The Lost Coast, by Barry Eisler

The Lost Coast, Barry Eisler

Amazon Digital Services, 2011. 237 KB.

I hadn’t heard of Barry Eisler until last week when he showed up in the news. He’d ruffled some print media execs’ feathers by signing an ebook contract with Amazon for his latest novel. Never having heard of him and, frankly, not being a fan of thrillers, I downloaded a short story instead of a longer sampling.

Eisler is not a terrible writer. Visually he’s both precise and thorough, allowing his readers to see a whole scene in short bursts of imagery. But he suffers from a handicap I’ve noted in the very few thrillers I’ve read. The drama he attempts in the penultimate and ultimate climaxes never quite measure up to the promise.

In this particular story, John Larison (a character from Eisler’s previous tales I am unfamiliar with) drives up the Pacific coast to get away, having faked his own death. Restless in his hotel room, he goes to a bar, in which he picks up a college student, Seth. While he and Seth walk to the latter’s car, a couple of thugs try to mug Larison (the student, it turns out, is the bait). Larison mutilates the two muggers and forces the Seth to drive him to a remote spot where Larison first rapes then abandons him. This is justified because the boy and the muggers attempted a bout of “fag beating”.

Larison abandons Seth’s car, hits the road, and, The End.

In a post-story interview Eisler explains he’s “passionate about equal rights for gays. At some point, I was reading something about gay-bashing, and I had this idea… what if a few of these twisted, self-loathing shitbags picked the absolutely wrongest guy in the world to jump outside a bar?” It’s also explained that Larison, in Eisler’s other stories, is a bit of a dark hat, an anti-hero.

Regardless of these attempts at justification, or perhaps even because of them, the story is a porn piece, in both the gruesome violence and the violent sex. Eisler read something about violence against gays and took his anger out on gay-bashers on the page. He attempted to make bloody assault and rape laudable acts. One wonders where he thought he got off better than the gay-bashers he read about.

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