Having previously taken on mutant chickens and barnyard sex, the fourth Justin Perry novel takes on the American political system!
First published in 1985, Death’s Running Mate is all over the place. Author John D. Revere plays with time in Death’s Running Mate, which means that the book opens minutes before the climax of oversexed super assassin Justin Perry’s latest mission and then flashes back to how Perry and the readers arrived at that moment but the flashbacks themselves contain their own flashbacks and even the occasional flash forward. It leaves the plot so jumbled that it would probably require keeping extensive notes to really understand everything that happens and jotting down notes is a bit more effort than a Justin Perry novel deserves. The previous three Justin Perry novels were surreal but the fourth one plays out like an extended fever dream. And yet, because it’s so strange, it’s also probably the most compelling of all of the Perry novels. You keep turning page after page, just to see how much stranger it can get.
The book deals with politics. A 36 year-old woman named Andrea McKay has come out of nowhere and is running for President as the candidate of the Federalist-Liberal Party. She’s running on a platform to “throw the rats out” and she proves her sincerity by eating rat meat at her campaign events. Those who have read the previous volumes of the Justin Perry series will not be a surprised to learn that Andrea McKay is actually being backed by SADIF, an evil conspiracy that previously infiltrated the Vatican and developed mutant chickens. And since a major theme of these books is that Justin Perry is somehow at the center of everything that happens on the planet, most readers will not be surprised to learn that Andrea’s political platform was developed by SADIF abducting Justin during an orgy, holding him captive in a mental hospital for several months, and then interviewing him about his thoughts on politics. Justin is not only an expert killer who literally can’t leave the house with getting laid. He’s also so in touch with the American people that his vague political opinions can serve as the basis of a successful third party presidential campaign. Interestingly enough, it turns out that Andrea McKay is being as manipulated by SADIF as Justin is by The Old Man, his boss at the CIA. The suggestion, of course, is that Andrea, Justin, and the voters are all in the same situation. They’re all being manipulated and used like pawns on a chessboard.
As strange as the Andrea McKay presidential campaign is, it’s not the strangest part of the book. This is a novel that starts with Justin bragging about how he’s going to kill the population of an entire town in Illinois and then flashes back to Justin disguising himself as a psychologist so that he can prevent SADIF from breaking into a mental hospital and releasing all of the patients. (It turns out that the mental hospital uses sex therapy and, of course, Justin has to be carefully examined before he’s allowed to work there.) Among other events, Justin gets attacked by a woman driving a pumpkin truck and then later, he discovers the truth of his parentage. And I’m not even getting into the scenes of teenage Justin learning how to make love with a girl named Thelma who later turns out to be a spy herself. Did Justin Perry ever know anyone who didn’t turn out to be a spy?
To be honest, I’m probably not communicating just how weird this book is. I haven’t even gotten to the stuff about Illinois or the author’s apparent belief that a presidential vacancy is filled by a special election. (I laugh out loud at that part of the book, if just because it reminded me of Sally Kohn’s theory that impeaching Trump and Pence would lead to a special election between Paul Ryan and Hillary Clinton. “Straight forward from here,” as Sally put it.) Earlier, I described the book as being a fever dream but it’s really like several hundred fever dreams, all crammed together to form one big epic. Not a bit of it makes sense but the total lack of coherence is undeniably fascinating. Justin’s as much of a sex-crazed misogynist as he was in the previous books but, at least in this case, it nearly leads to collapse of the United States (which, I might add, leads me to suspect that these books were meant to be satirical). Will Justin learn a lesson from this? I’ve read the final book in the series and no. He does not.
Speaking of that fifth book, I’ll be reviewing that one on Saturday! And then, we’ll be done with Justin Perry.