Author and Scriptwriter

'Among the most important writers of contemporary British horror.' -Ramsey Campbell

Friday, 10 October 2014

Black Mountain #10: The Watcher

It hardly seems any time at all since I first pitched the idea of a serial novel to Simon Marshall-Jones at Spectral Press, but it's been nearly a year. And that brings us to the tenth - and penultimate - episode of Black Mountain.

I can't thank Simon enough for giving me the chance to do this project, or Graeme Reynolds for the formatting. And I can't heap enough praise on Neil Williams for his series of amazing and eerie covers for the episodes, many of them produced in less than a day. I think that with his work for The Watcher Neil has outdone himself yet again; I have to admit that when the print edition of Black Mountain appears, one of the best things about it will be seeing his work given a more tangible home on paper.

Black Mountain has been a fascinating project to work on, albeit sometimes frustrating - I tend to work quickly on projects because my mind is quick to wander to the next, so getting started on the last couple of episodes was like pulling teeth! Once the writing was underway, though, it was as fun as ever.

So now we're into the final stretch, which means I'd better finish here and get back to work on the final episode, The Dancers In The Pines. But first, a quick taster for episode #10:

For centuries the Bala Triangle has kept its secrets. But now Rob Markland, having investigated it from afar for so long, was determined to make it give them up at last.

Into the woods of Coed Capel and Coed Dinas, the ruins of Maes Carnedd and Blas Gwynedd, four people ventured. Only one would return, driven mad by what he’d witnessed.

By the presence that still haunted the empty farmhouse at Ty Mynwent.

That waited by the lake of Llyn Daioni, in the long-abandoned pod houses of Hafan Deg.

By the Watcher.

The UK edition is here and the US one here.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Horror Uncut, and Paul Hearn

The penultimate episode of Black Mountain, The Watcher, is out now, and I'll blog about that soon. First, though, a word about this anthology I'm in called Horror Uncut.

This project's close to my heart for several reasons. One is its theme and purpose - the austerity that's been inflicted on us here in Britain and the suffering caused by it, as this rancid and corrupt government of liars and thugs destroys or sells off our public services and victimises the poor and defenceless - and the other is that it was co-edited by my late friend Joel Lane. Joel died before seeing the project come to fruition, but his co-editor, Tom Johnstone, has done an admirable job of steering the project to completion.

Here's the TOC:

A Cry for Help by Joel Lane
The Battering Stone by Simon Bestwick
The Ballad of Boomtown by Priya Sharma
The Lucky Ones by John Llewellyn Probert
The Sun Trap by Stephen Hampton
Only Bleeding by Gary McMahon
The Lemmy / Trump Test by Anna Taborska
Falling into Stone by John Howard
Ptichka by Laura Mauro
The Devil’s Only Friend by Stephen Bacon
The Procedure by David Williams
Pieces of Ourselves by Rosanne Rabinowitz
A Simple Matter of Space by John Forth
The Privilege Card by David Turnbell
The Ghost at the Feast by Alison Littlewood
The Opaque District by Andrew Hook
No History of Violence by Thana Niveau

A word about my own tale. 'The Battering Stone' is a tale featuring Paul Hearn, a sort of reluctant psychic detective doing battle with the weird wherever it raises its head in Salford. In this story he investigates a string of mysterious suicides in the run-up to Christmas, and a monolith that seems to vanish and reappear at will.

I wrote about seven stories featuring Paul between 2004 and 2007. Two others have been published thus far: 'Hushabye' in Ellen Datlow's Inferno in 2005, and 'Winter's End' in Gary Fry's Where The Heart Is in 2010. He was a sort of down-at-heel, politically active descendant of Blackwood's John Silence, Hodgson's Carnacki and Lumley's Titus Crow, but another influence was the cycle of 'weird police' stories Joel had been writing since the late '90s, which were finally collected in Where Furnaces Burn. That makes The Battering Stone a damned good fit for Horror Uncut.

