A gallery of covers from the glory days of 1970s eco-horror pulp fiction.
The 1970s were the peak years for pulp horror novels in the UK. Along with other youth trends pioneered by New English Library, these novels were disreputable, cheerfully unliterary and tremendous fun for those who prized entertainment over sophistication. More people were turned on to reading by these books than by anything taught in school, I would suggest.
Among the most popular of these novels were the ‘nature gone wild’ novels, where increasingly unlikely animals turned on humanity. It was a trend that was big in the cinema too – Jaws was, after all, the biggest film of the era. But the novels really hit their stride with James Herbert’s The Rats and Guy N.Smith’s Night of the Crabs, both of which were huge hits thanks to an unrelenting disregard for good taste and an eminently readable style – you could consume a Smith novel in a day, even if you weren’t a big reader.
Soon, more authors appeared on the scene – Richard Lewis had success with a pair of Spider novels, but was soon scrabbling around for new animals to feature. And that was a continual problem for authors, as genuinely scary beasts like alligators, crocodiles, sharks and such were used up and so assorted insects were pressed into service. But the joy of these books is just how the animals are made into a national threat.
The animal attack novel was predominantly – though not exclusively – a British phenomenon. And by the mid-1980s, it was all but over as markets changed and audiences moved on – home video was a killer blow for the trashy pulp novel, allowing the connoisseur of sleaze to watch movies rather than read novels. But we thoroughly recommend pretty much all of these if you ever come across them…