As part of the side-wide Smashbooks promotion, A Masque of Infamy is free until March 8, 2014. Click here and enter RW100 at checkout.
After experimenting with an exclusive deal through Amazon’s KDP program for the past six months, the eBook for A Masque of Infamy is now available for all popular e-readers.
The current version has been copyedited and includes an epilogue, something I was loath to do, but I bowed to pressure since so many readers disliked the abrupt ending (which may be a spoiler alert for those who haven’t read the book). Personally, I like cliffhanger endings, especially when the story is based on a real life. But what the hell… The paperback, however, remains the same, sans epilogue, but also copyedited. So if there are still mistakes now, they are most likely intentional.
* More online book and eBook vendors that carry A Masque of Infamy can be found on this Goodreads page. *
My ax wasn’t much, a black imitation Strat the old man bought me from Toys-R-Us. It originally came with a speaker built into the body, but I removed it, covered the hole with electrical tape and plugged into a Kalamazoo amp. I made a royal racket. Except that’s all I could do, since I didn’t know how to make chords or even tune the damn thing. I just positioned my fingers on the fretboard based on pictures in rock mags and went to town.
I was supposed to take guitar lessons when I was around ten. My mother even let me use an old acoustic from her beatnik days. But on the day of my first lesson, when we got to the place where the classes were to be held, they told us the building had burned down the day before.
Disappointed, I told my next door neighbor, a guy slightly older than me who played the guitar pretty good. He offered to give me lessons. Except, instead of teaching me the chords to “Iron Man” like I wanted, he made me watch him jerk off and then gave me the change in his brother’s dresser. Even though I made out with a buck fifty, which was a nice chunk of change, I never went back there for another lesson.
After that, I fiddled around with my mom’s acoustic until she got pissed off at me one day and broke it over my head.
I never stopped dreaming about being in a band and being a rock star though. But I didn’t really see myself as a lead guitar player or a singer. I wanted to be more like Malcolm Young, the rhythm guitar player for AC/DC, who stayed in the background, doing his thing, while Angus got all the attention.
The social workers called me into the office. The first one gestured at my clothes. “Why are you dressed this way?”
I looked down at what I was wearing that day: a sleeveless white t-shirt with an anarchy symbol scrawled on the front with a red magic marker.
“What? This is just my style.”
She pointed at my hi-tops. I’d written the word “FUCK” on the front tip of my right shoe, and on the left, “OFF.”
“You have ‘death is the ultimate high’ written on the side of your shoes… Are you suicidal?”
“No, that’s from Miami Vice. When Crocket and Tubbs went after these punk rock thugs, that’s what they had spray-painted on the side of their car. I just thought it was a funny expression. It’s not supposed to mean anything.”
A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall reviews A Masque of Infamy:
A Masque of Infamy is an autobiographical novel, a coming of age story out of the horrors of child abuse. The dialogue is raw and rough, the characters are very real.
Kelly Dessaint has crafted his story so the reader keenly feels Louis and Joey’s confusion, frustration, fear, and anger as they experience it. I was trying to figure out what the system was doing as the boys were being processed and moved around. And the real story, the one Louis doesn’t allow himself to tell for so long, is slowly revealed through his time in the hospital. It explains his feelings and behavior, and makes his story less about teenage rebellion and more about a desperate search for some, any, semblance of stability.
I was far more disgusted and horrified at the boys’ family situation than they were, and found their somewhat casual feelings toward the adults in their lives horrifying. Whenever a novel contains a child abuse theme, you know it isn’t going to be an easy read. But seeing just how easily children can be manipulated by their abusers was so difficult.
I was surprised and even a little angry that the story ended when it did. I felt invested in these characters, and didn’t want the novel to end before I could find out whether or not they were really okay. Louis develops into a confident, capable young man, but I was still worried about Joey and wanted to know how he fared.
