This is the essay that is included in the limited graphic novel version of CRABS’ FURY, and it is still available at Guy N. Smith’s Website. The comic is excellent (my review is here), but with the warm weather approaching, my annual RETURN TO THE CRABS is fast approaching. Yes, I read one on every vacation! For old fans, I hope you enjoy this, for those that have not tasted the fine crab meat from my favorite Self Reliant Horrorist-Guy N. Smith, I hope this points your antennae firmly in the right direction. An incomplete version of this has been posted in parts on my blog, but that was several years ago-and this essay puts it all together.
Within the pages of the six books (and oddball appearances) of Guy N. Smith’s CRABS series you’ll find more bi-sections, tri-sections, nymphomaniacs, heroes, villains, scientists and uses of the phrase “Click-click-clickitey-click” than any where else in the hallowed halls of literary fiction. Giant claws and tiny mouths devour and destroy with an animal glee that makes monster fans worldwide crack the carapace’s of these paperbacks over and over. Tanks are destroyed, Crabs are demolished and absolutely nobody is safe. Some may argue with me on this, but these books are my definition of truly great pulpy fiction. And the pulp isn’t a salad made of Crabs my friends… no, this is a feast of FLESH!
Just read this…
“Click-click-clickety-click. A crab castanet sound, a symphony of death; slow death.”
Brilliant ain’t it?
Readers of Guy N. Smith shouldn’t be surprised by anything here, his bibliography is stacked high with characters like the ones in these novels. Nymphos and nincompoops collide with the occasional everyman that isn’t only self sufficient, but a hero even if he may not yet realize it. Sure, Thirst was spectacular, The Sucking Pit drained you dry, but when you toss in a monstrous menace like Killer Crabs-Smith kicks into overdrive and makes you believe that nothing can save the human race. Even when our horde of horror is struck with a fatal disease they can still strike at their hated foe! The crabs have bad intentions and all the means to get to where they want to be.
In 2007, after a frenzy of online bidding I managed to snag a copy of CRABS: THE HUMAN SACRIFICE and went on a mission I called CRUSTACEAN DOMINATION. I had no idea as I typed up these gleeful impressions from my feverish reading sessions on my humble blog that one day these books would come back into print and I could share these little nuggets of my enthusiasm with you, but I sure am pleased. Spoilers lie ahead, but for those that haven’t read these novels I hope you get as excited to pick up each and every Smith Crab item as I savor the thought of re-reading them. Guy N. Smith deserves to have all of his books in print, and wouldn’t that be nice for those that have sought through dusty bins and bid high on pristine copies? Comics? A must! Coffee mugs? I’d drink to that. My favorite writer of monster fiction is unleashing these crabs again. You bring the Slime Monster and I’ll ring the Death Bell lads and lasses! So here we go. One man, a book that cost more to ship than the average cost of 10 vintage paperbacks and some sleepless nights later… this is what I found.
Starting from the top… we head to Shell Island.
Night Of The Crabs (1976) After the opening sequence that screams JAWS WITH CLAWS as two young lovers are chowed upon while bathing on Shell Island, right next to a military base(!!), we meet series hero Cliff Davenport. Sad to say, the Crab Salad that started us off consisted of his nephew! Luckily, Cliff is a marine botanist and also very curious. Off we go to investigate the strange happenings. Along the way Cliff meets Pat Benson and the INSTANTLY fall in love! Phew! A strange sea comber appears during a moonlit jaunt for the pair and WHAMMO!! GIANT CRABS…yep, we know they are real and they spend a lot of time killing people in classic big monster ways. It also helps out that Cliff knows military man “Old Grizzly” Grisedale. Can you say “The Battle Of Barmouth is underway?” I bet you can. Tanks battle crabs, crabs hurl tanks… and you’ll smile the whole ride through.
Night Of The Crabs plays like a classic horror film of the 50’s, with a good helping of 70’s gritty gore slathered on top. The prose is tight and words are not wasted-each detail furthering the story towards gory conclusions. There is the tendency in Smith’s world (and it is a fairly unified place to my experience) for people to act utterly illogical. But it doesn’t feel that way as you read along; instead it feels as if the writing is in fast forward. Guy meets girl, they fall in love. Crabs eat people…bring in the tanks. But this is what makes it exciting! Night starts the series out with a bang, laying the foundation of the monsters reign of terror with total precision. Is it flowery or pretty? Nope! Entertaining and engrossing? Absolutely. We know they are big and mean, now let the fun begin. Night contains some excellent set pieces, including an underwater seek and destroy mission that is equal parts Creature From The Black Lagoon and Jaws. Hell, it may be like other things, but nothing is like the CRABS!
