KILLING TIME by Thomas Berger


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As brutal as a barracuda Killing Time, superficially at any rate, is a good example of what Tom Wolfe has called the pornography of violence. The opening chapters with their dual thrust of rabid shock and kinky sex synthesize aspects of In Cold Blood, The Collector and The Detective (a) opening with a multiple murder; (b) the central character's psycho psyche; and (c) the operative techniques of the homicide force from battery to assault. Betty Bayson and Arthur enter her mother's house on Christmas eve to find the corpses of a lodger, a sister Billie and Betty's mother. None of these characters have a seemly virtue between them--sister Billie had been an active underwear model; their mother didn't quite compete but submitted easily; and sister Betty, a vain, calculating slut, likes the change of pace from her gross husband with police officer Tierney. This takes care of the primary features of the book which then are superseded and dominated by Joseph Detweiler, former roomer of the Baysons, son of a spiritualist who still reads Peter Rabbit to him at night, and is a taxidermist during the day. He's been practicing mystical calisthenics he calls Realizations. He's also been frequenting doctors and clinics in an attempt to have his penis amputated since it distracts him. To Detweiler, time is the only dimension in which all men are equal, while to kill time is to know God, or perhaps become God. And this part of the book with its lunatic mystique is conceptually original and perhaps will validate the rasping horror of much that has occurred.... Temporizing is also another way of Killing Time, or perhaps delaying judgment on this particular application of Mr. Berger's well accredited talent (Little Big Man, etc.). In any case, a tremendous popular response is anticipated (and has been assisted all the way from A.B.A. to A.L.A. in fluorescent red) and there isn't much doubt that the book has a hook and will manacle many readers.

Pub Date: Oct. 9th, 1967
Publisher: Dial