Basil Crouch’s Fairy Gold

It’s been a long time since I’ve discussed the work of Basil Crouch. I heard recently that he died last year. He wrote one book that was a bit paedoey, but he was fairly amusing otherwise. The man was either a half-arsed swindler, a loony or both.

This week’s offering is an utterly ridiculous book of his called Fairy Gold. I don’t know when this was published or who published it. It looks like a DIY job. I’m just going to summarize this one.

Basil Crouch has a little pond in his back garden. 5 fairies and a frog live there.

The first chapter of the book is made up of accounts of people who do and don’t believe in fairies. The ones who don’t believe are all poor losers. The ones who do believe are rich success stories.

Part two is about the different kinds of fairies. Fairies are reincarnated good people. Bad people come back as frogs. This section also details where fairies live.

The third section is about how the Cottingley Fairy photos are real. The girls who took those photos admitted they were fake. There’s a funny bit in this part where Crouch tells how he went out to Cottingley to see if he could commune with the fairies but instead found a dead dog in a plastic bag. LOOOOL.

Part 4 is a conversation that Basil Crouch has with his cat. The 5 fairies that lived in his pond have gone missing, and his cat tells him that they were kidnapped by evil fairies.

Part 5 is instructions on how to make a model fairyland. This is essentially a shitty arts and crafts exercise involving plasticine, blue crepe paper and cardboard cut-out fairies stuck onto lollipop sticks.

The sixth and final section of the book is a ritual that Basil Crouch performed to set the fairies from his garden free. He seems to be suggesting that you perform the exact same ritual. I’m not sure why this would have any effect for somebody else though. Unless your cat has told you that your local fairies have been kidnapped by a goblin, this book will be utterly useless.

I haven’t exaggerated. This book is silly crap.

The Squirming Menace… Maggots – Edward Jarvis

Maggots – Edward Jarvis
Arrow – 1986

Imagine that you’re on holidays somewhere far away from where you live. The locals speak the same language as you in this place, but you are a tourist here and know nothing about local events and politics. You’re bored, so you turn on the TV, but the only thing on is a satirical sketch show about current events in the town you’re staying in. Not only are you unfamiliar with the targets of the satire, but the brand of humour is bizarre and doesn’t make you laugh.

Pretty annoying right? I mean, you might watch out of curiousity for a few minutes, but you’ll probably turn it off pretty quickly and have a wank instead.

Now imagine the exact same scenario, but with every sketch in the show ending with the characters being attacked and devoured by a swarm of bloodthirsty maggots.

That would be the television equivalent of this book.

I have read many awful horror novels, but Edward Jarvis’s Maggots was shockingly bad. I was genuinely surprised at how something so awful could get published. Sometimes you read a book and decide quickly that the story is bad or the writing is poor, but you can usually tell what the writer is going for, even if they never get there. Maggots is different. It’s such a mess that I honestly don’t know what Edward Jarvis was trying to do with it.

The story is very stupid. Maggots start coming out of the ground and eating people. Some of the maggots are regular size, some of them are bigger than dogs, some are so small that they form a fine mist in the air, and at least one is bigger than a bus. There’s a guy who likes exploring caves who sees some. He has some dealings with an American politician who is running for president. There’s also a teacher who uses karate to beat up his students. The maggot problem gets worse and worse. Maggots invade a sports stadium. A maggot volcano erupts. The maggots come because people use oil. People start eating the maggots. Other people start maggot hunting groups. The world’s leading politicians agree to try to kill the maggots by playing loud noise at them through a speaker.

Maybe the story is more coherent than that, but I doubt it. In truth, I wasn’t able to give this book a thorough reading. I skimmed large chunks after the first 50 pages. The writing here is utterly tortuous. It goes between lengthy scientific descriptions of the Earth’s crust to boring political satire. I assume it’s satire of British politics of the mid 1980s, but it was totally over my head. When you’re telling a story, there’s certain unexciting parts that have to be included for the sake of coherency, but Jarvis takes these bits and draws them out as much as possible. When I buy a book with a maggoty face on the cover, I want maggoty faces to take up a good chunk of the story. There are some nasty bits in here, but they take up maybe 8 or 9 pages of the total 235.

