Decorated for Death

From Fanlore
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Title: Decorated for Death
Publisher: Black Metal Press
Author(s): Jill Ripley/Beano Smart
Cover Artist(s): Chris Ripley/ Frodsham McCloud
Illustrator(s): Frodsham McCloud
Date(s): February 1982
Medium: print
Size: 8 1/2x11, 900K, 289 pages
Genre: gen
Fandom: Starsky and Hutch
Language: English
External Links: Starsky and Hutch Archive
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.
cover of Decorated for Death

Decorated For Death is a gen AU (the first AU in the fandom) Starsky and Hutch fanzine. It is a 289-page novel by Jill Ripley with extensive black and white ink art by Chris Ripley. The author and the illustrator are sisters.

At some point, the artist created a separate color poster, a take on the well-known Starsky & Hutch publicity still (this still is often referred to as The Wedding Photo).

When it was published, the novel evoked a strong reaction: readers either loved it or hated it.

The zine won a 1982 Huggy Award for 'Best Novel.' It also won an Encore Award.


The original authors wrote and illustrated a 1990 sequel called The Jowett Place.

For other fans' fanworks, see Decorated for Death-Inspired Fiction and Decorated for Death-Inspired Art.

Decorated for Death as a Zine of its Time

flyer for zine from S and H #29

Flamingo, who made this zine available online, has this to say about the social and political climate from which this zine arose:

There are numerous story conventions in SH that evolved from social events of that time that now are often lost to modern readers... At the time, the Cold War was hot, and the possibility that the world would destroy itself in nuclear or biological holocaust was an oppressive reality. It was a frequent subject of popular movies and TV shows, and debates of how such a holocaust would impact the world were common. This concern was so pervasive that it features in a number of classic SH fiction pieces, of which DFD is the best known.[1]

Production Challenges

From the zine's creators, as told to Flamingo:

One of the reasons the print quality was so poor was that in those days nobody but nobody in Britain had a PC, we were still using typewriters. To print something of that length back then, when one Xerox copy was around 8 cents a copy, was just too expensive so we resorted to Gestetner machines. But even then you had to know someone who had one and were able to sweet-talk them into lending it to you. Well, my sister and I managed to acquire a second-hand machine and duely spent hours, weeks, months cutting all the skins on a typewriter. However, when we came to do the printing, we didn't know that the previous owner of the Gestetner machine had allowed it to suck pages into and around its ink drum. They were so saturated in ink we didn't spot them under the silk and just thought it was the best the machine could do. Those sheets, which may have been on the machine's drum for years, drank the ink and we spent a small fortune in ink to get any kind of image on the paper. Printing DforD cost far more than we expected and then we had the next headache of getting it bound. Again, there was nothing like personal binders over here, in those days... we had to hunt down a printer who could do it. And when you look at the poor way it was stapled together, it's a wonder it's held together all these years. Getting the illos printed was another headache and the one of Starsky on the catafalque had to be specially done at another printers who had a new style machine and could cope with all that black paper. Honestly, there were days when we nearly jacked it all in. However, Terri Beckett, Chris Power and Connie F. etc gave us lots of encouragement and eventually DforD was born. Actually, having just re-read it, I tend to think the poor print quality kinda reflects the miserable sorry state of LA after The End and is probably the best that the Champion or the Other could have managed in the city, if they'd decided to print it themselves! [2]


The Other shifted under his outstretched hand. "No, don't stop. Don't ever stop . . . . Not until they can never ever find us." Whispered fervent pleading.
The Champion studied the wet face. If he were ever begged from the inner heart of a man again, it would never compare to the raw expression of the Other now.
He saw through the silver plates, the rivets, the bruises, the absent eye -- to the face of his old partner. Before his eyes was his basic vulnerability and total dependence. It was given carte blanche after so many years of independent isolation. The total trust was back as the Other gave the Champion his life for safekeeping.
It shook the driver to the core. And inside, the Champion committed himself to a lifetime of standing guard. All the yesterdays are gone. No more solitary dangers . . . . Your lonely life is over. They'll never find us . . . .
The Other needed an immediate answer. His right hand came up with all his effort. He reached for the Champion.
"Hutch . . . promise."
The Champion swallowed down his huskiness.'
"I promise, Starsky." He wiped away a tear that hung on the edge of a silver strip. "I promise." And he held the little wet sphere on this glove till it disappeared.
..... [snipped]
No narcotic of Selkirk's could have ever given him a high like this warm glow. It started in his mind with a deep sense of peace, and succeeded in enveloping his tortured inner self in a sense of final release. Hugging his shredded soul, he was shielded from the shock of the fight. This new calm took away the cold hold of death that had snatched at his lifeforce in the pool house, and held his raging emotions in check. When he would be strong enough for the full realization to hit him, then the time would be right for fuller feeling and awareness. To contemplate the "what ifs . . . ." Right now, his subconscious knew he needed a tender cocoon of tranquility.
The cabin of the Peterbilt became a surrogate womb. Until it was time for both men to be reborn, it would shield them from the world. A man needs time to find himself again, to assess his inmost being and understand the release of new life that fills him. The transition from possession -- slave -- to freeman takes time. Like the pages of an epic novel, each one must be turned and read to the bitter end. No part of the narrative can be missed or altered. The scenes are set, the protagonists called to their roles in the play of Destiny.

