Don't recall seeing a discussion for this one here. Any thoughts on this ? Recall buying mine in 1990 when it was first published. I let a girlfriends brother borrow it and he returned it unread and creased on the spine and cover arsehole....I dumped his sister as well, Not cus of that though, although maybe I should. Anyway the book runs for the standard 202 pages which is about his usual limited and concerns The Colby Curse. Which in a prologue set in 1786 a starving hunter is trying to kill a stag for his hungry family. Risking the tyranical Earl of Colby's wraith whom demands that no animal should be harmed in or around his land. A man after my own heart . Anyway the fellow Jemmy Black is caught by the Earl and his men after bringing down a stag and is stripped naked and left to the creatures of the woods to take their own form of revenge. Serves him right too.
Flash foward to present day and the current owner of the land Sir Thomas Colby has fallen on hard times and is selling the estate. He sells it and the land to a John Broughton. But with a condition. He must lift the Colby legacy and allow bloodsports to be part of the agreement. He does and that signs also Thomas Colbys fate , he dies in a motor vehicle accident. Not before hearing the fateful omen in his head from his ancestors. " Those who kill the wild animals which abound on my lands shall forfeit their own lives from this day on "
And in true Smith fashion they do. Although attacks are not as fatal to begin with. On her first night in the huge home, Mrs Broughton, who has been left alone, hears a strange beast stalking on the driveway below her bedroom. Spooked by this she goes out and buys herself a dog.....a poodle Alas poor Peaches the poodle doesn't last to long. After getting caught to a fox snare he succumbs to a badger who rips the poor sod to shreds. Mrs Lucy Titley ( yep that is her surname ) is enraged by the new law on bloodsports. The self confessed animal lover is on her countrywalk to see Major the donkey. But he's in no mood for her today and has a go at biting her ear off over the stile. She flees but only into an adder who is equally as pissed off. Maybe because his counsins were killed in a previous Smith novel who knows. Anyway he bites old Mrs Titley on the ankle. Fortunately she manages to limp to the Gamekeepers home. The gamekeepers son meanwhile ( who is a little bastard ) is attacked by the angry pheasants. Lucky for him and not us Broughton manages to save the day. But others are not as fortunate. A Farmhand is swarmed by angry bees by the river. And best of all a certain Adrian Roberts is bemoaning how he fucked up his once rich lifestyle by getting the local bit of rough from the council estate pregnant. His Dad has disowned him and now hes stuck with her and his new brat. Lisa is trying to breast feed little Sam in the car whilst he has a sunbathe in the field. When she gets the youngster settled she places him in his basket and decides to go see how Adrian is. Well she has her knockers out and he's led down so she might as well make the best of the situation. I'm sure you have all read enough Smith books to know the rest. A huge Hawk above thinks his luck must be in and swoops down on little sleeping Sam and tears him ashunder. The throaty gurgles alerting the copulating couple. I was expecting the Hawk to claw Adrians meat and two veg off here as he rescues his son. But is doesn't this time and just makes do with his eyes. Lisa in her delirious shock craddles her tattered corpse of a son. Oblivious to the hawk ripping her back to shreds. Seems the creatures are taking a stance once and for all. And all this in six chapters.
Just to summarise this book, its a strange little read. For a Smith novel the kills are not to graphic. In fact a lot of the potential victims get away injured or maimed, whether it be from a flock of pheasants or a murder of crows. There are some good kills on display to delight the more morbid of readers like me. A fellow gets barged , butted and pummelled by cows. A young mother and her baby are attacked in the manor house by a plague of rats from the attic. And most bizarre of all a young raggamuffin trying to steal the trout in the river is torn apart by Mink !! . Perhaps it is violent after all. Sex wise alas its pretty barren. Apart from the above frolic in the post above, the only other notable scene of sex etc has the character of Mrs Broughton masturbating in her bath. A huge spider then a plague off moths though soon extinguish her lust. As for the books ending...Well its certainly very strange. I will not reveal anything but it seemed very rushed and anti climatic.