The book features characters from all over the world, and dis bleddy awtaw cawnt bleddy ‘elp wroyten ow deh accence phawneticlay. It’s fucking unbearable. I know that there’s a market for “so bad it’s good” horror out there, but this isn’t good at all. This is “so bad it’s actually really awful and difficult to read” horror. I wanted to give up at so many points, but I struggled through.

Honestly, this book reads like it was written by an alien or a computer or something that has a basic understanding of what a story should contain but absolutely no understanding of why people like stories. As I read through it, I actually wondered if Edward Jarvis wasn’t some genius post modernist who had created this book as a statement on… something I don’t understand. Maggots is actually so radically awful, that it’s difficult to believe that its author was simply incompetent.

Fortunately for everyone, this book is very hard to find. Copies sell for insane amounts considering how terrible it is. This is obviously due to the cover. Scroll up there and look at it again. A festering, maggot-eaten head. Quality.

The Invincible Magick Spells of the Afghan Mullah-Sensees – Mohammed Ali

The Invincible Magick Spells of the Afghan Mullah-Sensees – Mohammed Ali
Finbarr International – 1993

Afghanistan is having tough time at the moment, and this is probably an inopportune time to start featuring supposedly Afghan content. All jokes aside, fuck the Taliban. I had a hole in my posting schedule and needed something short for this week. This piece of garbage seemed perfect. I haven’t done any books from Finbarr for a long time, and this heap of shit is actually worse than I expected.

It’s a few spells that are all pretty much the same thing. You just draw some squiggles on a piece of tissue paper and say “Allah-O-Akbar” a bunch of times, and this will either make 4 women fall in love with you or make your enemies start fighting each other. The author tells the reader to trust in these spells as they have prevented the people of Afghanistan from ever being conquered.

This book came out in 1993, a couple of years before the Taliban conquered the people of Afghanistan.

Most of the book is taken up with pictures of the stupid squiggles you’re supposed to draw, but there is one page where the author includes information on Afghan “non magical remedies”. These remedies include rubbing your back when it is sore and gently scratching your eyes when they are itchy. Arcane secrets revealed at last! Also, if you have problems with your digestion, remember to rub your tummy clockwise if you need to shit and anti-clockwise if you want to hold your shit in. I’m not joking.

This whole book is a pretty grievous example of cultural appropriation. Only a monumentally ignorant person could take this dreck seriously.

Damn, I actually enjoyed writing this. I might start featuring this kind of crap more frequently again.

Wrath James White’s Porno for Psychos

Like Porno for Psychos – Wrath James White
Deadite Press – 2011

It was this time last year that I read Wrath James White’s Skinzz. I was a little underwhelmed by that book, but I was willing to give the author another go. Something about the beginning of a new school year makes me want to read brutally violent splatterpunk horror, so I decided to read Like Porno for Psychos.

This collection of short stories features an alien prostitute, a weredog, a pregnant ghoul and a woman who gets off on the idea of being savaged by lions. All of the stories are extremely violent and gory, but there’s a certain sense of morality that runs throughout the book. Rapists and racists don’t fare well in these tales. There’s one story about a girl with body dysmorphia that is both horrendously violent and devastatingly sad. Wrath James White writes some pretty messed up stories, but I got the sense that he’s not a piece of shit human being.

At 100 pages, this book was too short to really blow me away, but I was entertained the whole time I was reading it. If you’re the type of person who would even consider reading a book with this title and cover, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. I don’t think this is the last Wrath James White book I’ll be reading.

Freaks and Con-Artists – William Lindsay Gresham’s Nightmare Alley

Nightmare Alley – William Lindsay Gresham
Rinehart and Company – 1946

Most of the books I’ve read over the past few years have been horror novels. I generally read 1 non-horror book every month, but I don’t discuss those here. When I started reading Nightmare Alley, I didn’t intend on reviewing it, but after finishing it, I needed to set some thoughts down. This is now one of my favourite novels

In most horror novels, there is good and evil. Sometimes the evil is triumphant, but the books are about vampires or slime creatures, and the reader knows that these don’t exist, so it’s easy to put the books down and not let them interfere with how you see the real world.

