The Wild White Witch
Zebra, New York, 1974
price: $1.25; 154 pages
The blurb on the back:
It was a cry of agony torn from a human throat yet inhuman in its wordless despair. Whoever uttered it had abandoned all hope and relinquished all faith in rescue or mercy. The sound stopped so abruptly that it seemed as if the tongue of the sufferer had been torn out by the roots.
In terror and frantic haste Jeremy began to search the wall in front of him and found two primitive images drawn in faded charcoal: a crude, diamond-shaped representation of the female sex, with dull red lines radiating from it like the rays of the sun, and next to it, in the same schematic manner, a large pointed, daggerlike phallus.
With a slight grating noise a section of the wall swung in and down, disclosing a slablike threshold that bridged a deep rock chamber. From the black depths a faint, reddish light filtered upward. Jeremy could distinguish a sound, halfway between a chant and murmur.
It took a few moments before his eyes became accustomed to the dimness and he could focus on the spectacle below him. He could not see the entire expanse of the chamber, but what he could make out was sufficient to chill his blood and nearly stop his heart!
It had been the fancy, if that is not too frivolous a word, of the late Jonathan Dalkeith, Third Baron of Radlett, to choose for his seven children names that began with the same letter as his own.
Here's a curious little period piece. Set in the 1830s on the cusp of the abolition of slavery in the British Empire, it happily blends the two unrelated trash genres of the occult shocker and the plantation novel. We follow our hero - second son in a family of Scottish gentry - to Jamaica where he stays on a sugar plantation owned and run with extreme violence by a witch and her partner. Sure as eggs is eggs this means that shortly we will be indulging in sex & sadism fantasies on a grand scale. Which we promptly proceed to do.
Peter Stafford was one of the pseudonyms used by Paul Tabori and, while this is extraordinarily dodgy stuff that I wouldn't recommend anyone else to read, I have to say it's an effortlessly readable piece of work.
Just in case there's any doubt who this is aimed at, one of the books advertised in the back is Purr, Baby, Purr by Lucianne Goldberg and Jeannie Sakol, which is essentially ... well, I'll let the blurb speak for itself:
An honest, pertinent, funny - but feminine - reply to Women's Lib, which sets out the principles of the Pussycats, a league of women who believe in femininity, not feminism. They're proud to be women. They believe that reform is better achieved through persuasion. Pussycats believe in pampering men; you can guess whose side the men are on!
A charmingly dated piece of fluff you may think (that 'but feminine' is wonderfully revealing), but remember: this is America. So Ms Goldberg, who you may have thought was probably nothing more than a pseudonym adopted by a male hack, turned out to be not only a real person but also, as the advisor to Linda Tripp, a key player in the right-wing attempt to smear Bill Clinton. Meanwhile, her son, Jonah Goldberg, has turned into a fearless defender of capitalist exploitation. What a bizarre little world they inhabit in the States.
Note: I know the last couple of paragraphs have no relation to the book in question. Sorry.
ARTISTIC MERIT: 2/5
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: 3/5
HIPNESS QUOTIENT: 3/5