First published back in September of 2015, Guy N Smith’s ‘Crabs Omnibus’ collected together five previously published and two brand new short stories from the author’s signature Crabs series.

Introduction – 3 Pages
To kick start the collection Guy N Smith offers up a short introduction in which he details the importance the crabs had on his career as an author.  From here Smith provides an amusing anecdote about the exact point at which he first realised that ‘Night Of The Crabs’ (1976) was something more than just another novel with modest sales.  He explains how it launched his career and finally got him out of the 9am – 5pm misery of banking – his previous profession.  Four decades later and the Crabs are still as popular as ever.  Whether they will rise again to wreak havoc upon mankind, Smith tells us he has no idea.  But here’s hoping they do…

Crustacean Carnage – 47 Pages
Elwyn Jones had been travelling down to the Welsh coast on and off for the past ten years to help his old friend - Adrian Summers - haul in a line of crab and lobster pots.  However today’s haul brought in a crab far larger than any they’d previously caught.  Looking closely at the dog-sized crustacean, Elwyn realises that it’s just a baby.  Jones is old enough to remember the attack on Barmouth some forty years ago now.  When the giant crabs came ashore in their hundreds to feast on human flesh.  They’d turned up a few times since.  The armed forces never could be certain that the last one was dead.  And now the two of them had found this one.  A young baby crab.  Which meant they were out there somewhere.  Breeding.  And no doubt planning their next attack.

However Adrian had seen the potential for profit in their find.  The crab could well be a saleable product.  One that could fetch a good price if Adrian played his cards right.  Drayton Manor Park in Tamworth would be getting a call off him soon enough.  He just had to get the crab back home with him and keep it safe and secure until he could arrange the sale.

Luckily Adrian had been developing a commercial fishing business at his home in Hilton.  As such, he currently had an empty pool of about an acre in size, and the fish wouldn’t be arriving until later in the year.  It would do for keeping the crab in for a day or so.  Or so Adrian thought…

Get in!  For this first tale in the collection Smith offers up a substantial nine-chapter story that’s absolutely textbook Guy N Smith.  Set forty years after the events in ‘Night Of The Crabs’ (1976) this new short plays out in the current day, with people’s memories of the events in Barmouth already beginning to fade, dulling their response to the arrival of one of the giant crustaceans.

Although the short doesn’t commence with any savage Crab attacks or the like, the pacing of the tale does however gain constant momentum throughout, with the captured crab growing in size at a mind-boggling speed – the escalating horror feeding off this on top of the handful of gruesome attacks.

Almost every chapter in the tale is told from the perspective of a different character.  In fact, the amount of different substories shoe-horned into the tale is incredible, given it’s less than fifty pages in its entire length.  Furthermore, the number of characters that are introduced, only to end up either as Crab fodder, or to just disappear from the story altogether once they’ve played their part, is crazy.  Nevertheless it works.

The only real downside with the tale is its abrupt ending.  Almost from out of nowhere Smith introduces yet another new character, paints a lukewarm backstory of social angst, and then proceeds to take the story off at a weird new tangent.  The ending itself comes about so suddenly, with little to no build-up that you can’t help but feel at least a little disappointed with it.

Nevertheless the short story is another thoroughly entertaining addition to the Crab series, cramming in more characters and substories than you can shake a sizeable crab claw at.  A damn good start to the collection.

The Decoy – 9 Pages
The death toll at the Marine Parade had run into the dozens.  The terror-stricken holidaymakers making an easy meal for the advancing army of giant crustaceans.  After the crabs had left, the army had erected barricades along the shoreline.  A token force of military personnel attempting to pacify public hysteria.  Although in no way could this platoon of soldiers stand up against the crabs should they emerge once again.

Dugan knew this.  But here he was now, skulking in the shadows, staying out of sight from the military presence nearby.  The military didn’t know how to take these crabs out.  They’d been firing from an elevated position.  Their bullets merely ricocheting off the crabs’ shells.  But Dugan knew better.  He had his trusty double-barrelled sixteen gauge ‘drilling’.  A weapon that Dugan was confident would bring down one of the giant crabs when fired under the shell.

That was his plan.  Tonight, under the silvery moon, he’d take one down.  And it looked like luck was already on Dugan’s side.  Upon arriving at the shadowy shoreline he’d stumbled across the corpse of a young woman floating in the water.  A sad sight to see, especially one so young.  But Dugan knew the girl would be perfect for his plan.  He’d lure a lone crab in with the promise of human flesh and then blow the beast to hell.  He was confident his plan would work.  After all, now he had the perfect decoy…

This is a good ‘un.  It’s only short, but nevertheless Smith crams in everything we love about his Crabs stories.  The setting is just post ‘Night Of The Crabs’ (1976), with the military still reeling from the crabs’ onslaught at Barmouth.  The perfect setting for a hunter-cum-vigilante, wanting his own revenge on the crabs (along with a trophy).

Smith sets the backdrop perfectly.  The Barmouth shoreline feels instantly intimidating under the darkened night sky.  The atmosphere is thick with suspense.  As I said, it’s absolute textbook Smith.

