Friday, September 08, 2006

Blue by J.D. Riso

J.D. Riso's debut novel, Blue is now available from Murphy's Law Press

From the back cover:

In an industrial neighborhood of San Diego there is a lonely, forgotten lot guarded by nothing more than a chain-link fence. Little remains of the establishment that reigned here once, or of the painted ladies who once graced its stage.

Stiletto heels protrude from the seared earth like tawdry tombstones. Sunlight glints off a garden of broken mirrors and scattered rhinestones. Sparkling appari-tions flit about in the breeze. They are specters of the dancers who have been scat-tered like some lost tribe of Babylon.

Amid the rubble one thing remains intact: a blue sequined mask.


I read this book this week, and was completely engrossed. Here's my thoughts on it:

Meet Blue Rivers. She's the result of her mother's rape back in high school, and her mother, Christine, has never developed any maternal love for her. Instead, after Christine's new boyfriend abuses Blue when she's just freshly graduated from high school, her mother kicks her out. Blue's only friend is Belinda, who at eighteen has already discovered the trick to getting men's attention, and money. She and Blue travel from Arizona to California, but when Blue isn't content to whore herself out, she parts with Belinda and lands a waitress job.

But then Blue's existence is again thrown into upheaval when she meets the darkly charming Kevin. Through a practiced routine of emotional games, Kevin manages to convince Blue to become a nude dancer. Thus begins Blue's descent into a career of stripping.

Riso takes us unabashedly through this strange and sometimes sordid world in all its variations. But if you're looking for a tantalizing piece of erotica, this isn't the book for you. Riso doesn't shy away from any of the sexual aspects, but she's not extorting them, either. Instead, through Blue's eyes, we get an honest, behind-the-scenes peek at the Pink Palace, where Blue first enters the world (and often returns), an LA private dancing company, a Vegas club, and even a journey around the world to Guam.

Riso manages to successfully have her cake and eat it too, because through honesty, certain stereotypes are both reinforced and shattered. Strong characters and shady motivations color and darken the pages, but it's Blue's inner core that never gets lost. She's a girl who struggles with baggage and issues, and seems ripe for predators. But though she allows her heart to lead her down dangerous paths, and though she seems emotionally fragile, in reality her spirit and self-realization is stronger than most people's. She'll bend and suffer to please Kevin, but he can't ever break her. For as low as her self-esteem can appear, she's got a hidden reserve that combines with her fierce intelligence to reveal true beauty.

Riso's writing is both accessible and elegant. This works well for the novel, as it's written in first person, and Blue's friends and colleagues are quick to notice her intelligence and verbal wit, and it keeps the reader engaged not just on the plot level, but on an artistic one as well.

This is a fine debut from Riso. Nestled among the lovely words and gritty settings, there's a beautiful character in here, and she'll keep readers enraptured through her entire show, even as she brushes up the dollars from the stage.

Blue is available right here.

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