Monday, 28 February 2022

Book review: Childe Rolande by Samantha Lee

This is my previously unpublished review of Childe Rolande by Samantha Lee:

CHILDE ROLANDE by Samantha Lee

Futura Publications 1989

Although this dark fantasy novel of a post-apocalyptic Scotland was published thirty years ago, it reads as fresh today, with issues that are just as pertinent now as they were in the 1980s.

Most of the story is told in the first person by Rolande her-or-himself. I say her-or-himself because, in the woman-dominating culture that rules Scotland in this future time, Rolande is that rarest of beings, a hermaphrodite, having both the genitals of a man and a woman. As only a handful of drugged, caged and pampered males are allowed to live intact as “breed beasts” in the Scotland of this story,  the dwarf Morangy, a eunuch as well as chief “healer” in the royal household, steals Rolande away and puts her in the care of a renegade male known as the prophet. Morangy realises that Rolande could be the fulfilment of a prophecy that a hermaphrodite will one day rise to become “the Redeemer”, who will end the vicious tyranny of the female rulers of Alba and restore equality between the sexes.

Rolande’s story becomes ever more complex as she grows older, especially after, as part of a travelling band of entertainers, she catches the romantic attention of the Maxwell, Chief Warlord of the Clans of Alba (Scotland), which results in her being brought into the royal household where she meets her twin sister, though neither know of their relationship yet or even that the other existed, as the events of Rolande’s birth were a secret known only to a few.

This is a complex novel, with some strongly delineated characters, and some of the fiercest violence and graphically described tortures and executions I have ever read, perhaps expected from a veteran writer of the Pan Books of Horror. Over and above this, though, it is an epic saga of a struggle to end a repressive tyranny, with perhaps one of the blackest, most evil villains I have come across in the form of the mad sorceress and high priestess, Fergael, who becomes uglier and psychotically more dangerous as time goes on. There is magic too of the darkest sort and the occasional monster, though both occur sparingly and are all the more credibly dramatic for it.

An excellent novel and one I would recommend unreservedly for anyone who loves the darkest of fantasies in a post-apocalyptic future - and a damn good story too.

 

 

 


Friday, 18 February 2022

A Grim God's Revenge to be reviewed on Big Hits Radio UK this Sunday

My latest short story collection A Grim God's Revenge: Dark Tales of Fantasy & Horror will be reviewed on BIG Hits Radio UK this Sunday on Trevor Kennedy's regular broadcast between 12 noon and 2 pm.


 

amazon.co.uk

amazon.com

Sunday, 6 February 2022

My story Lock In to be in the next issue of Lovecraftiana magazine

My story Lock In will be reprinted in the Walpurgisnacht issue of Lovecraftiana magazine.

Lock In first appeared in the First Black Book of Horror edited by the late Charles Black. 



A Grim God's Revenge reviewed in the latest issue of Phantasmagoria

There is a detailed review of my collection A Grim God's Revenge in the latest issue of Phantasmagoria magazine by Trevor Kennedy:

THIS LATEST COLLECTION of 14 stories by David A. Riley is a broad, wide-ranging selection that branches out into horror, fantasy and science fiction, with some gritty realism thrown into the mix for good measure.
    As the tagline states, “Dark Tales of Fantasy & Horror”, there is a bleak, hard edge to the author’s work overall, many of his tales very much set in the real world, one that involves murder, vengeance and Satanic cults weaved into the very fabric of their “It’s grim up North” British setting. Personally, I’ve always been attracted to this type of “kitchen sink” style of neorealism, in both literature and film, and if there’s some supernatural horrors thrown in there too, then all the better.

