Exquisite Corpse is Poppy Z. Brite's third novel. It is described as "two serial killers looking for love in New Orleans".
It appears to be inspired by Jeffrey Dahmer. Certainly Andrew's escape seems inspired by a quotation Brite puts between the title page and the story proper:
"Records of the 1994 autopsy of serial killer Jeffey Dahmer reveal that officials kept Dahmer's body shackled at the feet during the entire procedure, 'such was the fear of this man', according to pathologist Robert Huntington." (Milwaukee Journal - AP, 17 March, 1995.)
Perhaps Brite read this and thought, "What if Dahmer had
got up from the autopsy table?" The character of Jay, in particular, seems based on Dahmer: Jay has sex with, kills and eats his victims. He dissolves the bodies in vats of acid and keeps several body parts in a storeroom. An incident towards the end of the book, where Tran escapes from Jay, only to be returned to him by the police, is reminiscent of Konerak Sinthasomphone
(as described by burkingman
in the Jeffrey Dahmer
node). Even the names are similar: Dahmer claims Sinthasomphone was called John Hmong, while Jay claims Tran is called John Lam. Another similarity with Dahmer is that Jay lures victims by asking if they will pose for photographs.
In a nutshell, the plot is as follows (spoilers here - I am going to tell you how it ends):
Andrew Compton is a HIV-positive, necrophiliac serial killer doing life in Lower Slaughter prison, England. He fakes death in an Indian-mystic kind of way, escapes from the autopsy and catches a plane to America. There, in New Orleans, he meets Jay Byrne, a sadistic, cannibalistic serial killer. They become lovers, and Jay attempts to introduce Andrew to cannibalism. Andrew convinces Jay to kill Tran Vinh, a young Vietnamese drug dealer who is besotted with Jay. Before this can happen, Luke Ransom, Tran's HIV-positive, heroin-addicted, permanently angry ex-lover shows up, although he fails to rescue Tran due to Jay's bribing the police. On his second attempt, Luke shows up after Jay and Andrew have killed Tran, and kills Jay in return. The book ends with Jay and Tran rotting, Luke shooting up and Andrew on a plane having a Jay sandwich. Got that?
Not her best book, but certainly her most disturbing1, and extremely well-written.
Exquisite Corpse was published in England in 1997 by Phoenix, and my copy cost £5.99. The cover art shows a blindfolded male head and shoulders.
Update: having finally read Drawing Blood
, I'd now say "joint most disturbing".