Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Devil's Kiss by William W. Johnstone

The Devil's Kiss
by William J. Johnstone
1981 Zebra

"We're entering the age of Liberalism, Sam, and it's going to be awful!"

1958.  Whitfield, Nebraska population 2500.

Something strange is happening in Whitfield.  Church attendance is down.  Folks don't seem as friendly.  Rumors are swirling around about incest behind closed doors.  Townsfolk are wearing strange medallions.  Bodies are disappearing from the graveyard.  And it all started after an archaeological dig began, led by Black Wilder, the head of a cult called the Church of the Fifteen le Diable.

A teenage couple sneak into the closed property around the dig and are attacked by wolf-like creatures.  The boy is eaten, the marrow sucked from his bones.  The girl escapes, is picked up by the Sheriff's department, gangraped by deputies, and tossed back over the fence for the beasts to mate with.

Meet Minister Sam Balon, a drinking, smoking, cussing Korean War Special Forces veteran.  His wife Michelle has been stepping out on him, while he has his eye on sweet Jane Ann Burke.  He's concerned about the changes in town, and has surrounded himself with the few remaining decent folk, including Father Dubois, Miles and Doris Lansky (the town's only Jews), newspaper owner Wade Thomas and his wife Anita, and a few more.

The chief of police is mysteriously killed and it becomes clear that something is going on.  Father Dubois airs his suspicions.  Every few centuries, Satan tries to take over an entire town, where he is opposed by an agent of God.  One such agent buried a magic tablet in Whitfield over a century ago, a tablet that Black Wilder has recovered.

Not sure what the tablet does or what's going on with the people being recruited to the cult.  People join willingly, are maybe possessed, are changed after being raped or bitten, are brainwashed by subliminal messages in radio music, or just plain aren't Christian enough.  The point that is made regularly is that they all, on some level, chose to be evil.

Bolan kills several beasts and his mission becomes clear.  Gather up the remaining virtuous of Whitfield to defeat Satan.

The beasts are like stripped down werewolves - tall, hulking, hairy brutes with half-human faces.  They are God's mistakes, from his failed first attempt at creation who have made a pact with Satan.  They are long lived but vulnerable to conventional harm, hibernating for centuries at a time.  If they bite or "mate" with a human, they turn into a beast.

Balon gathers his forces, while the only roads out of town are closed for a week.  The majority of the town has succumbed to the forces of evil and spend all day molesting each other.  There are a few folks inbetween, mostly the elderly.  Christians, but somehow not Christian enough.

Balon isn't taken seriously when he makes a joking aside about the Devil being in Whitfield, and his remaining parishioners laugh him off.  Well, he tried.  He's had enough of his wife and punches her out, leaving her tied up for an exorcism.

Father Dubois attempts an exorcism but it doesn't work - turns out that Michelle is no longer human at all but a centuries old witch with powers given to her by Satan.  And as everyone knows, the only way to kill a witch is by a stake through the heart.

Now that his wife is out of the way, he proceeds to bang Jane Ann.  There's a little known five-minute rule for fornication, and he marries himself to her right afterwards.  At this point Balon just starts knowing things.  He knows that there will be a seven day battle, and that the cult will not attack until the beginning of the seven days.  And he knows that he has to kill the entire population of Whitfield.

Balon and the faithful head for the woods, living rough in the back country, raiding outlying ranches with Tommy guns and sticks of dynamite.  In addition to the beasts they also face the undead, kind of stripped down vampires.  Animalistic reanimated corpses vulnerable to holy water and stakes through the heart, though they can be shot down in cow form.  They can turn into cows, by the way.

Witches are also kinda vampires - they drink blood and can turn their victims into undead or cultists.  Not enough?  Turns out there is a secret mental asylum in the county for radioactive mutants, victims of a failed Manhattan Project style experiment.  Sounds cool, but for us all it means is that Balon and company drive past a clump of lumpy people waving clubs at them at shoot them down.

They don't get a ton of resistance from the cultists - I think they get off one shot the whole book, and it helps that there are convoluted rules of engagement.  Nobody can attack Balon, and on Sunday nobody can fight back at all.  Except for the beasts.  And cultists if it's within the city limits, but not in the outlying county.  It gets pretty complicated, but luckily Balon just knows these things as one of God's warriors, so he doesn't have to keep track as Johnstone pulls this stuff out of his butt.

The town itself gets wiped out in a fireball from an exploding gas station, thanks to gusts of winds courtesy of the man upstairs.  This kills most of the rest of the town, presumably including the rest of the Christians hiding in their cellars from rape gangs.  And the children - I'm guessing this town had children.

Meanwhile, Black Wilder is being usurped by his witchy companion Nydia, who wants to have a baby with Balon.  Balon basically surrenders in a pact - he'll let himself get raped to death by Nydia if they let the rest of his crew live, especially his now-pregnant wife Jane Ann.
"Make our son a man, Janey, a real man.  Instill in him virtue, but don't make him a pansy."
This happens and the fighting is over.  There are still a few surviving cult members, but that fight isn't for another twenty years.

1980, Nelson College NY.  Sam Black Williams and Sam Balon King are college roommates.  King admires a photo of Black's twin sister.  Duh duh duhhhhh.

Highlights: montage sequences of cultists violating each other: murder, sodomy, incest, all the good stuff.

Lowlights: For a book with a body county in the low quadruple digits, there's surprisingly little violence or action.  I'll admit it would get a little monotonous, but not as monotonous as the endless dialogue.

Devil's Kiss is directly followed by Devil's Heart, Devil's Touch, and Devil's Cat.  Devil's Laughter is in the same continuity but with different characters, and the Cat books (Cat's Eye and Cat's Cradle) are arguably as well.

Available from Amazon for Kindle.

Click here to read a sample.

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