“Assassin” – Shaun Hutson, Star, 3.50
Herschell Gordon Lewis once said that his films were the first ones where everyone died with their eyes open. Similarly, Shaun Hutson’s latest novel is the first I’ve read where everyone dies with their head in little pieces. Bloody gobbets of brain tissue and fragments of skull litter every second page like confetti, courtesy of a large variety of very offensive weapons.
It’s less of a ‘horror’ story than previous efforts, being more a gangland thriller with the only supernatural elements being four zombie gangsters out for revenge on the people who killed them. The rest of the story includes a Manson-style family of psychos, bent coppers, informers, a hit-man who listens to heavy metal on his Walkman while working and a LOT of ammunition. There’s a love story in there too, though don’t expect to see Mr. Hutson getting signed up by Mills & Boon.
Make no mistake, the man can write. While any fool with a camera, some fake blood and a few cow intestines can make a movie capable of grossing-out the viewer, to do something similar with letters on a page is proof of talent, and there are at least two scenes in the book, the execution of a ‘traitor’ by a gang boss and a ritual murder, after which I had to stop reading for a moment. Oddly, the scene the author was proudest of (involving a prostitute and a zombie – I won’t go into details), left me totally unfazed.
Despite, or perhaps slightly because of this, it’s a good read – I went through the 300-odd pages in two sittings. The pace is fast, you’re never sure exactly what’s going to happen next (though the most violent and messy alternative is usually a safe bet) and the characters are interestingly flawed. If perhaps occasionally they have ‘CANNON FODDER’ tattooed too conspicuously on their foreheads, this is only to be expected in a book where the mortality rate of the characters is close to 100%. Overall, nasty – very nasty – yet still recommended for those with strong stomachs.
No room for a real letter column this time, yet I couldn’t resist putting in the following extract from a reader – I think I’ll refrain from printing her name…
“You missed the obvious, didn’t you, tho’ it’s probably due to you being male – to be polite, it’s plastic, runs on batteries and often masquerades as a ‘neck massager’ in the Kaleidoscope catalogue…”
Only things that brings to mind are rechargeable batteries…
**** 10. “We just cut up our girl-friend with a chainsaw. Does that sound ‘fine’?”