The Pike (1982) by Cliff Twemlow

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The pike is the miniature shark of freshwater lakes, a merciless killing machine with rows and rows of sharp teeth and delicious meat which goes best with some dill sauce and new potatoes. Gobbling up a pretty swan early in the novel, the 12-feet, 250-pound pike of Lake Windermere progresses to eating a face, one foot and one drunken lady.

A group of Americans, Joe, Larry and ex-Swede Lars, who are “making millions” out of their amateur underwater photography, bustle their way into the official operation to find the pike and promptly spend most of the novel planning. A tabloid reporter called Mike snags the pike all the headlines and a lady friend for himself. And then there’s old Quinn, sorry, Ulysses “Strongbow” Grant, a scotsman with an accent and a bone to pick with the beast (it ate one of his dogs). When these manly men finally enter the water to actually look for the pike it’s found in a page or two and revealed as a hoax. Or is it?

For some reason, Twemlow wrote The Pike as a deadly serious novel, with barely any humour despite its ridiculous, discount Jaws subject matter. A 160-page novel about a killer pike should be a fun, quick read but no, this one is almost insufferably dull. For the most part nothing happens, the pike pops up only sporadically to quickly snack on some meat candy and is then gone again. The community affected by this flesh-eating monster in their midst is also surprisingly uncaring or unknowing, despite all the headlines. The seeds of a surprise ending are sown only a couple of pages before the twist by introducing a most improbable character who somehow happens to be a big fan of predatory fish. None of the characters have any personalities to speak of and some are prone to strange and slightly creepy musings, such as when Ulysses contemplates how nice it is that Mike and Emma have found love together. Aww.

Cliff Twemlow was, according to the information on the net, a Mancunian legend, a self-taught man’s man and night club bouncer who made everything from music to books to movies with seemingly inexhaustible energy. Famously The Pike was also supposed to be made into a movie, with Joan Collins already attached and a mechanical pike built (featured in a contemporary BBC news report), but the funding fell through. The possibility of a movie perhaps explains the novel’s existence and many of its shortcomings, but it’s no excuse.

* (1/5)