Your Daily NEL: New English Library

Cheap and Nasty Seventies Horror Pulp

Guy N. Smith – The Walking Dead

Posted by demonik on October 5, 2007

Guy N. Smith – The Walking Dead (Nel, 1984)

Ten years have passed since the events described in The Sucking Pit when Chris Latimer, minus Pat (things didn’t work out: he blames the gypsies curse) finds himself driving past Hopwas Wood. It’s not as he left it. All but a few trees have been cleared and the ground levelled in readiness for a new housing project. Fifty homes for the super-rich are to be built on the ancient Romany burial site. Latimer can’t see Cornelius and his corpse clan suffering that without a fight …

Mick Treadman, friendly JCB operator, lives long enough to inform Latimer that his old home is now occupied by businessman Ralph Clifton, the brains and financial muscle behind the redevelopment. Clifton has bribed henpecked Planning Officer Claude Minworth into allowing him to build on what was green belt land. Treadman waves Latimer on his way and is promptly sucked down – digger and all – into the black pool where the slimy dead await. Reading a newspaper report of the tragedy, Latimer, fearing the worst, decides it’s time to return to the area.

The site has become a meeting place for a fledgling biker gang led by Mule Skinner who use it for scrambling practice on Sundays. Mule leads his crew – Whisky Mac, Gun-toter, Tobacco Joe and Cherokee – to the spot where Treadman’s digger went down and stare into the pool. Mule’s dad reckons the Sucking Pit is bottomless but his son is far from convinced (“it has to have a bottom, doesn’t it, else the water would all run out the other end”). Something bubbles to the surface and disappears. When next they check their watches, three hours have passed. They’ve been studying the murky black water all that time!

Something’s come over the boys. They’re not renowned for trouble-making but Mule has decided that tonight they’ll ride into town and hit the social club where ladies man Carl Wickers is performing a C & W set to the old fogies. Chris Latimer is also in attendance, Carl being a mate from the old days, and he even has a date – recently divorced Pamela – to take his mind off Carl’s newly acquired ‘Mexican’ mustache and buckskin jacket. The zombified Mule and friends stroll in, plucking the darts from the board and letting fly – at the audience. An old boy cops one in the eye, a cringing woman in the back. The terrified punters go down under a hail of glasses and bottles before Mule leads his troops off into the night. During the ensuing high-speed chase, Mule causes a motorway pile up which wipes out the rest of his gang, two cops and various innocent parties. He doesn’t even notice, just rides straight for Hopwas Wood and the Sucking Pit.

Reg Blackburn, frogman, is the next victim. He’s sent down into the sludge to recover Mule and his bike and can’t quite pluck up the guts to tell the cops to stick their job for fear of being called a coward. To calm his nerves, he focuses on Judy, the love of his life, and has soon given himself a hard-on. Imagine his delight when Judy swims toward him – and she’s naked! It’s unlike her to play hard-to-get though, and the more she teases, the angrier he gets. Why, I’m gonna kill that bitch! Which is exactly what he does some hours later when he returns home and she breaks the happy news – “I’m pregnant!”

Meanwhile, the police have had their fill of moody divers who can’t do their job and hire two cranes to dredge the ‘death bog’. Latimer, Carl and their dates decide to drop in on the proceedings. As the battered bike is hoisted out of the sludge a freak storm erupts – as does the Sucking Pit, reclaiming the land to the exact dimension of it’s former self. Nobody will be building fifty houses here any century soon!

Cornelius, Roon and the Romany clan from the first book are back for the final 40 odd pages, revived by all the gory murders and mayhem instigated by the dark denizens of the Sucking Pit. These violent episodes – told in a series of increasingly nasty vignettes – include meek, henpecked Mr. Minworth picking up an axe and performing Jack the Ripper style butchery on his wife and a frump of a baby-sitter suddenly realising she can have a child this moment even if no man will touch her. Once the chopped down trees are restored to their former glory, the undead gypsies have one final mission to accomplish – revenge on Latimer who began the chain of desecration. Using a zombified Carl Wickers as bait – he performs an impromptu C & W set by the Pit in the middle of a mighty thunderstorm – they lure the surviving principal players to certain doom. But …

That ‘But …’ is maybe why people don’t have such fond memories of The Living Dead as they do the first book because, up until now, it’s all been pretty engaging, certainly far better than I remembered it. Trouble is, the ending is piss poor, as disappointing in its way as the limp climax to Wheatley’s Gateway To Hell. GNS sets up a triumph by the forces of evil – which would be genuinely shocking – only to lob in a freak landslide, the Sucking Pit getting filled in – again – and all the animated corpses being dragged back into the bowels of the Earth. It just doesn’t convince.

Oh well. Back on the bookshelf for another ten years …..

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