Saint Sadist Straps Readers in for a Nihilistic Descent into Hell

click to enlarge Saint Sadist Straps Readers in for a Nihilistic Descent into Hell
Grindhouse Press
Back when I was a kid, my older brother and I used to walk across town to our local Hollywood Video. The building itself was peculiar, as half of it belonged to Hollywood Video and the other half, literally split down the middle, was operated by Blockbuster. I never understood how this arrangement worked, but there you have it. Eventually, Blockbuster pushed Hollywood Video out of business, and in its place a Papa Murphy’s emerged into the world. But before that, my brother and I thrived on Hollywood Video’s horror collection. It felt dangerous. You had no idea what to expect. The covers on the films didn’t encourage the lighthearted. The artwork alone usually invoked a sense of uneasiness. These films were weird, unpredictable and often made the viewer feel physically dirty. I fondly recall one afternoon walking back home with VHS copies of Dead Alive, Terror Toons and I Spit on Your Grave. I was 10 years old.

I bring all of these memories up now because I felt a similar impact while reading Austin resident Lucas Mangum’s latest novel, Saint Sadist.

The plot here, while simple, is truly dark. Our narrator, Courtney, begins her story at the age of 12. Her father’s a drunken, abusive monster and the only way, in her mind, to escape his physical violence is to open herself up to him sexually. Fast-forward several years. Now, she’s 19 and pregnant with her daddy’s offspring. She finally decides enough is enough and runs away in the dead of night, embracing the life of a sex worker until eventually coming into contact with a weird, dangerous religious cult. You can’t say things have gotten out of hand, because they’ve never been good in the first place.
Mangum’s writing style heavily contributes to overall feeling of dread that surrounds this book. His sentence structure provides an often-poetic minimalism and the short, gut-punching chapters come at you with machine-gun speed.

Saint Sadist is a book that dumps readers into a grave on its first page, and instead of having the option of climbing out, only allows them to dig deeper. You’re not going to feel like a better person after reading it. You’ll probably want to go take a long, hot shower. And that’s perfectly OK. Sometimes literature needs to be dangerous. Sometimes it needs to make you uncomfortable. Sometimes it needs to hurt.

Stay on top of San Antonio news and views. Sign up for our Weekly Headlines Newsletter.