(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

On March 21, 1991, at the end of a long evening of drugs and alcohol shared with several of their friends, three teenage girls were murdered in the guesthouse on a Pasadena estate. Each girl died from a single shotgun blast to the head. Kathy Macauley and Heather Goodwin were eighteen; Danae Palermo was seventeen. Less than twenty-four hours later, Kathy Macauley’s sixteen-year-old boyfriend, David Adkins, and his seventeen-year-old buddy, Vinnie Hebrock, were arrested at a bus station in Salem, Oregon. Following directions given by the boys, Oregon police also recovered the shotgun used in the murders. The two boys were sent back to California, where they were tried and convicted for the three murders.

Bing’s previous book, DO OR DIE, was an impressive report on the lives of Los Angeles gang members. The desperate violence ruling the daily existence of these vivid characters jumped off the page at the reader. In SMOKED, Bing does not have the same inherently vibrant material. She tries to depict Dave Adkins and Vinnie Hebrock as tragic victims of the hedonistic lifestyle of their upper-class surroundings. She also tries to introduce some suspense into her narrative by hinting that the boy who served as the prosecution’s chief witness was somehow also involved in the murders. She provides copious details about the lives of the victims, the killers, and their circle of friends. She describes in detail the days leading up to the murders, and she covers every day of the murder trial. In the end, however, she has told the reader a great deal about an apparently motiveless act of violence by two drugged and drunken young men who remain numb to the enormity of what they have done and indifferent to its consequences. Despite all Bing’s efforts, SMOKED fails to ignite any feelings, provide any revelations, or provoke any thoughts in the reader.