Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Scarred Man

"The bike riders seemed to be coming by the thousands, an invading army of freaks zooming in on the little town in the hills, all of them zonked out of their minds on something or other, acid, dope, grass, God knows what. Hair, muscle, flesh, thighs, breasts, all responding to the erotic thrust of high horsepower and gasoline. How would the white clapboard town fathers meet such an onslaught?"

Fawcett Gold Medal, June 1973

The Scarred Man by Basil Heatter is one of those later Gold Medal paperbacks that took the elements of vengeance, juvenile delinquency, hippies, drugs and motorcycle gangs and wrapped them into a tight novel of suspense about a regular guy pushed to the extremes. This book would have made a great grindhouse motorcycle gang drive-in flick in the 70s.

The plot is simple; Lawyer William Shaw and his wife, Stacey, take a vacation to Florida, where Shaw purchases a small yacht with thoughts of sailing to the Bahamas. One day, he and Stacy rent a Honda scooter to tour the glades. They’re attacked by three bikers, raping Stacey and beating Shaw to near death. Shaw and Stacey survive the attack but Stacey is left psychologically damaged beyond repair, and commits suicide one bright morning by leaping from a Miami Beach hotel room to her death. Shaw quits his job, and stays in Florida in hopes of finding the bastards that killed Stacey. He takes a job defending several members of a motorcycle gang known as The Beaks for a hit-and-run, and in the process manages to gain their grudging respect. He is invited by a rider named Stud to go out for an afternoon ride, where he learns that Stud just happens to be one of the three punks involved in the attack on him and Stacey. Before killing Stud, Shaw manages to extract the names of the other two bikers involved. And the hunt begins.

It’s a pretty cool novel. We follow Shaw as he buys a Harley and rides independent, looking for his prey. “Was I with the Angels, the Beaks, the Rockers, Werewolves, Zombies, or whatever? There were no swastikas or death’s heads on my back, and I was really too old to make the scene. A loner then, a middle-aged dropout or freak. A day-glo crazy without the colors. But no one cared. There were so many. What was one more?” He travels to New York State and joins a horde of bikers descending on a small northern town, and we watch as he slowly becomes one with the pack “[we] could not help but feel that we were a breed apart.” Along the way he meets a chick named Pearly, who is looking for kicks and anyone handy that will provide them for her. Shaw nearly takes the offer, before remembering Stacey and his mission of vengeance. Eventually, he renews his purpose in finding and killing the other two bikers on his list. But like all simple plans, nothing goes as it should.

It’s the first novel by Basil Heatter that I’ve read and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for any others by him as I haunt old bookshelves from now on. Cool stuff. 

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