Nostalgia is a wonderful form of mind-set, a refuge from the harsh reality of the present day, a return to simplicity and freedom which has long since been wrested from us. It can be enjoyed in many forms, perhaps re-reading a book from our youth, savouring the enjoyment again of a tale which has not lost its magic with the passing of time.
Thus the return of ‘The Slime Beast’, forty years after it was written, has turned back the clock for myself. The idea, though, was not conceived in 1975, in fact the seed was sown in the early 1960’s unknown to myself. It lay there but did not germinate for another fifteen years. That in itself was yet another trip down memory lane.
It was November and I was on a wildfowling trip on the Wash, that vast expanse of mud and quicksand on Britain’s east coast, a beautiful yet dangerous area where many have lost their lives. My guide knew every inch of these unforgiving marshes but following in his footsteps across those mudflats was a gruelling experience, especially on a starlit frosty night.
Several times he had to pull me out of a patch of gurgling mud in which I had sunk above the knees of my thigh waders. Of uncertain temperament, his main concern was that I was an encumbrance to his progress in reaching the distant tideline.
It was a magical night out there, the shimmering, seemingly endless, mudflats beginning to crunch under foot as a severe frost set in, our only light from a half moon and a myriad of stars. It was also eerie, a vast wilderness in which we were the only humans abroad.
A loud honking shattered the stillness and above us a skein of geese passed over, silhouettes against the dark sky. Four shots rang out and two birds folded their wings, thudded onto the mud.
I thought then that we might be heading back to the mainland but not so. “We’ll stop here awhile,” my guide announced, “and see if any more show up.”
None did, but during the following couple of hours, during which I shivered in a muddy creek, a number of disturbing thoughts crossed my mind. Just about anything could be living out here, undisturbed and unseen by man. Perhaps some amphibious creature that had survived from prehistoric times, and maybe those gunners who had disappeared over the years had not been victims of the tide as was commonly supposed…
Fifteen years on, and with my first two horror novels selling tolerably well, my publishers requested a third. Suddenly an idea germinated as I recalled that nocturnal foray on the mudflats of the Wash. This was an ideal setting for my next book and that night the figments of my imagination spawned the beast which would prey on any humans who trespassed in its domain.
So, the Slime Beast was born, a truly revolting and fearsome creature. It was symptomatic of that era when such books were short and simplistic with no frills and action all the way. It was a natural progression from the pulps which had thrilled readers from the 1930’s through to the 1950’s.
Sadly those days are long gone, replaced by lengthy novels of modern times, psychopaths and serial killers who are a sickening reality in our midst. Hence the return of the Slime Beast in this limited edition is a welcome revival of my early days.
One final thought; we do not know whence this creature came, from outer-space or a survivor from primordial times? Furthermore, was it alone or did it have a mate who has also survived unseen out there on the mudflats? It is certainly thought provoking…