Going, Gone by Jack Womack
To my shame I must admit that Jack Womack is one of those named authors that I have just not got round to yet. With six novels and a Philip K Dick award under his belt (for his 1993 novel "Elvissy") his reputation as an "iconoclastically sparkling" writer is assured.
His latest novel entitled "Going, Going, Gone" is due out in Nov/Dec 2000 as a paperback original from HarperCollins/Voyager in the UK. I don't believe a US release has yet been announced.
This is an alternate history novel with some truly ingenious twists. Walter Bullit is ... well Womack obfuscates his main protagonists profession rather beautifully. He works for the government - sometimes - as a sort of provocateur whose specialty involves spiking the drinks of his targets with the kind of drugs that make LSD look like Aspirin. And Bullit is no slouch! He is truly dedicated to his work and takes pride in making sure he's tried each product for/on himself. Not surprisingly then when he finds himself plagued by two ghosts that he keeps seeing floating around his apartment he rather rationally puts it down to a side effect of something he's taken.
Asked by his "employers" to involve himself in some dark dealings with the Kennedys, Bullit smells a rat and retreats into the buzzing social scene of the alternate 1960's in which he lives. In a New York night club he encounters two totally bizarre (even to him) women who it turns out are aware that his ghosts might be more than "simple" hallucinations.
Though this tale is told entirely from Walter's very witty point of view I often found his "hep cat" vernacular frustratingly hard to follow, almost a foreign language at times. Womack's resolution is beautifully crafted however and not at all expected but overall I was left with the impression that the ending was far more satisfying than everything that led up to it.
The blurb from HarperCollins states "Altered states, dodgy times, warped futures, weirder pasts. It must be a Womack world" and that sums this novel up better than I ever could! I look forward to visiting more Womack worlds in my own warped future.