First published back in August of 2001, British splatterpunk author Shaun Hutson’s novel ‘Compulsion’ took on a much more real-to-life subject matter than the majority of his previous offerings had, this time with a plot revolving around anti-social youths causing pain and misery to the local community.

DLS Synopsis:
In a bleak and rundown council estate in the heart of the UK, a gang of under-aged thugs are causing havoc and utter misery for the local community.  Led by the teenaged youth Carl Thompson, the eldest of the group, the anti-social gang hold the residents of the estate ransom with their wanton vandalism, constant thieving, spiteful harassment, not to mention the torture and murder of the nearby residents’ pets.

When Carl Thompson is prevented from stealing a handbag by watchful Donald Tanner, Thompson decides to follow the pensioner back to Shelby House Residential Home where Tanner is a resident.  And soon enough the hate campaign starts.

It begins with spats of graffiti and mindless vandalism on the property.  Then disturbing letters start to arrive, each one aimed at causing fear and distress to the residents of Shelby House.  The residential home’s owner, Veronica Porter (better known as Ronni), is at her wits end.  The police are powerless against these under-age thugs as they run riot through the streets.  

Together with the two members of staff that she employees at Shelby House, Alison Dean and Gordon Faulkner, Ronni begins to seriously worry about the safety of her elderly residents.  And then, as they all come together to celebrate the 46th wedding anniversary of Harry and Janice Holland – two of the long-standing residents at Shelby House, the campaign of hate upon the seemingly defenceless pensioners takes a dramatic turn for the worse.

Ex-war veteran, Jack Fuller, decides that he’s had enough.  He may be old and somewhat past his prime, but he’s still got plenty of fight left in him.  And he won’t just stand by and watch the whole of Shelby House be ripped apart by the few mindless thugs who are hell-bent on causing them all misery.

On a mission to stand up against the teenaged thugs that have embarked upon a vicious war against the staff and residents of Shelby House, Fuller begins to rally together the frightened pensioners – turning their fear to a controlled anger.  And when Thompson breaks into the residential home with his drug-dependent girlfriend, Donna Freeman, and the equally thuggish Graham Brown in tow, the senior citizens are ready for them.

Ronni suddenly finds herself in the middle of an all-out war between the vicious young thugs and the vigilante residents of Shelby House.  With her own father, James Connor, now in a coma following a horrific assault in his own home, Ronni’s desire for retribution against the mindless criminals that have been making everyone’s lives hell is on the brink of taking her down a path she never thought she would go.  A line is about to be crossed.  One that could very well change the course of her life.  But there’s only so much that someone can take before they fight back.  And fight back they will…


DLS Review:
Forget the supernatural, forget the demonic, forget mutant beasties and forget psychotic serial killers on the rampage – for the real hard-hitting fear factor you need look no further than the mindless thugs on our streets today.  Okay, so Hutson has pushed the whole ‘anti-social thugs out of control’ angle far into the realms of over-the-top exaggeration – but the ideas and messages behind it are still present and frighteningly relevant.

So what have we got?  Well, Hutson sets the scene early on by introducing the various idiotic members of Carl Thompson’s gang; from the very outset showing the reader what sort of vile thugs they are with some disturbingly true-to-life scenes of animal torture and utterly mindless anti-social behaviour.

With the tone of the tale now firmly set in concrete, Hutson introduces the small OAP community of Shelby House, and begins the snowballing descent into their horrendous victimisation.  The harassment starts off at quite a nasty level from the outset, with the graffiti and hate mail displaying the thugs’ level of contempt for these innocent pensioners.

The vicious and unrelenting torment keeps on escalating.  The lengths in which the gang members (under Thompson’s loose direction) are willing to go in order to make the lives of their victims an absolute misery gets worse by the day.  But it’s not until the night of Harry and Janice Holland’s celebrations that the whole situation turns towards a much more frightening level.

Hutson knows how to get the reader’s blood boiling.  He knows that what he’s dealing with here is all too real for a great amount of people these days.  So many people have suffered at the hands of anti-social thugs like those being depicted in the tale that the story instantly lights a flame of unsuppressible anger in the reader that is so very hard to quell.

And then, after a good third of the novel has created a bubbling pit of anger in the reader, Hutson really gets to work in pushing this to all new and terrifying lows.  Forget random acts of vandalism and harassment – the novel has descended into something far more disturbing.  And the elderly residents of Shelby House, along with the few members of staff there, are suddenly in very real danger.

And this is the exact moment when Hutson injects the vigilante revenge that thrusts the reader right into the raging heart of the tale; creating that pulse-racing feel-good-factor at finally seeing the tables suddenly being turned on these scum.  You can’t deny that it doesn’t bring out a feeling of beaming delight in you when seeing the vicious thugs responsible for all this misery finally getting their comeuppance.  And, with it being a Hutson novel, you can magnify that retribution to monumental proportions.  Oh yes, when the OAP’s hit back, they hit back hard!

At this point, with the ending in sight, if you go on to Shaun Hutson’s official website (www.shaunhutson.com) you can download an additional chapter that was cut from the novel due to the strong and graphic nature of the torture detailed in it.  Entitled ‘The Embroidery Scene’ this additional chapter slips nicely into the tale as the new Chapter number 110, and just furthers the extent of the pensioners satisfying revenge on the little bastards.

And all of a sudden we have a whole new set of questions being raised.  Has this vigilantism gone too far?  Have those that were once victims of these thugs now overstepped the boundaries of acceptable defence and justifiable retribution, from both a legal and a moral stance?  Still, it’s hard to say no.  And Hutson knows this.  And so he puts the character of Ronni facing this exact predicament.  And in doing so, he is able to address this increasingly tricky dilemma head-on (in pure Hutson style of course).

To be honest, revenge has never felt so sweet and so utterly justified.  The novel makes you feel empowered, makes you finally feel that there can be some justice in the world against such mindless thugs, and makes you feel energised and burning with a smug sense of satisfaction.

It’s near-impossible to put the novel down once you start it.  So much happens; each and every chapter flings the reader further and further into the escalating madness of the insane warfare between the thugs and the pensioners.  And the ending will leave you stunned and gasping for air.  An ending where Hutson doesn’t once cop out from the delivery of his message, and maintains the brutality of the whole situation, right up to the final sentence.

Very possibly one of his finest pieces of work to date.

The novel runs for a total of 497 pages (plus an additional 2 pages or so for ‘The Embroidery Scene’).

© DLS Reviews

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