When an underpaid bartender’s assistant with a two hundred grand student debt and no prospects of promotion to bartender because all paid work requires significant years of unpaid internship serves an impatient, overpaid investment banker of a similar age waving a hundred dollar bill at him, what is really different about the two men, besides the hundred dollar bill? Often, it comes to the fact that the first man got screwed somehow in life, whether it’s through a debt-incurring worthless university degree, a bank’s shady dealings with one’s mortgage, an over-saturated labour market designed to profit only those at the top and keep out those at the entry level, or a private health care system where one must pay for psychiatric help.
The recent surge of overeducated, underemployed young people with large debts and little job prospects has formed a curious underclass of a generation that grew up spoon fed on the American dream of social mobility and Protestant work ethic promising reward for hard work. That their futures have not resulted in the way their parents had guaranteed has bred an underlying sense of resentment often not coherently vocalized, probably because they are kept busy scanning job ads or working unpaid internships. But whose fault is it? Who are those malevolent entities that should be forced to pay?
Junkyard Lepard is a peculiar vocalization of that frustration, playing out a revenge fantasy in the form of a dissociated young woman that goes into homicidal auto-pilot when she straps on a leopard print Lycra bodysuit, white fur coat, and very creative murder weapons that she uses on wealthy investment bankers that have no qualms about eating their young.
The horror novel plays with the sense of perspective, with the reader often feeling as though he or she is only listening in on the thoughts of the one person that does not know what is happening (or what is about to happen to them). Scenes in the book weave seamlessly from the inner dialogue of horrible people who happen to be one percenters who are then killed in an almost Kill Bill-like fashion, to Mary’s mundane every day motions as she interacts with her co-workers at the junkyard, thinks about the cute guy at the coffee shop, buys ramen noodles, and generally tries to cope with her overwhelming loneliness. The style is reflective of the way our generation’s mind operates, flipping from internet browser tab to browser tab. Junkyard Leopard suggests that the constant consumption of short-term distractions is one of the ways that we have been suppress with these social injustices that, if we really think about it, would make us want to kill.
It’s only fitting that the book launch in author Oliver Brackenbury’s hometown will be held at Alice’s Village Café in Carp, minutes away from where this Ottawa native grew up and spent his youth at the Carp Library. Brackenbury was raised in Carp, around the corner from the Diefenbunker. He’s also the screenwriter and co-producer of the webseries Sweet Fever, which follows the adventures of a woman fighting her way through the Pillow Fighting Federation.
It’s interesting that Brackenbury has chosen the venue of a horror novel to feature the voice of a frustrated generation. A criminal and psychologically disturbed voice, mind you, but cathartic nonetheless. You don’t end up feeling all that sorry for the victims, but the murders are quite graphically gruesome, which is perhaps necessary for the sense of catharsis that the novel brings.
In the end though, Junkyard Leopard serves as a warning fable in form of a horror story. All of the characters move through the chapters around the uncomfortable feeling that society cannot go on like this; it’s simply not sustainable. Something is going to happen.
Oliver Brackenbury’s Junkyard Leopard novel will be launched in Ottawa on Tuesday at Alice’s Village Café in Carp (3773 Carp Road) at 7PM. The book launch will feature a screening of the book trailer, a reading of a chapter, Q&As, and signings.