Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Rip-off Red, Girl Detective and The Burning Bombing of America

by Kathy Acker

“Kathy Acker’s trancelike writing style peels away the layers of reality. . . . Acker is an expert at evoking this shadowy realm of belief and emotion where the rules of cause and effect do not necessarily apply.” –San Francisco Chronicle

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 208
  • Publication Date October 22, 2002
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-3920-7
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $14.00

About The Book

Kathy Acker was a groundbreaking writer, a literary tightrope-walker whose novels made her one of the most celebrated authors of the past thirty years. Recently discovered and never before published, these two short novels were written in the early 1970s, at the beginning of her career. Rip-off Red reads as a kind of Raymond Chandler for bad girls, as Acker’s typical literary playfulness transforms the genre conventions of detective fiction into a book that is simultaneously a mystery and a personal, raunchy, and politically astute account of life in New York City. The Burning Bombing of America is a dystopian vision of the destruction of America, combining crypto-Socialist class critique with the visceral surreality of the Book of Revelation. Published together here, they reveal a young writer on a literary romp, imposing an original, sexy, and subversive worldview that is unmistakably Acker. They are a perfect introduction to Acker’s oeuvre and essential for all Acker readers.


‘sprinkled throughout these early works are visions, dreams, utopian fantasies. . . . Rip-Off Red is an extended punk noir parody.” –Ben Ehrenreich, The Los Angeles Times Book Review

“[Rip-Off Red, Girl Detective] establishes many of the obsessions that dominate her work: violence, autobiography, New York City, bohemia, oedipal literalization and inversion, and above all, the lady and her adventure. The quite lovely prose-poem The Burning Bombing of America. . . . is an artifact of a brilliant career, and a testament to the native talent underlying it.” –Cindy Widner, The Austin Chronicle

“A storyteller par excellence.” –The Seattle Times

“America’s most beloved transgressive novelist.” –Spin

“Kathy Acker’s trancelike writing style peels away the layers of reality. . . . Acker is an expert at evoking this shadowy realm of belief and emotion where the rules of cause and effect do not necessarily apply.” –San Francisco Chronicle

“Acker is a postmodern Colette with echoes of Cleland’s Fanny Hill.” –William S

. Burroughs

“From the fringes, an outsider, Kathy Acker penetrated the heart of American culture with a superb and wicked intellectual force we had not seen before. Searing, subversive, sexual, literary, and fearless, a real star shining, Kathy Acker.” –Sapphire, author of Push

“Kathy Acker, secret queen of so many punk rock girls, taught me how right it is for feminist and experimental to be used in the same sentence. Clearly, she was one of the greatest writers this world will ever know.” –Kathleen Hanna, musician in Le Tigre and Bikini Kill


1. April 20

I’m five foot three inches brown hair curling all over my face, bright green eyes, I’m 26 but my body’s tough from dancing if you know what I mean–well I got bored doing a strip, well first, I got bored doing that Ph.D. shit and being frustrated professors’ straight-A pet, especially being faithful to a husband who spent all his time in bed dealing out poker hands; I left school, descended to the more interesting depths and ­became a stripper, even that finally bored me, so I decided, on my 26th birthday, to become the toughest detective alive.

This is the story about how I have kept myself from being bored.

I was lying in bed with Peter; he had on his leather jacket and wrist bands; I woke up as the noon sun hit my face through the window; a cat started howling. I put my hands around his hips, I could see the thick whiteness and the dark hairs in the insides of my eyes; my nose burrowed in his neck, then inside his ear as far as I could get.

