual and drenched in blood. Something that might just unlock the secret of Karen's murder.

Matthew Stokoe's High Life takes Los Angeles noir to another level. Fans of mysteries and thrillers, and aficionados who like their crime fiction violent and sexy will find more than they bargained for in this dark masterpiece.

"Stokoe proves himself a worthy heir to the great tradition of California noir. Brutal and unflinching in its depiction of violence and sex, his book is like an unholy hybrid of Raymond Chandler's best work and Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho."
--Henry Flesh, Lambda Literary Award-winning author of Massage.

Soaked in such graphic detail that the pages smell, Matthew Stokoe's High Life is the sickest revision of the California crime novel, ever."
--Paper Magazine

"All of the classic ingredients of Californian noir are here, but Stokoe takes things further than most . . . The plot is skillfully worked, the elements of crime writing are not jettisoned in the mounting horrors that he describes. There's also a certain grim humor on display, at times it is impossible not to laugh, even when Stokoe is making us wallow in filth. One can't help but feel that he's enjoying himself immensely . . . This is a compelling and gripping novel."
--Black Star Reviews

"High Life shows an author of awesome ability . . ."
--Barcelona Review

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 839 KB
  • Print Length: 330 pages
  • Publisher: September Press Books (7 Jan. 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00A8RC0EY
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #98,451 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Matthew Stokoe was born in England and grew up in Australia. Since then, he has lived in a number of places in between. He is the author of the controversial, groundbreaking novels, 'Cows' and 'High Life'; the noir classic, 'Empty Mile'; and the forthcoming 'Colony of Whores'. His books have been translated into French, German, Russian and Spanish. He lives in Sydney, Australia.

Empty Mile, Matthew Stokoe's third novel, received a *starred* review in Publishers Weekly:
"From the outset of this heartbreakingly powerful contemporary noir, Stokoe (High Life) gets the reader deeply emotionally invested in his guilt-ridden narrator, Johnny Richardson. Eight years after leaving his hometown of Oakridge, Calif., in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, Johnny returns to face the consequences of a reckless youthful act. Instead of keeping an eye on his then 11-year-old brother, Stan, during an outing to a local lake, Johnny slipped off with his girlfriend, Marla, into the surrounding woods. Left alone, Stan, a smart kid but a poor swimmer, suffered brain damage after nearly drowning in the lake. In the present, Johnny and Marla reconnect, but a suicide prompted by sexual betrayal leads to more deaths. When Stan and Johnny's widowed father disappears, Johnny must look after his brother on his own. Stokoe stays true to a bleak vision of the world as he enmeshes his characters in the kinds of tragic setups reminiscent of a Thomas Hardy novel."

Michael Connelly, Author of Nine Dragons, said:
"Beautifully written and deeply gripping, Empty Mile is a great read. I'm already looking forward to the next one from Matthew Stokoe."

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Future Classic of Hollywood Noir 5 Jun. 2006
By R. Mullaney VINE VOICE
Matthew Stokoe follows up his visceral novel Cows with this brilliant yet graphic crime thriller. I came across Cows on the recommendation of a friend who claimed to have found the most shocking novel I would ever read. It quite possibly is one of the most visceral books in existance, impossible to enjoy but also impossible to put down. High Life is just as gruesome with regards to sex and violence but it is a far superior tale to it's predecessor. The book is told from the point of view of Jack, a nobody who moves to Hollywood to pursue his dreams of working in the film industry. Instead he finds himself living amongst the sleazy criminal underbelly of Los Angeles whilst at the same time investigating the murder of his wife, a hooker he had recently married.

