Night of the Crabs was first published in 1976 and was a bestseller for its author, Guy N. Smith. As with a lot of books from that time it is not very long when compared to modern works. Night of the Crabs is only 192 pages long, the print is quite big and there are often a couple of blank pages separating the chapters. Like I said, it’s not a long book. I read it all the way through in just a few hours.
The Central character is a marine biologist called Cliff Davenport. Cliff’s nephew, Ian has been on holiday with his fiancee, Julie. They both work with Cliff and when neither of them returns home he gets worried. Then he gets the news. Their car has been found near the beach, as have their clothes, and it is believed that they have been swept out to sea. Cliff is devastated by the news, but senses something is wrong. Ian and Julie were both strong swimmers and he knows that the current in the area where they were swimming is not very strong. When he can stand the waiting no longer, he goes to investigate their disappearance himself and it doesn’t take him very long before he finds what looks to him like huge crab tracks in the sand.
The idea of giant crabs as an adversary is quite a good one. I never gave much thought to crabs at all until reading the book, but to all intents and purposes, the outer shell of a crab is practically as good as armour plating and if, in real life, we were suddenly faced with a plague of giant crabs it would be scary to say the least.
It is a good idea, but I must admit that the story didn’t really grab me and I found the prose a little unbelievable at times. I am not totally sure why this was, but as I read Night of the Crabs it reminded me, a little, of a Secret Seven book or, perhaps, a Famous Five. The book just had that feel to it as far as I was concerned and in my mind I found it a bitl like an Enid Blyton, but with a little sex and horror thrown into the mix.
I also found a couple of the scenes in Night of the Crabs a little hard to believe. In the first one someone is lying on a public beach, behind some sand dunes, and watching the planes taking off and landing at a military base. The next thing the poor guy knows he has a gun in his back and is being marched into the base itself where he is promptly thrown into a concrete building, the door is locked, and he is left in the dark, to stew, for an indefinite length of time. Even in the seventies I doubt that something like this would ever have happened. I grew up not far from a military air base and there was never any shortage of people parked by the side of the road, watching the planes come and go. Most of them had binoculars and none of them, as far as I am aware, was ever threatened a gunpoint.
The second scene that comes to mind as being unbelievable was a little further on in the book, the main character and his lady-friend are in the sand dunes and have been doing the sort of thing that it is usual for lovers to do in the sand dunes on a moonlit night. Afterwards though, there is no basking in the warm afterglow as far as this romantic hero is concerned. Oh no. It’s straight back to business: he tells his love how glad he is that she’s accompanied him that night, and then, as he runs his zipper back up, he declares that he is afraid that they must still keep an eye open for those crabs. I think most women would have slapped his face for being so insensitive and, given the circumstances, and what the word ‘crabs’ brings to most peoples minds these days, I also had to have a bit of a giggle.
I didn’t find Night of the Crabs the most thrilling read and it will never make my top-ten list of favourite books. It was okay though and I did find it an entertaining read, if not quite what I had expected.