He turned slightly toward me so I could caress him better, and moaned I had fallen for him first because he loved to be loved and showed it. Most men act cagey and think they shouldn’t show any feelings. Peter rubbed his blond beard against my cheek, moved his body against mine. Our legs entwined; I felt his breath against my ear, then his lips on the skin of the ear, his tongue darted back and forth. Shivers ran through my spine, I felt his hand on my left breast squeeze slowly squeeze, my lower muscles started moving. With my teeth I pulled at the hairs on his chin, moved my mouth up to his lips slowly pressed my lips against his, moving back and forth until I felt his mouth open. For a long time we kissed I could feel his lower body pulse against mine, his muscles hardened, I let my hand drift down to where I knew he liked to be touched best he wasn’t going to get it that early as his lips started to touch barely touch my nipple as if they were the wind and the shivers started rolling again up down my spine, I let my fingers pull gently at the soft hairs under Peter’s cock; I ran my middle finger up and down the muscle behind his huge cock, at the warm wet creases between his legs and cock, just between not-feeling and his feeling tickled. His legs opened, his breathing became heavy fast; I let my other hand curve under his body; my finger caressed his asshole, not into it, but just enough of a caress so that he remembered all the millions of wonderful nerves curling inside and around his prostate gland. The muscles around my clit started tightening and loosening; my consciousness and the center of my body became my breasts then my stomach then the whole abdominal region–I could smell myself–then the region of beauty and fur between my legs. Peter’s hand slipped from my back down to the inward curve above my ass in response I pressed my thighs against his, I felt his cock rise and fall against my opening thighs. His finger slipped between my buttocks into my asshole I moved my body faster, usually I like to be licked but this time I was too hot, I thought I would come from just the touch of his hands. I never liked anyone as much as this. The covers became all tangled dogs and cats started howling in the streets we moved faster faster; “let’s cut the crap,” I said, “and get down to business.”

I rolled on my back I like to feel solid weight on me; Peter quickly moved on top of me. I like to feel cuddled: I pulled the covers over his back, let my hands rest on his back under the covers. I could feel his cock throbbing against me, I couldn’t wait until he got in me and the real shivers start spasms crawling up down my body like electric eels inside my nerves until I start coming and coming and coming. Peter starts purring like a ­kitten rubbing against my damp skin and hair I open my legs his cock hardens inside then I feel him move deeper the pain stops he moves deeper as the rhythm starts as he starts moving back and forth still slowly I rise up I move into my clit into every microinch his cock touches I roll over a swan’s neck into a quick ­orgasm a good beginning! He starts, as I come, to move fast quick higher up against my clit my hands scratch his back at the edge of pain I come again all feeling centers in my clit ah ahh AHH take a breath aahh I roll to a peak. Down.

Take a breath.

As I fall into dream, he starts again moving slowly, this time gently long strokes against my cunt, so that I barely feel him inside me, I start moving with him without disturbing my dreams I’m buying a dress I design dark green velvet fur a slit up my right leg which is as long as Peter’s leg to my black cunt hair sparkles as brilliantly as diamonds, the dream changes I’m buying the most gorgeous dress in the world I fall into piles of velvet thick white Chinese satins. As I start coming again remember I’m fucking, I throw my thighs upwards press my abdomen, now open to thousands of sensations, against his, I feel his cock tremble inside me, is he going to stop? Keep going. Keep going. His strokes shorten he moves from side to side to delay my orgasm no I can’t stand it I throw my body against his, more! More! He starts moving back and forth again like I like it it’s happening it happens again again!

“Did you come?”

“Not yet.”

“I can’t tell when the fuck you come.”

I’m too sensitive I can’t stand to have his cock in my cunt against my cunt, I can’t stop coming, I keep moving. Barely so I can feel his desire. We fall to the left; his arm moves under me; his middle finger slips into my ass: that’s the center of my brain! That’s where all my thoughts are located! We swing against each other deep into the freezing then fiery center of the earth around, now it’s working, I want to come to, I want to get mine in I can feel his muscles move beyond his will, tense some then more, we’re still moving in curves only faster, faster and harder; his finger leaves my asshole: rays of light shoot inside me from by ass to my belly button to my clit: the Holy Trinity O it’s coming I don’t give a shit anymore where he’s at or what he’s doing; my clit and my mind are one being light shoots through my body clit to legs! Clit to nape of the neck and outwards! Heat shoots through my body! Sound supersonic fluorescent waves.

I’ve had enough for the moment.

Peter still keeps moving; I watch a mosquito dash against the light bulb; finally I make the decision. “Listen sweetheart.”

“What do you want now.”

“We can’t fuck all the time; we’ve got to do something more exciting.”

“We could stop starving.”

“I can write a book. I want to do something better than fuck.”

“You dykes are all alike: best fucks around haw haw.”

“Shut up creep.”

“Anyway fucking’s a bore.”

“I’m going to change my name. You’re my brother and you’re going to have to go along with everything I do, be my secretary, and wait for me until I return from each assignment.”

“Where are we going to go?”

