Peter Held. Take My Face (1957) 222 pp.
In 1944, thirteen-year old Robert Struve, living in San Giorgio (“sixty miles north of San Francisco”) along the Sonoma Highway, has a horrible accident. While riding a borrowed motor scooter, he is struck down by a car being steered by eight-year old Julie Hovard sitting between her father’s legs. The scooter spills gasoline over Robert’s face and bursts into flames. His mother is convinced by Hovard’s insurance company to take a quick settlement that does not leave enough money for reconstructive surgery. Despite having to go through high school with a grotesquely disfigured face, Robert excels in the classroom and on the football field and has a relatively promising future. But, during his senior year, he is invited to a party for the school’s most exclusive sorority where four girls joining the sorority, including freshman Julie Hovard, are supposed to make out with him as part of their initiation. Angry at being used that way, he attacks Julie, getting himself sent to reform school for his trouble. Five years later, Dean Pendry Bavonette, one of the other sorority rushes, is savagely murdered in San Francisco, her face slashed with a butcher knife. Meanwhile, Julie, now attending Cal, meets a handsome, brooding fellow student named Joe Treddick and they start dating. Dean’s brother, Carr, becomes convinced that Robert Struve is back, unrecognizable now that he has had plastic surgery, exacting his revenge on his former schoolmates. When two more girls are murdered in San Giorgio—their faces similarly mutilated—it looks like he may be right, and Julie is the likely next target for the killer.
Peter Held is a pseudonym of science fiction writer Jack Vance.
Setting: Sonoma County (“San Giorgio”); San Francisco
Currey p. 500