Monday 30 April 2012

Dead World by Shaun Jeffrey

By Shaun Jeffrey
Published by Deshca Press 2012
£0.97 Kindle edition

Shaun Jeffrey has written an enjoyable romp through a post Apocalyptic world years after a zombie holocaust has devastated civilisation. Anna and her husband Isaiah live with their children in a tightly controlled community inside a former prison, safe from the undead that prowl around the outside world. Through a twisted theology the undead are regarded as gods because they are seen as immortal and any attempt to destroy them is regarded as heresy. Impoverished, living off what scraps of food can be produced inside their dreary concrete world, strict controls are maintained on numbers. For every birth there must be a counterbalancing loss in numbers. This is carried out through the use of a lottery; the names included normally being those amongst the elderly. The winner is honoured by being ejected into the outside world to become one of the gods.
Anna has begun a guilt-ridden affair with Roman, a leading priest. When she tries to end it Roman takes his revenge by falsely reading out the name of one of her children as the winner of the next lottery. Even though her young daughter believes she is being honoured, that she will become a god, Anna is distraught. Roman lets her know what he has done, intending to use this as leverage against her to resume their affair. This sets off a train of events that result in catastrophe for most of the people in the community and revelations about what has really happened as Anna escapes from their community with her children in tow, and Roman, her husband and a band of enforcers set out in pursuit.
This is a tense read, with plenty of action and credible characters. And a world in which it is often hard to decide who the real monsters are. Some humans have descended to cannibalism while others have succumbed to greed, enslaving others or selling them off as food. It is a harsh, cruel, merciless world in which there is little to hope other than to live through another day.

Friday 27 April 2012

Extreme Zombies edited by Paula Guran

Pages: 384
Size: 6" X 9"
ISBN: 9781607013525
Publication Date: August 8, 2012
Price: $15.95
[This book will be published August 2012]
It's too late! The living dead have already taken over the world. Your brains have been devoured. Nothing is left but spasms of ravenous need—an obscene hunger for even more zombie fiction. Forget the metaphors and the mildly scary. You want shock, you want grue, you want disturbing, gut-wrenching, skull-crunching zombie stories that take you over the edge and go splat. You want the bloody best of the ultimate undead. You have no Zombies!
  • “Charlie’s Hole” by Jesse Bullington
  • “At First Only Darkness” by Nancy A. Collins
  • “The Blood Kiss” by Dennis Etchison
  • “We Will Rebuild” by Cody Goodfellow
  • “Dead Giveaway” by Brian Hodge
  • “Zombies for Jesus” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
  • “An Unfortunate Incident at the Slaughterhouse” by Harper Hull
  • “Captive Heart” by Brian Keene
  • “Going Down” by Nancy Kilpatrick
  • “On the Far Side of the Cadillac Desert With Dead Folks” by Joe R. Lansdale
  • “Susan” by Robin D. Laws
  • “Makak” by Edward Lee
  • “The Traumatized Generation” by Murray Leeder
  • “Meathouse Man” byGeorge R.R. Martin
  • “Abed” by Elizabeth Massie
  • “For the Good of All” by Yvonne Navarro
  • “Home” by David Moody
  • “Jerry’s Kids Meet Wormboy” by David J. Schow
  • “Aftertaste” by John Shirley
  • “Viva Las Vegas” by Thomas Roche
  • “In Beauty, Like the Night” by Norman Partridge
  • “Romero’s Children” by David A. Riley
  • “Tomorrow’s Precious Lambs” by Monica Valentinelli
  • “Provider” by Tim Waggoner
  • “Chuy and the Fish” by David Wellington

Tuesday 24 April 2012

The Female of the Species by Richard Davis

The Female of the Species & Other Terror Tales
By Richard Davis

("Writers from the Shadows #1")
Shadow Publishing 2012
Paperback 240 pages, £7.99
ISBN: 978-0-9539032-4-5
Cover Artwork by Caroline O'Neal

Richard Davis, who died in 2005, was always far better known as an editor than as a writer, with The Year’s Best Horror Stories, Tandem Horror, Space, Spectre and the Armada Sci-Fi series, not to mention his work on television with the BBC’s Late Night Horror and Out of the Unknown. But he was also an extremely good writer, as this collection shows. All the stories here were previously published in anthologies from the 60s and 70s, such as the Fourth and Sixth Pan Books of Horror, The Ghost Book, New Writings in Horror and the Supernatural, No Such Thing as a Vampire, and The Jon Pertwee Book of Monsters, which contains Richard’s last story in 1978, The Nondescript. The collection is rounded off with an introduction by David A. Sutton, an article that Richard wrote (What We Were Looking for in Horror), an interview originally published in 1969 in the literary fanzine Shadow, a further article by Richard (Horror in Fiction) and a bibliography.

