Your Daily NEL: New English Library

Cheap and Nasty Seventies Horror Pulp

Martin Jenson – An Odour Of Decay

Posted by demonik on September 15, 2007

Martin Jenson – An Odour Of Decay (Nel, Sept. 1975)


When three sisters are bequeathed an old, empty house they decide to move in and make it their home. Innocent of the hint of menace that lurks there …

The eldest sister, Belinda, experiences sudden strange attacks of epilepsy; Sarah, the youngest, develops a craving for sexual perversion; and Nan, normally a contented, rational person, is infected with a morbid obsession with death.

The only clue to these evil transformations lies in an ancient text which defines death as an extension of life – where the evil forces of a character are indestructible and return to infect the living.

Someone must save the sisters from the power of the dead – and save them before their own personalities are irrevocably destroyed.

“There’s a whiff of evil about. I can always tell”.

What An Odour Of Decay lacks in characterization it makes up for in atmosphere and the main players at least have enough quirks to differentiate one from the other. Pacey, too: the three sisters are poleaxed by the pong early on in the proceedings (none of that subtle Jamesian malarkey for Jenson) and each have been possessed by the spirit of Alistair Tait by the time you hit chapter two. Their ensuing personality disorders are increasingly unsettling; Belinda suffers spectacular epileptic fits, Nan takes on Tait’s heartfelt belief that life is an unnecessary encumbrance when there’s more fun to be had dead and meek, hippy-ish student Sarah gets into exploring the joys of sadism in a big way with a dis-likable hitchhiker and Nan’s hapless boyfriend Lance (“a pop-orientated, bellbottomed, pun-dropping oaf with long hair that did not suit him”) copping the worst of her excesses.

Sensible Belinda’s sensible bloke, Terence – a perma-tanned, grey, forty-something square – senses there’s something evil afoot and gets to the bottom of it all without too much trouble thanks to chance meetings with a boozy Priest and a dolly-bird swinger he meets on his pub-crawls. For my money. the real star – decrepit Alistair Tate apart – is the evil-reeking stench itself which kicks up something scandalous; sheer essence of rotting corpse or, as Mr. Douglas the caretaker would have it, “it was like dung and cats pee combined, with a touch of tear gas thrown in”.

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