Night of The Crabs – Guy N Smith (1976)
When Professor Cliff Davenport’s nephew takes his girlfriend for a dirty weekend in Barmouth the last thing he expects is for the two of them to get chopped up and eaten by giant crabs.
When a search can find no trace of the pair, the Professor sets off for Wales to investigate. It isn’t long before the somewhat mature Professor discovers claw marks in the sand that can only have been made by a crab the size of a cow.
More disappearances are reported along the coast between Barmouth and Rhyl. The Professor, and his new love, Pat, decide to check the beach at night as crabs apparently are drawn by the light of the moon.
They witness not only the huge crabs emerging from the sea, led by a gargantuan of the species whom they dub ‘King Crab’ but the killing and consumption of a deaf and dumb beachcomber.
No one will believe them until the crabs, getting a bit bold, emerge from the sea and attack an army base.
It’s a very short novel (I read the whole thing in one day during my commute to and from work) and a curious beast of a book.
It’s late pulp-fiction hokum and is, in its own way, very enjoyable, not least because the thought of Rhyl being destroyed by giant crabs is, to my shame, a fairly pleasant one.
It was common back in the day to feature mature pipe-smoking heroes who were unaccountably irresistible to attractive young women, and Professor Davenport, complete with greying hair and aquiline features is just such a specimen. Not only is he a marine biologist, but appears to be the only suitable candidate (even with a couple of army regiments on hand) to put on a diving helmet in order to search for the lair of the crabs.
Smith has also attempted to inject an erotic frisson since the Professor – having booked into Mrs Jones’ boarding house – finds himself sharing a breakfast table with a delightful divorcee called Pat Benson. The two have become far better acquainted by the next morning.
‘ Both Cliff Davenport and Pat Benson rose late the following morning. Most of the other guests had already breakfasted and departed by the time they sat down and made a start on their respective melons.’
Once the Professor and Pat have shared the discovery of giant crab life in things get altogether more steamy between them.
‘Her fingers were active, though. Cliff felt that thrilling sensation of his zip being pulled down, her fingers groping inside the open vent and then the coolness of the night air on his warm moistness. He gasped with pleasure. Pat Benson certainly knew what she was doing!
‘Their lips met again, tongues probing and entwining. Both of them were experiencing the awakening of something that had lain dormant in them for so long. Rapidly they were getting out of control. Nothing else mattered… not even the giant crabs!’
There’s quite a bit of this sort of stuff and about the only thing that Smith doesn’t describe in some detail is what Cliff does with his tobacco pipe while he’s letting the moist warmth of his manhood dry out in the cool night air.
It’s not clear if Smith intended there to be some subliminal message in the juxtaposition of crabs and a Professor of Marine Biology having impulsive and spontaneous sex with a near-stranger. The word ‘crabs’ in reference to crab lice was in common use in the 70s and no doubt before. The author surely cannot have been unaware that there would have been a dual meaning in the public consciousness, one which would resonate with readers.
If the author intended the linguistic connection to disturb, then it really wasn’t that much of a success, since the effect is more comic than disturbing.
Nevertheless, I have to say that I actually enjoyed it. It’s unpretentious and doesn’t try to convince anyone that it’s anything more than a bit of crustacean-based Welsh hokum, and I’m all for it.
More crabs please!