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Dirty Weekend

Dirty Weekend (1991) is a novel by Helen Zahavi, adapted into a film two years later by Helen and acclaimed director Michael Winner.


Instead of being about the traditional dirty weekend, Zahavi's novel examines the weekend killing-spree committed by Bella, a twentysomething woman with a mysterious past who targets random men for attacks against women, but herself in particular. Over the course of the spree she murders seven men through various methods including suffocation, running over, shooting and stabbing them. She escapes justice in the end and prepares a new life in the large, faceless city of London.

In the novel the old picaresque tradition is revived: There is one central character, Bella, the picara, who is the only link to all the other characters. It is she who meets and confronts one man after the other, kills him, and moves on to the next.

Plot summary

Bella, a solitary young woman with a dubious past, has just arrived in Brighton. Having recently been dumped by her boyfriend, all she wants is some peace and quiet in her newly rented small flat near Brunswick Square. Tim, a young man living in one of the houses across her backyard, takes a fancy to the new arrival and soon starts watching and eventually molesting her. He accosts her in the park and torments her with obscene phone calls.

The police are not really helpful, but Bella is scared. On a stroll through the Lanes, she sees a sign advertising sessions with a clairvoyant and, on the spur of the moment, she visits him. Her meeting with Nimrod serves as both an eye-opener and a catalyst. When Bella leaves Nimrod that Friday afternoon, her self-confidence has been restored, her mind is set, and she is ready for action: She has "had enough".

A few hours later Tim makes his last obscene phone call to Bella. At night she enters his flat through a window and batters the sleeping man's head with a hammer. On Saturday morning she goes to a gunshop, but all they are prepared to sell her is an airgun. When she leaves the shop she is followed by "Mr Brown", who does sell her an illegal weapon. On Saturday night, dressed to kill, she enters the lobby of one of the large seafront hotels and only has to wait for a few minutes until she is chatted up. Her unsuspecting victim is Norman, a clinical psychologist with a weight problem. Norman, who is attending a congress in Brighton, can easily persuade her to join him upstairs in his hotel room. Once there, he cannot get an erection and asks Bella if he can be her slave. Bella takes the opportunity and, while Norman is bound and gagged, puts a plastic bag over his head.

On Sunday morning she finds a dentist who is willing to treat her for her toothache. After he has fixed her tooth, the dentist offers to give her a lift home. Instead, he drives into an empty multi-storey car park and forces Bella to perform oral sex on him ("open wide"). As a result, Bella kills him with his own Mercedes. She steals the car and soon afterwards comes to the rescue of an old tramp called Liverpool Mary who is biding her time in a cul-de-sac near Brighton station. She shoots three yuppie-style young men who, drunk and angry, are threatening to set fire to the bag lady.

On the same night, at 4 a.m., while walking along the beach near the deserted West Pier, she realizes that she is being watched. The serial killer on the loose who is watching her thinks he has found his next victim, but when he attacks Bella she stabs him with a flick-knife.

The novel has been praised by Andrea Dworkin as "good" and "true".


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