Hell Comes to Hillbillies

Sin Cult

By Bruno Decesare

190 pp.

© 1962

Publisher: E.K.S. Corp.

Series: Bedside Book 1235

To fully appreciate Sin Cult, you must first understand the protagonist Mark Hanes. Mark has hit the road to put as much distance as possible between himself and the immorality of New York City. Raised in a wealthy family and given a monthly allowance, he was able to settle into life as a painter in Greenwich Village without any of than starving that artists are known for.

Then he meets Candy and fell in love. He proposes marriage. She says no, citing her nymphomania and need to sleep around as a reason, so he rapes her. This wins her heart and they wed. Soon though, Mark starts to have second thoughts about the whole marital-bliss thing, cuts her a check to cover the inconvenience, and hauls ass.

Now that we have the sterling character of our hero worked out, we can get on with the story.

Mark is driving his Thunderbird to California but is in no hurry to get there. He’s willing to take detours as long as there are some landscapes to paint along the way, but when he picks up a young hitchhiker named Carol, going off the beaten path gives him more than he bargained for.

Carol is willing to offer up the groceries but Mark is on a nookie hiatus, at least for a little while. She suggests he check out Devil’s Bend, which she says has lovely scenery. He drops her off and drives there afterward.

Carol was right on the money, if you don’t count the unkempt moonshiners that populate the town and surrounding area. Devil’s Bend even had an ineffectual and possibly corrupt sheriff, a vital stereotype for any small-town fight between good and evil.

It wasn’t long before the evil presented itself. Mark was up in a nearby canyon, looking for something suitable to paint. He saw three hillbillies sexually assaulting a young woman off in the distance. Morally outraged, he reached for his binoculars and observed the outrage in greater detail. When it was over, he approached the victim, who said she was from Peace Haven and was out picking berries when she was attacked.

Mark, to his credit, decides to report the crime but the sheriff refuses to do anything about it. Nobody in Devil’s Bend cares much for the well being of Peace Haven folk because the place is reportedly some sort of cult preaching peace and love. And if there’s anything hillbillies hate worse than revenuers and marrying outside one’s immediate family, it’s peace and love.

Undeterred, he decides to pay a visit to Peace Haven to see if he has any luck there. They offer him their hospitality, but are unhelpful and suspicious. Passivity is Peace Haven’s way, at least that’s what’s in their mission statement. The reality is that this cult recruits young women from the criminal-justice system who are given the choice between serving their sentences in prison and a pastoral setting where everyone wears white robes and sings “Kumbaya” a lot. What the women are not told is that their probationary duties include servicing horny old men of influence who visit Peace Haven for a romp. The cult also brings in a few male convicts to keep the womenfolk in line.

Mark, being the hero and all, takes it upon himself to right this great wrong. He goes about this with grim determination, pausing only once or twice to sample the local lovelies and spy on the odd atrocity at length so his moral outrage does not waver.

In the end, justice prevails, not that I gave a shit. It’s the lurid excess, not the triumph of virtue, that make novels like this a joy to read. And it is Mark’s habit of stopping to watch these excesses in all their glory that makes Sin Cult worth converting to.

Women Take Back the Nile

“Oh Lawdy mama those Friday nights
when Suzie wore her dresses tight
and the Crocodile Rocking was out of sight”

— Elton John/Bernie Taupin

In Asylum or Hell, the character Diane Morrisey cites a number of examples of men’s barbaric treatment of women through the ages that justify the atrocities she commits upon her male sex slaves. One of her reasons is because of crocodile rape. That’s right, crocodile rape.

According to her, watching women get violated by croc cock was a form of popular entertainment in ancient Rome. Such a claim is half plausible. The Romans were, by all accounts, a bunch of vicious thugs who bankrolled their empire through plunder and extortion and celebrated their supremacy by staging cruel and depraved spectacles. So yeah, they were fuckers. But crocodile rape? To believe that, I’d need more than the say so of a one-dimensional character in a poorly written novel.

I decided to go to Wikipedia for answers. I’ve heard the allegations that the site is filled with misinformation on a number of topics and I’m OK with that. So is Poison Spur. I’ve gone to great lengths to ensure that factual accuracy never gets in the way of a fun read here and encourage others to do the same.

