Review Index


By GUY N. SMITH (New English Library; 1975)

This novel has the distinction of being one of the most widely criticized yet least read books of all time. For many commentators the title, it seems, is enough to sway their opinion of the book's contents, and in fairness THE SUCKING PIT does adequately sum up both the story and overall vibe. It's a trash-fest, in short, written by Guy N. Smith, one of the world's most viable and prolific practitioners of trashy fiction. I think it's safe to say that if you're partial to such fare (as I am) then you'll more than likely enjoy this book.

     As THE SUCKING PIT begins, several hounds meet their deaths in the titular pit, a bottomless bog located in an otherwise placid glade. Nearby the young Jenny Lawson pays a visit to her uncle Tom, a woodsman living in a dilapidated cottage. Upon arriving Jenny finds her uncle nearly dead, having suffered a fatal heart attack, but before expiring he alerts her to the existence of a black book that when found disgorges all manner of dark secrets involving Jenny's ancestry. She takes to putting the book's dictates into practice, and in so doing transforms into a murderous savage who among other things drinks the blood of dead animals and poses as a prostitute--one of the conditions of Jenny's new state, it seems, is sexual precociousness--in which guise she cuts off a man's penis with a penknife.

     That, keep in mind, is only the first 20 pages of a book that, at just 111 pages, is quite short yet extremely incident-packed. It's also consistently unpredictable, with new characters constantly being introduced and the narrative undergoing numerous unforeseeable permutations. The first of those permutations occurs when an imposing individual named Cornelius turns up at the cottage and informs Jenny she'll have to open the place to the bands of gypsies to whom she's related--and also dig up Tom's corpse and take it to the sucking pit, apparently its proper resting place.

     Several more pivotal characters enter the fray, including Jenny's inquisitive ex-boyfriend and randy landlord, and also the latter's unsatisfied spouse. More bloodletting, you can be sure, is in store, and plenty more sex as well. Shakespeare this isn't, obviously, but those who like their trashy fiction served straight and bloody will be sated.