Another slice of 70s/80s horror, though it might be better described as a disaster story with gruesome bits.
Racing to make a delivery, the driver of a lorry hauling a tanker of weedkiller goes off the road and into a reservoir. Weedspray, as it’s imaginatively named, is the strongest, most horrible concoction imaginable. Painfully and incurably toxic- whether drunk or just through skin contact- it’s also, somehow, highly flammable, even when watered down. This stuff is so ridiculously deadly that it’s impossible to believe in. I know the story’s set in the late 70s/early 80s, but surely even then they weren’t this lax on health and safety.
Anyway, thanks to criminal incompetence and industrial cowardice, the poison enters the water supply of Birmingham, condemning most of the city to horrible deaths.
Ron Blythe is the main viewpoint character- though there are cuts away to others occasionally- and he’s a long way from sympathetic. A serial adulterer and snob, who created Weedspray seemingly by mixing every other weedkiller together, he ends up trapped in Birmingham as part of the ineffectual disaster committee. As the city descends into chaos and carnage, he somehow gains a girlfriend whilst avoiding contact with poisoned water but being otherwise useless.
Sadly, from somewhere around the mid-point, the story’s something of an extended, gruesome anticlimax. Timelines and logic get garbled. Somehow, in the midst of the ongoing disaster and social breakdown, one of the sub plots manages to include a full formal funeral. Even with suggestions that various events overlap each other, it still feels like they unfold over a month when I’m sure it’s supposed to be less than a fortnight.
Not as much fun as Night of the Crabs, I’m afraid. However, I recently found a bunch of Guy N Smith, and similar vintage, books, so the trip through 70s/80s horror shall continue.
From:: Ian Pattinson Goodreads reviews