At least two men I know admit that as children they pulled the wings off bluebottles. Frank Cauldhame, the teenage protagonist of The Wasp Factory carries out much more cruel deeds, living on an isolated Scottish island with his father.
The book has many of the hallmarks of a gothic novel, and indeed this was what led me to read it. It had been sitting on a shelf for 30 years, a gift from a band who used the title as their name, and I always associated it with young men in their late teens and early twenties. As I started reading I understood why.
Frank is a psychopath and for the first half of the book there were sections that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Then something happened about half way through, when Frank goes into town with his friend Jamie to watch a band and get drunk. The writing seemed to develop a dark humour and I even found myself sniggering at the description of an intricately planned and executed murder.
It won't be to everyone's taste, but the writing is spectacular. Iain Banks maintains the tension throughout the story, and although I wasn't fully satisfied with the ending, I felt genuine relief that my male friends had not progressed any further than torturing insects.