Thursday, March 12, 2015

As Evil Does

As Evil Does, by John Tigges
No month stated, 1987  Leisure Books

John Tigges strikes again with another super-fat ‘80s horror paperback complete with embossed cover. And this one’s much better than the previous one I read, The Immortal. I don’t think you can currently find the plot of As Evil Does mentioned anywhere online, so my friends, let me tell you what it’s about – a dude becomes possessed by the soul of a murdered biker and takes on a Satanic biker gang!

In a storyline very similar to Marvel’s ‘70s comic Ghost Rider (only without the flaming skull), As Evil Does mixes bikers with pulp horror in a tale that runs to nearly 400 pages of big print. Despite the plentiful sleaze and pulp, Tigges still manages to stall at times with go-nowhere digressions about boring minor characters and their humdrum lives. Luckily he doesn’t do this to the extent he did in The Immortal, so As Evil Does comes off as more of a satisfying read.

And you really know you’re in for a lurid time when the first fifty pages document the horrible rape and murder of a college-age girl and her friend by a gang of bikers. This is Cindy Wellington and Tammi, on break during Labor Day weekend (the novel appears to take place in Ohio). Walking through the woods they’re ambushed by The Light Bearer’s Chosen, a Satan-worshipping group of bikers lead by Bull, a mountain of a man who immediately announces that they’re about to have a little gang-bang.

But Buckshot, rotund and slovenly member of the gang, complains about Bull’s stalling – the leader wants to have various “games” to see who gets the girls first – and soon enough the two burly bikers are whipping at each other with chains. Buckshot manages to win through guile, and slits Bull’s throat. Now he’s become the leader of the gang, and has even taken Bull’s “mama,” a super-hot lady named Cow who wears a vest with nothing beneath it, thus showing off her massive melons with pierced nipples.

Cow is something else, my friends, and unfortunately Tigges takes too long to exploit his creation: we gradually learn that it was she who turned the gang on to Satanism, and also that she was raised in a coven. But here in the opening section she’s more so just a regular biker chick, stoically accepting that her man has been killed and then insisting they perform the proper Satanic rites over his corpse before burying him (and his Harley) in the woods. Meanwhile poor Cindy and Tami wait to be gang-raped.

And they are, the sequence harrowing but not as much as it would be in a “regular” novel – this is a cheesy ‘80s pulp horror paperback, you know, and so much the better. But it does get pretty horrible when Buckshot, after the entire gang (including some of the women!) have had their way with the girls, announces that he’s now going to slit their throats. As she dies Cindy keeps thinking about her brother Judd, a great guy who instead of marrying his college sweetheart Peggy has helped see Tami off to college, given that their folks were killed a few years before in a car wreck…

There’s something strange going on between Judd and Cindy, and the way Tigges writes about their love for one another it crosses all sibling boundaries. But anyway when Cindy doesn’t come home that night, Judd’s so frantic that he leaves his girlfriend’s place and rushes to the cops. Only late that night do they find the mauled remains of the two girls, and unsurprisingly the local cops are presented as such halfwits that it’s obvious the murderers will never be found. Even when they discover motorcycle tread nearby, they figure it could’ve been left at some previous time.

But Judd keeps hearing someone screaming for him, even leaving handwritten notes in his house. One night he’s drawn to the woods, to where his sister and her friend were murdered. There he starts digging…only to uncover the corpse of Bull and his Harley. And promptly Bull appears in Judd’s mind. Here begins the possession motif which is at the core of As Evil Does; Bull quickly learns that he can control Judd’s body, and thus swears to use it to gain vengeance upon the Light Bearer’s Chosen.

Tigges works in more supernatural stuff with Bull apparently able to imbue Judd’s scrawny frame with superhuman power; much is made over how the average-sized Judd is able to easily heft Bull’s 800-pound “hog.” Then he goes about the process of restoring it, even painting it with a big Maltese Cross, the sign of the Satanic gang. Judd however knows nothing about choppers, and his sudden personality change is the source of much confusion for his teeth-gnashing wallflower of a fiance, Peggy.

While Tigges makes their love too melodramatic, with lots of stuff from Peggy’s point of view over how she can’t handle this crazy personality switch, how Judd suddenly curses around her and treats her like dirt, how he would rather ride his “hog” than be with her, Tigges does salvage it all by delivering a pretty explicit sex sequence, a Bull-controlled Judd giving it to Peggy with an “animalistic urge.” And you guessed it, she has the biggest climax of her life!

But boy it just sort of stumbles along. Given the plot summary, I figured Judd would become this dark force of supernatural vengeance. Instead, he only has two meetings in total with the Light Bearers, and the climax of the tale doesn’t play out satisfactorily in the least. There is a bare minimum of action in the novel. I envisioned Judd/Bull blasting around in the Harley and mowing down his old partners. But nothing like that happens, other than a super-brief fistfight halfway through the tale.

As in The Immortal, Tigges also has no problems with wasting the reader’s time; this is mostly done through go-nowhere “subplots” about Peggy and Zelda, Judd’s elderly neighbor. The latter has ultimately nothing to do with anything, but the former succeeds in burning up more pages, with Peggy visiting a good-looking psychologist named Maceo Montgomery and telling him how weird Judd’s been acting lately.

Tigges works in an unexpected element where Bull’s possession of Judd begins to manifest on the physical level. When he drives out to the “state capital” to confront the Light Bearers, Judd finds it strange that people at the biker campsite begin calling him “Bull.” Gradually we learn that, during the drive, he’s begun to look like the dead biker. But still, Buckshot and Cow and the other Satanic bikers know it’s not their leader come back to life, and Buckshot has Judd thrown in a pitch-black cell while Cow does a Satanic rite to contact Bull’s spirit.

