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the Complete Review
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Killer in Drag

Ed Wood, Jr.

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To purchase Killer in Drag

Title: Killer in Drag
Author: Ed Wood, Jr.
Genre: Novel
Written: 1965
Length: 164 pages
Availability: Killer in Drag - US
Killer in Drag - UK
Killer in Drag - Canada

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Our Assessment:

C : oh yeah, it's pretty darn bad, but quirky enough to amuse.

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Salon D 22/6/1999 Greg Villepique
Time Out D 10/11/1999 Brian Case

  From the Reviews:
  • "(Wood) writes like Jim Thompson if Jim Thompson were a lobotomized monkey on angel dust, and what he does care about, mostly, is angora sweaters and satin panties and what they do for Glen and his girlfriends." - Greg Villepique, Salon

  • "To want to buy Killer in Drag you would need to want to see more of his sexual peculiarities poking through the genre, more of his clonking prose. No disappointments here." - Brian Case, Time Out

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Angora-obsessed Ed Wood had a thing for transvestism. And why shouldn't he ? It makes a good subject for a film or a novel. Questions of identity -- sexual and otherwise -- are always fun to explore, and the costume changes allow for all sorts of plot twists and deceptions. True, Ed's interest seems to have come right from the heart, but that should only give him greater insight into the issues arising from cross-dressing. It seems, however, that he took it all a bit too seriously.
       One of Wood's more famous films was his debut, the haunting expose of the woes of a transvestite, the heartfelt and (overly) sincere flick Glen or Glenda, starring the unlikely Bela Lugosi as the pipe-smoking academic trying to explain it to us all (and surely leaving everyone even more baffled). A perennial favourite for the title of worst film ever (really, ever) made, Wood was not put off filmmaking, transvestism as a subject, or Angora sweaters by the film's failure. In the promisingly titled Killer in Drag the main character shares Glen and Glenda's name. Fortunately, however, there is a little more to this incarnation of the figure. Yes, s/he is a tortured transvestite -- but s/he is also a hitman. Glen dresses up as Glenda and goes out rubbing people off for the ominous "Syndicate."
       It's a nice premise, with some promise, and Wood begins the novel with a hit, showing us Glen/da's routine. It's not great pulp fiction, but it's a start. Then we learn that Glen wants the operation (yes, the operation) and wants to quit the Syndicate. Easier said then done: s/he needs cash, which isn't so much of a problem, but s/he also needs to escape the Syndicate, which sounds a lot tougher.
       S/he has apparently found a sugar daddy, and though s/he doesn't like what s/he has to do to please him, she figures it will be worth it. Problem is, just before they get down and dirty someone interrupts. Glen/da has to flee, the police hot on her heels (nice two-inch heels, at least). S/he's too close to a murder charge to risk sticking around, and so begin the adventures of Glen/da on the run. Not entirely a drag, but not quite as much fun as hoped for.
       Unfortunately, Wood apparently did not think of a plot beyond this beginning (a beginning which is quickly forgotten and never resolved). Instead, he writes whatever comes to mind -- unusual twists and turns, to say the least. Highlights include Glen/da buying a carnival (don't ask -- it sounded like a good idea to him/her at the time), and a ferris wheel which takes out a couple of locals.
       Wood gets a lot of mileage out of the difficulties of being a fugitive transvestite. He does come up with some nice characters, and his ear for dialogue is actually pretty decent about half the time. And he's good at the costume changes, and Glen/da's longing and lust. The coy sex is also pretty fun (Glen/da is saved at the last second a couple of times (once or twice too often) from offering up her ... trophy, and when s/he has fun Wood decorously turns away). The sex is surprisingly harmless -- though certainly not for impressionable young minds.
       Wood is too much of a ra-ra transvestite supporter, what with Glen leaving a trail of men in her wake who have to go pleasure themselves after merely glimpsing her seductive, Angora clad figure, but most of the time one can forgive him his obsession
       Still, the great weakness of the novel is that the plot isn't thought through enough. The book trails off fairly unsatisfactorily, only to close with a final chapter suggesting completely new (and considerably more interesting) threats ... but then the book is over, leaving the reader wondering where the sequel is (sort of). The sequel then comes with the considerably better companion novel, Death of a Transvestite (see our review).
       It is a pretty bad book, but it is not horrifically bad. The absurdity, and the sincerity make it worthwhile. An open mind is certainly required, but it is a very quick read, worth a giggle or two. Vaguely recommended.

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  • Other books by Ed Wood, Jr. under review: Other books of interest under review:

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    About the Author:

           American filmmaker and author Edward D. Wood, Jr. (1924-1978) is one of Hollywood's more unusual legends. Responsible for low and no budget films that have been called among the worst ever made he also wrote nearly two dozen pulpish novels. Since his death he has developed a larger following, and he was the subject of Tim Burton's 1994 film, Ed Wood.

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