In a tale that is more Dashiell Hammett than
Franz Kafka, Tyler Knox (a pseudonym of William Lashner) turns Kafka's short story on its head to
create the ultimate American immigrant story set against the
noir background of 1950s New York. Kockroach is happy with his
life, not that he's ever really considered the concept of
happiness when one comes down to it, until one day he wakes up
and discovers that his normal proud dimensions have been
replaced by a new body "ridiculously narrow and soft, its skin
beneath a pelt of hair as pale and shriveled as a molting
Kafka's Gregor Samsa might have wallowed in despair, but not Kockroach. Cockroaches are the ultimate adapters and after a few days getting to grips with his new body in the privacy of a seedy Times Square hotel, Kockroach, aka Jerry Blatta, is ready to start climbing the dung heap of his new world.
With the assistance of his vertically challenged, low-level hood sidekick, Mite, and his own basic amoral instincts, Kockroach is set to become a powerful player in 1950s New York as he moves up the ladder from gangster to businessman to politician.
It goes without saying that one has to suspend disbelief to read either Kafka's Metamorphosis or Kockroach, but somehow, when one observes human nature, it is easier to believe that cockroaches dressed as men are walking the streets than vice versa!
Look out for: The bottom right corner of each page of Kockroach which has a little image which, when the pages are flipped, shows the transformation of cockroach into besuited Jerry Blatta.
This review was originally published in February 2007, and has been updated for the March 2008 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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