Childmare (UK: Hamlyn Books, 1980)
Tagline: "Sweet little children...crazed with
That's right: sweet little children crazed with
bloodlust. What more could you want for the
darkest of months, October? I searched high
and low for just the right Guilty Pleasure for
this month. I knew it had to have kids. And I
knew they had to be nasty. I also wanted
something Halloween-oriented...but, sadly, most Halloween novels
are absolute crap. So, two out of three ain't bad. Great cover. Child
with a bloody blade and a fixed, silvery gleam to her eyes. You know
rightaway she's up to the shit and, trust me, she is! Nick Sharman is
a pseudonym for Scott Gronmark. I have no idea who that is, but as
Nick Sharman he really delivers the goods. This was Sharman's
fourth book of this sort, so he knew his way around the cold cuts
pretty good by this point. His first novel, The Cats, was basically a
re-working of Herbert's The Rats--one of many, many re-workings, I
might add--but that is not meant in any negative connotation, for
Herbert's novel and its subsequent sequels helped lay the
groundwork for this sort of horror. Then guys like Sharman came
along, seized the blueprint, and proceeded to throw it right off the
cliff with as much blood and gore and graphic violence as possible.
Childmare is no exception.
Basically, a food additive turns the good little boys and girls of an
inner city London school called Martin Balliol into bloodthirsty
monsters who rape, torture, and murder first their teachers and
headmaster and then head out into the world to spread the cheer.
And they do spread it. A much put-upon, picked-upon Jewish kid
straightens out his bullying father:
"Samuel brought the bat down in a vicious loop...it sounded like a
melon being smashed to pulp. Samuel watched dispassionately as
brain matter spewed out of his father's skull."
An innocent woman crosses their path:
"Her clothes were slashed, as if torn by a beast's claws. They hung in
shreds from her frail body. The insides of her thighs were smeared
with blood, which ran in streams along the bevelled wooden floor...
Her headscarf was around her neck, knotted over her windpipe,
digging deep into her flesh. Her skin had turned blue. Her tongue lay
out the side of the mouth like a bloated red slug slithering out
between her lips..."
Nasty little bastards to be sure. But, being kids, they still like to play
as all children do:
"A group of children was charging down the corridor...a circular object
they were kicking ahead of them attracted Donnelly's attention. A
severed human head."
It all starts at Martin Balliol School, but soon spreads across greater
London and England itself. But all is not lost. The head of security at
Martin Balliol, Max Donnelly, a tough American Vietnam vet, has
been very aware of the escalating violence and the dead look in the
childrens' eyes long before the infection reaches cataclysmic
proportions. Along with Inspector Tarrant of Scotland Yard's Murder
Squad, and Tracy, Donnelly's hottie teacher girlfriend, they are the
first to sound the alarm. But will it be too late? A spike is rammed
through a man's eye into his brain...an actor is crushed beneath the
wheels of his own car...a man is burned alive...gangs of teenage
zombies assault police units...hordes of children rampage through
London like driver ants killing everything in their path, slashing and
gutting and dismembering all in their path. In the end, the Army is
called in, of course, and are brutally slaughtered...but then comes
the final, pitched, apocalyptic battle.
Who survives? I don't want to give anything away, but being that the
BBC was broadcasting this morning, I think you can guess.
Pros: Just about everything. The writing is quick and effective. The
characters well-drawn. Donnelly is presented sympathetically as is
his girlfriend, Tracy. Inspector Tarrant is great fun--overweight,
sloppy, dishevelled, chain-smoking, but sharp as a pin. You have to
give Sharman credit for not turning Donnelly into some crazy
Vietnam vet and giving us a Scotland Yard detective of the Cracker
ilk who is not all spit-and-polish perfection. And the horror. It works.
Plenty of blood and guts and general nastiness. Cool plot, handled
Cons: I like this book and I found very few. Yes, the plot is pretty
predictable in that it follows the general direction of most of these
books, but if you're put off by that, then you've wandered into the
wrong room here, my friend.
Overall: Recommended. At 205 pages, a fast, suspenseful read with
good characters and plenty of random violence and gore. Good plot.
Good characters. No subtlety. Curl up and read this some October
afternoon as the leaves blow up the streets and the tree branches
creak in the wind. 100 % fun and nary an intellectual dogma to tire
Four bloody skulls out of five.
For our next Guilty Pleasure we return to creepy-crawly horror:
"A swarming plague of death."
|Copyright 2016 by Tim Curran