First published back in October of 1985, British author John Halkin’s pulp horror novel ‘Squelch’ was the third book in the ‘Slither-Slime-Squelch’ creepy-crawly trilogy.  The trilogy kicked-off with the first novel ‘Slither’ (1980) and was later followed by the second book ‘Slime’ (1984).

DLS Synopsis:
Kit is a twelve-year-old troublemaker on a mission.  He’s got the University of Lingford Research Institute in his sights.  A smash and grab of one of their experimental specimens is a sure-fire way to get into Lenny’s gang.  And all seems to be going pretty darn well, up until the lab cat Baggy gets spooked by the young lad’s presence and smashes up the lab.  However, with a giant caterpillar in hand, Kit gets out of the lab and off to the relative safety of the woods outside.  But as Kit is soon to realise, the caterpillar he has in his hand is no ordinary member of the Lepidoptera family.  These squirming larval have teeth and a carnivorous hunger for flesh.  And unfortunately for young Kit, he’s not only stolen one of these nasty beasties, but he has a further two attached to his clothing, and they’re now burying into his flesh.  Kit doesn’t last long.

Back at the research institute and the dead cat is blamed for the devastation and the missing caterpillars.  After counting out the missing specimens, the resident Dr Greenberg counts six carnivorous caterpillars are unaccounted for.  Certainly a problem if they had gotten loose, but she thinks to herself it could have been so much worse.

Meanwhile, twenty-six-year-old Ginny Andrewes has decided to move out of London and to a small cottage in the countryside following the breakup with her ex-partner Jack.  Still very much in love with Ginny, Jack agrees to help her with the move.  However, on the return journey home, his van is attacked by a pack of giant moths.  Jack drives on; unaware of how lucky he is to survive the ordeal.

Later on Ginny notices that the very same giant moths have congregated in the large trees within her new garden.  However, their presence is looked at as a welcome one by the ex-television producer.  So much so that she begins to draw inspiration from the giant moths for a possible new show.

However it’s not long before the presence of the moths starts to come to the attention of offers.  When the local drunk, Liz Kinley, is knocked off her pushbike by a horde of the furry beasts, at first the general consensus is very sceptical regarding the actual reality of the incident.  But when Ginny’s sister, Leslie Rendell plucks a giant caterpillar off the naked stomach of her sunbathing sister, the true horror of the recent emergence of these creepy beasts is revealed.

Having removed the giant caterpillar from Ginny’s prone stomach, the squirming larva attacks Leslie, boring its way into one of her toes with its razor sharp teeth.  In the resulting panic and bloodshed, Ginny manages to pull out most of the tunnelling caterpillar before rushing her distraught sister to hospital.

And then, as if from out of nowhere, the full extent of the caterpillar and moth threat is upon them.  The giant moths spitting out poisonous saliva make short work of any unsuspecting victims.  The caterpillars then moving in to ravish and devour those that have fallen.

The attacks are becoming more regimented.  The small random attacks turning instead into full-scale bloody massacres.  Suddenly nowhere is safe from the marauding flesh-eating beasts...

DLS Review:
Halkin’s done it again.  Another absolute monster of a pulp horror novel.  Following on from the absolute triumph that was
Slime (1984), to deliver a similar calibre of pulpy goodness was never going to be an easy task...but if he hasn’t gone and done it again!

Bring on the bloodshed, bring on the chaos, and bring on all the wildly over-the-top subplots.  It’s once again got it all.  Violence, horror, gore and lurid sex.  This is exactly what all ‘creatures vs mankind’ pulp horror novels should be like.  No idiotic hang-ups about obtaining any literary merit, just get in there and deliver the gory goods from start to finish.

In comparison to
Slime (1984), ‘Squelch’ doesn’t quite hit the same levels of individually detailed mutilations.  That’s not to say that the bloodshed isn’t crammed in to the novel, with it almost bursting at the seams.  It is...and it’s all of a visceral and imaginatively grotesque nature.  It’s just a little less of an absolutely bombarding quality than it was within the preceding novel.

However where it cuts back (only ever-so-slightly I must add) in the outrageous volume of human victims in comparison to
Slime (1984), it certainly makes up for it in the levels of gore and overall blood spill.  And man does it get into the absolute thick of it!  From beer garden bloody-carnage, to spring fete massacres, to the all-out slaughter of an unsuspecting church congregation – the novel soon becomes one long bloodbath.  And Halkin goes absolutely hell-for-leather with these higher-number-of-casualties scenarios, as opposed to the more personal one-on-one killing of specific characters.

Now don’t get me wrong, ‘Squelch’ certainly isn’t a tame read by any stretch of the imagination.  It’s unforgiving and uncompromising in its pulpish delivery, as well as its continuous bombardment of gory horror.  The characters are as numerous and expendable as they were with the previous two novels in this glorious trilogy.  And the pace is just unrelenting.

Okay, so expect a pretty piss-poor excuse for an ending.  Halkin’s not exactly a master at wrapping up his brutal creature epidemics.  They just seem to peter out in a vaguely concluding fashion.  But it’s not really like this is something that the reader is likely to care all that much about from a novel like ‘Squelch’.  It delivers the goods in absolute abundance…and to be honest, isn’t that really all that matters here?

The novel runs for a total of 250 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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