Say what you will about pulp, but when it’s done right, it’s one of the most entertaining genres out there. Phil Beloin Jr.’s Revenge is a Redhead is pure trashy pulp done right. It’s fast, dirty, sexy, and sprinkled with touches of noir that take the reader down into the gutter and keep him there until the whole thing is over.
Rich Brown is down and out. He has no money, no friends, no steady gig, and nowhere to go. He’s out having and a drink and enjoying the entertainment at a strip club when he meets Cherry Pop, a voluptuous lady with fiery hair and a killer smile. Like most of the men who visit the place, Rich falls for the redhead, but all he can afford is a peep show and a few smiles. A while later, Rich finds himself in a homeless shelter. He’s trying to escape the cold night air and maybe find something to put in his belly. Unfortunately, what seems at first like a good place to stay full of somewhat helpful people turns out to be a slice of hell and Rich ends up belly down on the floor with two men pulling down his pants. The situation ends up in a bloody mess and Rich is forced back into the windy streets. That’s when he and Cherry Pop cross paths again, and the night they end up having together is nothing like either of them could have expected.
The first thing Beloin gets right is pacing. This novella, which comes in at 92 pages, can be read in a single sitting and demands to be devoured that way. The action starts very quickly and never stops. After setting the mood for a few pages, the scene in the shelter arrives and suddenly attempted rape and shady folks quickly lead to someone getting stabbed in the eye and a lot of running. From then on, the pacing keeps the same breakneck speed until the last page. Also, the dialogue carries a good portion of the action and the author has a good understanding of economy of language, so descriptions are always short and to the point.
While the curvy stripper/prostitute with a good sense of humor and the bad guy on the floor with a knife stuck in his back who refuses to die are all pure pulp, there are a few passages in which Beloin decides to slow things down for a second and show his chops/sense of humor:
“Even in a depressed city, the sun comes up, tries to brighten the muck, and somehow a ray finds that one crack in the blinds and catches your eye. I rubbed away the morning gook and noticed this stain on the ceiling above the bed, like you might a cloud formation, trying to figure what it could be. A unicorn? Or just a goat with an engorged penis on its forehead?”
Revenge is a Redhead is quick, violent, and has a few funny moments that offer the reader a break from all the confusion and blood. Good novella are those that deliver more entertainment than most movie in the same amount of time it takes to watch one, and Beloin delivers that here.