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Savoy Books 
Lord Horror (OUT OF PRINT)

David Britton


1989 (though book carries 1990 publication date)

217mm x 142mm

Hard covers

First publication

192pp

ISBN 0 86130 072 6

Lord Horror

 
"Lord Horror is to fascism what Hannibal Lecter is to serial killers."

The disinterring of PJ Proby from 1984 onwards did not produce the character we wanted who was capable of connecting the various emergent tentacles of Savoy: art/literature, trash comics, records. That role fell to Lord Horror, ubiquitous in space and time, whose debut was as vocalist on Savoy's version of New Order's Blue Monday. He later appeared in his own comic and as lead vocalist on two other Savoy covers, Iggy Pop's Raw Power and The Cramps's Garbageman. Lord Horror passed muster, proving to be the most contentious in Savoy's pantheon of stars. The greatest indicator that he was the right character for our time was the level of reaction he provoked from the authorities, which led to David Britton's second term of imprisonment in 1993. The novel—the first horror genre 'Auschwitz' book—was begun in 1985. Edited by Michael Butterworth (who also contributed to the text), it became the epicentre of the Lord Horror mythos. It was first circulated in 1989 in manuscript form under the pseudonym Robert France, and turned down by every major British publisher. Lord Horror was seized by police in 1989 almost immediately after review copies were sent out. It was found obscene by a Manchester magistrate in August 1991 and became the first novel since Last Exit to Brooklyn (prosecuted in 1968) to be banned in an English court. Stipendiary Magistrate Derrick Fairclough ordered the remaining print run to be destroyed. The ban was lifted at the Appeal Courts in July 1992 after international freedom group Article 19 brought the case to the attention of Geoffrey Robertson QC, who fought the case for Savoy.

Cover design by Harry Douthwaite.


Savoy note: David Britton's Lord Horror project is a genuinely multimedia creation, encompassing not only books but comics, records, spoken word recordings and (soon) film. We encourage you to explore the other areas of this site relating to the English Lord. Apart from the Czech translation of the book, the only currently available version of the novel is the Lord Horror CD, a reading by PJ Proby.

In answer to frequent queries, Savoy currently has no plans to reprint the book.

David Britton's sequels to Lord Horror are Motherfuckers: The Auschwitz Of Oz and Baptised in the Blood of Millions.


 
Lord Horror map
The Lord Horror book map

A diagrammatic display (not lacking in hubris) of the novel's influences, inspirations, predecessors and corresponding texts.


 

Reviews

"Dense, intellectual horror."

i-D MAGAZINE

 

"Undaunted, bloodied but unbowed, this is Britton and Butterworth's long awaited new offensive against the establishment."

COLD TONNAGE BOOK CATALOGUE

 

"Lord Horror makes most horror fiction look tame and safe. Awesomely grotesque, unstoppably imaginative, hideously funny, it's a truly dangerous book."

RAMSEY CAMPBELL

 

"I think that, as an exercise in Surrealism, Lord Horror compares with some of the best work that came out of France and Germany between the wars, for example Georges Bataille. The book has some brilliantly funny passages, particularly about Old Shatterhand. Britton is undoubtedly brilliant, but when I came to the bit about Horror hollowing out a Jewess's foot and putting it over his penis, I started skipping. With the best will in the world, I couldn't give his brilliant passages the attention they deserve because I kept being put off by this note of violence and sadism. No doubt it is because I belong to an older generation that is still basically a bit Victorian."

COLIN WILSON

 

"As intoxicants go, this is bathtub gin toughened up with a strong dose of absolute alcohol—never mind the bouquet, just try to stop your head falling off... It belongs right up there on the top shelf with all the other great works of combatively offensive literature which you would not like your wives and servants to read."

BRIAN STABLEFORD, The New York Review of Science Fiction

 

"Recognisable stylistically as a mutant product of the mutually brained-out Britton/Butterworth synergy... Recall the Sunday Times 'Hitler Diaries'?—a non-too meticulous splicing of faction, a scam, a botched job, whereas there are entire sections of Lord Horror where the interface between real and invention is impossible to trace; the Schopenhauer Manchester connection, the Nietzsche versus boxing kangaroo crossover—the joins are near seamless. The dialogues on literature and art are brilliant constructions, just as the surreal absurdist bits are grotesquely effective, and the bad taste badder than bad. As a piece of sustained imagination it's the most bizarrely impressive thing Savoy has produced. Individual vignettes, like the tale of Lord Horror's lost tin soldiers, the formulation of wino's 'parafinese' (a language of grunts and slurs), and the fecund entombment of Lord Horror in a shit-shell are hypnotically, beautifully delivered—even those that never made it into the final hardback, and would still work as well sliced off into short stories."

