|Brian McNaughton: Guilty Until Proven Guilty|
and Company (Hardcover), ISBN 1-59224-980-9
Be warned: you won't like anyone in this bizarre serial-rapist/killer novel. Most occupy rungs on the moral ladder little higher than the rapist/murderer. The least vile are guilty of the corruption born of weakness, while the rest prove thoroughly venal and at least borderline psychopathic.
Armitage, a town in the thrall of its almost sole employer, the Burroughs Thread Company, likewise endures the predations of the Full Moon Maniac, who attacks courting couples. Corrupt, trigger-happy cop Frank Buchanan would like to catch the perpetrator to increase his chances of promotion. Buchanan doesn't concern himself about anyone who might get in his way.
Buchanan believes the killer is Sonny Corcoran, vicious dimwit son of local sex maniac Ma Corcoran. Ma Corcoran routinely prostitutes her daughters and forces them to have sex with Sonny so she can watch.
Katy Burroughs, wife of company boss Walter, lived as chaste as a nun for years but decides to kick over the traces by seducing Sonny in a public park. Sonny violently rejects her, because he knows Walter is his biological father. Buchanan turns up and beats the shit out of Sonny (who recovers with miraculous speed for succeeding episodes), then half-rapes Katy -- who loves him for it. Together Katy and Sonny play the game of "Snuff Walter," which after a while stops being just a game.
Guilty Until Proven Guilty is packed with sex, violence and more sex. Sadly, because the author strives to make his characters entirely despicable, it proves impossible to believe in them as real people (always excepting the ill fated Melody and Bill, of course). Thus the various beatings, tortures and sadistic murders carry all the emotional impact of a Tom & Jerry cartoon. Something analogous can be said for the sex, although I confess I never saw a Tom & Jerry cartoon to compare. Plenty of bodily fluids splash about, plenty of grunts and thrusts, but the reader will find nary a scintilla of eroticism.
The book is an extremely quick read, partly because of its length (208 big print pages) but partly because McNaughton's prose does have a swing to it. Pity he settled for writing something so undemanding.
At $32.95, this is an expensive hardcover novel. The price seems even more outrageous due to poor production standards. As a LightningSource print on demand number, the book demonstrates all the usual POD flaws, including an ill-fitting dust jacket. Not much can be done about that. However, the publisher could certainly have done something about the rampant typographical errors. A presumably a late change of mind, inadequately executed, means that one character's name alternates between Ronnie and Bonnie. One hopes that a proofreader will be employed for the paperback edition -- and LightningSource's paperbacks display much better production values than their hardbacks anyway.
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