The entry I found was most illuminating. It turns out that the Romans did get their jollies watching forced interspecies copulation, though there was no mention of crocodiles or any other reptile. I did, however, find this cute little tidbit involving some of our closer cousins in the animal kingdom:

Chimpanzees and mandrills, both in fact ferocious and very powerful species of primate: “made drunk by wine and inflamed by the odor of females of their kind, were loosed upon girls whose genitals had been drenched with the urine of female chimps and mandrills.” The victims were often virgins and not infrequently young children. One spectacle is said to have included “a hundred tiny blonde girls being raped simultaneously by a horde of baboons.”

Perhaps I’ve judged the Romans too harshly. I’d watch that in a heartbeat.

Crocodile-human sex was discussed in the section about ancient Egypt but if anything, it sounded like the croc was the victim. So Diane, we’re going have to agree to disagree. Crocodiles may be voracious predators with remorseless tears whose actions have led to countless deaths and a couple of Paul Hogan movies, but they are not, I repeat, not rapists. Case dismissed.

The Unbearable Triteness of Being

It was known as the “Paris of the Nineties,” which was true enough if you didn’t care much about talent. It was, however, a glorious and exotic playground for young and disaffected Americans who could scrape together enough money for a plane ticket.

I was in Prague during the early months of 1994. At 31, I wasn’t as young as most of my compatriots but I had disaffection to burn.

My original plan was to settle in Amsterdam and arrived in that city in November of the previous year. I was sick of the United States and my comfy little life there. I wanted change. I wanted adventure. I wanted to be surrounded by six-foot blonde hotties who talk funny.

Getting to Amsterdam was easy. Being able to stay there required landing a job. That wasn’t so easy. The Dutch economy, along with most of Europe’s, was in the toilet at the time. I quickly gave up all hope of securing employment and focused my attentions on getting snockered with vacationing Australians in Leidseplein bars.

In February, I relocated to Prague. It was a lot cheaper there and I had a place to stay. Jen, who had been my girlfriend back home, was living there and teaching English. She said I could probably get a job doing the same. The Czechs didn’t care if you had any credentials as long as you were a native speaker. Unfortunately, the pay sucked. Therefore, I opted to spend my days wandering the city and my nights drinking myself into oblivion.

Czech winters are very cold, especially to someone who grew up in Santa Barbara. Walking across the Charles Bridge, I could see Volkswagen-sized chunks of ice floating down the Vltava. The frigid air, polluted from coal-burning furnaces, had a sulfur smell and covered everything and everyone with a layer of soot. Gorgeous and menacing buildings surrounded me, poised for a new round of defenestrations that the city is famous for.

When the weather go to be unbearable, I’d warm myself in the Globe bookstore and coffee shop, which also served absinthe. My cold, sooty days in Prague were happy ones

At the end of the day after Jen got off work, we’d meet up with other expats. Most evenings involved dinner, drinks, and perhaps a smoke-filled basement nightclub playing punk rock.

One night, a friend of Jen’s invited us to a cozy little bohemian (by both definitions) spot to hear him perform a song he wrote. He was to go on stage right after a woman gave a public reading of her recent work. Finally, I thought, the “Paris of the Nineties” was about to be deserving of the name. We arrived early so we’d be sure to catch both acts.

The reading was a collection of feminist fairy tales. The plots varied slightly but always involved a princess, wise beyond her years, whose sage words saved the day from some problem that the King couldn’t figure out because he was stupid and male. In the end, he’d abdicate and let her rule as Queen happily ever after.

It takes a special sense of social justice to try to tear down the patriarchy with such vigor while having no problem leaving monarchies intact.

Next up was the song. Oh God, that song. Between feeble strums of the guitar, Jen’s friend whined insipid gibberish with little rhyme and less reason. The tune was called “Alpine Dove.” If such a species of bird ever existed, it’s extinct by now. The entire population would have died from embarrassment.

I’m being harsh and unfair of course. It’s not like I created anything of value while I was there, just self-absorbed ramblings in my journal that will never see the light of day. My time in Prague was time wasted, plain and simple. And you know what? I’ve never regretted it.

Tick Tock

It’s past three in afternoon and my boss is going on vacation starting tomorrow and continuing through all of next week. You might think this would be a reason to celebrate, that I get to spend the next seven workdays showing up at noon, still drunk from the night before, just in time for my liquid lunch.

If only life were so easy.