Nightmare Alley doesn’t feature vampires or slime creatures, but every page of it screams that human beings are deeply flawed creatures. Everyone is out for themselves. There are no bonds between people that are sacred or permanent. Existence is a competitive, futile nightmare.

This is a novel about Stanton Carlisle. He’s a magician in a carnival freak show. Throughout the novel, he manipulates whoever he can to get ahead. After a while, he becomes a succesful spiritualist and runs his own Church. The freaks and the occulty stuff Stanton peddles are probably enough to warrant this book’s inclusion on this site, but the bleak outlook guaranteed it.

“In a patch of silver the Rev. Carlisle stopped and raised his face to the full moon, where it hung desolately, agonizingly bright – a dead thing watching the dying earth.”

The opening chapter is a conversation between the protagonist and the leader of the freak show about where to find a geek. (A geek, for those who don’t know, is a man who bites the head off chickens.) The boss explains that geeks aren’t found. They’re made. The explanation he provides is brutal and poignant.

I’m sure that countless edgy writers of bizarro and horror fiction have set stories in freakshows. (Remember that classic X-Files episode?) A freakshow presents so many opportunities for weirdness, but Gresham never cashes in on this. The freaks here are real people, and they’re just as willing to walk all over others as anyone else in the novel, maybe even moreso due to their experiences. There wasn’t a single moment in the book that wasn’t entirely believable.

This was a great one. Most of the stuff I review on this blog is shit compared to this book. There’s a new movie version coming out later this year, but don’t wait for that. Read this book now.

Children of the Black Sabbath – Anne Hébert

Children of the Black Sabbath – Anne Hébert
Crown Publishers – 1977
(Originally published as Les Enfants du Sabbat in 1975)

This book is about a daughter of Satan who becomes a nun and wreaks havoc in her convent. The title sounds like a heavy metal tribute act. Anne Hébert is a respected author, but she wrote in French, and there’s very few reviews of the English translation of this book. Also, it was recently reissued by Centipede Press, one of the coolest publishers out there. I had to read this.

At first I wasn’t sure if Sister Julie, the protagonist, was actually possessed or if she was just mental. The Devil is here though. There is real wickedness at play, and some very nasty things occur. Sister Julie is from a long line of witches, and without spoiling the story, I will say that she performs a pretty blasphemous miracle by the end of the book.

Hébert was an award winning French Canadian author. There’s unannounced perspective changes and flashbacks in here, and you have to pay attention when you’re reading it. (This isn’t a problem though. There’s plenty going on to hold your attention.) Even though it’s a translation, this book felt more literary than a lot of the horror fiction I review here.

The cover of this 1978 edition is pretty nice.

I’m not really sure what the message of the book is. I might be biased, but I thought the head nun and priest of the convent come across as more dislikable than the daughter of Satan who is working towards their ruin. Sister Julie is not a standard hero figure though. The source of her powers seems to be the incestuous rape and neglect she suffered as a child. The suffering she has endures makes it hard not to want to see her succeed in her endevours, but she also lashes out at people who don’t deserve it. The book doesn’t seem to come firmly down on the side of god or Satan.

This was atmospheric, tense, dark fiction. You should read it.

Charles Platt’s The Gas

The Gas – Charles Platt
Savoy Books – 1980 (Originally published 1970)

A poisonous gas that drives people insane wafts around England leaving the country in chaos. Yes, this book has the exact same plot as James Herbert’s The Fog. When I read The Fog last year, I was surprised by how extreme some of the scenes were, but that book barely compares to the lurid chaos of The Gas. The gas in The Fog makes people violent, but the gas in The Gas makes them horny and violent.

The first two chapters read like regular porn. A guy picks up a hitchhiker with big boobs and proceeds to ride her. In chapter 3, a policeman wanks off his dog. By the end of the book, the reader is covered in shit, piss, vomit, blood and animal remains.