“From now on you’re Peter Peter and I’m Rip-off Red the famous detective. We’re going to go East; in spite of the Mafia, the Jewish Mafia, and Mr. Nixon, we’re going to get rich quick.”

“On the road?”

“Listen. This is a dream. We’re going to New York to rip off the money. Everyone in New York’s an anarchist or a junky and many of the anarchists are junkies. We’ll wander through the zoo; when the zookeepers are in the bathrooms, shooting up, we’ll jump into the seal ponds with the seals. We’ll nibble at their black velvet ears, with our secret hands rub their businessmen bellies; we’ll fuck in front of the lions until we’re howling more than they are. Listen. I’m going to go out this second down to Tijuana, rip myself off a black satin detective suit so I can set up business in New York as soon as possible: we’ll rent a floor in a building on Madison Avenue in the Sixties, two rooms bare of furniture like a Japanese hara-kiri house; we’ll have a sign on the door:

Mr./Mrs. Red, Detective

Peter Peter, Detective

We won’t wear guns but carry junk needles; anyone who opposes us will receive an instant high. You have to protect me in all emergencies and tell me I’m wonderful. Listen.”

“You’re wonderful,” confesses Peter Peter. “Where’re we going to get all this money?”

“Money doesn’t exist, of course. Don’t worry about it; I don’t. I just want everyone to love me. To love me and you.”

This is Peter Peter’s fairy tale as he falls asleep: Afternoon has begun. He’s going to be a millionaire, eat snails and wine, fuck as much as he wants.

End of the dream.

Peter Peter puts his head on my shoulder, his hand over my still wet hairs. Am I interested? I put my head near his right nipple, he doesn’t seem to mind. My lips barely touch his nipple; then, as his hand presses against me, against my cunt, as his hand slowly opens and closes, exerting gentle constant pressure, I quickly brush my tongue against his nipple as it hardens. I turn my head to the side; touching his nipple excites me too much; I return, my mouth becoming my eyes and hands; I don’t know what’s happening, I can tell I feel strongly Peter moans, presses his lips hard against mine. I kiss his lips, this time move straight down to his white stomach; his flesh is firm and thick like a child’s. Sexy as a child’s. I curl my tongue into his belly button until the tip of his cock aches. Meanwhile my hands roughly massage his cock and balls squeeze pull, the more he pulsates, the harder I squeeze. I bite his inner thighs, pull with my mouth at the hairs around his balls; I roll his balls in my mouth; I run my tongue into his asshole and around toward his cock, do everything but touch his cock in order to drive him as insane as possible. I keep this up for hours: he moans; the moaning turns into harsh sighs. Suddenly I reach for his cock let my mouth slip over his cock until the tip of his cock is in my throat. I let my tongue alternately press at the undertip of his cock right at the edge of the hole then curl arabesques up and down the length of his gorgeous plunger. Quickly I spit into my hand, run my hand around his cock, corkscrew; in an opposite motion, twist my throat around and around. I play with rhythms: I start light and slow, go faster with heavy pressure and emphasis on the pressing tongue. As Peter moves faster I reach a low peak, then start again, slow, deliberate; I let him, rest, and slowly again get into moving with motion of my mouth and hands. I move my mouth and hands more this time, accentuate the corkscrew motion; we work together; I move faster, take more cock into my throat. No, I’ve lost him. I don’t stop, but move more slowly. We meet; now I’ve lost consciousness; I’m a machine of throat, mouth, tongue, hand symmetries and pressures; my body pulsates in sympathy. I no longer know if I’m doing a good job. This lasts forever; time intercedes, I can feel his cock expand; I push my tongue, my throat grasp; I become a gymnast, a snake; Peter moans; his whole body moves now his hands rest on my head I start sucking use my tongue more his cock grows enormous I can’t his hands press my head down I can feel two muscles which run up the sides of his cock wriggle, the liquid rushes into my mouth I press my lips against him in rhythm with his coming, now. I lift my head up for air, quick swallow, then gather him in again was it good? Now I’m resting against his shoulders. Below my outer skin there’s a layer of shining warmth; I savor my horniness, keep it till it increases impossibly.

Excerpted from Rip-off Red, Girl Detective and The Burning
Bombing of America

” Copyright 2002 by the Estate of Kathy Acker. Reprinted with permission from Grove Atlantic, Inc. All rights reserved.