These constitute all of Richard Davis’s stories, and illustrate the versatility of his subject matter and the easy style of his writing, which reminds me very much of R. Chetwynd-Hayes without the (often unwanted) humour. The title piece, The Female of the Species, is written as a journal, detailing the protagonist’s increasing fears about his sinister wife, both before and after her death. It’s a chilling story that grows increasingly tenser, involving love, death, and witchcraft. Elsie and Agnes is a straight forward ghost story, though with more than one twist, and involving one of Richard’s recurring themes of a loveless, wasted life. A Day Out is another ghost story, full of the joys of a 1960s seaside resort but with a final dénouement that may not come as a total surprise but is nonetheless shocking. The sadness of a wasted life is again the central theme of The Lady by the Stream. Elizabeth is the harried minder for her over demanding wheelchair-bound mother. Never having had the chance to marry and have a family of her own, she finds fleeting warmth from the friendship of a ten year old boy she meets by a stream, fishing. The inability of other people to let this innocent relationship endure, though, results in an appalling climax, perhaps the most violent and chilling in this collection. The Inmate is a tale of bestiality in the truest meaning of the word. I found it to be the weakest, least convincing story, though it is well written, with Richard’s customary skills at characterisation. In A Nice Cut off the Joint Helen Bentley, a surgeon, finds that doing a native chief a favour in saving his life results in a Voodoo curse, presumably from a local witchdoctor put out by her skills, and the growth of a dangerous, all demanding appetite for fresh meat. Guy Fawkes Night, Richard’s earliest story, originally appeared in the Fourth Pan Book of Horror Stories. A period piece that starts in the 1920s it tells in retrospect what happened one fateful Guy Fawkes Night when the father of the protagonist’s friend disappears. Nearly everyone believed he ran away with his mistress, but thirty years later the horrific truth comes out. In The Sick Room Richard returns to the supernatural with a boarding house with a bedroom that may have an evil spirit. A man decorating has already slipped and broken his back for no apparent reason. Everyone who stays there either dies or murders whoever they’re with. A dark, grittily told story. The Clump is set on a small Caribbean island. The clump in question is the local name for a small wood. This one, though, has a sinister reputation. Unfortunately, the young boy who wanders in to explore it when the cruise ship he is on stops by doesn’t know this at the time. Nor does his father, who is more concerned over his plans to poison his wife. The description of the entity that haunts the wood reminds me of the kind of thing depicted in much more recent Japanese horror films. The Nondescript is a nineteenth century artefact made of a fish tail and the shaved torso of a monkey, cleverly joined to look like a grotesque creature. Young Bob finds one in the family attic in a glass case. Shortly he comes across another, better preserved, under a large rock close to a local pond. Unlike the first this may not be an artefact at all, as his father finds out when he discovers what happened at a ruined mansion whose owner, a collector of curiosities, died many years ago under suspicious circumstances. This is a rollicking tale, with some great descriptions of the Nondescript and a fittingly action-packed climax.

As Dave Sutton remarks in his introduction these stories are firmly set in the era in which they were written. To me that only adds to their charm. It’s a shame Richard Davis did not write more, but at least, thanks to Shadow Publishing, what there are have been collected together and made available.

Sunday 22 April 2012

The Satyr's Head: Tales of Terror

There have been a couple of reviews of this collection: Shiny Short Fiction and The Black Abyss.

My favourite bit is where my story is described as reading "like a lovechild of M. R. James and Dennis Wheatley". I might not completely agree with this, but I love it.

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Goblin Mire

After several years of dissatisfaction with how they have handled my fantasy novel, Goblin Mire, I finally emailed Renaissance eBooks, asking them to cancel my contract with them. So far they haven't bothered to reply. On checking today to see if the ebook is still available I find, to my surprise, that it isn't, either at Amazon or Barnes & Noble. It's what I wanted, but wouldn't it have been a little more professional if Renaissance eBooks had taken the time to let me know?

Anyway, I can now set about doing a rewrite of the novel (which could do with some cutting down in size - mainly in the use of adjectives!!!), then I'll put it back on as an eBook and POD through Amazon with a brand new cover courtesy of Joe Young.

New cover:

Old cover:

Tuesday 17 April 2012


Just put the final touches to a story I did a draft for earlier. At 12,100 words this is quite a hefty story, but I think it needed that length. Scrap is about two boys whose mother moves from Blackburn to Edgebottom after the death of their junkie/alcoholic father. There they discover even worse horrors when they decide to go searching for scrap metal to sell to a local dealer and their travels take them to the area of Grudge End and a house with a malevolent ghost. As their family life takes a turn for the worse they try to make use of the ghost to help them out, with horrific results.

