Magazine article The Spectator

Murder, Rape and Racism

Magazine article The Spectator

Murder, Rape and Racism

Article excerpt

Lord Horror: Reverbstorm by David Britton and John Coulthart Savoy Books, £25, pp. 344, ISBN 9780861301249 As the son of the last British artist to be successfully prosecuted for displaying obscene paintings, I have some empathy with David Britton, the last person successfully prosecuted in Britain for publishing obscene literature. Unlike my father, who accidentally strayed into the purview of the police, Britton's prosecution in 1992 was almost inevitable. His publisher, Manchester-based Savoy Books, was raided by the police with vindictive regularity between 1976 and 1997.

Ironically, Savoy has often been reviled as much by the left for its lack of political correctness as by the right for attacking the shibboleths of authority. It embodies a longstanding tradition of non-conformist and essentially anarchist thinking in Britain that also underpins Reverbstorm.

This is a graphic novel, written and illustrated by Britton and John Coulthart. Part of the long-running Lord Horror series, it is set in a nightmarish dreamscape where a fantasy 1930s New York is fused with the death camps at Auschwitz. Although presented in a single volume, the book began life in 1994 as an adult comic, published in the tradition of Dickens as a piece-work. It is tempting to say that is where the comparison with 19th-century literature ends. But the mire of Dickens's world, where stories of callous modernity and human degradation go hand in hand, runs throughout this book.

Yet unlike Dickens there is a question whether there is a story here at all. There is the central motif of the psychopath Lord Horror, a pun on the British wartime traitor Lord Haw-Haw. Horror stalks the streets repeatedly slashing people, mainly Jews, with a cut-throat razor. He still has his radio show, but beyond a Joycean tour around the fantasy city it is difficult to outline a clear narrative thread. …

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