First published back in November of 2014, ‘Punch’ was the second offering from Bristol-based pulp horror author Justin Park (aka J. R. Park).

DLS Synopsis:
After having done ten years in prison, fifty-year-old Martin Powell has once again returned to his hometown of Stanswick Sands.  As the bus pulls into the seaside town, Powell can see that very little has changed.  Stanswick Sands still has its beautiful long pier stretching out into the sea, the Maze of Mirrors is still bringing in paying customers, and the arcade still has all its brightly lit games creating a buzz of excitement.

Martin Powell has missed Stanswick Sands.  He’s endured so much pain and misery over the last ten years of his incarceration.  And now he’s finally back.  However, Martin needs to decide what he’s going to do.  His house is still here and no doubt worth a pretty penny these days.  As much as he loves Stanswick Sands, his initial reaction is to sell the house and move on.  After all, there’s still bound to be those left in the seaside town who remember Martin Powell.  At the time, the ‘Punch & Judy’ puppeteer’s arrest had been big news in the sleepy town.  And no one’s going to be pleased to see the return of a convicted paedophile.

However, now that he’s actually back in Stanswick Sands, Martin Powell finds that there’s a few things that are making him want to stay.  A charming and beautiful woman named Polly, who herself had only just moved to the area, was showing a lot of interest in Martin.  He’d also made a new friend on his way to the town.  And he’d always loved Stanswick Sands.  So maybe he could stay.  Maybe people wouldn’t recognise him after all those years had gone by.

But unfortunately for Martin the people of Stanswick Sands do still remember the man who put on those Punch & Judy shows.  The same man who was sent to prison for indecently assaulting Joanna King and Pippa Starr when they were just nine-years-old.  And when they realise that Martin Powell’s returned, the town’s hostility towards him quickly escalates.

All he wants to do is settle down and be left alone.  He’s already lost ten years of his life due to those two girls.  But still the persecution continues.  There’s only so much one man can take.  Only so much before he snaps.  And when he does, they’ll all pay.  Those that ruined his life.  Those that lied.  Those that humiliated him.  Those that beat him.  Those that looked the other way when they should have helped.  They’ll all pay.

That’s the way to do it!…

DLS Review:
As Justin Park mentions in his brief ‘About The Author’ paragraph at the end of the book - he was inspired to start writing horror fiction after reading work by pulp horror legend Guy N Smith.  And to be fair, the influence is immediately obvious.

Park’s offerings are of a similar length, pace and style.  ‘Punch’ weaves a tale of bitter misery and long-overdue revenge, with bucket loads of graphic violence and visceral gore.  Furthermore the characters are all typical Guy N Smith material.  Colourful and exaggerated and easily identifiable.

In fact, ‘Punch’ reads like a cross between Guy N Smith’s ‘Manitou Doll’ (1981) and ‘The Hangman’ (1994).  The influence and inspiration is clear, however Park has written a tale that reads so damn well that it absolutely no worse off because of its glaring roots.

And it really is written well.  This is pure unashamed pulp horror that reads like it’s been written in the eighties by Smith himself.  It’s fast-paced, uncompromising, and doesn’t pull any punches whatsoever.

Admittedly, for the first half of the novel Park is pretty much setting the scene, escalating the hostility towards Powell’s return, detailing the pain and misery of his past ten years spent in prison, and ultimately building the tension in the book.  By the time Powell eventually snaps (which to be fair is inevitable) you’re pretty much rooting for the beaten-down puppeteer.  Oh yes my friend, this is an absolute textbook eighties-style slasher!

Interestingly, there’s no easily identifiable protagonist or indeed a clear antagonist in the tale.  And that’s undoubtedly one of the main reasons why the tale is so utterly downbeat.  You almost want to side for Powell.  After all, he’s just serving up some long-overdue comeuppance.  But he just goes a tad too far (a bit of an understatement).  So who do you side with?  Who are you supposed to root for?  Powell?  The police?  Nineteen-year-olds Joanna King and Pippa Starr?  None of them?  Choice is yours.  But no matter who you choose (or don’t choose) the end result is the same.  Violence, bloodshed and utter mayhem.

I have to admit I’m an absolute sucker for violent pulp novels – particularly those penned by Guy N Smith.  And Justin Park has delivered a novel that fits perfectly on the shelf alongside all of these glorious paperbacks from the 70s, 80s and early 90s.

Park is a much-needed shot in the arm for gritty pulp horror.  And now I’m itching to pick up the next offering by the author.  Pulp horror is alive and well and once again causing all sorts of mayhem.

The novel runs for a total of 208 pages.

© DLS Reviews

Make a free website with Yola