Author and Scriptwriter

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

Tuesday 31 December 2013

And so we say farewell... ending the year on a high

2013 hasn't been the nicest of years. I lost one of my best friends and the world as a whole lost a lot of good people and gifted artists. Okay, we lost Maggie Thatcher as well, and good riddance, but that doesn't really make up for it.

On the other hand, something really good happened yesterday.

I sneaked up to Liverpool on a day return ticket, and with a little help from the ever-reigning Cate's work colleagues Lucy and Jill (thanks ladies!) was hiding behind the Christmas tree in the foyer of her office when she came downstairs, supposedly to sign for a package. Except that it was the end of her shift, and she was heading out the door.

So I stepped out from behind the tree and called her name. Cate then did the most perfect double-take I've ever seen in real-life, gawped and said 'What the fuck are you doing here?' (I will tell our grandchildren of this.)

I explained that I'd been missing her a great deal and couldn't wait another day to see her - oh, and by the same token...

I went down on one knee (with a brief mental prayer for the integrity of my trousers) and took out a small hinged box. At which point Cate saw her work colleagues watching and with a cry of 'not in front of everyone!' ran outside in a fit of mortified embarrassment. (Yes, I'll be telling our grandchildren about this too.)

After a short chase, I asked her properly, on the Pier Head at Liverpool: 'Cate Gardner, will you marry me?'

She said yes.

Happy 2014, everybody.

Monday 23 December 2013

Joel Lane

Today is a very sad day.

I'm going down to Birmingham to attend the funeral of Joel Lane - a brilliant writer, and one of my best friends, who died suddenly in his sleep on 26th November.

I've written about Joel elsewhere, and don't feel able to go on at greater length, but just wanted to remember him, however briefly, here.

Goodbye, mate. We love you.

Other remembrances can be found here:
Nina Allan
Rosanne Rabinowitz
Conrad Williams
Mark Valentine
Des Lewis
Andrew Hook
Nine Arches Press
Jonathan Oliver
Pete Coleborn
Martin Sketchley
Lynda E. Rucker
Steve Jones
Mat Joiner
Mike Chinn
Thomas Ligotti
Martin Roberts
Gary McMahon
Simon Strantzas

Thursday 1 August 2013

Sailing The Storm, or the Vanishing Mr Quill

On Monday, finally, I completed the final draft of Riders on the Storm, my novel about the R.101 airship, and emailed it to my agent, the redoubtable Sharon Ring.

Of course, when I say it's the final draft, it's really nothing of the sort. It's the final draft that I needed to do before sending it out into the world; there'll be another draft when my agent's finished reading it, to knock it into some sort of final shape. And if (crosses fingers) a publisher takes it up, it can still expect to be tweaked and massaged some more before it sees the light of day.

And that's fair enough. A good agent, like a good editor, will like your book for what it is, not what they think it should be. Any suggestions they make will be aimed at making it the best it can be.

I don't think anything I've written to date has gone through as many rewrites, as many changes, as Riders has. It's demanded more research than anything I've done before, and has been unlike anything I've previously written.

Big changes happened from draft to draft. One of the biggest was the stuff that disappeared; the thing about a big, open-ended series is that you don't have to throw everything at the readers at once. So the whole last third of the novel vanished - it'll form the opening of the next novel in the series, should that ever come to pass. Another disappearance was the novel's antagonist, Mr Quill. You might meet him in a later book. Or you might not. Only time will tell.

It's been a long, strange, journey, but I hope it'll prove to have been worth it all.

To finish off, here's a video that was one of the first things I found when I started combing the internet for information about R.101. It catches the strange magic and majesty of the great airships perfectly, I think. And it ultimately led to me making contact with its maker, Trev Monk, a fellow airship enthusiast, who proved a truly invaluable help in making Riders happen. Cheers, Trev!

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Update 3 of 3: The Condemned - Hardcover Edition

The Condemned, my new collection, is now out in paperback. Unfortunately the printers, Biddles, has now gone into administration. They did so before printing the limited edition hardcover of the book, but not, sadly, before taking payment from Gray Friar Press for it.

Due to the extremely ballsed-up nature of things at Biddles - whose boss, apparently, was invoicing people practically up to the moment they went under - getting the money back may be easier said than done.

As a result of all this, I'm sorry to say that the hardcover edition of the book may not now happen.

None of this is the fault of Gary Fry at Gray Friar, who is very much the victim here and who has behaved throughout like the honest gentleman that he is. I know that he's already working on a solution for those who've pre-ordered the hardcover.

