Death Bite (UK: Granada, 1979)
Tagline: "Courage, treachery, greed...and primal fear
unleashed on a city."
Snakes. Some people are terrified of them. Some
people are fascinated by them. Some just accept them
as being part of nature. I'm not sure where you fit in this
equation, but I've always been fascinated by them. As a
kid, I caught snakes to keep as pets and I knew every
species that lived in our area. Luckily, there were no
poisonous ones. Certainly no taipans. Which, of course,
beings us to the subject of today's lesson: Death Bite.
This one was penned by Michael Maryk and Brent
Monahan. That they wrote this book is all I know about them. First off, pretty
decent cover. Pretty menacing, downright evil snake with fangs that could put a
Gaboon Viper to shame (they have fangs over 2 inches in length). But, as we've
learned before, a good cover does not always make for a goodbook. There's only
one way to find out, so lets get our postmortem knives and rusty saws and dissect
this baby, see what we've got on the inside. I'll start with a longitudinal incision to
lay our specimen open.
Plot. Okay, you've probably guessed the gist of it: this is one of those
deadly-snakes-on-the loose-type-books. But there's certainly nothing wrong with
that. Giant alligators in the sewers. Mutant rats. Swarms of bloodsucking bats.
Rampaging spiders. Killer crabs. Hey, we love 'em all here at Guilty Pleasures.
Death Bite concerns the capture of a rare giant taipan from the Indonesian island
of Naraka-pintu, and, of course, it's eventual loss in San Diego, where it goes on a
killing spree. Scott Miller, owner of the Great Scott Serpentarium in Florida wants
the snake, even though it's so deadly it's illegal to import one. He doesn't let that
stand in his way. The book opens with professional snake hunter Tasaki stalking
the dread giant taipan in the jungle on Naraka-pintu with some natives. The
snake in question is some nineteen-feet in length. Like the red shirts in Star Trek,
you know right off the bat that some of the natives just aren't going to make it.
Take the case of poor Oolloo:
"...the massive reptilian head shot forward across a metre of space, jaws agape,
and buried its fangs in Oolloo's face. It snatched and ripped viciously at the man's
nose, cheek, and eye socket. The head reared back on its slim neck for a fraction
of a second, then struck again. Blood spurted along Oolloo's cheek, mingling with a
white, viscous venom, dripping down the rips in the flesh..."
That's one ornery snake. Your average, garden variety taipan from Australia has
enough venom in one bite to a 100 people, but the dread giant can do much more
than that. Whereas the real taipan is a somewhat docile reptile that does not look
for trouble, the giant is quite the opposite. No wonder Scott wants one. But he's
not the only one. And it is here in Death Bite, that the plot gets more complex as
we explore the different factions who want this rare snake and the two dummies
who let it loose so that it may spread terror and nasty neurotoxic venom from one
end of San Diego to the other. There's also an interesting side plot involving Ioka,
a hot Eurasian woman who works for Scott. She handles King Cobras. Her
relationship to Scott is complicated. Her father was Scott's mentor in the snake
world and he died from the bite of the giant taipan, we learn. She sees serpents
as supernatural beings and is a repository of Asian snake lore.
How, you might ask, will the snake be stopped? And how will all the multiple plot
threads be woven into a single skein? Well, I won't ruin it for you, but all is
revealed at the end of Death Bite.
Pros: Not bad at all. Pretty good characters, interesting subterfuge, one evil
mother of a snake. For the most part not exactly ghastly, gruesome, or gor-ifying,
but we can forgive that, I think, because this works as a pretty decent dark
suspense yarn if not as a nasty.
Cons: With such a wonderfully lethal monster, the deaths could have been more
graphic to enhance the snake creepy factor.
Overall: Not bad. Worth a look. Better this book than the movie, Spasms, which
was based on it and sucked eggs.
Three and a half bloody skulls out of five.
Our next guilty pleasure:
"For thousands of years it has stalked the earth, feasting on the flesh of humans."