Author and Scriptwriter

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

Wednesday 28 December 2011

This Is Horror 2011. Plus, Squee.

The very nice This Is Horror website are doing awards. You can pop over there and vote. Purely by coincidence, Angels of the Silences is on the Best Chapbook shortlist. On the other hand, so is Nowhere Hall by the ever-reigning Cate, who's also nominated for Best Collection for Strange Men In Pinstripe Suits. So there. Go and take a look. It's a lovely website anyway.

In other news, my author's copies of The Faceless arrived today. I have been drooling. My digi-cam is on the fritz, else there would be pictures. Anyways, me is happy. Hope you are too.

Saturday 24 December 2011

Last Post

... before Christmas, anyway.

It's been a funny old year, but you've probably heard enough about that from me. Have a happy Christmas, Yule, Winter Solstice, Hanukkah, Diwali or whatever.

The year looks set to go out on a high note here, anyway. I received some very good news earlier this week, but can't disclose it just it. Watch this space for details.

Meanwhile, I got the news on Thursday that my story 'The Churn' will appear in a forthcoming issue of Black Static. So thanks to Andy Cox for that particular early Christmas present!

There are only two really good Christmas songs- that is, Christmas songs you can listen to all the year round. Here's one:

And here's the other:

Merry Christmas.

Sunday 11 December 2011

Hi Ho, Hi Ho...

Well, today has been the last day of my rather long absence from my day job. Almost four months in all.

In a bizarre way, I think it's actually been one of the best things that's happened to me in a while. 2011's been a funny year; on the surface, things looked pretty good, and they should have been. I have good friends, I finally got a second novel commissioned... on the surface, stuff seemed good. But wasn't. I've been unhappy for some time, I think. The time off has given me a breathing space, a time to take stock, reflect and think about what I really want to do.

Writing, of course, remains a big part of it. I've written elsewhere about how I'm changing my approach to writing to make it less of a bloody ordeal and more of something fun, enjoyable, exciting, exhilarating... the way it used to be. In many ways, it's less of a new approach than an old one- going back to my roots.

Tomorrow, I start back. It's a phased return to work, so I won't be flung back in at the deep end. My employers have been pretty damn decent about it all, I have to say.

In a way, it's almost welcome, even though one of the conclusions I came to was that I'm going to have to change careers. (Me and the rat race are not made for each other. We never have been, but the bills have to be paid. I just lacked the gumption and self-confidence to believe I could do more.) Writing The Faceless gave me structure and a routine while I was off work. With that finished, it got harder to maintain that routine, and that's not a good thing. That way lies not going to bed till 4am and staying in bed till 1 in the afternoon. For me, that tends to mean nothing gets done, and I hate that.

I'll be going back for now, and I'll do my job to the best of my ability. But I'll also be studying part time for a counselling qualification. Oh, and writing. I think I finally know how to rewrite The Song Of The Sibyl into publishable form. And after that, there's a new novel or two to write.

And I'm going to have some fun as well. Another thing I realised this year: I've been putting my life on hold, letting work and writing consume my whole life. And that is not the way things are supposed to be.

So 2011 has been a funny year, a mixed bag- but one, I hope, that finally started to make things right again. I'm hoping that 2012- as long as that Mayan calendar bullshit is just that- will be a year where I'll build on what I learned here, and go on to new and better things.

Thanks to everyone who's listened to me moan and bitch, or given support or advice. It's been greatly appreciated.

So- tomorrow, back to work. Wish me luck!

Monday 5 December 2011

The 'Orrifically 'Orrifying 'Orror Blog

I've been interviewed by the very nice Mr Shaun Hamilton for his and Emma Audsley's The Horrifically Horrifying Horror Blog. I witter at great length about numerous things, including, of course, The Faceless. Feel free to go and have a shufti...

Thursday 1 December 2011

Thin Men with Yellow Faces

My friend Gary McMahon and I are writing a story together!

It be called 'Thin Men with Yellow Faces' and so far there be just over 1,000 words to it. And I be talking like a pirate for no reason. Yaaaarrrr!


Gary suggested the collaboration and came up with the title, plus various notes; we batted ideas back and forth and I roughed out an outline to work from. We've each written a chunk; the ball's back in my court now.

Watch this space...

Saturday 26 November 2011

Shot Guts, Getting Stoked and Missing Faces

So, last night I was in Liverpool, for another of their Waterstones' Twisted Tales events, this time promoting Conrad Williams' rather excellent anthology Gutshot.

All great fun, not least because I got a chance to hook up with some good friends. First off was Gary McMahon, on his first trip to Liverpool; we repaired to the Caffe Nero opposite the bookshop, where we met Joel Lane and, of course, the Awesomeness that is The Ever-Reigning Cate. Then the event itself, with readings by Joel, Gary and the very nice and very funny Amanda Hemingway. Following which I was invited to join the panel for a Q&A session. I babbled. A lot. Sorry, everyone else.

Very nice Lebanese meal (yum!) with Ramsey and Jenny Campbell among others, before me and Gary ran for the taxi (well, Gary ran- I had to be pushed in a wheelbarrow) to catch the train home.

All in all, a great evening.

On the 'other nice things' front, I've had a couple of recommendations for the HWA Stoker Awards- my stories 'Dermot' from Black Static #25 and 'The Moraine' from Paul Finch's editing debut Terror Tales Of The Lake District have each received one. Of course this doesn't mean they'll make the shortlist- the list of recommendations is very long- but it's still nice.

And finally, following on from Mark West's great teaser trailer, the lovely Anna Taborska has put up the book trailer for The Faceless. I think it's a stunning piece of work and am really chuffed about it, to say the least. So here it is...

Friday 4 November 2011

I'm Not Here

Instead, I'm over there, at Un:Bound, where I talk about Blake's 7 and what I learned from that last ever episode. If you're too young/American to remember Blake's 7, you'll have to go over to Un:Bound to read my guest post and find out what it was, won't you? And if you're not, you should go and read it anyway. Just saying.

Thanks to the lovely Adele Wearing for letting me play in her sandpit.

Er, as it were.

Monday 31 October 2011

Happy Halloween Everybody

Have a lovely time and stay safe.

Me, I'm staying in and having a bit of a movie marathon, I reckon. Just had a bit of a shopping spree in Manchester and seem to have accidentally bought From Beyond The Grave on DVD, along with John Carpenter's The Ward and, indeed, a John Carpenter box set.

If you're looking for some suitable reading matter for Halloween, of course, allow me to point you in the direction of Estronomicon's Halloween issue, which is now up on t'internet and includes my story 'The Psalm'.

And my first movie tonight, will, I think, be... this one.

Goodnight out there... whatever you are. :)

Saturday 29 October 2011

All A Bit Random: Halloween, Books and Stuff, Estronomicon, Love for The Moraine and Where The Chuff Is That New Website Of Yours?

Hello again... just a few odds and sods this time.

Last night was Twisted Tales night up in Liverpool, with Nicholas Royle, Lisa Tuttle and Adam Nevill all reading; I got to sip latte alongside The Awesomeness That Is Cate Gardner and stuff my face with tapas afterwards. Also bagged myself a copy of House Of Fear, Jonathan Oliver's new anthology from Solaris Books. I've read four of the stories so far, all of which have been very high quality indeed.

I was hoping to be getting the new website up and running over this weekend, but my lovely friends Mike and Rachel (who got me the domain as a late birthday present, bless 'em both) are laid up with horrible colds, so I didn't get to see them for the planned tutorial. Sorry. But the new site will arise in the near(ish) future.

