Summer of Hate
Chris Kraus
Catt Dunlop is a writer in her forties who flies about giving readings and seminars and generally being famous. She is quite easy-going about it all. She is also making a bucket buying and fixing up houses and apartments --- this is before the 2009 collapse --- and selling them for a profit, a technique known as "flipping."

She is good at making money and being a literary star --- but she doesn't seem all that satisfied when it comes to her personal life. When we first find her she is making plans to get together with one Nicholas Cohen whom she found by trolling through on-line "BDSM" sites. Dumb me, I thought it was a new fashion trend (Better Duds for Sexy Moms) but when I Googled "BDSM," Google, being prim --- suggested no links (or kinks) at all and handed me over forthwith to Wikipedia.

Wikipedia ain't so prim and I waded through reams of material on "bondage," "discipline," "sadism," and "masochism," along with some rather off-the-wall special options like "body mod," "hot wax," "St. Andrew's cross," "furries," and "petplay." The photos made my Puritan eyes bug out and my Puritan soul back off some.

Anyway, when Nicholas demands that Catt sign all her assets over to him (which I suspect is the ultimate American capitalistic BDSM), despite being a 21st century hippie she decides this is a bit too much and runs off to Mexico, hoping that he won't find her and beat her into ecstasies of financial frippery.

In Albuquerque, where she has moved some of her excess capital gains, she buys a couple of run-down apartments and puts an ad in Craigslist and in comes Paul Garcia. He just got out of the slammer (drunk; dope; writing bad checks; credit card tomfoolery) and the moment he appears Catt is smitten with him and suddenly he is in charge of all her assets and he didn't even have to offer to do the furries or the St. Andrew's cross on her, whatever the hell that is.

It's all a little obscure. For one thing, we can't exactly see what this sophisticated lady (she's just written a book about the Bloomsbury folks) sees in this fortyish ex-con who eternally spouts twelve-step lines from The Book. Author Kraus tells us that Paul is interesting and funny but from the dialogue she parcels out we find ourselves saddled with a nail-biter who may know The Book by heart but who has trouble figuring out which fork to use for the salad and whose spoken lines can scarcely be said to be rib-tickling.

Fortunately Paul gets nabbed by the fuzz as he is driving Catt's car back to LA and suddenly Summer of Hate comes to life. Kraus may not know squat about Bloomsbury experts and ex-cons in the sack or even BDSM but she knows jail stuff to a fare-thee-well. Paul's history is packed with stolen checks, drunk driving, crack, hit-and-run and other priors that get him stowed away in Sheriff Arpaio's jail tangle complete with pink shorts, restraints and lots of sweaty company in the jammed cells.

God knows why Catt is so determined to get this big bore out of the graybar hotel and back into UCLA (she has arranged for him to become a psychologist) because they've already come to harsh words over how to run the real-estate deals and whether he can have a tool box for the back of the truck she gave him.

If it were me, I'd just let the bastard rot in jail, especially when we find out that to spring him will end up costing over 35,000 bones. Catt does it anyway all while giving us a fascinating trip through Arpaio's special brand of summary justice.

Catt is not without her charms at least in the $$$ department. Her way to make money in real estate is to figure out not only income/outgo but all the odds. She apparently has a double entry system running in her head at all times so she can figure in the worst-case scenario: if her manager steals X from her, she will lose a maximum of Y, so her bottom line will be Z.

Unfortunately, Paul not only has a shady past that reveals itself in a series of time bombs, but he really is a dummy: he falls out of love with Catt and in love with Amber. Who is a dummy squared ("suicide threats, pills and razors all over the bedroom.") He could have stayed forever with Catt who would have been a life-time security deposit with bells on, plus scholarships out the gazoo.

Fortunately Amber doesn't mosey on the scene until page 241 and it's only ten more pages to the end. Kraus seems to be in a bit of a hurry to finish this one off so even as Amber is being dumped, we're given a hint that Paul and Catt might well be fumbling back together again. I guess we'll find out in Summer of Hate Strikes Back.

If nothing else, it gave us a taste of Arpaio's system of justice and is enough of a screed on what is known as Arizona Gotcha to make us vow to stay thousands of miles from that state for the rest of our days. Personally I would have voted for a return of the computer-trolling Nicholas and full-bore exploration of BDSM with at least a smattering of whips and spurs where we could have found out how best to do the St. Andrews Cross conjoined with a hot weekend of the petplay furries.

--- Betty Wrangle
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