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Drop Dead Gorgeous [Paperback]

Wayne Simmons , Travis Adkins


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Book Description

November 2008
As tattoo artist Star begins to ink her first client on a spring Sunday morning, something goes horribly wrong with the world... Belfast's hungover lapse into a deeper sleep than normal, their sudden deaths causing an unholy mess of crashing cars, smoldering televisions and falling aircraft. In the chaotic aftermath a group of post-apocalyptic survivors search for purpose in a devastated city. Ageing DJ Sean Magee and shifty-eyed Barry Rogan find drunken solace in a hotel bar. Ex-IRA operative Mairead Burns and RIR soldier Roy Beggs form an uneasy alliance to rebuild community life. Elsewhere, a mysterious Preacher Man lures shivering survivors out of the shadows with a promise of redemption. Choked by the smell of death, Ireland’s remaining few begin the journey toward a new life, fear and desperation giving rise to new tensions and dark old habits. But a new threat--as gorgeous as it is deadly--creeps slowly out of life’s wreckage. Fueled by feral hunger and a thirst for chaos, the corpses of the beautiful are rising…

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 268 pages
  • Publisher: Permuted Press (November 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1934861057
  • ISBN-13: 978-1934861059
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15.5 x 1.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 431 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,229,471 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  24 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like a Sucker Punch from a Pregnant Lesbian Aug. 19 2009
By FURB Furbish - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Drop Dead Gorgeous is like a sucker punch from a pregnant lesbian; you start to chat her up expecting one thing (wink, wink,) but get something else entirely.

Admittedly, I have never really gotten into reading the horror genre. The only experiences I have with zombies have been "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," and the Charleton Heston film "Omega Man," and so I don't have that much to compare "Drop Dead Gorgeous" to. This beats both of those experiences like an angry amputee wielding a broken appendage.

This book starts out with Star, a tattoo artist, whose client dies while being tattooed. She finished the tattoo, and then noticed everyone else in her parlor had similarly kicked off! She explores her surroundings in the center of Belfast, Northern Ireland, trying to make sense of what has happened to the general populace in her nihilistic way. She ends up in an anarchic-enclave in the bus station, with Sean the DJ, Tim and Caz the teen lovers, and Barry (the man with a sordid past). They go on loot, and have a grand old time in the finest hotel in Belfast, generally keeping to themselves.

Contrast this with Royal Irish Ranger Roy Beggs, who's collected followers on the road to Belfast the first night after the apocalypse. Roy has picked up Maraid Burns, who is a former IRA operative, and reluctantly entrusts her with a sidearm. They are holed up in an elementary school, where Sylvia Paterson plays the role of comforter, manipulator, and head cool-aide dispenser. The school seems like it will turn into an Irish Jonestown.

Not to spoil anything, but the book details what happens to both enclaves, as the Zombies emerge. "Drop Dead Gorgeous" is a fantastic read. It has language some people might find objectionable, having very grown up themes. This is not one for the kiddies.

To the participants of the Freedom Book Club: Many thanks for suggesting this book! It was select as the Summer Read for 2009.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An original zombie novel? Whod'a'thunk? June 23 2010
By Robert Beveridge - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Wayne Simmons, Drop Dead Gorgeous (Permuted Press, 2008)

My experience with Permuted Press up till now has been David Moody's Autumn Quartet and a slew of press releases about books that have made me say, every time, "man, I have got to read this." Oddly, I never saw a single press release for Drop Dead Gorgeous, the first novel from Irish novelist Wayne Simmons; I stumbled across it in my local Half Price Books. (There is a small-press horror fan in my area who routinely sells stuff there. Whoever you are, bless you.) I actually found three Permuted titles the same day and snatched them all up. I knew the other two (D. L. Snell's Roses of Blood on Barbwire Vines and Z. A. Recht's Thunder and Ashes) well by reputation, but this one I'd never heard of. So I cracked the cover on this one first. And after I'd finished it a couple of days later, the only word I could come up with was "DAY-um." This is not at all what I expected from the original publisher of the Autumn books. This is bloody awesome.

First off: ignore the jacket copy, which makes it sound as if the story centers around Star, the tattoo artist who graces the wonderful (if amateurish) cover. Instead, like the Autumn books, Drop Dead Gorgeous is an ensemble drama rather along the lines of Autumn but somewhat better-structured. We start off with the sudden and unexplained death of billions (once again hearkening back to David Moody and the beginning of the small-press zombie revolution) and a handful of survivors, including Star, who eventually find one another. But we also have a second storyline that runs parallel involving a former Orangeman and a former IRA member who are forced together in leadership positions with another band of survivors in a smaller town a ways up the highway from the first band. The two don't cross until close to the end (though their proximity in the book tells you they eventually will), so essentially you've got two separate stories throughout. And they're both exceptionally well-written for this sort of thing.