In the meantime... Halloween is fast approaching, so how better to fill the days than by catching up on some horror reading? Just finished Gary McMahon's new Gray Friar collection It Knows Where You Live (bleak and brilliant, as you'd expect); before that it was Simon Kurt Unsworth's superb Quiet Houses. And now I'm back to randomly dipping in and out of the aforementioned House Of Fear, and Terror Tales Of The Lake District.

Speaking of which- Anthony Watson over at Dark Musings has posted a review of it, in which he says of 'The Moraine': 'It's tense, scary and exciting, another excellent story from one of my current favourite authors.' Funnily enough, Anthony's one of my current favourite reviewers. :)

Meanwhile, if you're looking for some spooky reading matter, you could do far worse than to pop over to the Screaming Dreams website on Halloween, when the latest issue of Steve Upham's e-zine Estronomicon becomes available. Among its delights will be a story of mine called 'The Psalm', set in the Lancashire countryside.

Anyway, if I don't blog again before Halloween, have a wonderfully spooky time!

Thursday 27 October 2011

Lessons, Liverpool, Loss of Face and Learning to Cope

Well, I finally finished work on The Faceless on the morning of Saturday 15th October- completing the last few edits with virtually minutes to spare before scooting off to Barmouth for a week of unwinding, as well as visiting my late gran's grave to pay my respects. Nearly five ruddy months of rewriting... but we'll come back to that.

Here's a funny thing. Part of the plot of The Faceless is based on the story of the Accrington Pals, who were wiped out on the first day of the Battle of the Somme: 1st July, 1916. As you can imagine, this and related subjects have been on my mind a lot over the course of the year as I pulled this monster together. But at last, so I thought, I could forget all about it.

The second day of my hols, I climbed Dinas Oleu, the range of hills overlooking Barmouth, but went in a different direction from my usual route, climbing a peak I hadn't gone for before. The main thing that marked it out was the Welsh flag flapping atop it.

After a couple of hours of climbing, I reached the summit....

To find this, and set into it...

...was this plaque.

Some subjects have a habit of following you around.

Anyway; the break was very welcome, but it's fair to say I hadn't expected the work of writing the damn book to go on quite this long. I made a hell of a lot of excess work for myself on The Faceless; it was a pretty big, complicated tale with a lot going on and I outlined the novel only sketchily. Result? A first draft of 160,000 words and a HUGE amount of rewriting to turn the whole mess into something readable.

So for the next one, I'm going to remember the lessons learned earlier this year from writing The Sight and The Children Of Moloch; outlining each story in advance resulted in a first draft that was very close to the finished product and needed very little work. Outlining each chapter as if it were a story might have the same effect on the next book. Hope so anyway: an ounce of preparation, with any luck, should beat a pound of rewriting. We'll see.

But that'll have to wait, as today the book came back from Jon Oliver at Solaris, with various edits. There's work to be done, and in the next week I'll be embarking on the next wave of rewrites... but on the whole, da boss is pleased. Which is nice.

It's been a funny few months. Since mid-August, I've been signed off work (in a call centre) with stress. One day I just couldn't seem to hack dealing with the customers. Looking back, there were a few days' warning of it, but on the whole it seemed very sudden. I always thought of this as something that affected other people, and of course when you hear someone's off with stress there's a tendency to wonder if they're swinging the lead. I'm less likely to do that now. Thanks to all the friends who sent kind words and thoughts, or lent me their ear. It's been appreciated. Had my first counselling session today, and I think it went well; I'm hoping to be back to work in the next month, but the whole episode's made me stop and think and take stock. There may well be some changes in the not too distant future...

Speaking of changes, a proper websitey thing is being put together, which means this blog's days are likely numbered. Thanks to all of you nice folks for reading it over the past three years; I'll still blog, of course, on the website when it's up.

Tomorrow I'm off to Liverpool to attend a Twisted Tales event at Waterstone's Liverpool One, and for coffee with the ever-reigning Cate (TM). So, onwards and upwards...

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Me & An American Biohazard...

Gardner Goldsmith of Liberty Conspiracy interviewed me for his podcast back at Fantasycon in Brighton, earlier this month. Here's that interview now- I start gabbing at around 6 minute 30 seconds and finally shut up around the 42 minute mark... When not cackling insanely or gabbling too fast for anyone to understand, I can be heard talking about various things I've written ('Dermot', Angels Of The Silences, Tide Of Souls and The Faceless) and stuff that's influenced me along the way (can't believe I forgot to mention Ray Bradbury and Richard Matheson...)

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Facing It

Well, The Faceless is at last complete and has winged its way to Jon Oliver over at Solaris Books. Meanwhile, I'm here in Barmouth, North Wales, trying to relax a little and rest up...

In the meantime, though, that nice Mark West fellow has made a teaser trailer for the novel. Whet your appetites here...

Thursday 6 October 2011

Fantasycon 2011: Brighton Rocked

Be warned: this will be a huge blog post. Once I started, I honestly didn't know where to stop... So ensure you have a stiff one to hand (or even a drink.)

I’ll be totally honest here; when I first heard the 2011 Fantasycon was happening in Brighton, I was not a happy bunny. It was fun for World Horror, but that was a big international event. Say what you like about the Britannia Hotel in Nottingham (and many have), at least it was central. Brighton is a looooooooooong way to go if you’re a Manc. Even when Sarah Pinborough pointed out that publishers and agents wouldn’t make the trek to Nottingham, but would to Brighton, I wasn’t convinced.

So, was my mind changed?

Read on…

It went something like this:

Thursday 29th September. The Con doesn’t start till tomorrow, but see that thing above about it being a looooooooooong way to go. So- the epic journey commences- Swinton to Manchester by bus, Manchester to London Euston by train, Euston to Victoria by Tube and finally a train to Victoria to Brighton. After a brief spell of giddiness at the sheer frenetic vastness that is the capitol, it was pretty plain sailing. Arrive at Brighton, decide to walk from the train station to the hotel. A cab would be a silly extravagance, after all.

Did I mention that the Con managed to coincide with a fairly sizzling mini-heatwave? Well, I have now. Am also humping a well-stuffed backpack and a shoulderbag. And am wearing dark clothes. Feel free to quote the words ‘Serious Tactical Error’ at any time, people…

Arrive (approximately one stone lighter and quite possibly in the early stages of dehydration) at the Strawberry Fields guesthouse, a nice and highly-recommended little place if you’re ever visiting Brighton. Not only do they do breakfast in your room, but they have these seriously cute pillows:

Yes, I was tempted to nick one. No, I didn’t. Yes, Evil Me wishes I had.

Anyway! On to the Royal Albion Hotel, home of the Con. Boozing follows with the likes of Gary McMahon, Rio Youers, Mark Morris, Steve Jones, Mandy Slater and Sarah Pinborough. (Bit dizzying to find myself in such exalted company. :D ) Everyone else goes to freshen up. Potter round and end up helping the host of organisers fill up the last few goody bags. A drink or two with TTA Press’s Roy Gray, plus Paul and Audrey Campbell. Then further boozing- alcohol blurs the recollection here, but I get to meet Sandra Norval, who’s on her first Con. She doesn’t know it yet, but she’s lucky- this will be one to remember.

Anyway, a good time is had by all. And so to bed.

Five hours’ sleep.

