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The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death: A Novel Hardcover – 1 Jun 2009


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books Inc.; First American Edition First Printing edition (1 Jun. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034550111X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345501110
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 995,783 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"There are many things to love about Charlie Huston's fiction-he's a brilliant storyteller, and writes the best dialogue since George V. Higgins-but what pushes my personal happy-button is his morbid sense of humor and seemingly effortless ability to create scary/funny bad guys who make Beavis and Butthead look like Rhodes Scholars. [Charlie Huston has] written several very good books, but this is the first authentically great one, a runaway freight that feels like a combination of William Burroughs and James Ellroy. Mystic Arts is, however, fiercely original-very much its own thing."--Stephen King
"Smoking-hot... scorchingly good dialogue and banner-worthy chapter headings (like "Till His Neighbors Smelled Him" and "To Keep Him From Crushing My Spine."). And Mr. Huston, whose own brain matter is as much on display as the stuff that gets spattered here, finally delivers a book that anyone can admire. No strong stomach required."--"New York Times"
"Huston has outdone himself by introducing disaster-prone Web Goodhue, the star of a comic masterpiece called The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death...Charlie Huston has for several years been one of the best-kept secrets in American fiction; this novel might move him into the mainstream. If you believe that the world is mad-a position that with each passing day becomes easier to accept-The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death will provide welcome support for your view. The novel had me laughing out loud many times, but of course, like all the best comic fiction ("Catch-22" and "Portnoy's Complaint" come to mind), at bottom it is deadly serious. Life is violent, messy and all too short, and laughter is the bestrevenge."--"Washington Post"
"Just when you think you've caught up with him on the curve, Charlie Huston drives right off the cliff, landing on a road no one else could see...Shockingly original...The outlandish characters are brazen originals, and the dialogue is the roar of a death-defying talent."--"New York Times Book Review"
"A witty and amusing dark tale of friendship and family and all the problems that come with both. Web is a likeable character in spite of his personality disorder, one that the reader wants to see come out on top, which makes the book that much more fun to read."--bookbitch.com
"Though most of the characters have all the noir subtlety of "Sin City," this hard-shelled novel has a soft, sweet centre. Searching for a measure of healing and to repair the damage done them by their parents and the world, the good characters struggle toward redemption. [Huston] has found a way to cast a whole new generation into the noir genre and that can only be a good thing for its future."--reviewingtheevidence.com
"Genre writers too often set the hook quickly and hard, glossing over the subtleties of character in their haste to reel in the reader, ultimately using plot as a club. Not so Huston...The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death is as darkly funny as it is graceful, not necessarily what you'd expect given that it's a novel about a guy whose livelihood involves mopping up blood and bone fragments...If one tends to find humor in unlikely places, Huston has created a work that is sly, twisted and surprising-one well worth the investment of time."--"Denver Post"
"Huston's novels are among the most imaginative and compelling in the mystery and thrillergenres...In The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death, Huston finds pathos and the sublime in a story about an occupation for which there is no training or career path."--"Pittsburgh Tribune --Pittsburgh Tribune

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Rachel VINE VOICE on 16 Mar. 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
You have to know what you like to like Huston. Huston is, in my opinion one of the most outstandingly fresh and talented writers of quality working today. But he is a genre within the crime genre, for a rarefied market that appreciates wisecracking, foul mouthed and bloodspattered fiction.

Huston does humour like no one else in the straight crime field. His blistering and caustic characters are all too witty for their own good and the protagonist of 'Mystic Arts...' is no different. Web's mouth works overtime and gets him into all sorts of trouble. He is intelligent, bitingly so and yet, until we understand his backstory, appears something of a wastrel.

But Huston is also a fan of fairly extreme gore in his books and really lets rip with the graphic detail in this story of a Trauma Cleaner...and really, if you know this is the field the book is set in, don't read it and be surprised at extensive descriptions of blood, gray matter and other bodily and insectoid nastiness. The novel opens with a graphic description of a nipple piercing...i'm not squemish but i was curling my toes... but stick with it and the gold is there, once you wipe the gore off its shiny surface.