The Gas is an exercise in extremity, an author seeing how far he can push things. I’ve read other books that may outdo it in certain respects, but you get to a point where a few extra turds or rape scenes don’t really make a difference. I’ve previously discussed how I’m not hugely interested in reading books by authors who are solely trying to push the envelope, but The Gas was first published in 1970. Authors today can self publish pretty much anything. Getting this kind of filth printed 50 years ago seems far more impressive.

Actually, when a new edition of The Gas was put out in 1980, 3000 copies were seized from the publishers by the British government. Something about this makes it a very alluring text. That cover too… Irresistible.

The Gas was recently republished by Centipede Press as part of their Vintage Horrors series. I think it’s generally classified as sci-fi because of its author’s later works, but the violence is so extreme here that describing it as “horror” isn’t much of a stretch. The edition I read contained a foreword from Phillip José Farmer. The only book I’ve read by Farmer was also a work of erotic sci-fi horror.

The Gas is an extreme and horrifying book with an interesting publication history, but it’s a curiosity rather than a great novel. Give it a read though; you might as well.

Joe R. Lansdale’s The Drive In Series

The Drive In: A B-Movie with Blood and Popcorn, Made in Texas
Bantam Spectra Books – 1988

This book was on my to-read list for years, but it’s been in print the whole time, and I kept putting it off. I recently finished an extremely awful horror novel, and I needed something quick and enjoyable to cleanse my palate. Having read Lansdale’s God of the Razor stuff earlier this year, I knew that The Drive In was just what I needed.

A few thousand unfortunates get trapped in a drive in movie theatre. People putrefy into puddles, others melt into each other and things rapidly descend into a maelstrom of cannibalism. Oh, and there’s weird alien gods too. A few years ago, I read a couple of bizarro fiction novels. This is very much that kind of thing. I suppose it’s violent enough to be classified as horror, but it’s also very mental. Nothing is explained, and the novel is better for that.

Honestly, I breezed through this one so quickly that I have nothing else to say. It was enjoyable. I liked it. I am happy to read the other books in the series.

The Drive In 2: Not just one of them Sequels
Spectra – 1989

Honestly, I didn’t like this one. It takes up the story where the last book left it off. The gang go on a road trip through Drive In country. I lost interest about halfway through, but it was short enough so that it didn’t seem like a chore to finish. The writing is entertaining (Lansdale loves a simile.), but the story gets so ridiculous that I found it hard to care about what was going to happen next. It left me with very little enthusiasm to read part three.

The Drive in 3: The Bus Tour
Subterranean Press – 2005

My expectations for this book were pretty low, and I ended up enjoying it more than its predecessor. The second novel took the story so far from the original Drive In that the third novel in the series had no choice but to go further afield again. While the first novel found its cast of characters trapped at a drive in movie theatre, the third novel sees them trapped in a giant, semi-robotic catfish. This is a silly book, but it’s also very easy to read.

Personally, I thought The Drive In was pretty good, but I found its sequels a bit too zany for my tastes. There’s an omnibus edition available if you’re interested. I reckon I’ll wait a while and then give Lansdale’s short stories a go.

The Possessors – John Christopher

I recently read T.E.D. Klein’s The Ceremonies, a horror novel that centers around a college instructor who is preparing a course on horror fiction. I have already read and reviewed most of the books that he discusses, but there were a few he mentioned that I had never heard of. This book, John Christopher’s The Possessors, was one of them.

The Possessors – John Christopher
Avon – 1966 (Originally published 1964)

An alien lifeform kills a child and possesses his body at a mountain cabin in Switzerland. The kid then starts possessing all of the other guests at the cabin. An infected person only has to touch your skin for a few minutes to pass on the infection. I’m using infection and possession in the same way here. You get fingered and turn into a cold alien.

This is basically Night of the Living Dead but with zombies that touch you up instead of eating you. It was published 3 years before that movie came out too, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Romero read this before shooting his film. The plot of The Possessors is pretty straightforward, and the story is predictable to an extent, but that didn’t bother me too much. It was the long-windedness of the writing that let me down.

