In The Dirt Chronicles, Kristyn Dunnion cooks up a dozen sad, pretty, lonely stories and shoots them into whatever unused vein she can find on her audience. It’s a surprising read from an LGBT underclass perspective that starts with coming-of-age stories, wades into the most convoluted of gender politics, and builds into a crescendo of violence and revenge.
The Dirt Chronicles is a delicate alloy of Burroughs and Gallant, walking an uncompromising line where the homeless, the junkies, the punks, and the dispossessed are one and all pushing against a threat sometimes left to vague societal pressures but otherwise embodied in the interweaving stories’ antagonist. The King, a sadist vice cop with a thing for rockabilly bent on breaking the dignities and backs of our heroes, is the Toronto underworld’s answer to Dr. Satan.
Her characters carry chips on their shoulders and monkeys on their backs, from the whipped and broken crackhead Darcy to the fragile, indomitable Ferret to the tragically incarcerated Eddie.
When they’re bent or broken, Dunnion narrates enough pain to pass sympathetic jolts to her reader. A visceral and violent book that could have set out to shock is instead touching. The dance between her characters’ strengths and weaknesses is compelling, readable, and tempers the handful of potshots she takes at the world of the well-fed and gainfully employed.