Switchblade: A Killer Comedy provides brash exploitation sleaze and 80s-horror nostalgia
Brad McCormick’s Switchblade: A Killer Comedy succeeds in its unique merging of the grindhouse and slasher genres, a fast-paced and bare-bones novel that will have gore fans happily thumbing through each blood-drenched page.
The book tells the sordid tale of notorious murderer Frank “Switchblade” Butz, a foul-mouthed murderous thug with slicked-back hair and a greaser vibe. As Frank slashes his way through town, volunteer officers Earl Tubb and Lester Boone attempt to track him down, but not before the crazed killer unleashes mayhem upon one unsuspecting victim after another.
Peppered throughout this short novel are black-and-white photographs of some of the characters and ensuing action (including a good number of kill scenes), which add a fun cinematic touch (although, sadly, the photographs are poorly rendered on the page and look a bit unprofessional).
McCormick’s writing style is taut and sharp, which is perfect for this kind of gritty, grimy, and playful read.
Most of the paragraphs are extremely short, some only a line or two long, giving the text the feel of a script rather than a full-length novel. That said, the word choice and overall language throughout Switchblade does come across as sophomoric at times, but this very well may have been the intent of the author. The language mirrors the attitude of the characters, each of whom speak in clipped, often profane sentences.
In many ways, McCormick’s book is similar to the novels of Barry Gifford, the Wild at Heart author who has captured a vibrant and dark American landscape through vivid imagery, cracking dialogue, and bizarre yet endearing characters. Switchblade is violent, comical, and hyperbolic; the characters aren’t so much living and breathing human beings as they are symbols for a world of chaos, confusion, and depravity.
If the novel were a movie, it would be the kind of flick that you would watch on a late Saturday night, one eye on the screen and the other on a greasy pizza and a six-pack of cheap beer. The protagonist is as debauched as they come, leaving readers to wonder just how far he will go in his swath of terror across the bleak heartland of the novel.
For fans of exploitation horror and drive-in sleaze, Switchblade is a solid read.
No, there aren’t many deep-rooted themes or wondrous epiphanies in the story, nor are the characters that believable. But they are entertaining and funny, and some of the dialogue will have readers laughing out loud at the sheer inanity of it all.
The novel is book one in “The Rockwood Trilogy,” so it will be exciting to see where McCormick takes his gory tale next. If the author gives readers prose that is a little more polished and incorporates photographs that are more vivid and clear, then he will be well on his way to creating a well-rounded universe filled with eccentric lives, bloody deaths, and an ample dose of wicked humor.