First it must be said that Susan DiPlacido can write, as her edgy story “Neon Nights” in her collection, American Cool, illustrates. Here is a Vegas denizen’s view of tourists,
I know what these tourists are seeing. High heels and wild hair, can’t walk a straight line, night-hardened, booze in the sunshine while they’ve got their fanny packs and cameras, freaking normal people ready to snap pictures of botanical gardens and Bugsy’s plaque; bright-eyed tourists assaulted with the anachronistic reality of one of Sin City’s living ghosts – me.
Her prose has the feel of her stories’ terrain, and they vary a great deal from hardcore super sex in “Coyote Blues” to a gritty search for rough justice in “Bloodlines.” DiPlacido can inspire with a story about women’s college baseball, ”Like a Girl,” in which some of the team love each other as actively and violently as they love the game. She can write hilarious misadventures in the form of a bumbling poker player with big ambitions and bigger issues that she allows to distract her attention, like the size of her butt, and a particularly nasty bee sting. Then again she can wax engagingly girlish in “Right Hand Diamonds” though it may not be safe to say that to her face.
DiPlacido is an excellent stylist, and that alone would set her well above the vast majority of writers of erotica. Of equal importance is that she is an able storyteller, and that is even more rare. American Cool is entirely devoted to the search for outsiders in American society who long to get “in” or be cool, which means being “in” on their own terms. None of them make it because their uniqueness as individuals will forever set them apart one way or the other. Some of them come to terms with that and seem ready to lead happy and fulfilling lives, but just as often they seem as likely never to understand why they are forever “out.” In some cases it costs them their lives.
It is a feeling that most Americans in the arts share with her characters and I think most young people experience at some point in their lives as they struggle to find a balance between what makes them special as individuals and what allows them to belong even if only in a world of misfits. It is here that DiPlacido’s sense of sex shines most brilliantly in her work because she is able to capture the myriad ways in which Americans use sex as a safe haven, a bargaining chip, a weapon, a tool, and, most importantly, as a vehicle of self-realization. Sometimes that can be a bitter revelation as in the last story, “American Cool” which is also the title of the book.She writes a full range of sexual tastes and so if there is not quite something for everyone in this book that suits your particular kink, I assure you there is something that is close enough. What is more, she is writing about sex as a means of celebration, understanding and discovery as well as a good way to get off. That is no guarantee that sex is the cure for anything, nor is it even the central theme of every story in this volume, but it most certainly plays a key role in the book’s vitality. I must credit Rebel Press that if there is any sloppy editing in this collection, I didn’t find it, making them one of the last serious book publishers doing erotica. More to the point DiPlacido is absolutely literate and absorbing with a funky lilt to her prose and a keen eye for the American scene, making the book nearly impossible to put down.