May 17, 2011

NIGHT OF THE CRABS

by Guy N. Smith
158 pages, Ghostwriter Publications

Review by Hereward L.M. Proops

One has to be careful when reviewing a book like Guy N. Smith's “Night of the Crabs”. It would be easy to mercilessly dissect the short novel and criticise it for being both shallow and simplistic. Likewise, it would be easy to swing the other way and to sing its praises as a cult-classic, an unintentionally hilarious schlock-fest not to be taken too seriously.

I have my own reasons for loving this book but they aren't to be found within its pages. I was eleven or twelve years old when I stumbled across a second-hand paperback copy of “Night of the Crabs” at a car-boot sale. I was on a family holiday in Devon and the lurid cover and short length convinced me that it would be a good way to avoid talking to my parents, at least for a few hours. Smith's pulpy tale of giant crabs preying on unsuspecting holidaymakers made perfect beach-fodder and I have very happy memories of lying in the sun and reading the book cover to cover in one sitting.

Needless to say, I was gripped. Now don't get me wrong, at twelve years old I could hardly be called a connoisseur of good taste and sophistication. I thought chicken and chips in a basket was the height of fine dining and that “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors” was the greatest movie ever made. What probably appealed to my warped young mind was Smith's somewhat artless blend of bad sex and predictable violence. The plot is achingly linear and the gruesome descriptions of bodily dismemberment and disembowelling occur regularly enough to entertain even those with the shortest of attention spans.

If Smith's trashy novel taught me anything that summer, it was that whilst I was too young to see this sort of thing at the cinema, I could very easily read about it in a book purchased from a sweet old lady with blue hair and breath that smelled of Murray mints. It also taught me that giant crabs are bulletproof and women love bonking in the sand dunes.

When I discovered that Smith was digitizing his entire back catalogue and making it available through Amazon's kindle store, I leapt at the chance to experience “Night of the Crabs” once more. The question was: would it be as big of a disappointment as when I revisited “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3”?

Guy N. Smith is not a particularly good writer, but that hasn't stopped the likes of Dan Brown and J.K. Rowling, so we won't hold it against him. Whilst the prose is occasionally given a splash of colour by some half-decent descriptions of the Welsh coastline, by and large it is a pretty pedestrian affair. The dialogue is clunky and about as believable as the notion of giant crabs attacking a Welsh seaside resort. The lead characters speak in clich├ęs and their rather emotionless responses to the bizarre happenings gives one the impression that they are all on the autistic spectrum. But look at any B-movie and you'll see this same strange detachment and cumbersome dialogue. It's probably a step too far to say that this was a deliberate move on Smith's part, but it makes the whole book a little more palatable if one approaches it from this point of view.

Similarly, it is hard to take the story seriously without your tongue planted firmly in your cheek. When the giant crabs attack, only the pipe-smoking maverick Professor Clifford Davenport can save the day. He's a no-nonsense seventies hero, dressed in flannel and fond of scuba-diving, driving fast cars and shagging women much younger than him. Predictably, nobody believes his story of the monstrous crustaceans until it is too late and the army of crabs begin to move inland. Davenport steps up to the challenge with the help of attractive divorcee Pat Benson and together they devise a plan to stop the crabs before they overrun the countryside.

Is “Night of the Crabs” a good book? No. It's bloody terrible. But something doesn't have to be good to be enjoyable. Just as it is possible to get an evening's entertainment from a bad horror B-movie, so too is it possible to find a few hours' worth of fun from this very silly novel. I probably won't be downloading any more of Guy N. Smith's books any time in the future but this one will always have a special place in my heart, right next to chicken and chips in a basket.

Hereward L.M. Proops

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