Back when suburban NORPs and counterculture slackers alike lost their minds over relatively insubstantial "problems" on a weekly basis, the entertainment industry capitalized on both groups by pitting them against one another with an endless supply of exploitative popular films, music and literature filled to brimming with irritating, self-righteous moral posturing for both groups to relate to and lap up, as they predictably did. Located somewhere between Reefer Madness and one of those episodes of Hawaii Five-O in which Jack Lord pursued dangerous hippies, this slim volume was just one of many to cater to the straights by depicting out-of-control youth as the lunatics that they were once in a rare while - hardly a phenomenon unique to the sixties.
"The savage shock novel of the year!" proclaims a blurb at the foot of its back cover. Well, the month, anyway. "The sensational novel of a teen-age reign of terror" reads its reverse, beside a lurid picture of the book's underage femme fatale. Perhaps a malevolent spree would be a better way to describe these exploits of a slutty sociopath who turns on, tunes out, and acts like a raging, oversexed ass at every opportunity. Accompanied by a beefy ne'er-do-well, a horny, well-meaning yet aimless pothead and the token scrawny, hypertensive Jewish scapegoat, cars are stolen, weed is smoked and orifices are explored as hilarious dialogue is spouted every few pages, reminding the reader that four decades ago, hipster slang was almost as moronic as ebonics is now.
From page 14:
"How do such unhip cats end up with those groovy machines?" Itchy asked.
He took a long pull on his stick and let out the smoke slowly as he spoke. "I'm going to build me an airlines and call it 'Joint Aviation.' Man, that's the only way to fly."
Flip spoke lethargically. "Man, if you were Puff the Magic Dragon, we'd all be cinders."
As Flip started to disappear into the dark walk-in closet, he turned his head and called over his shoulder, "Toot, I'm a train, man, this is some crazy tunnel!"
Of course, these and many other groovy utterances are all even more amusing in context, as is the melodramatic narrative, which is jam-packed with metaphors - some of which are remarkably clever and elegantly phrased, while others are so embarrassingly maladroit that one wonders if this book was really written by one person. It's hard to determine whether or not Thomas regarded this as the camp it is; after all, when writing witty banter shared by the story's amiable square characters, he exhibits a keen wit.
Shenanigans ensue until a pseudo-rape and subsequent orgy turns into a murder, and as the story finds its way to the bereaved and into a courtroom, it turns into a bummer, man. However, a series of expository stories - especially a trip to Tijuana that the teens take to explore a whorehouse and score some grass - are entertaining enough, as is an investigation by a widowed protagonist, who does all of the footwork that absentee detectives might have done if Thomas wanted to write a book with fifty fewer pages and considerably less blond fetishism. When the tale comes to a climax spattered with blood and vaginal fluid, the dialogue's hilarity reaches a fever pitch, as on page 192:
"You can't stop now, man. All along you've wanted me. This is what you've been scratching around for, dreaming of! Now give it to me the way Craig gave it to her! Scream, man, swing; trip off, give it to your little baby Eve, soul out, go, go go!"
"That first time was a bummer. But now I've got to have it more than pot. Because I'm the best, I'm the first! I invented sex! I'm the greatest! I'm the champion of all time! Ain't that right, Daddy? Ain't that right? Swing, ball! Tell me about it, Daddy! Soul out, go, go! Love me to death! Love Eve to death!"
I swear to god that the above text was typed verbatim to what was printed in the book; this reviewer has neither omitted nor embellished a single word. That's what sold trash novels in '69. Finally, on page 200:
Paul started to reach out to touch her, comfort her, but she hissed, "Shine me on!" For the first time in their lives, the boys were embarrassed by these words.
If you read the scant entirety of this book's two-hundred and one pages, you'll feel the same way.