The story is solid, the characterisation great and the dialogue sublime (if you can cope with oodles of swearing, unconventional punctuation and occassional un-PCness). Web is an out of work teacher suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, resisting all help from his friends to climb out of the black hole of depression. Strange that salvation should come in the form of picking up other peoples suicidal remains then. But come it does, after turf wars amongst trauma cleaning professionals, kidnapping, vanjacking, illegal almond importation and several nasty fights.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By K. Crockett on 24 July 2009
Format: Hardcover
I am a little disappointed Charlie Huston has not caught on a bit more in the UK. He is a brilliant pulp writer and his books are always an enjoyable, exciting and fast read.

I would though have to agree with the negative points from a previous reviewer. The action and suspense were not up to level with books like The Shotgun Rule and Caught Stealing. But that doesn't mean it isn't much better than the majority of what is going these days. It was tough to like the main character, Web, or anyone else really except for the big Po Sin.

While you wait for Huston's next - I fully recommend Josh Bazell's first book - Beat the Reaper. Fantastic book in the same vein.
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Format: Hardcover
"Some of your brain, in order to keep you focused on things it needs you to do, like breathing and eating and such, builds little facades to place over the surface of the world ... And because that's what you perceive, the hyper reality you inhabit, it's the behavior of everyone around you that seems out of sync ...But some part of your brain knows it's a fake ... The gap between those two parts of the brain is dark and deep. Narrow, but wide enough by some inches to fall into and be lost." - Web, in THE MYSTIC ARTS OF ERASING ALL SIGNS OF DEATH

Herein, Webster Fillmore Goodhue is a former elementary school teacher who dropped out after a gruesome experience aboard a school bus. Now, he crashes in an apartment with friend Chev and works in the latter's tattoo parlor sweeping the floor and running errands. When desperate for cash, Web usually hits on his divorced parents. Wishing to contribute more towards communal living expenses, Web signs on with a specialized cleaning company that mops up the messy remains after the cops have left scenes of murder and suicide. It's a surreal, yucky job, but somebody has to do it, and, as Web soon finds out, the competition between such cleaning companies is cutthroat.

As a literary "hero", Web does provide the reader with an edgy personality and cheeky dialogue. However, as an individual, he isn't a young man you'd want your daughter to bring home to meet Mom and the Old Man; he has unresolved issues. And the presence of any Englishmen aside, Web is akin to one of those perhaps mad dogs out in the midday sun on whom it's prudent to keep a wary eye.

THE MYSTIC ARTS OF ERASING ALL SIGNS OF DEATH is worth four stars just for the dysfunctionality of the protagonist and the oddity of certain plot elements.
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By J. Lesley TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 1 Sept. 2009
Format: Hardcover
Chances are pretty good that if you are searching the reviews section of this book you already know something about it. Either you are familiar with other works by this author, or you've heard people talking about this book in particular, or you are interested in the genre, or you might even be interested in this specific subject matter. It doesn't matter how you got here, what matters is that you are investigating.

Webster Fillmore Goodhue, known as Web to everyone, is about as far from the hero type character as you can get. Probably because he cries when someone tries to twist his finger off, and he never comes out victorious when confronting the bad guys and when he does try to be heroic and save the day he is quite likely to loose control of his bladder. Sounds bad? Well, actually it isn't because Web is a completely human person and how would you or I react if we were in some of the situations Web encountered? The past year has been filled with despair and depression for Web. There is a trauma which took place in his life and his two coping mechanisms are total avoidance of living a normal life and sleeping. When even his best friend refuses to support him in his downward spiral any longer Web takes a day job with Po Sin, the owner of Clean Team. Whenever something happens to a human body which requires expert cleanup knowledge, Clean Team is one of those companies who goes in and makes everything sanitary once again. This was fascinating for me. The first case Web works on is that of an elderly man who had died among the items of his hoarding compulsion. He had piled so many things in the bathroom and in front of the door that he couldn't even use that room, obviously for a long, long time. Finally, the neighbors reported the smell to the authorities.
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