There’s so much character building, and so little of it matters to the story. Maybe it’s supposed to help create tension, but it bored me. There’s an alcoholic character who is clearly destined to get possessed. She’s obviously a weak link who will jeopardize everything for everyone, and we know she’s going to get done away with. Despite this, Christopher provides details about her summer holidays as a girl and the names and fates of all her brothers and sisters and cousins and pets.

I think this is generally classified as science fiction rather than horror. Maybe that’s why I hadn’t heard of it. It’s quite similar to The Body Snatchers in both its premise and awkward classification status.

The Possessors wasn’t great. It’s a decent idea, but the pacing is just too slow. I think it would have been a much more exciting read if it were 30 pages shorter.

Russ Martin’s Satanic Mind Control Babes: Rhea, Susan Browning, Lisa Black, Candy Sterling, Jessica Young, Sally Wing, and Jennifer Parrish

I remember coming across these in Paperbacks from Hell and immediately writing them off because 7 books seemed like a big commitment and an initial search showed them to be fairly scarce. I took a closer look a few months later and realised I’d have to read them.

Like many of the books featured in Paperbacks from Hell, these titles are very tricky to track down, but these particular books were already scarce when PFH came out. These are erotic novels, and they feature a specific kink. I found a link on Will Errickson’s blog, and it might have something to do with why these books are so hard to find. This webpage is a list of JR Parz’s favourite erotic mind control novels, and it has been online for well over 20 years. The Martin books have been listed at the top of it since it was first posted. Erotic mind control seems like a fairly specific kink, and I’d imagine that the erotic mind control online community is pretty closely knit. Yep, I would be willing to bet that more of the copies of Martin’s books still in existence are sitting shelves of mind control perverts than on the shelves of regular horror fans.

There’s a paragraph on these books in Paperbacks From Hell and an essay in Satanic Panic: Pop-Cultural Paranoia in the 1980s about how Martin’s novels reflect the early 1980’s fear of Satanism, but neither of these sources offer any information on Russell W. Martin, the mysterious pervert who wrote these strange books. The internet isn’t much better. The only online source on Martin I could find was his ISFDB page. That page says he was born in 1933 and that his full name is Russell White Martin, but it also says he cowrote a book about space and drew some pictures for a 1992 science fiction novel called A Fire Upon the Deep. I got hold of both of these books, and I can confirm that the space book was written by a different Russ Martin, and the art in A Fire Upon the Deep was created by Elissa Mitchell. I don’t know if we can believe the other information from ISFDB either.

The only reliable information I could find on Martin is on the inside cover of my copy of Chains. Chains is the UK version of Rhea. This information is not included in the Playboy edition of Rhea, published one year later.

I emailed the college he used to work at, but they are yet to respond.

In Paperbacks from Hell, Grady Hendrix claims that Martin wrote 7 novels about the Satanic Organization, but that’s not true, and anyone who has read these books will understand why (details below). Also, Alison Natasi omits Rhea and Candy Sterling from the bibliography to her essay. This might be because one was written in the 70s and the other doesn’t quite fit in with the theme of the essay, but it might also be because Candy Sterling is almost impossible to get hold of. Apart from JR Parz, I am not convinced that I know of anyone who has actually read all 7 of these books.

Hard to find, rarely read, trashy novels about horny Satanists? Hell yes.

Due to the relative scarcity of these books, I am providing summaries of each. If you’re actually planning on reading these, maybe skip to the last 2 paragraphs and then come back once you’re done. (I wrote these reviews as I was reading the books, so I end up answering some of the questions I ask later on in the post.)

Rhea/Chains
Ermine – 1978
Playboy Press – 1980
Futura Publications – 1979

A girl born in the 1700s spends her birthday money on a mysterious old book called Liber de Malo from the back of a merchant’s van. She is a gifted child, and at 5 years of age uses her schooling in Latin to summon a demon. Once she hits puberty, she starts using demons to help her gain complete sexual subordination from anyone she fancies. She does this for about 200 years and then meets Phillip Stafford, a wealthy movie executive.

