THE BALD IDENTITY IS FICTION AND NOT AN EXPLORATION OF HOW HAIR LOSS AFFECTS OUR SENSE OF SELF, AS THE TITLE MIGHT HINT TO.
Any book with the title The Bald Identity (iUniverse, Inc., 2009) immediately sparks interest among potential readers in the hair loss community. This reader’s first thought was that the book would be a nonfiction exploration of how hair loss impacts self-perception, or, alternatively, that it would look at the way in which baldness is perceived by those with hair.
A quick glance at the cover, however, immediately dispelled such notions. Against a black and dark gray background, piercing blue eyes stare out from a proudly gleaming bald head. To the right of this obviously tough man stands a gorgeous woman, generously proportioned, with one shoulder strap of her dress falling freely from her shoulder. To his left is a hairy man whose sunglasses seem to be hiding a deranged look and who is pointing a gun at the reader. Behind him stands another man, glancing over his shoulder at all this as if to say, “I’m CIA. I can wait to make my move until I’m good and ready.”
In this context the title takes on a new meaning. Clearly, it’s intended to be an homage to The Bourne Identity. This is very promising, and the humorous name of the author — Trey Bald (i.e., “tres bald,” or “very bald” in French) — indicates that the book will be a parody.
Now that’s something unusual. Most books that are about bald issues are nonfiction. They may have a lighthearted take on the subject, but they’re basically concentrating on facts, information and observations. Fiction, let alone genre fiction, that goes beyond merely having a bald man as the hero to actually focusing on baldness as a subject is rare.
Trey Bald certainly deserves points for going where all too few have gone before. And the uncredited cover illustrator deserves kudos for creating an image that grabs readers and make them anxious to open the book and tear through its slender 121 pages.
It would be nice to report that The Bald Identity is an unqualified success, a laugh riot that takes all the excesses of the spy thriller and infuses them with the special characteristics and challenges of the hair loss lifestyle. Sadly, that is not the case; but that’s not to say that there aren’t good things in the book.
The author clearly has a vivid imagination and can come up with some wonderful turns of phrase when he wishes. For example, there’s “shamus baldspotonius,” which sounds like one of those fake Latin phrases that frequently pop up in old Road Runner-Coyote cartoons and which he uses to define the shame some men feel about their bald spots. He puts forth the concept of “hairnergy,” which can perhaps be thought of as a way in which bald men can tap into their baldness to come up with a spurt of adrenaline-powered strength. And this reader liked the Carrollian logic of “a committee so secret that some of its members didn’t even know they were members.”
It’s also clear that Bald is familiar with the conventions of the genre that the book parodies. From secret eavesdropping devices to snipers to beautiful women needing rescue to a preference for a specific champagne, the little details are all there.
What’s missing is coherence. Of course, many thrillers go all over the map in terms of their plots, sometimes getting so tangled that they’re impossible to follow. But The Bald Identity simply jumps from event to event without any semblance of logic. One minute the lead character is happily married; the next he’s abandoning his family (and stealing his wife’s money) on a flimsy pretext to form a rock band and to make out with some groupies. The supporting character Johnny Dynamite is introduced as the man who really rules the world, and it is clear that one doesn’t call Mr. Dynamite — Mr. Dynamite calls you. Yet later on the protagonist casually calls Dynamite to help out with a problem as if he were just an old buddy. There’s a dreadful lack of consistency throughout.
That inconsistency extends to the lead character’s feelings about being bald. At times his confidence is shaken to its foundations because of his hair loss; at other times his lack of hair empowers him.
This unpredictability in the writing is so pronounced that sometimes the book reads as if it were only a first draft. That impression is reinforced by the countless typos and errors that permeate The Bald Identity. That a good editor was lacking is obvious, but it seems as if the novel never was even proofread.
One final disappointment must be noted: The Bald Identity doesn’t even have an ending. The book stops with a cliffhanger, one that has not been set up in a way that leaves this reader exactly salivating to find out what happens next.
To sum up, The Bald Identity deserves credit for what it attempts to do, but it also must be acknowledged that it falls short of attaining its goals.