Tuesday 30 November 2010

Alice - The Musical

It's the dress rehearsal tonight. The show starts tomorrow, running through Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights, with a matinee on Saturday.

I've been "volunteered" to act as promp, which is something I've done once before and swore never to do again. So much for never. Ha ha.

Linden will be in one of the dressing rooms, helping the girls into their costumes. there are some quick changes during the performance.

Linden and I were both up till three in the morning Saturday night. I was making a three and a half foot tall mushroom while Linden was doing a caterpillar costume. Then Sunday afternoon till early evening we were both across the road at the Civic Arts Centre for the technical rehearsal.

Anyway, fingers crossed but everything seems to be going okay so far.

Cassie's husband, Allan, is a professional light and sound engineer and is in charge of those aspects of it. So there are no worries there. Luckily he will be available throughout the show - he travels all over the place with his job. Not long ago he was in Albania!

One of our other daughters, Christy, is involved too as assistant director. As a schoolteacher by profession she's great at helping with discipline - and has a great sense of humour. Our son, Dharamn, has helped out too, providing various things, and his girlfriend Leesa has volunteered to help backstage in the dressing rooms too. Lots of family support!

If anyone would like to order tickets and access a map of where the Arts Centre is, they should use this link .

Friday 26 November 2010

Malicious Deviance

This is a banner that's been provided for this anthology, in which my story They Pissed on My Sofa will appear.

Thursday 25 November 2010

Lovecraft - Fear of the Unknown - Documentary

This is a fascinating 90 minute documentary about H. P. Lovecraft, with contributions by people like Ramsey Campbell, Peter Straub, John Carpenter, Neil Gaiman, S. T. Joshi, etc. Not to be missed!

Watch more free documentaries

Ingrid Pitt

Sad to hear that Ingrid Pitt has died. We saw her earlier this year at the World Horror Convention in Brighton, when she looked far from well then. She was in a wheelchair, but showed great spirit.

My favourite movie of hers has got to be The House That Dripped Blood, where she played opposite the late John Pertwee, hamming it up as a horror "actor" for all he was worth. She joined in with gusto.

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Alice the Musical - Lancashire Evening Telegraph article

Youtube video of Cassandra dancing at the ReAct studio

You wouldn't think she was six months pregnant (baby due in February)! This was a practice run for the Flash Mob event held in Accrington town centre on Saturday.

This was her comment for this practice video: "Hi... this is me, (pregnant dancing girl on vid)... if you are interested in learning the routines for the Flash Mob event please use these to learn from. I am performing them the correct way, (not a mirror image) so you will have to think and not just copy. I punch my left arm first for instance.

If you have any questions post them on here.



Chris Barker

Word from Des Lewis is that Chris Barker is seriously ill. I hope that he isn't but, if he is, I also hope he recovers quickly. I have only ever met him face to face once, which was at Fantasycon earlier this year; we ended up shaking hands. He is a well read, intelligent and oftentimes amusing literary critic. His story, The Melancholy Haunting of Nicholas Parkes, is also one of the best ghost stories I've read in years, and I look forward one day to having the opportunity to read the rest of his collection, Tenebrous Tales. A very favourable review of this collection by Des Lewis is included in the forthcoming December issue of Prism.

Monday 22 November 2010

Flash Dance - Accrington

My daughter, Cassandra Webster, is at it again. This is from tonight's Lancashire Evening Telegraph.

Click on the picture to enlarge it.

Alice the Musical - photos

Photos were taken of the cast for Alice the Musical, the first production of my daughter's new drama academy, ReAct, which will be held from the first till the third of December at the Oswaldtwistle Civic Arts Centre, Union Road, Oswaldtwistle.


My wife, Linden, has done the costumes - and I provided the teapot and cups.

The Eighth Black Book of Horror

I can now reveal that my story, The Last Coach Trip, will be published next year in the Eighth Black Book of Horror.

I am particularly pleased with this story as some aspects of it are autobiographical. Until I got married I used to go on coach trips like this from the Bold Street Working men's Club to Ripon Races every August. Some odd things happened at times (they were one long drinking, gambling and eating bout) - though nothing quite so odd, thankfully, as in this tale!

Thursday 18 November 2010

The Seventh Black Book of Horror

A nice review of the anthology here on hellnotes.

Naturally, I liked the comments on my story in particular: "Much as I may be used to zombie tales I found David A Riley’s “Romero’s Children” as scary as hell with its final paragraphs oozing pure, malevolent horror."

What every horror author wants to hear!

Strangely enough, though everyone seems to view this as a zombie story, the creatures are not dead and never have been, but have been preserved in time. They are as youthful as when they first changed. The only things zombie-like about them are their murderously cannibalistic natures and the years of dirt that cover them.

E. F. Benson

Came across this on another blog: Nick Mamatas's. It's a copy of a rejection letter received by E. F. Benson back in 1907. I wonder which story this refers to.

I once had a story rejected for being too horrible. And from a charity anthology at that! It was subsequently published in a mass market paperback by John Pelan. 

