Queens of the Apocalypse
When a novel about zombie-fighting drag queens at the end of the world boasts both a knockout, badass cover and an introduction by well-known San Francisco Sister of Perpetual Indulgence Sister Roma, it's a good sign that you're in for a wild ride.
Roma's intro to "Queens of the Apocalypse" is succinct, humorous, and affords readers a sneak peek into her life as "The Most Photographed Nun in the World." She offers a laundry list of things everyone should know about drag life and drag queens. Roma is a witty writer with a lot on her mind. Could a memoir be in the works from her? Only the eye shadow knows. In the meantime, we have Rob Rosen, a prolific local writer unafraid to get himself out there to promote his novels and short stories. He knows his audience well, and has produced an over-the-top campy and slickly written glitterbomb of a novel.
The three fierce divas at the helm of this wigged whirlwind are Destiny St. James, Miss Kit Kat, and Blondella Bombshell. When the story opens, they are found backstage at a club "just outside the Castro" sniping at each other about a missing can of hairspray. The dressing room they are in happens to be a former meat locker that protects them when a cataclysmic explosion rocks the area. Their nerves all atwitter and their weaves slightly askew, the girls venture outside to discover the Castro (and the country) has been incinerated by radiation caused by a massive solar flare.
Believing the worst, St. James is the first queen to extend her press-on nail toward cadavers, only to discover the Castro is awash in dead bodies regenerating themselves into char-broiled, zombified, flesh-eating machines. What's a girl in Lucite heels to do? Chased by the undead, the queens hop onto abandoned motorcycles and zoom their way on a high-camp journey to New York City, hometown of Johnny, Blondella's "supposed boyfriend" who supports himself in the shipwreck salvage business. Kit finds solace in chocolate bars and candy that, once the sugar begins coursing through her bloodstream, transform her from a catty bitch into a female force to be reckoned with.
Helping them out is Max, a slim, sexy, hirsute man who arrives on the scene armed with a brute masculinity the girls mistake for heterosexuality. Also along for the ride is a drag queen named Creature Comfort, who has radiation poisoning. But doses of iodine revive her into a moderately helpful tag-along until she really starts sinking her teeth into things.
Rosen sends his heroines (two of them in Bob Mackie gowns) on a kaleidoscopic journey to remember, replete with all the zany antics one would expect from a group of drag queens battling rising sea levels, the Mojave Desert, the US Army, and a universe crawling with the living dead. Though the plot is as wild as Destiny's wig, there is a message underneath all that foundation: Drag queens are some of the toughest members of our gay community, and respect is due to them for their strength and perseverance.
Queens of the Apocalypse, by Rob Rosen
Wilde City Press, $6.99