• Charles Arrowsmith

Review: Are Snakes Necessary? by Brian De Palma and Susan Lehman (Washington Post)

Updated: Oct 9


Nude photos are used to entrap a Senate candidate in the first 10 pages of “Are Snakes Necessary?” and it only gets wilder from there. No surprise, perhaps, given that it’s co-authored by Brian De Palma, director of “Carrie” and “Dressed To Kill,” and a notorious maestro of violent sexploitation. Written in collaboration with editor-journalist Susan Lehman and first published in France in 2018, this trashy neo-noir thriller riffs on psychosexual obsessions that will be familiar to fans of De Palma’s movies. Pitched in style somewhere between a film treatment and tabloid true crime, this debut novel is silly and uneven, sure, but it’s also fun, a pastiche of hard-boiled crime fiction that doesn’t scrimp on the lurid pleasures of the genre.


Sen. Lee Rogers, the “Hunk of the Hill,” a man gifted with “Columbia Law School dazzle” but compromised by a “zipper problem,” is running for reelection in Pennsylvania. Fanny Cours, an 18-year-old videographer “in the full flush of carnality” and the daughter of an old flame of Rogers, is determined to join the senator’s campaign. Beefing up the supporting cast are ruthless campaign heavy Barton Brock, who’ll do anything it takes to protect his candidate; Nick Sculley, a photographer always on the lookout for a story; and Elizabeth de Carlo (or is it Diamond? or Black?), a jailbird-turned-agony aunt who’ll play anyone for anything. There are also a $5 million Basquiat, a remake of “Vertigo” and some implausible coincidences in the mix.


For the review in full, visit The Washington Post.

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