John Russo - Limb To Limb (NEL, Feb. 1984, originally Pocket, 1981)
Blurb Once, beautiful and long-limbed, she had been a dancer. Then: her hideous accident and the end of all her bright hopes under the surgeon's knife.
But now she had become the lord of the dance - though the dance she led was the Dance of Death. One by one, in a fated chorus line, high kicking, pirouetting and heedless, her victims moved off stage for the last time, their lives cut short by the brutal downward thrust of her knife.
The bloody, intricate choreography was all hers. Ambition and talent were savagely hacked down. Beauty severed by her maddened, vengeful blade. For the only dance she dreamed of now was the skeletal, dry-boned writhing of those she had cast for a journey beyond the grave.
It all begins during World War II in the Treblinka Concentration Camp where eminent Jewish surgeon Dr. Louis Augenstein is forced to perform ghastly experiments on his fellow pathetic prisoners or face a hideous and protracted death. Long after the war, his sons Louis and Bernard, now living in America, open their own abortion clinic until their dubious extra-curricular researches - they have discovered father's log-books from his Death Camp days - lead to arrest and lengthy imprisonment. Disgraced and barred from performing surgery, Louis struggles by on a "demeaning" assistant pathologist's wage, all the while secretly perfecting his obscene surgical interests. Will the world never realise his God-like genius? Why can't somebody famous - a ballerina, for example - suffer terrible mutilation so he could put her together again?
"Somehow I can't picture Robert Redford and Jane Fonda working out in Pittsburgh." "Night Of The Living Dead was made here. I know some of the people who worked on it." "A funky little horror flick," Snyder scoffed. "Hardly big-time production."
Struggling film-maker Bryan Sinclair, 28, and his devious business partner Paul Smith are working on a motion picture, Portrait Of A Ballerina showcasing Tiffany Blake, rising star of the Pittsburgh-based Artov Ballet Company. The movie is bankrolled by Tiffany's father, Andrew Blake, filthy rich supreme ruler of the Hot-Dog Heaven fast-food franchise. Andrew Blake did not make it to the top off the back of a kindly disposition and Tiffany is the one person he has any affection for. Daughter dearest is his pride and joy and he intends to buy her all the success his money can buy. So when Tiffany tells him of her intention to quit Pittsburgh to join the New York National Ballet Company under world famous director Arthur Silvera, Blake is furious. Who can have put such rebellious thoughts into her dizzy young mind? In the ensuing argument, Tiffany flounces off, slips on ice and falls in front of a train. She survives - but the same can't be said for her left leg, severed at the thigh. No more The Nutcracker Suite for Tiffany the amputee!
With his star turn crippled, Nicolai Artov must promote one from Julia (Bryan's nice fiancée) or Adrienne Mallory (Paul's horrible and mercenary ex) to lead in his forthcoming production of Giselle. Tiffany, mortified at losing her one dream in life, wishes she were dead. Her father, eaten up with guilt, promises he'll find a way for her to dance again that doesn't involve a prosthetic.
Louis Augenstein establishes contact. If Blake can provide a state-of-the-art operating surgery and two healthy female left legs (the spare is for in case anything goes sickeningly wrong), he can make Tiffany as good as new!
Such a shame the authorship duties were not transferred to the blurb writer as he or she arrived at a much-improved story line! John Russo's episodic novel is good fun, but, after a lively start (above), loses its way a little and ultimately bears only the vaguest resemblance to the gloriously diseased, Donald Graham-esque shudder pulp suggested on the back cover.
From the first, I set myself against "literature"; the story was the thing, and no amount of style could persuade me to select a story that lacked genuine, unadulterated horror. For those who wanted something high-brow there was plenty. - Christine Campbell Thomson