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COLIN SPENCER
Poppy Mandragora and the New Sex


click to enlarge

Panther, London, 1967
(price: 5/-; 208 pages)
first published by Anthony Blond, 1966

dedication: for Richard Simon


The blurb on the back:

'They are like a clam, moving mysteriously through London, their identity masked, but undermining all the community's absurd notion of what sex and marriage ought to be...'
The police are desperate - but powerless...
Who are they?
They are the brain children of sinister, megalomaniac Doctor Marcus Berriman - a modern Svengali who who plots society's overthrow by crating a new sex ... and marrying them off to the upper classes!
'Sophisticated ... hilarious' -
Evening Standard
'All very naughty fun' - Olivia Manning,
Observer


opening lines:
Imagine first, if you please, the physical presence of a sex goddess, in the face, those calm and exact features that express little but blank regularity, topped by a profusion of strawberry blonde hair.


No, I don't know either. You've seen the cover, you've read the sleeve notes - I don't have much to add. I read it from cover to cover, but I still have no idea what it is or where it fits into anything.

Thing is, there's this brilliant but decidedly odd scientist/therapist who's rehabilitating men sent to gaol for homosexual offences, and the strategy he's chosen to reintroduce them to the community is to transform each into some kind of ladyboy who can marry into the upper echelons of British society. Is this a satire on the decadence of the English ruling class? On the increasing androgyny of modern culture? On the abuse of science in the service of social engineering? Or is it a statement on the position of homosexuality in Britain at the time of Roy Jenkins' liberalising endeavours?

I don't know. And I don't know why I finished this book either. It's perfectly readable, but unlike Spencer's earlier success Anarchists In Love, it lacks any kind of focus. Or - to be a touch unkind - any point at all. I rather think that Panther might have been struggling with what constituted modern fiction at this stage of the 1960s.


another edition


ARTISTIC MERIT: 2/5
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE:
3/5
HIPNESS QUOTIENT:
4/5


from the maker of...

An Absurd Affair
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