‘A cold relentless killer from the murky depths’
Emerging amidst the glut of nature-strikes-back horror movies and novels that swept across the world in the wake of the phenomenal success of Jaws and its sequel, there is nothing to distinguish The Pike from the likes of Piranha, Tentacles, Orca – Killer Whale and other fishy tales except it’s so avowedly British. It also led to a doomed film adaptation…
Back cover blurb:
“>A screeching swan…
A fisherman overboard…
A drunken woman in a dinghy…
One by one, the mysterious killer in Lake Windermere claims its terrified victims. Tearing off limbs with its monstrous teeth, horribly mutilating bodies.
Fear sweeps the peaceful holiday resort when experts identify the creature as a giant pike … A hellish creature with the strength to rupture boats – and the anger to attack them.
But for some the terror becomes a bonanza – the traders who cater to the gathering crowds of ghouls on the shore. And they will do anything to stop the divers finding the killer.
Meanwhile the ripples of bloodshed widen…”
The Pike is a brisk 160 pager, and all the better for its brevity. Twemlow’s to-the-point novel is set in the Lake District, specifically Lake Windermere and the human protagonist is Mike Watson, a tabloid journalist on an unlikely break to escape his failed marriage and faltering career. When an angler has half his face bitten off, the troubled journo realises that the ensuing “scene had STORY written all over it” and so his investigative instincts soon kick in. Class divisions don’t stop our intrepid reporter from bedding the granddaughter of a local Major before a team is formed to hunt down what has soon been identified a twelve foot killer pike.
From hereon, Twemlow swiftly introduces character after character to make up for the fact that the pike itself clearly hasn’t got much to do. A sozzled socialite foolishly goes onto the lake in a dinghy in just her “bra and pants” but Twemlow doesn’t make much of this inevitably tragic beauty and the beast encounter. Of course, as in Jaws, there has to be an expert marine biologist on hand and Ulysses Grant (!), a Scottish longbow expert to remind us of Quint, plus a local big event – in this case Miss Lakeland – to present the fearsome fish its biggest potential human meal.
The vogue for skinheads in British pulp fiction is nodded to as three menacing thugs are introduced and promptly warned off by the Highlands Hulk. When it comes, the double twist ending is… well you’ve seen the likes of one times before in a hugely popular Saturday morning cartoon, and the unravelling of the swift mystery is perhaps the most satisfying bit of this fisherman’s tale. It will surprise no-one that Ulysses is left to ruminate: “Aye, he’s a canny yin”.
So, how did this innocuous minor novel become a movie project with the likes of Joan Collins, Jack Hedley (in Lucio Fulci’s infamous The New York Ripper the same year) and TV hostess Linda Lou Allen in tow?
Perhaps it can only be explained by Cliff Twemlow’s tenacity at getting such unlikely films as Moonstalker green lighted? Sadly, due to technical difficulties and lack of funding, The Pike movie was never completed, although there was a BBC news report on its production that used to be on YouTube but has been removed, alas.
Adrian J Smith, MOVIES and MANIA
Thanks to Vault of Evil for the main cover image.