Thursday, 23 January 2020

Murder on the Arkhan Express by Byron Craft - review

This is my review of Death on the Arkham Express which will appear in the next issue of Phantasmagoria, issue 14.

Book 5 of The Arkham Detective Series
Byron Craft

A Lovecraftian story written relentlessly in the style of a pulp fiction hard-boiled detective novel straight from the pulps, Death on the Arkham Express is the Cthulhu Mythos as I have never seen it before.
On his way home from New York aboard the Arkham Express, the “Arkham Detective”, as tough a detective as you could find within the pages of any pulp novel, is soon thrown into a violently bloody mystery, which takes passengers and crew one by one till the horrific climax.
Not letting the grass grow under his feet, by page three we have our first murder on the passenger train: “Blood contains iron, and the metallic smell was extremely strong when I entered. The red painted cookery reeked of the odor. A crimson body fluid spray marred the narrow galley layout of gloss white walls. Staring at me was my waiter. His head lay grotesquely upon a stainless-steel counter. The features were twisted and torn and mangled. His dead black eyes conveyed a combination of terror and revulsion…” And this is just a foretaste of the horrors to come.
Bryron Craft manages to sustain the hard-boiled detective style with admirable glee in a tale that I doubt Lovecraft would have ever imagined, whilst sticking pretty damn close to the mythology. Fast-paced, racy, with nary a quarter given to PC niceties, this is an enjoyable jaunt that gives the Cthulhu Mythos a good old Spillane type kicking with the tongue firmly, but somehow respectfully tucked in the cheek, and at only 75 pages far from outlives its spirited welcome.
The great artwork on the cover is by Marko Serafimovic. 

Besides my book review, issue 14 will also include two of my stories (Terror on the Moors and Lurkers) plus some artwork. 

Monday, 23 December 2019

Book Review: Hidden Wyndham by Amy Binns

This is my review published in Phantasmagoria Magazine #13 Christmas 2019

By Amy Binns
Grace Judson Press 2019
£10.95 Paperback

Not without reason was John Wyndham (real name John Wyndham Beynon Harris) known as the “invisible man of science fiction”. Even friends like Arthur C. Clarke were unaware he had been living with a partner for thirty years, till he married Grace Wilson at the age of 60. “Incredibly, after years of friendship, I knew very little of John – I had no idea he had a girlfriend!”

Few writers have what could be called an exciting life, though some do have peculiar ones – and few are more peculiar than Wyndham’s.

His parents split-up when he was only young, but even before this momentous event he spent most of his childhood at boarding schools, between seven or eight in total. He knew little about a normal family life, neither parent being close to him. After graduating at university, he lived an almost monklike life at the Quaker-run Penn Club in London, where he rented a room (cleaned by the club’s servants) and enjoyed communal meals – a life significantly similar to that he had known at school. He lived in a fairly spartan single room in the club for the next thirty years, broken only with his time in the army during World War Two, though he returned back to it after being demobbed. Most of that time he and Grace had adjoining rooms. Only after they were married did they buy a house of their own for the last few years of his life.  Grace was a schoolteacher and it was partly because they weren’t married that their relationship had to be kept secret as it would have meant instant dismissal for her if it ever came out in those days. Why they didn’t marry till after she retired is puzzling, except that Wyndham had little respect for the institution of marriage after what he witnessed of his parents.  

During the 1930s, despite a steady sales mainly to American science fiction magazines he had no significant success as a writer, and it was only because he lived a frugal life at the Penn Club and had a modest allowance from his wealthy maternal grandfather he was able to survive.  Most of his stories were sold under pseudonyms, mainly John Beynon, though he did write several novels, mainly hardboiled detectives with touches of the fantastic, none doing particularly well. It was not until after the War, when he wrote his breakthrough novel The Day of the Triffids as John Wyndham that he suddenly became a success, going on to write The Midwich Cuckoos, The Kraken Wakes, Chocky, and The Chrysalids. Being almost obsessively private, though, he shied from publicity. In 1957 the World Science Fiction Convention was held in London and Wyndham was elected President of its committee, yet apart from presenting prizes his presence was remarkably lowkey. As Amy Binns writes: “There are several galleries of pictures online, but it’s notable how little the president of the affair features. Jack is there handing out prizes at the luncheon, and introducing the guest of honour, John W. Campbell, but he seems to be missing from the fun. He is not amongst the dancers at the ball or sitting with the drinkers and merrymakers. He doesn’t feature in anecdotes or memories.”

Amy Binns’ biography is detailed, interesting and sympathetic to a writer she obviously likes and admires. It is impressively researched, with some excellent black and white photographs, including magazine and book covers, and a detailed analysis of his major novels and short stories, noting any significant links they might have with his life.