Friday 30th September
Up bright and early. Breakfast in bed arrives at 8.00 am. Virtuously decide on a brisk hour-long walk- sweat those toxins out! Better still- a walk on the beach! Why not?

Well, as I discover the beach a) appears to have been built on a 45 degree slope and b) is made entirely of loose pebbles which swallow the unwary walker’s feet up to the ankles. Bollocks to that. Scramble back to terra firma. It ends up being a half-hour walk, but ah well. At least some exercise was taken.

Head to the Albion feeling virtuous. Nose around the dealer’s room in the basement although it’s not officially open yet. Am lassooed by Pete Crowther, proprietor of PS Publishing, and given a stack of cover-sheets to sign for the limited edition of Gutshot. Scribble industriously. Escape to the ground floor and find my way to the first panel on ‘Small Press Publishing’. Had planned to stay for the next two- ‘Maintaining Your Web Presence’, chaired by the lovely Adele Wearing, and one on ‘Making A Living As A Writer’- but have almost been boiled to death by the end of the first panel. Apologise to Adele with much batting of eyelashes and seek out something cold and wet. Catch up, among others, with the equally lovely Anna Taborska, writer and film-maker (and maker of the forthcoming book-trailer for The Faceless.)

Later: attend Rio Youers’ reading and finally get to hear some of the boy’s prose. Oh, he’s good, folks; he’s very very good. Read him! Then on to the PS launch, which includes Gutshot. Sit between Pete Atkins and Conrad Williams sweating like Gary Glitter on a schoolbus and quenching a burning thirst with glasses of white wine. Am vaguely aware this may not be a good idea. Am pathetically grateful when a carafe of water appears. Find myself giving Graham Joyce an autograph. Dazedly think that this should be the other way round. Join Mark West, post-signing, in singing the praises of Graham’s novel The Silent Land. (Which is, like pretty much everything Graham Joyce writes, exceptionally good.) Graham takes the praise with his customary grace and good humour.

Curry with Sandra Norval, Jonathan Green and another chap whose name I shamefully can’t remember.

Back upstairs to the reading room for a succession of readings: Simon Kurt Unsworth, Gary McMahon, Joel Lane and (Lord) John Llewellyn Probert. In temperatures approaching that of the sunward side of Mercury. Morituri te salutant.

Somehow survive. To the bar. Further debauchery, the memory of which is mercifully blurred.

Four hours’ sleep.

Saturday 1st October
White rabbits!

No walk today. My morning exercise consists of intensive groaning and high-speed coffee consumption. Totter to hotel later than intended but sadly miss Reggie Oliver’s reading. Potter round the dealer’s room and am surprised to find I seem to own some new books by the end of it. However did that happen?

Solaris are giving away free books! But before I can join the queue, I bump into the ebullient (and insanely tall) Gardner Goldsmith, singing the praises of ‘Dermot’ in Black Static 24. By the time I remember the Solaris book giveaway, there’s almost nothing left. An object lesson on the price of vanity…

Shortly thereafter sleep deprivation starts to take its toll. Veg out on the sofa, much to the amusement of Gary Cole-Wilkin, John Travis and Soozy Marjoram, who swiftly immortalises the event on camera and posts it on Facebook.

Back to the hotel for a couple of hours’ unconsciousness. Rise and walk, feeling hungry. However, back at the Albion, nearly everyone I know has already decamped in search of an eatery.

Wander the streets of Brighton in search of a Chinese restaurant, or maybe that nice Indonesian restaurant we went to at World Horror last year… after half an hour, on the brink of giving up and heading or Harry Ramsden’s I find myself outside the Indonesian place. (It’s called Warung Tujuh, if you’re ever in Brighton.) Which goes to show something or other, I’m not sure what…

Back to the hotel to read from The Faceless and Angels of the Silences. Pretty good turnout considering it’s 9.30 pm. on a Saturday.

Then on to the Regency Lounge to witness Lord and Lady Probert’s ‘Teatro Proberto’ presenting Blood On Satan’s Claw- The Panto, followed by a reprise of their 20-minute version of the Peter Cushing classic(?!) Corruption.

Then follows the burlesque. Attractive young lady with not much on alternately conceals and reveals her curves with a big black pair of feathery things (my descriptive powers are getting taxed here.) Not sure how well it fits in with the Con as a whole, but hey. Then a fairly terrifying male performer appears in an act that culminates in him disembowelling and eating a (toy) rabbit (with very realistic internal organs) onstage. And garlanding himself with rabbit innards. Before collapsing, apparently dead, and being dragged off to the strains of Bright Eyes by Art Garfunkel. (Another childhood memory desecrated.) The crazy train leaves from ‘O….K,’ passes through ‘What the…’ and ends its journey at ‘Sod this for a game of conkers, I’ll be in the bar.’

It takes a couple of stiff drinks and a pint or two of Diet Coke with Sandra N. to get over that one. As a result I miss the panel on 'How To Scare Your Readers' (a description of that bloody burlesque would’ve done it.) Get up to go to Ramsey Campbell’s midnight reading, then discover the chap I’m squeezing past is Stephen Gallagher. Who’s actually heard of me. Chit-chat follows. Midnight reading also missed. Bugger.

Ah well- on to the disco!

This is a new development, but one of the highlights of the convention. FCon’s excellent Mistress of Ceremonies, Sarah ‘Potty Mouth’ Pinborough, intros our DJs, Rio Youers and Guy Adams, and the games begin. It’s actually enormous fun; only sorry not to have caught Year’s Best Horror editor Steve Jones getting down on the dancefloor, or Gary McMahon’s rendition of the funky chicken, on camera, but here’s Joel Lane boogying away with Lord and Lady Probert. This may be the first time I’ve seen Lord P with his tie loosened…

The disco ends amid much cheering and rejoicing. Sarah reminds the congregation that ‘What happens at the Fantasycon disco… stays on the Fantasycon disco.’ Surely she means ‘…ends up all over Facebook come Sunday afternoon’?

Three and a half hours sleep.

Sunday 2nd October
Awake, pack, head back to the Albion for the last time, this time early enough to catch the day’s first reading, from the lovely Ali Littlewood. Interviewed by Gardner Goldsmith for his podcast- Lord alone knows what they’ll make of that across the Pond. A last raid on the dealer’s room. The rest is hugs and goodbyes.

The odyssey back to the rainy North begins. A cab to the station this time; not making the same mistake twice. Sit next to a pleasant Norwegian student on the train home and the weekend gets rounded off with a chat about the brilliant Norwegian horror film Cold Prey.

All in all, it is, truly, the best Fantasycon I’ve been to, ever. Full stop. However…

I left before the British Fantasy Awards were presented. There’s already been a lot said about it and I wasn’t there, so I’ll direct interested parties to Steve Jones’ comment on the whole business here. There are questions to answer and be addressed.

I’ll put my hands in the air and freely admit I was utterly, utterly wrong about the location for this year’s Con. It played a big part in its record turnout of over five hundred people, plus representation from the big publishers, which I haven’t seen at FCon in a while. We need more conventions like this year’s.

I’ve heard that some have said the Awards debacle soured the whole Con for them. I really hope that’s not true. It was a truly brilliant weekend on so many levels.

I’d love to list all the ace and funky people I met for the first time or got to catch up with, but I’d end up missing someone out. You all know who you are.

Finally, a big shout-out to those brave, busy, red-shirted folks who helped organise everything and ran about making everything else happen on the ground: Marie O’Regan, Paul Kane, Martin Roberts, Helen Hopley, Jenny Barber, Pixie Pants and anyone else I’ve left out.

