Hot Sex, Justifying Murder, and a Driller-Killer
by Robert Devereaux
Having debuted in the Dell Abyss horror line with Deadweight, my love song to the exuberance, the inventiveness, and the splay-it-all-before-us of the splatterpunk movement, I turned for my second offering to Walking Wounded, a novel of psychological horror.
Here’s the back cover text from the just-released Deadite Press edition, with cover art by the amazing Alan M. Clark:
“Katt has the power to heal disease with her touch. Every day she saves lives and no one knows. But her heart is filled with hate – hate toward her cheating husband. After he is diagnosed with Huntington’s disease, Katt learns she can also make illness worse – the power to commit the perfect murder. But a local serial killer armed with a power-drill has entered their lives and the perfect murder just got a lot messier…”
Through its protagonist, this novel asks the question: How can a good woman act horrendously, with full knowledge of doing so, and still feel that her goodness hasn’t been compromised?
This may strike you as an odd question. Or perhaps it doesn’t. In our lives as imperfect men and women, all of us at times have said or done things which harm others—a stinging word, a straying into temptation, coming up with a laundry list of excuses why doing thus-and-such, in your case at least, makes perfect sense, really harms no one if only they could see it your way, and in fact adds to at least your store of good.
Self-justification is perhaps the most insidious temptation of them all. Not that I’m putting it down, mind. Exercising one’s creativity is always a virtue, even if doing so spoons a dollop of vice into the mix.
Now a novel isn’t primarily a question posed and answered, even an intriguing question like the one above.
Without characters we empathize with, confronting conflict at the very heart of their being, it’s hardly worth our time to continue reading. We want to be engaged at a deep level, to test ourselves against the dilemma of the story folks, somehow to resonate with them at a profound level.
Not all novels succeed with all readers. Reading my reviews over the years has taught me—often to my astonishment—how widely varied reader reaction to the same narrative can be.
When Walking Wounded first appeared in the mid-nineties, our local independent bookstore, Stone Lion, was wonderfully supportive of my efforts. I was both puzzled and pleased when a friend there reported that a woman had walked huffily in with her copy of Walking Wounded, announced that it was the second most evil book she had ever read, and demanded her money back. Alas, she never identified what the first most evil book was.
Call it a backhanded compliment. What sparked her outrage? Was it the sizzling hot group sex in the opening chapters (you really must tell me!)? Or did she find unacceptable the moral dilemma Katt eventually embroils herself in? We’ll never know.
But here are a few comments from blurbers and reviewers at the novel’s initial release. I hope you’ll pick up a copy and judge for yourself.
“At the heart of all Devereaux’s writing are the twin embryos of love and pain. In Walking Wounded he has explored their perverse dependency with an expert’s tender touch. This book is both a challenge and a rare treat!” —Poppy Z. Brite
“In Walking Wounded, Robert Devereaux delivers, with a super-heated mix of murder, dark eroticism, and enough online sex to send computer-wise readers sprinting to access their Chat Rooms.” —Lucy Taylor
“Walking Wounded is the graphic equivalent—and moral and spiritual antithesis—of Devereaux’s already classic Deadweight. Appalling, tender, and lyrical, it is an applaudable sophomore effort from a fascinating writer.” —Jason Bovberg, Dark Highway Press
“Walking Wounded is an original and dramatic thriller. Devereaux’s characters emerge as real and complex people, men and woman confronting life and death dilemmas. It’s a story of healing and suffering, and when a sadistic serial killer shatters the peace, it’s a story of immense courage and resolve. . . . Walking Wounded bristles with energy and suspense.” —Mark La Framboise, Politics & Prose Bookstore
“Robert Devereaux writes like a woman. People who insist that gender has something to do with how and what you write would assume that any author who can depict female emotion, sexuality, and inner life so well must be female. I guess we can toss that adage into the trash along with women don’t write horror. In his first novel, Deadweight, Devereaux’s central character was an abused woman and he ‘got it right.’ Now, in Walking Wounded, he is still dealing with empowerment issues and a woman’s perception of the world. The book, at times, reminds one of Margaret Atwood’s subtle twisting looks into the female psyche….” —Paula Guran
“Beautiful and sensual one page, frighteningly repulsive and twisted the next, Walking Wounded is well-suited to an era of alternative lifestyles, New Age mysticism, and senseless violence.” —Publisher’s Weekly