Dying Embers out now

Dying Embers out now

Friday, 24 February 2017

Recommended reads of 2016 (part two)

Following on from my previous blog post about my favoured reads from the last year or so, which was my first blog post for some time, here is part two. I hope you find my choices interesting and that you might give some of these collections a go.

The Unsettling, Peter Rock's first collection of  short stories, from 2006, is one of
my books of the year. It really is unsettling. Some of these tales carry an
emotional charge which is quite a surprise: and a sense of dread which
will stay with you long after you've read them. Seriously recommended.

Gorgonaeon, by Jordan Krall (published by Dunhams Manor Press) is a fascinating
publication. It is a collection of fragments: brief moments of clarity, disparate at first, yet
upon reading they form a strange kind of whole. Surrealistic, grotesque, separate yet
cohesive: Gorgonaeon is unconventional yet a compelling read.

Subtle gore, Kafka, science fiction (or is it?), deserted highways, a weird stuffed bear...
Brian Evenson's A Collapse of Horses is a tour de force in relentless dread
and disconnect. Be prepared for a roller coaster ride through these tight,
breathless tales. If you haven't read anything by Evenson before,
I would suggest you start now!

American Nocturne, by Hank Schwaeble, is another superb Cohesion Press publication.
This collection transcends Americana and is as varied and satisfying a group of dark stories
as you will find anywhere. Schwaeble's writing is punchy and concise. This is a
must read for fans of dark fiction everywhere.

Secret Ventriloquism, by Jon Padgett. What can I say? This book is a journey
through your deepest anxieties. It's creepy. Padgett clearly has the knack to
get under the reader's skin and he takes advantage of that ability
all the way through this collection of interconnected tales of fear.This is the
first of his work I've read and I'll definitely be searching for more.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Recommended reads of 2016 (part one)

Recently I've been rather too busy with writing and other projects for very much blogging. So, to make up for it, I have decided to share just a few of my favourite reads of 2016. More later I'm sure, but for now, here they are:

The Best Short Stories of Garry Kilworth is an expansive, multi-genre collection of tales by a
master writer. There are so many great short stories here, spanning many years, including one of the
finest examples I've read: Blood Orange. If you haven't read it yet, you really should!
Jason A. Wyckoff's second collection The Hidden Back Room is every bit as good as
his first, Black Horse and Other Stories. It contains some wonderful tales,
particularly the title story, which is  satisfyingly strange indeed.
This is yet another great collection from Tartarus Press.

The New Uncanny is from a few years back, but with stories from, among others, Ramsey Campbell,
Christopher Priest, Nicholas Royle, AS Byatt and Hanif Kureishi, it's well worth a read.
One of the most memorable stories here is Ped-o-Matique, by Jane Rogers, which may well
change permanently your view about what to do whilst waiting around for delayed flights in airports!

Stories of the Strange and Sinister is a fascinating collection by a much underrated writer of strange stories.
In The Steam Room is one of Frank Baker's better known tales and is present here in all its mundane
glory. Baker wrote in a minor key and is therefore often overlooked; but but if you're a
fan of the weird I feel he's well worth a read.

Greener Pastures is a collection of Michael Wehunt's superb, left-field stories. Are they
horror, fantasy or literary? Probably a mixture of all three. They are certainly
complex, emotionally charged and grounded in a strange version of reality.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Nightscript Vol 3 by CM Muller


I'm very pleased to announce that my short story The Other Side of the Hill will be included in CM Muller's upcoming anthology, Nightscript Vol 3. Nightscript Vol 1 and Vol 2 were superb publications and still available. Details of Nightscript 3 are available from CM Muller's website here. Below I have reproduced the full table of contents. I'm proud to have my own story featured alongside such illustrious company:

“The Flower Unfolds” — Simon Strantzas
“Downward” — Amar Benchikha
“What Little Boys Are Made Of” — Malcolm Devlin
“Grizzly” — M.K. Anderson
“Might Be Mordiford” — Charles Wilkinson
“Palankar” — Daniel Braum
“The Gestures Remain” — Christi Nogle
“House of Abjection” — David Peak
“The Undertow, and They That Dwell Therein” — Clint Smith
“A Place With Trees” — Rowley Amato
“The Familiar” — Cory Cone
“Liquid Air” — Inna Effress
“The Beasts Are Sleep” — Adam Golaski
“The Witch House” — Jessica Phelps
“On the Edge of Utterance” — Stephen J. Clark
“Homeward Bound Now, Paulino” — Armel Dagorn
“The Affair” — James Everington
“When Dark-Eyed Ophelia Sings” — Rebecca J. Allred
“We, the Rescued” — John Howard
“Twenty Miles and Running” — Christian Riley
“Something You Leave Behind” — David Surface
“Young Bride” — Julia Rust
“The Other Side of the Hill” — M.R. Cosby

Friday, 5 February 2016

Celebrating Robert Aickman

Recently, I was lucky enough to have been given a sneak preview of the forthcoming Celebrating Robert Aickman, an Anthology of Unsettled Dust, edited by Johnny Mains. My admiration for Aickman must be well known in these parts by now, so I was very excited to be given this unique opportunity.

