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Carry on Screaming – Renegades by Shaun Hutson (1991) #BookReview

Welcome, ladies, gentlemen and fellow horror lovers, to this month’s Carry on Screaming post. Each month I’ll be reviewing a vintage British horror novels and reflecting on what was happening in both the horror genre and the news in the UK at the time. You can read previous posts in the series by clicking on the ‘Carry on Screaming‘ category.

Renegades by Shaun Hutson book cover

Immortality – the ultimate secret. David and Laura Callahan, like others before them throughout the ages, will stop at nothing in their perverted quest for it. But for Callahan, a multi-millionaire gun-runner, eternal life has never looked less likely: he is being hunted by two British counter-terrorists. And nobody knows who hired the killers – or why…

Title: Renegades | Author: Shaun Hutson | Publisher: Time Warner Paperbacks | Pub. Year: 1991 | Pages: 448 | Genre: Horror | Language: English | Source: Self-purchased | Starred Review: Yes

The very first book I covered for ‘Carry on Screaming’ was ‘The Irish Witch’ by Dennis Wheatley, a historical adventure novel with satanic overtones. That book drew on the Anglo-Irish conflict and 18 years/months later, Shaun Hutson’s ‘Renegades’ tries the same trick. Like Wheatley’s book it has a rugged hero, lots of action, Hellfire club style satanic thrill seekers and a pretty sketchy grasp of the complex politics of the situation. Whereas ‘The Irish Witch’ was set in 1812, during the time Britain ruled Ireland, ‘Renegade’ has a contemporary setting and features a gang of Republican terrorists trying to thwart the peace process.

Many of Shaun Hutson’s books involve elements common in crime fiction, but ‘Renegades’ was the first that reads more like a thriller than it does a horror novel. Like ‘Spawn’ and ‘Chainsaw Terror’, the book has interwoven storylines that only really come together at the end. The main one is a thriller in the Jack Higgins mould, with gruff and gritty counter terrorist Sean Doyle investigating a rogue IRA faction. Doyle is reminiscent of Jack Bauer from TV-show ‘24’. He’s miserable, fond of torture and shoots lots of people. He even works for a division called CTU. Unfortunately he lacks the vulnerability that made Bauer such an enjoyable protagonist. Instead he comes across as an arrogant and psychopathic wanker. The second story concerns two historians uncovering a gruesome stained glass window in a desecrated French church. The third is about a hedonistic couple who are constantly looking for their next sick thrill and who get off on car accidents.

The thriller part takes up about 80% of the book’s pages, with the two sub-plots providing the horror elements. Doyle’s tale is ridiculously violent, with multiple beatings, shootouts and gun fetishism. It’s entertaining and fast paced, if a bit repetitive, but the fact that it so dominates the book might disappoint horror fans. Hutson clearly enjoys writing about bullets going through people’s faces, but as a reader I found the violence lacked the delirious, gruesome inventiveness of his best horror work. The 20% of the book which is horror is more fun, with some particularly effective dream sequences, but overall things feel a bit unbalanced.

‘Renegades’ marked the transition of Hutson away from being a pure horror writer. It came at a time when the popularity of horror fiction was waning and crime was starting its ascendance, so it may well have been a smart move. Hutson certainly isn’t the only writer who made that move, Peter James in the UK and Dean Koontz in the US would later shift their creative output in a similar direction. Personally, I prefer Hutson’s earlier, schlockier work, but his thrillers still have a brutal appeal.  


I’m adopting a slightly different rating system for my Carry on Screaming review, because, let’s face it, vintage horror novels are about more than just the quality of the actual book.

Book: 3 out of 5

Cover: 2 out of 5 -looks like it was drawn by a reasonably talented 10 year old

Nastiness: 4 out of 5 – the horror is a bit lacking, but the action is fantastically graphic

Sauciness: 4 out of 5 – it’s Hutson, so the book has its fair share of moist clefts and swollen glans

Cover promise vs delivery: 2 out of 5 – promises more horror than the book dishes up.

Overall Carry on Screaming rating: 15/25

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What else happened in 1991?

1991 was a less momentous year for the UK than 1990. John Major continued as Prime Minister and the Poll Tax was abolished following the protests of the previous year. The first Gulf War started with bombing raids by the RAF on Iraq and singer Freddie Mercury died. It was also the year that Tim Berners Lee launched the World Wide Web, a pivotal point in human history that I didn’t even notice at the time.

Despite the fact that one of the year’s biggest films, ‘Silence of the Lambs’ was a horror movie, it was a pretty bad year for the genre. A personal favourite of mine, Wes Craven’s ‘The People Under the Stairs’ was released, but pickings were slim aside from that. ‘Puppet Master 3’ or ‘Howling VI’ anyone?

It was a better year for horror fiction, with at least four classics being released: ‘Ring’ by Koji Suzuki, ‘Boy’s Life’ by Robert McCammon, ‘American Psycho’ by Bret Easton Ellis and ‘Summer of Night’ by Dan Simmons.

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Next up, a sequel to a classic and a book that was, back in the 1990s, a firm favourite of mine. ‘Anno Dracula’ by Kim Newman.

Renegades by Shaun Hutson book cover
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