Peter Hawkins – The Man With Mad Eyes (Nel, 1973)
He used his evil power for sensual satisfaction
Photo: Ron Alexander
Used properly, in the hands of trained and skillful practitioners, hypnotism can be a powerful force for good. In the hands of the maladroit or the wicked, it can lead only to evil.
John Wilmot, a young and not altogether innocent man, meets and is corrupted by the depraved Innes Farquharson. He is taught the mastery of hypnotism and the way he can use it to persuade women to obey his bizarre commands.
Initial success serves only to excite his hidden desires and bring them – like slime on a stagnant pool – slowly to the surface. After the first death, there can only be others.
A frightening new novel by the author of the best-selling “Daffodil Girls”.
Now there’s a blurb to live up/ down to!
Begins with a short prologue. Dr. Crosby relates a brief account of John Wilmot’s terrible crimes to to an unidentified party. As these culminated in the mutilation-murders of a Soho stripper, Swedish Au Pair and wannabe actress – two of whom he apparently indulged in carnal relations after they were dead – you settle back confidently anticipating a straightforward Jack the Ripper shocker. But this novel is ONE SLIPPERY CUSTOMER and nothing is as it seems.
Now Wilmot takes up his pen and leads us through the sob story of his life. He’s hardly got going before I’m wondering where to post this on the board. Having finished it I’m still at a loss. For all the “inside the mind of a psycho” trappings and vague similarities to Peeping Tom (on acid), the overall impression is My Secret Life in loon pants. Film it, and you’d have Carry On Caning! on your hands.
The flagellation fest kicks off at prep school. Dr. ‘Cissie’ Simmons treats Pilkington House as his private caning club, invading kindly Miss Chalmers class to set his charges impromptu history exams they’ve no hope of passing whenever he’s in the mood. Aside from his flogging fetish, Cissie encourages bullying, so the bigger boys carry on his antics with the smaller ones after lights out. All this beating and buggery drives John to a nervous breakdown and he’s sent to a farm to recuperate. Here he learns how to hypnotise chickens. He also discovers his own penchant for cruelty when given a lamb to care for. Cissie’s example wasn’t wasted on him.
His parents have him sent to a private tutor, Mr. Ashby, whose arthritis prevents him indulging in any hot swishing action – so he passes on the job to Wilmot.
Wilmot fortuitously lands a position on the local newspaper as a trainee photographer. He spends most of his time repelling the advances of Mr. James in the darkroom until that worthy is jailed in connection with a scandal that “caused a crisis in one of our local boys associations”.
The story now concentrates on Wilmot’s early failure with women (a series of Confessions … style near misses and ‘hilarious’ mix-ups) until he picks up randy Nurse Jayne Darling. By now he’s discovered that his parents keep a whip hidden in their bedroom and, having used it on himself, he’s eager to enlist a partner in S&M fun. Jayne is only too eager to comply (“I looked at those unspoiled hills, twin dimples winking as she tightened her muscles in uncertain anticipation. Mustn’t keep a lady waiting.”)
So far, we’ve had a load of arse (with loads more to come) but little mention of the hypnotist beyond the fact that our hero is fascinated by his book, The Magic Eye. When Wilmot learns that Innes Farquharson is giving a lecture at the local hall, he persuades his editor to let him cover the event for the Exbourne Independent. Farquharson demonstrates his astonishing powers and Wilmot decides then and there that he is going to become his pupil.
It’s been an amusing enough read but by page 40 (of 160) I’m itching for all that nasty stuff we read about in the blurb and the prologue to get going. At least now Farquharson’s shown we can expect the ghastly murders to begin.
Not until there’s less than twenty pages to go.
Instead, the bulk of the story is given over to Farquharson teaching Wilmot and a second novice, the beautiful Anita, the skills of his craft until both are pretty nifty practitioners. Wilmot uses his newly acquired expertise to become a famous glamour photographer for a Fleet Street heavyweight. This requires plenty of model shagging so fortunate for him that he’s got his perversions to fall back on when the going gets too samey.
Finally, FINALLY, we get a particularly appalling murder during some girl on girl action, but ….
I can’t help it. I really wanted to like The Man With Mad Eyes but as well written, original and often laugh-out-loud funny this book is, it just left me cold. Perhaps if it paid more attention to the horrors and less to stringing out a gargantuan red herring, I’d not have felt so disappointed.
But I won’t forget it in a hurry, either.
A saving grace – for those of us who enjoy such things – is that it doesn’t scrimp on the pop culture references: Christine Keeler selling her story to the News Of The World, the Manson Family, the rose-tinted “Brazil won the World Cup, but it wouldn’t have happened but for Banks’ diarrhoea” (God, we were at it even then!), “a pint of Worthington” – even a brief muse on Paul Tabori’s Dress & Undress (Nel, 1969).