Homeless Hunk Thwarts Dworkinian Payback Plot

Originally featured June 13, 2006.

Asylum – or Hell?

By Ralph Brandon

152 pp.

© 1963

Publisher: Art Enterprises, Inc.

Series: Intimate Edition 718

When you put a nymphomaniac in charge of a mental institution, you’re asking for trouble. Top that with a feminist agenda heavy with revenge and sweetened with a substantial profit motive and you have Asylum – or Hell? This is a tale full of sex, false imprisonment, torture, mutilation, and deception. All it lacks is plausibility, suspense, and a narrator who doesn’t need to be slapped.

“The minute Diane Morrisey walked into the room I knew she would be in bed with me before she left,” opines protagonist Robert Howard at the novel’s opening, warming the reader’s heart with his unassuming charm.

He knows this by the way by the way she sways her hips when she walks. Some folks read tea leaves, others palms. Robert reads hips, and what they tell him comes in the form of both an offer and a challenge. What the hips say is this: only serious stud muffins need apply.

However, there are a few questions the hips don’t answer. Where is he? How did he get here? What happened to that gutter he collapsed in with only his whiskey vomit to break his fall?

Diane explains that she rescued him from his predicament, bathed him, and allowed him to rest up long enough for him to answer the call to action. If you haven’t figured it out already, Robert is not your workaday average Joe. He is a bum and proud of it. He live by his own rules and follows his own schedule. When it’s time to leave town, he goes. When it’s time to make a few bucks, he works. When it’s time for basic hygiene, he takes it under advisement.

This is not to say that Robert is some run-of-the-mill rummy. Oh no. When Diane first came upon his prostrate form a day and a half earlier, she was able to look past the growing yellow puddle around him and realize that she was in the presence of a veritable love machine. My guess is she assumes that a man must have the sexual capacity of all the Kennedys combined if he has the alcohol capacity of Ted.

To Diane’s credit, this line of reasoning makes as much sense as anything else in the story.

The bulk of the next forty pages of the book can best be summed up as AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” translated into prose. Between the copious sexual romps, Diane tells Robert how she rose to her present level of privilege and why it’s so swell to be her. It turns out that she was sent to a mental hospital, married her psychiatrist, and transformed the place into an institution as successful at making money as it is at treating troubled minds. Robert’s take on this is to take exception to being called “Robbie” and uttering “I’m the man, you’re the woman” and other pearls of patriarchal pithiness.

When Diane thinks she’s won Robert’s trust (or near enough), she drugs his drink and he wakes up in a padded cell. After various steps are taken to break his spirit and warp his psyche, he is introduced to the other members of Diane’s four-man harem. Before this happens, Robert swears revenge:

I swore that if I ever got my hands on her I’d kill her, but I promised I’d have her once more before I did. She owed me those two things – first her lust, then her life.

At least he got them in the right order.

Being the newest arrival, Robert is top dog. The number-two man, Larry, explains the grim situation. If you’re in first or second position, your job is to be her personal concubine. Excellent job performance is crucial because if you drop into the number three or four slot, she has you castrated and you must find alternative means of pleasuring her. Robert shudders at the notion as he feels the limp handshake of the gelding Martin (castration reducing hand strength is just one of the fascinating facts I learned from this book). If you fall from the top four, you get lobotomized and spend the rest of your days tending the grounds and watering the plants with your drool.

The harem is just one part of the hospital’s evil plot. Diane and her co-conspirators are making a mint having wealthy, sane men legally committed at the behest of their greedy spouses and relatives. And as long as no one on the staff tattles and alley cats don’t knock over a trash can full of testicles and frontal lobes, the plan is foolproof.

Robert realizes that to escape this fate, he needs to pretend to be madly in love with Diane. True to form, his means of expressing this love is by running amok, assaulting several guards and punching out poor Martin while he’s at it. Diane, finding herself in the presence of a real man worthy of her, swoons.

She spirits him away from the asylum and takes him to her cabin in the woods with no guards and the two have a lot more sex. She also explains her reason for the harem. Men, you see, have been rat finks to women since the beginning of time and it is her right to even the score. She cites several historic examples such as: murder of female offspring from the Chinese, sexual slavery from the Hindus, crocodile rape(!) from the Romans, witch burnings, and so on.

Robert’s rebuttal of two wrongs not making a right didn’t do any good so his only recourse is the time-honored male tradition of not paying attention until she runs out of steam.