I can't think of many other authors who would think to include drugs, prostitution, murder and blackmail in the same book as tramp torture and illegal organ harvesting but Stokoe isn't a typical author. If you can look past the stomach churning excesses of High Life it is an excellent, well written crime thriller.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tour de force in new wave thriller writing 15 Jun. 2004
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This must rate as one of the most oustanding of modern horror thrillers. Horror, not as in the traditional horror genre, but is in horrifying. Despite the occasionally unsavoury subject matter of Stokoe's writing, this is a rollercoaster ride in terms of plot tension and excitement mixed with terrifying and gratuitous situations. Stokoe's imagination is unlimited in its ferocious approach to fiction. Outrageous moments flash out of nowhere and leave the reader breathless with terror and surprise. In the midst of all this is a complex tale of real mystery and suspense. It's a great story apart from anything, its just that when the added gut churning aspects are thrown in the book becomes a triumph of lewd and degrading twists.
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5.0 out of 5 stars irresistibly exciting for the noir reader 24 Feb. 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
What I like about this book is that the descriptions make the vile acts so realistic that you can almost taste the scene. It depicts human nature at its worst and most depraved. Maybe it shows how people really are in certain industries. The only part I sort of cringed a lot at was when Jack had to hang onto a guy while a cop cut him open and pulled out his entrails. I am not sure why it was the most shocking part. But it felt very very real. There are a lot of little trinkets of wisdom amongst these pages and some funny lines too. I wont give any spoilers cos this book is well worth reading. It is well written with excellent descriptions. I will be interested to read the author's new book when it comes out. I only have the last one left and I am going to savour that in the hope he finishes the new one soon.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brutal 1 Nov. 2011
By Domino
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a great book. Stokoe is a twisted and sick author, and knows how to hold your attention. Superb
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  19 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Starts slow, picks up. 15 Nov. 2005
By Robert Beveridge - Published on
Matthew Stokoe, High Life (Akashic, 2002)

Matthew Stokoe's first novel, Cows, is the kind of sucker punch that actually grabs hold, tears the skin of your belly wide, and hollows out your abdominal cavity, all for the sake of being bored and wanting a snack. How do you follow up something like Cows? You're basically inviting yourself over the cliff of the sophomore curse.

High Life does, in fact, suffer from said sophomore curse, albeit briefly (and in the ugliest of manners). For a few pages, Stokoe seems to have lost all the sense of pacing that made Cows a novel that commanded you to read it in one sitting. Unfortunately, for "a few" here, you can read "the first half of the novel." It starts out slow-- glacially slow. Even though in the opening pages you're treated to a disembowelled corpse, a necrophiliac cop, and more drugs than you can shake a stick at, you're likely to have a relatively rough time getting through the first hundred or so pages.

Once the novel picks up, though, the old Stokoe comes back, and with a vengeance. There are fetishes in this book I'm relatively sure don't even have names yet. Stokoe's rather distressing knowledge of the Hollywood drug trade gets mapped over into a discussion of the trade in anonymous black-market organs, we revisit some of the scarier scenes in Cows from a Hollywood perspective, and, if it's possible, things get even more disgusting than they did in Cows. The first half of the novel crawls; the second flies. Like Stokoe's first book, the second half of this one will keep you up late wondering how this maniac thinks this stuff up.

High Life is, at its heart, a murder mystery. Its protagonist, Jack, is a thoroughly shallow narcissist whose sole ambition in life is to become an actor, for he believes that actors are archetypes of humanity, perfect beings who will, in a way, never die. As the book opens, Karen, his prostitute wife, is found dead and mutilated in a park not far from their place. Jack is immediately suspected of the murder by Ryan, an aging, nitro-popping cop who's got, shall we say, some very serious issues. Jack decides that with this incompetent moron on the case, he'd probably be better off solving the murder himself, and, in his own drugs-and booze-fueled way, he sets about doing so, taking a quick detour into prostitution himself in the process.

It's somewhat easier to recommend High Life than it was Cows (about which I said "This book is not for everyone. In fact, it may not be for anyone." despite it making my Top Reads of 2004 list), if only because the unsuspecting, innocent reader is likely to be intrigued by the murder long before Stokoe hits you with both gore-drenched, perverse barrels. If you're willing to put up with a somewhat glacial pace at the beginning and are a fan of, shall we say, the more extreme murder mystery, High Life may well be right up your alley. (As with Cows, though, it helps-- a lot-- to have a very strong stomach.) Those of you already inured to the antics of more extreme artists, however, would be better advised to go looking for Stokoe's harder-to-find, but punchier, first effort. *** ½
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Noir on steroids 14 Sept. 2010
By TChris - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Jack lives in a seedy part of LA, works at Donut Haven, is married to a hooker named Karen, and dreams of being a celebrity. It doesn't surprise him when Karen disappears after selling her kidney for $30,000. Expecting her to be on a prolonged bender, Jack goes looking for Karen and instead finds the police, in a park, examining a gutted body. Jack soon enters into uncomfortable relationships with a police detective named Ryan and a seductive surgeon named Bella. His life is about to become much better -- or much worse -- than he ever imagined.