Tuesday 27 September 2011

FCon Minus Two...

Tomorrow I shall be setting off for the distant land of Brighton. Fantasycon doesn't actually start till Friday, but given the Con is at the opposite end of the country, I'm heading down the day before. Coming back on Sunday, probably with a badly pounded wallet.

See you on the flipside...

Monday 19 September 2011

My Fantasycon Schedule

Just over a week now to Fantasycon 2011 down in Brighton, which will be cool- a chance to meet up with various writing friends and quite probably getting a tad trolleyed with them.

So, here's my schedule. No, I won't be spending the whole time in the bar...

Friday 30th September
9pm- PS Book Launch. Among other things this will include Conrad Williams' Weird Western anthology Gutshot, which I'm, somewhere...

Saturday 1st October
9.30pm- Reading in Room 134. Possibly an excerpt from The Faceless, if you fancy a sneak preview...

The rest of the time- if I'm not in the dealer's room or the curry house- I probably will be in the bar.

So now you know.

Sunday 18 September 2011

Terror Tales Of The Lake District

Paul Finch is, as anyone who's read his fiction can testify, one of the finest British writers currently working in the field. And the emphasis is on the British here- his writing is rooted solidly not only in the landscape and terrain of the British Isles and in modern everyday life there, but also in its rich and varied traditions and folklore. If you don't believe me, just hunt down one of his many fine collections (just go on Amazon and stick his name in; I'm not doing everything for you here.)

He's also now a very fine editor, with his first anthology, TERROR TALES OF THE LAKE DISTRICT, coming out from those nice folks at Gray Friar Press. It's the first in (hopefully) a series of regionally-themed horror stories, and has (as you can see) some very fine artwork from Steve Upham of Screaming Dreams. Numerous stories by both well-established and up-and-coming names are interspersed with accounts of the region's various eerie legends. Among other tales, you'll find my story, 'The Moraine'.

Just to whet your appetite a bit more, here's the TOC in full:

Little Mag’s Barrow by Adam L.G. Nevill
The Mad Clown of Muncaster
The Coniston Star Mystery by Simon Clark
The Croglin Vampire
Devils of Lakeland by Paul Finch
The Mumps Hall Murders
The Moraine by Simon Bestwick
The Tawny Boy
The Claife Crier by Carole Johnstone
The Monster of Renwick
Jewels in the Dust by Peter Crowther
The Devil’s Hole
Above the World by Ramsey Campbell
Nightmares of Burnmoor
The Jilted Bride of Windermere by Gary Fry
The Horror at Carlisle Castle
Walk the Last Mile by Steven Savile
The Poltergeist of Walla Crag
Framed by Peter Bell
Fiend’s Fell
Night of the Crone by Anna Taborska
The Tortured Souls of Lord’s Rake
Along Life’s Trail by Gary McMahon
The Black Hound of Shap
Striding Edge by Reggie Oliver

As you can see, there's a really stellar line-up here, and I'm delighted to be included. TERROR TALES OF THE LAKE DISTRICT is now available to pre-order from Gray Friar Press

Monday 12 September 2011

Namechecked by a Legend!

The great Ramsey Campbell is interviewed by Adam Nevill right about here. It's a substantial and insightful interview and well worth a look, but also my name pops briefly up in it (in a good way.)

Ramsey's a writer I admire greatly; I can't think of another living author (and precious few dead ones) who've done as much as he has to promote horror as a branch of literature, worthy of seriousw consideration. Getting namechecked alongside the likes of Joel Lane and that disreputable Gary McMahon fellow is a boost- coming from this particular writer, it's already made my week.

Friday 2 September 2011

Gawddamnit, pardner... I been Gutshot!

Conrad Williams' editorial debut, Gutshot, an anthology of Weird Western stories, is now available for pre-order from PS Publishing.

The anthology will be launched at Fantasycon at the end of this month, and features cover art by Caniglia as well as fantastic stories by.... well, check out the TOC below.

Oh, and I'm in it too, with a story called Kiss The Wolf. But don't let that put you off.

That TOC in full:

Paul Meloy Carrion Cowboy
Alan Ryan Passage
James Lovegrove The Black Rider
Zander Shaw Blue Norther
Joel Lane Those Who Remember
Mark Morris Waiting for the Bullet
Gary McMahon El Camino de Rojo
Joe R. Lansdale The Bones that Walk
Peter Crowther & Rio Youers Splinters
Christopher Fowler The Boy Thug
Amanda Hemingway Ghosts
Simon Bestwick Kiss the Wolf
Stephen Volk White Butterflies
Gemma Files Some Kind of Light Shines from Your Face
Cat Sparks The Alabaster Child
Michael Moorcock The Ghost Warriors
Sarah Langan Beasts of Burden
Peter Atkins All Our Hearts are Ghosts
Thomas Tessier In the Sand Hills
Adam Nevill What God Hath Wrought?

Thursday 1 September 2011

Loving Angels 2: No Exaggeration

More love for Angels of the Silences has been found, this time over at Terry Gates-Grimwood's website The Exaggerated Press.

Terry says: '
Angels of the Silences is short, sharp and for me, immensely touching. The two girls are complete, three-dimensional, recognisable... A compelling, intelligent and affecting story... Angels of the Silences is one of those brief but startling works that we stumble upon very now and then. Read it and I dare you not to be moved.'

That's certainly brightened up my day, anyway. Incidentally, did I mention that as well as the chapbook (for a mere three of your English pounds), you can also buy Angels as an ebook for one pound only? Well, now I have.

I wish I could claim credit for the title, but sadly I cannot tell a lie: it's from a Counting Crows song. This one, to be precise. Rock on!

Monday 29 August 2011

Loving Angels

No, I haven't suddenly become a Robbie Williams fan- sorry, Cate... :-)

That nice Theresa Derwin over at Terror Tree has been reviewing again, this time Angels Of The Silences. And she rather liked it, too! As you can see.

Funny, beautifully written and poignant, Angels of the Silences is a fantastic chapbook that demonstrates Bestwick’s skill as a writer... Good things really do come in small packages. Try this now.

Certainly made my weekend. Thanks Theresa!

Friday 19 August 2011

Best of Tomes of the Dead Vol 2- More Love for Tide of Souls

Teresa Derwin over at Terror-Tree has reviewed Abaddon's new omnibus edition of Tomes of the Dead, which squeezes me between the covers (oo-er missus) with Gary McMahon and Jasper Bark. Or at least packs Tide of Souls together with Gary's novel Hungry Hearts and Jasper's The Way of the Barefoot Zombie.

Of the collection as a whole, Teresa says it 'contains three of the most satisfying zombie novels I’ve seen in a while' and 'represents some of the best horror writers today and indeed, three fine examples of classic zombie fiction. More importantly they are particularly diverse so the reader won’t become bored having three books in one on the same theme as they are so intrinsically different. This collection is a must for zombie fans and is great value for money.'

Of Tide of Souls in particular, she says 'With a great grasp of regional dialogue, Bestwick delivers a genuinely creepy zombie story.'

Which is nice. You can read the full review and check out Teresa's website here.

Black Static 24

This was awaiting me when I got home from work the other day. Columns by Stephen Volk, Chris Fowler and Mike O'Driscoll, book reviews by Peter Tennant and fiction! Fiction by Tim Lees (excellent) with more by Simon McCaffery, K Harding Stalter and RAMSEY CAMPBELL! Oh, and me. Yup, I'm in there with a short story called 'Dermot'. It's a bleak, nasty little tale and I like it a lot. Feel free to check it out. The magazine as a whole is, as always, well worth your time.

