Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Written by Richard Laymon
Published by Leisure Books
This is the second oversized novel from Laymon I’ve read (the first was The Midnight Tour, the last of his Beast House cycle) and I’m happy to say it sure was a lot more fun than that first. While Tour didn’t bore me to tears or anything, it just didn’t have the kind of action and pacing that Savage utilizes from beginning to end. Indeed, I would say this is probably the best of Laymon’s longer works, at least the ones that I’ve been exposed to.
Our story begins in London during the reign of Jack the Ripper. Young Trevor Bentley goes out one fateful night to fetch his uncle, a police officer, after an altercation in his home, and ends up, well, hearing the Ripper’s works first hand from under the bed of Mary Kelley. Horrified, disgusted, and filled with a need to avenge the once-lovely Kelley whom he heard, but not saw, being butchered and torn apart, Trevor sets out after the man, only knowing his general build, style of boots, and that he’s carrying a doctor’s satchel.
All too soon he finds the fiend, they have a scuffle, and Trevor makes his escape in the river. As he swims to the other side, the Ripper gives chase in a rowboat, so when Trevor tries to take refuge aboard a yacht and gets a knock to the head for his troubles, he’s not surprised when he wakes up aboard the boat, now being manned by the Ripper himself.
Thus begins a sweeping journey that will take Trevor, the Ripper, and a small crew aboard the yacht across the Atlantic and into America, still so young and unsure of itself at the time. The killer gets away but instead of going after him, Trevor gets caught by a caring girl and her grandparents, though eventually he heads out to find the killer and bring his evil deeds, most of which he feels responsible for bringing to America, to and end.
I have to say; this is really like no other book Laymon had written up to its time, and is that much more fun because of it. The scrapes and mishaps and adventures that Trevor gets into on the trail of the Whitechapel killer are really quite extraordinary, even if they don’t all fall snuggly in the realm of horror. When Bentley eventually does catch up with the maniac, though, all that missing horror is more than made up for in just a few pages. The things he does to his victims is just downright wrong, folks.
The entire tale is told from Trevor’s perspective, which only adds to the feeling of living the adventure with him; and what an adventure it is! The scope and era are more in keeping with Mark Twain at times than traditional Richard Laymon, and it’s no accident that Twain is mentioned more than a few times; this is a book you won’t likely forget any time soon.
How this guy never become huge over here in the states is beyond. Me…
Savage is one of the most original twists on the Jack the Ripper legacy I’ve ever come across and even though factually it may not be all that accurate, its heart is in the right place and you’re going to have a great time getting to the end of this tale!
4 out of 5
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