Wednesday 17 November 2010

The Walking Dead


I've waited till I've managed to watch the second episode of this new TV series before commenting on it. It's all too easy to get carried away by an opening episode, only to find that was the best you're going to get.

Thankfully, The Walking Dead looks to me so far as if it's not going to be like this at all. Instead, it looks to be shaping up to being an engrossing show that could - I stress could - be one of the best to have started for the past few years. It's not up to the quality of Dexter (how many are, though?), but it has a lot going for it, not least being an interesting group of characters. The production values are high and the apocalyptic situation in which the world has fallen is credibly mirrored by the scenes, particularly those set in the city, which are every bit as good as depicted in movies such as 28 Days Later, Dawn of the Dead, etc. And, unlike some of George Romero films, so far at least the characters don't act stupidly and do obviously stupid things - one of my main bugbears of the Romero zombie films, from Night of the Living Dead onwards. The acting is excellent too.

It will be interesting to see how this series develops. At the moment things are looking good, at least for the viewers, if not for the characters in it! I look forward to seeing episode three.

Thursday 11 November 2010

Sub Rosa by Robert Aickman

I'm currently reading the Tartarus Press edition of Sub Rosa by Robert Aickman, which I picked up at a discount at the Halifax Ghost Story Festival.

Although I have always liked a couple of Aickman's stories in the past, I don't think I have ever given him a fair crack of the whip, perhaps because I expected the wrong things from him. He is not a horror story writer, nor does he write straight ghost stories. He is definitely something unique and perhaps a classification all to himself.

I would add, also, he is not someone you can breeze through. To appreciate his stories, they have to be read slowly and carefully.

Anyway, I must admit to having enjoyed what I have read so far and will do a more detailed write-up on the book later. I have just read Never Visit Venice, which is very evocative of that strangely atmospheric, decaying city, about which several writers have written outstanding stories, including Daphne du Maurier and David Sutton. This is both, obliquely, a ghost story, with tinges of horror, but many more emotions too, including a kind of sadness.

I am just about to embark on The Cicerones. I watched a short film adapted from it at Halifax, starring Mark Gatiss and directed by Jeremy Dyson, who read one of Aickman's stories at the festival. I believe the original is much better than the film, though that had its moments.


Jeremy Dyson reading Aickman's The Inner Room, with Tartarus Press co-owner, Ray Russell, at the Halifax Ghost Story Festival.

Tuesday 9 November 2010

Prism - December 2010

Finally got it sorted out with David Howe after a bit of a kafuffle, mainly over the pictures going in it. I can't say I'm still happy about having the layout taken from my hands, but I'll wait to see what the end result looks like before I comment more on that issue. The next Prism will come out as part of one hardbound volume along with Dark Horizons. It remains to be seen whether this proves an economic way for the BFS to do it. My main worry is the amount of dependency this new setup will place on the BFS with PS Publishing. Pete Crowther may well be an all round good guy, but I still feel wary about placing the society under too much reliance on the goodwill of any outside commercial concern. Still, if things fail to work out Prism can still be published as it was before at the drop of a hat. No problem so far as I'm concerned. I'm sure the same applies to Dark Horizons, at least under its new editer, Peter Coleburn.

One or two items in the next Prism may raise a few eyebrows, but I'll say nothing about them here.

Monday 8 November 2010

Sequel to Lurkers in the Abyss

My mate Johnny Mains has asked me on several occasions if I would do a sequel to The Lurkers in the Abyss for him. I've always laughed a bit at the idea, and said I'd think about it, though I didn't really see how I could adequately do one. The original, written sometime around 1968, was always intended to be a one off. In all the years inbetween, until Johnny came up with the notion, I had never contemplated going back to it.

Suddenly, though, an idea how I could do one, set today, came to me. Whether it will work or not is something else altogether, though I'm going to give it a try. I've already done about 1,900 words. It's probably going to be longer than the original, and come from an altogether different angle, and with the kind of central character I have never attempted before. He's black, from Haitian ancestry, and an undercover cop, whose despised father was a member of the Tonton Macoute.

Friday 5 November 2010

Prism - December Issue

Finished the next issue last night and it's off in the post today by disc to David Howe, who is arranging for it to be printed in book form along with the next issue of Dark Horizons. It will be interesting to see how this new format works out, though personally I would have preferred to have kept it as a separate publication. How successful this is, of course, will depend on the reaction of BFS members. They may well prefer to have one substantial hardcover publication rather than two soft cover ones.

There are far fewer book reviews this time simply because I haven't been sent any by the Book Reviews Editor, only by the Indie Books Reviews Editor, so the only books covered are from the small press. We have more interviews than usual, though, and a couple of extra articles, which may well make up. Hope so.

Tuesday 2 November 2010

Portrait of Herbert van Thal

The always surprising Johnny Mains posted this copy of a painting created for him of the late Herbert van Thal, legendary first editor of the Pan Book of Horror series. The painting is the work of Les Edwards.

If you look closely, though, you'll see another face staring out at you.