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Blood and Feathers by Lou Morgan

Lou Morgan is a really lovely lady- writer and interviewer and all-round good egg. I say she's really lovely not because she's reviewed my work, or interviewed me, or done anything career-boosting or anything like that, but just because I've met her at a couple of conventions and she's a genuine sweetie.

So I'm very, very happy for Lou today, because she's announced her novel Blood and Feathers has been bought by Solaris Books for publication next year.

Big congrats and hugs to Lou.

In other news, I'm eagerly awaiting my copy of Nowhere Hall by the ever-reigning Cate. There shall be bloggage when it arrives, oh yes there shall...

Monday 11 July 2011

A Blast From The Past

Anyone remember a TV series called Death Rattles?

If not, don't worry- you're in good company. Written by controversial playwright and scriptwriter Dennis Shapiro, Death Rattles was a short-lived and decidedly near-the-knuckle horror anthology series from the mid-80s, broadcast in the early days of Channel 4. It caused a fairly big stir at the time- there was pretty graphic nudity, gore, sex and violence and to cap it all it was all shot in the bleak, gritty style you'd more associate with a Ken Loach or Alan Clarke film than with the usually-cheesy effects of genre TV. I heard it actually caused questions to be raised in the House of Commons... but nobody remembers it now (proof that today's headlines are tomorrow's fish-and-chip wrappers- or they were then, anyway.)

I never got to see it at the time, however- it was way past my bedtime for a start (I was barely out of primary school when the bloody thing hit the airwaves.) Years later, though, I got to see some grainy home video recordings a horror-loving mate of mine had picked up at a car-boot sale, and was blown away.

Sadly my friend lost his video copies before we could watch the rest of the series (or I could get a copy for myself) and when I tried to buy it on video or DVD, I found it'd never been released commercially. No chance of it, either, as some dipstick apparently wiped all the master tapes shortly after release.

Fast forward to Fantasycon in Nottingham last year- there were a bunch of us, propping up the bar in the Shitannia Hotel (OK, slouched around one of the tables on chairs and couches, we were beyond standing by then) and up came the subject of classic genre shows. Gary Fry and Stephen Volk were leading the discussion- and then someone mentioned Death Rattles. I'd like to say it was me... so I will. :-)

Turned out a lot of well-known horror writers had never even heard of it, but a good half-dozen of us had. Most had seen the original run, although a couple of us- myself and the expatriate US writer Thana Niveau- had caught it through less orthodox channels. (I was quite chuffed to discover I was the baby of the group.)

With the original series lost forever, Gary Fry came up with the idea of trying to recreate the stories as best we could from memory (the original scripts, even, being unobtainable.) So I got the chance to do justice to The Children Of Moloch, which is still, for me, one of the most disturbing and distressing pieces of television- genre or otherwise- I've ever seen.

Anyway, Gary's Death Rattles anthology is out now, with stories from me, Gary McMahon, Paul Finch, John L Probert, Thana Niveau and Gary Fry himself, plus an introduction from Stephen Volk, and all for a mere £7.99/$14.00 plus P&P. Go on and treat yourself- if you dare (bwahahahahahaha!)

Thursday 23 June 2011

Pick Up Your Pens 2011

Well, last weekend saw me at the Pick Up Your Pens young writer's festival in Sheffield, which also meant getting to see my friend, the utterly brilliant Vicky Morris, once again.

It was a real blast, and a great deal of fun. I ran a workshop- on making monsters, naturally- and got do a one on one session with an incredibly talented young writer who'd come all the way from North Wales, as well as meeting some great writers- hi there Julia Bell and Adam Lowe- hearing some great spoken word work and working with some ace young people. Followed by chilling with a nice South Indian meal (must get that recipe for chili tilapia) and a brisk walk around the Peak District with Vic the next day

Big thanks to Matt Black and Maire McCarthy for inviting me along, and special thanks to Vicky- not just for asking me, but for the truly massive amount of hard work she put in to helping make the festival happen. A lot of work goes on behind the scenes of these events, often seriously underappreciated. Big thanks to all, and let's do this again sometime!

Monday 20 June 2011

Ginger Nuts

Whew! The last week's been a somewhat hectic affair. I'll tell you all about it another time. For the moment, though, let me draw your attention to Jim McLeod's rather excellent Ginger Nuts Of Horror blog, where I'm being interviewed about various writerly things... go and have a look, you know you want to. There's even a sneak preview of the cover for The Faceless.

Friday 10 June 2011


Apropos of nothing, I love airships.

They just have a grace and beauty that aeroplanes, for me, simply lack. And, I suppose, a certain kind of old-world charm.

Britain's airship industry ended with the crash of the R101 at Beauvais, France. R101 was a magnificent sight but a sadly flawed design. According to one anecdote, the crew spent the night before the final flight saying goodbye to their friends and telling their sons to look after their families, because they knew the R101 was too flawed to reach its intended destination of Karachi.

R101 was one of two competing airship designs- the other being the R100, built by the Vickers corporation and designed by Sir Barnes Wallis. The engineering team also included Nevil Shute Norway, better known as the novelist Nevil Shute. R101 was built by the Air Ministry at Cardington, Bedford. This was at the time of Ramsay MacDonald's second Labour government, and so it became a political issue- state enterprise versus private.

Shute was very critical of the R101 and its designers, but later admitted many of his criticisms were unfair: the R100 was planned as a safe, conservative design, while the R101's brief was to push the limits of the existing technology. But the ship's designers were working effectively in a goldfish bowl, which created its own pressures- when the R100 team discovered that petrol engines would be more effective than diesel (less power, but also less weight) they were quietly replaced. The R101 team couldn't because of the outcry over wasting public money.

Political pressures meant the flight to Karachi had to go ahead, come what may. The R101 was granted a Certificate of Airworthiness despite the Inspector's misgivings, and the final flight took place. The R101 left Cardington at 6.24pm on 4th October, 1930, but struggled to maintain altitude throughout the flight. Just past Beauvais the airship went into a dive, briefly recovered, then dived again, crashing headlong into a hillside at Allonne on the morning of 5th October.

The flammable hydrogen gas used for buoyancy ignited, and of the R101's 55 passengers and crew only seven men escaped: Engineer Arthur Bell, Engineer Joseph Binks, Engineer Alf Cook, Wireless Operator Arthur Disley, Foreman Engineer Harry Leech, Engineer Victor Savory and Rigger Samuel Church. Sadly Samuel Church later died in hospital from his injuries, only hours before the arrival of his parents and fiancee.

Britain cancelled its airship programme shortly thereafter, with the R100 eventually broken up for scrap.

Maybe airships will make a comeback. They're still around in one form or another, and the emergence of the new hybrid air vehicles are a blend of airship, plane and hovercraft. You never know.

Anyway, here's the R101 on its final flight. The music is called 'Final Flight', by Ian Hubball, aka Marbury. If anyone knows where the track can be downloaded, please let me know because I love it!

Sunday 5 June 2011

Short and Sweet

The last week's seen me writing a couple of short stories. This is interesting, because I've struggled with producing short fiction in the last couple of years.

