Slugs by Shaun Hutson (1982): It's Not Good Bad, It's Just Stupid
I can't imagine a blog devoted to horror fiction paperbacks not featuring the ludicrously gory and tasteless novels of Shaun Hutson, a notorious figure in British horror since the early 1980s. Slugs, his first, is still probably his most infamous "work," as it operates in the lowest common denominator hell of cheesy, grossout horror. Exploiting our revulsion at certain members of the animal kingdom - always a safe bet in the genre with a long and illustrious history (particularly in film) going back to Them!, Jaws, and even Alien. And once James Herbert published The Rats in 1974, we would never again be free from the horrors of nature, no matter how poorly written or conceived.
Leisure Books' 1987 edition cover art at top is gloriously idiotic: somehow this poor fella has been stripped of everything but his skeleton - skeletons again - even his central nervous system, even his brain by the looks of one slug creeping out his skull - and yet he's still grimacing in what looks like gut-wrenching pain. I guess I shouldn't be looking for CSI-level of accuracy on horror paperbacks; I mean, the last book I posted on had a skeleton driving a car, for God's sake. Skulls are one thing, I suppose, but any more than that risks absurdity. And it's from Leisure Books, surely the bottom of the barrel for horror fiction.
Honestly, Hutson's is the kind of low-rent horror writing that I've learned to avoid over the years. "Tell, don't show" is his maxim; anything that isn't 100% obvious to a remedial reader is jettisoned. Slugs "enjoy the taste of warm blood" over and over again. Sometimes Hutson writes "gastropod" instead of "slug." Dialogue between a husband and wife sounds like a coffee commercial. Characters are introduced, given a quick back-story, and then dispatched with martial efficiency and maximum grossness. The novel's last sentence is a rote twist that lacks imagination or care and can be guessed before you finish reading the title. Oh, there is a teenage couple who get et listening to Iron Maiden, so that's something, at least.
Certainly people can mindlessly enjoy Hutson's energy and glee, understanding it's hilariously bad, like a big-bug movie from the 1950s or a SyFy one today, but this kind of book is just not for me. It's simply not. That's why I'm only reading this now, over 20 years since I first started seeing copies of Slugs turn up in that used bookstore I worked at. I found it last week at a local bookstore and buying it made me recall those days when you had to buy porno mags in an actual shop. Ugh, the embarrassment! And it probably won't be the last time.
Looking for a forgotten horror novel or short story? Remember the cheesy paperback art but not who wrote the book? Send me an email at willerror[at]gmail.com describing it and if I don't know it, one of my readers might!
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