Also, I did allude to Drop Dead Gorgeous as a zombie novel above. And it is, for about fifty pages, though the zombies are nothing at all like the ones you're used to. But the majority of Drop Dead Gorgeous contains not a single member of the walking dead. Simmons focuses on the survivors and nothing else for the first three-quarters of the book, and while hardcore zombie-heads will probably be disappointed by this, anyone else on the planet who picks this up will be very pleasantly surprised by how much care Simmons takes in drawing his characters. Yes, some of the coincidences are a little too neat, and there are some scenes that seem to exist solely to advance the plot, but Simmons weaves them in skillfully enough that if you're not paying attention, you may never notice.

Simply put: this is awesome. If you're at all a horror fan, you want to check this out. Simmons has dome something almost unheard-of in horror these days: he's actually written a novel that can be called "original", and you can keep a straight face while saying it. I love this book. ****
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More to come, then? Feb. 3 2010
By Thomas Brannan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I don't entirely know what to write about DDG. On the one hand, I enjoyed the bejesus out of the book. It's a four-star review, of course I enjoyed the book. The story was well conceived and well told, the characters grow as they grow on you, and the Drop Dead Dolls, when they show up, are creepy as hell. Things are left sufficiently open for the second book, which I can only hope will see publication soon, because I'm looking forward to it.

On the other hand, I think I'm suffering from some kind of cross-culture perception lag. Lemme 'splain. This will seem like a diatribe against the book, but it's not. Bear with me.

(SPOILERS AHEAD, I think)

The setting of DDG is modern-day Béal Feirste (Belfast, you wanker) a metropolis of, all-told, a half-million people. So, being a native of Chicago (now living in Austin) when ninety percent of the population ups and dies at the wheel or walking around or on the train, etc, I foretell massive carnage on an almost Biblical scale. Fires, explosions, dogs and cats living together. You know. But, since Belfast is about a fifth of the size of Chicago (or a third of the ATX) the results are . . . different. The largest city in Northern Ireland dies with a sigh, almost.

And while I can wrap my head around that, there are bitter rivalries left over from all the IRA/UVF business that I just don't understand, and I doubt that anyone that isn't directly affected by it -really- does. So, the scenes of tension between a pair of opposing-camp characters started to fall a little flat for me. Just a little, though . . . before dipping into DDG, I'd just read Pete Hamill's THE GUNS OF HEAVEN, which at least gave me a working knowledge of who was fighting who and why.

Fortunately, I was ready for some of the language issues (I worked with a Scotsman and a Brit for a while . . . we all speak English, but we don't speak it the same) but there were a couple of times I had to re-read a bit to make sure I'd read what I though I'd read.

Like I said, this sounds like a negative review. It's not. Emphatically, it's not. All these things I've said here, these are MY shortcomings (as a person of Irish descent, no less) not those of Wayne Simmons or Permuted Press. This book belongs on the shelf of horror fans world-wide.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Heartbreaking, Character-Driven Apocalypse Novel Oct. 28 2009
By Jessica Brown - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I've been on a real indie book bender lately. There's something refreshing about small press novels that I really enjoy, be it the DIY spirit of the venture in general or the groundbreaking ideas that the books themselves contain. I think one of the things that grabs me the most about the small press world is the sheer amount of heart and dedication that go into the production, a feeling that's miles and miles away from the cold, corporate feel that sometimes radiates from Big Publishing.

Don't get me wrong, corporate entities have their place, I suppose, but small presses give me a warm and fuzzy feeling inside, even when they're printing things that shouldn't generate that kind of response.

Drop Dead Gorgeous, published by Permuted Press, is one such book. I loved it, every page and every minute spent with my nose buried in it, but damn is this one of the most heartbreaking books I've ever read. I don't think I've ever read anything quite so bleak before, despite having read literally hundreds of horror novels from my teen years to this day.

DDG is, essentially, the story of a zombie outbreak in and around Belfast, Northern Ireland, but what makes it so unique (and, in my opinion, chillingly effective) is that the focus throughout remains squarely on the characters. Two high school kids, a tattooist, a radio DJ, an aging Loyalist soldier, an IRA supporter, a retired college professor, a twenty-something slacker and several others have found themselves alone, the rest of the citizenry suddenly dead for reasons unknown. People have fallen in their homes, keeled over at the wheel of their cars and dropped dead on the streets, all for little to no reason. Bodies are left to rot where they lay as the city's infrastructure shuts down, and the survivors hole up in enclaves scattered throughout the country.

Some of the bodies, however, defy the rotting process, and become more and more beautiful with each passing day...

I don't think I read the word `zombie' once during the whole novel, though I could be wrong about that. My point to this is, though, that the reanimated dead are never treated as the shamblers found so often in Romero-style zombie stories. Nor are they swift-footed zombies, tearing after human survivors while screaming and clawing at the air. They're dangerous, to be sure, and sometimes form mobs, but the reanimated women are wholly original creatures. Inside their non-living brains reside memories, albeit seemingly hidden ones, and when they return to life their former emotions come very much into play.