The main thing has been the novels. As in the factor that's changed my working method, not just the projects that've taken up most of my time. I still love the short form for the intensity it offers, the focus, not to mention that it's a lot easier to take chances in a story- if you try something experimental in a short piece and it doesn't work, it's a waste of far less time, energy and work than if you do it in a novel. Much of what's best in horror is in the short form; one of the key things that pulled me back into working in the field was Nick Royle's anthology Darklands, a collation of short stories that showed the range and variety horror- good horror- could actually compass. The other, funnily enough, was Shaun Hutson, but we won't go into that...

When I started writing properly- i.e. producing work on a regular basis and sending it out- I wrote short fiction, at a rate of one story a week. Not writing every day, but mulling over the various story ideas I had and picking which one seemed ripe, then sitting down at a computer and writing it in a single sitting. Two or three if it was a long story.

Now of course you can't write a novel that way, not unless you're Philip K. Dick and off your dingers on benzedrine (not for me, thanks- as Chef once said, there's a time and place for everything, and it's called college.) That's a whole different ballgame, one that's about dailiness (to use Julia Cameron's phrase) and putting in a regular, sustainable measure of work each day. Difficult to mesh that with short-story writing, because by the time I write a novel, enough notes and a rough outline have been written that the writing can start straight away. Short stories were more intuitive, inspired, a place where I could still work on inspiration and fly blind. And I'd never written outlines for shorter work.

In the past couple of years, I've written a handful of short stories, usually for specific markets. It was difficult each time, and I was having to deal with the idea that maybe the short story part of me was running down.

But I have a deadline here- as well as The Faceless, I have to write a couple of stories involving some of the novel's characters, plus another for an anthology. And so...

I've started outlining. Just an A4 page of scribbled notes, mostly bullet-points, and then to work. And boy, has it made a difference.

One new story called The Sight was started on the 1st of June, and finished the next day. The same day I wrote the start of a new story, The Children Of Moloch, which is now just over half-finished. The outline is not your enemy if you're a writer; it's one of your best friends. You can even start writing without it and rough one out as you get a grip on what you're doing. But it reminds you roughly what you have to do, and it takes off the pressure to hold all then details in your head. Or to try and get everything done in one go.

I'll have to get back to the novel in the next week or so- there is a lot to do if I'm to to get The Faceless delivered for its September deadline- but it's just a very, very good feeling to be writing short fiction again, and to know the machine's not broken.

One last thing: music always serves as a good accompaniment to writing, but I couldn't find anything on my laptop that suited Children Of Moloch. And then I dug out a CD that I'd bought a couple of years ago and completely forgotten about: Two Suns by Bat For Lashes. It's a rich and beautiful album that I heartily recommend to you, good reader. Plus the music fits Children like a glove.

This track, particularly, seems to click with the story, so what better tune to play us out with? Till next time...

Wednesday 1 June 2011

Interview at Read Horror with Jonathan Oliver

That nice Mr Jonathan Oliver, Commissioning Editor of Abaddon and Solaris Books, is being interviewed here at Read Horror, where he says much that is true and worthy, not to mention nice. Tide of Souls gets a mention, as does The Faceless. So do please check it out.

Monday 23 May 2011

Busy busy busy... Ooh! Good news!

Hello folks. Did you miss me?

It's been a busy few weeks- The Faceless has been taking up a great deal of my time, not that I begrudge it. Anyway, I finished the first draft a week or so back (11 minutes into Friday the 13th- how cool/apt/worrying is that?) But of course, that means the real work is just beginning, as the process of rewrites sets in... but I'll blog more about that soon.

In the meantime, two pieces of good news! Black Static have accepted my short story, 'Dermot'. Don't know yet which issue it'll appeared in, but I'll let you know. I'm still buzzing off the acceptance...

Also worthy of mention is that I now have a chapbook forthcoming from Simon Marshall-Jones' very fine venture Spectral Press: Cold Havens will contain two short stories of mine, 'Comfort Your Dead' and 'The Climb'. Release date, again, TBC. Rest assured you'll know when I do. Me, I'm looking forward to September, when the ever-reigning Cate's Nowhere Hall is released. Spectral are producing some fantastic quality work, both in terms of the fiction and its presentation, and all at very affordable prices. If you like your horror and your dark fiction, they're well worth a look.

Right, well, can't faff about on t'internet all morning. These novels won't rewrite themselves...

Sunday 22 May 2011

Artemis 81

So, there's this film I watched a couple of weeks ago now...

David Rudkin is a playwright whose work I discovered at university and came to admire greatly. His first play,
Afore Night Come, begins as a sort of rustic comedy but darkens steadily as the anxieties and frustrations of the characters- a group of agricultural workers in an orchard in the Black Country- rise to the surface and find a focus in one of the outsiders among their party, culminating in an act of ritual violence. The climax of the play- even on the page- is a powerful, dread-laden affair that stays long in the mind. Later plays like The Sons Of Light and The Triumph Of Death show him to be one of Britain's finest dramatists.

However, Rudkin has also produced an acclaimed body of work for the small and silver screens over the years. Among other projects, he adapted M.R. James' 'The Ash Tree' for the BBC. His play
Penda's Fen is often cited as one of the best examples of the BBC's Play For Today series, not to mention a fine example of horror in the best sense. Sadly, I was only a month old when it came out, so it was past my bedtime and I missed it- and, thus far, it hasn't been brought out on DVD.

Artemis 81, on the other hand, has. So I eagerly snapped up a copy on DVD, to finally get to see Rudkin's work in performance...

Directed by Alastair Reid and running at about three hours, Artemis 81 is really like nothing I've seen before. I mean that in an entirely good way, incidentally. I'll try to give you some idea of what it's like.

Gideon Harlax (Hywel Bennett) is a commercially successful but emotionally detached writer of supernatural fiction. He finds material in a spate of mysterious suicides afflicting passengers who travelled on a particular North Sea ferry. Meanwhile, on an alien world with two moons, two 'angels'- Helith (Sting) and Asreal (Roland Curram) prepare to go down upon the Earth- Helith to prevent its destruction, Asrealare to precipitate it.

Also travelling on the ill-fated ferry are Gwen Meredith (Dinah Stabb), the woman who loves Gideon, even though he's unable to fully connect with her, and the organist Albrecht von Drachenfels (Daniel O'Herlihy.) Through a series of cryptic clues, von Drachenfels reveals to Gideon that he is being forced to play an unwilling part in Asrael's plans, which could lead to the destruction of the entire world. Gideon is the only person who can prevent its fruition, but to do so he has to come alive emotionally; he has already been warned he's 'dead inside'.

And then an explosion knocks Gideon out and sends him, accompanied by Helith, on an odyssey through a decaying, nightmarish city that may be a city of the dead, and into an underground complex where... but no. I don't want to spoil this for viewers, and what I've mentioned so far is just scratching the surface.

Is this a perfect film? Not quite; there are speeches in it that clang somewhat; you could get away with them in a more stylised setting, but in what's framed as a realistic scene they verge on the cod-poetic. There's a clumsy and unnecessary aside near the end where Gideon addresses us directly, which no-one's done previously in the entire film- but this is brief, and if there are lapses into the pretentious, then the overall achievement of the film more than compensates for them.

The performances are all round superb; this might be the best performance I've seen from Hywel Bennett, Sting is excellent in an almost 'man who fell to earth' type role, Curram is a truly chilling angel of death, and in his earthbound guise appears to be channelling Lugosi's Dracula. Daniel O'Herlihy gives a frankly magisterial performance as von Drachenfels- tormented, dignified, compassionate, a hugely gifted man trapped in an intolerable situation and trying to find an honourable way out of it. Throw this into a storyline that mixes the mythic and the science-fictional, not to mention a visually brilliant and deeply moving homage to Hitchcock's Vertigo, and you have Artemis 81; at times frustrating, but never less than intriguing, fiercely intelligent, and ultimately satisfying.

