Sawney Bean-inspired cannibal clan is so unlikely as to be almost supernatural; credulity may be strained.
1999 Overlook Connection hardcover, unexpurgated edition
Off Season's horror is the realization we are nothing but meat to a bizarre cannibal tribe, that the identities we cradle within our skulls are invisible and worthy of no consideration. The horror is in the full awareness of our impending death by dismemberment, of a violation so beyond the realms of human decency as to be dizzying. Watch as your severed limbs are piled around you, your mind reeling. Watch as your friends and lovers are broken before you and set aflame. Watch as you are eaten alive. Then, when you have the chance to retaliate, watch as you become as vile, as depraved, as degenerated as your enemy.
He was keeping her alive as long as he could, and she participated in her torture by her body's blind attempts to survive it. Didn't she know that it was better to be dead now? What awful fraud animated her? Her will to live was as cruel as he was.
Ketchum in '81
Ballantine Books printed up hundreds of thousands of copies of Off Season, even sending out this advance reader's edition (above) to booksellers in January 1981, along with other promotional items. And the outcry was immediate: no bookseller wanted to sell what they considered "violent pornography." Ketchum's career as a novelist was almost over before it'd begun. While it gained some word-of-mouth sales and became a cult title, it wasn't till the advent of the internet that the author's work became better known. The republication of it in 1999 included material excised by the publisher originally for being too violent. I can't even imagine what that'd be!
2006 Leisure Books reprint, unexpurgated edition
As with his The Girl Next Door, I read Off Season in one go; it's got a merciless propulsion to it, a sense of doom that will not be avoided, like a clockwork collision course. Can I recommend it? I'm not sure: it's the kind of book that can get you wondering just why we read books like this: there is no enjoyment in it, no secret thrill (god, I hope not), no escape, nor does it inspire you to get other people to read it. It's an endurance test, really, and when you get to the end, what have you gained? Simply a badge that states "I Survived Off Season"? I don't really have an answer other than: you do it to see if you can take it.
As they stood in the kitchen facing each other nobody said a word for a few minutes. There was nothing left to do but what they had said they would do, and now that seemed enormous and filled them up with a kind of awe.