She gains control over this Phillip guy, but things start to get really nasty once his wife finds out. Philip hires a private detective to figure out Rhea’s game, and it’s through his sleuthing that many of the details of Rhea’s past lives are revealed. The chapters are not in chronological order, and each one offers the perspective of a different character. I was very impressed with how well the plot was crafted. This is sexy, satanic horror fiction, but Russ Martin put some serious work into organising this story.

This isn’t porn though, even if it was published by Playboy. The characters have lots of sex, but there’s barely any graphic sex scenes. The most lurid scene appears towards the end of the novel, and it is anything but sexy.

Parts of the book are scary too. Rhea is proper bad. She’s not just mean and selfish. She’s evil.

Honestly, I was really surprised by how much I liked this one. I don’t know why it hasn’t been reissued since 1980. It felt like a proper gothic novel.

The Desecration of Susan Browning
Playboy Paperbacks – 1981

An up-and-coming film maker rescues a woman named Wanda Carmichael from getting raped. Turns out that Wanda’s in league with the devil, and she decides she wants the lad who saved her, so she puts a mind control spell on him. Susan, his wife, isn’t too pleased, so one of Wanda’s associates puts a love spell on her too. Both Susan and her husband are drawn towards people they absolutely hate by an insurmountable force of evil. Susan finds some reprieve when she meets Al Crabbe, a handsome priest who stows her away in a convent, but even he can’t stop the Devil’s powers. The novel ends with a mass gathering of Devil worshippers gathering for a Satanic baptism. Instead of being anointed with holy water, the baby, and probably Antichrist, is anointed with blood from a fresh castration wound. Fr. Crabbe sneaks into this ritual, and although he doesn’t manage to save Susan, he does wreck the party and make off with the baby. The novel ends with Fr. Crabbe looking at the baby and questioning his faith.

The Desecration of Susan Browning wasn’t as impressive a novel as Rhea in terms of plotting but it was still an enjoyable read. There’s less exposition here. While Rhea told the story of how the titular character fell in league with the devil, there’s not as much backstory to Wanda Carmichael. We don’t find out exactly how she has gotten to where she is today. While Rhea felt like a gothic mystery, The Desecration of Susan Browning is more of a thriller.

One of the few things we do find out about the novel’s antagonist is that she is a trans woman. This trashy horror novel was written in 1981, so this isn’t dealt with in particularly a sensitive manner.

There’s also a scene where a Satanist refers to Jesus as a “suckass”. LOL.

The Devil and Lisa Black
Playboy Press – 1982

I’ve seen this described as both a sequel and prequel to Susan Browning, but I think the more appropriate way to describe this book would be as an appendix to its predecessor. Lisa Black is a minor character in The Desecration of Susan Browning. She’s an informant who has had a curse put on her that makes her think she’s hideously ugly. She’s an intriguing character, and if I hadn’t known she that she was going to show up again in a different book, I would have wondered why Martin introduced her.

About half of The Devil and Lisa Black is taken up with Lisa’s backstory. It’s pretty much what I’ve come to expect at this point. A beautiful young girl is bewitched and drawn into a circle of horny Satanists.

The other half of this book deals with Al Crabbe (the priest from the last book). He has abandoned the priesthood and is still looking after the baby he kidnapped from the Satanists (the baby whose high ranking Satanist mom was designated male at birth). Al’s luck takes a turn for the better, and he very quickly ends up with a high paying job, a nice house and several attractive sex slaves, one of whom is Lisa Black. Things get a bit weird for him after he starts seeing the ghosts of Susan Browning. I didn’t expect a happy ending from this one, and I didn’t get one.

It’s a bit of an odd book. The two strands share one character, but Lisa doesn’t really do much in the Al Crabbe part of the story. I mentioned above that I was impressed with how Martin strung the different threads of Rhea together into a cohesive whole and that I thought The Desecration of Susan Browning fell a little short of its predecessor. After reading The Devil and Lisa Black, I think that Russ Martin may have originally intended the the Lisa Black parts of this novel to be part of The Desecration of Susan Browning. They all take place before the events in that book, and they would make her inclusion there more understandable. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Martin’s publisher had convinced him to cut that stuff out and put it into another novel. I reckon the Al Crabbe stuff here was added on to fill up space.

