Thursday, October 17, 2013

How Much is Too Much? Rape, Murder and Torture in the Modern Thriller.

There are a couple of things that can be agreed on: Thriller Guy is one tough hombre and
that thrillers are, by their nature, going to concern death and destruction in all its possible varieties.  Over the course of, say, a years worth of reading thrillers for review, the body count involved reaches staggering numbers. But it isn’t the numbers that give TG pause, it’s how the deaths are depicted, and even more disturbing, with what ease and sometimes, eagerness writers show in the depictions. The joy they seem to take in writing about cutting off the fingers and more of helpless women, the rapes, the obscenities they create first in their heads and then on the page. TG finds these details disgusting. Wait, you say, you’re missing the point, TG, they’re supposed to be disgusting. That’s how the author seizes the reader, how he manipulates the reader’s emotions so that his villain ascends to that place in the reader’s imagination where his destruction becomes paramount. It is how justice is defined, in opposition to absolute evil.

Yeah, well, sure, but that’s not what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about is Wilbur Smith.
He’s the mega-selling author of various series, i.e. The Courtneys, The Courtneys of Africa, The Ballantine novels, The Egyptian Novels, and others. Fortunately, Thriller Guy has never been assigned any of these books to review. Unfortunately, he’s had to review Smith’s last two: Those in Peril, and his latest, Vicious Circle. In the review of Those In Peril, TG warned readers that the book was ultra violent, particularly in its treatment of women, though he also pointed out that was what Smith’s readers seem to like. In Vicious Circle, Smith really pours it on, degrading and torturing two girls, one of whom has been driven insane. Many of you will say, “it’s not Smith doing the torturing, it’s the character in the book.” Yeah, well, that’s just an excuse for what Smith seems to relish writing, and this is sick stuff.

Circle continues the story of series hero Hector Cross. Here’s the rundown on the book, taken from Smith’s website: Hazel Bannock is the heir to the Bannock Oil Corp, one of the major oil producers with global reach. While cruising in the Indian Ocean, Hazel's private yacht is hijacked by African Muslim pirates. Hazel is not on board at the time, but her nineteen year old daughter, Cayla, is kidnapped and held to ransom. The pirates demand a crippling twenty billion dollar ransom for her release.
Complicated political and diplomatic considerations render the major powers incapable of intervening. When Hazel is given evidence of the horrific torture which Cayla is being subjected to, she calls on Hector Cross to help her rescue her daughter.
Hector is the owner and operator of Cross Bow Security, the company which is contracted to Bannock Oil to provide all their security. He is a formidable fighting man. Between them Hazel and Hector are determined to take the law into their own hands.

Cayla, is subjected to intense graphic, repeated, sexual torture by her captors until they chop off her head and send it to Hector and Hazel. The torture scenes are well over and beyond anything that was needed to make his point. Well into pornographic territory.

Circle is even worse. I have been debating if I should put some examples up on this site. I won’t put up any of his sickness with the little girls, but here’s a nice little para as the bad guy is debasing on of his minions, who we are told really loves this treatment.

“He slid his finger out of her and held it up in front of her face. “Now look what you’ve done, you dirty little whore. You have made my nice clean finger dirty with your filthy pussy.” (p172)

On the next page he cuts off both her ears and makes her eat one of them; on the next page he jams a knife into her gut and disembowels her.

He saves the worst for the children. On page 200 he depicts the bad guy having sex with little Sacha, “Three weeks before her ninth birthday party.”

Sacha is driven mad by this treatment and later on he writes a very long torture scene where Sacha finally dies and her sister is fed alive to a herd of pigs. Of course this scene is being filmed to be sold to perverts on the Internet.

TG has a very wide tolerance for the levels of mayhem. But what he has no tolerance for is when an author seems to be taking enjoyment in writing this stuff. Of course TG has no way of knowing if this is so, but the extreme torture of women and children occurs again and again in these two books.

Is Wilbur Smith to blame? Of course he is. But so are the people who buy his books, and they are legion. I have no idea if this sort of thing is on the pages of his many other series, and I’m not going to read them to find out. If for no other reason than he’s a terrible writer.  “Hazel,” he said with rising anger. “Fight, my darling. Fight the bastard.” He knew the black angel had come for her. “Don’t let him take you!” (p49)

Those in Peril was a bestseller, as are most of Smith’s books. I assume Vicious Circle will be if it isn’t already one. Thriller Guy will never review another one.

Anyone who reads this crap, and enjoys it, should be ashamed.

Anyone who writes this crap should be ashamed.

Shame, shame, shame. 


  1. Wow.Nice public service blog you have there.
    If it's any consolation, the last two books of his both have a healthy number of one and two star reviews on Amazon reflecting what you said.
    Apparently, and sadly, there are a large number of readers who, while they may not read anything else, are willingly use their time and cash to follow him.
    It would be bad if they began reading better written stuff, found it to be lacking the same material and left one star reviews all over the literary landscape. So overall, its better that that group of people, hungry for his brand of writing, stay to themselves.

  2. Vicious Circle is junk. I like some of Smith's earlier books. He has always been lousy at character development, but made up for it in plot and suspense. This book has one-dimensional predictable cartoon characters. Every single one of them is a caricature. The dialog is ridiculous, the plot meanders and stalls and just disappears in blood and guts. The entire premise is as unbelievable as the characters. I tried and tried to get through it, but gave up when the billionaire family-murdering pedophile took over the African country with his huge WWE black lover who escaped from death row with the help of a sect of Muslims and hired Robert Mugabe's army to kill the current king. Not a word of exaggeration; that is the actual plot. Wilbur, you should have hung it up years ago. This one is beyond a stinker.