Bereavements: A Tale of Dysfunctional Horror by Richard LortzBy Richard Lortz (White Wolf Publishing; 1980)

Back in the 1990s the late White Wolf Publishing dredged up some truly odd genre novels, including James Lovegrove’s THE HOPE, Richard Kalich’s THE NIHILESTHETE and this totally bonkers tale of “Dysfunctional Horror.” The author was Richard Lortz, best known to me for 1979’s LOVERS LIVING, LOVERS DEAD, a highly eccentric, humorous and decadent horror fest. All those things adequately sum up BEREAVEMENTS, with its relentless yet perversely humorous depiction of grief-born insanity.

The madness is set off by Mrs. Harrington-Smith Evans, a wealthy NYC basket case whose son has died. She nearly goes mad(der) with grief, and tries to assuage her pain in the form of a surrogate son, which she searches out via an ad in the VILLAGE VOICE. The most intriguing response is from Angel, a severely traumatized Spanish teen with a comatose mother and sexually abusive father. Yet Mrs. Evans is nothing if not cosmopolitan in her tastes, and brings into her fold two other highly eccentric young men: Martin, a flamboyant actor, and Bruno, a mentally disturbed teenage dwarf. This is an extremely bad idea, as Bruno quickly falls madly in love with Mrs. Smith. Martin for his part is equally in love–with himself!

Thus we have four loons ensnared in a twisted vortex that only grows increasingly demented as Mrs. Evans’ infatuation with Angel becomes all-consuming, just as Bruno’s feelings for Mrs. Smith become twisted and obsessive. A murder (or two) is imminent, as is a most unexpected supernatural manifestation.

It seems appropriate that with such quirky material the writing is equally idiosyncratic. It has a smirking, wise-assed edge that revels in its protagonists’ eccentricities, as well as all sorts of stylistic quirks. Conventional description is scant-to-nonexistent, with an inordinate amount of attention paid to mundane conversations, quotes, dictionary definitions, etc. It’s an extremely literate novel, and an unusually clever one–this does not, however, mean it’s especially charming (as a matter of fact I found it downright irritating) or successful overall!