Interview by Pat Black and Hereward L.M. Proops
Booksquawk: Many people will remember seeing your novels in the horror section shelves of bookshops up and down the UK. However, since the “horror boom” period from the mid-70s to early -90s, the publishing industry has changed. As someone who first found fame through traditional outlets, and who now embraces the digital revolution, how do you feel about the future of publishing?
Guy N Smith: I think that traditional publishing as we once knew it has gone forever. Frankly, I find bookshops boring; no category sections, just hyped books on subjects such as cookery, health etc, and autobiographies of personalities which are mostly ghost-written.
I believe the future of publishing is in e-books and, to a lesser extent, print-on-demand. I will go along with it simply because there isn’t an alternative.
Booksquawk: I noticed that you seem to kill off certain types of people (e.g. women who cheat on their partners, animal rights activists etc). Is this intentional? Are there any groups of people you are planning on killing off in future novels?
Guy N Smith: I have intentionally killed off a few people in my books, bullies who made life miserable for me in my schooldays and early teens when I couldn’t fight back. I have no plans to kill off any more – they are all dead now within my pages! However, I have a particular dislike of extremism. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion, right or wrong. When anybody tries to shove their opinion down my throat as though their beliefs are gospel, it makes me angry.
Booksquawk: The Slime Beast sequel news has us in a state of some excitement at Booksquawk towers. Some questions about your most famous creation which doesn’t walk sideways:
(a) I heard that there is a movie adaptation of The Slime Beast in the works. What can you tell us about it?
Guy N Smith: It is in its very early stages. I believe they are shooting a pilot and I am promised “something to look at”.
(b) There’s a real ambiguity about whether the creature is extraterrestrial or a monster of this earth. Please settle this once and for all… is it an alien or a regular monster?
Guy N Smith: You will have to read the sequel to find out!
(c) Is it set in the present day, or a direct sequel to the original events?
Guy N Smith: It is set in the present day but the lead characters are the same – obviously much older, with grown-up children.
Booksquawk: It is clear to see from your work (and it’s especially apparent in Hangman’s Hotel) that you take a lot of pleasure in the natural world. I felt there were occasions that your prose really caught fire when talking about the simple pleasures of your characters making their way through the countryside, and I’d like to read more. Aside from the books you’ve already written about gamekeeping and shooting, could we ever expect to read something non-fictional about the natural world, in the style of Robert Macfarlane and other nature writers?
Guy N Smith: It’s a possibility. However, I go from book to book. Something always seems to crop up, events that lead to inspiration.
Booksquawk: It may not be well-known, but you won the British Pipe Smoking Championship in 2003. What efforts have you made to try to reinstate this contest, in the wake of the smoking ban?
Guy N Smith: The contest has been reinstated over the last couple of years but I have been unable to attend. Whether or not it will continue remains to be seen.
Booksquawk: Bloodsports are not to everyone’s tastes. How would you respond to critics of hunting?
Guy N Smith: Fieldsports, please, not bloodsports. As I said (above), everybody is entitled to their own views. Supposedly we live in a democracy, but sometimes I wonder.
As for the critics of hunting, they simply do not understand it. The fox is not torn to pieces whilst still alive. Hounds kill it quickly by a bite at the base of the neck prior to savaging the corpse.
I do not hunt but, as already stated, we are a democratic nation, so each to his, or her, views.
Booksquawk: Related to the above: Do you shoot for pleasure, or shoot for the pot?
Guy N Smith: I shoot for two reasons: 1) For the pot, and 2) to control vermin species. That said, game or vermin, I like the challenge. Man has been a hunter since he first walked the earth. My policy is a sporting and humane shot.
Booksquawk: What is the finest hunting weapon you’ve ever used?
Guy N Smith: In my late teens when I worked in a bank in Birmingham, I spent a lot of my spare time, lunch hours and after work at the famous Midland Gun Company, one of the largest. I built up an excellent relationship and assisted, in a small way, in the making of a 12-bore shotgun. My name was engraved on the barrels. They offered me an apprenticeship, a trial whereby we could both see if we were suited to the job.
