“Ron Bell got through one verse Mull of Kintyre, then threw up.”
That’s the opening sentence of Slugs, and it certainly sets the grimy tone, not just for the novel, but for the rest of Hutson’s career. Often derided as a poor man’s James Herbert, the once elegantly permed Hutson kicked off his career with this, a poor man’s version of James Herbert’s The Rats. But wait! It’s good, in it’s own grotty little way.
It follows the template of The Rats pretty slavishly, offering little slice of life stories of working class Brits, shortly before they are offed by nature’s least deadly predator in increasingly outlandish fashion. For the most part these work well, and Hutson shows us a pretty morose and downbeat vision of small town British life in the 80s. It’s not always successful, particularly the less than fascinating tale of Harold and his aubergines.
Luckily, when the carnage begins in earnest, after a good 60 pages or so of suspense building, Hutson really lets loose. Harold in particular meets his demise in a truly horrific scene involving not-quite sharp enough garden shears, in a cautionary tale for all you aubergine loving gardeners out there. I know you’re reading! Get out of the garden guys, and start living. Those geraniums will pot themselves. Nature finds a way.
It’s all over in a brisk 200 pages, and you can jazz it up by playing my own Shaun Hutson’s Slugs drinking game.
Take a shot any time –
*he uses the word recalcitrant (I had to look it up)
*an eyeball bursts or explodes or collapses in on itself
*the slugs are described as obscene, vile, foul or any variation thereof
*a vegetable is mentioned (careful when reading the epilogue, it may kill you)
Hutson would definitely improve as a writer, and his next novel, Spawn, is one of my all time favourites. But I had a good time revisiting those crazy slugs, so much so that I’m going to rewatch the movie version for the first time in about 10 years. Maybe I’ll write about it here. Or maybe I’ll switch it off after ten minutes.
Only time will tell.
THIS EDITION: Star Books, 1982
MODELLED BY: Boris the Pug