Christmas Reading 1

I don’t know when it started, but it has become my tradition to sit down on Christmas Day with a pulp novel from the 70s or 80s and finish it before Boxing Day*.

This was 2022’s choice. TORCHED! was published in 1986, and feels pretty of its time.

Something is causing a string of mysterious fires across the United States, and two insurance investigators (and, separately but in parallel, the sister of a victim) are trying to hunt the cause. No spoilers, given the cover blurb, but it’s all down to someone discovering how to cause spontaneous human combustion.

There’s a healthy dollop of sleaze, with video-era porn production a part of the story. Characters are broadly and roughly sketched out, and make some really stupid decisions that conflict with previous actions. The grand plan behind the arson is somehow both plausible and ridiculous simultaneously. And the conclusion is wrapped up quickly, as if the writer realised he was close to his word count, and just decided to get it over with with a quick info dump and a convenient confession.

So, just what I was looking for in a Christmas Day book.

*No, I don’t have children. How did you know?

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