ANDREW DARLINGTON, The Small Hours Magazine

 

"Violent, surreal, scatological, extreme."

THE FACE

 

"Lord Horror is one of the most authoritative indictments of the Holocaust and our moral responsibility for it... Britton and Butterworth are clearly working in the tradition of Hogarth, Swift, Dickens and others who were determined to examine the unpalatable realities of our lives... They wish to shock us out of any self-congratulation we might be feeling and force us to examine our own attitudes and those we accept in our society... Lord Horror confronts hypocrisy, violence, racialism, sexism, prejudice in all its hideous modern forms—ill-formed fears of homosexuals, people of colour and the jobless classes. Everything Lord Horror attacks is representative of that evil which the English pride themselves on defeating... By forcing us to confront the obscenities in our own society we are made to consider our own attitudes, perhaps even our own complicity."

MICHAEL MOORCOCK, Court Testimonial

 

"The crazy obscenity law needs reforming. Any new non-Tory government could do worse than dust off the Williams Report."

JOLYON JENKINS, New Statesman and Society
(After Lord Horror was found obscene in 1991)

 

"Lord Horror is the projected image of insane evil. The fact that satire and unrestrained 'bad taste' are among the methods of the canon might confuse some, but that is hardly a reason for censorship. One might note that the satire ceases in Lord Horror: Hard Core Horror No. 5', where the text blocks are intentionally left blank over Auschwitzean scenes. It is ironical that these publications should be banned, while the Bible of anti-Semitism—Mein Kampf—is not."

BARRINGTON J BAYLEY, Court Testimonial

 

"Decadent, disgusting and delightful; I stand amazed at its monstrous cryptaesthetic ambience. Lord Horror is the rampant offspring of our continuing sleep of reason. I'm sure we deserve all we get."

COLIN GREENLAND

 

"I think we've been a bit too nice. If there is to be a paperback edition of Lord Horror, I, for one, am up for a riot in Golders Green or Stamford Hill if any rogue rabbi wants to organise it."

JULIE BURCHILL, The Spectator

 

"Lord Horror is one of the most carefully constructed works emanating from contemporary alternative British literature."

TONY WILLIAMS (Associate Professor: Cinema Studies, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale)

 

"I find the Lord Horror book grossly racist. I would not wish to defend it. This is precisely the kind of book we should be banning"

MICHAEL WINNER,
'Death Wish' film director and guardian of Public Morals,
discussing censorship on Radio 4

 

"Lord Horror is a book that outrages current taboos on racism: taboos so strangulating that no one may transgress them... American Psycho outrages no contemporary taboos." *

ELIZABETH YOUNG, New Statesman and Society

*See the Private Eye correspondence below which relates to these comments.

 

"If this one work is banned for anti-Semitism one would have to consider outlawing anti-Semitic passages from great works of English literature, including Shakespeare, Dickens, Maugham, Eliot, Greene and Waugh... It is particularly ironic that a book dealing with the totalitarian notions of a fictional character could be destroyed by police, without benefit of a jury trial. That one magistrate should be empowered to determine what everyone in Britain may or may not read is quite unacceptable."

FRANCES D'SOUZA,
ARTICLE 19 (International Centre Against Censorship)
after Lord Horror was found obscene

 

"Lord Horror is a genuine work of imagination."

GEOFFREY ROBERTSON QC, The Guardian

 

"Reads like a mélange of Ian Fleming, William Burroughs and Michael Moorcock."

ROGER DOBSON, Antiquarian Book Review Monthly

 

"The true meaning of obscenity is that a book or comic is obscene if and only if it depraves or corrupts a significant proportion of likely readers. Lord Horror is not obscene under that definition... We give this book no accolade, we give it no approval."

JUDGE GERARD HUMPHRIES, QC
(Appeal Judge, ruling Lord Horror not obscene)

 

"As a phantasmagoric satire it is both vivid and original... Lord Horror belongs to a tradition of imaginative fiction which extends from the Decadent and Symbolist Movement of the 1890s through Surrealist fiction to the kind of avant garde science fiction featured in the magazine New Worlds when it was edited by Michael Moorcock."

BRIAN STABLEFORD, Court Testimonial

 

"I found neither nasty nonsense nor pornography, but the blackest, if not bleakest, of comedies, written firmly in the Swiftian tradition... Ultraviolent, blasphemous, xenophobic, utterly lacking in sympathetic characters and so downright crazed as to make Surrealism look like photojournalism, Lord Horror indulged in what so-called 'right-thinking' people consider the most grievous of sins: to turn all notions of moral fiction on their head...and then laugh."