Monday 16 April 2012

Extreme Zombies

Prime Books have just revealed the cover for Extreme Zombies edited by Paula Guran, in which she will be reprinting my story Romero's Children, which was originally published in Charles Black's Seventh Black Book of Horror.

Friday 13 April 2012


I think, apart perhaps from a couple of minor alterations, I have now finished Lurkers, a sequel to The Lurkers in the Abyss, which has ended up at 9,500 words. I emailed a copy to Johnny Mains to hear his reaction; thankfully positive. Very positive.

"Ending's one of your strongest for a while, too."

Now, for the next project...

Thursday 12 April 2012

The Female of the Species And Other Terror Tales by Richard David

Just ordered a copy of The Female of the Species And Other Terror Tales by Richard Davis, which has just been published by Shadow Publishing. It's the first time that his stories have been published as a collection, even though it's some years now since his death.

Back in 1971 Richard Davis, who is perhaps better known as an editor than as a writer, was one of the first people to professionally publish any of my work, when he chose After Nightfall for The Year's Best Horror Stories 1, published by Sphere Books in the UK and DAW Books in America. I didn't come across many of his stories, though Guy Fawkes Night I can still vividly remember over forty years since I first read it, which says a lot for the quality and power of the writing.

Collected here are:

The Female of the Species,
Elsie and Agnes,
A Day Out,
The Lady by the Stream,
The Inmate,
A Nice Cut off the Joint,
Guy Fawkes Night,
The Time of Waiting,
The Sick Room,
The Clump,
The Nondescript,

What We Were Looking for in Horror,
An Interview with Richard Davis,
Horror in Fiction,

and an introduction by David A. Sutton.

Sequel to Lurkers in the Abyss

Some time ago Johnny Mains asked if I would write a sequel to Lurkers in the Abyss. Though a bit dubious at the idea - I didn't see how I could do it - I agreed to have a go.

Since then, from time to time, I have tinkered with the project, including one attempt which reached 5,000 words before I abandoned it. I really thought it was something I wouldn't be able to do. After all, the original was written in 1969, appearing the year after in the Eleventh Pan Book of Horror, a long time ago.

Last night, though, I finally managed to finish the first draft. At 10,000 words it's two and a half times longer than the original story and goes in some very strange directions. Next I need to start work on revisions, which should take about a week.

Then think of a title.

At the moment it has the utilitarian and unsatisfactory one of New Lurkers.

These are the opening lines:

It had all gone wrong, Stupidly, stupidly, stupidly wrong.
And someone would suffer.
Of that, Mike was serious. He slammed the car at as tight a turn as he could manage onto the next street, careering past a gaggle of blank faced women, kids in tow, on their way from school. In the gloom of a wintery afternoon they looked as pale as putty, and with about as much attractiveness. Stupid cows! Mike pressed on the horn, scattering them as he accelerated between parked cars down the narrow street. Behind him police sirens sounded menacingly loud and he knew he would have to abandon the car soon. They’d have its details. It wouldn’t be long, either, before a police helicopter had him in sight. With their infra red cameras he’d have no chance to escape after that.
Grinding his teeth, he thought again about that idiot. Morgan had as much idea how to rob a bank as he had of brain surgery – which was something Mike would gladly perform the next time they met, though he had a feeling it would be many years before Morgan would be walking the streets again. The police must have nabbed him by now for certain.
            At the next junction, Mike spun the car in front of a large white van, sending it up onto the kerb, then saw his opportunity: a stretch of shops, a bargain-basement furniture store with a car park out front, and an abandoned church...

Wednesday 11 April 2012

Thai Ghost Movies - The Ghost of Mae Nak

Having made a start of watching Thai ghost/horror movies, last night we took a stab at The Ghost of Mae Nak. I'm glad that I watched Nang Nak first as this was a sequel set in modern times. Its plot was much more complicated than the earlier film and, moving from the rural setting of Nang Nak, this is based in present day Bangkok. It's a much more violent movie, with influences from sources such as The Omen in a series of bizarre deaths that befall those who fall foul of the ghost. One man, a thief, mirroring the famous sheet of glass decapitation scene in the Omen films, is diced not by one but by two sheets in a spectacularly gruesome comeuppance. The scenes of Bangkok itself are fascinating, especially in its backstreets and older areas, that contrast so vividly with its ultra modern skyscrapers. As in all the Thai movies I've seen recently the photography is superb. Unlike Nang Nak, the chief focus of this film is on the horror and violence, and I must admit I prefer the earlier film. Nor is the ghost as chilling as in Shutter, where it's seen less but more effectively. Still, a well done horror film with quite some meat to its bones.