The paperback is still very much available and you can buy it here, here and here.

Update 2 of 3: Best British Fantasy 2013, Let's Drink To The Dead Reviewed and Machen, Maggie & Moses Gate...

My short story 'Dermot' has been reprinted again, this time in The Best British Fantasy 2013, published by Salt and edited by the estimable Steve Haynes. I'm delighted to announce that it also includes a story from the ever-reigning Cate, 'Too Perfect For Human Form'. And many, many more good tales.

My mini-collection Let's Drink To The Dead has received a glowing review from Anthony Watson at Dark Musings, who says: 'Disturbing and horrifying, Let's Drink to the Dead is another brilliant piece of writing from Simon Bestwick. Buy it you should.'

The most recent instalment of my Heretic Songs column at This Is Horror is The Shrinking Space, which manages to talk about legacies of Arthur Machen and Margaret Thatcher (pauses to spit), and also about Moses Gate Country Park in Bolton, in an attempt to find out what the hell has gone so wrong with how we live now.

Update 1 of 3: Joolz Denby Interview and A Tribute To Richard Matheson

Hello there.

Yes, it's been a while. Sorry about that. So here I am, bringing you up to date on events in Bestwickland. There's a fair bit, so I'm breaking it up into three chunks: it's all go over here.

The first one concerns two of my favourite writers. The news is sad in respect of one of them, but great in respect of the other.

Richard Matheson: He was legend.
Richard Matheson died on Sunday. He was a brilliant writer who worked in many genres and media, but he's best known for his SF and horror fiction.

I'd loved his work for decades and had always considered him one of the greats; as with Ray Bradbury's passing last year, even though I never met the man, his passing brings with it an acute sense of personal loss.

This Is Horror are publishing tributes to the man at the moment: you can find mine here.

On a happier note, I recently got to interview the poet, novelist, short story writer, artist and tattooist Joolz Denby, one of my favourite writers, not to mention a hell of a role model.

Joolz Denby: Another legend. Oh, and me.
The first part (the second will follow in due course) is now up - also at This Is Horror. It's an illuminating and honest interview with a writer who deserves a much bigger readership.

You can read it here.

Monday 13 May 2013

The Condemned- Available to pre-order. And here's the trailer.

The Condemned is now available to pre-order here at the Gray Friar Press website.

There is also a trailer, courtesy of the lovely and talented Anna Taborska, with music by the excellent Kevin Macleod. Here it is:

Wednesday 1 May 2013

Review: The Fictional Man by Al Ewing

I review Al Ewing's new novel, The Fictional Man, over at This Is Horror.

Tuesday 30 April 2013

Tuesday 23 April 2013

Saturday 20 April 2013

A bundle of stuff- The Condemned, the Prestwich Book Festival, plus reviews of Maniac and 247 F

Hello all.  Today's a day for a few updates.

As you've probably noticed, The Condemned isn't out for you to buy and read/worship/line the budgie's cage with yet.  That's my fault; I've dawdled a bit on the final checks and rewrites.  The new collection should now be out around mid-May.  Will keep you all posted on that.

In other news, I shall be at the Prestwich Book Festival at the British Legion in Prestwich (near Heaton Park Metrolink Station, it says here) on the evening of Monday 27th May, to help promote Impossible Spaces, a new anthology from Hic Dragones, the good people who organised the Manchester Monster Convention last year.  Edited by Hannah Kate, it includes my story Trading Flesh.  Also present will be superb Manchester poet Rosie Garland, whose collection Things I Did While I Was Dead I discovered, and loved, last year, and whose novel, The Palace Of Curiosities, is out now
from HarperCollins.  Also present will be new author Toby Stone, and a bunch of contributors to the anthology.  Plus an honest to good cryptozoologist- a field I admit to being fascinated by.

I'll hopefully have some copies of The Faceless and The Condemned to flog and sign, too.

Finally, I have a couple of new film reviews up at This Is Horror: Franck Khalfoun's Maniac and Levan Bakhia and Beqa Jguburia's 247 F.

Tuesday 26 March 2013

Wanting The Dusk

As you may remember, until quite recently this blog was a wee bit on the quiet side. I mentioned there'd been a few problems off-stage, which I might tell you about it should it be relevant.

Well, it is now, sort of.  The latest instalment of my Heretic Songs column over at This Is Horror explains why.

Sunday 24 March 2013

James Herbert, 1943-2013

James Herbert, author of novels such as The Rats, Lair, Domain, Haunted, The Magic Cottage and many others, died suddenly this week, aged 69.

