"Dense, intellectual horror."
"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
"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."
"As intoxicants go, this is bathtub gin toughened up with a strong dose of absolute alcoholnever 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 crossoverthe 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 deliveredeven 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."
"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 formsill-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-SemitismMein Kampfis 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."
"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"
'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." *
"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."
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
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 Progressor 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 himselfexcept 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 itI didn'tbut 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."
"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
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
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.
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
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 booksDavid Britton's Lord Horror, for example, or Peter Sotos' Toolnovels 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.
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 booksshe 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?
R K Meadley
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 whator on whoseauthority 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.
(Savoy Books, publisher of Lord Horror)
The Adventures of Lord Horror Across The Media LandscapeBrian Stableford (1993)
The Horror Of It All: Savoy, David Britton and Lord HorrorDavid Mitchell (1995)
Drawing A Line: The Novels of David BrittonRobert Meadley (1998)