A sleepy village has become a prosperous suburb. But its heritage of witchcraft in the seventeenth century still lives on. Until one night a moment of folly heralds the return of a soul in torment, hellbent on seeking a terrible inhuman revenge...
Soon a young girl will tread the paths of evil. Possessed by a demonic spirit that corrupts her innocent thoughts and seduces her beautiful body, time after time after time.
And slowly the devil's mark will appear on the flesh of Satan's chosen offspring...
There's a student party going down in 'Wattlesford', Outer London, and, of course, some young fool suggests a little witchy nonsense will liven things up. It does.
After some inspired mumbo jumbo from Geoffrey Hirst ("ABRASAX SABRIAM OO SABAF!"), Helen, the new girl at Balfour College turns on one of the Hooray Henry/ Henrietta types and attempts to bite off his earlobe. To make it up to him, she allows him to take her up on Hangman's Hill and give her one on the bonnet of his car. Driving home, he loses control of the car when a raven dashes at the windscreen, Helen is thrown clear, but Bobby is engulfed in the inferno. His is the first of several deaths.
Helen's teacher at Balflour, Laurence Easby, is researching the history of witchcraft, and when he learns of Geoffrey's attempt to invoke Satan he's furious, especially as it becomes increasingly apparent that Helen has become possessed. Any boy who dates her dies horribly shortly afterward and as she was expelled from her previous school for promiscuity, there's soon a sizable death toll. Roland, who dons punk gear to take her to the Rejects gig at The Lyceum (cue brawl between skins, punks and bouncers after the Rejects lead singer, "a female Sid Vicious", is bottled) is offed in the bogs by Mick, a speeding dole queue punk who's been stalking Helen and doesn't see what this "pouf" has done to deserve her. As Laurence tries to fathom what's going on, Helen sets him up on a bogus molestation charge and he's sacked. Worse - the police now suspect the "pervert" of two of the murders! Even worse - his researches at the British Library have revealed that he's a descendant of Matthew 'Witchfinder General' Hopkins and all the victims are the spawn of those who burnt a witch at the stake in the Seventeenth Century! Now their victim has returned for vengeance and only the disgraced teacher can stop her!
The pop culture references come thick and fast - Blondie, The Pistols (No Feelings), Velvet Underground (Femme Fatale), Pink Floyd's Meddle album, "The Clash were playing the Music Machine but he was saving up for The Rejects on Saturday", "Gary Numan's new album", etc - and when Easby asks Geoffrey how he got into the Occult, the undergraduate explains: "I suppose it started with Dennis Wheatley thrillers at thirteen. They led me on to more serious stuff and then - wham! bam! - I discovered Aleister Crowley!". Suster doesn't scrimp on the wild sex or gory death either and the final confrontation is no disappointment.
And then there's a creepy epilogue.
Gerald Suster was one of my early favourites when I first got into pulp horror around 1985, and this novel, The Scar, was I think the first such book I ever read. 20 years down the line, and I'm still addicted, so it must have something going for it.
Suster always fascinated me. He was a follower of Aleister Crowley's form of Magick and seemed to be the one writer of supernatural horror who probably believes in much of what he wrote, rather than a mere author doing a job of work. And there definitely seems to be a bit of the old Guy Smith influence present in the style and manner of writing, which can only be a good thing (IMHO ).
The Scar (along with The Offering) was my favourite GS novel, and I can remember for some time in the late 80s being convinced that he and the other GS were the same person. Only later would I learn that nothing could have been further from the truth
Gerald Suster produced 10 novels between 1979 and 1986 (another I particuarly enjoyed was The Block), before devoting himself more fully to the study of Magick, during which time he wrote a study of Crowley, and various other works pertaining to the occult. He returned to fiction in 1997 with The Labyrinth Of Satan. The Hell-Fire Friars (catchy title!) followed in 2000, and sadly this proved to be his last work before his untimely demise in 2001 at the age of 49.
If I'd never happened across that dog eared copy of The Scar in a dusty bookshop one cold November day, and been immediately taken with the embossed grey... thing on the cover, I might never have become a pulp addict. So Gerald Suster has much to answer for, from my point of view
Know of someone who used to attend various occult events in the North were Suster was a regular attendee. now dead, apparently he was a bit of character who liked a beer, and was outspoken to the point of heckling guest-speakers. I'm sure there are plenty of anecdotes to be mined at some point. But remember, such powers are dangerous.
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.