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THE WILD WHITE WITCH
By PETER STAFFORD (Zebra; 1973/74)

The idea of spicing the MANDINGO-inspired slavesploitation genre with supernatural eroticism definitely has promise, but this 1973 attempt is uninspiring and (despite an extremely scant 148 page count) quite dull.

     The setting is a Jamaican plantation in the early 1800s, owned by the aristocratic uncle of the novel’s protagonist Jeremy. The latter is a young Scot who’s been invited to take his uncle’s place. Upon arriving at the plantation Jeremy is shocked at the exploitation of the black slaves working the fields, in particular a brutal whipping he witnesses (but does nothing to stop). He also suffers from horrific nightmares and becomes enraptured by his uncle’s seductive ex Melissa, with whom Jeremy begins a torrid love affair. Competing for his affection is a young slave named Oriana, who warns Jeremy that Melissa is actually a (gasp) witch! He eventually takes on Melissa, and in the process sets off a full-blown slave revolt.

     The prose is uniformly stiff and mannered in the manner of much (so called) historical fiction. That extends to the sex scenes, which are explicit but thoroughly unarousing, being related, like much of the rest of the book, in clunky paragraphs totally lacking in energy or forward momentum. It doesn’t help that the narrative is annoyingly repetitive (with numerous descriptions of Jeremy witnessing slaves being mistreated and/or sneaking off to have sex) to the point that I kept wondering if I was rereading earlier parts of the book.

     In its paperback edition this was an early publication of the notorious Zebra Books, and quality-wise is pretty representative of their output. The most interesting thing about the book are its final pages, featuring brief descriptions of various sex-themed publications from Pinnacle Books (an imprint of Zebra’s parent company Kensington Publishing) with titles like HOW TO MARRY A MARRIED MAN (“for the healthy and attractive woman who wants to get married or remarried to a man who is already committed”), HOW TO MAKE IT 365 DAYS A YEAR, THE MISTRESS BOOK (“A complete how-to book for the young beginner as well as the older and more accomplished womanizer”) and THE JOY OF HOOKING. All those books, I believe, sound better than this one. 

     

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