Lost in Booth Nine

by Adam-Troy Castro
Silver Salamander Press, tpb, 208 pages, $10.00
ISBN: none

Adam-Troy Castro has a knack for making the most bizarre characters believable. Many of his macabre creations actually are real, drawn from his alternate-identity as a collection agent for a firm whose products seem to attract some of the unlikeliest human beings ever encountered. Some people react to daily contact with humanity at its worst by turning against people, taking shelter in bigotry or misogyny or some other strain of hatred. Castro uses his encounters to populate a growing body of short horror fiction.

Lost in Booth Nine is the first collection of Castro's fiction, containing four stories, three of them linked by their connection with Les Girls XXX, one of the sticky-floored urban porn houses that have become anonymous in their ubiquity. The fourth story, "The Pussy Expert," is only quasi-fictional, a word for word retelling of an encounter with a talkative cabby, and its aftermath.

"Peepshow" is the story of a dancer at Les Girls XXX, not one of the tired addicts fighting sleep as they mechanically gyrate for the pleasure of men who can only face women when separated by walls, but a woman who literally thrives on the lust of others. The life of a peepshow vampire is limited and bleak, but there are much, much worse things that can happen to a woman who stays young and beautiful only by feeding on the ugliness of others. Ugliness can be deceptive and subtle, after all, and the line between victim and victimizer is easily blurred in a place like Les Girls XXX.

The Girl in Booth Nine? explores the residue of countless virtual rapes, committed perhaps only in the minds of unsocialized men in video booths. All of the psychic energy produced by anonymous, womanless rapes has to go somewhere, produce some effect. And even imagined, anonymous rape has its victims, and its price. The Miracle Drug, looks at power and rape from a different view, and is not set directly in Les Girls XXX. Instead, a burned out, bad cop and his naive rookie partner find a house filled with the remnants of junkies hopelessly mutated by a drug that offers the worst side effects of all--but may also offer the power over life and death.

I'm not sure how Adam-Troy managed to keep working at the hideous collection agency job--his stories about it were online legend in the pre-Windows days of GEnie's SF Roundtable--but it certainly produced an incredible font of horror writing inspiration, in the days when there used to be a horror market. I worked with him as editor and packager on his brilliant Confessions of a Collection Agent which, alas, never sold.

First appeared in Horror magazine, March 1994.

Copyright © 2004 by Leigh Grossman