Eat Them Alive is a 1977 horror novel written by the otherwise anonymous Pierce Nacenote . The story is simple. Dyke Mellis is an ex-con who is a member of a gang in Texas consisting of Kane Garrister, Ryan Gaut, Pete Stuart and Zeb Hillburn. One day the crooks hit the big time when they net $2 million in cash from an old man after they torture him to death.
Dyke decides to take all of the money for himself, but fails and is captured. His gang beat him within an inch of his life. In particular, they castrate him. After surviving the attack, he escapes to South America and ends up living on Malpelo Island off of Colombia. Here he discovers a race of gigantic praying mantises who he trains to kill and eat people, and, of course, uses them to exact vengeance upon his former partners in crime. And pretty much everyone else unfortunate enough to stumble across him.
That's the plot, such as it is. What Pierce Nace's novel is remembered for though are its shocking levels of violence and depravity. Although there are plenty of nastier books out there, Eat Them Alive is renowned amongst "gorehounds" for being nothing but violent death after violent death, with many victims' demises taking several pages to describe. Nace does this to the point of actually making intestinal ravaging and throat-ripping at the mandibles of giant praying mantises repetitive. Clearly, what the novel lacks in substance it makes up for in sheer quantity.
Have lots of Brain Bleach ready for when, and if, you read this.
It was reprinted in 2019 in a German language edition by Festa Verlag in Leipzig. It remains out of print in English-speaking countries.
This novel provides examples of:
- The Alleged Car: A 1950 Ford something-or-other.
- Asshole Victim: Kane, Pete, Ryan and Zeb. Also Dyke at the end.
- Artistic License Biology: Mantises, giant or not, aren't typically known for being a subterranean species. Or, at least, living below ground that long should've caused them to lose their eyesight. They're also as likely to eat each other as any other potential prey.
- Artistic License Geography: There really is a Malpelo Island, but it is nothing like the one described in the book.
- The Atoner: Ryan tries to be this with Dyke, but Dyke is beyond listening to reason by this point.
- Big Creepy-Crawlies: Slayer and the giant mantis brigade!
- Bigger on the Inside: The conventional cargo truck Dyke buys can carry nine of the mantises in back and somehow Slayer fits in the cab up front.
- Brain Food: Among their various other nasty ways of gobbling people up, the mantises enjoy cracking heads open against rocks like otters with clam shells so they can slurp out the yummy, yummy brains.
- A Boy and His X: A crazy, vengeful criminal and his pet giant mantis.
- Chekhov's Gunman: Fritch Gaut.
- Crazy-Prepared: Dyke just happens to have very nearly everything he ever needs for any given situation, such as tons of stocked up meat to feed Slayer and a cage to keep him in, when he initially captures him.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: Virtually everyone and everything.
- Earthquakes Cause Fissures: The quake that hits Malpelo opens up a big rift in the earth, allowing the mantises to escape.
- Eaten Alive: It's right there in the title.
- Eccentric Millionaire: Old Man Shield.
- Eunuchs Are Evil: Dyke.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Kinda. The gang have an unspoken agreement that all their murders are to be "clean," that is, no rapes and no mutilating of sex organs. For example, although they torture and mutilate Shield when they rob him, they leave his manhood intact. This makes Pete castrating Dyke for his attempted betrayal such an unforgivable crime in Dyke's eyes, and what drives him over the edge.
- Evil Cripple: Dyke again.
- Failed a Spot Check: Ordinarily, Dyke is pretty good at ensuring there are no survivors at the homes of his victims. However, by the time he and his mantises hit the Gaut residence, he's gotten sloppy, allowing Ryan's brother Fritch to slip away unnoticed. Dyke thinks he sees someone running off, but attributes it to his imagination. This comes back to bite him in the ass big time at the end.
- Fetish: Mantises eating people is this for Dyke. Odd, given he has lost the ability to become aroused, something he himself even Lampshades.
- Fingore: Just one of the tortures inflicted upon Shield by his attackers.
- For the Evulz: The crooks don't just rob their victim, they take time out to slowly cut him to pieces with their knives.
- Gorn: Lots of it. Page after page. To the point of monotony. Especially focused on women's breasts. The mantises (Slayer in particular) love eating those first when their victim is a female.
- Groin Attack: Pete cuts off Dyke's penis when he tries to rip the gang off.
- Dyke later repays the favor by having Slayer eat Pete's manhood. Slayer also does it to Zeb.
- Hero Antagonist: Fritch, Ryan's brother.
- Hero of Another Story: Fritch again. He brought his own pack of killer mantises to avenge his murdered family.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: After Dyke is fatally shot by Fritch, Slayer eats his erstwhile master.
- I'm a Humanitarian: After watching the mantises eat so many people, Dyke repeatedly toys with the idea of sampling human flesh, himself.
- Infant Immortality: Subverted. Again and again and again.
- Insect Gender-Bender: Slayer, the largest and most voracious mantis, is a male. So says Dyke, anyway. In real life it is the female mantis that is usually biggest, strongest and more voracious.
- Kill 'Em All: No one ever survives a run-in with Dyke and his mantises. Dyke also does eventually bite it, too.
- King Mook: Dyke paints Slayer's head red to tell him apart from the other mantises.
- A Lighter Shade of Black: Ryan Gaut. He isn't as cruel as his companions, taking a lot less pleasure in the crimes they commit than they do, and he also feels guilty about Pete castrating Dyke. That said, he's still a thief and a murderer.
- Meaningful Name: The castrated male protagonist is named Dyke. Also Slayer.
- My Car Hates Me: Why Dyke fails to escape with the loot.
- Nightmare Fetishist: Dyke in spades.
- Pet the Dog: Dyke's treatment of the drunken old man he buys his truck from.
- The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Prior to Pete's plan to rob old Mr. Shield, the supposed gang of thieves just sat around not doing much.
- Protagonist-Centered Morality: Lampshaded and played straight. Dyke betrayed his partners first by trying to steal the money, so his Roaring Rampage of Revenge is kind of hypocritical. When this is pointed out to him, he admits this is so, and confesses he deserved the No-Holds-Barred Beatdown the gang gave him, but then adds he can't forgive the Groin Attack.
- The Quiet One: Ryan. He is said to be soft-spoken and almost opens his mouth unless he has something of value to contribute to a conversation.
- Retired Monster: Dyke at the beginning, and his former gang when he encounters them again.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The entire point of the story. Well, that and all the blood and guts.
- Scary Black Man: Pete, whose hobbies before settling down after the big score involve killing small animals and maiming children.
- Slaying Mantis: The giant man-eating mantises.
- Thinking Out Loud: Dyke does this a lot. He rarely has any Inner Monologue and spends page after page talking aloud to himself.
- Too Dumb to Live: Keko and his fellow villagers happily go aboard Dyke's boat to visit Malpelo, despite knowing beforehand is it crawling with giant, killer mantises, all on Dyke's sayso.
- Villain Protagonist: Dyke.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Dyke at first. Then he just goes too far and stops being even remotely pitiable.
- You Killed My Brother: Dyke's much deserved comeuppance finally arrives at the hands of Ryan's brother, Fritch.