Flesh and Fantasy—it's all fun and games until somebody dies

The wild new ride from Gutter Books takes the Fifty Shades of Grey phenom out of the bedroom and straight into the gutter. It's fun, fast and satisfying but you probably want to look elsewhere for masturbation material.


Fifty Shades of S.O.L. by T.C. Guise
February 2013
Gutter Books

At Gutter Books
When Darcie and Luke Shelling decide to spice up their sex lives with a little role-playing inspired by the best-selling Fifty Shades of Grey, they go looking for a play partner on Craig's List and find Barbie, whose velvety soft pussy excites Darcie even more than Luke. But even in the throes of a fantasy-fueled orgasm, Darcie is the first to realize that "Barbie" has stopped breathing. And then things go from bad to worse as the couple realizes there's someone in the closet of the motel room, filming them. The man is the dead woman's husband and he's a senator and he has even more to lose than the Shellings if the deadly tryst in the motel--so shabby that "seedy" would be a step up--goes public. "We can fix this," Luke promises Darcie, which is very much the same thing that the Senator's guy says to him. But of course, if it was that easy, everybody would be killing people.

Guise sets the stage for this spectacularly effed up story with retro-noir lines like this description of the dead woman: "She was built like a filing cabinet with the top drawer pulled out." Guise is not afraid to make the characters unsympathetic--at one point the panicked Senator looks at a burn victim who is looking for a payday and refers to her as a "fucking campfire marshmallow." Needless to say, she does not consider it a compliment. When the Senator's fixer arrives, he takes one look at the mess he's walked into and his first question is, "Do you think you're a Kennedy?" Locke's good at what he does but the Senator just keeps making the wrong move, and by the time he hooks up with a Goth girl fleeing her pedophile stepdad, there's no way any of this is going to come out right.

The story has twists and turns and enough reality to make us buy the frantic efforts of all concerned as they try to fix the unfixable. People die, and not necessarily the people we expect to die. That aspect of the story is very satisfying, but there's just not enough sex. We get a single description of Luke's engorged penis flopping out of Barbie before the story changes gears and goes off into a tale of cynical politicians, panicked citizens and way too many people with cell phones. We feel a little bit like we've been cheated--like maybe the writer should have given us a bit more than novella-length mayhem and should have heated things up a little more.

Which brings us into the narrative in an intimate way but it might have been interesting to get the viewpoint of the dead woman, whose back story turns out to be right out of a conspiracy theory. (Locke, the Senator's fixer, turns out to be a shadowy DC insider involved in everything from smoothing over a rape by a Bush relative, to the death of Vince Foster.) Toward the end, the story veers into political thriller territory, with the sex as a lure. That's fine, but again, in some ways this is a dry hustle, teasing us with the mention of the bondage and then not delivering it. Modern women want it all--the violence AND the sex. Tie us up, tie us down and bring the complications. This is a fun and fast read but it doesn't leave us reaching for our vibrators, if you know what I mean.

Girl in the Gutter thinks the most destructive force on earth is a well-meaning teacher in possession of a box of sticky gold stars. She likes her books like she likes her sex and you’ll have to read her reviews to see what she means. Girl in the Gutter was born on the East Coast and now lives in California. Not everyone born on the East Coast is a New Yorker; not everyone who lives in California is a blonde. Click here for Girl in the Gutter's Review Policy