By David Britton (Savoy Books; 1990)
A novel that appears destined to be best known for being banned in its native England and getting its author/publisher jailed. That ban, FYI, has since been overturned, yet LORD HORROR was never reprinted after its initial print run (a large portion of which was confiscated by British police), making this one of the rarest and most sought-after horror novels of all time, and the most famous entry in Savoy Books’ multi-media Lord Horror saga.
Certainly LORD HORROR is quite incendiary, as its reputation and subject matter portend, with a definite transgressive brilliance. Yet it’s also, ionically enough, the least outrageous of the Lord Horror novels–which came to include MOTHERFUCKERS, BAPTISED IN THE BLOOD OF MILLIONS, LA SQUAB and INVICTUS HORROR, all of which far outdid the excesses of this one yet didn’t undergo any censorship issues.
Lord Horror is a character inspired by William Joyce, a.k.a. Lord Haw-Haw, a British politician who was executed for broadcasting Nazi propaganda during WWII. Lord Horror is himself a Nazi-affiliated broadcaster, residing in an alternate universe England in which Germany won WWII. As in most “if-the-Nazis-won-the-war” scenarios the book’s opening third is taken up with much expository info about how this alternate history came about, interspaced with introductions to the various odd personages who make up the LORD HORROR universe.
Those characters include Lord Horror himself, who spends his days indiscriminately killing and/or experimenting on Jewish people while dreaming of resurrecting the apparently long deceased Adolph Hitler; Future Time, a French captain who enlists an army of dark-skinned androids on a quest to track down Hitler, who Future Time believes is alive and hidden away somewhere; and Meng and Ecker, deformed twins subjected to horrific experiments in Auschwitz who have since sworn allegiance to Lord Horror.
Ultra-violence, psychosexual weirdness and anti-Semitism are constants in this mad universe, and only grow increasingly prevalent as the novel advances. Hitler, it turns out, is indeed still alive, and becomes a pivotal character in the book’s final third. It’s then that the most notorious passage occurs, depicting a “final solution” devised by Lord Horror that involves an act of surreal cannibalism followed by a catharsis of sorts involving a literal bed of excrement, and also a hat comprised of disembodied vaginas.
If such imagery doesn’t offend you the constant racism just might (did I mention that in addition to Lord Horror’s many anti-Semitic rants the dark-skinned androids speak in exaggerated Uncle Tom dialect?). Nor do I think too many Neo-Nazis or rednecks will enjoy the book, which includes several lengthy diatribes on art history, the theories of Sigmund Freud and other weighty subjects. LORD HORROR’S brilliance, I’d argue, is in its idiosyncratic juxtaposition of historical speculation, surreal invention and sheer outrage, which not all readers will appreciate. Those elements were better integrated, of course, in the subsequent Lord Horror novels, to which this volume stands as a most compelling and provocative warm-up.