I'd certainly recommend this to anyone who likes their horror intelligent and who's not afraid of a challenge. Like all the best horror- like all the best genre material- it has genuine weight and heft as art. If you like the sound of it, you can buy it here.

Wednesday 4 May 2011

Claude Choules, 1901-2011

Claude Stanley Choules, the last known combat veteran of the First World War, has died at the age of 110.

And so ends an era; World War One, at least as far as its battles are concerned, has now passed out of living memory.

R.I.P Claude, and all the other men who suffered through that ugly, pointless war. The ones who came back, and the ones who didn't.


Monday 25 April 2011

Happy Easter Monday, Folks

Have chocolate, play in the sunshine, spend time with the people you care about, and be happy.

You've got to enjoy it while it's still there to be enjoyed.

Just saying.

Tuesday 19 April 2011

Elisabeth Sladen RIP

Truly saddened today to learn that the actress Elisabeth Sladen, who played the character of Sarah Jane Smith in Dr Who (and the more recent spin-off, The Sarah-Jane Adventures) passed away today, at the age of 63. I never met her, but she's described by all accounts as a genuinely nice and gracious lady. Rest In Peace, Elisabeth, and condolences to your loved ones.

Saturday 16 April 2011

Arr, Jim Lad!!

Here's that extract from Dark Smile's live show, Pirate Radio, that I told you about. Mercifully out of focus, but hopefully funny nonetheless. I'm the bulbous figure with the bald patch and the kazoo, sited, aptly enough, on the far left. If you listen, you'll even hear the cameraman call someone an 'arsehole' under his breath for walking through the shot.


Friday 15 April 2011

News, Kazoos and Interviews

Hello. Back again. I'm being interviewed quite soon, I'll let you know when sand where. The main reason I mention this is because 'interview' rhymes with 'kazoo', and tonight I will be playing the kazoo before a live audience.

Basically, as some of you folks may have noticed, I work with a company called Dark Smile Productions. I'm one of the Board and as well as writing numerous scripts for it, I've also acted (or overacted) in various shows and directed a few. Tonight, I'm doing all three, and playing kazoo into the bargain.

We started out recording what were, effectively, radio plays, although usually without a radio station to broadcast them on. We've tried flogging them on CD, but with very little success- put simply, unless you've got an existing franchise like Dr Who or Blake's 7, there isn't that much of an audience, and it's very hard to find one.

So, we started to change our approach, producing animations and working on material for a live show (think the Goons with more knob jokes.) The live show is called Pirate Radio, co-written by me and Richard Delafield, and tonight we'll be performing a ten-minute extract at Studio Salford, The King's Arms, Bloom Street, Salford, as part of their Embryo showcase. It starts at 8pm, and I believe we're on around 8.30.

Probably left it too late for anyone to do anything about this, but if you are in the Manchester area and have nothing better to do, they do great real ale and some decent single malt whisky. Oh, and did I mention that I'm playing the kazoo?

The plan is to video tonight's performance, so hopefully I'll be able to post it here soon. All the best, anyway!

Here's our latest animation, by the way... and make sure you watch till the end!

Thursday 7 April 2011

Over The Wire And Into The Darkness...

Yup, the threshold has been crossed. The 100,000 word mark has been broken. And, in the Bad Place, all Hell is a-breaking loose.

In the process, the first of the story's main characters fell- dead, dying, badly wounded? Who ca n tell?- and another character leapt into the breach to protect them, ready to sacrifice themself for someone dear to them, even though it's probably hopeless. Even though I knew it was coming, and it was still a wrench, because by now it's like watching it happen to someone you know.

I tend to listen to music while I work. The writing soundtrack to The Faceless has so far included Ladytron's Witching Hour, Azam Ali's Portals Of Grace, Dark Sanctuary's Les Memoires Blessees and, most recently, Lisa Gerrard's The Silver Tree. This track was playing while I wrote the above scene. Pure coincidence, but it fitted perfectly.

Wednesday 6 April 2011

Standing At The Threshold

Bit of a portentous title, but as regards The Faceless, it's also true, in more ways than one.

The current word count on the infernal beast that is to be my second published novel (crosses fingers, knocks on wood and eyes the heavens for signs and portents) stands at 99,229. Since I aim with my 1st drafts for a rate of 2500 words a day, tomorrow- all being well- should take me over that first threshold, the 100,000 word mark. Which feels a bit momentous, but probably only because I'm here making a big thing of it on my blog.

It's rattling along at a fair old rate, although this is first draft- the months between finishing this and having to hand in the completed manuscript will be taken up with some fairly intensive research and rewriting. Hell, at times this is the easy part.

Not in the last week though. Which- bejazus- brings me to the oither threshold. Basically- without wanting to spoil anything- there is a place in this novel. A Bad Place. A very, very Bad Place. Much of the book revolves around getting a disparate bunch of characters to go there. Once they are there... stuff happens. Not particularly nice stuff. Scary stuff, even. Who'd've thought.

Now, Chapter 21 was the bit where, having wrangled various characters together, they ended up in the Bad Place. Which as well as being Bad, is also rather Big. And my notes for this chapter were, basically, 'They go there, wander around, and stuff happens.'

Result? Chapter 21 is probably the single most humongous chapter in the book to date. It felt like it went on forever; at times I wondered what the hell the point of it was, and if it would ever be over. But today, I finished it. And wrote a scene where I scared the hell out of myself in the process.

Now the fun starts, with the bad stuff happening. Hopefully, it should be fairly plain sailing from here. Hopefully. But there's no way of being sure, because from this point on, all the rules that seemed established in the preceding chapters go out of the window...

So now you know a bit more about The Faceless, because you know you wanted to. There'll be a proper press release in the not-too-distant future, and hopefully there'll be a book trailer.

Stay tuned.

Till next time!

Tuesday 29 March 2011

God Help Us, I Now Tweet

Don't even ask... yep, I now have a Twitter account. The scary thing is, it has the potential to become enormously addictive, which is fine if you're Stephen Fry and a full-time genius, but not so good if you already have a day job and you're trying to write a novel here.

Still, it's kind of fun. Being an absolute techno-spastic, I still haven't managed to put a 'follow me on Twitter' button on here, or found a way to get it to feed to my Facebook page. I will, eventually, I promise.

In the meantime, if you want to find me, it's @GevaudanShoal on Twitter.

Saturday 19 March 2011

The Faceless the title of my next novel.

I.e. the one I'm working on at the minute, due out from Solaris Books next year. Finally, after much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, I figured out what to call the damned thing. So all that now remains is the writing.

At the moment, I'm about 60,000 words into the novel, having just finished Chapter 15. I'm estimating a grand total of 35 chapters (well, 34 and an epilogue), which makes the first draft length likely to be around 140,000 words. But my first drafts are always overlong and the final version should be under 100,000. So, getting close to the halfway mark.

More soon. In the meantime, if you were wondering what it was called- well, now you know.

Have a fun weekend!

