Imagine a man who will be anything you want. Who will listen attentively to every word you say and intuit everything you don't. A man willing to explore all the dark corners of your body and your mind. A man who wants only your pleasure ......
Such is the charm of Fabrice, a tattooist toiling away in his own dark world in Paris. A modern alchemist, Fabrice is seeking perfection through transformation. He knows how to attract women, and he knows how to love them, but Fabrice wants total submission: if he can dissolve a woman's ego, melt it down, he will find gold.
Erotic fiction is a genre that has never really been my thing. Oh, I spent my late teens engrossed in the bonkbuster novels of Jackie Collins, Judith Krantz, Shirley Conran and the like, and lapped them up, but the whole erotic slant has never really drawn me in.
Over the past couple of years, one would be forgiven for thinking that the only new books being published are erotic fiction, it has seemed on occasion that every high street bookshop has overstocked with piles of 50 Shade - esque fiction. Wading one's way through tables filled with grey and black covers with artfully placed white things was really beginning to annoy me. Then there has been the discussion, the debate, the incredible rise in fortune for EL James, and lately it has seemed to die down .... well, until the film is released I guess. I expect the film tie-in paperback will be released and it will all start again.
So why did I choose to read The Tattooist? Well, first it is published by Cutting Edge Press (and was released in hardcover in April 2012). Cutting Edge is a publishing company that I admire; they publish some fabulous fiction which I've really enjoyed. Secondly, this book was written in 2006, so not on the coat-tails at all, and Louise Black has been writing erotic fiction for years .... oh, and the cover is brilliant too - not a hint of black ..... or red!
What did I think? Wow, just Wow! This story took me and shook me up and deposited me down again, all a tremble and wondering just what the fuck happened? The introduction is intense, it could be off-putting, it's hard and it's blunt. The publisher has acknowledged that fact, and probably wouldn't include it in future prints. And then we meet Fabrice, the tattooist of the story. He has a shop in an up and coming part of Paris, and upon first meeting him, he appears to be bit of a catch. Swarthy, intelligent, deep and understanding - what more could a woman want?
We meet three of Fabrice's clients. Three women, very different, but alike in the fact that they have problems and want to be fixed. Fabrice is a fixer, he charms them with his voice, his sensitivity and it doesn't take long before he charms each of them in the bedroom too. Except that Fabrice doesn't always make it to the bedroom; anywhere that Fabrice chooses will do. The sex is hard-core, explicitly described, possibly uncomfortable to read and very vivid.
Fabrice is a sadistic man, the three women are victims. The reader's view of the characters change throughout the story. Those who appeared weak and dirty become strong and mighty, and those that appear charming and sensitive become cruel and vindictive.
Darkness, sadism, alchemy and sex. Sometimes bewildering, but so so forceful. This is so much more than erotica - it's a powerful story with excellent narrative and quite scarily believable characters.
I enjoyed every whirlwind of a page and certainly recommend this novel, even if it takes you a little out of your comfort zone.
My thanks to Saffeya at Cutting Edge Press who sent my copy for review.
Louise Black was born in Devon. After completing a Masters and a PhD on Georges Bataille she moved to France, where she currently lives. Her short stories appeared in The Erotic Review for over a decade. The Tattooist is her first published novel. Follow Louise on Twitter