Art Gallery for Decorated for Death by Original Artist

To illustrate the Frodsham McCloud's uncluttered style, a small sampling of the interior art is below. The full gallery, along with a copy of the novel, can be found online here.

Decorated for Death-Inspired Fiction

a page from The Grief and the Glory: "Voyage of Rediscovery" by Tabby Davis

Several authors have written in this universe.

Voyage of Rediscovery by Tabby Davis is a post-DPD story:

SH projects and possibilities are always being discussed among fans. A recent theme started with the post-"Decorated for Death" question -- 'what happens next?' Part three of [Decorated for Death] introduces an element of hope for a human future, and these worshippers of de Chardin seem to me to belong there. [J, the author], of course, knows too these ideas (besides her own) for the extension of her story, and we've discussed this idea and this image. I find these words close to some of my own SH concepts and used them as prelude to a post-DFD story, 'Voyage of Rediscovery.' The original calligraphy forms one of the pages in The Grief and the Glory. [3]

In the holocaust department, Roy Smith's "A Brother Helped Is a Strong City" was parodied in Sue Doughnym's "He Ain't Heavy, He's My City", and Jill Ripley's Decorated for Death was parodied by Jody Lynn Nye and I in "Demonstrated to Death. [4]

Decorated for Death-Inspired Art

Suzan Lovett created five pieces of inspired art for this story and published them in Moonlight and Mists (1985) after she was denied the permission to write a sequel of her own for this story.

... when Suzan wanted to write a slash sequel to the gen A/U story, "Decorated for Death," the author said no. Suzan had already created 5 different art pieces for her sequel, a story she was dying to write. However, when the author said no, she abandoned all work on it. We are all the poorer for it, but Suzan did the right thing. [5]

A fan in early summer 1985 wrote:

Suzi, good luck with The Thousandth Man. I look forward to seeing it - if the artwork is anything like the photographs of your personal artwork for "Decorated for Death" it will be fantastic. [6]

On the Cover of Another Zine

"Decorated for Death" art by Suzan Lovett is also featured on the 2010 zine, Dangerous Lives, Dangerous Visions #5.

See additional art for this graphic novel series at Out of Ashes, posted to the 2014 Starsky & Hutch Advent Calendar.


"A 250+ page, one-story zine... What happens to Starsky and Hutch and LA after the holocaust? Who wins, who loses, who survives? Are you strong enough to read the legend? Can you bear to learn the story of the man of silver and the man of gold?" [7]

The zine was so popular that in 1983, a year after it was published, the editors sold the cover artwork as a poster and then later as a photo. "ATTENTION ALL DECORATED FOR DEATH FANS: By popular request, the DECORATED FOR DEATH poster is now available as a beautiful 10-1/2 x 13- 1/2 photo! Thrill your friends, be the envy of your neighbors, mystify your family! Yes, The Champion and The Other can be yours for the paltry sum of $24..." [8]

