Will Viharo is a new author for me; he was introduced to me (virtually) by a mutual Facebook friend when I mentioned wanting to open a Tiki bar in West Texas. Viharo has nothing to do with Texas as far as I know (note: since I originally wrote this review, I found out that Will does have a Texas connection, which I didn’t expect), but a lot to do with Tiki, which was enough for me to go check out his writings. And coincidentally, he had a new novel coming out about the time we met on Facebook, so I started there…and what a start it was. “Freaks That Carry Your Luggage Up to the Room” starts fast and hard and absolutely does not let up until the end. It’s not for everyone; this is a not a book that will ever end up on Oprah’s recommended reading list, but for those folks who like their fiction twisted, brutal, darkly humorous, and covered in a wide variety of bodily fluids, it’s a fantastic read.
“Freaks” drops you right into the lobby of L’Hotel du Frisson, a hotel past its prime, and pulls you into the lives of the hotel staff and its guests, all of whom are unnatural, supernatural, or both. From Danny the desk clerk on the run from his past, to the headhunting headhunter resident The Mantis Man, to a disgraced Russian surgeon named Boris who acts as the bellhop (but hasn’t given up surgery), the characters start off strange and get stranger after a vampiric and vampy Mexican actress named Estrella checks in. Hotels are such strange places naturally; little rooms of transient isolation for people coming and going for all manner of reasons, all attended to by staff who must see all sorts of things, but act as if they never see anything. I’ve always imagined that after working in hotels for a while, strange events become normal. And this idea fits well with “Freaks”; all of the strange events, people, and creatures are nothing unusual for this hotel.
And L’Hotel du Frisson with its array of bizarre and monstrous guests and staff serves the perfect backdrop for a novel overflowing with sex, death, hunger, and a little bit of love. Really, though, to say that “Freaks” is filled with sex, death, and hunger is to undersell it. This novel is about sex and death in the same way that Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas” was about a couple of Italian guys; it’s true, but doesn’t get the point across. So, let me rephrase a bit: “Freaks” is a novel overflowing with fucking, killing, hunger, and a little bit of love. The permutations of fucking, killing, creatures human and and otherwise, fucked orifices, hunger for food, flesh, blood, and anything else that can be consumed for nourishment or for the thrill of it are astounding, and I haven’t read the likes of it since Edward Lee’s “Bighead”. While I was reading in bed one evening, my girlfriend asked to describe it, and my reply was something along the lines of “As far as I can tell, everyone gets fucked in every hole and killed, but the order of the fucking, killing, and holes fucked varies a lot. You’d hate it. I love it.”
Beyond the fucking, killing, and hunger, the super/un-natural characters in “Freaks” have a variety of motivations ranging from revenge to love and desire, sometimes all at once. One of the ways that this novel works well is that we get a limited glimpse of each of the characters (some more than others); the hotel staff and guests have unique backgrounds and aspirations, and just as if we’d spent some time in L’Hotel du Frisson ourselves, we learn a little about them but some mysteries remain. Similarly, the hotel itself reveals answers to some questions, but leaves others unanswered. Meanwhile, the novel moves you through the hotel at a pace that starts off fast and becomes frenetic toward its climax. “Freaks That Carry Your Luggage Up to the Room” is recommended for those folks who are looking for the literary equivalent of a supernatural grindhouse movie. High speed, high body count, high fluid count. If that’s what you’re after, then like me, you’ll enjoy your visit to L’Hotel du Frisson.