Richard Lewis was a novelist who emerged during the British horror fiction boom of the late 1970s, then vanished once that boom turned to bust. Over a few short years, he churned out several pulp in the popular ‘eco-horror’ genre popularised by Gun N.Smith and James Herbert. His real name was Alan Radnor, and he sometimes used that name as a writer, mostly outside the genre.
His first – and probably best known – horror novel was Spiders, a tale of a new strain of flesh eating arachnids rampaging across Britain, which was published in 1978. The spiders here range in size from tiny to giant, and at one point it seems that the authorities will have to take the nuclear option to destroy them!
The book was popular enough to spawn a sequel, The Web, taking place six years after the original horror and featuring more of the same.
Spiders aside, Lewis seemed to struggle to find creatures that would instill terror in the potential reader. The Devil’s Coach-horse (aka The Black Horde) attempts to make mutated bugs that burrow into human flesh seem terrifying, though the cheery looking bug on the original cover didn’t help in that respect. Still, it featured plenty of action:
“Pete Thompson should never have stopped. For from the railings above, a mound of beetles which had been feeding on a dead steer tumbled onto his hair and down over his eyes and began quickly decimating what was left of his face. Screaming, practically blind and his mind almost snapping, he ran into the yard, the blood pouring down his neck.”
He wrote about another sort of bug in 1983 with Night Killers, which sees mutated cockroaches on the rampage. To quote the blurb:
For 300 million years they have existed unchanged – furtive insects scuttling through the shadows. Till modern man began to destroy his environment …
They came the fatal night when a vicious murderer died before he could burn his latest victim.
Ravenous cockroaches devour the corpse, and develop a new craving – for human flesh. Mutating into savagely efficient killers, they prey on the young, the old, the drunk, the injured. Undetected. Unstoppable.
Eventually two scientists guess the truth, but no one will believe them – until a chilling disaster strikes!
And even then the nightkillers have an unsuspected weapon …
His 1981 novel Parasite is a rather grimmer affair about a deadly infection carried by water-borne insects. But the book is also about the breakdown of society s the infection spreads, with the setting up of death camps and the population turning on doctors. It’s surprisingly nihilistic stuff.
He moved away from killer bug and creepy crawlies entirely for his 1983 book Possessed, which appears to be his final novel. This is a story about strange things happening to the people working on a new super computer, the 5000 RX. Weird hallucinations, psychotic behaviour and mind control are at the centre of the tale. The book was originally published under his real name, and this might explain why it is so different in tone and style from his other books. Notably, his only other horror novel as Radnor is The Force, published in 1979 and also dealing with technology, the supernatural and mind control.
Lewis also wrote a novelisation of David Cronenberg’s Rabid, which sticks pretty much to the story of the film without adding much in terms of character or action. Outside the horror field (and again, under his own name, he also authored several other books, fiction and non-fiction, ranging from the sexploitation spy story Red Light Red, through tie-ins for TV shows Whodunit, Dick Barton and Masterspy to a book about the paranormal and a biography of Elton John.
In 1986, he produced the obscure British TV series World’s Beyond, which was an anthology show based around real life cases from the Society for Psychical Research.
He should not be confused with American ‘young adult’ horror author Richard Lewis.
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