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Paradise Lost

Novel by Laurence James (England) 1984.

Paradise is an island, run as a holiday resort for the fabulously rich. Small, it caters for their every need, from heroin to Dom Perignon. The current crop of wealthy guests includes: an ageing actor honeymooning with his new teenage wife; a gangster who brings a new prepubescent 'niece' every visit; a woman who's spent almost a million dollars on plastic surgery, holidaying with her paid Latino stud; and other similar characters. However the island is also hiding a crazed killer, madly murdering and destroying for an unknown reason. With the island in the grips of a rare and severe storm, and all links to the mainland destroyed by the killer, the guests are being whittled down, one by one.

Yes, this is a simple slasher story, requiring little intelligence to work out 'whodunit' very early on. But this is far more than another poor horror novel on the lines of the author's previous NEL offering, The Road. This is the slasher movie nobody could ever make, Jason Takes Whicker's World, complete with a wide selection of film and music references. Just thank God books aren't censored: this has it all, from extreme sex, extreme violence and frequent bad language, to racism sexism and kiddie porn. In short, everything that would send BBFC chief James Ferman and his cronies into apoplexy. But Laurence James, who showed little writing technique in The Road, adroitly balances all these excesses on to a tightly plotted framework dotted with characters you really feel for. Case in point: Joe is a violent, sometimes cruel lout, a foul-mouthed gangster holidaying with a fifteen year-old prostitute from Reno who keeps him happy in many different ways. But when the killer takes away his little 'niece' and leaves behind a video tape of what happens to her, the author handles the situation with such sensitivity that the heart almost bleeds for him. Certainly not a nice book, this is as near as you'll get to the print equivalent of a video nasty, but if you're into the extreme, this will be right down your street. And the first two chapters are twice as good as the whole of The Road by themselves, and the book keeps getting better.


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