STEPS GOING DOWN by Joseph Hansen


Email this review


Hansen's two recent non-detective novels, A Smile in His Lifetime and Job's Year, were introspective character studies, flawed but sensitive. This new story, however, is a rather pulpy melodrama of sexual obsession and homicidal mania in Southern California--a bit of a throwback, perhaps, to Hansen's 1960s career as a pseudonymous writer of sex-oriented paperbacks for a gay readership. The unsympathetic anti-hero here is Darryl Cutler, a handsome but aging hustler who once wrote sex-paperbacks for ""sleazy Brackett House."" (Hansen's own paperbacks were published by Brandon House.) Haunted by bygone hit-and-run guilt, Darryl now works as live-in nurse/lover/assistant to old, ill, wealthy Steward Moody--a cushy enough job. But then Darryl fails madly in lust/love with young, blond, icy Chick Pelletier, a bisexual Lady Macbeth who immediately persuades Darryl to murder old Moody (a faked medical accident). Darryl inherits a fortune; he and Chick move to a grand beach-house. But Chick's insatiable appetites force the repugnantly docile Darryl into one degradation after another; plagiarizing a screenplay (so Chick can become a movie-star); killing a writer/neighbor (whose wife is Chick's new bedmate). And though Darryl does eventually get free of his Chick obsession, finding truer love with a Mexican lad, it's too late to escape his fate--especially once his monstrous mother arrives on the scene. Despite numerous flashbacks to Darryl's troubled youth, this monotonic chronicle is never convincing as a psychosexual study; nor is it compelling as stark, visceral suspense. The result: unpleasant people, unlikely doings--in a competent, lurid (if never pornographic), flatly readable narrative.

Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 1985
Publisher: Countryman