The scene could’ve had a much cooler outcome – maybe Bull’s spirit taking on Cow in the spirit realm – but instead Bull just hides from her. Tigges delivers another brief sex scene here, as the bikers have an orgy to fuel the “dark spirits,” but there’s not much to it, and plus it isn’t very fun to read because we’re often reminded how dirty the female bikers are! In particular Judd can’t get over how attractive Cow looks, even though she looks so dirty and smells so funky. This all just reminded me once again why I’ve never much cared for biker chicks. And plus, I want my super-hot Satanic chicks to have immaculate hygeine, you know?

Anyway, we do get that fistfight mentioned above, as Buckshot sends a biker named Snake down to kill Judd. Buckshot even gives him a weapon, his knife. Sadly, Buckshot’s damn knife appears to be the only weapon these bikers have ever heard of; we’re often told it’s not only the reason he was able to beat Bull, but it’s also the reason why he’s now the leader! Surely one of the gang could’ve bought a gun??

But the fight is quick and instead of killing Snake, Judd/Bull instead makes him go insane…followed by an unintentionally funny capoff where Judd has a face to face with Buckshot and speaks in Bull’s voice…and Buckshot faints. Instead of wiping out the gang, Judd gets back on his “hog” and heads back to constantly-worrying Peggy, who this time can’t take the suddenly-rude Judd. Bull once again in full control, he proceeds to slap Peggy and then rape her. Now we have more internal conflict as Peggy wonders if she was raped…and by who?

This incident does bring the whole “Judd’s possessed” cat out of the bag, and Peggy holds on for a few pages, listening to Bull’s voice coming from Judd’s body, before she passes out. Cute more time-wasting as we have these interminable sequences where she wonders if she’s losing her mind. Do you realize how stupid this is, given that we’re almost 300 pages into the book by this point? Yes, Judd is possessed! Get with the program already! But this is just a pulp writer at work, Tigges desperate to meet his word count. Why it never occurred to him to instead give us more action scenes escapes me.

Finally we’re wrapping up. While Judd, fully under Bull’s command, hops on his Harley and goes back to the “state capital” to kill Buckshot, we see that meanwhile the portly biker is about to be ousted, anyway. Cow and another member named Gordo are sick to death of Buckshot, and are just about to sacrifice him when Judd shows up. Even here, in the final pages, Tigges denies us a fiery climax, with Judd instead helping them tie Buckshot up to an altar. I mean, they were already going to kill him, anyway – Judd’s entire presence here is meaningless!

Speaking of meaningless, at the same time Peggy and Dr. Montgomery are high-tailing it to “the state capital” in the doc’s Trans Am, hoping to save Judd. They show up just in time to see Judd, fully looking like Bull now, slice Buckshot’s throat with a sacrificial dagger. Then Satan himself starts howling in the darkness, and the bikers fall to their knees, and Peggy pulls Judd/Bull away, and by the time they get back to the car, he looks like Judd again. And they drive off, and that’s that…Bull is gone.

But yeah…the finale sucks. There’s no resolution to any of the other bikers…the last we see of Cow, she’s on her knees, kissing the floor, thanking the devil for Bull’s return. There isn’t even any sense conveyed of Bull or Judd’s sated vengeance when they kill Buckshot. Nope, the novel just fizzles out, Judd back to normal and happy and content with Peggy, his memory of the past few days clouded. I don’t know, maybe I was just looking for something more…I mean, this is a pulp horror paperback.

But even considered thusly it’s kind of a failure. It occurred to me halfway through As Evil Does that John Tigges was just too “nice” of an author for the horror genre. There are paltry thrills here, and zero chills. The gore level is almost nonexistent, and other than the opening rape/murder, there’s no other violence in the entire novel. Rather, there’s a “safe” air that permeates the entire book, as if it were written for preteen girls.

Judging from my own memories of the ‘80s horror paperback boom, that was exactly the reading audience of these books, anyway, so who knows – maybe Tigges was just delivering the barebone thrills his juvenile readership demanded.


halojones-fan said...

What would preteen girls be doing reading a book like this? Seems like it would mostly go over their heads.

You've got a good point about the non-resolution being perfect for that audience, though. It's a group that mostly read Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark, R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike; dared each other to do the Bloody Mary thing (and now gets inappropriately excited about Slenderman).

halojones-fan said...

Perfect, as in the whole point is "something scary happened, EEEEEEEK!" Not to really have a story beyond "tension builds and then there's a jump-scare".

Joe Kenney said...

I was in middle school (aka "junior high") from '84 to '88, which is right durring the horror paperback boom. I remember seeing these books all the time in school, and they were usually being carried around by the girls. One I remember seeing in particular was William W. Johnstone's "Rockinghorse," as I couldn't get over how goofy the cover was.

But really the books that were most popular with the girls were those VC Andrews "Flowers in the Attics" books -- those I remember seeing everywhere.

halojones-fan said...

Oh God yes, VC Andrews! I was reading everything I could get my hands on at that point--including the weird old sci-fi that I don't think the librarians even knew about, where guys were turned into sex cyborgs and molested by women whose minds were being controlled by bees--and still I didn't go near VC.

Felicity Walker said...

When I was in high school a friend of mine gave me Ghoul by local author(s) Michael Slade. I didn’t end up reading it all the way through for another ten years. Then I read another batch of Slade horror novels. I seem to be over it now. Sitting on my to-be-read shelf is Slade’s Swastika, but I haven’t even opened it yet.