Fleshbait is a British horror novel, published in 1979 by New English Library. It was written by David Holman and Larry Pryce.
Published at the height of the ‘animal attack’ craze that swept British pulp fiction publishing in the late 1970s, Fleshbait also seems to want to cash in on the surprising popularity of the Piranha paperback tie-in by John Sayles – it wasn’t unusual at the time for the novelisation of a movie to become a best seller even when the film itself bombed (The Legacy is a prime example of this), and while Piranha was a minor success as a film, in the UK the paperback was surprisingly popular. The cover image for Fleshbait brings that book to mind.
However, Fleshbait isn’t about piranha at all. Instead, it’s ordinary British river and sea fish that suddenly fight back, attacking fishermen and people paddling in the sea. But as an exploitation novel, this leaves much to be desired, and certainly doesn’t live up to the promise of the cover, with the fish drowning their victims rather than eating them. While written with the usual stock characters, the 160 page novel lacks both the salacious sex and gory violence that the horror pulp fiction genre demands. As the back cover blurb testifies:
“A young girl overwhelmed and drowned… by fish. A paddling child swept out to sea… by fish. Boats smashed and sunk… by fish. As the horror spreads along the holiday beaches, so do the questions. Has chemical pollution affected the sea creatures, turning them into savage, motiveless killers? Of have the fish, so long hunted and killed for sport, turned against their tormentors? Is this the final apocalyptic revenge of a species?”
This appears to be the only collaboration by the authors. There is a playwright called David Holman and a rock music biographer named Larry Pryce, but it is unclear if either are the author of this book.
David Flint, Horrorpedia