There are no little men per se to fear in the context of the story. Professor Rushton, an archaeologist digging in the mountains of Wales, lectures the characters on local folklore and legends and alludes to that verse. He is hoping to unearth proof of the existence of an pre-Celtic race who were the forbearers of the fairies, leprechauns, pixies, and what have you of Irish and Scottish mythology. He proposes his theory that the "little people" are the genetically mutated descendants of a powerful superhuman race who had arcane powers connected to Earth's natural forces. Rushton's lecture though it appears early in the book will have startling ramifications as the story progresses.Up the airy mountain,Down the rushy glen.We dare not go a-huntingFor fear of little men.
Kirk has been enlisted by the government to investigate possible terrorist activity in the form of toxic pollution being purposely emptied into the water supply on the Welsh coast. The pollution has been traced to D.R. Products, an aerodynamic manufacturing company. On their staff is Hans Graebe, a known high ranking ex-Nazi who escaped punishment through a technicality during the war crimes trials. Kirk and his Home Office associates believe that Graebe is perhaps in league with a foreign government and has hatched an insidious plot to poison the marine life and kill the population dependent on the fishing industry in that part of the UK. Kirk sends Levin, a trained microbiologist, to gather samples of waste, run tests looking for identifiable toxins, and question Daniel Ryder, the head of D.R. Products, about the dangerous effluent being discharged in the waste water at his factory.
And what of those hippies Ryder invited to camp out on his land? Why are they still there after his horrible death? Do they figure in the story at all? Frequent references to them seem arbitrary. Yet nothing in this story that seems to be made up of haphazard incidents is ever random or inconsequential. All the seemingly unconnected threads will all tie together to form the fabric of a wicked plot. The eyebrow raising finale is suitably nightmarish enough for a Hammer horror movie.
Blackburn was perhaps the earliest genre writer who saw the nightmarish possibilities of eco-terrors. He along with John Creasey whose Dr. Palfrey novels mined this area were true pioneers in the burgeoning, yet to be formulaic, techno-thriller we have today. The X-Files, The Andromeda Strain, and other similar thrillers dealing with biological horrors owe a lot, whether conscious or not, to Blackburn.