‘John Sayles’ – Piranha (Nel, Oct. 1978, Dec. 1978)
It credits John Sayles on the cover and spine, but inside it warns:
This novelisation by Leo Callan
They came downriver in their thousands.
Their teeth could strip a living man to the bone in seconds.
Their hunger for flesh was insatiable and their vicious attacks had already left a trail of carnage and mutilation in their wake.
As the waters flowed, so the deadly fish went with them, ever nearer, nearer to the unsuspecting Lost River holiday Camp. Children bathed, couples lingered in the shallows, water-skiers sped unknowingly towards the horror that was surging towards them …
And for the piranha, it was feeding time.
Just hit chapter six and the mutant piranha have already made quite a mess, starting with a pair of backpackers who decide to go skinny dipping in a private pool at midnight despite the sign warning ‘US Army Test Site. Authorised Personnel Only.’ Dr. Hoak, who invented them, has just admitted that they’re not normal killer fish but an entirely new species, Sarrasalmus Mutandis.
Maggie “Oh My God!” McKeown sets out to find the missing kids (its her job) and calls at the cabin of misanthropic Paul Grogan, recently divorced and permanently pissed. Somehow she convinces him to drive with her to the Army base without even offering him 25p toward his next can. They’re attacked by a stranger just as they’ve begun draining the pool but easily overpower him and tie him up for questioning. He is Dr. Robert Hoak. The Government paid him a bundle to work on ‘Project Razorteeth’ because they were planning to unleash the super-Pirahna into the North Vietnamese river system! Now the war is over, he’s been left to continue his work because you never know who the US will wage war on next and it’s best to be prepared. The Razorteeth are two feet long (approx.), brainy and ultra-fangy, and they got that way through “genetics, radiation, behaviour modification, selective breeding – you name it.” And Maggie and Paul have stupidly released them into the water supply! And all the little kids – including Paul’s daughter, Susie – are taking part in some kind of gala thing at the Lost River Holiday Camp! And it’s about to start … right now!
This is all very well, but, as mentioned, Paul is on a downer against mankind, so why should he care? Fortunately, he has two almost-friends – a pissed-up old backwoods bum named Jack and his ancient mutt, Brandy – so when he discovers Jack cut down to stumps and Brandy barking at the culprits, he sobers up and becomes a man again. Hoak likewise redeems himself by sacrificing himself to save a boy who has just watched his Pop get eaten alive, and for a moment it seems it will all be a big letdown and the piranha won’t get at the kids. Luckily for us, Camp Owner Mr. Gardner and his henchman Colonel Flaxman – who was in on the Razorteeth project and has secretly bought shares in the Lost River Camp – have Paul and Maggie thrown into jail before people start listening to their mean-spirited and alarmist moaning. As the days first race gets underway, the killer fish advance. Fucking blood and guts everywhere!
It runs for 143 pages, but you can drop at least twenty from the total as they’re either blank or given over entirely to chapter headings and what looks like a photocopy of the cover image!