Dying Embers out now

Dying Embers out now

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!

Sunday 11 January 2015

Review: Knock Knock by S.P. Miskowski

S.P. Miskowski's novel Knock Knock was first published a few years back, and introduces the unsuspecting reader to Skillute, a failed logging town in Washington, where "... few events rose in significance above the routine of work, Sunday worship, and the weekend six-pack." It soon becomes apparent, however, that an undercurrent of evil exists just beneath the surface.

Miskowski is a skilled writer, and she intertwines the past and present with ease. The reader is drawn in relentlessly, ever more eager to find out how the actions of the three young girls during the 1960s can cast such a long shadow over the present-day. The local superstition of "Miss Knocks" that they unearth rings true in such a bleak setting; and, when the shocks come, they are very effective.

This is a story steeped in atmosphere, from the dark woods surrounding Skillute to the dilapidated Misty Mart local store. All the characters are well observed and darkly believable. The tension, which builds steadily throughout, is aided by the structure Miskowski uses; each chapter is told from a particular perspective, which is striking and makes the book stand out. Myriad pathways are formed, rich detail is revealed, and connections are made at different stages of the narrative.

I must admit I found it difficult to put this book down – I read Knock Knock in a couple of sittings, and I'm about to follow it up with Delphine Dodd, the next in the Skillute cycle. This kind of tale lends itself perfectly to a follow-up, and I'm pleased that Miskowsky has since added two more novellas, Astoria and, more recently, In The Light.

Lovers of intelligent, literary horror will appreciate Knock Knock as a worthy addition to a fine tradition, and it also manages to brings its own twist to the genre. It is lovingly-crafted and tense to the last page. Highly recommended.