Killer Crabs (1978) The Crabs are back, and this is a great entry into the series. This time we have the big beasts in Barbeque Bay to deal with. Interestingly, after the first crabs book, the world just accepts the big beasts-so we don’t have to go through any scenes of convincing the locals and the like. Just bring on the claws. Of all the books, this is the one I’d choose to be adapted into a film. Cliff Davenport returns and joins up with local authorities and the memorable salty seaman, Klin. Best of all is the hub of all the local drama, the nympho Caroline du Brunner. Klin is giving her the reason I called him salty seaman, and she is ALSO horny for criminals on the run with tons of cash stashed aside as well. This one has it all. Sex, violence, intrigue, buried cash and lots of clickitey-click. Hell, there is even a subplot about evil Japanese fish poachers! As fast and enthusiastic as Night Of The Crabs is, Smith really hits the sweet spot (and the wet ones) on every page here. Look for the scene where one poor fisherman reaches for a bit of driftwood in hope of escaping the crabs…and it turns out to be his own leg! Which he only recognizes when he sees his own SHOE on it!!
After reading Night Of The Crabs and Killer Crabs I’ve already become a Craboid Clickitey Clicker for life. But the series would roll on and the crab action would get even more outlandish. Big as sheep? Big as Cows? CARRYING TANKS?? Let’s move on.
Taking a step back in time, Smith decides to fill us in on the Origin Of The Crabs (1979) next. An interesting move for the saga of the Crabs, because the first two books were loaded with undeniable giant crab attacks, there was an immediate reaction from the public AND the military. The crabs are smaller, and most of the book is dedicated to covering up their presence on Loch Merse. The laird of Cranlarich, Bruce McKechnie, has a problem. He runs hunting tours on his property and enjoys the heavy fees he takes from his rich clients. He doesn’t plan on serving up his guests as Crab Salad, but that of course happens quickly. When two particular hunters refuse to be warned off taking midnight trips into the Loch (clickitey click my friends!!), they are devoured messily. This brings John Ryland, whose brother is sitting in the belly of several over sized crabs, into action. Luckily our laird ain’t a lord with the ladies, and Ryland can hook up with oversexed and eager for love Christine Blacklaw… McKechnie’s mistress. The pair investigates the monster in the Loch tale… and lots of people die in the process.
As wonderful as the above books are, I believe that that with this next entry we reach the apex of the series, one of the most entertaining nature running amok novels I’ve ever encountered… CRABS ON THE RAMPAGE (1981). Just say that title out loud when nobody is listening. See? It makes you smile doesn’t it? It does. Ahead lay some big spoilers, so I’m warning you right now. Before I look at the book though, I have to stress that this one is not only the most fun in the series, but it really benefits from reading the previous three entries first. Rampage ties them all together neatly, and even manages to take my second favorite character of all the books and give him a surprisingly good epilogue. So, no matter how exciting this one sounds, I can’t stress enough that you’ll get more from it if you go in order. But if you can’t resist trying one, this should satisfy as well.
“The big one came first, a waving pincer checking the others. This was human–regal meat!”
“And now the hour of vengeance was nigh. For the big one told them so!”
Who knew that crabs could use the word “nigh?” Amazing!!
So, what we have in Crabs On The Rampage is the most violent entry into the series, but Smith is no longer content to simply tri-sect his human victims. He isn’t even content to let them hurl tanks about anymore! Nope, they need to invade London! But Smith also needs a motive for our clickitey-clickers, and he finds it by giving them a killer cancer that is simply causing them to drop dead. No crab will go down without a fight, so our man Cliff Davenport is called back to action by Old Grizzly Grisedale. They can’t poison the crabs for fear of destroying the populated areas they are targeting, so it is battle upon battle as not just single victims of their own stupidity get dropped, but scores of folks going plopping into the ocean to make a bloody Crab Chowder as the beasts go for the bigger targets such as bridges. We return to Shell Island, we battle at Barmouth and it all comes to a screaming conclusion that features the de-clawing of one of our human friends. What irony eh? Cliff gets a little crabbier as a parting shot from the nemesis of his family.
But Smith doesn’t simply focus on the large scale mayhem thankfully, I am always impressed by his ability to draw up characters in a short time that actually make you at least understand them before they end up getting killed. While my favorite scene of this kind remains the “human joint of meat cooking in a makeshift oven” in Thirst, Rampage contains a stunning chapter about a real prick of a dad who just won’t relent until his son goes fishing with him. It does not go well at all, but Smith has created the characters, with all their flaws for better or worse, so clearly that when panic and unavoidable death strike it really makes an impact on the reader. One really clever use of one characters Crab-O-Phobia is so well done that it becomes both memorable and hysterical at the same time. I never thought I’d read a story that had a deputy sheriff plagued by nightmares of monster crabs mentally screaming the line “Let it suffer-fuck the Protection Of Animals Act Of 1911!”
Nope, never thought I’d read that.
This is the kind of book that tells me I’ve chosen the correct path to entertaining and enlightenment…the Guy N. Smith route to Nirvana! It isn’t anything more than a spectacular monster tale splattered with over the top gore and loaded with characters that are memorable even if they do end up chomped down within 15 pages. It is funny, it is fun and I love it.
Besides, just say CRABS ON THE RAMPAGE out loud one more time.
And then feel yer face…
That is a smile right there folks….