The last Paul Hearn story I wrote was called 'Effigies of Glass', which I dedicated to Joel. Hopefully it will be seeing print soon, in a forthcoming tribute anthology. Maybe it's time I wrote a few more.

You can buy Horror Uncut here.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Black Mountain #9: Ancient Voices (and a word about Black Mountain #10)

Wotcher folks. I just realised I hadn't blogged about the latest episode of Black Mountain, so here I go...

The ninth instalment, Ancient Voices, came out at the beginning of September, and delves further back into Mynydd Du's history than ever before... all the way back to Roman times.

North of Mynydd Du lie the pine trees of Coed Dinas: 'the wood of the fort.' But which fort? Rob Markland, digging ever deeper into the secrets of the mysterious Bala Triangle, was determined to find out.

The answer finally surfaced in an obscure history book: the story of how the Romans tried to claim the land around Mynydd Du for their Empire, and the terror and bloodshed that resulted.

The Black Mountain cast its deadly shadow across the centuries, bringing insanity and death in its wake. Markland had been driven hopelessly insane in his quest to discover its true nature; now, at last, I might learn why...

'His hands were webbed paws, from which sprouted claws as long and sharp as daggers. Bristles of coarse black hair had sprouted in clumps across his face, his mouth was lumpily misshapen from the long curved fangs it proved to contain, and his eyes glowed red. Even as they watched, his jaws were lengthening...'

The artwork is by the ever-reliable Neil Williams, and you can buy Ancient Voices here (UK) and here (US.) 

Meanwhile, I've just finished Part 10, The Watcher, which ought to be out in the next week or so, and am about to get started into the final instalment, due for release on Halloween.  

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Darkulture Alternative Festival: Saturday 27th September

Darkulture is a festival that brings to Manchester the best in Gothic and alternative culture. It will do so on Saturday 27th September, from 3pm onwards, at The Zoo on 126 Grosvenor Street.

There will be bands. Attrition, Cortex Defect, SYD.31, The Frozen Autumn and Terminal Gods will all perform.

There will be DJs. Aidan, Baersj, Evenstar and Le Freak will be providing some sounds when the bands aren't.

And there will be comperes. Entertainers, it says on the website. One is the amazing Rosie Garland (aka Rosie Lugosi) - poet, comic, one-time vocalist for the March Violets, and author. If you haven't read her debut novel, The Palace Of Curiosities, then you really need to do so: it's a lush, beautiful novel set in Victorian London, focusing on the love affair between a lion-faced woman and a man who can't die - or remember his past. It's a delight. I haven't read her new novel, Vixen, yet, but I soon will.

Rosie will be compering the second half. I'll be compering the first.

So if you want to see me melt down into a gibbering wreck ride herd on a carnival of the weird and wonderful, then get thee down to Grosvenor Street next Saturday.

Huge thanks to John Prince for organising the forthcoming insanity.

If you want to learn more, here's the festival's website and Facebook page.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Graham Joyce

The author Graham Joyce died last week from lymphoma. He was 59.

He was a truly brilliant writer and a kind, funny and wise man, and he should have lived many more years and written many more books.

I've written a short tribute for This Is Horror. You can read it here.

Rest In Peace, Graham.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Black Mountain 8: A Lake Of Fire

August already, and episode 8 already! Except for the first two episodes, each instalment of Black Mountain has been in excess of 10,000 words: the total word count to date now stands at 73,480 words, so it's officially a novel.

And there are still three more to go. But... only three episodes? It hardly seems any time ago since I first pitched the idea to Simon Marshall-Jones at Spectral Press. And yet here we are. It seems to have worked out well thus far - it's sold well, Simon M-J loves the story, and Spectral will now be making serials a regular thing, with James Everington's The Quarantine City up next.

Anyway, on now to A Lake Of Fire, the latest episode, which takes us back into Mynydd Du's dark past. As ever, the cover art is by Neil Williams, whose work on this series cannot be praised enough.

Beside the shores of Llyn Daioni, in the shadow of Mynydd Du, stood the village of Capel Teg.
For centuries, it hid a secret – an ancient and lethal one that reached out again and again to claim innocent lives.