This takes nothing away from a very enjoyable read though. And well worth the effort and time. Although though not as depraved as his other insect/animal attack novels.
Read this corker recently. A multi species nature nasty, Smith's first such since Abomination (I believe) and taking a different tack to that one. A supernatural cause, and instead of drawn out depravity more atmosphere, suspense and variety. Not that it isn't gory, of course. I actually preferred it, though of course tastes will vary.
It begins with a good bit of "that's what you get for trying to feed your starving family!". The Earl of Corby has decreed that no animal shall be harmed on his lands, and any man who does so shall forfeit his own life. Jemmy Black has an ailing wife and children and so takes the risk. He brings down a stag, and is nearly hauling home the disassembled bits when the Earl and his men show up. And tie him to a tree for the beasts. We cut forward a few hundred years, and Sir Thomas Corby is selling his lands to an American businessman, John Broughton. Broughton insists that the old decree be done away with so he can turn the place into a plush shooting and fishing resort. Sir Thomas agrees, but does not make it far with his money. He's speeding, sure, but the curse has a hand in his fatal car accident too.
Broughton and wife Pamela move into the Corby House. She doesn't like the place from the start and then is confused and scared by facts of rural life like nocturnal animals or the wind. So she buys a poodle for protection. The poodle does not last long. Unworldly and a snob to boot, Pamela starts as a good Guy N Smith obnoxious woman, but actually grows sensible and sympathetic over the course of events, a development I rather liked. Broughton himself belongs to the unbeliever category of people who unwisely disturb old horrors, and could be charged with malicious stupidity as well as other things, but I liked him too in a way. He does his best and isn't nasty, its just that his best is wrong and bad. More actual goodies though are gamekeeper Gordon Shank, wife Jill and son Gary. Sensible, practical, salt of the Earth people, they do their job and take no bull. They save lives as much as they can, even as the tide turns unstoppably against them.
The first attacks on humans are a donkey and an adder on an ageing local animal rights nut Lucy Titley, and then a pen full of pheasants on young Gary Shank. The Shanks save Mrs Titley and Broughton saves Gary, but the scenes deliver on offbeat creepy thrills. Soon comes a fatal buzzard attack though, and we know GNS really means business. Poor council folks on a sunny drive, pretty obnoxious but wholly undeserving of the sheer queasy nastiness of their fate. Graphic, shocking, but sharp, reasonably short, matter of fact, not wallowing, quality nasty writing. And there's plenty more to come. More animals, more deaths, more escapes but not enough to stem the tide of death. A interesting sense of absurdity sets in, not mounting tension or boredom as is the usual way with these things but of ceaseless futile human beating against a hostile and weird Universe. And then the end is aptly muted.
I generally really enjoyed this. Another of Smith's novels in which he displays a naturally atmospheric, compelling way with writing the countryside, but here he adds real gamekeeping and estate management detail and it works very well, giving the book not just a proper solid through line but an unusual, quasi-realistic one. Not just the standard teacher/vet/farmer is actually a badass hero sort of thing. Though they probably should have just wrapped everything up a lot earlier, Broughton and the Shanks otherwise act and seem reasonable and relatable. Gordon and Jill are even essentially actually likeable. I liked the variety of the animal attacks (including one nod to Smith's earlier Alligators involving mink), and the way that the gore is as it needs to be in keeping with the flow of the specific situations and pace in general. More fast and sharp than thick and full on (though a couple of scenes are, don't worry), attacks not always fatal, there's an effective sort of rhythm, not always predictable build ups and releases. Good suspense. I could have done with more oomph in the first part of the two part climax, but it works even so. Perhaps even more different animals doing some attacking would have been a nice push. Squirrels? Weasels? But still, there are a good deal of different animals. I don't really have any especial complaints about this. Lack of bad sex I suppose. But I don't consider it an absolute essential myself. Overall well recommended.