DOUGLAS E WINTER, Cemetery Dance

 

"This is David Britton's Pilgrim's Progress—or at least his Childermass... Lord Horror is an encapsulation of every major train of thought and belief that has made the 20th Century the horror we see today... David Britton does not point his finger and say, 'Those are the guilty ones'. He says, 'Yes, we are all guilty', and it is these accusations of complicity which hit the nerve."

DAVID MITCHELL, Rapid Eye

 

"Whether David Britton's new black comedy Lord Horror constitutes a criminal act or not is a moot point. There certainly appears to be a satirical attack here, aimed at the people who have raided and prosecuted his Savoy Books in the past (Chief Constable James Anderton and the Greater Manchester Police). In a world where ageing ayatollahs hand down death sentences on persons who commit scathing satirical attacks on their persons, I feel sure the object of this attack will also try to define this book as criminal. Because it is shocking, I was alternately appalled and baffled but finally, although I hated the book, I couldn't forget it. It had hold of my mind in a most unpleasant way.

It is pointless to attempt to summarise the story, because there is none. There is, however, some immensely effective narrative interspersed with obscure and perhaps meaningless monologues concerning the proper assessment of Twentieth Century art. There are also descriptions of Lord Horror's murderous razor-wielding attacks on Jews which are told with such cold relish it would be difficult to believe that the author is not a rabid anti-Semite himself—except that such a view cannot fit with other passages in the book. The overall effect is unsettling in an extreme.

In this book, apart from the strangeness already mentioned, a crew of 'nigger androids' and other characters with impossible symbolic names navigate a steam-powered airship around the world questing for Adolf Hitler. But this is not your usual Hitler. Here, he is metamorphic and multi-pseudonymed, and beset by a self-aware, rebellious, mutant and rapidly elephantizing penis. All these, plus some really bizarre things, inhabit the literary equivalent of a Daliesque rendering of an Hieronymous Bosch damnation landscape. Surrender several evenings to Lord Horror, and learn something about yourself. I cannot guarantee you'll enjoy it—I didn't—but learning about yourself is not necessarily pleasant. In this case, however, it is necessary.

This is why it is unsettling. It widens your experience in a way you might never have otherwise have had access to. To some this challenging-to-think can seem obscene. They might consider the publishing of this book a crime. If it is a crime to think then David Britton is guilty."

PAUL BRAZIER, Interzone

 

"The word 'novel' seems both pejorative and inadequate when applied to David Britton's Lord Horror . Epiphany seems better to convey its visionary grasp of formal and narrative discourse; perhaps immediate antecedents might include Pynchon's ferocious Gravity's Rainbow and Swift's scabrous, nominal Modest Proposal.

Predictably, Britton's subject matter (anti-Semitism, Hitler and, more tangentially, the Holocaust), additionally overlaid with a highly personalised and visceral surrealism and a lack of any sanitising, distancing moral viewpoint, provoked a near-total literary ostracision. This societal notion that certain subjects are dramatically untouchable provides, of course, an easy licence for literature to falter into mere polemic rather than engaging truly contentious issues. It's very condescending, too, as if the groups or subjects specified are both sanctified and excluded by virtue of their stigmata. Fortunately, Britton sidesteps such facile assumptions, illustrating the universality and irrationality of prejudice through the mouthpiece of a jaded, psychopathic patriot (with a small 'p') who chooses to identify his inadequacies with convenient scapegoats.

Accusations of impenetrability and complexity don't really address Britton's seriousness of purpose. There are stylistic echoes, deliberate or otherwise (cf: Britton's satirical homage to Orwell's Burmese Days), but what finally emerges is wholly new; a novel whose sheer visionary breadth is astounding. A Schopenhauerian subtext subtly informs the numerous scattered monographs on monochromatic illustration; the noumenal/phenomenal dichotomy, perhaps most vividly realised in Britton's figure of Hitler. Schopenhauer's dictum 'The world is my idea' here becomes literally realised. The dead weight of Hitler's continuing effect upon history (as opposed to the man himself) finds visceral but memorable expression as a constantly expanding (and finally world-proportioned) carnivorous penis, the anthropomorphosized myth of Hitler merging and finally disconnecting itself from the human actuality.

