Reviews of Dark Fiction

Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z. Brite, narrated by Joshua Saxon

What can be said about EXQUISITE CORPSE that hasn’t already been said? Even though this read is all the things everyone says it is, (gross, disgusting, explicit), it’s much more than that.

Set in the time when HIV and AIDS were just becoming known terms, two men were destined to meet in New Orleans. Andrew, a serial killer recently escaped from prison in a way Edmond Dantes would have admired; the other a wealthy, long time New Orleans resident named Jay whose tastes mirror Andrew’s. They prowl the streets of New Orleans together, searching for new prey. Will they find it? Will they ever be caught? You’ll have to read this to find out!

Perhaps this would be a good point to say choose this book carefully? In this time of trigger warnings, this book has them all. Be warned. All that violence, homosexual sex, cannibalism and extreme horror are here; the warnings are true.

But for me, there was an entire backstory which consisted of a number of things: how gays were treated, labeled, and bullied at that time in American history. How when the HIV/AIDS epidemic began it made life for gays even worse. Not only were they having to watch their friends and lovers die, they had to endure humiliation and violence daily in their own lives. What kind of life is that? What makes life even worth living, knowing that you’ll be taunted, laughed at, beat up, dragged through the mud, and maybe even killed, and no one would care. They’d say you got what you deserved…how long before you start thinking that maybe “they” were right?

Joshua Saxon, the narrator, delivered a fine performance, that I’m sure must have been difficult at times, considering the subject matter. Despite all of the violence and gritty sex, he, (in conjunction with the author), somehow conveyed an air of melancholy sadness that seemed to hover over the entire story.

It was that melancholy sadness that stood out the most for me. Sure, it’s well written and once again, the shocking violence and homosexual sex permeated nearly every chapter of EXQUISITE CORPSE- but none of it even began to touch the despondency and grief I felt emanating from every single page. (Do you still phrase it like that when you’re listening instead of reading? I say yes.)

Drawing out my empathy, even in the midst of all the nasty things happening, means that the author got to me, and most likely not in the way they intended, but then again, maybe so? Maybe I’m just crazy because I don’t see many other reviews talking about these aspects of the story? Each reader takes away something different from a tale, and this is what I have chosen to take from this one.

Recommended for sure, but only for those who can handle such explicit horrors.

Thank you to the narrator for the Audible download in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it!

Exquisite Corpse Book Cover Exquisite Corpse
Poppy Z. Brite
Crossroad Press
Audible Audio
8 Hours, 34 minutes


From the author of Lost Souls, Drawing Blood, and Wormwood comes a thrilling and chilling novel that best-selling author Peter Straub says serves as a “guidebook to hell”.

To serial slayer Andrew Compton, murder is an art, the most intimate art. After feigning his own death to escape from prison, Compton makes his way to the United States with the sole ambition of bringing his “art” to new heights. Tortured by his own perverse desires, and drawn to possess and destroy young boys, Compton inadvertently joins forces with Jay Byrne, a dissolute playboy who has pushed his “art” to limits even Compton hadn’t previously imagined. Together, Compton and Byrne set their sights on an exquisite young Vietnamese-American runaway, Tran, whom they deem to be the perfect victim.

Swiftly moving from the grimy streets of London’s Piccadilly Circus to the decadence of the New Orleans French Quarter, Poppy Z. Brite dissects the landscape of torture and invites us into the mind of a killer. Exquisite Corpse confirms Brite as a writer who defies categorization. It is a novel for those who dare trespass where the sacred and profane become one.


©1996 Billy Martin (P)2020 David N. Wilson

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