Currently selling on Ebay for £400 is a hardback first edition of Lord Horror, published by Manchester independent publishing house Savoy in 1989.

Another copy is priced at over £600 on Amazon.

Many of the original 500 copies were seized by Greater Manchester Police, prior to an obscenity case brought against the publishers in 1991, which led to Lord Horror being the last novel to be banned in Great Britain. (The ban was lifted on appeal in 1992.)

In an article, Obscene, But Not Heard, from The Big Issue July 1998, Alley Fogg describes the novel as:
“…the fictionalised adventures of a character based on William Joyce, aka Lord Haw-Haw, who broadcast English language propaganda for the Nazis during World War II. A difficult, heavily philosophical and blackly funny work which jumps across chronology, genres and planes of reality, it attempts to examine the mind set of fascism using heavy satire and lurid, often grossly repellent imagery. Its many admirers drew parallels with Swift, Joyce and Burroughs.”

(Apparently Lord Haw-Haw / William Joyce briefly lived in Glodwick in Oldham.)

Savoy have a very comprehensive website www.savoy.abel.co.uk where I found this diagram, which gives some insight into the ideas behind Lord Horror:

Fogg’s article continues:
“One character… ‘James Appleton’ was a thinly-veiled caricature of ‘God’s Cop’ James Anderton, the former Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police. In one passage, Britton reprinted a speech of Anderton’s which had described people with Aids as “wallowing in a cess pit of their own making”, and suggested that they should be put in camps. Britton quoted the speech but throughout it replaced the word ‘gay’ with the word ‘Jew’ …in 1992, Britton was sentenced to three months imprisonment.

In his book Horror Panegyric (published by Savoy), Keith Seward writes:
“…advocates of free speech paid little heed to the plight of Lord Horror’s creator. If this had happened ten years later, Britton would have become a cause celebre fuelled by online petitions and blogger outrage. But in 1991 there was not much of an internet, and liberals had already blown their wad on Salman Rushdie…”

In fact, the war between Greater Manchester Police and Savoy raged throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Michael Butterworth and David Britton financed their publications through small bookshops specialising in sci-fi, comics and soft porn but their business was constantly undermined by police raids and stock seizures. The police only stopped hounding Savoy when they were obliged to divert resources toward fighting internet crime around 2000.

In the meantime, Lord Horror had crossed genres; Keith Seward explains:
“Constant harassment… would have quashed most publishers, but Britton and Butterworth… far from retreating… launched an all-out assault… In short, the death of the book was the birth of a twisted empire…
Their franchise of Lord Horror productions is provocative, original, visionary and contains at least one outright masterpiece (Motherfuckers). Young writers should be looking at it the same as they do Naked Lunch,…”

Savoy, now based in a small office above a Withington shop, has no plans to reprint Lord Horror in book format, so the value of existing novels looks set to remain high. The novel can still be purchased in audio format, directly from Savoy’s website www.savoy.abel.co.uk, as can hardback editions of the other two novels in the series, Motherfuckers: The Auschwitz Of Oz (1996) and Baptised In The Blood Of Millions (2001); also the Lord Horror comics and recordings, plus most of Savoy’s back catalogue, including the Meng & Ecker comics, named after the teashop on King Street in Manchester (now gone.)

April 2012 sees the publication of a fourth Lord Horror novel, La Squab, masquerading as a children’s book and inspired by The Wind In The Willows:

According to Keith Seward,
“In Motherfuckers, La Squab is a disgusting black dwarf whom Meng fucks in Auschwitz. In the Lord Horror comics, she becomes Meng’s daughter, a sassy Lolita who makes sarcastic comments about her father’s bestial behaviour and offers snarky literary judgements about contemporary writers.”

Who knows what La Squab will become in this book, which is named after her! It will be interesting to see how the critics react; is Lord Horror poised to become fashionable after all this time? Or is Savoy’s output still considered too shocking and un-politically-correct to deserve the attention of Kirsty Wark or Matthew Cain?

Further Reading:
David Britton and Michael Butterworth on William S. Burroughs – from the article Meeting William Burroughs which appeared in The Edge in 1998.

Books As Art“as the traditional book grows in rarity, the production and making of these paper bound books will become more and more an art form. The book itself – much like illuminated manuscripts hundreds of years ago – will become a piece of art.”