At this point, a very curious thing happens. Robert falls in love with her for real. He decides to try to get her to listen to reason, understand that she’s sick, and put things right for good. Will he convince her or will Robert be consigned to the same fate as Jack Nicholson at the end of One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, albeit with looser-fitting pants? I won’t give away the ending but will assure you that credibility will be stretched in ways you never thought imaginable.

Booked It, Danno

I made my hotel and flight reservations yesterday. I’m going on vacation during Thanksgiving week and picked Hawaii more or less by default. May passport is expired, which keeps me from most of the real fun to be had around the globe. Whale eating in Japan, dynamite fishing off the Great Barrier Reef, and refugee fondling in Darfur are all beyond my reach. So Hawaii it is.

I need to get away. I haven’t taken any vacation since I reentered the work force full time over three years ago. What I need is to hang out in a place by myself where nobody knows me. Maybe, just maybe, the time away will release a few of those creepy crawlies I’ve had bottled up inside my head.

Admittedly, there are probably more cost-effective means to this end. Renting a cabin up north might have done the trick. I could spend the days staring out at the ocean from a cliff face, looking deep and insightful as the sea breeze gently wafted through my graying locks of hair. Passersby noticing me might even assume my thoughts were on more elevated topics than machine-gun wielding female wrestlers coming to abduct me in their leather bikinis.

Or if I opted for a more social venue, I might have gone to a fantasy-foosball convention at a Day’s Inn in Fresno. Good times could be had partying down with attendees, whom I’m guessing are made up in large part by telemarketers and the odd shift manager from a rendering plant.

Alas, neither of these options would suffice. Where’s the adventure? Where’s the romance? Where’s the opportunity for hula upskirt? Hawaii promises all these things, or at least it would if I were the one writing the travel brochures.

I’m counting on divine providence to make mine a fulfilling and memorable vacation. However, I already have two strikes against me.

First, I’m staying at a respectable hotel near Waikiki Beach instead of a Honolulu flophouse frequented by crackheads and the insane. While my lodging choice lowers the chances of having all my possessions stolen below 100%, it also carries the risk of boredom one finds in the company of solid citizens.

The second strike is that I signed up for transportation to from the airport to the hotel and back. This may be convenient and economical, I’m not much looking forward to being herded into the back of a shuttle bus where some Iowan’s Midwestern fat spills over into my seat.

I might just take a taxi instead. This would be more expensive but well worth it, as it has been my experience that drivers know much about local attractions not found in any guidebook. When he looks into his rear-view mirror and sees me give him the signal (palm of the hand against the chin, tongue darting out between the index and middle fingers), he’ll know that I’ll be looking for a little something extra during my stay. In no time flat, I’ll have offers for grisly souvenirs from the USS Arizona or to be taken to a clandestine nightclub where the stage show includes a Samoan transsexual crushing a luau pig to death with her thighs.

However things turn out, I’m sure I’ll find some way to debauch myself. I seem to have a talent for that.

Paradise Flossed

My long dental nightmare is over, after thousands of dollars, a root canal, four crowns, and a level of pain inflicted that would make Laurence Olivier in Marathon Man blush.

I plan on taking better care of my teeth from now on. Of course, that means a loss of source material for this blog but I’m willing to live with that.

Let us move forward and put this unfortunate episode in my life behind us.

Dial “M” for Misogyny

Originally featured May 31, 2006.

Passion Madman

By Andrew Stole

192 pp.

© 1963

Publisher: Corinth Publications

Series: Leisure Book LB 603

Jack Garth is not a nice guy. He kills people for money, enjoys doing so, and performs his job with gusto. If you’re looking to have a murder done where the victim is undetectably poisoned or made to disappear a la Jimmy Hoffa, you’re probably better off hiring someone else. However, if you prefer a crime scene that spattered with blood and festooned with entrails, Garth is the man to call. Early on, author Andrew Stole treats the reader to a
vivid, if gratuitous, description of the killer’s style:

Now was Sheila Keller lying naked, her insides shot to pieces. Now was him putting the gun there where he had intended to put something else and pulling the trigger until the hammer clicked dully over an empty chamber.

Party on, Garth.

This is not to say that all he likes to do is kill, far from it. Jack Garth also enjoys rape. A lot. Fortunately for him, he lives in a world before the advent of DNA fingerprinting so he can mix business with pleasure without worrying about any crackerjack CSI teams ruining his day.