An Auction For Japan

The earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan last week is one of the worst natural disasters we've seen in many years, with or without the spectre of the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant. We've seen terrifying illustrations of just how devastatingly powerful Nature itself is- and how flimsy anything we can make or do is against it- heartbreaking levels of human suffering and also truly awe-inspiring levels of courage and sacrifice, particularly in the case of the 'Fukushima 50', the 300 volunteers- soldiers, firefighters and nuclear workers- operating in shifts of 50, who are exposing themselves to deadly danger and high levels of radiation to prevent an even worse disaster. There's a very good chance these people will not be coming back alive; even if they survive the immediate crisis, 20 or 30 minutes' worth of work under these conditions will expose them to more radiation than a typical nuclear facility worker would encounter in their entire career. They know this, but they still do what they have to.

Puts your own problems into some kind of perspective, doesn't it?

There's very little any of us here, as individuals, can do. However, there are some things, which may help at least a little, which brings me to the point of this blog post.

Johnny Mains over at Occasionally Horrific is auctioning off some of his rather impressive collection of horror memorabilia to raise money for the victims of the disaster. If you weren't already aware of this and would like to take part, just click the link above. All proceeds will go to the British Red Cross.

Friday 18 March 2011

Loss of Separation by Conrad Williams

It was about time that I wrote something about someone else, so having finished this novel recently, here goes:

I’ll admit it- I was looking forward to this one. Conrad Williams has been around for a while now, and there isn’t another author quite like him in the horror genre right now, blending the visionary and poetic with the visceral on the one hand and the language of technical precision on the other. It’s like a mid-air collision between Clive Barker and J.G. Ballard had taken place, creating a grotesque, impacted-together hybrid that still manages to fly…

Which is more or less the opening image of Loss Of Separation, if you replace ‘Clive Barker and J.G. Ballard’ with ‘Boeing 777 and 747’. The nightmarish image of Flight Z, flown by a dead captain and with its passengers burning alive inside it, haunts the dreams of Conrad’s protagonist, Paul Roan. As well it might; Paul quit his job as an airline pilot after a ‘loss of separation’ occurred- i.e. when he came perilously close to a mid-air collision. Paul decamped to the Suffolk town of Southwick with his girlfriend Tamara to start a new life, only to be almost killed in a hit and run accident that put him in a coma for six months. He woke to find Tamara gone, no-one knows where. Ruth, a nurse from the hospital, takes him under her wing, but she has her own damage to consider; she’s pregnant as a result of rape.

Meanwhile, the townsfolk treat Paul as a sin-eater, bringing him things to burn- mementoes of the things they can’t live with anymore. But Southwick has secrets; disappearances and murdered children. With the help of Amy, a young woman who, like Paul, has narrowly cheated death by accident, Paul starts uncovering them, and in doing so he finds out that Tamara might not, as he thought, have deserted him…

As you can see, there’s a lot going on here. There always is in Conrad’s work. But while in the past, in novels like The Unblemished, London Revenant or Decay Inevitable, there was so much going on that some aspects inevitably didn’t get the development they deserved, here the different elements are perfectly balanced and controlled, as in his BFA-winning 2009 novel, One (and if you’ve not read that yet, you really ought to.) And while there is no shortage of imagery both simultaneously beautiful and horrific, Loss is also Conrad’s most low-key novel to date. This is a powerful, slow-burning book that relies far more on suggestion, reticence and characterisation than his previous works, without ever losing its uncompromising modernity. This is the work of a writer at the top of his form, and not afraid to shift gears and move away from what people might have come to expect him. Paul is also a departure; Conrad’s protagonists may not be Hollywood action heroes, but they’re usually fairly handy, enough to run a reasonable distance or deliver a decent punch. Paul is physically as well as mentally scarred, made deeply aware of his own fragility by recent experiences, suffering from chronic pain and wondering if he’ll ever manage to function and have a life again.

As ever, the aforementioned characterisation is beautifully delivered, and the prose, as in One, has a perfectly-balanced synthesis between poetic language and narrative flow. It’s well-nigh impossible not to be moved by Paul’s plight, and Loss contains scenes that are genuinely disturbing as well (there’s one sequence in particular on a North Sea crossing which might well put you off ferries for life.)

All in all, this is a sterling performance from a writer who continues to go from strength to strength. If you’re a Conrad Williams virgin, this is a damn good place to break your duck; if you’ve read and enjoyed his previous works, then I guarantee you will not be disappointed. Buckle up and prepare for take-off; Flight Z is about to depart…

Wednesday 16 March 2011

Dark Fiction: The Loving Of Ghosts

Hello. If you'd just like to direct your attention here, to Dark Fiction Magazine, you can hear me reading my short story The Loving Of Ghosts, from Pictures Of The Dark. Nice little sampler if you're considering buying the book. And I'm sharing space with Paul Finch too, which is always good...

Wednesday 23 February 2011

RIP Nicholas Courtney

The actor Nicholas Courtney, best known for playing the character of the Brigadier in Doctor Who, died yesterday at the age of 81.

The 'Brig'- or to give him his full name and title, Brigadier Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart- appeared mostly in the Jon Pertwee era of the show, which was slightly before my time- but I grew up reading the novelisations of the series, and so he was a character I was always very much aware of as an integral part of the show. Tall, lean, dapper and clipped, with his neat moustache and no-nonsense manner, he was a perfect foil to the often eccentric Doctor- who of course hated violence and was loath to pick up a weapon of any kind even when necessary. And while the Doctor was often scathing about the shortcomings of the military mind, the Brigadier was one of the better examples of it- an ultimately honourable, chivalrous and decent man, quite prepared to put his life on the line for the world (but particularly, one suspects, for Britain) and always, first and foremost, a gentleman.

Courtney's first role in the series was alongside the First Doctor, William Hartnell, as Space Security agent Bret Vyon in The Dalek Master Plan, way back in 1965. The character of Colonel (later Brigadier) Lethbridge-Stewart was to first appear in The Web Of Fear, starring the Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton. Subsequently, the Brigadier would appear alongside all the 'classic' Doctors, with the exception of the Sixth, Colin Baker. He was almost killed off in the Sylvester McCoy adventure, Battlefield, but the producer, John Nathan-Turner, decided against it and the Brig got to retire to the country.

Ironically, Morgaine, the villainness in Battlefield- and presumably the most likely candidate for finishing the Brigadier off- was played by Jean Marsh, who had also appeared in The Dalek Master Plan as Bret Vyon's sister, Sara Kingdom. Vyon was executed by Sara, who thought he'd turned traitor. History nearly repeated itself there...

Lethbridge-Stewart was name-checked several times in the revived series, but his character never quite reappeared, although he did make a return appearance in the spin-off The Sarah-Jane Adventures, which starred Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah-Jane Smith, another popular character from the original series.

The Brigadier was a well-loved character, and it's quite touching to note that Courtney's name is trending heavily on the old interweb today, even with the New Zealand earthquake and the upheaval in Libya ongoing. It says a lot about the affection both Courtney and the character he was most famed for were held in. Many fans wrote in to pay tribute to the man, whose reputation seems to have been- like his character- that of a perfect gentleman, and of a truly nice guy.

It's understandable; I, for one, can't help but feel a genuine sense of loss.

One rather nice suggestion I've heard is that the BBC should rebroadcast one of the classic Who adventures featuring the Brigadier- The Daemons, anyone? Inferno?- as a tribute to the actor. If you think that's a good idea, you might want to visit the Beeb's website and inform them.

William Nicholas Stone Courtney, 16.12.1929-22.2.2011

Brigadier Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart: Stand easy. Parade, fall out.