Review: Grave Digger Blues by Jesse Sublett

Chris Leek
Independent Reviewer

Joe Clifford recently said in his introduction to Zelmer Pulp's exciting new Sci-fi collection: “You think the world is a festering fuckstain today? Just wait until Thursday." After reading Jesse Sublett's dystopian noir novel Grave Digger Blues, I'm inclined to agree.
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It’s the end of the world, or at least it soon will be. A failed coup by the Republican Party and the destruction of Washington by terrorist attacks has resulted in a society that barely functions. The cops may still come, assuming you can find a working phone to call them, but with gas prices at $100 a gallon the chances are it will take them days rather than minutes to respond.

Say hello to Hank ZzyBnx, hit man and private eye with a hard on for Marylyn Monroe. I would also like you to meet The Blues Cat, a musician and lover of easy woman, who never stands still long enough to shake the road dust from his boots. These two unlikely heroes will be your guides through this dying clusterfuck of a world.

Welcome to the surreal and not too distant future, folks. Here larger than life statues of Ronald Regan and 30ft alligators roaming the streets are considered the norm in most towns. This is a time when red blooded men lust after Hedda, the headless supermodel and transsexual former vice president, Dick Cheney wears heels and hangs out in dive bars.

This is not your average eBook. In fact it is more of a multimedia event. Grave Digger Blues is liberally adorned with some stunning photography and original artwork, which my bargain basement eReader failed miserably to do justice to. If you have an iPad or one of those highfultin kindles with audio, you also get some cool blues tracks played by the author.
It is fair to say there is a lot going on here and that is a large part of the charm, but it's also part of the problem. This is a work that contains two novellas, a coffee table book and a blues album. While the end result is pretty darn good, the narrative has a mind of its own and tosses the reader around like a drunken juggler. Just as you settle into the storyline of one protagonist you find yourself whisked off somewhere else. If you are lucky you will be taken back to where you left the other guy, but there are no guarantees. You could end up in a different place entirely and be presented with some song lyrics or a painting of a top heavy woman. I get it, this is art, but it's also bloody annoying.
Jesse Sublett is a talented cat and he can certainly lay down some solid, gritty prose; Grave Digger Blues has that in spades. I can safely say that it is also he weirdest thing I have ever read (and I’ve read stuff by Ryan Sayles). But the big question here is does this ambitious project work? My answer would have to be yes, well, sort of. Hell I don’t know. I’m still struggling with the mental image of Dick Cheney in a strapless evening gown. You had better buy the book and figure this one out for yourselves.