novels about rabies by
David Anne, W. Harris & Jack Ramsay
The blurbs on the back:
Day of the Mad Dogs:
Well obviously slugs and pigs and crabs can be quite scary in their own way, but we all know that the most terrifying animal of all is the dog. Particularly the rabid dog. The idea that man’s best friend can suddenly be infected by terminal madness and can in turn infect you is fantastically frightening.
Unfortunately it’s also a theme that’s never been convincingly depicted in literature or the movies. The best known attempt was Stephen King’s Cujo, but that book’s effectively a short story bloated up to airport-novel length, whilst the 1983 film was directed by Lewis Teague with all the imagination and creative flair that he’d later bring to his magnum opus, The Dukes of Hazzard Reunion.
Before King, there were these three British entries into the field, all feeding on the fear that a few miles of English Channel may not be enough to protect us from contamination. Which, of course, suggests a subtext far more immediate than King’s American perspective: the nigh-on simultaneous appearance of these novels shortly after the British referendum on whether to leave the European Union might lead you to think that that they have more interest in Europhobia than in hydrophobia. Or is that just fanciful?
In any event, none is particularly startling. David Anne gives us a solid workmanlike horror story – competent but, despite that wonderful endorsement from the Times Literary Supplement, quite a long way from being gripping. Not as polished, but far more fun is Saliva, which starts with badgers feeding on dead bodies during the final German counter-offensive of the Second World War. We flash forward thirty years and find ourselves confronted by a colony of rabid badgers with a taste for human flesh. A French civil servant becomes infected (via his dog) and ... well, you know what these Frenchmen are like: dozens of mistresses, never happier than when swapping bodily fluids with married women. Before you can say ‘Jacques Delors’ you’ve got the whole diplomatic and political structure of Europe frothing at the mouth.
Actually, when you put it like that, you realize that maybe it’s not so fanciful to see this as a commentary on European integration. It just happens to be written in a deranged über-trash kind of way.
And just in case there’s any doubt that it’s the new Euro-cracy that we should be fearing, The Rage has as its anti-hero a British civil servant working in Brussels. His daughter smuggles a stray dog into Britain, and when she dies having been infected with rabies, the civil servant covers up the source of the outbreak. Unfortunately for him, an investigative journalist is already checking him, trying to get to a story about his use of prostitutes in Europe.
Of the three, The Rage is far and away the best bet. It’s not quite after the James Herbert model, lacking the salacious descriptions of deviant sex, but it's not far off: certainly it has something of Herbert’s sense of tension and narrative drive about it. Lord knows what America (where my copy was printed) made of the political subtext though.
Walter Harris (born 1925) was also responsible for Droop (not The Droop, you understand), The Day I Died, Clovis, The Mistress of Downing Street and The Fifth Horseman - see below. More than that I cannot add.
crabs, pigs & slugs