First published back in October of 1988, British splatterpunk author Shaun Hutson’s novel ‘Assassin’ followed on from a long line of similarly graphic and wildly over-the-top horror novels.
In the East End of London, a stairwell collapses in a new development block designed to house up to three thousand people. Despite plenty of warnings from the residents prior to the tragic structural oversight, nothing was done, and now five people have lost their lives under the piles of fallen rubble.
Following the stairwell collapse in the Langeley Towers, builders quickly move in, pulling down the shattered remains of the structure, and ripping up the huge piles of rubble. And whilst the mechanical diggers go to work, something is stirring from underneath the smashed concrete flooring. Something that should have been long dead by now.
Meanwhile, twenty-five –year-old Jonathan Crawford is sitting on trial for the horrific slaughter of the Donaldson family. Upon questioning the utterly remorseless defendant, the young killer proudly declares his reasoning for such a heinous crime. The family’s wealth was the catalyst for their death. A wealth which Crawford finds more than vulgar. He believes it is an offense to humanity. And so he and his followers have started a class war against the rich and powerful. And he promises that the Donaldson’s are just the beginning.
Elsewhere in London and powerful gangster boss Frank Harrison is enjoying a meal with his glamorous twenty-three-year-old girlfriend Tina Richardson. Harrison’s personal bodyguards, the brothers Ray and James Carter, are watching in a car outside the restaurant, when two heavily armed assailants arrive and unleash all hell. Although Harrison is completely taken by surprise by the sudden attack, and his bodyguards are heavily out gunned, the gang boss and his girlfriend nevertheless manage to escape the violent incident with their lives. James Carter is not as lucky.
Detective Sergeant Vic Riley is given the task to get to the bottom of this sudden spat of inner-city gang violence. But Frank Harrison has his own ideas. It’s been more than two years since anyone caused the powerful gang boss or his criminal organisation any trouble. And Harrison wants to know who’s responsible.
Meanwhile, Crawford’s willing disciples are gathering to reassess their mission. With their leader, Crawford, currently sitting on trial for the Donaldson murders, Michael Grant speaks out to the other followers of Crawford’s cause. Together with Phillip Walton, Maria Chalfont, Mark Paxton, Paul Gardner and Jennifer Thomas, these remaining fighters plot out their next mission. Upon hearing the breaking news of Crawford’s lifetime incarceration, the guerrilla fighters start the wheels in motion for their next targets in their murderous campaign against the rich.
Elsewhere in London, and Harrison is finding that one by one his men are being targeted and killed off. Convinced that a rival gang is behind the recent attacks on his organisation, Harrison takes drastic action. No one attacks his organisation without finding themselves on the receiving end of some pretty hard-hitting consequences. Furthermore, Harrison is a man who likes to act first and asks questions later. And he decides that now is not the time for talking.
But the powerful gang boss is looking in all the wrong places. The force that is hunting him and his men down is more hideous and powerful than any of the criminals in his employment or any other organisation. And those that are after his blood will stop at nothing to get their revenge on the man who took everything from them. The assassins are out there, and at long last they’re closing in...
The novel starts out like a gritty gang-warfare thriller ala ‘Deadhead’ (1993), with the underbelly of London’s criminal society all of a sudden dropping like flies due to an (as of yet) undisclosed killer at large on the city’s streets. Intermingled with Frank Harrison’s woes and constantly rising temper, we have a bunch of brain-washed brats who have decided to embark upon a vicious class war against the rich and powerful inhabitants of London.
Characterisation is the usual collection of exaggerated and colourful characters that we have come to expect from a Hutson novel. Indeed, the character of Jonathan Crawford comes across as a psychotic cross between the likes of Pete Merrick from Guy N Smith’s ‘Crabs: The Human Sacrifice’ (1988) and that of a younger Charles Manson. And intermingled with the inbred madness with everyone at each other throats, we have Harrison’s bodyguard, Ray Carter, dicing-with-death by fooling around with the gang boss’s girlfriend, Tina, behind the big man’s back. Indeed, Carter quickly becomes somewhat of a focal character throughout the length of the novel.
Along with a veritable litany of nasty torture scenes and a near constant stream of violence and bloodshed, Hutson goes for another one of his purposefully memorable gross-out-scenes, this time in the form of a little zombie fellatio involving the prostitute, Nikki Jones, and an ejaculation of rancid maggots down her throat. Nice work!
The novel is pure, unadulterated splatterpunk entertainment from start to finish. It has to be said that there’s never a dull moment in the tale. Each short chapter throws in more over-the-top mayhem, with the violence in London just escalating by the minute. Tina Richardson’s eventual abduction by the psychotic class war guerrillas further helps to crank up the violence-breeds-violence action, making for a tense and exciting battlefield where no one really knows who’s behind what.
And then Hutson unveils his glorious undead assassins and the party really gets going. Suddenly we have more sides fighting with each other than you can shake a stick at. It’s dog-eat-dog violence, with the vengeful rotting assassins holding by far the best hand of cards.
The action just keeps on escalating until the eventual showdown, with a couple of unsurprising twists thrown in for good measure. But you really can’t fault the novel. Hutson clearly set out to create a thoroughly entertaining thriller-cum-horror novel, with enough explosive action throughout the novel to propel it along with adrenaline alone. And hats off to the man, he’s certainly achieved this...and then some.
Undoubtedly one of his best novel’s to date, if you like much of Hutson’s other work, then this is beyond a must – it’s absolutely essential reading.
The novel runs for a total of 320 pages.
© DLS Reviews