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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: #2,203,113 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
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
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
5.0 out of 5 stars KICK ASS CHARACTERS July 25 2011
By Clack - Published on Amazon.com
DROP DEAD GORGEOUS has to have one of the best kick ass female characters that I have ever read. Star is not just an anti-hero, she is feisty, outspoken and the woman your mother warned you about. For too long writers, have overlooked a good solid female role, something Mr Simmons has managed to do and pull it off in a realistic way.

The dead are rising in Belfast City, and Simmons extraordinary characters all search in different ways to make sense of the aftermath. Simmons manages to write about characters as diverse as a university professor and an army officer with an attention to detail and believability that few in this genre can do.

This novel is brutal in its characterisations, real people with attitude, Simmons has taped into the soul of those on the sidelines of society and given them a voice, placing them in an apocalyptic scenario, with none of the glamour of the Hollywood blockbuster, this is what it would be really like to face the end of the world, its dirty, smelly and bad, and boy it is a really really good to read....

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
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.


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
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.

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