Nothing remains of Capel Teg now; at least, not on the surface of things. But just as its ruins and ashes lie buried in the ground, its deadly secret lingers on.

Oscar Childwall, clergyman, faced Capel Teg’s terrible legacy and lived to tell of it. And through his papers, one of Mynydd Du’s darkest mysteries can at last be revealed…

'In the middle of a large clearing among the woods there stood a firepit, and a stone altar. A great fire was already raging in the pit; the altar itself was foul with blood, both old and fresh.

The villagers filled the clearing, dressed in white robes. Also present were the last survivors of Eleanor’s party. At a signal from – presumably – their priest or chief, one of these unhappy wretches was dragged to the altar and held down whilst worshippers armed with heavy stone knives practised atrocious acts upon him. The victim was mutilated, disembowelled and dismembered – his limbs cut off and his innards ravelled out, and more beyond this, such stuff as we would hesitate to inflict on the foulest of criminals. The victim was kept alive throughout, up until the final moment when his head was hacked from his shoulders. And throughout all this the robed figures continued to chant their dreadful liturgy...'

You can buy A Lake Of Fire here (UK) and here (US)

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Black Mountain 7: The Master Of The House (also, Go Tell All About The Mountain)

The seventh instalment of Black Mountain, The Master Of The House, is now out from the wonderful Spectral Press (here for the UK, here if you're in the US), with the usual kick-ass illustration from Neil Williams.Actually, I say 'the usual', but if anything I think Neil's illustrations get better with every instalment!

Spectral's Simon Marshall-Jones tells me he thinks this is the best yet. Is he right? You'll have to see for yourselves.

Meanwhile, the serial is drawing the attention of reviewers. Anthony Watson at Dark Musings says:

'Black Mountain is a bold venture but one which in my opinion is paying off wonderfully... Above all it’s the writing that makes this serial adaptation so worthwhile and the style and substance Simon has brought to all his previous work is here in abundance. The dialogue (both internal and external) which has so far carried the story is pitch perfect and – even though it’s only half way through – Black Mountain is already an atmospheric, intriguing and, most importantly, downright scary piece of writing.'

James Everington singles out Black Mountain as one to 'Look Out For...' over at This Is Horror (alongside Kate Jonez' upcoming Ceremony Of Flies, calling it:

' innovative reimagining of the serial novel for the Kindle generation... Of course, regardless of format, that this is a new work from Simon Bestwick, author of The Faceless, should be reason enough to capture your attention... This mixture of old school episodic storytelling and modern techniques reminiscent of found-footage films means you’ll finish each episode of Black Mountain wanting more… will appeal to the descendants of those readers who used to wait at the harbour side for the next episode of Oliver Twist to be unloaded from the boat.'

All of which, as you may guess, has left me with a rather big smile on my face.

So what is Episode 7 about?


1988: The farmhouse called Blas Gwynedd, standing in the very shadow of Mynydd Du, is the last human habitation within the 'Bala Triangle', home to a teenage boy, his downtrodden mother and his fanatical, tyrannical father.

Now, at last, the story of the farm's desertion can be told: a tale of strangeness, insanity, violence and death. The tale of one man's doomed attempt to prove himself the master of the house.

There were about a dozen people spread out in among the trees. All of them were robed and hooded – white robes.

I made some sort of sound; whatever it was, it brought Dad to the window beside me, pulling the curtain wide. For once he wasn’t shouting at me, wasn’t angry; he could tell, somehow, there was something he had to see. There was thunder, and then the lightning again, and they were still there. Dad saw them too: I know because I heard the gasp he made seeing them.

The hoods they wore were a bit like the Ku Klux Klan’s, except there was a hole at the bottom, leaving the mouth exposed. I don’t know why. Never seen or heard of anything like it before. They didn’t move, and I don’t think they made any sounds. Although you’d have been hard put to hear anything over that storm.
None of them moved or stirred. The only motion was their robes, flapping and rippling in the wind and rain. The storm lashed them, but still they stood, and watched the house.