A few years later the Crabs would waddle ashore once more, and again Smith chooses to drop his fans right in the action as Crabs’ Moon (1984) is set during the Crab invasion we have already experienced to the final moment in the earlier books. It doesn’t take long to realize this, and thankfully there is even a bit of wrap up in the text after the story is told, letting us know that Cliff Davenport would eventually defeat the Crabs. If you were late to the series this was probably extremely jarring, but the book is so entertaining that new readers likely didn’t care. Hopefully they sought out the rest.
Irey Wall is on Shell Island (oh oh) and she is torn. Torn between duty to her husband and the desperate cries of her loins-oh what is a poor gal to do? We know however that uncontrolled desire is a double oh oh emotion in a Guy N. Smith novel. Luckily, for her, she meets a nice young man that is happy to satisfy her. Instead of sex, he decides to take a swim.
“That girl, damn it, he couldn’t even remember her name now. He wished he’d stayed in the dunes and screwed her!”
And the Crabs are off. Irey’s luck doesn’t get any better as the reader discovers she is off with her children at The Blue Ocean Vacation Camp. Can you smell the Crab Salad? Even the camp’s owner, Miles Manning, is an insufferable and greedy jackass that is merely ANNOYED by the presence of the Crabs! Lucky for him the Shell Island military base is nearby, and they are ready to do battle with the Crustacean hordes. Toss in a harrowed camp councilor, some uncontrollable nymphomaniacal urges and yes, children in danger and this is a recipe for one horrific BBQ for Smith’s rampaging monsters. You may root for Irey and the gang, but by now I’m thinking the audience is on the side of the crabs.
By now the formula may be set, but Smith’s writing style has really come along as he invests a good bit of time in making his characters interesting, even likable regardless of how poorly they may act. However, where he really shows off his chops is a new found glee in the relentless attack of the crabs. These are some violent sequences folks. The crabs are more intelligent and angrier than ever before-and while they are indeed giant crabs, in this book they are perhaps the most monstrous versions of the series. After Smith sets up the cast he knocks them down with the precision of a sharpshooter and the wrenching power of a literary chainsaw. While the sequences of militia versus monster are the most attention getting, I would be hard pressed to think of a nastier monster attack than the barbed wire crucifixion devouring of Lucy. Shocking? Sure… but why else do you show up for books about crazed creatures?
This book is a key to the series in that the reader is really introduced properly to King Crab, and even more interesting is that said King knows who Cliff Davenport is! A clash of the titans at last! The mind of man meets the carapace of crab! A fine effort and well worth seeking out. This one is best savored in one sitting. I found-it feels like going to your favorite restaurant and ordering exactly the same meal you loved the last time you were there. The same, but you can appreciate the texture and mixture of flavors while getting just what you want one more time.
The series proper closes on a high note with the obscure and completely off kilter entry CRABS: THE HUMAN SACRIFICE (1988). Using the climax of the Crab saga, which is now 3 books in the past(!!)-we return to the final stages of cancerous crabs roaming and destroying everything their mad rage can locate. However, Smith lets the humans have the stage as the creatures become the focus of one mans psychosis. He worships them as GODS! And as the title states, they love the taste of human flesh. Flesh to be sacrificed. Pete Merrick and his girlfriend Chrissie are a little odd. They have a strained relationship based on bondage and a rather obscure view of animal rights morality. When we first meet them Pete is loading up Christmas turkeys with Strychnine and Chrissie is along for the ride. Maybe not willfully, but in the Smithverse it is a rule that everyone must pay the Clickety-Click price. However, Pete isn’t happy with just this-he is inspired by the nearly dead godlike appearance of the Crabs. So much so he desires to serve them up a meal of folks that have disrespected animals in the past! He kidnaps a young girl that he feels will get the attention of the press, and then gruesomely feeds her to the big clickers. Well, he gets some attention, but it comes in the form of the now chomped girl’s enraged and armed boyfriend, David Knight. Things spiral out of control and fast. The main bulk of the story focuses on this conflict, but does not skimp on Cliff Davenport action! Since this one is so obscure, and soon to be reprinted, I’ll leave a bunch of surprises for you to find. Trust me, it was worth the wait.
Crabs: The Human Sacrifice is like a Marvel Comics BULLPEN BULLETIN for the series. While the main story is new, and very unique, the book also references other stories in the series a number of times. I was hoping that at least one of the asterisked references would then be signed “Groovin’ Guy” or “Splattery Smith” just for the fun of it. But this book really doesn’t try to be funny and manages to actually be incredibly gross-even when you think you’ve read about every imaginable variation of the crabs claws crunching-he found at least one more. A must…
And that sums up the Crabs series proper-six books that celebrate horror, action and a whole lot of fun in the sand and sun. Guy N. Smith fans know there is more, between a few odd short stories and the book you now hold in your hand, CRABS’ FURY-these creatures may not be done yet. If someone were to ask me for the perfect summer read, I’d just hand them CRABS ON THE RAMPAGE! Long may King Crab reign… And many many happy returns big fella-we miss you. Certainly the horror world could use more monsters of your stature.
You may want to stay out of the water for a while friends… entrails spaghetti is back on the menu, and so are YOU! CLICK-CLICK-CLICKETY-CLICK!