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JOHN SLATER
Buchenwald Hell


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Scripts, Sydney, 196?
price: 80c; 130 pages


The blurb on the back:

It was Hell.
The bunker was an oblong hole in the ground, but covered by a matted mixture of thick wooden beams, stones and beaten-down earth. The result was a place like a dugout, perhaps twenty metres long and six wide. Entry was through a heavy trapdoor hinged at ground level at one end, and down rough stone steps that led from it. The guard marched Ivor halfway down the steps, then pushed him hard so that he fell the rest of the way.
Ivor cried out. His mouth was wide open as he hit the unseen water.
"Ivor had heard of men being tortured under interrogation by such methods as freezing, boiling or rapid changes from one to the other. Flogging was commonplace, as were other methods like hanging by the neck in fixed nooses until slow strangulation brought unconsciousness, after which the victim would be revived and put through it all again.
After enough of such vile treatment, most men were willing to admit any crime or betray any friend. Even falsely."


opening lines:
Ivor Lubinov stood singing in the north wind. The wind carried a freezing bite of distant polar ice, and a driving sleet stung his eyes and dampened his hair.


I've had this book since well before I launched Trash Fiction, but have long been doubtful about the idea of putting it on the site. On the one hand, it clearly is trash fiction - hell, it's almost a dictionary definition of the term - and although this site isn't exclusively about trash (I try to sneak some genuine classics in here as well), trash fiction is ostensibly why we're here. On the other... well, it's just nasty, isn't it?

However, the popular subcultures of the Sixties and Seventies were drenched in Nazi imagery, from movies like Ilsa - She Wolf of the SS through to the men's comics that Gillian Freeman examines in The Undergrowth of Literature, and paperback novels were no exception. Since part of the point of this site is to cover material that doesn't get much of an airing elsewhere, and since I can find virtually no references to John Slater on the Net, I figured: let's put questions of taste and decency to one side for a moment, and see what we have here.

And essentially the answer is: a very poor novel indeed. More to the point, it in no way lives up to that cover. The image of a naked woman being whipped may be more of a come-on than a man in the cooler, but it gives an entirely false picture of the contents of the book - in classic porn tradition, you get promised more than will ever be delivered. Because the story is concerned with a Polish writer in Buchenwald and his relationship with the guards and staff of the camp, in particular with a doctor who helps him. It's dull, uninspired and entirely pointless, written by rote and forgotten as soon as the words have passed by your eyes. What it isn't is the heavy-duty S&M torture-fest that the cover would suggest. Frankly, it's tame to the point of timidity, with no pornographic value at all. This is either a grave disappointment or a source of some relief, depending on your perspective.

Which means that the only point of interest is the discrepancy between cover and content. And the fact that at this stage in Western culture, the sexual allure of Nazism was considered commercially valuable and, since these aren't under-the-counter items, to some extent acceptable. The appeal survives, of course - there are plenty of BDSM fiction sites on the Net that happily throw in Third Reich scenarios - but I can't imagine this appearing in any normal bookshop anymore.

I am told that the name John Slater was a pseudonym, and that more than eighty of these novels were published under the name. Amongst them are: The Horror Camp (1962), Camp Blood (1963), Camp of Terror (1963), Women's Camp (1963), Operation Rabaul (1964) Women under the Samurai (1964), Joy Camp (1965), Butcher of Auschwitz(1965), Terror of the Swastika (1965), War Lord's Women (1967), Jungle Captive (1967), Bride of the Headhunter (1967), Brides of Terror (1968), The Nazi Lover (1968), The Savage Warriors (1968), Joy Camp (1969), Love Slave of Paris (1969), Slave Ship (1970) ...

Well, you get the general picture. Most of these were apparently the work of Ray Slattery, who also wrote under his own name: the British Library catalogue lists books such as Kamikaze (1962), Wild Water (1966) and Surfari Highway (1966), all published by Horwitz Publications in Melbourne, who - along with Scripts in Sydney - were responsible for the John Slater books.


ARTISTIC MERIT: 1/5
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE:
1/5
HIPNESS QUOTIENT:
4/5


click to enlarge
cover scans of more John Slater novels
A selection of John Slater books are available from Warrigal Press

acknowledgements:
my thanks to Hal CF Astell
of Dawtrina Technology
for providing me with information about the John Slater books

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