First published back in June of 2017, ‘The Lucky Ones Died First’ formed the debut novella from British author and creator of Splatterpunk Zine – Jack Bantry.

DLS Synopsis:
The quaint North Yorkshire town of Hambleton is regarded as a choice spot for quiet holidaying.  But when blood-splattered tents and piles of body parts start turning up around the woodland, Hambleton’s mayor – Bill Goodall – realises he has a big problem.

Photographer and occasional writer for the Gazette - Duke Casey – smells a story.  So he gets himself out into the surrounding woodlands, camera at the ready, hoping to snap a shot or two of whatever it is that’s terrorising the area.

But Goodall has other ideas.  Hoping to bring the killings to an abrupt end to keep the steady flow of sightseers and tourism through Hambleton, he employs the help of a local hunter.  A man who’s come up against a threat like this before.  Out in the forests of North America, under the vast towering redwoods, Garner had once stalked the legendary Bigfoot.  It was an experience that still plagued his nightmares.  One which had almost cost him his life.

Now Garner fears Hambleton is up against a similar threat.  Goodall’s willing to do whatever it takes to cover-up the problem, as quickly and efficiently as possible.  But some things are too big to get rid of so easily.  Some threats are just too savage.

The blood-soaked footprints left behind tell of a truly colossal beast.  It’s not just hungry for flesh.  It also wants to procreate.  And there’s no short supply of holidaymakers and dog walkers in Hambleton to sate the Bigfoot’s ravenous needs…

DLS Review:
Seventies and eighties pulp horror.  It was a glorious era.  Two decades of delivering the most outlandish, the most over-the-top and wacky blood-hungry horror.  Back then lowbrow, high-octane violent and gore-splattered horror novels were churned out at a ferocious pace.  Since we’ve not really returned to such an era where pulps ruled supreme.  Although every now and again an author will offer up a tale that flings us back to those wonderful bygone days of pulp.  Jack Bantry’s debut is one such novella.

The page count is short.  As such, from the very outset Bantry gets straight into the splatter; bloodying his hands at the first opportunity, and never really washing the gore off, from that point onwards.  To be honest, that’s really what the novella’s all about.  Shovelling in the over-the-top splatter and gore, whilst weaving in a truly outlandish plot.  Oh yes, this bastard’s got more pulp in it than a frigging paper mill.

What’s impossible to ignore is how much the tale reads like a textbook Guy N Smith novel, taken straight from the late seventies.  The quiet, quaint, rural setting is absolutely spot on.  Throw in a whole host of different characters, each one pretty much introduced merely as fodder, to be killed off within a matter of a few pages.  On top of that you have a flesh-hungry beast with a hard-on for anyone in a skirt.  And of course there’s the obligatory sleaze factor that’s injected into the whole shebang.  A sordid sidestory involving the mayor’s wife having it off with the town’s chief constable.  Absolutely fucking classic.

However, it’s in Bantry’s prose, the way he lays down the plot and delivers the gore-encrusted goods, that feels so closely akin to Smith’s work.  The shifting perspective, the internal monologue of the characters, the constant drip-feeding of human fodder to feed the horror cause.  It’s so utterly Smith.  So utterly pulp.

The one thing that Bantry’s debut absolutely excels at is in entertaining its readers.  That’s what pulp horror’s all about and that’s exactly what this tale delivers.  The pacing throws you along the rough and raw narrative like you’re strapped to the bumper of an out-of-control rollercoaster.  There’s slaughter and bloodspill at the heart of almost every other chapter.  And the chapters aren’t long.  We’re talking a couple of pages each, and then we’re back slinging intestines and crushing skulls until the brains explode from them like an offal-filled piñata. If that’s not enough for you, then Bantry’s lathered these meaty treats with lashings of hot and risqué sauce.  Not only is the mayor’s wife at it whenever her husband’s back is turned, but our very own Bigfoot also has an aching need to get his end away at every opportunity.  Kind of like a fucked-up reimagining of ‘King Kong’ (1933) in a weird and grotesquely twisted way.

The plot itself is pretty simple, but at the same time, includes some wonderfully elaborate elements within it.  At the heart of the tale you have the classic ‘Jaws’ (1974) plot; only here instead of a giant Great White shark that the mayor’s trying to cover-up, you have a flesh-hungry Bigfoot with a hard-on for the women of Hambleton.

Although as much as the novella is damn, damn, damn entertaining, it’s nevertheless not without a few issues.  Typos are a recurring problem throughout the story – increasing in their frustrating regularity as the tale ramps up for a blood-drenched finale.  Furthermore, although the chapters are short and snappy, many of them can feel somewhat stunted by their abruptness.  And the lack of an easily identifiable principal protagonist for a good portion of the tale really limits the capacity in which the story is able to pull you into the fold.  True, journalist and photographer Duke Casey gradually shuffles his way into the spot, along with damsel-in-distress turned hardboiled-heroine: calendar girl Jeannie Creswell.  But it’s only in the last third-or-so of the tale that these two really stumble into the limelight.  Until then, centre stage for the role of principal protagonist could pretty much have been anyone’s game.

But these slight issues pale into the background compared to the utter entertainment factor of the tale as a whole.  You can’t take any of it too seriously.  It’s over-the-top and drenched from head to toe in a shit-tonne of gore.  And before you know it, you’ll find yourself crashing towards the final few pages for a swift, burning-hot flash-in-the-pan of an ending.

More of this please Mr Bantry.  Much, much more.

The novella runs for a total of 105 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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