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Warhol's Prophecy by Shaun Hutson

Get the popcorn. Get the soft drinks.

"A Child wanders off from her mother in a shopping precinct. She is found by a Man. Mum and Man become friends. An affair is contemplated. Mum's husband, Man2, is already having an affair with Employee, who is the sister of Released Convict. Okay. Mum breaks off affair, and acts of vandalism are carried out on her home. Mum's female friend, Writer, is hot to trot with Man. But wait! Man is not all he seems. Hating his God-fearing father as he does, Man paints dreadful pictures! Man decapitates people (Employee, Released Convict) who in some way have bothered Mum, because he wants his fifteen minutes of fame. Man kidnaps Writer! Man shoots at rock band! Man forces Mum to choose between Child and Man2 as to who will live!"

Do we get the idea?

Interspersed with fictionalisations (of page-or-two gobbet-sized lengths) of true-life murders - Sutcliffe, Bundy, Manson - this is surely as close as prose can become to a movie pitch. Carefully thought out, but simplistic. Pared to the bone. Shaved until it's short of breath... Not that I believe that a plot which is easily summarised makes for a dumb book, not at all, but Shaun Hutson, whose latest tome I have just caramelised, is not now, and never has been, a writer of swinging style or great substance.

Then again, I am not someone who finds his shorthand and slap-happiness particularly annoying (double standards, I know - I'd hate it in another writer - but I still have a soft spot for him, years after I used his books as palate-cleansers between more challenging fare, while at university). And believe it or not, at over 440 pages, this is actually longer than the average Hutson; but it begs a question. Okay, yes, it's fast as all-get-out, but does Shaun Hutson still mean it? Did he ever?

The truth is, Shaun Hutson has written an extremely cunning book. It can be speed-read by a reviewer in an hour, or thereabouts, or it can be enjoyed for its sex and violence and unpretentiousness - its single-sentence paragraphs - by the author's more regular followers. In other words, regardless of the reader, it is exactly what's expected. Of course he means it.

Review by David Mathew.

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© David Mathew 6 May 2000