Eat Them Alive – Pierce Nace
NEL – 1979
Eat Them Alive is one of the most notorious works of horror fiction. This notoriety is due to three factors, its content, its unattainability, and the identity of its author.
“But now I’ve got something to live for – because I love watching a man being eaten by a monster! Maybe it’s a substitute for my lost virility, but I know it’s a joy I never thought I’d feel again!”
First off, this is a book about a castrated psychopath who trains an army of giant, flesh-hungry praying mantises to torture and eat his enemies alive. It is bizarrely hateful and violent. The plot sounds ridiculous, but more ridiculous still is the execution. The writing is shockingly poor. We’ve all seen things described as “so bad it’s good”, but this book takes that to another level. Eat Them Alive is so bad it’s phenomenal. The cheer childishness of the protagonist’s motivation is almost profound. He loves watching men being eaten by monsters. Seriously, he really, really loves that. This fact, like a lot of statements in this book, is repeated numerous times throughout the text. The extremely formulaic nature of the mantis attacks would get boring if the book was any longer. As it stands, there are 4 almost identical scenes of entire families being eaten alive. This book reminded me of the music of Mortician. We’re talking unflinching brutality with very little variation – songs/chapters exclusively about people being chopped up and eaten. It takes no talent to make stuff like this, but the fact that somebody sat down and put their effort into creating something so heinous is admirable in itself.
“God, I love the sight of a woman being eaten. I’m a firecracker, just watching. I’m buoyed up, halfway to the sky. But I’ll be twice as high when I see Slayer eat Pete. God, I can hardly wait!”
Affordable copies of this book have been extremely rare for several years, but it went through at least 3 printings, and there are usually plenty of copies available. The last time i checked, I found more than 30 copies for sale online, but the lowest price was about 130 dollars. It took me about 4 years of searching to find one I could afford. Paperback editions from Manor House and NEL came out in 1977. There’s a star on the Manor House cover that says “For the first time in paperback”, but I don’t think it ever came out as a hardcover. The edition I have is a “2 for 1” job that also includes Fleshbait. (I actually reviewed Fleshbait a few years ago. It doesn’t compare to Eat Them Alive.) My edition does not include a date, but Fleshbait came out in 1979, so it can’t have been earlier than that. A German translation was published in 2019, but it hasn’t been reprinted in English for a good 50 years.
Part of the allure of Eat Them Alive comes from the fact that it was written by an old lady. It seems likely that Pierce Nace was actually Evelyn Pierce Nace, a writer who dabbled in different genres and had articles printed in men’s magazines throughout the 1950s by dropping her first name. Evelyn would have been about 70 when Eat Them Alive came out. How fucking cool is that? I was doubtful at first, but there does seem to be evidence for this. She wrote more than 40 novels, and some of them were horror. She also wrote some sex manuals, and she seems like the kind of person who would have given any genre a shot. It makes sense that an author like this might have been asked to write a giant insects novel in 1977. Nace’s unfamiliarity with the animal-attacks sub-genre of horror is likely what resulted in Eat Them Alive being the most bizarre work of depravity ever published.
God, the killing of these guys is better than any of the killings I ever watched before or ever will again! I’m tall, I’m happy, I’m warm, I’m wonderful! I wish I had a hundred old enemies to murder like this!
Eat Them Alive is not a good book, but it’s a true curiousity, and I found it very enjoyable. If you have any interest in mindless, ultraviolent trash, you should try to find a copy. Some lad has actually uploaded a self made audiobook version onto youtube. I probably would have gone with this if I had known it was there.