Perhaps it's remarkable that there has not been a comprehensive publication along these lines before. Far from inhabiting the margins, as a a cult figure, Robert Aickman has become one of the few short story writers to have made the difficult transition to the literary mainstream. This has been thanks not only to his enduring influence over successful writers, such as Ramsey Campbell and Simon Strantzas, but also to media figures such as Reece Shearsmith, Jeremy Dyson and Mark Gatiss, who have helped make his legacy wider known. Aickman's shadow is indeed broad enough to cope with the increased scrutiny that this has created. This has meant that in recent years, many more people have been exposed to his remarkable 'strange stories' than would otherwise have been the case – and I'm very pleased to say that Celebrating Robert Aickman, an Anthology of Unsettled Dust can only take this further. It's a unique mixture of fascinating anecdotes and recollections of and about Robert Aickman, and new fiction inspired by the great man – written by some of the best authors of strange fiction around today. There are so many highlights in this package it's difficult to know where to start. Perhaps the most significant contribution is that of A Choice of Weapons: Robert Aickman and Tom Rolt, which is the transcript of an interview between Tom's son Tim  and Sonia Rolt. Much new light is shed upon Robert Aickman's relationship with Tom Rolt. Then, there is the very touching An Afternoon with Aickman, by T.E.D. Klein, which reveals a melancholy side to the great man's character... Robert Aickman Comes to Fantasycon by David  A. Riley consists of a fond memory from the second British Fantasy Society convention in 1976... John L. Probert writes about Adapting Aickman, commenting on various adaptations of Aickman's work for screen and radio... Richard Dalby writes of his Further Recollections of Robert Aickman... And there's an essay on Letters To The Postman by Philip Challinor. There is so much here for the Aickman enthusiast and we haven't yet delved into the new works of fiction. Among others there are stories by Simon Strantzas (The Flower Unfolds),  Lynda E. Rucker (The Vestige), Reggie Oliver (The Rooms Are High) and Steven Volk (The House That Moved Next Door). This feast of the Aickmanesque is topped off by In Conversation With Ramsey Campbell, in which editor Johnny Mains chats to Ramsey about all things Aickman. In addition to all this and more, there are many interesting photographs, images and contemporary clippings.
What more could the Aickman enthusiast want?
Johnny Mains has done a great job with this publication, and was very kind to let me read it at this early stage. Although still in draft, I've seen enough to be sure that Celebrating Robert Aickman will be a superb publication and a worthwhile addition to the library of anyone interested in Aickman or his rich and varied legacy.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

"At First, You Hear the Silence" by Mark Fuller Dillon

Mark Fuller Dillon is a writer of exemplary short stories and novellas. I have previously reviewed both his collection In a Season of Dead Weather and his novella All Roads Lead to Winter. Both are supreme examples of story writing and are essential for anyone with an interest in strange stories, science fiction – or just good storytelling.


His latest publication is a novella called At First, You Hear the Silence. Philippe is 13 and growing up in rural Canada. He is only just becoming aware of his own mortality and of the secrets lurking deep within his family's past. Philippe endures a difficult relationship with his father – until, one day, he has the opportunity to prove his worth: he is to be left to look after the farm, while the rest of his family go away on an overnight trip. His mother prepares Philippe for this test by making a list of his duties for the morning. Nothing could have prepared him, however, for what he must endure the following day. His world is shifted on its axis by a series of occurrences which test his resolve to the extreme. He is changed forever – but how has it affected his relationship with his father?
At First, You Hear the Silence is a fast-moving, compelling read which contains the best that horror, fantasy and science fiction have to offer. Mark Fuller Dillon's writing constantly evolves. His prose is both expertly crafted and precise, deftly creating an atmosphere of unease and, ultimately, dread. This is a great read. I would defy any lover of good fiction to not read this novella in one sitting.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Books of 2015

Firstly, I must apologise for neglecting this blog recently. It's been an eventful six months or so, with work arrangements changing at home so that I haven't had an office in which to base myself. This has meant that I have spent more time actually writing (which I generally do while out and about; in one of my local caf├ęs, on my laptop), which is A Very Good Thing. However, guilt has driven me to sit myself down in the lounge, while the children are (hopefully) doing their homework, and share with you some of the books I have enjoyed recently.