However, I come from a banking family and my father would not hear of it. In those days he would have had to sign the forms allowing me to become an apprentice. He flatly refused. So that was that. The Midland suffered the fate of hundreds of other gunmakers when Birmingham’s legendary Gun Quarter was demolished to make way for a ring road. It was twice bought by other firms who had the Midland guns made in Italy and Turkey respectively. This proved to be economically unsuccessful and two years ago I bought the name and have the company registered to myself. The registration certificate is proudly displayed on my wall. Likewise, I have my lovely gun, designed by myself, and my memories of what might have been.
Booksquawk: The most memorable story in Hangman’s Hotel, for me, is “Savage Safari”. I shan’t spoil the treat in store for readers, but I would ask you: which creature throughout history, living today or extinct, would you most like to have hunted?
Guy N Smith: I would like to have hunted buffalo and leopard in Africa but I guess it’s too late in life now for me. However, there are Big Cats at large in the UK and I have personally seen a black leopard. There have been other reliable sightings on my own land.
I am still hoping to bag a wild boar, on even terms, not shot from ambush. My dream is to be charged by an angry wild boar. It will be against me, truly a fair encounter.
Booksquawk: When did you come up with the idea of giant killer crabs? Was it your way of tapping into the “eco-horror” stories of the 1970s, spearheaded by Jaws, or did you have a lifelong fear of crustaceans which inspired your stories?
Guy N Smth: I do not have a fear of crustaceans. Certainly my Crabs were not inspired by Jaws. Just an idea that came to me when I sent a synopsis to NEL, I really wondered if it was too far-fetched. Maybe… but a bestseller, a movie and six sequels must mean that it appealed to a lot of readers!
Booksquawk: Killer Crabs: The Return felt like a bit of a return to form for the Crabs novels after Crabs: The Human Sacrifice… Have you got any more plans for the monstrous crustaceans in the near future?
Guy N Smith: I have, but I’m not going to tell you! Wait and see…
Booksquawk: You, the late, great James Herbert, Shaun Hutson, Graham Masterton and others were instrumental in bringing more extreme horror experiences and graphic scenes to British readers. It was extremely influential – and popular. Now that time has passed, do you ever regret “going too far” in any scenes of sex or violence?
Guy N Smith: Not at all. In fact most of the sex scenes were mild compared with much of today’s explicit descriptions. As for violence, what do you expect from the Crabs? As for my other books, you have only got to read the papers or watch TV news; far more dreadful things are happening in today’s real world than ever appeared in my writing.
Booksquawk: There’s much more to your work than horror. What genre did you enjoy working in outside of horror, and why?
Guy N Smith: Westerns are a favourite genre of mine. Which was why I wrote Pony Riders (Pinnacle, USA). From a very early age I had a cowboy outfit and fired cap guns. I guess I never grew out of that pleasure so I turned to reading and writing about it.
Booksquawk: Are you aware of Garth Marenghi, the spoof horror author character (played by Matthew Holness) who featured in the TV show Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace? Do you feel that your works might have influenced this character?
Guy N Smith: I don’t watch much TV, certainly not horror. However, if my work has influenced a character, then good luck to him.
Booksquawk: You hold the record for being Booksquawk’s most reviewed author. Not all of the reviews have been kind to your work – but we keep coming back. We love it. We are, in fact, fans. What do you think is the continuing appeal of your stories – and what is it about the horror field that appeals to you?
Guy N Smith: My early books are short tales full of action, a large variety of plots. I have been criticised many times, but nobody can knock my record regarding sales. And the books are making a return. The Slime Beast will be published as a signed hardcover, Limited Edition, in March. A couple of years ago, The Sucking Pit was resurrected by Mansion House and, in addition to a run of signed limited copies, there was a sleeved A-Z run. Then publishers have also shown an interest in resurrecting my three Werewolf novels as a limited edition trilogy. Not to mention the extremely buoyant sales of my e-books.
Kind regards and many thanks to Guy N Smith for his time.