Britton's dense but rapid-fire narrative is propelled by a relentless acceleration that establishes a welcome literary complicity with the scabrous visual imagery of, say, Jan Svankmajer. Like Britton's, Svankmajer's comedy is black, visceral, pessimistic; life really is suffering, the conflict of countless wills striving to exist at the expense of each other. Will may be temporarily denied by the intellect, but ultimately the only real good is extinction. Lord Horror's imperfect understanding and articulation of this subtext leads him to offer extinction only to others. Finally he accepts it as a personal inevitability.

Whew! Don't worry. Lord Horror may be a complex vision, but it reads like a dream. Buy this book. If you can."

COLIN DE SUINN, Skeleton Crew


Private Eye Correspondence

In her April 1991 article Psycho Killers for the New Statesman (a year before the Lord Horror trial), Elizabeth Young called Lord Horror "...a book that outrages current taboos on racism: taboos so strangulating that no one may transgress them." We interpreted these words as being penetrative and insightful and often quoted them in our promotional literature. Elizabeth, we thought for years, was one of those rare 'establishment' figures who could recognise in our much misinterpreted novel a genuine work of the imagination.

Her 1997 letter to Private Eye below, where she cited Lord Horror in her defence of her review of A M Homes' controversial novel about a paedophile, scotched this!

We print our response to her letter, also the response of the writer R K Meadley. Neither made Private Eye's Letters page.

 

Sir,

Your Bookworm has made a number of assumptions about me from my review of The End of Alice which I would like to correct. Firstly, the books editor of the Independent did not ask me to review A M Homes' novel. I approached him on the subject.

Nowhere in the review do I use the word 'art'; nor do I 'ecstatically commend... splayed limbs and bodily fluids'. Instead I refer to 'abominable crimes' and 'utter agony'. I do not find violence, fictional or otherwise, to be exciting or erotic.

Nor do I indiscriminately defend any and all transgressive writings. I endorsed American Psycho, a novel in which all the killings are delusions, but have frequently declined the opportunity to comment on far more sensational books—David Britton's Lord Horror, for example, or Peter Sotos' Tool—novels so indefensible that they did not merit any discussion.

I have no difficulty in differentiating between good and evil or between fact and fantasy. Having experienced sexual abuse and other setbacks in childhood I am extremely aware of the vast gap between real life and fiction. My attitude towards convicted murderers and molesters is not liberal.

Books themselves have not caused me pain but helped me to understand it. Thus I will continue to oppose any censorship of the imagination. Certainly I am drawn to the gothic but this is surely a matter for my NHS psychiatrist, not some ignorant amateur who feels entitled to castigate me as morally incontinent on the basis of a piece that was concerned solely with textual analysis.

Yours sincerely,

Elizabeth Young,
London W10

 

 

Sir,

Does Elizabeth Young ( Subject to review, Eye 938 ) have any personal connection with the author or publisher of The End of Alice? Her extraordinary contention that this book is somehow categorically acceptable, while other difficult books—she names David Britton's Lord Horror and Peter Sotos' Tool—- are "indefensible" beyond "any discussion", reminds me of the recent Formula One fiasco. Is this the standard of literary and moral debate we can expect under New Labour, or is the seeming smell of corruption merely the stink of Ms Young's prejudices?

I have tried to be fair, but the logic of her position eludes me. I have not read Tool, but Ms Young incidentally endorses American Psycho on grounds which would seem to more than justify the cartoon violence of Lord Horror, or even its more disturbing sequel Motherfuckers. There is a serious point here. If some books are beyond discussion, how are we to know what we can discuss? Are we to depend upon Ms. Young to think for us? If so, the question of her competence would itself seem to require some discussion, unless of course she is authorised to do so by Mr Mandelson.

Perhaps Bookworm can assist us in assuming the correct position?

Yours perplexedly,

R K Meadley
Leeds

 

 

Dear Sir,

Is this Elizabeth Young's campaign to get herself elected as the first female Pope? In her defence of her supportive review of The End of Alice she cites David Britton's novel Lord Horror and Peter Sotos' Tool, as examples of indefensible novels, discussion of which should be forbidden. On what—or on whose—authority does she compile this 'index'?

Lord Horror has been defended. At the trial of the novel, Geoffrey Robertson QC, who had read the book, argued that Lord Horror was 'a genuine work of the imagination'.

Elizabeth Young has the sympathies of the local Manchester authorities, who also did not want Lord Horror to be defended.

Yours faithfully,

Michael Butterworth

(Savoy Books, publisher of Lord Horror)


Articles:

The Adventures of Lord Horror Across The Media Landscape—Brian Stableford (1993)

The Horror Of It All: Savoy, David Britton and Lord Horror—David Mitchell (1995)

Drawing A Line: The Novels of David Britton—Robert Meadley (1998)

 

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