Of course it doesn’t all go to plan for Dugan.  I’m not going to ruin the story for you, but suffice to say, Smith’s got a damn fine twist up his sleeve.  Altogether, a thoroughly entertaining read.

The short story was first published within ‘FEAR Magazine – Issue 13’ (1990) and later as the standalone chapbook ‘The Decoy’ (2009) and within the original ‘Crabs: Unleashed – The Collection’ (2009) chapbook as well as the ‘Crabs: Unleashed’ (2009) reprint.

Revenge [aka Crustacean Vengeance] – 12 Pages
The memory of the giant crustacean army’s attack on the millionaire’s paradise of Hayman Island still haunted Kiln.  After taking a quick look at the fisherman, most would quickly avert their eyes in fear, nevertheless, Kiln the hunter of Australia’s Barbecue Bay, now feared for what he knew he had to do next. 

The crabs had gotten the young girl on the beach at Hayman Island during the last full moon.  The girl hadn’t stood a chance against the colossal beasts with their razor sharp pinchers.  Klin had watched as she was ripped apart.  Her entrails feasted upon by the vengeful crustaceans.

Now the crabs had returned to Barbecue Bay.  They were hungry for human flesh.  They wanted a terrible revenge for what Man had done to them.  But Kiln was here to stop them.  Or he’d die trying…

Following on from the absolute carnage witnessed in ‘Killer Crabs’ (1978), much-loved gritty anti-hero Klin returns to Hayman Island to finish the crabs off, once and for all.

Smith spends much of the first couple of pages, setting the scene, whilst refreshing our memories with the events that took place in ‘Killer Crabs’ (1978).  With that done, it’s straight into the thick of the action, with Klin laying his trap to hopefully wipe out the giant crabs.

Much of what takes place in the short is particularly reminiscent of the finale from ‘Killer Crabs’ (1978).  Of course, here Smith has a slight twist up his sleeve.  For a quick, six page short, packed with textbook Guy N Smith suspense, this story delivers the goods.  Okay, so it treads much of the already previously-trodden ground, but for a short, sharp stab of crustacean horror, you can’t go wrong at all.

The short story was first published within the original ‘Crabs: Unleashed – The Collection’ (2009) chapbook as well as the ‘Crabs: Unleashed’ (2009) reprint under its original title ‘Crustacean Vengeance’.

The Vigil [aka The Crabs] – 10 Pages
It was around midday on the crowded Welsh coast beach that the giant crabs launched their attack in their hundreds.  Ed Billington had been eyeing up a young mother when all hell had broken loose.  In the erupting chaos, Ed had managed to flee into a nearby blockhouse, bringing the young mother and her baby daughter with him along with another young lad.

The old wartime fortification they were hiding within was little more now than a concrete pillbox whose only use over the last thirty years had been as a beach toilet.  However the slitted windows and narrow entrance afforded its inhabitants cover and protection against the giant flesh-hungry crabs.

Amongst the dirt, rubbish and filth of the dark unused blockhouse Ed’s plan is to wait out the crabs’ attack.  And with this attractive young woman as company, things could actually be looking up for him.  It was just a case of holding their nerve until the coast was finally clear.  Plenty of time for the two of them to get acquainted…

One thing I love about Smith is how he crams so much pulpy goodness into his tales.  This one for example has it all.  Tension, completely inappropriate smutty ponderings, giant crabs and plenty of bloodspill.  The short tale fits snugly within the events from Smith’s novel ‘Crabs’ Moon’ (1984) as well as within the chronological timeline of ‘Night Of The Crabs’ (1976). Written predominantly from the first person perspective of Ed Billington, this short, sharp snippet of the carnage the crab army unleashed onto Shell Island delivers an interesting additional viewpoint from a previously unseen group of characters.  The storyline is fairly straight forward, predominantly feeding off the success of the previous Crabs novels, although utilising a far more claustrophobic premise than seen in any of the other Crabs offerings. Nevertheless it still packs in a good-sized punch which is guaranteed to entertain all fans of this classic pulp horror series.

The short story originally appeared in the 1992 edition of the quarterly magazine of horror fiction, ‘Peeping Tom’ under its original title ‘The Crabs’ and was later reprinted within Smith’s ‘Horror Shorts - 2nd Collection’ (2001).

The Survivor – 9 Pages
Now that Hamish had started punting again, Donald Brown decided it was time he too took to the Solway estuary.  It was a misty November morning when Donald climbed aboard his gunning punt and started to lazily glide down the estuary, letting the current gently take him.  Geese were once again plentiful along the misty Solway Firth.  More than enough to ensure he could shoot a good few to sell.  Perhaps one for his own pot.

