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An Exorcism

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An Exorcism: Ritual One
The Image of the Beast

Futura/Quartet, London, 1975
(price: 95p; 202 pages)
first published Essex House, 1968

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An Exorcism: Ritual Two

Futura/Quartet, London, 1975
(price: 95p; 208 pages)
first published Essex House, 1969

The blurb on the back:

Herald Childe has just seen a home movie in which his partner was brutally murdered, his life-fluids drained by a lady with razor-sharp dentures.
Childe is a private dick. He's accustomed to sticking his nose into other people's business, and it's usually dirty. But he's not prepared for the gut-churning horrors which await him as he wades through the LA smog following up a lead in the most disgusting case of his career.
He is plunged into a waking nightmare of sexual brutality and supernatural bestiality; he becomes entangled with a snake-woman; he is seduced by a filthy human sow; and he lays a ghost, only to realize that he's the one getting laid - by a woman working off the frustrations of over a century in ectoplasmic exile.
But what can he do? He can hardly tell the police that he's discovered a crowd of sex-mad vampires and werewolves from another universe...

In Philip José Farmer's incredible sequel to The Image of the Beast, Herald Childe continues what started as a murder case - a very gruesome one - but which has now become a struggle against the strange and deadly beings who have taken his wife, who threaten his manhood and threaten mankind itself.
His seems hopeless quest. He is fighting not people, but inhuman, unhuman monsters from another universe. They take grotesque physical forms, they indulge cruel whims, and they are sex-mad.
There is Vivienne, amazingly beautiful, who used to be Joan of Arc. But she has false teeth and she comes, literally, to pieces. Her love is a snake-like horror whose needle teeth drip aphrodisiac venom. There is Count Igescu, a real
live vampire. And these three are surrounded by a grisly crowd of bizarre aliens, charactes in a science fiction nightmare. But for Childe there is to be no waking up: though no one else believes him, he knows this is for real ...

opening lines:
Green milk curdled. Smoke rose to the light, and smoke and light fused to become green milk. The milk fissioned to become smoke and darkness above. As below.

Farmer is one of the most celebrated SF writers, a massive cult figure whose work (hi there, trivia fans) inspired Jimi Hendrix's lyrics to 'Purple Haze'. His first book, The Lovers won the 1953 Hugo Award for Most Promising New Author, and he went on to break barriers and taboos with equal aplomb. He was, in short, already an author of some status when porn publishers Essex House approached him in the late-1960s to write an SF sex trilogy.

It was an interesting proposition and somehow characteristic of the times. The liberalization of the '60s was opening the possibility of erotica moving into the mainstream, and Essex House were anxious to break the standard image of the porn novel. Which probably explains why they went out of business soon afterwards.

However, the first two volumes of Farmer's trilogy were published in 1968-69 (the third emerged as Traitor to the Living in 1973), and received their first British publication under Futura's Quartet imprint in 1975. And a handsome pair of volumes they are, I'm sure you'll agree. Which is perhaps sufficient reason for possessing them.

Unfortunately, it's also the only reason (unless you're a Farmer completist, I guess). Because they're not really very good at all. As the sleeve notes indicate, they're a free-wheeling mix of detective, horror and science fictions with a helping of sex thrown in for good measure. And they fail on every single level. The parody of Chandler's hard-boiled style is pointless, the horror and the SF don't gel or make sense, and the sex isn't erotic. Interesting in theory, deadly dull in reality.

Incidentally, I only include it in the Sex index, because it claims on the cover that it should be classified as erotica. It shouldn't.

here's an excellent history of Essex House
visit a Philip José Farmer bibliography