By Michael Blodgett (Harmony Books; 1982)
This is the little-known second novel by the late Michael Blodgett, whose first, the astonishing CAPTAIN BLOOD, inspired a fair amount of controversy. HERO AND THE TERROR, alas, inspired little attention of any sort; note the bland cover art and dearth of critical blurbs on the hardcover edition. There’s a reason for the neglect, of course, as truth be told this simply isn’t a very good book.
HERO AND THE TERROR is a diverting read, however, propelled by Blodgett’s robust prose and uniquely twisted imagination. The shame is that in spite of those things Blodgett was never much of a storyteller. CAPTAIN BLOOD, let’s remember, worked better as a picturesque travelogue than a straightforward narrative, and HERO AND THE TERROR, which appears to have been Blodgett’s attempt at creating a more straightforward commercial thriller, is nearly as episodic, with an achingly simple, paint-by-numbers narrative that can be adequately summed up thusly: a serial killer takes up residence in the air ducts of an LA movie theater until Hero, a determined cop, takes him down.
Said serial killer isn’t exactly in the same league as better-known fictional monsters like Hannibal Lecter or Chaingang Bunkowski, but Blodgett draws a fairly chilling portrait of a high powered attorney with a deteriorating mind, enhanced by the author’s gift for telling details. The figure of Hero the determined cop, unfortunately, isn’t nearly as well drawn, he being a narcissistic poetry-spouting jock who, as his moniker signifies, is a tireless crusader for justice who can do no wrong (it’s telling that the protagonist of the movie version of this book hates being called Hero, while the guy herein has no problem with it).
But again, in this book the details are all-important. The plot may be flimsy and predictable, but the many gruesome segues are quite arresting. They include Hero’s encounter with an unidentified bum whose entire face has been eaten away, a flashback of the Terror’s father cutting out his hemorrhoids with scissors, a minutely described four page(!) sexcapade between Hero and his girlfriend, a bleak recounting of the lives of twin sisters whose intertwined existence wavers between extreme hatred and depravity, and a child molester who taunts cops by waving his dick around. Truly, a literary imagination as twisted as Michael Blodgett’s is a rare thing indeed, but it needs a stronger framework than that of HERO AND THE TERROR.