THE EVIL ONES by James Mitchell

THE EVIL ONES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The Evil Ones are the exploitation-journalists who dote on violence--or so it seems, more or less, in this ironic but increasingly shrill and contrived novel by the author of the Callan thriller series (Smear Job, etc.). The alternating narrators are sleekly successful London photographer Joe Burn and not-so-successful magazine-writer Martin Barras. Both have working-class widower/fathers who look askance at the sons' fancy new lives. Both have domestic problems: Bum's wife is about to run off with child and lover to her native South Africa; Barras' wife is an expensively hospitalized cripple, and he's seething with passion for a young actress (about whom he's writing an article). But while the novel is best on those father/son conflicts, its main action involves the two men's collaboration on a series of foul illustrated stories for Rip Off--an American scandal-rag that seems to be something like a cross between Hustler and New York magazine. First, thanks to coincidence, photographer Burn is on the scene when a huge bomb explodes in a London restaurant, killing several people (including a dear old friend of his): with Burn's gruesome on-the-spot photos and Barras' innuendo-filled investigatory reporting, the article's a big winner. So the lads next take off to America, where the cartoon-slimy Rip Off editor sends them to cover an upcoming gangland-massacre in Miami--another success. (""Horror, Violence. Sex, even. I got to hand it to you, Joe. Those shots of those dead black girls."") But things are going to get ugly for Joe and Martin, of course: there's increasing friction between them, with sexual rivalry over that luscious actress. There are disturbing developments on both home fronts: the self-annihilating death of Martin's boozing father; then, in the novel's worst lurch, the revelation that Joe's nephew was deeply involved in that restaurant bombing. And so Joe decides to give up the exploitation scene--""We behaved like jackals; like bloody vultures. Feeding off death""--while the utterly disillusioned Martin sinks ever lower and lower. Despite zesty London backgrounds, bits of sprightly dialogue, and some credible class-conflicts: an overdrawn morality play, on especially weak ground when the anti-heroes move to thoroughly unconvincing American surroundings.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1983
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton--dist. by David & Charles