Master of Pain by Wrath James White & Kristopher Rufty
Publisher: Death’s Head Press | Release Date: May 1, 2019 | Pages: 227
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In case the highly suggestive cover art doesn’t give it away, Masters of Pain by Wrath James White and Kristopher Rufty is a work of erotic BDSM horror.
John James, known on a BDSM website by the moniker SLAVEMASTER, is a man of extreme tastes. He uses the Internet to recruit women new to, and inexperienced with, the BDSM scene to utterly dominate. He does not believe in consent or safe words…or any other kind of safety for that matter. He doesn’t care about any limits these women may have, and his domination of their bodies veers quickly into rape and torture as he cuts, beats, and brands them. John James is a serial killer, and his home’s basement dungeon is his playground. His latest mark is Melanie, a single mother all to eager to be submissive to his demands.
Master of Pain is inspired by the real-life murderer, John Edward Robinson, the Internet’s first serial killer. Like Robinson, James stalks internet chatrooms for prey, luring women to Kansas City with promises of a bondage relationship, employment, and travel. After murdering them, he lives off their bank accounts or cashes their pension or alimony checks.
Needless to say, James is a sick and repulsive character. Melanie, on the other hand, is wholly sympathetic. A struggling single mom, she uses the Internet to escape the hardships of her daily life and find some solo enjoyment in her fantasies of being a submissive. James seems like the ideal man, but oh so little does she know. White and Rufty give us an intimate look at her life, and we constantly root for her to succeed, anything to keep her out of James’s reach. Inexorably, tortuously, they remove whatever hopes she has of staying out of his orbit.
Perhaps needless to say given the subjects of this book, as well as White’s and Rufty’s notoriety for being extreme horror authors, Masters of Pain is dark, disturbing, and highly explicit, both in terms of sexual content and violence. James’s extreme appetites are juxtaposed against Melanie’s developing interest in BDSM and her attendance at a local play party. While it’s obvious that James is way, way out there, it does give help give readers an idea of what normal BDSM sex play looks like, in terms of consent and mutual pleasure seeking. James is most certainly an outlier in his beliefs of what domination should constitute, and nothing Melanie experiences prior to meeting him can ever truly prepare her.
Masters of Pain may not be an easy read for many, but it certainly is interesting and evocative, and the authors heighten the serial killer drama with their late addition of occult elements (also drawn from Robinson’s claims surrounding the International Council of Masters). I do wish we could have spent more time with the occult, given the intriguing nature of it here, but what we do get speaks of a deeper and quite fascinating history that I really wanted to know more about. White and Rufty, however, do a fine job leading tamer, vanilla readers like myself through the history and intricacies of BDSM society and the danger people like James/Robinson pose toward those newer initiates. The taboo nature of these sex practices wherein one seeks pleasure from pain already makes a ripe playing field for horror. In Masters of Pain, White and Rufty excel at demonstrating just how dangerous, and harrowing, those kinks could be in the wrong hands.