High Life is noir on steroids. It has the blunt and gory mixture of sex, drugs, and violence that animates American Psycho, but it almost makes that novel resemble Winnie the Pooh by comparison. If you're put off by scatology, necrophilia, incest, and gruesome descriptions of death, you might want to give High Life a pass. On the other hand, if you can stomach the violence and the bizarre sexual appetites of the principle characters, you'll be rewarded with a masterful piece of writing, as well as an insightful examination of the seedy underbelly of Hollywood and the craving that certain outcasts feel for the well publicized lives of wealthy celebrities. Matthew Stokoe makes the novel's first person narrator into a likable sociopath--no small feat, and a tribute to his authorial abilities. The tightly plotted story is credible, the characters are fully realized, and the atmosphere is a rich mix of the darkness of noir and the superficial sunshine of Hollywood.

High Life is hard to put down and hard to forget. I would give it 4 1/2 stars if I could.
14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WEEEE 5 Dec. 2002
By Josh Lewis - Published on
matthew stokoe is an amazing writer.
in cows, his first novel, it got all crazy from the very start.

in high life stokoe shows considerable restraint by slowly getting to the good stuff. by doing this he has made the intense scenes even more powerful because they aren't the focus. they just happen to be in the story.
once again, stokoe is an amazing writer. i look forward to reading more from him.
p.s. anyone comparing stokoe to bret easton ellis, or ian banks, or poppy z brite are [fools]. he blows them away completely and then goes back and rapes their skulls.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars TARANTINO MUST BE GREEN WITH ENVY 4 Oct. 2006
By John J. Avery - Published on
Jack wants to be famous and will do ANYTHING to get there. he encounters a few difficulties along the way. his prostitute wife is murdered and he's being stalked by a cop named ryan, who has a secret. he takes jack to a secluded location to watch what initially seems to be a couple engaging in consensual sex until a chainsaw is included in the act, which then turns into a live "snuff" show. he sees this as an opportunity to frighten and control jack and keep him under his thumb. "high life" is a fun-filled sordid journey through LA's gutter, if your idea of fun is murder, necrophilia, bizarre s&m sex, torture, and drug addiction. featuring a cast belonging in an triple x rated fellini [or tarantino] film. matthew really has a flair for the grotesque, with a twisted outlook on all of the denizens of LA.

jack hooks up with bella [ who's sexual appetite is the most deranged in a book filled with deviant sex] who has connections to the entertainment industry, which jack covets and is so obsessed with being a part of. what jack is willing to do seems to have no limits, as his search for fame and the world he becomes a part of becomes stranger and stranger. he has an encounter with an individual with an unusual hobby of photographing a very specific body part. there really are no likable characters in "high life", just varying graduations of decadent and amoral players, along with our anti-hero jack [even his attempt at helping a desperate friend fail].this is pulp fiction noir at it's best. and I can't wait to see what matthew does next.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By David - Published on
After reading a number of mainstream novels I find myself searching for novels that meet the criteria for being truely disturbing. I'm talking about underground/so far outside of the mainstream that you wouldn't find this book anywhere near a bookstore & could only be bought online. After searching long and hard I came across this title as well as Matthew Stokoe's other title "Cows". Cows is equally as disgusting/twisted but I would say High Life was better written, more entertaining & moved along more like a mainstream novel but with unflinching detail. It felt like this book was an attempt to disturb the reader and then disturb the reader some more; treat them to something that most likely wasn't experienced before. Like I said before, after reading a number of mainstream novels it feels good to read something of this nature, it's like breath of fresh air.(Alright, maybe not fresh)

When I first read this, I was surprised their were actual books like this out there. There out there, you just have to look.(preferably with a magnifying glass)
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