The Festering – Guy N. Smith
Arrow – 1989
Guy N. Smith wrote a lot of books, and I wasn’t sure of which one to read first. I didn’t want to commit to any of his series to begin with, so I looked at his standalone novels. I chose 1989’s The Festering as my starting point as it had the mingingest cover. I can honestly say that this novel is now one of my favourite books ever.
A couple move to the English countryside to escape urban life. Their plumbing is dodgy, so they have well dug in their garden. Unfortunately, an ancient, diseased corpse was buried there, and the lads who dig the well end up contracting the disease.
This disease causes you to grow disgusting boils all over and to leak stinking pus and slime from every orifice. It also increases sexual and aggressive urges. Those who get sick end up going on violent rampages and end up as a rancid puddle of noisome muck.
“it was surely a demented diseased stranger, some cancerous monstrosity bent on a final depravity before whatever was eating away his body claimed him for its own.”
I loved this book. It was really horrible.
It was written in 1989, and it’s hard not to think that the AIDS crisis had something to do with the plot. The Festering Death is directly compared to AIDS twice within the text. This seems rather insensitive now, but I think everyone reading this book in 2022 will understand how uncertainty about the symptoms and contagiousness of a disease can be used as an effective means to create tension. Also, the symptoms of the disease in the book are nothing like those of AIDS.
I also know that it’s not really fair to judge an author based on the tendencies of their characters, but the misogyny on display in this book is hard ignore. The men throw out phrases like “fucking little whore”, “poxy cow”, “poxy bitch” and my personal favourite, “a filthy slag offering her body for a pittance on a street corner.” This is real classy stuff.
“sores that pulsed even after life had deserted the wretched body, spreading and feeding on the dead flesh with revolting rapidity and cancerous lust.”
I liked the simplicity of the horror at work here. The focus is on how pus filled boils are really gross. This focus is utterly relentless. The boils are disgusting, and they smell really awful. Seriously, the horrible scummy slime inside these weeping sores is both vile and rancid. Ewwww, stink!
The Festering is as trashy as they come, but it was exactly what I needed. I shall be reading more Guy N. Smith in the future.