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By A Customer
This review is from: Dead Babies (Paperback)Some 15 years before Bret Easton Ellis caused controversy with his book, "American Psycho", about loveless sex, hard drugs and bloody slaughter amoung the young and well-heeled, Martin Amis was covering similar ground with this early novel about a group of jaded, emotionally stunted nihilists who live in a castle inherited from rich, but otherwise despised parents, and spend their time indulging in hard drugs, porn and orgies - and the occassional philosophical debate - little realising that one of them is a deranged killer, who could snap at any minute.
At first the tone is one of black comedy as we meet the residents of Appleseed Rectory including Quentin, the urbane host, Andy, a casual misogynist, Giles, (Amis' alter-ego) entirely consumed by an obsession with teeth, Lucy, a good-natured whore and Keith, a frustrated, self-pitying dwarf and resident dogsbody. But after some American guests come to stay for the weekend, the novel starts to take on a darker tone as, one by one, the Appleseeder's begin to receive a series of disturbingly twisted letters which seem to pin-point their most deeply hidden fears. The notes are ominously signed "Johnny". Who in the house is "Johnny"? Amis keeps you guessing until the bloody end, and the way his identity is revealed is brilliantly effective and truely frightening.
Written in the mid-70's, "Dead Babies" reflects a time when the spaced out optimism of the swinging '60's was turning sour. The ideologies of love and peace had become to be seen as empty-headed mush - the very term "hippie" a term of abuse - and the time was right for the angry nihilism of punk, which was just around the corner. This atmosphere is reflected in the book and it hasn't mellowed with time. Apparantly there is set to be a film made of the book - after years of failed attempts. If faithful to the book, it's got all the makings of a rare darkly comic cult British movie.