Tendrils and Worm – Simon Ian Childer

A few months ago, I did a post on some novels by Harry Adam Knight. Harry Adam Knight wasn’t a real person. It was a pseudonym used by John Brosnan and his friend Leroy Kettle. When writing that post, I discovered that Brosnan and Kettle had collaborated on more horror stuff under another name, Simon Ian Childer. I enjoyed the HAK books so much, I had to track down the SIC stuff. (Both of these books have been out of print since the 80s though, so they’re a bit harder to find.)

Tendrils
Hunter Publishing – 1986

A plague of “worms” wreaks havoc on some small English towns while the only scientist who understands the situation enters into a complicated relationship with a journalist. Published one year after Squelch, the final entry in John Halkin’s Slither series, the first half of Tendrils feels very much like a slightly grislier version of Halkin’s books. After a while, the “worms” are revealed to be the tendrils of a far larger subcthonic entity that has been lying dormant since causing the extinction of the dinosaurs. This was a nice touch, but ultimately not enough to make Tendrils a novel worth writing home about.

I read this book and wrote the above summary in July. I thought I had written a more in-depth piece of literary analysis, but I guess not. It’s a pity, because I don’t remember much about this book. It was ok, but very forgettable. I have read so many books about worms this year that I’m finding it difficult to distinguish this one from all the others. It only took me a couple of days to read it though, so it can’t have been painfully bad.

Worm
Grafton – 1987

Tendrils was alright, but it wasn’t quite as good as the Harry Adam Knight books I had read. I thought that the authors may have decided to use the Simon Ian Childer pseudonym for works of less literary merit. On top of this, I have read more than my fair share of horror novels about worms this year. I didn’t have particularly high hopes when I started into Worm.

Honestly, this was one of the most enjoyable books I read in 2020. From the repulsive surgery of the opening chapter to the awfully satisfying ending, this book was fantastic. Don’t get me wrong, this pretty low brow stuff, but God damn it was fun. (Low brow as it is, there’s an implicit critique of British colonialism in the book’s plot that I quite enjoyed. The author was Australian, but Brosnan is a good Irish name. Good man Johnny.)

A giant carnivorous worm is found inside the body of a patient in a mysterious private hospital, and it’s up to Detective Ed Causey to figure out what’s going on. This is a crime noir adventure with flesh hungry worms. Fuck yes.

Brosnan wrote this one by himself, and it has everything I enjoyed about his other books; interesting characters, really gross bits and competent story telling. A few weeks ago, I read and reviewed John Halkin’s Blood Worm, another novel about giant worms eating the civilians of London. It was so terrible that it made me want to read less trashy 80s horror fiction. Reading Worm had the exact opposite effect. Finding a gem like this makes wading through the shit worthwhile. This one is the rarer of the two SIC books, so grab it if you find it.

I don’t know why Brosnan and Kettle used two different pseudonyms to write novels that belonged to the same genre, but I discovered that a later edition of Worm was put out under the Harry Adam Knight pseudonym. All of their books are pretty good though, and I am going to seek out Brosnan’s other novels. Fortunately, most of the stuff he put out under his own name is available as e-books.

The Hazards of Genetic Experimentation: Harry Adam Knight’s Slimer, Carnosaur and The Fungus

Since the start of the lockdown, I have been ripping through thrashy horror novels. Here are three by Harry Adam Knight. Harry Adam Knight was a pseudonym used by a pair of authors, John Brosnan and Leroy Kettle. These three books were written within 3 years of each other, and each one of them is about a genetic experiment gone wrong. I’ve been really into this kind of stuff recently. Maybe I’m subconsciously trying to teach myself how to cope in situations where an inhuman force is decimating a completely unprepared civilization. I don’t know.

 

slimer harry adam knightSlimer
Star Books – 1983

6 young adventurers get stuck on an abandoned oil rig turned science laboratory with a genetically modified nightmare.

I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed this novel. The premise is ludicrous and the characters are dumb, but the setting is so effective that it makes this a really enjoyable read. The idea of an abandoned oil rig, hundreds of miles from civilization is perfect for a horror novel. There’s a real sense of mystery that creeps out of the emptiness. (I was reading over this paragraph before publishing this post, and I remembered an episode of the X-Files that was set on an oil-rig. I’m just reading over the plot synopsis of that episode now and I’m surprised by the similarities with this book. It was Vienen, the 18th episode of season 8 (2001), if anyone is interested in writing a compare and contrast essay.)

Once things get going in Slimer, they head in the direction you’d expect, but by that stage I was enjoying the atmosphere and the drama between the characters. I read this book over two days, and I spent the entire first half of the second of those days looking forward to sitting down and finishing it. There’s no denying that this is trashy horror, but I had a good time with it.

 

carnosaur harry adam knight
Carnosaur
Tor – 1993 (Originally published 1984)

Usually I wait a while between books by one author. I waited 3 days after finishing Slimer to begin Carnosaur. (Although technically, this is a different Harry Adam Knight to the author of the other two books in this post as this one was actually written by John Brosnan by himself.) I don’t regret rushing into Carnosaur. It was lots of fun too.

A rich lad genetically engineers dinosaurs into existence. Sounds familiar? Well, this was actually written 6 years before Jurassic Park, and Carnosaur is set in a rural village in England rather than a remote island. Oh, and this has a lot more people getting eaten.

This was not a particularly clever or subtle book, but it had a shit-ton of dinosaurs and shotguns. If that doesn’t sound good to you, you’re probably a wimp.

 

the fungus harry adam knight
The Fungus
Valancourt Books – 2018 (Orginally published 1985)

Genetically modified fungus destroys Great Britain. Hell yes.

One of the main characters in this novel is a violent English soldier who was stationed in Belfast in the early 1980s. This created an uncomfortable tension for me. I really, really wanted him to die horribly.

This is another book that delivers what it promises, lots and lots of minging fungus. Enough said.

 

At one stage, these books were fairly difficult to track down for a reasonable price, but both Slimer and The Fungus were reissued by Valancourt Books a couple of years ago. Carnosaur was made into a movie in the early 90s, and I assume the movie company has the rights to the novel or something as it hasn’t been republished. I read the movie tie-in rerelease on openlibrary. The cover of this version is wretched, but it beats paying $60+ for an original copy.

I don’t know how much my current living conditions had to do with it, but I really enjoyed all three of these books. They’re not groundbreaking high-literature, but they were a lot of fun to read. Brosnan and Kettle collaborated on some other books under a different name, and I’ll read those if I ever find cheap copies.