Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Thrill Kill Books: Getting Off and Bad Thoughts

 I finished two books last weekend that shared the same theme: the thrill of a good kill. Both dealt the theme very differently, the other one was very humorous and free-wheeling and the other one developed some real horror out of it.

The latter was Dave Zeltserman's Bad Thoughts that was first published in hardcover by Five Star, but is now available as an e-book. Zeltserman sure knows how to spin a dark tale, as has been witnessed by his earlier books (of which I think Killer is the best - at least of those I've read). And boy oh boy, is Bad Thoughts dark! The killer in Bad Thoughts has a dubious gift of being able to work in the dreams of the people he wants to hurt and seems like there's no escape out of the situation. There are some moments that ask for the suspension of disbelief, but Zeltserman brings the thing to a well-balanced conclusion and does it with verve, through a simple-looking style that maintains the hardboiled noir style that's so familiar to Zeltserman's readers. In the hands of a mediocre serial killer writer, this would merely be a thriller. Now it's something else entirely.

Lawrence Block's hardcover Hard Case Crime outing Getting Off makes the same thing very differently. It tells about a young and attractive woman who kills men to revenge the abuse her father inflicted upon her and does it with great pleasure, first having sex with the men. Block pulls no punches in this tale that develops into a parody of serial killer novels. He turns the clichés upside down: there's nothing inherently bad in getting your joy out of killing people. The book's highly erotic at the same time and it's no wonder Block has used his early Jill Emerson pseudonym in this (though this is much seedier stuff than anything by "Jill Emerson"). There are some moments in the book that feel forced, as a couple of details in the lesbian romance, but I can see Block chuckling to himself while writing those scenes.

The books are very different in depicting the reasons for the thrill kill violence: Zeltserman says there's no reason, the guy was just born broken and it was a pity no one made anything to stop him, Block claims the abuse of the young girl made her what she is today. Seems like the Zeltserman explanation is more fashionable now, as the psychoanalytic-tinged theory of traumatized sexual behaviour has faded out of academic fashion.

Dave Zeltserman's Bad Thoughts has also the distinction of being the first e-book I've read. I loaded the free Kindle Reader on my portable and I've been snatching some free e-books whenever they've been available. As a reading experience I thought it was okay, but something I'd think should be done with the real device. But as of yet, I don't own one. As more and more interesting noir and hardboiled books are coming out only as e-books, getting a Kindle or a Nook or something similar seems something I need to do. Just too pity e-books are so expensive here in Finland.

1 comment:

Howard Sherman said...

The cover for Getting Off (and the title for that matter!) is a hoot! Thrill kill? Never explored that realm of fiction. I'll have to give it a try,