Your Daily NEL: New English Library

Cheap and Nasty Seventies Horror Pulp

Guy N. Smith – Night Of The Crabs

Posted by demonik on September 15, 2007

Guy N. Smith – Night Of The Crabs (Nel, July 1976)

The Welsh coast basks in summer tranquility. Then the ‘drownings’ begin.

But not until the monstrous crustaceans crawl ashore, their pincers poised for destruction, does the world understand the threat it faces.

A seafood cocktail for the strongest stomachs

“What a beautiful night”, Pat remarked ….. “If only we didn’t have to worry about giant crabs!”

Holidaymaker Pat Benson, recently dumped and divorced, has only just met ace Marine Biologist Cliff Davenport when both their worlds are thrown into turmoil by the cow-sized crustaceans. Prof. Davenport has come to Shell Island off the Welsh Coast to investigate the disappearance of his nephew Ian and his fiance Julie who went for a swim in the sea and never returned! After examining a trail of giant crab tracks in the sand he’s arrested by the military police who accuse him of spying on their new pilot-less aircraft. Fortunately, he knows Sir Ronald Bradley at Whitehall, so he’s let off with a warning and even given back his binoculars. But why were the army chaps so aggressive to begin with? Could they know more about the recent “mysterious disappearances” than they’re letting on?

The answer is a resounding “No!”

Even though the enormous King Crab and his – by comparison – half-pint cronies have selected Shell Island as their on-land home, nobody who has seen them has lived to tell the tale and the army’s surveillance equipment is obviously far from state of the art. Davenport suspects the truth and, together with Pat, keeps moonlight vigil at the spot where he saw the out-sized claw-prints. Their persistence is rewarded when they have the pleasure of watching the crabs scuttle after Bartholemew the mute beachcomber and tear him limb from limb!

Now that he’s seen them in action, Davenport puts a call through to Grisedale at Whitehall and, explaining the urgency, beseeches him to send one of his top men. Grisedale goes him one better – he loans him drunken sot Colonel Goode whose brief involvement in the story at least ups the dialogue a notch. He is a super-arrogant, natural born sceptic who everybody hates on sight and the feeling is obviously mutual. Having decided “I could do with a drink. Whisky. I’m parched”, he heads out for a night on the piss warning Davenport that he’ll be driving back to London first thing in the morning. When more bathers go missing overnight, Goode, extra-grumpy now he’s nursing a hangover, is less than sympathetic. “People want to learn to swim before they start buggering about in the water. Bring back Conscription, I say. Teach ’em all to swim!”

Meanwhile, the ease with which they’ve picked off and dismembered their victims has made the crab army so cocky that now they’re ready to declare war on mankind. In the case of the evil genius King Crab there even seems to be something personal about it. He leads his creatures out of the sea and into a bloody first raid on the base where he masterminds an easy victory, with the soldiers scattered and a tank junked! Won’t Colonel Goode feel silly when he reads about that in the newspaper!

It’s great fun, of course. The pace picks up sharply once the crabs make themselves known, and the skirmishes with the army are glorious. Tense moments when Davenport puts on his frogsuit and locates the sleeping monsters to their cave, only to realise his escape is cut off by a sentry! Two big surprises: it’s not especially violent and neither is there any gratuitous sex. There’s a minor outbreak of premarital hot knee-trembler action on P. 49, but that’s between the lead couple and after what they’ve been through who could begrudge Pat “feeling at his hardness through his trousers”?

Thanks, Jerrylad!

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