Remembering the unrestrained king of British pulp horror.
Guy N. Smith, who died just before Christmas 2020, was the stuff of legend. One of the world’s most prolific writers, he quite literally ground stuff out for many years, writing not just the lurid horror novels that he was infamous for, but also a series of porn novels, numerous short stories for adult magazines, a series of Disney film novelisations, work under various pseudonyms and a series of books about gamekeeping and country life. Frankly, Smith put the rest of us to shame with his non-stop work ethic that continued until the year of his death. When the market for pulp fiction dried up, he simply moved into self-publishing with both print and e-books.
Smith was never the darling of the horror scene. His work was too sordid and pulpy to be taken seriously by the serious horror fiction world. A Smith book – certainly in the 1970s – could be consumed in one sitting, sometimes at an unseemly speed – I recall being impressed that his novelisation of The Ghoul took less time to read than the film did to watch, and was a lot more entertaining. Subtlety was not Smith’s style – his books were awash with explicit sex, violence and outrageousness, and as such were like catnip for teenage boys. Who cared what the chin-stroking horror cognoscenti thought? This was entertainment run rampant, penny dreadfuls for what would become the Video Nasty generation. In fact, the very term’ nasty’ was first coined not for movies, but for the books of Smith and his contemporaries by a disdainful publishing industry that had no respect for the work but wanted the profits nevertheless. Of course, much of his work was for the great New English Library, the publisher that set the standard for fast and furious pulp fiction in the 1970s and he was the perfect author for them – like the Skinhead and Hell’s Angels novels churned out by his contemporaries, his novels were the perfect way to get sullen teenage boys reading, in ways that connoisseurs of ‘serious’ literature would never understand.
Smith had a distinct style. His heroes were rugged, pipe-smoking chaps who often lived in the country and had to deal with all manner of leftie scum – hippies, vegetarians, non-smokers and other city-dwelling namby-pamby types who Smith had little time for. It’s fair to say that Smith was not Woke, and you can only imagine what the delicate little flowers of the Young Adult writing scene would make of his work. For him to die in 2020, the year of whining entitlement and intersectional obsessions, seems both appropriate and tragic – we need more Guy N. Smith in our lives right now, but equally, he must have felt more and more out of touch with the world in his final years and was probably glad to be rid of the whole sorry experience.
If you’ve never read any Guy N. Smith, we suggest that you remedy that as soon as possible. Perhaps start with The Sucking Pit, which remains the single-most mind-boggling piece of fiction that I have ever experienced; but any of the 1970s titles will do as a way in and a much-needed lifestyle guide.
Below are pretty much all Smith’s novels. We’ll start with the horror titles, including his hugely popular eco-horror Crabs series.
Then, we have the assorted pulp novels – action, thrillers, war stories and the like that he occasionally wrote in the early part of his fiction career.
In the mid-Seventies, Smith was a prolific contributor to porn magazines, mainly for Gold Star Publishing, and also wrote (under assorted pseudonyms) a series of erotic romps, shamelessly riffing – to the point of stealing titles – on the Confessions novels.
In complete contrast, Smith was also the author chosen to write a collection of Disney novelisations for New English Library in 1975. We can only assume that Disney was a lot less picky about – or did a lot less research into – who they worked for than they might be today.
Between 1988 and 2012, Smith wrote another series of children’s books, this time as Jonathan Guy. These were touching wildlife dramas, featuring the sort of animals that Smith presumably took the shotgun to in real life.
As Gavin Newman, he wrote a couple of historical thrillers, later republished under his own name.
And then there are the non-fiction titles, mostly to do with gamekeeping and shooting various types of country vermin. I suspect that these books probably tell us more about the real Smith than any of his novels, but they are probably shorter on Slime Beasts and werewolves.
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