If you’re looking for some light — yet dark and twisted — reading, then you’ll enjoy Denise Dietz’ quirky erotic horror-comedy, Fifty Cents for Your Soul (Delphi Books, Apr 2002). Dietz draws her inspiration from her sister, Eileen Dietz — Linda Blair’s “demon double” from The Exorcist — to put together this hilarious black comedy about an actress who gets cast in a schlocky horror film, Forever Asmodeus, only to find herself possessed by a lusty and murderous demon who has dreams of stardom all its own.
The play with the demon double in this book is genuinely fun, and there’s a lot of raunchy laughs in this book, but what really makes this novel a page-turner is Dietz’s penchant for snappy one-liners and witty turns of phrase. She’s not afraid to go over-the-top — as in the opening line (“The woman who straddled Victor Madison had hiccups.”) — or to drop a witty metaphor in passing like it was easy (“My mother, of course, thinks my logic is as twisted as a French cruller.”) Dietz pulls this off by telling the story through the first person perspective of Frannie Rosen — a narrator whose voice sounds something like a young Bette Midler if she’d been cast in an episode of Sex in the City directed by Tim Burton. At one point, for example, Frannie witnesses a murder and notes two things: one, that blood is brown when it coagulates, and, two, that “In the Rosen household, blood never has time to turn a rusty brown. Immediately, if not sooner, it’s soaked in white vinegar, club soada, and/or salt water.” And so she tells the cops to try that little household hint. But sometimes the joking gets downright ludicrous. Take, for example, Frannie’s description of the demon:
“Call it a doppleganger, call it a dybbuk, call it a nudist who stuffs beetles inside its belly without swallowing. I only knew that if a tree fell in the forest and hit a mime, no one would hear (or care), but if it hit my demon, the echo of its eerie screech would reverberate left and right, up and down, from the Bronx Zoo to Bloomingdales…”
Yes, the demon eats beetles by shoving them directly into its flesh — and that’s pretty neat when Dietz depicts it. But Frannie’s voice allows her to pull a mime joke out of the blue where others would be drop dead serious. The humor refuses to take a back seat to the horror. When Frannie gets serious, it’s only when the demon possesses her — in dream visions akin to rape fantasies — that dramatize her seduction into the dark side. Her demon is indeed quite randy, and the sex jokes are frequent. But the light-hearted approach to the horror is what kept me turning the pages, waiting for the next humorous jab, whether zinger or groaner. Die-hard horror fans be warned: Dietz is predominantly a writer of romantic suspense novels, not supernatural horror, but in my opinion this only enhances the creative approach she brings to the genre, making this one of the quirkiest “demon lover” books I’ve ever read. Granted, I haven’t read a lot of them. But as a fan of The Exorcist, I found Fifty Cents for Your Soul worth far more than two bits.
Denise Dietz. Fifty Cents for Your Soul. ISBN 0966339754. 283 pp. Hardcover. Delphi Books, April 2002. $22.95. Delphi Books, POB 6435, Lee’s Summit, MO 64064.