(This post originally appeared in slightly different form on June 11, 2007.)
MIAMI PURITY is Vicki Hendricks’ first novel, originally published in 1995. It’s about as noir as they come, as narrator/former stripper Sherri Parlay tries to end her boozing, sex-addicted ways by getting a more respectable job. She winds up working at Miami-Purity Cleaners, managed by Payne Mahoney, the son of the owner. As is her habit when she runs into a good-looking man, Sherri falls for Payne right away and starts to think that her life might actually be starting to work out.
Well, we all know better than that, don’t we?
In this book, Hendricks accomplishes something really special for a debut novel. She establishes an utterly distinctive voice right off the bat, allowing Sherri to tell her story in a way that nobody else ever would. She also manages to capture that old Gold Medal feeling while turning on its head the Gold Medal paradigm of the sympathetic loser making all the wrong choices because of a beautiful young woman. Sex and murder and despair permeate this book, told in such headlong prose that I read almost all of it in one sitting, something very rare for me these days. This is the first novel I’ve read by Vicki Hendricks but won’t be the last. Highly recommended.