However as Donald went to retrieve the first set of geese he’d shot down he saw the crab.  Some three and a half feet in length with a width of at least two feet – he knew it was a mere baby compared to those monsters which the WWII bomb had blown to smithereens.  Nevertheless Donald was sure he’d be able to pass the crab off onto one of the butchers.  Even as a baby, the crab was still sizeable.  Its shell only showing the smallest amount of damage.  Heaving the crab aboard the punt, Donald guessed the crab must have died sometime following the explosion that killed the rest of its kind.  It certainly smelt fresh enough.  All he needed to do now was get the beast home to his wife…

Following on from the carnage within ‘Killer Crabs: The Return’ (2012), the short is set a couple of weeks after the explosive finale that saw the giant crabs blown to pieces by the previously unexploded WWII bomb.  From early on you can no doubt guess where the story’s going.  Indeed, it’s incredibly similar to the plot of ‘Crustacean Carnage’.  A small surviving crab is found (here it’s thought to be dead).  It’s taken home, only to inevitably wreak bloody havoc on everyone in the vicinity.

Admittedly it now sounds rather ‘done before’.  However, trust me, you’ll soon not give two hoots about the slight repetition of the premise, when the blood-pumping high-adrenaline finale kicks in good and proper.  Smith has ramped up the horror a good twenty or so notches, ending the short on a monumentally pulpish barrage of explosive gore and smirk-inducing deviancy.  What a classic this is.  What an ending.

Crabs Armada – 8 Pages
Jack Boswell didn’t want to do the dive.  However, someone had to go down and clear up the mystery that lay hidden on the seabed.  No one would have believed it.  But the truth of the matter was there, under the water.  It appeared somehow the four-hundred-year-old shipwreck of the Rata Encoronada had travelled almost a mile along the bed of the Giant’s Causeway towards the shore.

The idea that the remains of the vast galleon had moved of its own accord such a distance was preposterous.  But somehow it had happened.  So they’d sent Boswell down until the depths of the sea to find out how the shipwreck had moved over a mile on its own.

Although when he reached the crumbling galleon he realised the dive might not have been such a waste of time.  Amongst the dirt and rotting remains of the vast ship, small artefacts, no doubt from the time of Thomas de Granvela and Don Alonso de Leiva, had been uncovered.  Treasures that would be worth a small fortune.

It was enough to get him exploring the lower levels of the shipwreck.  And as he did so he noticed two glowing orbs in the darkened shadows below deck.  At first he thought they were rubies or some other such treasure.  But then he saw the burning hatred within them.  Those were no rubies.  They were eyes…

And the good times just keep on coming!  Here we have another short Crabs story crammed with escalating suspense.  Yeah, we know what’s going to happen here.  We’ve got a diver going down into the depths of the sea to investigate a four-hundred-year-old shipwreck that appears to have shifted a mile along the seabed.  Guess who’s responsible for moving the decaying galleon?  Yep…our crustacean friends.

The outcome’s inevitable.  From the outset we know what’s going to happen.  As such, the success of the story pretty much depends upon the escalation of the suspense and then the eventual bloodbath that’s sure to follow.  Luckily these are two areas in which Smith is a veritable master.

It’s only short, but the suspense that Smith builds as we edge towards the inevitable horror is second to none.  By the time the crabs’ eyes are spotted, you’re pretty much clawing at the pages.  And then the diver’s desperate attempts at escaping the crabs’ reach is nothing short of classic Guy N Smith.  Frantic, desperate and utterly futile.  You’ve just got to love it!

The short story was first published in the ‘Cadaver’ (1991) chapbook, later followed by the standalone chapbook ‘Crabs Armada’ (2009) and then reprinted in the original ‘Crabs: Unleashed - The Collection’ (2009) chapbook.

The Final Encounter – 17 Pages
Maria Hildebrand had gone to semi-retired private detective - Gary Newman – to help find and bring home her husband.  Ralph Hildebrand had been a fine man until he took to drink, at which point it had been a steady descent into alcoholism.  Not wanting to burden his beloved wife with his problem anymore, Ralph had left with just a thousand pounds in his pocket, saying he was going to make his own way in life.  And then last week Maria had received a letter from him saying he was on the island of Tampini, and after reading between the lines, it sounded like he had sunk to the very lowest of depths, steadily drinking himself to death.

However, Maria still loved the man.  And she’d pay whatever it took to get him back before it was too late.  Finding Ralph and bringing him home was a job Newman was more than happy to take on.  It would pay well, and he’d get to see the South Seas island of Tampini.  However, once he gets there, the private detective will find he’s up against more than just a broken man drinking himself to death.  For Tampini is prone to tsunamis, and within the towering waves are a horde of giant flesh-hungry crabs…

This final offering is almost like two stories stitched together.  For the first half or so of the tale you have Maria’s story about her husband’s turn to alcoholism and the subsequent tracking down of the man.  Then in second half you have the devastation of the colossal tsunami wave followed by the arrival of the crabs.  Because of this the pacing of the tale feels relatively haphazard.  But to be fair that doesn’t hinder the reader’s enjoyment one bit.  Once we’re on Tampini and the waves have come crashing down, it’s nothing but textbook Smith, with slaughter and gore aplenty.  The ending is wonderfully contrived and perfectly in keeping with the likes of ‘Night Of The Crabs’ (1976).  A great one to finish the collection on.  Proper, old school pulpy crab horror.  Love it!

The short story was first published within the ‘Hangman’s Hotel And Other Stories’ (2014) collection.

The collection runs for a total of 127 pages.

© DLS Reviews

Other ‘Crabs’ instalments:

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