While this is definitely the worst novel so far, it might also have been the sexiest. I’m pretty sure there’s more boobs in this one anyways. It also contains the greatest line in sleaze fiction history:

“I’ll make a deal with you, Mr. Crabbe,” she whispered. “I won’t ever call you Al in public. And you don’t ever call me a lady in private.

The Possession of Jessica Young
Tor – 1982/1988

This is the first of Martin’s books to be published by Tor.

While the 3 previous books featured relatively small cabals of Satanists, the Satanists in The Possession of Jessica Young are part of an international network referred to as The Organization. The Organization aims to bring about the reign of Satan on Earth. One of the highest ranking members in the Organization is a guy called Stephen Abbott. Part of his job is seeking out psychics who may somehow obstruct the Organization. The exact nature of how these psychics will do this is never really addressed.

Jessica Young is young and beautiful. She’s also the most powerful psychic the Organization have ever come across. She can kill people without touching them. At first Stephen Abbott does the ol’ mind control spell on her and gets her to kill her own family. Unfortunately for Abbott, her powers are so strong that she breaks the spell herself. Abbott is left with little choice but to lobotomise her. The lobotomy scene is pretty degrading and gross.

This book felt distinctly more mean spirited than its predecessors. This is less a novel about dashed hopes. It’s more a novel about suffering. Jessica has already killed her family by the time the book begins, and we’ve already come to understand that Martin’s books end in a worse place than where they began. Sure, the bad guys are Satanists and Jessica is psychic, but the occultism that kept Rhea exciting is entirely gone. This felt more like a book written for dudes who like the idea of having complete control over a woman. There’s a slight reprieve of misery at the very end of the book, but it doesn’t make up for what’s happened.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m just reading through these too quickly and I’m getting a bit tired of them, but I didn’t really enjoy this one very much.

The Obsession of Sally Wing
Tor – 1983/1988*

This is a direct sequel to The Possession of Jessica Young. Half the book won’t make sense unless you’ve read that book beforehand.

The plot is a bit of a mess at this stage.

Jessica Young was lobotomised at the end of the last novel, but her soul fled into her sisters body and took over. Her sister is obsessed by Stephen Abbott (the main man from the Organization), so this is tricky business. If Jessica gives her sister any control over her own body, she will turn themself in for a chance to see her loverboy. Half the novel tells the story of Jessica trying to gain access to Stephen Abbott, but when she gets close enough to kill him, she changes her mind and has a brief affair with him.

The other half of the novel is about a former child prostitute named Sally Wing. The Organization turns her into a vampire, and she kills a bunch of children. After she kills a child that the Organization had turned into an adult, the Organization loses its patience and has Sally raped and murdered. The Sally Wing part of the story has absolutely no overlap with the Jessica young part.

Sally feeds on fear rather than blood, and there’s one part where she does a really good job at scaring a little girl that I did not enjoy reading.

I was pretty surprised with how this one ended. There’s no revenge, but Jessica Young is not dead or evil yet.

*(I’m not sure about the publication date of the second version pictured above. Will Errickson and ISFDB say it’s from 1988, but my copy says first edition on the inside cover. This is extra confusing as it also lists The Education of Jennifer Parrish in the “Other titles by this author” section. That book wasn’t published until 1984 though… Probably just an error.)

The Education of Jennifer Parrish
Tor – 1984*

*(This cover is from 1988. I don’t know if there was ever a different cover for this one. There were alternate covers for the other 2 Tor novels.)

Like The Obsession of Sally Wing, this book has two almost entirely separate storylines. This is the third book dealing with the saga of Jessica Young and Stephen Abbott. It also introduces a brand new scenario and cast of characters.

