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The Trial

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New English Library, London, 1970 (abridged edition)
(price: 7/-; 176 pages)
first published in the USA by Tower Publications 1969

The blurb on the back:

The explosive novel of a small town pornography trial.
It was the start of the long hot summer in Alabama. But for Claude Collins and the town of Berryville it was hotter than that.
Collins was a meek little undertaker with a curious mind and a talent for writing. No he was on trial for writing pornography - the only way the town could get revenge on him for using its leading citizens as thinly disguised characters in his novels. Collins knew more about the sick side of Berryville than anyone alive - or dead.
He knew the secrets o everyone in the town - the perversions, the strange rituals, the hidden lusts. Now they were out to get him. Of course, the members of the jury were Berryville folks - and they had some eccentricities of their own.

This one's a cracker. Judging by the sleeve notes - a small-town undertaker with a sideline in writing pornography based on the real-life activities of his fellow citizens gets tried for obscenity - you may get the impression that we're looking here at a kind of sleazier version of Grace Metalious's Peyton Place. And you'd be dead right. But you might miss just how sleazy this is: then you read the first chapter and you get through the voyeurism, the consensual incest and the necrophilia, and you figure that this one's out to shock you.

As it happens, it's not particularly shocking, since - as is the way with these things - it backs off pretty damn quick and, with brow firmly furrowed, attempts to get a story going. Which doesn't really work.

Still, a fine effort from an author about which I knew nothing, until a correspondent, Ian Covell, directed me towards this site, where there's a personal portrait of Ms Du Breil, describing her as 'the Queen of Pornography'. And a fascinating woman she sounds. She also wrote under the name D Barry Lindner. Amongst the other books published under her own name were Love Spurt and a horror novel, Eleanor's Baby. The former would appear to pre-empt Mr Richard Hell, whilst the latter sounds a tad derivative, don't you think?

Mr Covell also points out that the reason this particular book shies away from anything too explicit is that it was abridged for this NEL edition. Which makes me want to read the original, uncut version from Tower, because there's enough going on here to intrigue.

Irrelevant note: The story of a novelist depicting real people from a small town to scandalous effect was also used in the 1960 Gerald Thomas movie Please Turn Over starring Ted Ray, Leslie Phillips and Charles Hawtrey. Excellent film, well worth tracking down.