Tuesday 10 April 2012

Thai Ghost Movies - Shutter and Nang Nak

Watched two tremendously good Thai ghost movies this weekend. I never before realised just how good Thai films could be. These were a revelation, not only in their technical prowess (which was second to none) but also in the depth and sincerity of their story-telling.

Shutter is the more modern of the two, and is a tale of ghostly revenge, though not the one you may initially think it is going to be about. It also has one of the most chilling photos I have ever seen in a film.

Nang Nak is set in the recent past and is based on a Thai legend about a devoted and faithful wife who, even after her death, waits for the return of her husband from the war. It is chillingly beautiful with a unique sadness.

Sunday 8 April 2012

Glory and Splendour: Tales of the Weird by Alex Miles

Glory and Splendour is the first kindle book I have actually bought to download (all the rest have been free). It is also the first ebook published by Karoshi Books, whose purpose is to bring out new works by new and unpublished authors, a splendid idea which has been lucky in coming across a writer of exceptional talent.

The subtitle, Tales of the Weird, is acutely accurate. Although some horrendous things happen in several of these tales, they are not horror stories. Although the supernatural occurs in some strange forms in some of them, neither are they tales of the supernatural. Nor SF, though there are vaguely science fictional elements here and there. What is universal to all of them is a clean, distinctive writing style, which keeps a brisk, no nonsense pace throughout. If there are any influences in these stories they are, as Michel Parry puts it in his introduction, those of Eastern Europe, principally Kafka. There are six stories in this collection: The Judge, Glory and Splendour, Deep Stitches, Hitting Targets, Life Beggar, and The Lotus Device. The Judge is about a mechanical computer which has been entrusted with acting as judge, jury and executioner-cum-inflicter of maiming in a steam punk present day, which may not be as infallible as people are instilled to believe. Glory and Splendour is a tale of plague, decay and self deception, with a fairy-tale like red paint whose magical quality is to make the ugly look beautiful. Deep Stitches is another alternative science story, in which psychology utilises an insectoid version of nano-technology to change people's memories and sense of self. An unscrupulous estate agent in Hitting Targets comes up against an insane gamer turned serial killer, the nearest any of these stories comes to straight horror, combining extreme violence with the darkest of dark humour. In Life Beggar, approaching the end of an unfulfilled life, the protagonist visits a strange, maybe mystical pedlar who sells him a drink which enables him, on touching anyone, to experience their lives in a flash. The protagonist of The Lotus Device, on the other hand, has a job he hates and a boring life. From possibly the same pedlar as in Life Beggar, he obtains a watch that allows him to forget and skip those hours of the day he doesn't want to remember, leaving only the highlights, with unforseen, nightmarish results. 

Satisfying varied, with plots whose threads are unpredictable, this is an impressively original debut collection from a writer I am sure we'll see more of in the future.

Friday 6 April 2012

Shadow Plays by Reggie Oliver

Finished reading the M. R. James play in this beautiful volume from Egaeus Press. It's the only piece, apart from the introductions to each story, that I hadn't already read in earlier volumes. The play, though, is worth the price of the book alone. Included amongst the characters is, of course, James and A. C. Benson. I would love one day to see this performed on stage, though it was engrossing enough as a good read, by turns enlightening, amusing and, ultimately, quite sad. There is an ongoing Jamesian story which is brilliant too.

Thursday 5 April 2012

The Woman in Black -1989 TV Dramatisation

As a result of temporarily not having cable (till Virgin get round to replacing our box with one that actually works!) we watched the 1989 TV production of The Woman in Black on the computer last night. What an incredibly brilliant dramatisation (by Nigel Kneale) this was! I haven't seen the new Hammer version yet, but if that is only half as good I'd be satisfied. This TV adaptation is the second first rate ghost story we've watched this week, after the equally marvellous The Awakening.

Although, coming through Youtube, the picture quality was far from what you would expect via DVD, it was still more than well worth watching. One scene actually sent an ice cold shiver up my spine!

Monday 2 April 2012

Goblin Mire - new cover, etc

I've had my fantasy novel Goblin Mire available as an ebook through Renaissance eBooks for about four and a half years, but it has not done very well. Part of this, I am sure, is because of the awful amateurish cover which my publisher slapped on it.

On his own initiative Joe Young produced an alternative cover, which I believe is considerably better and which I am really pleased with. As a result, I have emailed Renaissance eBooks to cancel my contract with them, so I can go through the novel and revise it before making it available again, probably through Amazon, as an ebook and a POD paperback, using Joe's cover.

Hopefully this time it will have more success.

This is Joe's cover: