|TOR books, September 1985|
John Farris is one of those writers whose books are always enjoyable. He has a gift for telling a good story, whether it's horror or crime or suspense. And he's been doing it for many years. One of my favorites of his is All Heads Turn When the Hunt Goes By which combines Southern Gothic and Voodoo into an excellent pulpy novel that you owe it to yourself to check out if you're a horror fan. The Captors is unlike that novel, in that there is not a whiff of the supernatural to be found in its pages. Instead, it's psychological cray-cray, involving a wealthy but messed up family, a beautiful young woman, her fucked up friends and erotic shenanigans slopped all up in the house.
I've had this one on my shelf of unread books (that's the one sagging dangerously to the point of collapse!) for a long time. It's an early one by Farris, first published way back in 1969. Its story takes place in the summer of 1968, which I hear tell was quite a tumultuous year in America. No doubt, this story reflects the anxieties felt then with the war and upheaval and the seemingly impossible to cross generation gap. It tells what happens when you have a group of unbalanced and drugged up college students who take it upon themselves to claim vengeance on a symbol of the One-Percenters who've made a good living feeding of the world's unrest. A twisted game of Eat the Rich is in the offing. Wrap these ingredients up into the kidnapping of a pretty rich girl, and you have the plot of this novel. It reminded me a lot of the real life Patty Hearst kidnapping, which didn't occur until a few years after this novel was published. I expected something of a similar outcome here, sort of an erotic Stockholm Syndrome page-turner, but man, was I wrong.
"In a half-crazed and volatile world, they're allowed to sell arms and encourage aggression by doing so. If it's in our power to eliminate, completely, a source of human suffering, then we're justified, we're compelled to do it. The act of murder then becomes ethical. In a religious sense, it's holy."
I've thought about how much I could tell you of the plot without giving anything away. I hate spoiling stories for others, and this one has too many twists going for it that divulging them here would ruin the fun in reading this book. I will say it takes its time getting going. It's a slow burn of a novel for the first half, giving you the feel of the characters and their relationships with each other, instead of high drama and noise. That plays to the novel's suspense in the last half of the book. You'll get the violence and killing you've come for, but you have to be patient.
I've read several of John Farris's novels now, and I have no hesitation in recommending his books to genre fans. As with most of his books, this one can be easily had on Kindle. I've rarely seen it used, but I've seen a number of his other novels out there on dusty bookstore shelves. That's most of the fun in enjoying these old books, discovering that nothing is really new under the sun, and that your fears have already been experienced by others before you.