“The Hypnotist” by Jack Kahler (1966)

John Meredith Swift was only 14 years old and he was quite impressed by the hypnotist he'd seen. It wasn't surprising that he tried to imitate the man, but, as he discovered with young Nancy next door, he had to give his voice time to mature a little.

He never lost his fascination for the art, however, and much later … in his last year at college, he had the opportunity for an interesting experiment. One which caused a young virgin to turn up pregnant, almost costing her life and sanity … and John's as well …

Description: John Swift is a man without goals, an intelligent man without the drive to do anything with that intelligence, an indifferent student with a lackluster degree from a prominent university, a man with no prospects and no desires. His one great gift is his facility with hypnosis, a gift he used for his own personal satisfaction, yet a gift he cannot use openly or to aid others. Yet he is driven to use that gift, so he is forced to work through a most unlikely duo: a professional hypnotherapist long out of practice and a decidely unprofessional therapist with a burgeoning 'practice' dealing in entranced sex.

And through a strange coincidence he meets back up with Lola, one of the many women he seduced using hypnosis, yet the only one who is now paying the price. She is pregnant with John's child, yet her hypnotically-induced amnesia about the event means she has no idea who the father is. Every memory, every psychological investigation into that question eventually was fruitless. She is managing to cope with the situation yet stil wants an answer, and hypnosis may be the answer to her problem, and John is the hypnotist who might be able to help her.

But he has to get over his own guilt first, and his wallowing in self-doubt and his disgust at his excesses in the company of the unprofessional hypnotherapist doesn't help matters. And to do that, he has to realize that, dspite his affected disinterest, John has found something (or someone) that he can be interested in.

Commentary: If you're looking for rampant descriptions of sexual escapades under hypnosis, you won't find them here. There is plenty of implied sexual activity under hypnosis, but its all off screen, even the crucial scene between John and Lola. As such, is promises much (from the cover pictuer alone) but doesn't deliver except to titiliate the reader's imagination.

What the story is about is John's descent into a personal hell because of his awakening feelings and guilt toward the girl he used once and then forgot about. Once he knows about Lola and her "condition" (as it would have been described back in that period) his whole world is completely unsettled and he tries to compensate, first by going outside the normal bounds of hypnotherapy, possibly seeing that as some form of compensation, and then by wallowing in despair. It takes Lola's own personal troubles to shake him out of it and to come to the realization that he actually loves her as much as she discovers she loves him.

I do have to give the author credit for the inductions: they are well-written, so I have to wonder how the author imagined them or whether they were copied from somewhere or written for him. I have not found any information about the author directly, so it might be he did have some form of training in hypnosis, but I think it more likely he had help here.

Recommendation: This is a hard book to find (I found it only recently and paid a good price for it) but I do have to recommend it if only (and probably only) for the number of inductions recorded therein. Otherwise the story is only pedestrian and the book is only of interest to people like collectors like myself.

Trivia: According to one reference, the rather Satanic face on the cover art is the face of cover artist Douglas Weaver.

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