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.

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