First published back in February of 2016, ‘Wind-Up Toy’ formed the second full-length novel from British author David Owain Hughes.

DLS Synopsis:
Toni was just four weeks into the job when Simone’s call came in.  Although they weren’t paid for it, Toni found answering calls at the Samaritans rewarding enough for her to think about sticking with long-term.  She’d never been the type of person to get hung-up on material things, so working merely for the reward of helping others wasn’t a problem for her.  And the hours suited her university work.

Being reasonably new to the job Toni decided it was best to lie about her name.  It was a simple thing, but it was a lie that this particular caller saw through right away.  And Toni surprised herself more than anything when she suddenly disclosed her real name to the caller.  There was just something about him.  Something that made Toni want to be that little more open about herself, and not just there as an impartial listener.

Simone was clearly a pervert.  He was the first to admit it.  He was also deeply troubled.  He told Toni about his partner, an overpowering dominatrix named Chaos who regularly beat him.  But things couldn’t go on the way they were for Simone.  However, Chaos sure as hell wasn’t going to let him just up and leave her.  He was her pet, and she was his mistress.

But there was undoubtedly something about Simone that Toni was drawn to.  After the call she found that she couldn’t get him off her mind.  He’d said he was twenty-five and told Toni bits about his past.  About his mother who danced at the local strip club.  About his sister who he’d been sexually involved with at a young age.  Aspects of his upbringing which probably made him into the pervert he was now.

However what Toni didn’t know was how dangerous and utterly depraved this particular caller was.  Although he didn’t particularly relish the recent beatings that Chaos had dished out, he still liked his life.  He was still driven by his urges.  And he wasn’t about to stop pursuing those wonderful things that his sexual appetite cried out for.

But it was a risky business.  Behind closed doors he could get away with almost everything.  Within the confines of Chaos’ home they could act out whatever sexual fantasy they wanted to.  But out on the streets of Porthcawl it was far more dangerous.  Even with his manhood locked-up in a small chastity cage - one which only his mistress had the key for - he still had all those dominating urges.  He still needed a release.

The lively summertime vibe enjoyed within the seaside town of Porthcawl is about to be tarnished by a series of seemingly random disappearances.  Amongst the partygoers and carnival punters, a charming and handsome young man is lurking.  His eyes are on all the pretty girls.  He can’t help himself.  His urges control him.  And whilst he’s out on the streets, no one is safe…

DLS Review:
Sometimes you read a novel, and whilst knee-deep in some shamelessly perverse delights that the author has dreamt up, you think to yourself “what the hell must this author’s friends and family think after reading this”.  I have to admit, I absolutely love it when an author just goes “to hell with it” and allows all those nasty little thoughts and worrying daydreams to be unleashed across their work.  It’s one of the aspects I loved about Laymon’s work the most.  He didn’t care if someone judged him.  If someone wondered if these were indeed his own fantasies.  It’s a story.  A work of fiction.  Nothing more…we hope.

With David Owain Hughes’ latest offering, what you get is just that type of sleazy, lowest denominator filth that makes you feel dirty just reading it.  It’s unashamedly grubby from start to finish – with sex and carnal titillation constantly the main meal of the day.

The premise and set-up of the plot is a pretty straight forward affair.  You’ve got a guy with one hell of a messed-up childhood, who’s grown up to become a submissive slave to a dominatrix, but now wants to break free from her abusive role-playing.  In reaching out for some form of help, he ends up speaking to a young Samaritan volunteer from a local call centre.  Said pervert then gradually manages to build up a repertoire with the good-natured student on the other end of the phone, and whilst still getting up to various dirty deeds out on the streets of Porthcawl, slowly draws the Good Samaritan closer into his devious and dangerous world.

However it’s not the plot or the carefully knitted together storyline that make the novel the (oh so wrongfully) entertaining read that it is – it’s undoubtedly with the characters and the masterfully fleshed-out characterisation.  Simone - our messed-up principal character - is a lovingly-sculpted work of perverted art.  His personality is a complex latticework of opposing elements, which creates purposeful conflicts with the reader, as every now and again some human qualities can be glimpsed within the slime of his perversions.

Through a series of flashback Hughes paints a vivid backstory for the character, mapping out how Simone’s life was undeniably affected by his very ‘different’ upbringing.  It’s probably here that the novel ventures into some of the most unsettling areas – with underage sex and the like adding a particularly hard-to-swallow edge to the first half of the tale.

Move on to the here-and-now and we’re treated to a near constant showcase of one man’s unrelenting libido, the sleazy little things that make him tick, and the lengths he’ll go to appease these urges.  As you’ve undoubtedly guessed – things will get messy, not everyone that comes into his sights will be all that willing to participate in the things he wants to do, but ultimately Simone’s going to get his release – one way or the other.

One aspect which works particularly well with Hughes’ writing style (in this novel at least) is the shifting perspective combined with the repeating timeframe.  Quite often chapters will show the situation from one character’s perspective, to then repeat the same period of time in the proceeding chapter, only from another characters perspective (usually shifting between Simone and Toni).  This is a simple yet remarkably clever device to keep the reader fully engaged with the tale – with each chapter clearing up aspects from the preceding one, allowing the reader to reassess the oddities that didn’t make sense at the time.

Although from the outset it’s clear that Hughes has his sight on one goal – delivering extreme horror entertainment – there’s nevertheless still a wealth of cunning complexities and inter-woven layers going on within the novel.  Gratuitous violence is married with a subtly hidden agenda for a ‘normal’ life and a non-abuse relationship.  The novel’s awash with raw emotions; hurt, distrust and betrayal, and a seething anger that perfectly mirrors the goodness within the character of Toni.

It’s certainly not a novel for everyone.  It explores fantasies and desires that some will find just that tad too sordid.  Yes there’s that overriding ‘horror’ aspect – with plenty of brutal violence and visceral gore clinging to the heels of all the sleaze.   I dare say the majority of horror fans will use the splatterings of grisly horror to justify where the entertainment’s at in the tale.  But deep down you know there’s also the undeniable thrill of the sleaze.  Like a Graham Masterton erotic horror, Hughes delivers equal measures of grubby dirt and plentiful bloodshed.

If you’re easily offended or prefer to steer clear of blatant seediness then best you skip this one.  There’s more depravity and filth in these pages than a well-thumbed copy of Razzle.  But of course it’s how the slimy, sleazy ponderings so easily progress to acts of brutal and sadistic violence that’s ultimately where the novel gets you in the gut.

‘Wind-up Toy’ is a one-stop-shop for all things lewd and twisted.  It pushes the boundaries of taste, until we’re standing ankle deep in blood and filth and wondering what the hell just happened.

Gut-churningly depraved fun from start to finish.  You’ll love it!

The novel runs for a total of 234 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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