First published back in October of 1987, Guy N Smith followed-up his pulp horror extravaganza ‘Thirst’ (1980) with the sequel entitled ‘Thirst II: The Plague’.  The title is somewhat misleading due to it simply carrying on with the original premise of the water supply having been contaminated with a deadly weedkiller; and not actually a plague of any kind.

DLS Synopsis:
In the quaint and isolated rural Welsh village of Bryn Gawr, the first few flakes of snow start drifting down on to the small community.  Before long the snow has become a blizzard which has engulfed the entire village, burying the roads in a thick blanket of snow and cutting the community off from the rest of civilisation.

Five years have passed since the tragic epidemic that hit Birmingham involving a highly toxic weedkiller that was accidentally spilled into the Claerwen reservoir.  A reservoir which supplies the water to the whole of Birmingham.  It later turned out that the tragedy had not just affected the people of Birmingham.  Bryan Gawr had also been one of the communities that suffered from the deadly weedkiller spillage.  Since then, property prices had plummeted in the village, with no one wanting to live in a place that carries so much suffering in its unforgotten past.

Away from prying eyes, Bert Evans - the landlord of the village’s one and only pub, the Winking Trout, has been buying cheap trout off the local youths.  Trout which he is fully aware have been obtained by poaching.  However, Bert decides to turn a blind eye to this small technicality.  And recently the three youths have unloaded an unusually large quantity of trout on to Bert.  Trout which show no signs of being gaffed or hooked.  As is their arrangement; no questions were asked.

With the blizzard now in full swing, Evan Allport (a local leather worker) has recently found himself with a seemingly unquenchable thirst.  As time progresses, his mind begins to cloud over and an uncontrollable and irrational rage begins to take hold of the man.  The first symptoms of the weedkiller epidemic are once again beginning to appear.  And before long, Allport has killed his son and fully succumbed to the appalling death brought about by the weedkiller contamination dubbed ‘The Thirst’.

Cut off from any emergency services, or indeed any other such form of help, the people of Bryn Gawr are slowly learning that their worst fears are once again being realised.  The thirst is back, with each contaminated victim succumbing to an unquenchable thirst followed by a rage-filled madness that ultimately leads to their agonising death.

The village’s one and only police officer, PC Tony Crane, is about to find he has his hands well and truly full.  Soon enough the madness will sweep across the small community, with violence and death tearing away at the once close inhabitants of Bryan Gawr...

DLS Review:
The novel begins with an uncharacteristically slow pace for a Guy N Smith novel.  Instead, characterisation is given a predominant role within the unfurling storyline; building up on the premise for the return of the weedkiller epidemic to cause its havoc and mayhem.  The close-knit community is vividly described, putting down a well-developed backdrop for the story to establish itself within.

When the return of The Thirst first hits, Smith dives straight in with a good slice of no-holds-barred graphic violence.  This time the victims of The Thirst display much more horrific outward symptoms from the contamination than the victims did in the ‘Thirst’ (1980).  Their faces are distorted and festooned with festering ulcers weeping foul smelling pus.  Smith’s recurring graphic depictions of these horrendous inflictions are perhaps an early prelude of inspiration for his later novel ‘The Festering’ (1989).  Furthermore, the tale includes a moment of sheer unadulterated pulpish-splatter that will later be re-imagined within the sixth instalment into the signature Crabs series ‘Crabs: The Human Sacrifice’ (1988) – the almost ritualistic consumption of cancerous and festering decaying flesh.

With the return of The Thirst epidemic now fully underway, Smith details a whole host of small stories; each one showing the horrific and violent death of a carefully developed and lovingly portrayed member of the Bryan Gawr community.

Smith throws in another bout of savage sexual violence, which has become somewhat of a standard trait for the author.  Further still, the usual unimaginative love-story subplot finds itself sneaking in to the brutal events.   However, the real strength to the tale is how Smith fits the many different substories of the outbreak into one main thread; piecing them together like that of a jigsaw. 

However, the general premise for the story (that of the return of the weedkiller contamination), is given a very weak and unsatisfyingly vague explanation.  Likewise, the early situation with Martyn Lewis, which the reader is reminded of throughout the storyline, is never fully developed and brought to any sort of conclusion.

Meanwhile, the storyline continues to build up on the savagery being graphically displayed by this returning outbreak, until all of a sudden, their seems to be too few people left to fall victim to ‘The Thirst, and as such, the story and The Thirst epidemic just peters out.

All in all the novel is a slow starter, that once fully in the swing of ‘The Thirst, delivers a whole host of utterly brutal and gloriously pulpish violence.  The many characters that are brought into the storyline are each well-developed, with individually intricate stories to tell.  These many positive aspects to the novel do somewhat overshadow the glaringly weak premise and far too loose storyline.   The disappointing conclusion does however end the novel on a bit of a low.

The novel runs for a total of 160 pages.

© DLS Reviews

Other ‘Thirst’ instalments:

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