Locusts (UK: Hamlyn, 1979)
Tagline: "A winged nightmare of terror."
It's pretty hard to go wrong with Guy N. Smith, the master
of creepy-crawly pulp horror and judging from this great
cover this should be a real dandy. There's just something
about these British horror paperbacks from the golden era
of the nasties (as they were known in the UK). The cover
art is so over-the-top and gruesome. There was never any
doubt about what you were getting...unlike US publishers
who seemed to be hiding the fact that they were putting out anything as low
brow as horror fiction. And, of course, given some of the crap pumped out by
publishers like Zebra and Leisure, I guess maybe I can understand why. If
something smells very bad, it might be a good idea to shut the door.
Well, combine the subject matter with the sure of hand of Guy N. Smith and
you’re going to have fun. The plot is very simple: Alan Alton, a vet, has
decided to move his family to a farm in the Shropshire hills. His domineering,
nitpicky wife, Sheila, is pissed-off about it all. Alan was just about to make
partner in the veterinary clinic he worked at and now he’s throwing it all away
to return to the earth, to a “small-holding bare subsidence level” as she puts
it. Their son, David, is in his glory. He’s an animal lover and has a pet bunny
named Bunty. Right away, he begins collecting bugs which his mother will not
allow in the house. Sheila is petrified of all insects, spiders, snakes etc. The
tension between Alan and Sheila continues to rise. Falling out of love with
each other day by day, they no longer have even a sexual relationship. Sheila
has nightmares about the grasshoppers that David has caught which turn out
to be something of an omen. Meanwhile, Alan’s got the hots for Pat
Emmerton, a saucy blond that runs a local stables and just happens to be the
community nymphet who’s always casting about for a nice, plump sausage.
Her husband, Steve, has fallen to fat and cares more about stuffing pies into
his face than stuffing his wife so she likes to play around. Then, the
unthinkable happens: Steve dies, kicked in the head by a spooked horse.
What else can Alan do but comfort Pat in the way she likes best?
Meanwhile, the locusts are beginning to swarm. They descend on a local
farmhouse and attack a woman. They fill the house and crawl in her hair, get
under her clothes and actually begin to eat them from her back. She is
engulfed. Then they get packed up her nostrils and into her throat:
“She was heaving, then retching. But there was no outlet for the vomit. She felt
it gurgling in her throat, burning hot. Slowly drowning her.”
Nasty. They also swarm a bull, nipping and biting it and driving it mad until it
gores its owner. But that’s hardly the worst of it. A mother discovers that her
sleeping baby in a pram is drowning in the locusts who attack her as she tries
to save the crying little nip. By the time help arrives, the baby is dead:
“…the swollen tongue protruding from the gaping mouth, nostrils eaten into a
single hole, eye lidless. A million pinpricks from head to feet, each puncture
oozing blood which seeped out like mountain streams…”
Meanwhile, a fire cuts the farming community off from the rest of the world,
allowing the locusts to do their devilish work consuming just about everything.
Sheila was going to leave with David and go back to the city until the locust
problem was sorted out, but the fire traps them. Alan continues to comfort Pat
every chance he gets and she comforts him. Then in comes Roger Blade (!)
from the Anti-Locust Research Centre. Pat can’t help herself…she comforts
him. In the end, not trying to give anything away, help does not come from the
military as it usually does in these books, but from good old Mother Nature
Pros: Fun and involving like all Guy Smith’s books and written with a certain
authenticity being that Smith is a farmer himself. Good locust attacks.
Cons: A bit plodding in places. The soap opera situations get in the way of the
action, but other than that nothing.
Overall: A fun book. A good Guilty Pleasure to spend an afternoon with.
Worth owning just for that great Hamlyn cover.
I give it three bloody skulls out of five.
Our next Guilty Pleasure:
"First they feasted on farm animals. Then they found humans..."