Alex Hamilton's BEAM OF MALICE, his first collection of macabre stories, was first published in 1966.
It includes his most famous short story, THE ATTIC EXPRESS, which appeared in one edition of the
Pan Book of Horror Stories series. This is a classic collection of tales of unease. Ramsey Campbell
called Alex Hamilton "...one of the absolute masters of the sunlit nightmare." There's no way
I would argue with that! This is essential reading for anyone interested in horror. Available here.
This was a big surprise for me. The Fiction Desk regularly publishes anthologies, and  NEW GHOST STORIES
was their first one featuring supernatural fiction. These are subtle, perceptive tales of ghostly happenings
in the traditional sense. There are some powerful stories here, all of them beautifully written and highly polished.
AT GLENN DALE by Julia Patt, CHALKLANDS by Richard Smyth and OLD GHOSTS by Ann Wahlman
stood out for me, but most of the 12 here are well worth a read. An excellent anthology. Available here.

I loved the late Joel Lane's collection THE EARTH WIRE and DO NOT PASS GO is every bit as good,
albeit brief at just five stories. However, there is as much relentlessly downbeat intrigue in those five
tales as any reader could wish for. Described as "crime stories", nonetheless these are tales of fear,
displacement and oblivion, all set in the Black Country. Available here.

This has been one of my finds of the year: OUTSTACK by Gary Couzens is a fascinating collecion
of strange stories, taking the reader to weird and uncomfortable places. These are multi-layered,
complex tales which deal impressively with displacement and loss. The sense of place that
Couzens is able to create is impressive. Review soon. Available here.

Daniel Mills has created a powerful collection of hauntingly strange tales, simultaneously harking back to the
past and creating something quite new. The stories which comprise THE LORD CAME AT TWILIGHT
are intensely unsettling and satisfying to read. They are thought-provoking and at times frightening.
Don't miss this elegantly written collection. Review soon. Available here.
Great to see such a successful annual anthology out there. NIGHTSCRIPT is edited by C.M. Muller,
and this edition includes some really strong stories by some of the best writers around: Daniel Mills,
Kirsty Logan, David Surface, Jason A. Wyckoff, John Claude Smith... This book is packed with
compelling tales. Not to be missed. Available here.

Charles Beaumont was most famous for his Twilight Zone scripts: THE HUNGER AND OTHER STORIES
shows that he did short stories very well indeed. His writing style is not perhaps for everyone, but
he had a useful range, taking in horror, fantasy and wry humour. There are some classic tales here:
THE VANISHING AMERICAN, OPEN HOUSE, THE CUSTOMERS...  a wonderful collection. Available here.
What can I say about the enduring appeal of SUPERNATURAL TALES? This doyen of the genre
goes from strength to strength and the 30th edition is no exception. David Longhorn and
Stephen Cashmore do a great job in their tireless production of such a valuable publication. Available here.
Confession time... I saw the film SECONDS many years back, but it was only recently that I realised
it had been adapted from the novel by David Ely. The good news is that this book is every bit as good as
the film. Ely's writing style is pleasantly formal and I'm pleased to say he does not waste a word.
I don't often read anything but short stories, but I'm pleased I made an exception in this case.
Unfortunately, the book's cover does not do it justice at all. Available here.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Dark Lane Anthology Volume One

I'm happy to announce that my short story STRIKE THREE is included in the Dark Lane Anthology Volume One, edited by Tim Jeffreys and out now. You can buy it as an e-book from Amazon here, but next month it will be available as a paperback too.

The wonderful cover art is by David Whitlam (check out his website – trust me, it's well worth a look). Also included as the opening story in this collection is THE MAN WHO HATED DOGS by the excellent James Everington. His tales of unease must never be missed!

Here is a brief excerpt from my own tale STRIKE THREE:
It was then I heard the clumsy movement from the dining room. I almost collided with the first of the four boys as they staggered through into the hallway. With their slack jaws and stares, they strained and sweated under the weight of the clock they carried between them. They had grown into stocky men, but they were less tall, far less tall, than the clock.

Eager not to impede their unsteady progress, I backed away, but not before I had a good look into the dining room behind them. The mess did not surprise me too much; oily rags and tools strewn around, cogs, springs and wheels littering the floor. However, that could not explain the smell, which may have been seeping through the huge cracks in the walls. I wondered also at the breeze blocks cemented into place right up to the ceiling in front of the windows, blocking out most of the light; it looked like the arrangement was meant to form some kind of shield. To keep something out, I wondered, or to keep something in? I shuddered. At that moment, I could not imagine ever entering that room again.

Find out what happens next by buying the Dark Lane Anthology!