Cool his stories are not; heated and hallucinated to the point of surreal nightmare, these interlinking stories describe the landscape of an industrial inferno called “Detroit” envisioned as “a desert in the shape of a city.” Refugees flee from one place to another without explanation, the sky falls in solid crushing slabs, corpses chatter without respite and people take on the dehumanizing aspects of the tools and machinery they ply at their jobs.
Bristling with a kind of creative anarchy, the book gleefully wages a frontal assault o the ideas of rational cause and effect. The force that seems to have called these tales into being is the attempt to breathe life and animation—at times aggresively, at others comically—into lifeless surroundings in vivid, expressionistic colors. Using an epigraph from Celine's Journey to the End of Night—“Next day I boarded a train for Detroit where I'd heard it was easy to get taken on at a lot of little jobs that weren't too hard and were well paid” Richards ironically intends to set straight that most street-smart and otherwise unillusioned of modern writers.
One of the most convincing leitmotifs woven through the various stories and bearing the full force of lived experience is the recurring lament for the fathers who “entered factories in droves, channeled between cyclone fences into passages so narrow their cigarettes burned holes in each other's pants.” Throughout, there is an indictment of a system in which
The accompanying black-and-white photos by Ralph Norris are stark and frozen still in their presentation of gritty Rustbowl Detroit and serve as eloquently mute counterpoint to the live-wire prose.