These sleaze novels were interesting in that on the one hand they were written to a rigid formula and on the other hand they offered writers almost complete artistic freedom. The formula was that the novels had to be short and had to contain frequent sexual encounters. Apart from that a writer could do pretty much what he wanted. In this case Silverberg chose to write a marital melodrama but with a crime and a mystery of sorts to add spice. And since he happened to be a very fine writer Silverberg managed to write a reasonably interesting story.
Dave Lamson has everything a man could want. He’s in his mid thirties. He runs a very successful electronics company. He has plenty of money. He lives in a very comfortable house in a very comfortable neighbourhood. His wife Moira is not just a loving faithful wife. She’s also extremely hot and they have a great mutually satisfying sex life.
And then it all comes crashing down. A burglar breaks into the house, ties up Dave and rapes Moira in front of him.
Dave is a decent guy and a good husband but his life has been utterly conventional, and his outlook is utterly conventional. He cannot deal with the fact that everything has now changed. He thinks they should just forget the unpleasant incident and everything will go back to normal. It’s not that he’s insensitive. He knows it will take Moira a while to get over the trauma. He’s prepared to give her all the time she needs. If it takes her a couple of days, maybe even three days, to get over her trauma he’ll be patient.
But when things are not back to normal after a few days Dave gets frustrated. Moira doesn’t want to have sex and more. Dave thinks this is a crazy silly over-reaction to such a minor incident. But after five days he can’t wait any longer. He makes it clear that he expects sex. Moira agrees, but she’s unresponsive. This is just too much for Dave. It’s not enjoyable having sex with her if she just lies there passively.
Dave persuades Moira to see a psychoanalyst and the analyst has an intriguing theory. It has to do with the fact that the rapist looked a lot like Dave. Maybe it would be helpful to track down this rapist. Dave starts playing amateur detective, and his investigations invariably lead him into bed with various women. It’s one way of following up leads. Eventually, after bedding a lot of women, he finds the lead he’s looking for but whether it will lead to the result he hoped for is another matter.
There’s a lot of sex in this book. By sleaze fiction standards it’s reasonably explicit. It’s all described in terms of euphemisms but you have no doubt who is doing what to whom. The fact that sleaze authors had to avoid the cruder sexual terms makes the sex seem rather sexier.
Dave is an odd character. On the surface he seems to be presented as a pretty good guy but I can’t help feeling that Silverberg is being heavily ironic at times, especially with the amusing rationalisations Dave comes up with for jumping into bed with every female he encounters. The book doesn’t seem quite sure whether it approves of the Sexual Revolution or not. That Sexual Revolution was just starting to take off in 1962. Of course at that time authors (and publishers) had to tread carefully. They couldn’t come out in favour of promiscuity, but Silverberg isn’t anxious to condemn promiscuity either. One of the nicest characters in the book is a whore.
You never know with these sleaze novels whether they’ll turn out to be sleazy noir fiction with downbeat endings, or sleazy romantic fiction with upbeat endings, or turn out to be just unclassifiable so you could get any kind of ending. I’m not going to give you any hints as to which category this one occupies.
Lust Victim is entertaining (Silverberg could never write dull prose even if he tried), it's often amusingly ironic and I rather liked it. Recommended.
Stark House have reprinted this title in paperback, paired with another Silverberg sleaze novel, Lust Queen.