Stay God is Baltimore noir starring 20-something drug dealing cinephiles. Damon, the lead in this movie-infused drug-and-love story, strives to placate, and to embrace his girlfriend’s dreams of a better future while sadly failing to even maintain their delicate present. Theirs is a relationship mortared by a genuine affection, by a shared love of obscure movies and music. This is the relationship we all want, and therefore the relationship we all want to succeed. But Mary’s past relationship with Damon’s supplier proves to be a difficult hurdle.
Author Nik Korpon is not satisfied to let a simple nod serve to validate his fandom, whether of movies, of music, or of literature. No, Korpon takes what is inherently compelling about each of his many references and weaves those concepts into his story. Early discourse on the outcome of a hypothetical battle between Freddy Krueger and Wolverine informs much of Damon’s increasingly validated paranoia throughout the book. Keyser Soze’s The Usual Suspects limp becomes the switched shoes, the shaved mustache, the representative disguises of every assumed undercover cop or crook trying to bring down Damon and his humble pawn shop-cum-illegal drug dispensary.
But do not fear feeling excluded by a hipster manifesto. Korpon is not a fanboy tailoring his writing to his obsessions. He is most definitely a writer first, a damn fine writer, using his own passions to substantiate his characters. You may not know who Turbonegro are and you might not care who Kurowsawa is, but the fact that Damon and Christian and Mary and all the others do care is indisputable. And through these outlying obsessions, and their integration into the characters they define, the story is made all the richer and more complex.
Korpon’s confidence and style of language beautifully renders the story as its own cinematic homage to the many titles dropped throughout. The prose anchors itself firmly in his gorgeous descriptions:
“Junkies sprouted in alleys, around dumpsters like crabgrass. Prostitutes blossomed from latex tube tops like decaying orchids. Down the glass walls of the city, depression dripped in ribbons the color of corpse cheeks” (pg 26).
The practical savvy of a drug selling operation reads with all the slickness and adrenaline of a hi-concept heist, say Ocean’s Eleven, but simultaneously feels entirely plausible. I credit Korpon’s suave wordsmithery in providing substance to Damon’s procedures:
“Take a flathead screwdriver and gently, to avoid making any visible scratches, pry up the false bottom. Slide out the sheet of black metal, again gently, and remove the duct-taped concrete blocks underneath. Stack the blocks at least three feet away from the safe. I wrapped them in tape to keep concrete dust from getting on the carpet where there shouldn’t be concrete dust” (pg 16).
Hey Korpon, I can make movie references too: Stay God makes me want to write a better review. That’s as good as my movie references get; As Good as It Gets…that’s a meta-reference. Point: Caleb.
Read more about Stay God at Otherworld Publications.