It is all in all a fascinating book, shedding considerable light on one of the most important science fiction writers of the second half of the twentieth century, a man whose influence still extends far beyond his death in 1969 aged 65. He redefined science fiction, especially in Britain, and is one of the few writers whose works never date, with several adaptations of both The Day of the Triffids and The Midwich Cuckoos (aka Village of the Damned) on TV and film, not to mention the radio, and no one would be a surprised to see more of both in the future. It is one of the best literary biographies I have ever read and a must for anyone interested in the history of science fiction, especially in the UK.

Dr Amy Binns teaches journalism at the University of Central Lancashire, Preston. She has a wide range of research interests, including difficult behaviour on social media, interwar feminism and local reporting. She is the author of one previous book, Valley of a Hundred Chapels: the Lives and Legacies of the Nonconformists.

Phantasmagoria Magazine £7.99 - Amazon UK

Sunday, 22 December 2019

Phantasmagoria Magazine issue 13

Looking forward to another bumper edition of the fantastic Phantasmagoria magazine. This issue includes one of my few science fiction stories Gwargens, which has only ever been published once in Beyond magazine in 1995. I also have a review of Amy Binns' superb biography of John Wyndham - Hidden Wyndham. Plus I have a couple of pieces of early artwork. As always I am chuffed to be included in this great magazine.
Issue 13 is out this weekend and available through amazon. And at £7.99 for nearly 300 large pages an absolute bargain! And of course it has a vast array of brilliantly talented people in it with whom it is a great privilege to share its pages.
The kindle edition is available now; the print edition will be available shortly. Phantasmagoria #13 

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Latest Interview: Meghan's Harvest House of Books

My latest author interview was by Meghan Shena Hyden on her Harvest House of Books.

It can be found here.

You can also read one of my stories, which has this great endorsement: "A Christmas Takeover story from David A. Riley (you have GOT to read his stuff if you haven't)" : Lock-In

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Gruesome Grotesques #5 now available in paperback and kindle

Gruesome Grotesques #5, The Outer Zone, is now available in paperback and kindle. This 478-page book contains my story Lock-In. It also has an amazing list of contributors, and at £9.99 is an absolute bargain!



Saturday, 9 November 2019

THE RETURN by David A. Riley is our Patreon book of the month.

My crime noir Lovecraftian horror novel THE RETURN  is Blood Bound Books' Patreon book of the month.
Get paperbacks delivered to you doorstep every month for $10:
Learn more about the novel:

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Green Book

Watched an excellent movie last night on my favourite TV "channel" (amazon prime) called Green Book, which I shall be adding to our list of great Christmas movies - not that this is merely a Christmas movie by any means, but it ends on Christmas day and has an uplifting message that fits the season, just like the numerous adaptations of Scrooge to Hammer's Cash on Demand.
Well worth watching at any time of the year, mind.

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Hidden Wyndham by Amy Binns - The 1957 World Science Fiction Convention

While reading Amy Binns' excellent biography of John Wyndham (Hidden Wyndham) I was fascinated by some of the photographs reproduced in it from the 1957 World Science Fiction Convention in London, at which Wyndham was president. Also included in the link below are photos of other well known names, including a very young Michael Moorcock, who I would never have recognised if not for the label!

15th World Science Fiction Convention - London 1957 

Frank & Belle Dietz, John Wyndham, unknown, Ted Carnell, Frank Arnold, Arthur C.Clarke,
Bob & Barbara Silverberg

Michael Moorcock

Movie - The City of Life and Death

Watched The City of Life and Death on Amazon Prime last night, a brilliant Chinese movie about the Nanking massacre of 1937 by the brutall invading army of the Japanese who slaughtered over 300,000. Filmed in stunning black and white, this 2009 movie depicts events from both sides, including a Japanese soldier who finds himself sickened by the excesses carried out by his comrades and superiors. Well worth watching, especially for its unflinching realism.
The link below is interesting but if you want to avoid spoilers don't read it till after you have seen the film.
The City of Life and Death - Wikipedia

Monday, 28 October 2019

Hidden Wyndham by Amy Binns arrived today

Received my copy of Hidden Wyndham by Amy Binns in the post today from Amazon and look forward to reading it over the next few days. It's a great looking book, complete with a section of black and white photographs and an index.

I intend writing a review of it for a future issue of Phantasmagoria Magazine.

Sunday, 27 October 2019

Stories for publication in 2020

I so far have three stories due to be reprinted in various publications next year.

The latest is Help-Plants, which will appear in Martian Wave from Alban Publishing. This story was first published in Aboriginal Science Fiction.

Two other stories will appear in Lovecraftiana: Lurkers and The Shadow by the Altar.

Currently I have one story in the latest issue of Phantasmagoria Magazine: Their Cramped Dark World, and a second, Lock-In in Gruesome Grotesques #5, due next month, the Twilight Zone issue, as well as Writer's Cramp in Terror Tales of Northwest England.