Review Index


By KEITH SEWARD (Savoy Books; 2008)

A well-written overview of the Savoy published Lord Horror novels by David Britton, HORROR PANEGYRIC deserves credit simply for the fact that it’s currently the only book-lengthy study of these important works in existence. As such it admittedly leaves much to be desired, for reasons I’ll get to in a minute.

     First, though, the good stuff: author Keith Seward, an art critic and William Burroughs scholar, displays a real understanding of and appreciation for these widely maligned and misunderstood books. Unapologetically profane, gory and politically incorrect, yet also staunchly intellectual and artistic, LORD HORROR, MOTHERFUCKERS and BAPTISED IN THE BLOOD OF MILLIONS (the subsequent Lord Horror novels LA SQUAB and INVICTUS HORROR had yet to be written when HORROR PANEGYRIC was published) are set in an alternate universe ruled by Nazis and headlined by the British broadcaster Lord Horror. Seward’s analyses are unerringly lively and well-informed, with prose that strikes a good balance between fan-boyish enthusiasm and scholarly analysis. His affection for the books, particularly MOTHERFUCKERS (which Seward equates with the novels of Samuel Beckett and the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud), is evident throughout, and he makes a compelling case as to why they deserve a much greater reception than they’ve gotten thus far.

     But again, I mentioned upfront that HORROR PANEGYRIC is far from perfect. Quite simply: it’s too short. Seward’s overview only runs 37 pages of widely spaced prose, with the remainder of the book filed out with lengthy excerpts from the books under discussion. There’s little in the way of plot summaries or character sketches; of the three books only MOTHERFUCKERS is discussed in any depth, with Seward’s entry on LORD HORROR more concerned with its censorship problems than its content, while BAPTISED IN THE BLOOD OF MILLIONS gets next-to no coverage outside an admiring description of a recurring image in its text, an example of which is included in the excerpts.

     Of those excerpts, the LORD HORROR passages are the most vital (and not merely because that book is currently all-but impossible to find). Describing Lord Horror’s massacre of a gang of Jewish “Frogmen,” one of whom Horror literally devours in what he views as the opening salvo of a new “Final Solution,” it perfectly encapsulates the inscrutable mix of manic invention, historical speculation and sheer outrage that powers these novels, and stands as a vital piece of surreal prose in its own right.