    Quite a few of the tales are set in the author’s regular fictional locale of Grudge End in the town of Edgebottom, “Lancashire’s shame”, a part of the world with a very dark history where some nasty stuff indeed has happened over the decades. These are my favourite types of tales by Riley and definitely those which I consider to be his strongest. The Edgebottom-set stories included here include ‘Grudge End Cloggers’ and the excellent ‘Scrap’.
    Additionally, there is also a raw and authentic tone to the delightfully titled ‘They Pissed on My Sofa’, concerning the vengeance of a harassed man against a bunch of young hooligans.
    The collection is certainly not all in this style and tone throughout though, as Riley also gives us some good old-fashioned swords and sorcery-esque fantasy with the likes of the title story, ‘Retribution’ and ‘A Girl, a Toad and a Cask’. ‘Gwargens’ is a splendidly enjoyable sci-fi yarn.
    Looking at some of the other stories featured, the opener, ‘Dead Ronnie and I’, is set during a zombie apocalypse and in part on a deserted island, ‘The Urn’ feels M.R. Jamesian in terms of style and content, while Jewish and Indian mythologies are explored in ‘Lem’ and ‘Hanuman’.
    With a beautifully vivid front cover artwork by Jim Pitts, A Grim God’s Revenge is an interesting and nice blend of some of Riley’s tales covering a period of almost half a century since their original publications.
    If you’re a fan of more edgy horror then this is one for you, with the other types of stories splitting things up well and lending something of a multifarious mix to proceedings.
    A Grim God’s Revenge is published by Parallel Universe Publications and is available to purchase from their website, Amazon and other outlets. For more information please go to paralleluniversepublications.blogspot.com.
—Trevor Kennedy

 To buy Phantasmagoria follow this link: amazon.co.uk

To buy A Grim God's Revenge

amazon.co.uk

amazon.com

 

Thursday, 3 February 2022

Craig Herbertson Interviewed about Swords & Sorceries: Tales of Heroic Fantasy Volume 3 in Phantasmagoria magazine

This month's issue of Phantasmagoria magazine contained an in-depth interview with author Craig Herbertson, whose story Wardark is included in Swords & Sorceries: Tales of Heroic Fantasy Volume 3. He discusses the book in detail, including the other stories by Lorenzo D. Lopez, Tais Teng, Chadwick Ginther, Carson Ray, Darin Hlavaz, Mike Chinn, Rab Foster, Jon Hansen, and Adrian Cole.
 
"I enjoyed the first Swords & Sorceries and I enjoyed this one more. Despite a wide variety of talented authors with a wide variety of treatments and content there is a distinctly themed feel to this anthology. Harking to the past glories of fantasy, it doesn’t let the modern reader down at any moment and it is simply a fun read."
 
Swords & Sorceries: Tales of Heroic Fantasy is a biannual collection which will reach its fourth volume in June this year. 

amazon.co.uk

amazon.com

From Phantasmagoria #20

In a new series of mini-interviews, Phantasmagoria asks some quick fire questions to genre authors about their new releases.

First up: Craig Herbertson discusses his involvement in Parallel Universe Publications’ Swords & Sorceries: Tales of Heroic Fantasy Volume 3.

Phantasmagoria Magazine: Great to chat, Craig! You have a story in the recently released Swords & Sorceries: Tales of Heroic Fantasy Volume 3. Could you explain a little about the background of this volume and the series please?

Craig Herbertson: This volume is dedicated to the memory of Charles Black, horror author and editor of the critically acclaimed Black Books, who wished to complement his highly successful series with a fantasy equivalent. Charles would have been delighted with David Riley’s tribute and even more delighted with the stories themselves. David’s Introduction also presents a detailed bio on every author, which is welcome in the fiercely competitive world of authorship.

PM: What is your story in the book about?

CH: My story is titled ‘Wardark’ and I can blithely state that it’s about a reiver from the Northern Vandergan based entirely on muscled heroes like Conan, Thongor, Brak and that goodly company. Our chap, Wardark finds himself in a pickle with some horrible creatures and a ten-thousand-year-old witch. You’ll need to judge if it’s any good.

PM: What about the other stories in the book, can you tell us something about them?

CH: Certainly. Things begin with ‘Sorcerous Vengeance’ by Lorenzo D. Lopez, a fast-paced adventure which opens with a vicious village raid, a roller coaster race in the face of long odds and ends in a battle against sorcery. If you like an antihero and unremitting dark deeds, this is for you.

As an admirer of Sir Richard Francis Burton and all that Eastern Jazz, Tais Teng’s ‘Seal in Snatchers of Jorsaleem, A Tale of the Inland Sea’ is a welcome reminder of past ages and far places. Unlike Lopez, Teng advances his narrative with a dreamlike nuance reminiscent of Coleridge and the slumber of an opium den. It’s a well-crafted tale where you don’t notice the craft.

