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The giant crabs are back - and it's straight into the click-click-clickity-click bloodshed...
on 6 September 2012
First published in September of 2012 (although listed up in August), British pulp horror veteran Guy N Smith's novella 'Killer Crabs: The Return' formed the seventh instalment in the author's signature giant crabs series (not including the handful of short stories).
Across the breadth of the river Nith along the South West of Scotland, seven fishermen are positioned haaf netting for the many fish that they know live within the tidal river. But when Doug Allison's armed is suddenly pulled downwards into the churning water around the fishing net, the experienced fisherman knows that he's in some kind of trouble. Seconds later and his hand is severed clean off his arm. And as the panicking fishermen retreat to the nearby banks, Allison glimpses the huge crustacean shell lurking within the river's depths.
Close by, on the picturesque beach at Priestside, twenty-nine-year-old Jane Markland is fooling about with the man she recently met at the truck stop café where she works. But their frantic intimacy is cut short when Sam is dragged off and devoured by a gigantic crab. Jane manages to escape with her life, naked and bloodied, running off to the nearby cottages where she instantly collapses.
With word breaking out of the giant crabs being seen along the River Nith by Glencaple, Brian 'Brock' Logan, (son of the late veteran game hunter, Harvey Logan, who died in the 1978 battle against the giant crabs) decides that this is a big-game hunt that he can't miss out on. Along with the thrill of the hunt itself, stalking and killing one of the giant crabs offers him the chance for revenge for his father's death, as well as a magnificent prize trophy for his already impressive collection. And so, the very next day, Brock travels up to the small hamlet of Glenkirk, that the authorities have left unguarded, and where he is now booked to stay at the B&B of the local outcast - the thirty-something-year-old Karen Anderson.
Meanwhile, giant crab enthusiast, Chris Hall, has heard the news of the recent crustacean sightings and decides to leave his wife and young twins behind in order for him to travel up to the Solway Firth in the hope of catching sight of the giant crabs. And there, in the almost deserted Nith Hotel, the hopeful crab spotter meets the London based marine biologist, Bernard Strickland, who offers Chris the opportunity to join him on an excursion out on the marshy mudflats. A likely place where the crabs will be spotted next. And it's an offer that Chris finds hard to refuse.
But the locals at Glenkirk have been keeping a secret from the rest of the world. They knew all along that the crabs had taken refuge around the vicinity of their out-and-back hamlet. But they didn't want to draw attention to their quaint little locale. And so they left them be. And as long as the handful of residents at Glenkirk stayed locked-away in their homes at night, nothing bad came of the giant crabs' presence there. That is, until the outsiders come looking...
With an increase in ebook sales on his earlier title `Killer Crabs' (1978) around the same time that a possible film adaptation of 'Night Of The Crabs' (1976) was originally announced, pulp horror veteran Guy N Smith decided to continue with his signature giant crabs series with the new novella 'Killer Crabs: The Return'.
Penned during the festivities of the Queen's Jubilee weekend, the novella follows on from the carnage that occurred at Barbeque Bay on Australia's beautiful Hayman Island back in 1978. However, 'Killer Crabs: The Return' is now set in the present day, with Harvey Logan's son, Brian Logan following on with his late father's life-long passion for big-game hunting.
From the very outset the novella is instantly recognisable as a Guy N Smith offering. The rural setting with the marshy mudflats of the Solway Firth, along with a skilled wildfowler (whose name mysteriously changes from Hamish Hamilton to Hamish Copeland), a token sex-depraved wench (Karen Anderson), together with our big-game hunter Brian Logan and even a brief appearance of now eighty-odd-year-old Cliff Davenport; all make for pretty much a run-of-the-mill Guy N Smith crabs story.
Within the first couple of pages, our first crab attack is already underway, with the haaf netter, Doug Allison, losing a hand to one of the giant crustaceans. From there it's straight into another attack, this time with the delightful floozy, Jane Markland, and her new lover Sam. The sleazy sex preceding the inevitable attack is the standard Guy N Smith affair, with lurid descriptions of the couple's rambunctious lovemaking carrying the reader to the maws of the giant crab, which because of the preceding sex scene, feels all the more pulpish.
Okay, so at this stage I really should admit that my review on the novella may be a little biased - because I'm in it! Oh yes, a Guy N Smith fan's dream come true! Being slaughtered in one of his tales. And not only that, but being snuffed out by one of his legendary giant crabs. Immortalised forever within one of the greatest pulp horror series' to ever be penned. So yeah, it's difficult for me to do anything but sing the praises of the story with one hell of a smug grin on my face.
But if you've read Smith's other crabs stories, then you'll know the score by now anyway. And apart from 'Killer Crabs: The Return' being a fair bit shorter than the other crabs novels (probably around half the word count at a guess), the novella is otherwise incredibly similar in quality, style and setting.
Okay, so it's no 'Night Of The Crabs' (1976) or indeed 'Killer Crabs' (1978). The reduced nature of the tale doesn't allow for it to really create such an involved and elaborate plot as any of the other tales. Nevertheless, for its length, Smith has still managed to produce a heck of an entertaining story. The crabs are as mean, devious and hate-filled as ever. The attacks are blood-drenched and on the whole fairly unpredictable. Guy even manages to throw in some of his pro-hunting and pipe-smoking views once again!
I have to admit that the ending itself is a little contrived. Not wanting to give away any plot spoilers, I won't really go into any details, but the sudden emergence of a new element into the tale in the run-up to the conclusion, does on the whole feel a little too convenient for a quick and easy way to end the story. However, it does still make for a satisfyingly dramatic finale, which wraps the short novel up well.
All in all the novella is one hell of an entertaining pulp horror read. Admittedly it's something that existing fans of Guy's giant crabs will get a lot more out of than your average horror reading punter. And it's certainly one to read only after having read 'Killer Crabs' (1978) - even though the tale is a standalone story in itself. And if you're anything like me, you'll end up reading it all in one sitting (with a large glass of whisky on the side as company). Hats off to Smith - over one-hundred novels under his belt and he's still going strong. The man is nothing short of a living legend!
The novella runs for a total of 149 pages.