DDG is a very slow burn. The horror doesn't come into play for quite some time, instead focusing on the people who've found themselves thrown into chaos and the things they must do to ensure their own survival. These are people who have lost loved ones, sometimes their entire families, and must now make do with a life without camaraderie or the comforts they once took for granted. Simmons handles this heartbreakingly well. Several times I found myself feeling real pity for his characters, wanting them to somehow find their way to happiness. There were times, as well, when I almost didn't want to turn the page, knowing fully well that in horror novels those that die often outweigh those that survive to see The End.

DDG is a wild, highly emotional ride that I'm very glad to have taken. Its sequel, DOLL PARTS, is forthcoming, and I'll be picking it up the moment it hits Amazon.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A prequel to the eventual sequel Aug. 20 2009
By Mark Louis Baumgart - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
On June 6, 1941 we invaded Normandy; on June 5, 2005 the world ends. Musta missed it on the telly, and despite it ending in a whimper instead of a bang, I'm pretty sure something of that great a significance wouldn't have happened without me noticing. I'm sure there was significance in Simmons picking that date; it certainly wasn't because that's also my birthdate.

Anywho, Despite being young, Jimmy and Siobhan already have the demeanor of an old married couple trapped in a loveless marriage. Siobhan is depressed, and Jimmy is just a dick. They are driving down the road when Jimmy buys it, along with ninety-nine percent of the populace, including the animals, of Belfast. Unfortunately, people hate dying alone, so when Jimmy dies he manages, to Siobhan's great consternation, as he is the one driving, to take Siobhan with him. Too bad, I kinda liked her. Anyway, they drive their car into an upcoming train that is carrying teenagers Caroline "Caz" Donaldson and Tim Adamson.

We are then introduced over the next couple of chapters to three separate bunches of people. Congregating together, there are the survivors of the Belfast die out, a bunch that includes Caz, Tim, and drunken lout Sean Magee. There is also the nihilistic tattooist Star, who finds that her business has just taken a nose-dive, and who unfortunately, while looking colorful, turns out to be a rather colorless character. Belfast also gives us a seperate bunch led by the Preacher Man, a survivor who, astounded at still being alive, decides to start his own church, and preach and help other survivors.

Then there is the convoy lead by Roy Beggs and Mairead Burns who are traveling down the motorway and are about ten miles shy of Belfast. They are a couple by convenience, traveling together for safety's sake, and the trip is a contentious one, Beggs is an ex-soldier, brutal and racist, and Burns is militant IRA, and neither forgives and neither forgets, and both hate the other. They decide to camp out at an abandoned school only to find that somebody had already broke into it. Deciding to check things out Beggs and Burns find that the school's cleaner has gone to her final reward, but they also find Clare McAfee, a small child who is hiding at the school after her mother has died.

So much of the populace has died that there are barely any street gangs, the type that usually inhabit these type of novels, to worry about, so the characters feel free to freely move about, a mistake as we later learn. As the novel progresses we learn more and more about the Belfasters and their post apocalyptic existence. Then there is something that begins to puzzle some of Belfast's inhabitants, and it is the fact none of the bodies are rotting in the sun. None of the women's bodies that is, the men's get pretty ripe, but all the women's stay perfect.

The most interesting bunch though is the caravan people. The Belfasters unfortunately for the most part just exist, with some just content to sexing and drinking the novel away, although Caz and Tim develop nicely as characters. At the caravan however, things are starting to deteriorate as Beggs starts throwing his weight around, starting his own little authoritative and totalitarian cult, and Burns has just about had it, there is a death, undiscovered until too late, an attempted murder, then a mutiny as Burns decides to leave.

A street gang finally arrives on the scene at Belfast, there is a kidnapping, a rescue, Beggs arrives, and to make matters worse, the dead rise.

The trouble is that this is marketed as a zombie novel and it's not, not really. What it is, it is a novel about the immediate days following an unexplained apocalyptic event. The zombies don't even appear until near the end of the novel, in which we find that this is the first novel of a series. If you don't believe me, I think that the "Hang in there for `Drop Dead Gorgeous: Doll Parts'!" that is found in the acknowledgements is a clue.

Now this didn't really bother me, although it will bother others. In fact, although this is part of a series, the novel is pretty self-contained, and while those looking forward to some finger-licking good cannibal zombie action will probably be bored with the fairly slow moving first three quarters of this novel, I however, found it fairly interesting and I look forward to the next chapter, if there is one.

***Spoiler*** As to who the zombies are, here's a hint; it wouldn't be the first time women tried to destroy the world, check out "Xombies" by Walter Greatshell, "Ladies' Night" by Jack Ketchum or "Blood Fever" by Shelley Hyde (Kit Reed).

This novel has a great cover of the tattooed Star holding off a number of zombies with a bloody axe, and like most Permuted Press books, this is a sturdy trade paperback that would hold up to multiple re-readings, with a laminated cover that will hold up to much abuse, making it perfect for libraries if you could just get a library to stock it. I give it a four star rating because I have to, it's actually a three and a half star book, but I like these apocalyptic melodramas, others looking for fast-paced zombie action will no doubt grade it lower.

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