Eat them Alive (UK: NEL, 1977)
Tagline: "A new peak in horror."
Well, you certainly can't say no to a cover with a
leering mantis head, especially when its mouth is
filled with meat and dripping gore. Eat Them Alive,
I'm guessing, sold quite a few copies back in 1977
based on the cover alone which is wonderfully
sickening. The identity of Pierce Nace has been
speculated upon again and again with nothing
concrete established, so I won't waste your
time with that sort of thing. Suffice to say, it's no doubt a pseudonym and
that's no big surprise because a lot of these books back in the day were
written by slumming authors and editors. Let's get to the story, for it
promises to be a real doozy.
On the Caribbean island of Malpelo, we meet Dyke Mellis, a fugitive from
justice in the United States. We don't waste much time with exposition,
instead getting right to the earthquake that releases hundreds of giant
praying mantises (man-sized) from the bowels of the earth. They
immediately move into the village to feed and good old Dyke watches the
carnage with his binoculars, getting off on it, particularly when they savage
his elderly neighbor Kello. Dyke, it seems, has lost his manhood and has
had nothing to live for until now. He says to himself:
"But now I've got something to live for--because I love watching a man being
eaten by a monster! Maybe it's a substitute for my lost virility, I don't know.
But I know it's a joy I thought I'd never feel again!"
Okay. So the writing is basically on a ninth grade level, but what Nace lacks
in talent he (or she) certainly makes up in grisly enthusiasm:
"But the mantis atop him was holding the octogenarian down with his
enormous hind legs, which made old Kello powerless; and the green beast
was eating away ravenously at the human being, at last biting off the head
and mercifully ending Kello's life, popping open that head to claw out the
brain and stuff the whole of it into his immense maw, chewing it to bits; then
he pounced onto the body cavities, ripping the man from the throat down and
laying the halves of it apart as Dyke felt himself going hot, eager for more
and more flesh and blood. The beast paused to savor the tender heart, then
moved to the other organs, grabbing out the intestines like a starved animal
that has just found a meal. Liver and stomach came next, and Dyke seemed
to taste them along with the monster; he had never seen a human heart or
liver before, nor intestines either. He felt personally gratified as they
Whew! Kind of a long teaser, I know, but I reproduce it here simply to
illustrate the burgeoning symbiosis between Dyke and the creatures.
Anyway, Dyke begins to plot how he could gain control of the mantises and
use them as his personal army of wrath. More so, to get back at the four
guys who mercilessly beat and tortured him and left him for dead on a Texas
cattle ranch. When the largest and most vicious of the mantises attacks, he
lassos it and tames it by feeding it puma meat. Still, he must figure out a
way to get them from attacking him on sight. Meanwhile, we learn about the
gang of cutthroats Dyke ran with, how they're murdering, raping, thieving
deviants, but the very worst of the bunch is Pete Stuart, a light-skinned
black who gouged the eyes out of anyone who mentioned the fact:
"His best leisure activity was chopping small animals to bits or maiming
children who came close enough to him to get their arms twisted in the
sockets or their leg bones broken."
We're treated to a flashback where the gang robs a rich old man, beating
him, stripping him, and slicing him up with their knives. Like the rest of the
book, Stuart's street lingo here is so over the top it's silly:
"Hey, you damned whiteys, don't you know better'n to kill him right off?
Cuttin' your guy up is half the damned fun, sometimes all of it--if he ain't got
no bread for you to steal."
Enough said. The gang kills the old man....sloooooowllly...and then Dyke,
tries to rip them all off by stealing the money. They beat him, torture him,
and castrate him, leave him for the buzzards. Some friends they are.
Interestingly, Pace shies away from showing us the castration, which is
surprising because everything else is described in lurid detail.
Back to the present. Dyke catches a local Indian trying to steal his supplies,
so he beats him down, deciding to feed him to Slayer, his pet name for his
"I'm going to feed you to Slayer. And he's going to eat you for practice, eat all
the flesh and hair and bones of you. They'll be nothing left of you when he's
through, not a living bite, you understand?"
Dyke now discovers the perfect mantis-repellent, that uses skunk spray as
its base. It smells terrible, but it keeps them off him. By this point, he's
leading Slayer around on a leash and the beast does whatever he tells it,
too. Now master of the mantises, he whets their appetites with the slaughter
of a native village and amuses himself by watching them feed upon one
another. He keeps feeding them the local Indians so they will love him. In
fact, it excites him, opening new vistas of sexual sadism:
"He felt himself shaking a little in his increased excitement. His heart beat
wildly, and he felt warmth washing through him. The slaughter was a
marvelous sight, giving him elation, a feeling of glorious satisfaction, a man's
Something that increases to repulsive levels when he feeds Slayer and his
pals a beautiful woman named Tanza:
"As fast as the blood gushed, that fast did the beast drink it, thus leaving the
organs visible. Dyke studied them, enthralled, excited, gloriously human in
his own eyes."
"Before the mantis rent the organs from the chest and stomach cavities, he
bent low over the girl and filled his great maw with all that stamped the body
as female. Watching, Dyke thought, God, I think I could eat that part myself.
Perhaps sometime I can share such a part with one of the beasts as he eats
Dyke leads the matises on one slaughter after another, musing:
"God, this is what I live for, the sight of humans being bled, being eaten,
being torn to bits!'
All of this carnage, of course, makes old perverse Dyke feel more like a man
than he ever has in his life. The novel continues to get more and more
ridiculous and laughable as Dyke leads his army of mantises against his four
enemies that left him less than a man. As he drives up to Pete Stuart's
place, Slayer rides shotgun with him in the cab (no, I'm not making this up).
Dyke gets real pleasure now as Pete's made to watch the mantises eat his
wife and children. He screams as they devour his baby, something that Dyke
watches himself as he eats the family's breakfast. Pete is torn apart and as a
final insult, Dyke drinks his blood from a water pitcher. And this is just the
beginning as he and his mantis friends track down the other three: Zeb,
Kane, and finally Ryan. I'm not going to tell you anymore about this because
the ludicrous climax has to be read to be believed.
Pros: Well, what really can I say? From an entertainment perspective, this
thing soars. On the Ghastly, Gruesome, and Gor-ifying scale, this thing
nearly breaks all records. It's 158 pages of repugnance, nausea, and
unrelieved gratuitous carnage.
Cons: Well, the storyline is ridiculous. The plotting amateurish. The main
character is a wriggling bag of shit. The writing is some of the worst I've ever
Overall: An amazing, wonderful exercise in poor taste. You really have to
read this sludge to believe it. Pace (whoever this is) is either a talentless
hack or he/she is going out of their way to make us think so. Complete and
utter trash...and that's why you must read it!
For our next Guilty Pleasure, we:
"Pray you'll never be this scared again..."