RED IN TOOTH AND CLAW...
horror novels about animals by
Guy N Smith, Richard Haigh & Shaun Hutson
Guy N Smith
Crabs on the Rampage
New English Library
(price: £1.25; 160 pages)
(price: £1.95; 192 pages)
(price: £1.95; 208 pages)
The blurbs on the backs:
Crabs on the Rampage
They had come back...
One man only saw them and him they killed, hunted him down through the dense reed beds, trapped him, drove him mad with terror before they pulled him to pieces and ate every bloodied shred of his body.
And then it was quiet again for a little while.
Until they came ashore again, in their hundreds, their bodies reeking with the malignant, cancerous disease that was within them. The disease that was driving them mad with pain, mad to kill, to wipe out every living thing in their path.
On that holiday beach were hundreds of men, women and children. Food.
When the Hogs of Hell come to town...
It was the greatest agricultural show ever held. One of the world's biggest stadiums was barely large enough to host it. And one of the star attractions was the enclosure holding the massive humped Buckland White pigs, with their huge tusks, evil red eyes and narrow, murderous snouts. With their well-earned reputation for lethal viciousness, they were truly creatures out of shrieking nightmare. Safely penned behind stout bars, they gave the spectators a delicious cheap thrill of safe terror.
But then the pigs broke loose. And so did all Hell...
One female slug can lay one and a half million eggs a year - a fact which holds terrifying consequences for the people of Merton. As the town basks in the summer heat, a new breed of slug is growing and multiplying. In the waist-high grass, in the dank, dark cellars they are acquiring new tastes, new cravings. For blood. For flesh. Human flesh...
Crabs on the Rampage
The Wash shimmered beneath a mid-summer heat-haze, even the dark green of the samphire grass and spartina failing to produce a cooling impression across the parched landscape.
The first book in the 'Pigs' trilogy, The Farm, told of the havoc wrought on a small hill farm in Snowdonia by a road accident that leaked chemicals into the water supply. The results of that were horrific.
The slug's eye stalks waved slowly as it moved towards the crimson lump on which several of its companions were already feeding.
Well, it's all James Herbert's fault, of course: his novels about The Rats set a new convention in horror novels. Mutated animals had been around before - most spectacularly in Godzilla - but Herbert brought together two things, which proved irresistible in combination: small animals gone mad, and an episodic narrative structure, in which characters are introduced in the absolute certainty that they would be dead by the end of the chapter. Ideally these characters - narrative cannon fodder - should have a hint of sexual deviance going on for some extra titillation and to justify their sacrifice on the altar of prurient horror.
Subsequent novels followed the same pattern. Guy N Smith was the poor man's Herbert and for some obscure reason found his Crabs books were selling so well that he had to keep writing them: Killer Crabs, Night of the Crabs, The Origin of the Crabs... How many more crabs novels did we need? More than that apparently:
'Somewhere in the depths of the oceans somebody had carried out a nuclear experiment which has escaped the notice of the rest of the rest of the world. Who and when is anybody's guess but it's had exactly the same effect as the one which brought the original crabs into existence ... Any ruthless nation wanting world domination could create armies of these crustaceans and just sit back and bide their time to take over what's left of the coastal nations.' (p.61)
Anyway, Smith got the crabs for himself, and Hutson got the slugs, which left Richard Haigh with the pigs. Pigs? Oh yes, pigs.
Now in real life, of course, pigs would be incredibly frightening if they were carnivorous and chasing you. But they're not and they're not, and you're going to have to be a pretty damn good writer to convince us of the nightmare of flesh-eating pigs. Guess what? Haigh ain't that writer.
What's missing from all these is Herbert's original motivation. You see, Herbert genuinely didn't like rats, a feeling that dated back to his upbringing in the poverty of the East End. You might be able to write gross-out stuff about crabs and slugs and pigs but they don't tap into any genuine fear and loathing. It's like, Cujo would obviously be scary as hell if you were living it, but from a distance, that wasn't really a very scary dog, was it?
Note: A regular correspondent, Ian Covell, tells me that Richard Haigh was actually yet another pseudonym used by the prolific Laurence James. I have some time for much of his work, so I went back to the pigs to try again, with this knowledge in mind - still don't rate it, I'm afraid.
ARTISTIC MERIT: 2/5
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: 2/5
HIPNESS QUOTIENT: 1/5
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from the maker of...
Return of the Werewolf
visit the official Guy N Smith website