First Edition (Ophelia Press)

Savoy Edition

Loompanics Edition

Centipede Press Edition

First published back in 1970, British author Charles Platt’s infamous erotic pulp sci-fi novel ‘The Gas’ offered up an outlandish tale of sexual perversion, violence, and spiralling insanity.

The book was described by the author as “slapstick sadomasochism” and that it was an attempt to exorcise his own British inhibitions before he finally gave up on his homeland and emigrated to the US.

The novel was first published by Ophelia Press (an imprint of Maurice Girodias’ Olympia Press) with a plain red and inconspicuous cover. The novel was later reprinted in 1980 by Savoy Books sporting the cartoonish illustration of the big-breasted woman (the cover that is perhaps most associated with the book). 

However, not long after its publication, in November of 1980 the Savoy offices along with a number of retail outlets were raided by the Manchester police and thousands of pounds of Savoy’s stock was seized under the direction of the UK Director of Public Prosecutions. The contents of ‘The Gas’ (along with other Savoy titles) were then used in court to have the publisher put behind bars for three months under the Obscene Publications Act.

Fifteen years later, in 1995 Loompanics Unlimited reprinted the book (for the US market) with again a purposefully plain and inoffensive sleeve on the cover, which when removed revealed an incredibly graphic black & white illustration depicting a wildly exaggerated orgy-esque cartoon image.

In October of 2022, the novel was re-released by Centipede Press as Book #7 of their ‘Vintage Horrors’ series. This beautifully presented collector’s edition hardback was limited to just 300 numbered copies. The hardback included a new introduction by horror author Ramsey Campbell as well as a reprint of Philip José Farmer’s foreword (see below), along with new artwork by Ben Baldwin. Each book was also signed by Charles Platt, Ben Baldwin and Ramsey Campbell.

DLS Synopsis:
Vincent knew the situation was bad as soon as the explosion happened. In fact, he was pretty sure he was partly responsible for the accident. Making matters worse, the explosion had released a strange liquid from the facility’s underground storage tank. This liquid had immediately vaporised before dispersing into a yellow gas.

Vincent knew the gas wasn’t poisonous, or in any way akin to any type of germ warfare weaponry. Instead, it’s biological effect was to stimulate the production of sex hormones in those who came into contact with it. The secondary effect of the gas was to relax conscious thought processes and mental controls. The result of this that the gas made people sexually aroused and a lot less inhibited. A powerful combination.

Knowing the effects of the gas would be incredibly strong, Vincent had gotten away as quick as he could, taking a car from outside the facility and speeding off in the direction of London.

Vincent’s plan was simple. He’d collect his family from their home in London, then head up to Scotland to escape the reaches of the sex gas. He’d already called his wife, Judith, telling her to pack a load of hormone shots, some cans of petrol, and as much cash as they could pull together at such short notice. Her and their teenaged kids – Annette and Malcolm – were now just waiting for him to arrive.

However, the journey to London was more treacherous than even Vincent could have envisaged. It wasn’t long before the first effects of the yellow gas took hold. Even with Vincent racing through the country lanes, he could feel his sex drive increasing by the minute.

A young blonde hitchhiker named Cathy, who Vincent picked up from the side of the road, was evidence to the effects of the gas. They’d not gone far before Vincent was pulling the car over and the pair of them were ripping each other’s clothes off. Vincent not holding back in thrusting his cock inside the busty young girl. The problem was this was only the very beginning. The effects of the gas would only worsen.

Furthermore, the inhibitions being lowered by the yellow gas were not solely sexual. Inherent violence had also started to come to the surface. It soon became apparent that the gas was either an aphrodisiac or, if the sex drive was sublimated, the gas instead worked as an agent to release aggression. The end result being a sudden leaning towards maniacal violence.

Great Britian was about to be plunged into a nightmare of unrestrained perversion, rampant sex, and sadistic violence. The streets of the UK will soon be an orgy of unrelenting, wild fornication mixed with the cloying stench of blood, piss and tears.

Welcome to the perverted hell that is modern-day Britain…

DLS Review:
Deservedly or not, ‘The Gas’ has become one of those infamous novels over the years since its original publication. Indeed, its deliberate blend of hardcore pornography, coupled with a constant escalation of over-the-top extreme violence, tied into a near-apocalyptic sci-fi plot, was easily enough to put the novel onto the radar of many genre readers.

I guess one of the first things I should say about the book is that it’s every bit as extreme and outrageously over-the-top as you’ve probably heard it to be. The novel basically reads like a cross between James Herbert’s ‘The Fog’ (1975) and Pasolini’s film adaptation of ‘Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom’ (1975). In fact, the sex and perversion exhibited in Salò is a pretty good marker for how far Platt pushes the levels of perversion in his book. Not quite plummeting to the filthy gutters of Samuel R Delany’s ‘Hogg’ (1995), but fuck, it’s not all that far off it at times!

Now I’m not one to embrace the use of “trigger warnings”, which seem to be of all the rage at the moment. However, for this novel I think it’s probably necessary. If you’re likely to find repeated (and I really, fucking mean repeated) depictions of incestual paedophilia a particularly difficult prospect to get through, then you may want to seriously consider giving this novel a wide berth. 

You see, Platt has written the vast majority of the novel with a rabid drive towards sexualising everything and everyone. So, when Vincent’s teenaged kids (his thirteen-year-old daughter and fourteen-year-old son) are brought into the whole equation, well fuck does it all start getting that much harder to swallow.

Furthermore, we’re not just talking about some mediocre suggestions of incestual copulation. Not by a long shot. We’re talking scene after scene of hardcore sex between family members, which as the novel progresses, so the debauchery plummets further, with episodes of bestiality, coprophilia, urolagnia, and good old vomit play.

Throughout this Platt has this annoying habit of constantly referring to the characters’ genitals as their “prick” or “cunt”. It’s all very 1970’s sleazy porn and feels almost schoolboy playground like in its delivery. Although that’s not to say Platt hasn’t got his tongue firmly in his cheek throughout the entirety of the novel. Honestly, despite the ludicrously over-the-top pornography involved, the novel is nevertheless all about pushing the boundaries in an almost exaggerated comic book way.

Yes, at times you’ll likely feel appalled by the wanton displays of incest and child sex. However, Platt has purposely depicted these scenes with outrageous exaggeration. The end result is something that doesn’t feel dark or evil, but instead is delivered as a bold, brutish and belligerent piece of violent pornographic social satire.

You are fucking warned!

Additional Material:
Foreword by Philip José Farmer – 5 Pages
The aforementioned Savoy edition of the book includes a foreword by US author Philip José Farmer, providing an overview of what’s lurking behind Charles Platt’s novel, the ideas, the suggestions, and how it’s far more than just a piece of violent pornography. 

Farmer also discuss the categorisation of the novel, putting it firmly within the realms of social satire. He observes how in the novel, Charles has attempted to satirize the connection between sex and violence from the perspective of our Western society. He the ponders about Charles purposefully pointing fun at certain societal types. It’s an incredibly thorough dissection of the novel, suggesting there’s far more under the bonnet of the book than might first be assumed.

The novel including the foreword runs for a total of 166 pages.

© DLS Reviews


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