The trepidation I’m left with speaks to how well Dessaint connects readers with his characters’ intensely desperate situation. And despite the fact that there wasn’t a neat and tidy ending, I was left with a good deal of hope.
Oh, that ending!
“I feel like a bug under somebody’s shoe.”
The new girl was spread out on a chair, the scars on her arms like chaotic spider webs. When Ron called her out in group she made no attempt to hide her contempt for him, Hillcrest and the rest of us.
“Why do you feel that way?” Ron asked calmly.
“Why do you think?” She spit the words out, her ferocity like an unhinged shutter in a windstorm.
“Who are you angry with?”
“Everybody! Y’all think you can judge me, but you don’t even know who I am. So, FUCK YOU!” She stood up and kicked a table.
Those nearest moved out of her way.
Ron leapt to his feet. “This behavior is unacceptable.”
“Fuck you!” She screamed as she ran her fingers through her blonde hair, clenched her fists and pulled out two wads.
Rosie ran into the room. She and Ron grabbed the girl’s shoulders. She struggled violently in their grasp, throwing punches at Ron and clawing at Rosie’s face as they carried her down the hallway. She kicked her feet and gnashed her teeth like a feral beast. We listened to her screams until the door of the Time Out room slammed shut. After that her wail was muffled, like the ominous screech of an owl in the distance.
I looked at Alex in awe. This girl was the most exciting thing to hit the ward since Justin, the Bible eater. We were both impressed. Not only was she a total mental case, she was gorgeous.
She’d showed up a two days before. We were coming back from occupational therapy. Alex and I were charging up the stairs doing our usual routine: him growling in his best James Hetfield, “Back to the ward!” while I responded with a guttural snarl, “You will do! What I say!” And then in unison. “Back to the ward!” As we smashed through the door, we stopped in our tracks. There she was, in a Mötley Crüe shirt, standing at the nurses’ station with her head down. When she looked up through matted strands of hair, her face was feline. Alex broke the spell. “Rock and roll,” he said in his bad English accent.
On the ward, she kept to herself. In the common room she sat alone, barely registering anybody’s presence. During group she scowled and refused to participate. She marched along reluctantly through the various daily activities, never smiling or showing any reaction beyond a deathray gaze.
(Read the rest of this chapter, “Gabby The Cutter,” here.)
(Illustration by Dame Darcy)
A Masque of Infamy is a horrific and raucous story of teenage rebellion. But instead of “What d’ya got?” fifteen-year-old Louis Baudrey knows exactly what he’s fighting against…
After moving from Los Angeles to small town Alabama in 1987 with his father, his younger brother and this guy Rick, a friend of the family, Louis tries to fit in at the local high school, but the Bible-thumpers and the rednecks don’t take too kindly to his outlandish wardrobe and burgeoning punk attitude. At home, he defies the sadistic intentions of Rick, who rules the household with an iron fist. As Louis begins to lose all hope, he stumbles upon indisputable proof that will free him and his brother from Rick’s tyranny. But just when he thinks his troubles are over, he’s locked up in the adolescent ward of a mental hospital, where he must fight the red tape of the system to realize his dream of being a punk rocker.
“A Masque of Infamy captures the screaming, up-from-the-toes intensity and torment of the United States of Adolescence. No one who reads this book will be left unchanged by its savage and unforgiving beauty.” – Jerry Stahl, author of Permanent Midnight
“The overwhelming rawness of Kelly Dessaint’s story about children attempting to navigate a world completely fucked up by adults is like a punch to the chest.” – Davida Gypsy Breier, editor of Xerography Debt
“Kelly Dessaint twists the horror of growing up in a highly dysfunctional American family into a hilarious tale of survival. Detailing the trauma of being institutionalized as a teenager after having taken revenge against an abusive father figure, A Masque of Infamy is a story about stubbornly overcoming the odds to live long enough to tell the truth about just how shitty it is to be a kid in this country.” – Lydia Lunch