Another proposed Crabs novel from the Black Hill days, The Crabs: The Survivors was also projected at 60,000 words. However it suggests a much more gore drenched read than Crabs: The Flesh Eaters. Both were presumably aimed at continuing the story after Crabs on the Rampage.
The Crabs: The Survivors
Setting: The East Coast, The Wash, Wells-next-the-Sea and the Fens.
The crabs were wiped out by a cancerous disease (Crabs On The Rampage) but in all plagues there are survivors, just as rabbits survived myxomatosis. A handful of the giant crustaceans find their way to the Wash and take refuge in the marshes and mudflats. the summer is warm and they thrive, keeping hidden. A hunted species in a minority they rely on instinct but their lust for human flesh is insatiable and a lone boatman searching for mussels is their first victim. He is missed but the treacherous Wash quicksands and tides are blamed.
Jack Clay is the last of a breed of East Coast gunners who rely on the fishing and wildfowling for their living. He lives in his old houseboat on the marshes and at night he hears the crabs, their claws scraping at the woodwork of his frail dwelling place. For some reason they do not smash their way in; a night of terror for the old gunner. In his younger days he had gone crab-catching on Breydon but it is incredible that crabs this size should be on the marshes. The next morning he renovates his old gunning punt which had been stored away until the winter months when the wigeon came in droves and he sets forth down the maze of creeks, the big gun loaded up with goose shot. These crabs will be worth money if... he comes upon one at a range of no more than twenty yards and opens fire. His aim is true and the heavy charge finds its mark, scoring the gigantic shell. Then the enraged monster turns on its enemy. Jack paddles for his life but the crustacean catches him up, splinters the boat to matchwood and the old gunner dies a terrible death.
Still the surviving crabs are undetected and it is mid-summer. The marshes take on a deceptively serene appearance, attracting picnickers, birdwatchers. The Smithsons have come from Kings Lynn for the day and have wandered far out on the saltings enjoying the loneliness and the sunshine. They spread out their picnic on the banks of a wide creek. Suddenly the mud comes alive and the family are attacked by huge crabs. Their screams go unheard in this desolate place. Still nobody has seen the crabs as coastguard helicopters search for the missing family. Again the dangerous currents are blamed.
Roy Summers has a conviction for stealing eggs from an eagle's eyrie in the highlands of Scotland. Now he is on the Wash in search of the prized eggs of the Bittern. He spies a crab in the dense reedbeds and is on his way to raise the alarm when another one cuts off his escape route. A terrifying manhunt takes place in the reeds, the frantic fugitive finally cheating his pursuers when he blunders into a patch of quicksand. But the crabs are intent on breeding. Basic instinct urges them to survive and multiply, to rebuild that terrible army that once brought havoc and death to the shores of Britain. Two females spawn and carry their young on their backs up the maze of creeks into the marshes, more active now that the moon is full.
The crabs are spotted. Joe Dyke, a marsh warden, comes upon them and has a lucky escape, leaping across a creek and gaining distance on his pursuers. The alarm is raised and searching helicopters glimpse a crab. The terror is alive again and a phone call to London brings Professor Cliff Davenport, the old crab-campaigner, to the East Caost. His worst fears are realised - the disease did not bring about total annihilation of the crustaceans. But there are only a few of them; they can, and must be, wiped out.
The mudflats of Holbeach are a practice bombing range. Much used in World War II, they are still used, and a pilot catches a glimpse of the crabs. He ignores his original targets and bombs the crabs, sees the creatures bowled over, their shells scarred and splintered. But miraculously they lumber on, the huge females shielding their offspring, hatred for Man stronger than ever.
The crabs leave the Wash, move by night further along the coast, Breydon Water, a haven for boating holidays yet as wild a place as any you will find in Britain, dense reedbeds and swamps, less open than the marshes in the Wash. A young couple are awakened one night by a scratching sound on the bottom of their boat. The craft lurches, threatens to capsize. They rush up on deck and are greeted by the sight of a huge crab trying to clamber aboard. Now the boat is overturning and the couple's screams are heard across the Broads on the still summer night air. The crabs have come to Breydon and brought death and terror with them. A mass operation to recall all holidaymakers, close off the area, but not before more have died.
John Dayle has been charged with a string of sex killings and is due to stand trial in a few days. He engineers a remarkable escape and as a fugitive heads for the Fens. Suddenly Breydon Water is becoming a very dangerous place. The offensive against the crabs is mounting with public pressure being put on the government for the annihilation of the crabs. Helicopters are constantly searching, Breydon Water is cordoned off and sightseers are kept back. Dayle falls victim to the crabs, and now the crabs are on the move again, escaping the net that has been cast for them, creating havoc and terror on Great Yarmouth beaches where some teenagers are moonlight bathing and then heading north. Where will they turn up next, Professor Davenport wonders?
The crabs and their young have disappeared. Coastguards on every stretch of coastline watch and wait. Have the monsters deserted British shores and migrated to warmer waters? It is mid-August now and within another month the climate will be getting too cold for them. A fortnight and then they show up again on the next full moon - at Wells-next-the-Sea, once the idyllic mecca of wildfowlers and fishermen, now a seaside resort with its front a conglomeration of amusement arcades and coffee bars. The crabs come across the sandbanks, wreck the seafront just as they once did at Barmouth, taking the occupants and holidaymakers by surprise. then the crabs retreat but Davenport knows they will come again.
Davenport devises a trap, an inspiration as cunning as when he used paraquat at Barmouth. Paraquat was found to be too dangerous, harmful to wildlife and fish close to the shore but now he has something which is much more controllable - a gigantic acid bath into which he must lure the enemy!
A grain mill close to Wells harbour was wrecked by the crabs. Here there are deep corn pits, damp-proofed; they are filled with acid, a steaming bath of death for the unwary. But how will the crabs be lured into them? Davenport has the answer - he will be the bait!
The moon is waning, after tonight the crabs will be inactive inland. Possibly by the next full moon they will have returned to warmer waters, spawning grounds where they can multiply unhindered, rebuilding their armies for a terirble vengeance on Mankind. Davenport waits on the landward side of the trap; the pits are covered with planks and branches which will not support the heavy crabs. Will they come? Will the ruse work? 2 am. and then the crabs come clicking their way out of Wells harbour.
The crabs see Cliff Davenport. They halt, regard him venomously. Could it be that they recognise him, by some strange instinct, as the enemy who has fought them in all corners of the globe? They surge forward and then they are avalanching down into the acid trap amidst splintering timber. Their end is terrible, and even Davenport, standing above viewing it, feels a pang of remorse that such a courageous enemy has had to be lured to such a despicable end.
But it had to be so, for the safety of Mankind.
Professor Cliff Davenport. Hero of several Crab encounters.
Jack Clay. An old Fenman who refuses to give up his way of life, fishing, dragging for mussels and wildfowling.
Roy Summers. Already convicted for theft of Golden Eagle eggs in the Highlands, he is out to steal Bittern eggs in the Fens.
The Smithsons. Their fatal picnicking expedition to the Fens.
Joe Dyke. A warden on the Fens, he is the first to see the Crabs and live to raise the alarm.
John Dayle. A dangerous psychopath on trial for murder, he escapes custody and hides out in the Fens.
Jill Franks. A divorcee holidaying at Wells-next-the-Sea, she becomes caught up in the terror.