GrizzlyBy Will Collins (Pyramid Books; 1976)

Yes, this is a movie novelization, and yes, the movie in question, one of the innumerable 1970s-era JAWS wannabes that followed in the wake of that iconic blockbuster, is far from great–or even very good. The surprise, then, is how well-written this novel is, with admirably clutter-free descriptions, a semi-successful attempt at three-dimensional characterizations, and convincing descriptions of the psyche of the title character, a mutant grizzly bear.

Said bear has been exiled from its fellows due to its enormous size–it measures 18 feet and weighs 2,000 pounds–and is irritated by a persistent toothache. Venturing into a wilderness park the critter devours a couple teenage girls, and quickly becomes hooked on the taste of human flesh. Further mutilations, needless to say, are in store, which causes mass panic and attracts the attention of quite a few hunters both amateur and professional.

At the center of it all is Kelly Gordon, a dedicated park ranger who finds himself caught up in a nightmare–and of course also makes time for some monkey business with a hot photographer. But the grizzly’s reign of terror doesn’t slow down, continuing even after the critter is shot numerous times, which only aggravates it more.

Author Will Collins relates this ridiculous tale with a great deal of conviction, and takes care to include a lot of appropriately gruesome descriptions. Unlike most movie novelizations, this one never feels rushed or perfunctory, and contains a number of interesting historical and anthropological asides (showing the author did some independent research). Collins also has an advantage over the makers of the GRIZZLY movie in that he doesn’t have to worry about shitty bear effects disrupting the action.

Still, there’s only so much any author can do with such ludicrous material, and sequences like the one in which a horny gal strips for the approaching grizzly thinking it’s her lover don’t read any better than they played on the screen. Truly, you just can’t polish a turd.