BOOK REVIEW – SPIDER ROBINSON – CALLAHAN’S LADY 1989 Caen Books
The Lady (Sally) of the title runs a very special utopian brothel, on the same principles as the bar run by Callahan, who turns out to be her husband. (He briefly appears in the closing story). The brothel attracts a similar eclectic, and often alien clientele and the four overlapping stories in the collection deal with their wonderful adventures.
The stories are narrated by Maureen (brothel name Sherry) who is rescued from an attempted murder by her ordinary street pimp at the start of the book Maureen has just seen a man change into a dog – a were-beagle, and has been knifed by her pimp as she tries to tell him about the amazing sight. Sally beats of the pimp, using martial arts without actually seeming to touch him. She then takes Maureen to the brothel to help her heal, and slowly initiates Maureen into work at the brothel, where the prostitutes them a steady wage, plus tips, and unlimited levels of freedom and privilege. When Maureen’s pimp finds the brothel and tries to drag her away against her will, the were-creatures and various firearms are used to drive him off for good.
Maureen, now Sherry, meets Colt, a man who has an unlimited sex drive, and a permanent erection, but it turns out that he has conducted chemical experiments that mean he can never satisfy his drive as much as he manages to satisfy his lovers. Sally offers him a job in the brothel to allow him to gain some release at least from his cursed perpetual sex drive.
When an evil dominatrix, with hypnosis inducing earrings arrives and makes everyone her prisoner, it is Maureen and Lady sally who figure out how to over-power her, but not before a Russian client has been driven to suicide.
In the final story, Maureen is united with a former lover, a con-man known as The Professor, who has become embroiled in conflict with a psychotic counterfeiter called Donuts (due to his practice of drilling holes in man’s testicles). With advise from Sally sand her husband, The Professor and Maureen rob an unscrupulous bank manager and Lady Sally reveals that she is actually an alien with some teleportation equipment, which makes it easier to turn the tables on the Chandleresque villain.
A fun book, with lots of heart and a tremendous sense of word play. The sexuality is nicely handled without the book becoming pornographic – there is a lot of human observation and a sense of camaraderie between very memorable characters. A book, and if you could find such a place, a brothel well worth a visit. The puns are tremendous as in most of the Callahan books.
Copyright. Arthur Chappell
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