"O'Rourke digs down into some loamy soil-what she comes up with is disturbingly dark, and often, very funny" writes veteran horror writer Jack Ketchum in a blurb on the back cover of "Poisoning Eros." Since Monica O'Rourke co-wrote this deeply disturbing gorefest with Wrath James White, I guess the same description applies to him. Except for the "very funny" part; I found nothing about anything I read in this book worth chuckling about. In fact, you're probably wearing a straightjacket as we speak if you found anything remotely amusing about "Poisoning Eros." Don't get me wrong; I love extreme horror and dark fantasy just as well as the next psychopath, but White and O'Rourke explode so many boundaries, obliterate so many taboos, that even my iron shod stomach rumbled in a not so polite way as I meandered through the novel. I decided to pick up "Poisoning Eros" after reading "Teratologist," a novella Wrath James White penned in conjunction with goremeister supreme Edward Lee. Amazingly, this book easily eclipses the atrocities of "Teratologist." It arguably overshadows the sickening stories of Charlee Jacob, Poppy Z. Brite, Matthew Stokoe, and just about any other gore filled opus released in the last few years. That's saying something.
Welcome to the intriguing world of Gloria, a once beautiful and popular adult film starlet now slogging through a damaged world fueled by hard drugs and alcohol. The fast days of big money and fan conventions are long gone, replaced with work so degrading to the human soul that I refuse to mention it here. Gloria allows herself to wallow in depravity for a few measly bucks so she can continue her binges. The poor woman longs for her former glories, but she also longs to return to the only man who truly loved her and the daughter she gave up to pursue her sleazy career. Any hopes for a tearful reunion seem far off, however, until she meets a mysterious man who promises her huge paychecks if she agrees to engage in a physical union with a supernatural being. Gloria doesn't quite realize the implications of the deal let alone truly believe what she sees while doing it, but a buck is a buck and these fat checks will arrest those horrible narcotics withdrawals that pop up with frightening regularity. There is a catch in the deal, though. Gloria must promise to work for no one else ever again. She agrees without taking it seriously. After all, how will this guy know what she's up to?
Guess what? He does know what she's doing, and a whole lot more. Turns out this sinister chap made a deal with a demon in the underworld, the same demon showing up in one form or another to dally with Gloria. Our heroine (or anti-heroine depending on your view) discovers that she is caught up in a horrible pact fraught with eternal peril to her immortal soul. The second half of the book finds Gloria imprisoned in the pits of Hell, where she toils in the service of a fallen angel. Prepare yourself for page after page of intricate descriptions of the worst sorts of fleshly atrocities. We've all heard the hoary stories about the flaming pits, roasting souls, and screams without end; O'Rourke and White take them to heart and promptly shove them in your face. This is grueling, soul shattering stuff the likes of which you've never seen before. Just when you think you cannot possibly take anymore, the book shifts focus by examining themes of emotional healing, redemption, and tough personal choices involving the bonds between mother and daughter. I was quite surprised to discover that "Poisoning Eros" is a book that actually makes you think after you close the cover for the final time.
All fans of extreme horror need to pick this one up posthaste. That more buffs don't know the book exists is surprising. While I'd like to describe some of the juicy details in the story, the subject matter is so beyond the pale that public decency prohibits my doing so. I can say I found "Poisoning Eros" to be an extremely well written story, and one that doesn't toss aside character development and plot in favor of gore. We come to know Gloria as a fully developed human being who, despite her rock bottom life and low self-esteem, never loses her sense of self or the ability to love her daughter. She's beaten, cheated, mistreated, emotionally damaged, lied to, and generally treated like refuse but she never loses sight of something better in life or in the afterlife. I don't think it is a stretch to say you might actually come to like this lady's pluck. It's to the authors' credit that they manage to bring these themes to the surface of what is essentially an ocean of gore. Dig down into that loamy soil and give "Poisoning Eros" a shot; you might just end up liking the darn thing!