Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Review: The Melancholy Strumpet Master by Zeb Beck

Genre: Dark Humor/Literary Fiction


“Will Gilmore Crowell's humble member cross the line separating academic integrity from disgrace? Only if by doing so it can help others.

Every weekend, Gilmore Crowell crosses the border into Tijuana’s redlight district. He’s not there for sex; he’s there to save his failing academic career.

Gil's anthropological study of Tijuana streetwalkers had his dissertation advisor cheering him on. But that was years ago, before his best sources up and vanished. Now, with no connection to the sex worker community, his research has stalled and the faculty elders are about to kick him out of the grad program. Plus, he’s broke.

He takes a job teaching at a juvenile detention center. The steady income gives him the means to keep making his weekly trips across the border. Now he’s paying the girls to speak with him. In a sudden moment of insight, he realizes that giving them something besides cold hard cash might help him forge a new inroad to the community. But do they want what he's offering?”


“Zeb Beck lives in Los Angeles with his lovely wife and difficult pets.”


This book was described to me as a “darkly humorous work of literary fiction.” That’s definitely a good description. The definition of literary fiction is one of a few genre labels that indicate the story is more character driven than plot driven. Of course, there is a plot. Things are happening around Gilmore Crowell, our protagonist. But ultimately those things are less important to the story and what I think a reader should be getting out of it than what Gilmore does (or doesn’t do) and what is going on in his head. While there are certainly people and events beyond Gilmore that figure into the story and influence what happens to him over the course of this tale, the lessons that a reader might take away from this story are more a matter of observing and questioning what goes on in Gilmore’s head. Yes, he is his own worst enemy.

As for the humor, definitely lots of humor in this book. Some of it will be the reader shaking their head at Gilmore, wondering what the heck he is thinking, and other will be events beyond him, but dark is a good description of both. If dark humor isn’t your thing, this might not be the book for you. For me, it was one of the draws.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK


Some adult language and content.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 75-80,000 words

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