By PIERCE NACE
(Manor Books; 1977)
Who the Hell is Pierce Nace? Based on the appropriately titled EAT THEM
ALIVE, Nace’s only book, this author is evidently a demented fuck with a
penchant for over-the-top gore and misogynistic sleaze.
Those factors were part and parcel of the “Nasties” of
the seventies, written by the likes of James Herbert and
Guy N. Smith.
Such novels more often than not featured mutant insects, which this one
does, and oodles of exploitive violence, of which this one contains more
than its share. There are, however, several breaks with the formula.
EAT THEM ALIVE takes place on the expected
deserted tropical island, where a disgruntled misanthrope named Dyke(!)
is longing to track down the gang of punks who castrated and left him
for dead years earlier. Thus, for once the antagonist isn’t a mad
scientist bent on world domination but a severely maimed punk whose
destiny just happens to fall into his lap one day, in the guise of a
bevy of giant preying mantises released from the bowels of the Earth by
a catastrophic earthquake.
Dyke uses this development to his advantage by
entrapping the biggest of the mantises, a creature he monikers Slayer.
Dyke gradually gets the thing to follow his lead by boating in hundreds
of natives from the surrounding islands for Slayer to much on. From
there Dyke corrals several more of the monsters, assembling a veritable
mantis army to off the four men responsible for his present
condition--who, it transpires, all conveniently live nearby!
This book further diverges from the norm in its
insanely overwrought descriptions of bloodletting and evisceration. This
was a full decade before the bow of the splatterpunks, yet EAT THEM
ALIVE outdoes most all of them in sheer excess. Each chapter contains
some new jaw-dropping outrage, such as Slayer’s lovingly described
mid-book dismemberment of a woman, which lasts a full three pages. Or
when Slayer takes to lopping off and scarfing down ladies’ breasts,
apparently the most appetizing part of the human anatomy. Or when Dyke
enthusiastically chops up the body of one of his enemies and drinks the
blood before offering the morsels to his mantis companion.
The entire book, keep in mind, is told from Dyke’s
point of view, without the expected kind-hearted middle class hero who
usually headlines novels like this one. This makes for a
less-than-comforting read, but then I strongly doubt anyone would pick
up a book like this one expecting reassurance.
Good writing is something else you really shouldn’t
expect. Pierce Nace’s prose is crude and often repetitive (to the point
that I frequently wondered if I was rereading portions of the book I’d
already covered), but delivers where it counts. Any book about giant
preying mantises has its own irrefutable set of requirements, and it’s
safe to say that this one, while not exactly artful, fulfills them all
several times over.