There is a popular saying that suggests Don’t mix business with pleasure. Professor Brian Newman has either never heard these wise words or else he has deliberately chosen to ignore them because he has left his wife and is now sharing a cottage with his lab assistant Susan Wylie.
Another popular saying advises Don’t dump on your own doorstep. It seems that the professor is unfamiliar with this one too because having one beautiful young woman in his life is not enough for him. He has a spare one and he is indiscreet enough to meet his bit of spare in a local tavern. Brian tells Susan that he is pulling an all-nighter, but she is not as trusting as Brian thinks and turns up at the tavern to see for herself what he is pulling.
Ever hear the saying Up the creek without a paddle? Well, Brian does not even need a paddle because he is blown right out of the water and the atmosphere in the lab the following morning is frosty to say the least. After a few harsh words are exchanged a tussle ensues; a table is overturned and a glass cage crashes to the floor. The cage is, of course, reduced to shards of broken glass and its inhabitants are released. The former inhabitants of the cage are bats and the pressure of their bodies striking against the lab’s old and damaged window pane is enough to create a few more shards of broken glass and the bats escape the lab completely.
Bats Out Of Hell is a horror story; so you will probably not be surprised to hear that the bats in question are carrying a new and deadly disease that threatens not only the local wildlife, but the whole of civilization. The bats soon meet up with a local colony of wild bats; the virus spreads, and quickly proves to be fatal to humans as well as bats.
Brian is responsible for creating the virus and it is therefore hoped that he will also be able to develop a cure for it. He sets about the task straight away. People are dropping like flies though and the press are blaming Brian. He is soon the most hated man in the country and his life is in constant danger from not just the bats, but his fellow man.
Bats Out Of Hell first saw print in 1978, books were often shorter in those days, and at only 157 pages this one can quite easily be read in just one sitting. Bats Out Of Hell will never make my top-ten-list of horror titles, but it is a reasonably entertaining read and, let’s face it, something like this could really happen, so the book cannot be accused of being far-fetched.
Another thing that rings true about this story is the behaviour of the characters once a quarantine situation is in force. Law and order quickly brakes down and mob-rule begins to show its ugly head. The normal rules no longer apply because there is no one left to enforce them and people begin to show their true colours. Those colours are dark. When, for instance, a gang of yobs turn up at Brian’s door they tell him that he started the disease and that, if they are going to die, he is going to die first. It is easy to understand their gripe. Maybe not agree with it, but understand it. What is their excuse, though, for trying to gang rape Susan? And if their intention is to kill Brian, do they really need to urinate on him first? These are not nice guys and since they believe their days are numbered they are just doing what they want to do because they feel that the circumstances enable them to get away with it. How many people do you know who might behave like this in real life, if given the opportunity? I can sadly think of a few and one of the darkest things about this story is the picture it paints of human nature.