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Fireflash 5

Novel by Graham Masterton (Scotland) 1976.

Bradley Winger is a second-rate racing driver whose great ambition is to break the world land speed record; his attempt in 'Fireflash 4' ends in fatal tragedy as the sabotaged vehicle blows up during the run. His son Craig, who has previously been vigorously opposed to his father's macho philosophies, to his need to achieve - and to achieve more than anyone else, to constantly be the best - and in fact to most of what his father stood for, suddenly finds himself driven to avenge his father's death by achieving what he only nearly achieved, namely setting up a similar attempt for himself. But there's a complex web of intriguing relationships striking at the stability of his whole world and the saboteurs that caused his father's death are also after him.

Later reissued as A Mile Before Morning (1977), where Craig suddenly and inexplicably becomes Clay in the back cover blurb, but not in the text, this one's difficult to categorise. It's not one of the author's many renowned horror novels included herein; it's more of a thriller, but not in the vein of his usual fare; the fetishist elements (transvestism, naturism, lots of homosexuality and the intricacies of having sex with a one-legged girl) push it well away from the mainstream. But whatever pigeonhole it fits into, it's certainly an interesting novel and a pretty good one once you get past the big down point of the first quarter of the book.

This is a slow start, occasionally punctuated with what reads as unnecessary attempts to shock. There's too much emphasis on the sex and too much swearing; this is an extreme genre and there's plenty of worthwhile sick stuff about but somehow it all seems pointless here for a while. Masterton himself gets very sick on occasion (the cannibalism in Ritual, the maggot scenes and the skin-flaying in Family Portrait, or the necrophile bestiality in his controversial short story and supposed meat-eating allegory 'Eric the Pie' for instance) but it's all for good reason and those works would suffer if the sick elements were missing. Here it's painful. It's very tempting to dismiss all this as being simply the mistakes most writers make early in their careers, but then this novel was released after his classic debut The Manitou. I guess I'll leave you to work it all out for yourself.
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