Back when pulp horror was at its all-time peak, the gloriously entitled ‘Eat Them Alive’ was unleashed into the overflowing world of pulp horror novels. First published in the US back in December of 1977 by Manor Books Inc, and then soon after released in the UK through (you guessed it) New English Library, this monstrous blot on the literary world therefore sported two separate editions, each with its own unashamed example of ‘pulp horror’ cover artwork. Other than from this publication, Pierce Nace, is otherwise unknown; although there is a good chance that the name is a pseudonym that has never been admitted to.
Dyke Mellis is a man consumed with hate for four of his old friends. This hate has been smouldering away for the past eleven years of his mundane existence. Dyke no longer feels he is a complete man, after he was made a eunuch by these four individuals (Pete Stuart, Zeb Hillburn, Kane Garrister and Ryan Gaut) when he tried and failed in stealing a considerable amount of money from all of them. His body is now a tapestry of scars reminding him of the pain and suffering they caused when they tortured him and left him for dead.
Now eleven years later, Dyke is on his boat just off the shores of the small island of Malpelo, when a massive earthquake suddenly hits. A tidal wave engulfs the island, whilst huge cavernous cracks appear in the landscape. Almost immediately after the destruction has subsided, giant man-sized mantises swarm out from these gaping splits in the earth. The ravenous giant insects quickly take to slaughtering and consuming each and every one of the natives that inhabit the small piece of land. Dyke watches all of this happening from the relative safety of his boat and begins to formulate a plan.
Dyke succeeds in capturing the largest of the beasts, which he takes off the island, hoping he can gradually build up a state of trust with the massive maneater, in the hope that he can be its master. He names this particularly savage mantis ‘Slayer’ and paints its head bright red to further distinguish it from the other mantises. Dyke now has a clear plan in mind. A plan to take a small army of these bloodthirsty and monstrous insects over to the mainland so that he can enact the cruellest, most horrendous revenge he can think of on the four men who savaged him all those years ago. Dyke wants to see each one of them eaten alive!
After coating his entire body in a concoction that he discovers repels the mantises (so that he won’t be eaten by any of them), Dyke trains his new pet ‘Slayer’ to trust him and slowly, over the following months, builds up a friendship with the beast.
Soon enough the time has come when Dyke is ready to take Slayer and a further twenty carefully selected giant mantises to the mainland where he will track down the four men he plans to kill. His revenge on these four is now all he cares about in the entire world. But man was never meant to tame such a savage and ruthless beast as these prehistoric insects are....
Nace has managed to come up with possibly the wildest and most farfetched storyline that has ever existed. This is pulp horror at its absolute peak. A hate fuelled man who commands a small army of giant mantises, is out for revenge on four men who cut off his manhood. This really is sheer pulp horror genius!
From the moment the mantises first grace the pages, the blood spill and utter carnage is almost unrelenting until the novel crashes to its final ending. No exaggeration, this is splatter piled on splatter piled on splatter. Nace barely comes up for a breath before more bone-crunching, head-splitting, brain-eating and blood-drinking ensues once again.
Nace’s basic plot was surely inspired by Guy N Smith’s pulp horror classic ‘The Slime Beast’ (1975) in which we see the power-mad Professor Lowson plot to capture the ferocious ‘Slime Beast’ for his control and the power it will thusly provide him with. With such a similar basic concept (and bizarrely still, a similar way in capturing the beast in question), the reader can't help but draw comparisons between the two novels. However, where Guy N Smith splattered the pages of ‘The Slime Beast’ (1975) in blood, Nace has gone a whole mile further down the goretastic road, literally cramming the novel with non-stop mutilation and gore from start to finish.
Nace’s writing style is amateurish to say the least, throwing together a litany of clumsy and awkward sentences that seem to carry on forever. Furthermore, the tale is so over-packed with splatter, that it appears to be repeating the same old carnage again and again.
However preposterous the concept of the novel is, Nace takes the storyline to even further degrees when the lead character of Dyke Mellis develops what appears to be some sort of mental-connection with his lead mantis - ‘Slayer’. This badly developed and utterly ridiculous addition to the tale was clearly done because the author couldn’t think of a good way to get around the communication boundaries between Dyke and his mantis ‘friend’ Slayer. However laughable the storyline is, this laziness simply creates a head-in-hands cringing moment for the reader. Further still is Mellis’ vocalisation of each and every one of his thoughts (to the extent that he voices every plan out loud ‘because he has had such a lonely and singular life’), is such an amateurish technique for narrating the character’s thoughts that it ends up simply grinding on the reader. This ploy could be excused in a child’s cartoon, but within a book aimed at an adult audience is inexcusable to say the least.
Later on, our good friend Slayer decides to take a nice big juicy bite out of Dyke’s leg, chomping away one entire calf. A tourniquet and a bandage later and Dyke is running around once again, minus one entire calf! If only the human body healed the way Nace seems to think it does! If it did, we’d be almost indestructible.
Dyke finally begins his revenge, surprisingly starting off with his most hated of the four men; the ringleader of his brutal assault all those years ago – Pete Stuart. You would have thought that Nace would have saved Stuart for last, but no, he is the first to be dispatched in the all-too-familiar display of graphic carnage.
The storyline then follows Dyke as he enacts almost exactly the same revenge on each of the remaining three men and their families, until his mission in life is finally complete. By the third and fourth such slaughter, the repetitiveness of this is veering heavily towards the boring. However, blind to this, Nace keeps on ramming in page upon page of blood spill to keep the gore-fest running at full pelt.
The conclusion (with its minor twist laced with a healthy slab of irony) is as dramatic as the rest of the novel has been. The novel ends in the way it has been throughout; with gallons more blood spill and mass mutilation depicted in all its graphic glory.
For the unashamed pulpiness of the novel, I was so tempted to give the novel a high overall rating. Not to mention calling the main killer mantis ‘Slayer’ – you can almost hear ‘Angel of Death’ playing away in the background of each scene of mass carnage. But there are way too many aspects that stand against the novel. Nace’s writing style for one is far too amateurish to keep a good flow to the storyline going. Lack of variation makes the endless carnage become tiresome – perhaps the worst sin possible for a pulp horror novel. The storyline is too flat and singular, with little to no secondary elements to the tale developing anywhere along the storyline. But the final nail is put in the coffin by the repeated laziness of the author, which has led to Nace coming up with some of the most ridiculous cop-outs even known in the history of horror novels (and that really is quite some claim).
All in all, ‘Eat Them Alive’ is quite simply what it is. It’s pulp horror taken to the furthest possible pulpy extremes. It’s both the epitome and the peak of the genre. It’s fast paced and packed with splatter almost from cover to cover. There’s no escaping it, this is a novel of enjoyment for those who really should know better. It’s got so many faults, but that’s almost what makes it so much greater. I can’t rate it highly because that in itself would be an injustice on the book's very nature. It still remains the most ridiculous and wildly over-the-top pulp horror novel that there ever was. You’ll either love it or hate it. But I urge each and every one of you to read a copy. I promise you won’t regret it...
The novel runs for a total of 158 carnage-filled pages.
© DLS Reviews