Mr Mains himself in all his fiendish glory.

Monday 1 November 2010

The Halifax Ghost Story Festival - 29th - 31st October 2010 - A Report

The weather was blustery by the time we arrived late on Friday afternoon at Dean Clough, which is on the edge of Halifax, and parked outside our hotel for the weekend. The Travel Lodge is at the far end of the enormous mill complex, a five minute stroll to where the festival was being held. Fortunately, overnight the weather improved to become fine and bright, if slightly cold, ideally suited for what we had come for.

Our first introduction to the weekend's events was a thirty minute ghost story, Lily Rose by Canadian playwright Aurora de Pena in the gloomily atmospheric Viaduct Theatre, which is literally inside an old, brick-built viaduct with a cobblestone floor. There then followed a kaleidoscopic series of 60-second plays pioneered by Screaming Media Productions, using minimal props and sets, enhanced by the superb choreography of the actors. Lily Rose was a chilling vignette, involving three principle actors. The 60-second plays, each following immediately after the previous one, had barely a pause in between. The overall impression was one of almost delerious horror and all credit must go the the troupe of actors who took part in it for their stamina. A good start to the weekend's events.

After this we went to the nearby Viaduct Cafe Bar, which became a kind of focal point for the festival, where we enjoyed a couple of glasses of house red before retiring for the night.

The following day (Saturday) started at 11 am with a session organised by Tartarus Press. This included a fascinating talk by Mark Valentine on the Yorkshire ghost story writer W. F. Harvey, author of The Beast with Five Fingers, and an illustrated lecture by Gail-Nina Anderson, "The Ghost in the Grave", which followed the curious links between Dante Gabriel Rosette's famous paintings of his wife and so many other well known icons. The session finished with Reggie Oliver's customarily masterful reading of one of his stories, this time Minos or Rhadamanthos, which is to be published shortly by Tartarus Press and recently appeared in The Seventh Black Book of Horror.

There followed a lunch break, after which writers Mark Morris, Nicholas Royle and Conrad Williams read one of their own ghost stories and Stephen Volk showed a clip from his ITV series, Afterlife, as well as giving a brief talk about this and the problems of getting genre fiction on screen.

Following another break, Jeremy Dyson, who has a new West End production running at the moment called "Ghost Stories", read Robert Aickman's The Inner Room, which Tartarus Press have published as a slim softcover limited edition specially for the festival. As you would expect from a professional of Jeremy Dyson's calibre, this was a brilliant experience, though how he managed this reading without pausing for a drink I don't know! There followed a discussion between him and Ray Russell about Robert Aickman, of whom they are both keen fans. After this we were entertained with a rare screening of Aickman's The Cicerones, written and directed by Jeremy Dyson and starring Mark Gatiss.  

Fortunately we had already pre-booked a meal in the cafe bar before the next event, and could barely believe how delicious the pumpkin soup, assorted breads, cheese and fruit were. A good preparation for  Spirits with the Spirits. This involved actors Fine Time Fontayne and Sandra Hunt reading five horror stories, including The Monkey's Paw, inbetween breaks for the audience to sample different drinks.

After this, at around midnight, we finally made our way once again back through the deserted mill complex to our hotel, a pleasantly eerie experience, enhanced by the lights that shone up the tall, stone-built walls.

Luckily, the clocks went back that night so we got an extra hour in bed, before having to pack our bags and dump them in our car before going to Sunday's events. These started with the Annapurna Indian Dance: After Life, which was a retelling of Hindu myths in the Viaduct Theatre. The costumes and vigour of the performances were impressive, as were the brief explanations provided of the symbolic meaning behind them.  

The main event for us on Sunday, though, was the afternoon's screenings of M. R. James' "Ghost Stories for Christmas" from the 1970s. Their director, Lawrence Gordon Clark, was there to be interviewed about them by film critic and author Tony Earnshaw.  This was definitely one of the event's highlights, as were the big screen showings of Lost Hearts, The Treasure of Abbot Thomas and A Warning to the Curious. There should also have been a screening of The Ash Tree, but unfortunately there was a fault with the copy and that had to be dropped.

And then it was over and we had to set off home. It had been a fantastic weekend, though, and one which we thoroughly enjoyed, both in the events we were able to see and in the various people we met. We would like to add that the staff at Dean Clough were exceptional and we would like to give special thanks to Terry, the front desk receptionist who went out of her way to be helpful.

We hope that another event like this will be held next year at Dean Clough. From Gail-Nina Anderson we understand there is every chance one will, though probably later in the year as a Winter Ghost Story Festival. If it is, we'll be there!

Gail-Nina Anderson delivering an illustrated
 talk on "The Ghost in the Grave"

Mark Morris reads one of his rare ghost stories.

Jeremy Dyson with Ray Russell

Fine Time Fontaine and Sandra Hunt during the reading of five ghost stories, including The Monkey's Paw

The Viaduct Theatre beneath Dean Clough and, literally, inside a viaduct.

Part of the Indian Hindu dance performance