Punch Line is a novel by Joey Slinger. It is by far one of the oddest books I have ever read. The premise is ridiculous, the plot goes wildly out of control, and the characters are inane. And yet in spite of all this, it remains a favourite of mine, one that never fails to make me laugh every time I read it.
The main character in ths novel is an eighty-one year old man named Ballantine. Ballantine's (presumably comparably old) wife was scared to death by three assholes. This leads to him planning out the murders of said assholes. The murder weapon? A bungee cord. Why? To keep things interesting. However, he quickly realizes that being a man his age, he can't keep his mind focused on planning out multiple murders and dealing with the chores of day-to-day life.
To solve this, he moves into a retirement home named the Cloister. Here he meets the other major characters in the book: Mt. Rushmore, Sister Bernice, Banana, Jimmy McDrool, and John Dillinger, among others. Mt. Rushmore hosts a program (actually the only program) on the Cloister's closed circuit TV system on which he interviews Ballantine to find out about his past and purpose, which Ballantine tells freely.
This leads to the creation of the Executive Committee. The committee's job is to pick out individuals, prepare a trial and, if found evil, execute them for the betterment of society. As a result, several notable people get killed including one Hungry ("Feed Me Your Face") Pussy, a pop star with particularly lewd lyrics.
Things spiral out of control as murders go international, the committee gets into the cadaver business, a police officer close to his retirement starts following their activities, and a failed execution results in unimagined collateral damage. With all this, is the committee worried? Nope. To quote the back cover, "Who cares about the death penalty if the alternative is dying of boredom".
This book is by no means well written as it can be hard to read with its awkwardly long sentences stuffed with clauses. The plot does not follow any chronological order nor is it obvious at which point in time a particular event is happening. The story doesn't really have any definite beginning or ending, it sort of just fades into, and consequently out of, existence. One comes out of reading this with a strange sense of confusion.
However, it is also incredibly funny. The subplots are ridiculous but entertaining, and the characters are eccentric but likable. The more one reads, the more one gets immersed into this whirlpool of what I can only describe as creative insanity, and the more one enjoys every minute of it. It'd be tempting to try and extract some deeper meaning, but there is none. It is what it is: a group of geriatrics whose idea of killing time is killing off society's worst. And that's what makes it so unique in my mind; you read the book, you cringe, you laugh, you peer over the edge of chaos, and you come back entertained.
For those with an unconventional sense of humour, I definitely recommend this book. It may be a difficult read, but it is definitely worth it.