The story opens with Garth sitting in a bar after a botched hit, the first of his career. His employer has sent him to bump off an entire family because a relative in Vegas had amassed a huge gambling debt and needed some inheritance money pronto. He manages to butcher five of the six members of the Regan family, but misses daughter Linda.

The first thing we learn about this other focal character in the book is the tightness of her sweater, followed by a description of the tightness of her pants. Such dwelling on Linda’s physical attributes is arguably sexist yet preferable to attempts have the reader see inside her mind through really painful beatspeak such as this:

She began to feel groovy again, almost. The shock of her family’s death had been such a monumental bring-down it had seemed like the whole world had gone sick and nothing in it could possibly swing again. But if it was going to swing again, it would be here in Hip City, nowheres else…

After reading this passage, I found myself wanting to snap my fingers. This was less an urge to groove to the hepness of the prose than a subconscious desire to get Garth’s attention and direct him to Linda so he can kill her immediately.

Since the offending paragraph sits on page 45 and there are roughly 145 more to read, it is perhaps unrealistic to to expect Garth to wrap up the plot this far ahead of schedule and spend the rest of the book committing grisly murders for his own enjoyment and ours.

Oddly enough, this is pretty much what he does except for the killing-Linda-first part. He tells his boss that he finished the job, making a rational assumption that since she has gone into hiding, his little fib is difficult to disprove. Not so rationally, he figures she will stay hidden until he finds her so he takes on other jobs, apparently assuming
that he will eventully bump into her on the street.

Garth now finds himself in the employ of some swarthy foreigner of indeterminate national origin who is a prominent figure in New York City’s heroin trade. The swarthy heroin guy disapproves of unfair (or even fair) competition and decides that arranging a few murders will send the message that he is not a man to be trifled with. He also sends the message he possesses absolutely no business sense because the first people on his hitlist happen to be his biggest customers.

None of these concerns matter much to Jack Garth provided there are both cash and atrocities involved. Of course, there still is the Linda Regan issue to be resolved. Will he spare a moment to focus on carrying out the only killing that has anything to do with the plot of this book or will she survive the beat era to become an even more annoying hippie? In the end, the reader is treated to a prolific enough killing spree that it hardly matters either way.

Paranoid Time

If I were a saner man, I would breathed a sigh of relief after learning I’d been spared in the recent round of layoffs. Granted, avoiding the ax doesn’t give me license to spend my workday surfing porn but if I get my work done and and not piss off anybody, I should have nothing to worry about. The staff needed pruning. It was pruned. I’m still here. End of story.

Unfortunately, there are parts of my psyche that are just not wired up that way. Doom for others in the past raises the chances of doom for me in the present, regardless of all the evidence to the contrary.

Here’s an example. This morning, the engineering VP came over to have a chat with my boss. This is not unusual as there are often production issues that need to be addressed. Even though my boss and I sit about 10 feet away from each other, I was working on some stuff so I didn’t pay much attention to the conversation.

The one part I did overhear was the VP saying, “That thing we talked about. I’ll send out an email.”

The rational part of my mind shrugged it off as something that was not my concern. Unfortunately, the what-if part of my brain could not resist the urge to offer up a conspiracy theory.

“Dave, you’re fucked,” it said. “That email is going to HR to inform them of your impending termination. I wouldn’t be surprised if they hire Blackwater to handle security. Hell, they might even have you shot in the head and your body shipped to China for organ harvest.”

Fortunately, the what-if part of my brain is fond enough of hyperbole for me to seldom take it seriously.

Sleaze, Please

I have decided to bring back reviews of sleazy pulp novels. These entries will occupy the Tuesday slot, just after Meatmarket Mondays.

For the first two installments, I’ll be reprising reviews published last year in the now-defunct Pulp Reviews section of the site. That’ll give me the time to both address some technical and design issues. It’ll also give me a chance to assemble a backlog of content to cover those days when I’m too pooped to post.

San Francisco fans of this fiction genre are encouraged to visit Kayo Books. Thanks to their wide selection, I can dedicate my time to reading and reviewing the books rather than hunting for them. And no, they’re not paying me for this plug though I did steal the above cover art from them.

For fans of my random musings, fear not. Wednesday through Friday will be chock full of them.