Will Errikson at Too Much Horror Fiction turned me onto this book recently. I'd heard a lot about the writings of Thomas Tessier, just never had the opportunity to read anything by him. He seems to consistantly make everyone's "top ten" list.
Originally published in 1986, Finishing Touches was recently republished with another of Tessier's writings, Father Panic's Opera Macabre. Touches is the story of Tom Sutherland, a recent medical school graduate who's slumming in London from an inheritance. One night he runs into Roger Nordhagen, a successful cosmetic surgeon, at a pub. Roger takes a liking to the younger man and begins inviting him to carouse the seedy side of London. Soon, Tom meets Lena, Nordhagen's beautiful assistant and embarks on a wild affair of debauchery. It almost comes to a quick end when Lena arranges an escapade which nearly gets Tom killed. But Tom decides to stick it out and soon finds what Nordhagen's real life work is all about.
At times, Touches reminded me of a shudder pulp from the 1930's. Dr. Roger Nordhagen isn't too far removed from Dr. Rance Mandarin and his "maggots of madness". But Tessier is a very literate writer and can twist a paragraph into a deadly shape. Furthermore, Tessier didn't have any reservations about holding back on the descriptive sex and gore scenes.
Father Panic is a shorter work and seems to be a sketch for a longer novel. Traveling through Italy, a writer named Neil finds an isolated house in the mountains when his car breaks down. He approaches the house for assistance and meets Marisa Panic. She lives there with her extended family. They live in the house in the manner of medieval feudal lords, taking care of their tenant farmers. Although Marisa speaks eloquent English and Italian, she converses in another language with her family and field hands. Neil decides to stay on for a few days when Marisa makes a play for him, and this proves to be the beginning of his undoing. After an erotic opening, the novella suddenly shifts gears and Neil is thrown backwards in time to a genocidal massacre in Croatia during WW2. The book ends all too quick, making me think it was intended to be a much longer piece.
Definitely a good a scary set of reads, but not for those with weak constitutions.