First published back in July of 1976, ‘Night Of The Crabs’ was the novel that launched Guy N Smith as an iconic pulp horror writer; hitting a chord with horror fans the world over. Spawning five sequels, one insightful prequel, a number of related short stories and a graphic novel; the ‘Crabs’ novels well and truly became Smith’s signature series. Reportedly evolved from the idea of giant tics in the rampage, Smith has since detailed that ‘Night Of The Crabs’ was written in just one week - an impressive feat for any author.
In April of 2009, Ghostwriter Publications released a new updated version of the classic pulp novel, including new artwork, a foreword by J.F. Gonzalez (author of the ‘Clickers’ (2011) series), as well as a number of changes and re-workings along with a whole new chapter.
Following the strange disappearance of his nephew, Ian Wright, and Wright’s fiancée, Julie Coles, marine biologist, Professor Cliff Davenport, travels to a small piece of land known as Shell Island on the Welsh coast to investigate the matter. A full scale search is soon underway in an attempt to locate the missing pair whilst Davenport begins his own investigations into their disappearance. However, what none of those searching for them know is that the love struck pair had their lives suddenly and viciously cut short during a romantic night-swimming escapade.
After being mistakenly arrested by the conveniently placed military, Davenport relays his suspicions to the leading figure and close personal friend of his - Sir Ronald Bradley of Whitehall. Davenport is subsequently released by the military and quickly meets up with Pat Benson, another guest at the hotel in which Davenport is currently lodging at. Benson informs Davenport of some mysterious markings left on the beach that she spotted during an early morning walk and together they begin a vigil on the surrounding beaches.
Not before long, Davenport and Benson (who are now quickly becoming lovers) witness the savage death of the local deaf and dumb beachcomber known as Bartholomew, at the hands (or should I say claws) of a batch of gigantic crabs that have emerged from the waters of Shell Island.
Davenport reports these horrific findings to the military via another one of Davenport’s impressively high ranking contacts - Grisedale of Whitehall, who sends the inept Colonel Goode to take over the ‘crab’ investigations. Of course, Goode is highly sceptical of the entire story and as such military action is postponed, until the crabs are upon the unprepared soldiers and the defenceless local community.
An all-out war ensues, with the monstrous crustaceans now swarming onto the helpless community of Shell Island. The military presence on Shell Island is almost completely annihilated by these seemingly indestructible freaks of nature.
The deadly epidemic is now a full blown reality, and reinforcements are sent in post haste. The military fight back in an all-out battle at Barmouth. Alas, the heavy gauge weaponry of the tanks is still no match for the seemingly impenetrable armour of the crabs. Mankind needs to think fast if they are going to win the war against the crabs. Luckily they have Davenport on their side, whose quick thinking and a truly inspired idea might just turn the tide in favour of a human victory...
As you can no doubt tell from the above in-depth synopsis, Smith packs in as much juicy blood spillage as possible; with an array of flamboyant characters each taking out their own independent (and often joyfully clichéd) roles within this outrageously over-the-top storyline.
Smith delivers an original monstrous enemy for mankind to battle against, that due to the inherent hate-fuelled nature that Smith has given them, delivers a non-stop tirade of bloodshed and wildly-colourful horror action that will get pulp horror fans drooling from the very first attack.
Littered with amusingly elaborate twists and turns for the main thrust of the storyline to power through, the tale ultimately concludes with an inspired yet mildly bizarre grand finale. With such a farfetched idea tackled with an even more amusingly unlikely course of defence taken by the military, Smith has managed to produce nothing short of a masterpiece of seventies pulp horror.
The graphically depicted battle scenes between the crabs and the military delivers pages of edge-of-the-seat pulp horror entertainment that is interspersed with yet further crab carnage and comical character interaction. At no point does Smith take his foot off the accelerator from the very moment these monstrous crabs first take to the shore.
Not only are these gigantic enemies of mankind colossal in size and naturally armoured to the teeth (not that they have them) by their huge shells, but they also display a surprising level of cunning and intelligence. Led by a (briefly glimpsed) ‘King Crab’, these organised crustacean ranks pose a severe threat that certainly gets the juices flowing! The battle at Barmouth as the crabs army invades the seaside community is perhaps the very pinnacle of the novel. The death, destruction, and utter mayhem caused by the sudden invading crab army is quite frankly superb!
Characterisation is generally pretty solid and well developed. Yes many of the characters are pretty darn clichéd. The oafish Colonel Goode plays out his role perfectly, whilst our principal protagonist, Cliff Davenport, just becomes more heroic (in a very understated British fashion) the further through the tale you are. The characters are each strong in their roles and vital to the progressing storyline, which helps makes the novel as a whole that little bit more subconsciously engaging for the reader.
‘Night Of The Crabs’ was the first instalment in Guy’s signature ‘Crabs’ series, but should possibly be read after the later released prequel entitled ‘The Origin Of The Crabs’ (1979). The prequel ends exactly where ‘Night Of The Crabs’ takes off, bringing together a seamless and tight storyline to begin the crabs series off with.
The next book in the Crabs series is ‘Killer Crabs’ (1978) released just two years later. ‘Night Of The Crabs’ has set down the groundwork for this next outrageous pulp horror classic, where no time needs to be spent playing with the denial and disbelief of the military which takes up a good chunk of ‘Night Of The Crabs’. However from here on in it’s non-stop blood-drenched crab action. From the moment the crabs first take to the beach of Shell Island, expect nothing short of one onslaught after another.
‘Night Of The Crabs’ is the true beginning of the all-out crab war. It’s a classic pulp horror novel that is hard to be bettered for such an unashamed far-fetched enemy. An enjoyable read is most definitely the understatement of the century!
The novel runs for a total of 144 pages.
© DLS Reviews