First published back in 1977, Nick Sharman’s (a pseudonym used by US author Scott Gronmark) debut novel ‘The Cats’ hit upon the ‘animals on the rampage’ market that was made popular during that period following the unprecedented success of James Herbert’s debut novel ‘The Rats’ (1974).

DLS Synopsis:
American microbiologist John Inglis has been living in Britain for quite some time now.  His visa has long since expired, and as such, he’s been quietly living under a false name.  And of course he’s been working.  Locked away in his makeshift laboratory in Paddington, Inglis has continued with the highly controversial experiments surrounding a new bio-warfare agent.  Research that his old lecturer, Professor of Microbiology Bertram Vole, had once been involved with.  However, after uncovering some terrifying results from the experiments, the Professor had quickly abandoned the research entirely.

But now Inglis has taken up the experiments himself.  As he sits with the horrified Professor discussing his progress with the research, a young schoolboy named Mark Dempsey is looking after the test subjects back in Inglis’ lab.  Cages upon cages of cats, each one having been subjected to this highly experimental bacteria.  A bacteria that Inglis is now learning changes dramatically if subjected to temperatures exceeding 105 degrees Fahrenheit.  And London is now in the middle of an unprecedented heat-wave.

Meanwhile, Mark Dempsey is in Inglis’ lab feeling the heat.  A localised power-cut has knocked out all of the air-conditioning to the laboratory, resulting in soaring temperatures in the confined room.  Worried for the safety of the many cats, and barely managing to stay conscious in the stifling heat, under a heat-induced daze Dempsey releases the numerous felines from the scorching hot cages. 

Now, with the bacteria inducing a ferocious rage in the cats, they are on the rampage in the centre of London; killing innocent members of the public whilst the lingering heat-wave keeps the entire city in a perpetual state of scorching heat.  And sick of being bullied at school, Mark Dempsey has joined the feline ranks, with his kidney disorder making him equally susceptible to the effects of the bacteria.

Hunting on all fours, his tough canines being used to rip open the flesh of his victims, Dempsey is now being regarded by the cats as their ferocious leader.  The streets of London will soon be awash with the blood their many victims.  And when they have someone in their sights, there’s no escaping the savage claws and razor sharp teeth of the cats...

DLS Review:
The ingenious plot behind Sharman’s horror-hungry pulpfest springs into action from the word go, with the fantastically outlandish premise laid down without a moments dawdling.  With the highly inventive plot established witthin the first couple of short chapters, Sharman quickly gets himself settled into a non-stop pulpy thrill of a ride, sticking to a fierce pace to ensure that the reasonably short novel can pack in as many punches as is humanly possible.

Oh yes, and it certainly delivers the goods!  First up we get the heat-crazed felines causing absolute havoc around the streets of London.  On top of that, as if the sheer pulpiness of cats on the rampage just wasn’t enough, Sharman throws in the young schoolboy Dempsey, who, with a vengeful twinkle in his eyes, joins the cats in their vicious attacks, adapting to a whole new feral lifestyle within seconds.

In case even that was getting a little too run-of-the-mill for anyone (as if it would), with his tongue firmly wedged in his cheek, Sharman injects a dim-witted governmental element to the proceeding madness – with some of the most preposterous decisions made outside of a Guy N Smith novel.

All through the tale the frenzied madness of the situation, coupled with the sudden bursts of savage bloodshed, creates a somewhat unpredictable and haphazardly-meandering rollercoaster of a ride.  Sharman milks the numerous pockets of short-lived suspense for all they’re worth; cranking-up each peak of action with over-the-top and utterly pulpish descriptions of violence and absolute bucket loads of bloodshed.

Characterisation wise, you may as well just picture your mates as the characters in the novel for all the effort that’s put in to fleshing them out.  Flat and undeveloped, each with pretty darn clichéd roles - the novel’s certainly not going to win any awards for its character-to-reader bonding.  But let’s be honest, with a novel like this, who gives two hoots?  Just bring on the hapless victims for the inevitable slaughter, and keep on churning out the over-the-top action.  Job done, thank you very much.

Sharman knows his audience, knows the blueprint he needs to follow, and knows that he has to just keep the bloodshed coming if the novel’s going to work.  He doesn’t attempt anything else.  No clever twists.  No audacious character interplay.  No subtle levels or smart social commentaries.  It’s just hell-for-leather pulpish fun whilst giving a laughable finger to the oh-so-bright government.

The ending doesn’t so much creep up on you as it does suddenly appear out of nowhere with a slightly off-kilter finale that feels rushed and completely last minute.  With so much emphasis put on maintaining a strong and engaging pace throughout the novel, this suddenly sprung ending makes the final handful of pages feel disjointed and over too darn quickly.

That said, this is still a monumentally enjoyable piece of pure pulp horror fun.  And it’s perhaps the absolute epitome of the whole ‘Creatures vs Mankind’ subgenre that was so swamped with similarly themed novels during the 70’s and 80’s. 

Fuck Dostoyevsky, give me Nick Sharman any day!

The novel runs for a total of 160 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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