I was almost immediately derailed by this sentence which I had to read several times in order to make sense of it and the 1st-Person narrative that followed:
Helen, my wife, and I, Roland Cuyler, the author, and his wife Clara were standing near a window . . .
I was already intimidated that Kindle X-Ray said I had 18 characters to keep track of in this story. It all worked out, though, and was a great read.
Literary agent Lester Marlin, and his wife are at a party where they spot an exotic woman enter who no one seems to know. She manages to corner Marlin when his wife is chatting with an author.
Tala Mag — which would have been a great name on Barsoom — makes advances on him. He blows her off thinking she just wants to use him to get published, and because he truly loves his wife. The next day, he receives a note from his best client Portia asking him for a favor — to meet with Tala at Tala’s penthouse apartment.
She meets him wearing a blue negligee and nothing else; but also has a manuscript in her hand, so it is a business meeting. He begins reading and finds it to be unspeakably vile and an offense to even his hard-boiled soul. He tells her it is not publishable and prepares to leave when Tala calls her enormous servant Emil.
In no time, Emil has Marlin stripped and in chains. Even in this position he will not submit to Tala. In spite of the whip and the diaphanous negligee that is hanging open, he resists and fights back. She tells him she has other plans for him, and he wakes up in the Warehouse District.
Some time later, having not learned his lesson, Marlin accepts an invitation from Roland Cuyler to spend a few days at his country home. Marlin and his wife join four other couples from his literary circle. Unfortunately, the invitation was a ruse by Tala Mag who is at the house with her goons Emil, Clops, Wick and Ringo (OK, I’m not sure the 4th was named).
What follows is both horrific and spoilerific, so be warned. It really should be read to be appreciated.
I had no idea the WWII-era pulps got this brutal. There is no hard-core sex, but there is a decent amount of torture and newdity. As an example to the group, one woman is tortured to death with branding irons, and the effects on her body are maybe not graphic in words, but suggest some disturbing images in one’s mind — which is worse. And by worse, I mean better.
This is only a prelude to the final act in which the women stripped naked and their husbands are forced to hunt each other’s wives for sport. The men are issued guns that fire acid pellets. In addition to the pain of being shot, the woman with the most hits / scars will be killed.
It is all pretty goofy, but would have made a good Russ Meyer movie. You’ve got whips, chains, torture, and nude babes. Really the only things missing are ape-men and Nazis to cover every trope. Even if the other 22 stories are crap, I’ve gotten my $.99 worth.
- First published in Marvel Tales, May 1940.
- Also that month: The first McDonald’s opened in San Bernardino.
- How was this not the cover story? That “Test Tube Monsters” must be incredible.
- Everywhere else, this story is know as “Fresh Fiancés for the Devil’s Daughter.”