Just out of prison for a string of inexplicable arsons, a celebrated novelist returns home to Venice, California with a dark and singular goal…
ROBERTSON ALLEN, a.k.a. the Arsonist of Venice, celebrated novelist and darling of the progressive left, walked free today from Corcoran State Prison.
Yes, Robertson has been wont to set fire to the odd tech bro office building between three-day stints at his 1927 Underwood typewriter.
Now that he’s free, he meets up with his adoptive brother Joe and his girlfriend Marie at his home in Venice, California. It’s a wholesome reunion, like “Little House on the Prairie.” Or it’s a fiasco featuring pills, insanity, and a knife.
As to the question of whether Robertson has retained the services of a prison contact named Lloyd for the purposes of a kidnapping, I shouldn’t have mentioned it. Vicious gossip.
Prison was a wonderful education for Robertson. He is excited to start his new life. Everything is bursting with promise. Or it made him orders of magnitude crazier and more dangerous.
But don’t worry. It’ll be a nice enough night.
JOE RAKSHA, the quiet center, the saint. Good ol’ Joe, who holds it all together. Iranian born, his family escaped Khomeni’s theocracy with nothing.
It’s easy, he says, to demean the West when no cleric’s slipper is grinding your face into the sewer.
A USC history professor now, a family man. Self-possessed, polite to a fault.
But these days he can’t sleep, can’t eat. Something blindingly sad burns behind those cool brown eyes. And his mind twists backward to what he abandoned on the cobblestones of Azadi Street, in the dusty center of Tehran.
MARIE. Perfect, perfectly haunted fairy girl, Marie. The ultimate burner. Spits poetry like an F16. Indispensable for Ayahuasca ceremonies.
Sunlight bayonets the windshield of her ninety-thousand-dollar Sprinter van. On her left, ocean waves lacerate the sky.
She’s a wounded jet falling.
She should feel free, soaring up the 405— L.A, Modesto, Big Sur. But her eyes are black with want. The tawny yoga boys and the Jim Beam poets can’t see her. She’s hidden behind her snowy face and waterfall hair.
Born to Hollywood royalty, she tries to forget what happened when they drank.
PROFESSOR THOMAS J. ALLEN never recovered. Some lines, once crossed, permit one to circle round and recross them in the opposite direction, while others do not. The line Thomas crossed was of the latter kind, meaning the person he was ceased to exist, and he became something else— something pale, fractured.
Once a beloved educator, he drove a silver 300-Class Mercedes onto campus, and indulged in romps across Paris with the young Anais Nins of his graduate classes.
This Great Man, whose shattered psyche haunts every page of “The Arsonist of Venice.”