Christa Faust’s 2005 novel Hoodtown is a fast-paced down-and-dirty noir set in a mythical world of Lucha, or Mexican wrestling, somewhere in the shadowlands between Mexico and the US — sort of a re-imagined Los Angeles (aka “Angel City”). Most of the action takes place in “Hoodtown,” a ghetto wherein dwell the “hoods” — those who live 24/7 with their hoods on.
The narrator, X, is a female wrestler who’s living on the skids after an unfortunate accident in the ring, and making ends meet by working as a wrestling dominatrix.
Then someone starts murdering hood prostitutes and, much worse, doing to them the worst thing you can do — ripping off their hoods. X goes after the killer, ripping her way through the underbelly of Hoodtown and deep into Angel City corruption.
If I had to come up with a category for Hoodtown, I’d grudgingly call it “near-term science fiction.”, or speculative fiction, or something like that. But it’s really one of those crossover books that plays games with genre, intentionally, and I get the sense that I’m also missing a bit of it by not being more familiar with the genre of Lucha comic books.
Whatever — just go with it, because the sights, scents and sounds of Faust’s world are vivid and wholly imagined, the huge cast of characters is an unparallelled gallery of rogues and tarnished angels and, more importantly, when you get right down to it this ballsy detective story is vicious. Hoodtown doesn’t fuck around with the long-winded detours that bog down most detective novels from every era — it starts right out by kicking you in the balls, and goes right on kicking until you cry, bitch. You know all the usual cliches about how a book “pulls no punches” and is “like high octane gasoline”? Yeah, OK. Well, this one’s like that. It pulls no punches, it’s like high octane gas, it’s a jet fuel enema, fuckers — no joke.
Faust’s writing style is poetic, absurdist, brutal, and careens wildly between being gorgeously esoteric and machine-gun simplistic. In short, I think she’s read about a million vintage detective novels and she echoes the style in a way that makes it plainly clear that most latter-day imitators of noir fiction don’t have even the vaguest hint of the genre’s poetry.
Faust gets it, she’s one of the best stylists around, and it’s her writing style that makes Hoodtown such a pulpy delight.
X, as narrator and protagonist, is as tough as nails but bewitchingly human; X’s tragedy is classic noir, and her story is Hoodtown’s story on its own wicked terms. Faust’s reimagining of a Lucha-based subculture is, to this gringo, mind-bending in the extreme. I loved it.