BY SEAN CLARK
[Bad Idea Books is a new column in which we read an old (or perhaps not) book that is not without merit, but happens to have a very flawed premise. Read other entries here.]
Published: 1984, Ballantine
Bad Idea: Any daughter raped by her father will become a viricidal ax killer capable of communication with similar crazies, even dead ones.
Synopsis: On their wedding night, Jackie tried to kill Jim Stark with a hatchet. She went to jail, got out, received counseling from a woman named Carla, then was raped and murdered by a biker.
Following Jackie’s death, Carla becomes obsessed with her former patient. Then she begins to hear Jackie speaking to her. Turns out, both Jackie and Carla were raped by their fathers when they were young girls. Carla tells her boyfriend, Gus, she is going to visit her parents, whom she doesn’t get along with–presumedly because one raped her and one ignored it–but instead heads to the South to find and murder Jim Stark (who lights boundary lamps on the Mississippi) at dead-Jackie’s behest.
Carla struggles not to lose her mind, but she’s become a possesed psychopath.
What Went Right?: Nothing, really. But that’s what I enjoyed about it. The voices in her head are italicized and lacking most vowels (“CRLA A BG DG IS CHSNG ME!“), the concept makes less sense in execution than it does in my brief description above, and the scenes are often just silly. One of the most emotional moments is when Carla asks her boyfriend to feed her cat while she’s away (to slay Jim Stark), but he thinks she’s over-stressed because he finds no cat; then he finds it meticulously hanged in a noose inside her walls! Duh-duh duuuh. The whole thing is silly and full of campy murder and sex scenes. It’s like a novelization of 1980s slasher flicks.
What Would It Be Like Today?: Well, the movie “Fallen” used a similar serial killer transference thing, though that was a bit more literal metempsychosis than Simmons employs with the voices. Maybe a pop-savvy novelist could write a similar book with Justin Bieber becoming possessed by Michael Jackson to get revenge on Macaulay Culkin, who, we learn, diddled him and not the other way around.
Verdict: Worth reading. I trucked through this book in about 2 hours. It was an absolutely terrible book, but “The Leprechaun” is an absolutely terrible movie, yet still awesome. If you see Lamplighter sitting on the side of the road or buried on a vacation condo’s shelf, grab it.