Reactions and Reviews


DECORATED FOR DEATH is difficult to describe, especially in the few words allowed to a review. The story itself is complex—an odyssey of adventure through the ruins of the post-Holocaust city that was once Los Angeles. The protagonists—the Champion and the man enigmatically known as the Other—begin as deadly enemies in a fatal duel in a sewer. Yes, that's right—fatal. The Champion, drug-fed assassin for his 'Owners', earns his last gold 'decoration' by blasting his mysterious alter into oblivion— it is only afterwards that half-recognized memories return to haunt him. Something about the Other is disturbing, and the Champion discovers a need beyond his drug cocktail—he believes the Other held the key to his missing past, now lost forever. Or Is It? The miracle-working surgeons of the Other's territory resurrect him yet again to perform the duties laid upon him by his masters—to Protect and Serve his commune. He is cursed with an unwanted Immortality, not allowed the death he craves given back life at the price of his self-respect, mutilated beyond belief in the name of Science, he takes the unheard-of decision to go freelance, severing his link with the Plaza commune and going out alone into the mutant-ridden city to find his freedom. Or so he thinks—unaware that he has been programmed for another task, and that his masters are using him as bait for bigger game. The two Protectors are linked in a way neither understands, yet as they progress they find scraps of ancient memory returning—memory of the almost-mythical Time Before. Their quest for identity is interrupted by nightmare happenings and nightmarish characters, but by the time they make their escape to the outside world and a better life, they have at last recognized what end who they are and were, and what they meant and will mean to each other. Jill Ripley's writing is at times almost indigestibly rich, lavish with description, and as stylized as medieval allegory. The characters switch speech patterns from racy slang to near-Biblical rhetoric with bewildering ease, and their thought-patterns at times would be at home in Malory. Which doesn't fit with Starsky and Hutch, you may say—and you would be right. But DfD Is a surrealist nightmare-fantasy, not today's LA cop-story—not Wambaugh but Moorcock. It isn't something that can be read in a single sitting, or dipped Into for flavor it leaves the reader feeling slightly stunned and emotionally drained. It is emphatically not 'light reading. It has is faults—primarily the lack of a complete edit and de-Brit no doubt this will irritate the perfectionists. The purists who like their SH to stay in 20th century LA won't like it, either. But for the adventurous who can take one step beyond the known and familiar DfD la something to see. The text is exquisitely illustrated by Chris Ripley, her style different again to her work In One More Mountain and 10-13 #2 the familiar features in unfamiliar guise show the skill of the artist to perfection, as well as perfectly portraying the action… There are 14 illustrations in all, each one a separate work of art. It is rare to see such a marrying of talents in two individuals, enabling them to work so closely together—being sisters is not necessarily the answer, and would probably be more hindrance than help. But these two have got something special, and there are great things ahead of them. DECORATED FOR DEATH is 289pp in length, and the price reflects that. But in this instance you get what you pay for. The year is young, but DfD has to be prime contender for the most unusual novel in S&H fanfic for 1982. Anyway you slice it, it is going to have a place in S&H history. If you're doubtful about spending that much, take a look at a friend’s copy first. You’ll want your own. This reviewer recommends it. [9]

Gather round the trashfire, O my Sisters, and listen to this tale told of the Champion and the Other, Protectors of the City, how they killed, survived, and on a new dawning day fought their way to freedom. But first, let's talk about cult sources. Why is it that some TV shows such as STARSKY & HUTCH and STAR TREK, attract a fannish following, when other TV shows, even demonstrably better written, produced, and acted ones (PRISONER, I CLAUDIUS), don't? Why are there STAR WARS zines, and not 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY zines? Why did Jacqueline Lichtenberg's Kraith universe seize the imaginations of so many Trekfen in the mid-70's? Why do people keep on doing the Time Warp again? In other words, what makes for a cult movie or series or book—or zine? Oddly enough, one thing cult sources don't seem to be is literarily well done. A cult source can't be complete in itself; it seems to need to draw on themes and assumptions from its genre without actually referring to them. Most also have a lot of loose ends and even self-contradictions, which force the reader/viewer to resolve them to her own satisfaction, but the themes can't be too disjointed; the vision must be coherent over all, and have something to say. The story still has to make sense and be important. Starsky and Hutch, for instance, do love each other, but the series never specified in what sense, and in fact gave us the contradictory "Death in a Different Place" and the hanky hints. Spock has been a bone for fans to chew on for years—just how the hell emotional is he, anyway? A cult piece should be about a subject that hits us below the conscious belt love, human isolation (Spock in ST), home (WIZARD OF OZ), gaining freedom… Finally, a cult story must be different but identifiable, unique but only within a genre. STAR TREK is still science fiction, STARSKY & HUTCH is still a cop show, but each has a definite flavor that sets if off from other science fiction or cop shows.