Jennifer Parrish, a teenager, tries to kill a rapist, so she’s forced into a military-style boarding school that’s owned by the Satanic Organization. Why would Satanists run a school? Well, when a high ranking Satanist gets old, they visit the school, pick out an attractive student and then forcibly trade bodies with them. The procedure doesn’t initially work on Jennifer because she’s a virgin, but the Organization figures out a way to remedy this.

Stephen Abbott’s failure to subdue Jessica Young by the end of the previous book has got him in big trouble with the Organization. He is told that if he doesn’t get her under his control, he will be obsessed by a sadistic woman that he hates. He manages to have sex with Jessica at least once more, but despite his pleas, she runs away and allows him to become obsessed.

Jennifer Parrish dies, but she only took up half a book. Jessica Young escapes, and her tormentor from the first book in this trilogy is in a far worse position than her. Martin doesn’t tell us where Jessica is going to go or what she’s going to do next, and Abbott is obsessed, but Jessica has the power to cancel an obsession, so although the ending to this book is tidier than its predecessors, it does not rule out a continuation of the story. Unfortunately, no further books in this series were ever published.

The Resurrection of Candy Sterling
Playboy Press – 1982

This is by far the hardest Russ Martin novel to find. Some of the others go for ridiculous prices, but I have never even seen a copy of this for sale online. I left it till last because I taught it was written last, but it turns out that this was actually published 2 months after The Devil and Lisa Black. This was Martin’s last novel on Playboy Press, and this publisher shut down shortly after it was released, so there were probably fewer copies of this printed than the others.

If you are reading Martin’ books due to an interest in Satanism in literature, you can skip this one. This deals with a cult, but nothing Satanic. Let me tell you, it’s easier to stomach sadism if the perpetrator is supposed to be a worshipper of evil. Having normal people perform acts of brutal sexual violence makes it much nastier.

Candy Sterling is a stupid prostitute. I don’t mean to imply that prostitutes are stupid. Candy is both a prostitute and an imbecile. She joins a cult led by a mysterious figure known as “The Prophet”. This Prophet guy convinces rich people to give him all their money and then spend the rest of their lives working on his farm or, if they are beautiful teenage girls, working in his mansion.

This is where the commonality with Martin’s other books shines through. The Prophet has absolute control over his followers. They will do anything he tells them to. Candy is mugged while in his service, but she refuses to give his money to the mugger even after he brutally assaults her. The mugger is so impressed with her fortitude that he joins the cult himself. (His reasoning here is never fully explained.)

Soon enough, Candy and her mugger are married and given the special job of murdering apostates of the cult. It quickly becomes apparent that Candy is the more unstable of the two when she tortures a family of rape victims to death. She later leads her husband back to the the scene of this murder and then shoots him in the head while he is performing cunnilingus on her.

Honestly, if sexual violence isn’t your thing, avoid this book. It was surprisingly extreme.

Having read Martin’s other novels, there’s something disquieting about the focus on brainwashing and power relations in here. You don’t write 7 erotic novels heavily featuring the same kind of kink if you’re not into that kink yourself. But Candy Sterling is not the kind of story you should be wanking too. This is a grim read, and the sincerity of the eroticism made me feel a bit dirty. Even JR Parz gave this one a negative review.

Ok, so if you haven’t been paying attention, let me sum up the sequence of these books. Rhea and The Resurrection of Candy Sterling are standalone texts. The Desecration of Susan Browning and The Devil and Lisa Black are a pair. The Possession of Jessica Young, The Obsession of Sandy Wing, and The Education of Jennifer Parrish are the first three books in an unfinished series.

These are novels about Satanists and black magicians, but most of the occult rituals occur behind closed doors. The Satanism on display is of the trashy horror novel variety. The essay in Satanic Panic about these novels is probably a better place to look if you want some commentary on how they reflect the social values of when they were written. I read them for enjoyment, and they got the job done. Rhea was definitely the best; if you’re going to read any of them, make it that one. The others are varying degrees of ok, definitely not worth the prices that some sellers are asking for them.

Phew, I think this might be the longest post I’ve written. I hope it was entertaining/elucidating. If anyone has any information about Russ Martin, please leave a comment or email me.