Author: Tom Lewis, Year: 1981
The lurid promise of a psychopath stalking kids in NYC and leaving their
corpses on rooftops was what lured me to this book. What I got, rather than a
straight forward psycho-on-the-loose story, was more of a focus on a young,
idealistic cop trying to catch the killer before his next mess, falling in
love, and confronting a terrorist bloc, as well as the corrupt forces that arm
them for a fee. Turns out, the book is all the better for it.
A fast read with more than enough surprises to keep the reader engaged, author
Tom Lewis also gives enough depth to each victim to create impact, and he
populates the book with people – Black, Puerto Rican – that are still
underrepresented in genre fiction today. Worth seeking out.
Eat Them Alive
Author: Pierce Nace, Year: 1977
Eat Them Alive, written by Pierce Nace (a supposed pen name), is a pretty bad book. Its basic plot is intriguing enough for fans of the lurid, just like me: A quartet of men rob and murder an old man for his stashed loot. One of them tries to abscond with the cash, and the others cut off his dick. Years later he plots revenge using a horde of human-sized, flesh-eating praying mantises. Really.
As told here with all the panache of a child pulling wings from a fly, the story is repetitive and monotonous, as our anti-hero, Dyke Mellis, trains the giant insects to not eat him for a good three-quarters of the book’s 160 pages. Finally, when the long-awaited revenge commences, we’re ready for the book to be over. Part of the problem with the way the story is told is that it really feels like the author is trying to work out some of "his" (there is speculation that Nace may actually be a woman) issues and twisted aggression here. Eventually, that becomes about as interesting as listening to someone go over and over and over their breakup with someone they've dated for only three weeks; an obsession no one else shares.
Impossible not to recommend for the freak show factor alone, however, this grotesque revolving door of bugs eating South American natives, bugs eating thieves, revolts its readers, then desensitizes them to not only its gore and cruelty, but to its bad writing. Once you've read it, you'll feel like you're a member of a very special club; one whose members have seen things best left unseen.
Smart as the Devil
Author: Felice Picano, Year: 1975
The first of the novels I read as a result of seeing it featured in Paperbacks from Hell (publisher info here) by Grady Hendrix with Will Errickson. Smart as the Devil tells the story of a school board psychologist who becomes obsessed, personally and professionally, with a pre-teenaged boy who may or may not be possessed off and on by a raunchy demon. It’s an entertaining read that keeps you guessing about its possession angle, winding up in a satisfying, though slightly heavy handed, conclusion. The "black maid" character, however, it must be said, gets a little, um... "tired" when reading Smart as the Devil 40 years after she was originally written here.
Other similar novels by author Felice Picano include Eyes and The Mesmerist. He has also written widely in Gay Lit, as well as co-authoring The Joy of Gay Sex (3rd Edition), memoirs, poetry, and a number of stage and screenplays.