In mid to late 2010, there was a lot of to-do about Jonathan Franzen's (admittedly O.K.) novel Freedom. It was publicized so heavily and one commenter, I believe from the New York Times, remarked that if women bothered publishing books of quality and length as Jonathan Franzen, they would be widely celebrated. I read Freedom. It was fun for a while, then long, then longer, then when-will-this-end, then someone digging something out of his own bowel movements. This has been one of the most celebrated books of the century thus far, and a favorite for book club selections and pretentious writers and readers alike.
In 2011, I was introduced to a world wonder by, well, another world wonder (read below), Megan Abbott. Megan went on and on about Christa Faust, and I have to admit, I was confused. This was Christa Faust's second "Angel Dare" novel, a pulp book about a former porn star turned porn executive who begins a series of books (unfortunately, there are only two so far) with "coming back from the dead" (one of the greatest first sentences I've ever read. My friend created a start-up at the time, and I made sure to make an account for myself (and for many other fake versions of myself) begging for copies of Christa Faust's books. I mean, Megan said they were gold. More than gold, actually. What's more than gold? Platinum? Oprah's piss?
I was absorbed with these books. I mean absorbed. Living with my roommate at the time, she claims she knocked on my bedroom door multiple times, opened the door and hollered for me for several seconds before I actually realized she was there. She looked at my books and said "Are these pornography?" I replied, "I mean, they're pulp, but they are about pornography." She was skeptical. While Black (although we have oddly been confused of being sibling before) she is pretty much the most vanilla person I've ever met. Not to mention, her version of "dangerous" are the Lifetime Movies where pregnant women make suicide pacts.
She borrowed the first and said she would read one chapter a night. She knocked on my door at two A.M. and said, "Can I borrow the second?"
We haven't talked in a while. Another long story that doesn't belong in this ode to Christa Faust. I do know this. She didn't read. She didn't like reading. She tried to read because she wanted to be a lawyer, but she didn't read. She did devour both Christa Faust books in approximately two days' time. And then she got angry at Christa Faust, in part because she loved Angel Dare, the protagonist of the series, and in part because she doesn't know what goes in to writing books, how long they take, how much they must be edited, how they have to get published, and even worse how hard it is for women--especially women as daring and frank as Christa Faust, a Vicki Hendicks for a different age.
These books are a force to be reckoned with. They are at once undeniably entertaining, with a low reader like my friend finishing both in two days, and a fast reader like other friends finishing in a matter of hours. Christa's Angel has adventures that take her all over the west, and she fights, and she resists, and she overcomes. She is the woman the women need. She is the woman who expresses her fears but persists anyway. She is the woman that is not afraid to curse and talk "vulgarly" about porn and everything involved while writing in her inner thoughts in words that some of my poet friends have compared to pure poetry. Faust has many gifts as a writer, and I can't think of one flaw.
The series begins with an attempted kill on Angel Dare (her name as a porn star), in Money Shot, an excellent series beginner. I would argue that it's a tour de force, but that would do its sequel Choke Hold little to no justice. While Money Shot is about revenge, both against her rapist and against men who are trying to involve women in sex trafficking, Choke Hold is a masterpiece that surpasses the Fran...who? novel by miles. In just a few hundred pages she compresses an epic for our times--not without Angel's witty remarks, graphic sex scenes, and nuanced observations about, well, everything. Choke Hold is a book that spans much more than what its pages cover, a story of survival, a story of Angel the savior, a story of love, a story of loss. Angel does not stop throughout the entirety of Choke Hold, and this is a book not to be reckoned with. Be prepared to laugh, cry, rip your hair out with fear and anxiety, and then follow Christa Faust on Twitter and just hope she follows you back (HINT, CHRISTA, HINT. WE ALL LOVE YOU). Money Shot is by no means a masterpiece, so that makes me wonder--what do I term Choke Hold? It's beyond a tour de force, it's beyond an epic, it's beyond anything I've ever read before or read sense. Never have I experienced such joy and been so absorbed in a series, and never have I recognized a woman experience such injustice by not being paid by hoards of readers desperate to see another Angel Dare novel.
I'm desperate for another Angel Dare novel. Are you? Maybe sell your gently or roughly used copies of any and all Jonathan Franzen novels and send the money and receipts to Christa? Maybe buy a copy of both books for all your friends and yourself? Maybe anonymously mail a copy to your grandmother and notice how worn the book is on her nightstand which she tries to hide from you? Christa has hinted to me there is another Angel Dare novel coming, and she bigger than Choke Hold. So--if that's true--this book could, just by existing, take Trump down. This book could stop global warming.
All jokes aside, these books (along with Christa's other books available in print, electronic books, and audiobooks) should be bought, cherished, loved, and shared.
There's a new king wordsmith in town. Her name is Christa Faust.