So back to DECORATED FOR DEATH. I think this has all the making of a cult zine. It's mythic in a post-holocaust world, our heroes must do battle against monsters who have enslaved their minds with drugs and cyborg surgery, mutant monsters in the streets who eat human and not-so-human flesh, monsters who stand in the way of their regaining self-identity and freedom. It has superheroes: Hutch can smell hours-old traces of a man's fear, Starsky can be brought back from the dead, both run around in Marvel comic book costumes. It has a most unusual perspective. S&H live in what amounts to another dimension, a society of feudalistic communes, preying mutants, and perverted policemen's roles, yet, throughout, the protagonists are instantly recognizable as Starsky and Hutch. And (sorry, Ripley) it's not overly well crafted: overladen with adjectives, point-of-view glitches, mythic illogic, and phony-heroic dialog, the story forces the reader to work in order to follow the important points, almost to retell it to herself, though this investment can make the story feel more a part of the reader. But the effort, not strenuous, is more than worth it. This is a super—duper story, suspenseful, fascinating, detailed, and damned hard to put down. Chris' art is a terrific counterpoint, as spare as Jill's prose is verbose, but equally meticulous. The figures in the illos have weight and presence, and a good deal of my belief in the Champion and the Other as Hutch and as Starsky comes from seeing Hutch with his braids flying vault the wall into the Territory camp, and looking at exactly where Starsky's silver prostheses have been riveted to the bones of his face. Chris' superb control of her line makes for visceral dynamite. The only trouble is, this is one expensive sucker. Airmail this - side is $18, and when it arrives it looks, like it's been dropped out of a plane. I wish the Ripley's would get an agent in the US or Canada, and maybe Down Under as well. Though not mainstream S&H fanfic, this zine is too good to be passed up because of its price.[10]