‘When the Gods Send you Rats’ they send you Chadwick Ginther, who is clearly a master of words. Ripe with metaphor, simile and poetic language, this is nevertheless a biting tale (see what I did there?). Our heroine, a midwife, has a problem in her dystopian realm which can only be solved with the aid of the ratcatcher. Strangely reminiscent of Gibson’s Neuromancer with a faint aroma of Dickens and other subtle spices, this is a dark tale of poverty and bleak house with a strangely optimistic finale.

‘Mother’s Bones’ by Carson Ray is a thoroughly enjoyable tale with an obsessed but irreverent hero on a quest to retrieve or avenge his mother’s bones. This is another piece of polished writing which creates a genuine empathy with the intrepid Knox, a warrior whose skill in combat is smoothly and expertly described as he enters the Temple of Astoralis where bad things will happen. Knox is as irreverent as any Harry Harrison hero and has a similar invincible quality. I’ve always felt that this combination of dry humour and realism is a hard act to pull off but Carson Ray manages it as easily as an expert juggler with only two oranges. Action sequences are difficult but Ray is absolutely convincing and a joy to read.

Short of cash and owing it to the wrong people, Aaram, an immensely powerful youth, strikes a bargain with the ageing Ophiochus. The wizard has lost a charm to a witch and his gold will keep the debt collectors off Aaram’s back. With luck Aaram can return to his lover and get a steady job.

‘The Lair of the Snake Witch’ is perhaps not the place to speculate on a normal life as Darin Hlavaz sends his unlikely companions up the river C’Naa. The wizard and the youth are getting to know each other and who knows where that will lead? Green-eyed Uryell is on his way to the Grafanox and Shilnof the shapeless one is overly interested. With a little nod to Jack Vance and a huge hello to Michael Moorcock

‘The Rains of Barafonn’ is a thoughtful and poignant offering reminiscent of the great days of dystopian fantasy.

‘The Foliage’ by Rab Foster is a well-conceived tale with echoes of sleeping beauty, but only echoes. When a witch, her acolyte, three fleshers, a gravedigger and an old Town Guardsman enter a forest to see why half the village has disappeared expect the answer to be magical in nature. Foster’s one weakness is that occasionally he explains rather than shows but this does not detract from the tale and is counterbalanced by some gems in dialogue which made me laugh out loud – a rare event. The most appealing aspect of this tale is Foster’s depiction of the characters and particularly Gudruun, who is a witch you’d definitely like to encounter.

‘In the Lair of the Moonmen’ by John Hansen starts with our hero Varkez crawling on his belly towards the frog king. Wonderful stuff told with a dry and insouciant wit. There is just a hint of a minor Burroughsian warrior on the lines of A Fighting Man of Mars with Hansen’s shackled princesses and impossible skychariots. The story is long, I would regard it as a novelette, but reads so comfortably I look forward to a novel. Very nice indeed.

We finish with Adrian Cole, another novelette entitled ‘Sailing on the Thieves’ Tide’, a tale of Elak of Atlantis. Lycon is boozing in the local tavern where he meets with an old pal. Talk turns to sea battles, magic, druids and the Dragon Throne which the young and popular King Elak has designs upon. The problem, simple enough, is that it just can’t be moved. Lycon’s old pal has uncovered a map, so what can go wrong? Tell that to the wise old druid as King Elak makes some impetuous, foolhardy and irresponsible decisions to seek out some rather peculiar bones – and that is how adventures begin.

PM: I believe fantasy artist legend Jim Pitts provides the illustrations once again?

CH: Yes, indeed. Jim Pitts rounds off the entertainment with his best cover in the series and some neat internal illustrations which lend a classy feel to the production.

PM: It’s always nice to chat, Craig. Before we wrap things up, could you leave us with your final thoughts on the book overall?

CH: I enjoyed the first Swords & Sorceries and I enjoyed this one more. Despite a wide variety of talented authors with a wide variety of treatments and content there is a distinctly themed feel to this anthology. Harking to the past glories of fantasy, it doesn’t let the modern reader down at any moment and it is simply a fun read. 

To buy Phantasmagoria follow this link: amazon.co.uk