Buy this and read it. That's the whole idea behind this review, but since one is supposed to give a little more information and comment upon a zine, what follows will support the above conclusion. But the conclusion itself will remain the same about this stunning and intriguing novel. First a personal comment. There seems to be a liking in various quarters for the trashing of Los Angeles. I resent this; I have a very good relationship with the San Andreas and other local faults, and the idea that they might one day cancel out on our agreement without warning doesn't make my sleep any sweeter. The writer of A BROTHER HELPED IS A STRONG CITY knows this little quirk of mine, yet wrote the thing anyway. When I read the final draft, I found very little to forgive the writer for – I mean, for this my city fell apart? But DfD, which not only makes the place fall apart but bombs it, fills it full of diseases and mutants and whackos, and quakes it to rubble as well, has my full pardon. I'd agree to the destruction in prose of Versailles, the Huntingdon Library, Art Gallery and Gardens, the British Museum, and Castle Howard (plus a few other favorite landmarks) in order to read something this good. Which is not to say there are no flaws in this novel. there are. Someone should first of all take the typist's hand the hell off the ‘…. key’ Three or four of them are sufficient. The repro of the zine varies from pretty good to squint-at-it quality. There are some very weird combinations of words the sort of thing where you know what the writer wanted to say but also know she needed an editor's help to say it clearly. As a matter of fact, what DfD needed more than anything else was a tender understanding but firm editor’s hand. Not someone who would bleed the style white for the sake of the Great God Grammar, but who'd polish what's there and get rid of the unnecessaries. But you know something? Not a bit of it matters. I don’t care about the oddities or the multiple adjectives or the occasional awkwardness. Because DfD is a hell of a story, written with the kind of raw-nerve immediacy I'd despaired of ever finding in this fandom again. I know I'm going to get lynched for the above paragraph after all I've shrieked about in these pages making a work better by giving it a tough edit, paying close attention to one's writing skills, and having the guts to take chances with the characters and the plot. Jill Ripley is no exception to the first two comments, but she more than makes up for the glitches in the writing by her amazing talent. This, my friends, is what a writer writes like. Never mind the problems of expression, that's all very minor when faced with a vision like Jill's. A lesser talent must needs pay more attention to the fine details of her work elegance of style can mask certain deficiencies of characterization or plot or what have you. Jill, with a careful editor, is going to be a marvel. Hell, she already is. This book proves it. The first thing that hits the reader is an assault upon every sense. We hear, smell, see, taste and touch the Los Angeles of the years after the holocaust. But most of all we feel. Honestly, without manipulation, and with an urgency that is at times exhausting, we feel. And it is in these emotions that the real strength of the story lies. I hesitate to write too much about the plot, since it's Not Nice to give such things away. But these are the basics: After the destruction, S&H remember nothing of each other or of the time before Hutch through choice and drugs, Starsky through choice and mental blockage imposed by a mad scientist type. The plot revolves mainly around their agony of trying to remember, and their shame when they discover how changed they are from what they once were. This Hutch has a terrible beauty. He is very different from Our Kenneth yet he is still much the same. His integrity is still there witness his grim determination that no one shall bear his sons, for they are clean and untouched within him and he will not give any woman their future. Starsky's anguished uncertainties and vulnerability have their roots in the series, as well; he is a priceless creation, doubts of his own humanity after what has been done to him showing that he is, indeed, still human. There are many ties to the aired episodes, and not only in the gradual remembering of the characters. The first is, as always, their need of each other. The desolation of souls brought on by their separation rends the heart. We have seen this done over and over in the series and even more times in fanfic, with varying degrees of competency and results. Jill's sundering of these paired souls is horrifying and goes beyond anything we've ever seen or read but it's necessary, it's justified, and it works. That the whole is in truth greater than the sum of its parts is beautifully demonstrated. And this hard-hearted, steel-eyed reviewer cried a little, even on the fourth reading. But the theme which struck me most was that of the need to possess Hutch. Again, we've seen this many times in the aired series -Diana Harmon comes to mind, with her love that turned to the need to destroy. There is in S&H the recurring desire to own Hutch in some way, to possess this beautiful man, place him on a pedestal and worship him, but to deny his humanity and never let him escape. When Hutch is seen as all-too-human and struggles for his freedom, the adoration turns to hatred and the need is to destroy. "If I can't have him, no one else will". What is it about this man, I wonder, that makes this such a constant in his life? Hutch in DfD is the perfect candidate for worship and is very nearly martyred by a Simon Marcos-type. But if Hutch won't play along while he lives, then his death will serve just as well. Hutch is also owned by the leaders of his commune and when he denies them his sons and escapes them the vow is of course to kill him. If this beautiful, unattainable man will not be possessed, then he roust be brought low; he must pay for his flaws and his refusal to be owned by dying. Yet there is love for Hutch, and a kind of possession. Starsky knows his faults and flaws, accepts and understands them and loves him all the same. No one else gives Hutch this grace, and it is this for which he yearns during the period in which he remembers their past and Starsky cannot. Only Starsky has ever seen him as perfect even with the flaws. The world of DfD works. There are no long explanations setting up the physical social environment; we are told what we need to know when we need to know it. The characters and the plot situations work. All these aspects mesh together with a skill not entirely reflected in the style of writing, but it all works just the same. The artwork here is good, well-fitted to the prose's sensory input in that it is contrastingly sparse and clean. Chris Ripley has drawn her people and scenes with restraint, by and large, with a minimum of fuss. Like the story, this art style might not be everyone's taste, but for me, it works. There is so much to say about this novel. I hope that Jill is working on a sequel, because DfD is the kind of world into which one wishes to journey again. Even with the problems. this is a work to be cherished. The tension and originality of the story are breath-taking; the risks Jill takes with her characters are awesome. What does it matter in the long run if the form of the piece isn't perfect? The honesty of emotion is well worth it. There have been more polished zines, both in terms of physical production and of writing, and there have been better- crafted stories in the technical sense. But that's not important here. What is important is the freshness and intensity of Jill's talented visions. DECORATED FOR DEATH is, in brief, money well spent. But it and read it.[11]

I am stunned by the amount of favorable comment. Quite simply, setting aside the illogicality and bad science, it’s as badly written a zine as I have seen in the past year. I will tell [the author] that a sentence needs a verb and that piling on adjective and adverb on adverb does not make for good descriptive writing. What it needed was an editor with a blue pencil who was prepared to uses same as ruthlessly as possible, for there are occasional flashes which suggest that there might be some talent buried under the verbiage… Also, this zine is the best example I’ve seen of repressed sexuality of H/C. Pages full of Our Heroes falling into each other’s arms, drinking in each others’ looks – and even smell! – and confessing undying love would make a great stomping ground for a Freudian psychologist… I’m all for honest emotion, but one can have too much of a good thing. There seems to be an idea going the rounds in fandom that if a zine is experimental then it must be good. Come to think of it, there is also an idea that if a zine is long, it must be good. Neither is true. [12]

A story similar to DFD, dealt with a Los Angeles caught up in a multitude of problems, a city wherein the inhabitants killed for food and fuel. Outside of a few of us Angelenos who felt our fair city had been trashed unfairly (what's wrong with Petaluma, for heaven's sake?), the readers were exceptionally pleased. The authors had used their imaginations and forced us to do the sage. DFD took that premise and carried it even further, creating a hell-city, a place where man and nature had both gone mad. I'm not going to deal with the writing style, nor am I attempting to defend the author from criticism, what I want to discuss is the plotline. Incidentally, this is a story that caught me by surprise, I was not ready for my own reactions to it.

What is the basic plot? In DFD, all three of the basic plotlines are used, and used well. MAN VS MAN...every hand was turned against Starsky and Hutch. MAN VS NATURE...thanks to the nuclear holocaust breathing the air was hazardous, drinking water a risk, the ground no longer stable. MAN VS HIMSELF...The Champion, one of the most powerful studies of Hutch I have ever read, and at the end of the story the author has convincingly wrought the miracle of change. The Other, Starsky as a man of metal—who would believe it?—the author makes him ashamed of his deformities, makes him struggle to remember those happier days, and allow him the triumph of surmounting all obstacles in the name of dimly-recalled friendship. He becomes almost whole, almost real to himself, risking everything to be free.

Before you all assume that there were not flaws in the plotting let me name one or two: There were times when a scene is too long, when something that had been started earlier was talked about again. I found transitions were too abrupt, confusing we as to tiwe, but on the whole the author did a very good job of keeping her characters and events fairly well sequenced. In a novel of this length, it is not unusual for the plot to simply wear thin after the climax. In this case we were just as interested in what happened next as in the excitement in the city itself. The fact that DFD cries for a sequel is not because the author left so many questions unanswered, it is because we, the readers, want to know the answers to our questions...a far different cup of tea. The author used her imagination, and since this took place long after the aired series, stepped on no toes as to time. There should be no quibbles with the fact, and she was wise to set it in the future, as we have seen how man's inhumanity to man takes shape in our own time. Before I move on, I would like to quote a couple of lines from Page 46 in DFD. Hutch, the drugged killer, and Champion of his sector, is experiencing a moment of caring that he has not experienced since Starsky disappeared. He wonders about the feeling and this is how the author wrote that sentence:

"Then, like an escaping catch upon a thread of time, he reeled in the alien sensation and examined it."
A fancy way to say he wondered why he felt that way...and isn't it nice to think that a fan writer can take the same words we all us[e], and express a sentiment so beautifully? Don't be afraid of words! Don't be afraid that everyone out in fanland is going to write that you should have said this or that that they hate 'airs'. There is a time for blunt expression, there is time for the gentle phrase, and there has to be a place in this world for those who watch the clouds for dragons. I hope in the near future that we can lure some of the authors of these fan masterpieces to tell how they went about the actual writing. We all have so much to learn from one another. [13]


What story 'haunts' me? DECORATED FOR DEATH. So much so that I haven't had the nerve to re-read it. I don't have to. I could just about tell it word for word, pain for pain. What I want to know is - Where's its sequel???? (I know there isn't one, that's why I'm screaming for one!) [14]


DECORATED FOR DEATH is a significant story, because the tale it tells is so utterly unique in our genre. The SF isn't particularly good, but the SF background makes the story compelling, and yet at its core is the love and recognition, of the love between Starsky and Hutch that will always exist. It isn't, by the way, a favorite of everyone; for some its flaws in SF and writing made it a less than perfectly wonderful story. Those who do love it overlook the mistakes of the novice writer who penned it. It takes a special story to be carried despite amateurishness of writing. DECORATED FOR DEATH is certainly an exception to the rule in this fandom. A story can grab an individual reader without being up to anyone's editorial standards, but to become accepted by the larger population as excellent, it must meet standards set by that population.[15]


Decorated for Death is one zine I will not read again. It was very well done, but I could not accept the maiming and sadness. It had love and concern, yet it hurt too much to read it. I don't want to go through that again! [16]


And I loved it!I The story held me from start to finish, the characterizations were excellent, the artwork stunning... I purposely read the story as slowly as I could because once I started it, I never wanted it to end. When it did end, I couldn't forget it. It held onto me for weeks, and only now am I beginning to feel its spell wear off. I want to thank Regenia again for all the time she put in on copying DFD, and to everyone who offered to do so, a thanks as well. It was a long wait to find out what everyone was talking about, but, boy, was it worth it! [17]


Maybe we Brits write such good h/c because we don't get it on the screen. You know, sort of as a compensation? DFD was a milestone in fanfic, I think just wish Jill would write the sequel she promised me! [18]

His disfigurement bothered me no end throughout the story, and was the one aspect of it I couldn't come to terms with. I can't really say why, though. Except the thought of those rather gorgeous faces being marred in any way offends me.[19]


I’ve been asked repeatedly about this S&H alternate/universe novella, and I always am at a bit of a loss as to how to respond because most people either find it fascinating and lovely, or bizarre and revolting. That's typical for a/u novellas, but particularly so for this one.

DfD takes place roughly at the turn of the century. An 80's nuclear holocaust has decimated and transformed LA into a wasteland ruled by the leaders of small communes and the Protectors they employ, pseudo-cops who ruthlessly protect the i nterests of the commune. The most feared of these is the Champion, a certain tall blond former cop who has completely buried his humanity under his warrior role. Then, one night, he is sent out to assassinate the protector of another commune, a man known only as the Other, another former cop who’s part-machine appearance hides a vulnerability and a desperate interest in retrieving his forgotten past and his freedom from the slavery of the communes. It is wrhen the paths of these two protectors cross that the story begins. Both are drawn to the other, not knowing why, trying not to care or remember (liabilities in their line of work), but not being able to help it. The novella is about the rebuilding of a trust and friendship, piece by piece, as the two seek to find a past and a future together.

DfD is quite well-written, and beautifully developed from hesitant initial reactions to the realization of what the two still mean to each other. The a/u elements, while rather wild at times, also create a believable suspension-of-disbelief world. However, some might still find the concepts of this post-apocalyptic setting and its ravages of our two heroes too hard to accept. The novella is not for everyone, but it is worth giving a try.

Several sequel and prequel stories have also appeared in the anthology zines Bonaventure and The Lucky and the Strong. [20]


Decorated for Death by "Beano Smart" with art by "Frodsham McCloud" -- look, I know that isn't the name of the writer and artist but it is the name they've asked me to use when we post their zine on the net. Which I hope will happen soon. This is one of the few AU stories ever published in this fandom and possibly the only AU novel ever published. And it's amazing. There's been holocaust on the civilized world, something that's clearly happened years and years ago, and the devastation has been so terrible that the people still living can't barely remember what it was like Before, only what their reality is now. Hutch does not remember being Hutch, he only knows himself as "The Champion", a bloodthirsty killing machine owned by a commune who controls him through drug manipulation. He is the most fearsome of all the commune protectors and is highly prized. Starsky is now "The Other", owned by a different commune of mad scientists who have turned into a half-human, half-cyborg killer, but The Other is weary of being resurrected from the dead to go and kill again. He has vague, troubling memories of Before, of someone who stood beside him, who loved him, if he could only remember. The Other is the only thing standing between the Champion and complete domination of the shattered wasteland that was LA. The Champion is sent to find the Other and destroy him. And that's only the *beginning* of this incredible, lengthy, beautifully illustrated novel. The novel is gen, but it is the *slashiest* thing I've ever read. It will be on the web as soon as I can get it there. And someday Suzan and I hope to put together a true slash sequel, if I live long enough. [21]


DECORATED FOR DEATH was published in 1981, only 2 years after the Starsky & Hutch TV series ended in the States, but before today's computer age. The show was still popular in syndication through much of the U.S. and Britain, home of the author and artist of Decorated for Death. DFD was, on every level, an ambitious undertaking. It was the first Alternate Universe (AU) story to be published in this fandom. While AU's were very popular in Star Trek fanfiction, and would later be extremely popular in The Professionals fanfiction, AUs never had a big following in Starsky & Hutch. SH fans seem to prefer reading about the boys as they worked at being cops in their own familiar universe of Bay City. DFD took that familiar universe and turned it on its head....

If you talk to first-generation SH fans, their opinions on DFD as a story are usually strong: they either love it or hate it. The strange tale of a post-holocaust LA reduced to chaotic societies run by unethical communes who control through fear and power is not for everyone. But at the heart of the tale are our heroes, who have now become professional enforcers for their individual communes. The world has become so altered since the holocaust that Starsky & Hutch, separated before the event known only as The End, no longer remember their previous relationship as partners, or what life was like before. They are known only as The Champion (Hutch) and The Other (Starsky). And their eventual meeting is the beginning of a complex and unique tale.

I am one of the fans who loves this story, and I hope you will, too. Enjoy. [22]


This story takes place some time into Starsky and Hutch's future: 'When the world came to an end, only a cesspool was left.' Futuristic, a bit sci-fi; sort of alternate universe but not quite; definitely something totally different than other zine stories - a scary look at life after something horrible happens, leaving Starsky and Hutch mortal enemies - will they be able to remember the great friendship they once shared? One of my all-time favorite S&H zines!.[23]


DfD was, in some ways, an unpolished gem, but nonetheless a gothic, gorgeous, sumptuous tale. When I first read it, 26 years ago, I alternately raced through it at breakneck speed, desperate to know what was going to happen, or was forced to put it aside, left breathless by the unfolding story. The deceptively simple line drawings balance it perfectly. It is a gut-wrenching, powerful saga that stands the test of time, even all these years later. [24]


It is not a death story, it is a Life story. Gut-wrenching, to be sure, but a powerful saga that stands the test of time. The illustrations are by the author's sister, and her uncluttered, simple line drawings are a perfect counterpoint to her sister's ornate writing style. Paula Smith in her review of the zine, said it was "a super-duper story, suspenseful, fascinating, detailed, and damned hard to put down." Melanie R.'s review begins and ends with the statement: "Buy this and read it." Terri Beckett's review says, in part, "Anyway you slice it, it is going to have a place in S&H history... This reviewer recommends it.[25]


Hutch is in his lowest low. He lost everything and what he still had he sold to his Owners. His body, his soul, his past and future. There is only one person who could save him. But it is Hutch’s next assignment – to kill the Other and be rewarded with the greatest prize – heroin. The story begins when Hutch kills Starsky. It’s NOT a death story.[26]

I always liked the very intriguing way it was described in the original flyer for the zine:

"A 250+ page, one-story zine . . . . What happens to Starsky and Hutch and LA after the holocaust? Who wins, who loses, who survives? Are you strong enough to read the legend? Can you bear to learn the story of the man of silver and the man of gold?"

And I remember when I read it for the very first time. I was, literally, breathless. I alternated between feverishly turning the pages and putting it down so I could calm myself down before continuing. :-) [27]


Decorated For Death (novel, 1982, written by Jill Ripley and illustrated by her sister Chris) - An AU story, something that was spectacularly different for S&H fandom. DfD was, in some ways, an unpolished gem, but nonetheless a gothic, gorgeous, sumptuous tale. I alternately raced through it at breakneck speed, desperate to know what was going to happen, or was forced to put it aside, left breathless by the unfolding story. Chris Ripley's deceptively simple line drawings balanced it perfectly. [28]


  1. ^ Starsky and Hutch Archive, accessed 12.8.2010
  2. ^ Starsky and Hutch Archive, accessed 12.8.2010
  3. ^ Tabby Davis mentions it in Tell Me Something I Don't Know #9
  4. ^ from Paula Smith in the program book for The Paul Muni Special
  5. ^ December 26, 1999 comments by Flamingo on The Pits, a mailing list now offline; Flamingo has given permission to be quoted on Fanlore from this mailing list
  6. ^ from APB #36
  7. ^ blurb from original flyer
  8. ^ from an ad in S&H #38
  9. ^ from S and H #32 (1982)
  10. ^ from S and H #33/34
  11. ^ from S and H #33/34 (1982)
  12. ^ from a fan in S and H #33/34 (1982)
  13. ^ by Marian Kelly in. Writing for Fandom (Plot is a Four Letter Word)
  14. ^ from Shootout #6
  15. ^ from Between Friends #7 (1985)
  16. ^ from Tell Me Something I Don't Know! #8
  17. ^ from Between Friends #6 (1989)
  18. ^ from Frienz #5
  19. ^ from Frienz #19 (1992)
  20. ^ from Black Bean Soup v.2 n.36 (October 1996)
  21. ^ Flamingo, August 22, 2003, who rated it among her top ten favorite zines, quoted from VenicePlace on Fanlore with Flamingo's permission
  22. ^ Flamingo, Decorated for Death, upon its online posting
  23. ^ from an ebay seller in 2007
  24. ^ review by Katherine Langley at Many Roads, July 2008
  25. ^ Klangley56
  26. ^ a 2011 rec at Crack Van
  27. ^ a 2011 rec at Crack Van
  28. ^ comment by kslangley at What was your first fandom?, August 28, 2016