His death came as a great shock to many readers and writers of horror fiction- he'd been a constant presence on the scene since the late '70s, and an influence on many contemporary authors.  Many tributes have been paid to him: mine is up over at This Is Horror if you'd like to read it.

Monday 18 March 2013

Monday 11 March 2013

Grimm Up North: Sleep Tight and Snowtown

Last month I went to Grimm Up North's double bill of Jaume Balaguero's blackly funny Sleep Tight and Justin Kurzel's bleak, uncompromising Snowtown at the Dancehouse in Manchester- two very different, but excellent, psychological horror films.  The reviews are now up over at This Is Horror.

Here's the trailer for Sleep Tight:

And here's the one for Snowtown:

Thursday 28 February 2013

The Fear of God

After many months' delay (all my fault, I hasten to add) the new instalment of my This Is Horror column Heretic Songs is up.  It's called The Fear Of God and it's about faith and religion in horror and real life.  You can read it here.

Monday 4 February 2013

The Condemned

My new collection, The Condemned, will be released by Gray Friar Press around the end of March this year as part of their 'Gray Matters' series of novellas. 

The Condemned contains six novellas and novelettes, including the BFA-nominated The Narrows, which was reprinted in Best Horror of the Year #1, and The School House, originally published in Houses On The Borderland.

The other tales, Dark Earth, A Kiss Of Old Thorns, The Model and Sleep Now In The Fire, are all previously unpublished. The collection will be released in paperback and a hardback limited edition; the hardback will contain an additional short story, 'Made Of Clay.'

As if this wasn't enough to put a smile on my face, some truly excellent writers have provided blurbs for the collection. From Alison Littlewood (author of A Cold Season and Path Of Needles):

'Simon Bestwick writes the kind of fiction that gets under your skin and stays there . . . thoughtful, tense and genuinely scary, his short stories lead you into dark places and then blow out the candle. His next collection is set to be a must-read of the genre.'

Further blurbs come from the mighty Paul Finch:

‘Simon Bestwick has penned some of the downright eeriest fiction I've ever read. But there is nearly always a hard, urban edge to it, and a deep political awareness. This is an author who bleeds onto the page when he's writing. He really believes in what he's doing. It's his passion and his mission, and as such his meaningful brand of horror is raw, shocking and right in-yer-face. Potent stuff, on so many levels.’

And another from Joseph D'Lacey:

'Grim, beautifully crafted and thought-provoking, Bestwick’s fiction satisfies on every level.'

And to crown it all, the great Ramsey Campbell has this to say:

'Simon Bestwick is among the most important writers of contemporary British horror. His work is rooted in unflinching social observation, and his supernatural tales have a real moral resonance. He's living proof that horror fiction can talk about the way we live today and shine an uncanny light on life, which throws its darkness into sharper relief.'

Many thanks to Ramsey, Joseph, Paul and Alison, and to Gary Fry at Gray Friar; as you can imagine, I am a happy chappie. :)

Thursday 17 January 2013

A Bombardment Of Nice Things

Two posts in as many days, after such a long silence!  I know, it's shocking.

Black Static #32 arrived today.  In it, as well as stories, there are reviews.  Many reviews.  A number of them about me.  Or my writing, anyway...

Good things were said by Peter Tennant both about my collaboration with Gary McMahon, 'Thin Men With Yellow Faces', and 'Shuck', my contribution to Paul Finch's excellent Terror Tales of East Anglia anthology.  But the biggest love was reserved for The Faceless:

'The supernatural elements of the book are handled with great aplomb... Another pleasure is the way in which Bestwick handles characterisation and relationships, adding yet further strands and complications to his narrative... a book of true moral dimensions... This is Simon Bestwick's finest work to date, the one in which he harnesses the sense of anger at social injustice that permeates so much of his work and uses it to a greater end, and it is among the very best of what the horror genre in the UK had to offer in 2012.'

And indeed Peter's blog lists The Faceless as one of his top books of 2012.

Dark Musings rated The Faceless as the top horror novel of the year, and it's also made the shortlist for the 2012 This Is Horror Awards.

All of which makes me very happy.  So now you know.

You can now get back to doing whatever you were doing. :)

Wednesday 16 January 2013

The Next Big Thing (With Apologies To Paul Finch And Carole Johnstone)

First of all, sorry I’ve not been around much lately.  There’s been some not-too-wonderful stuff going on in what we laughingly call ‘real life’ that’s occupied a lot of my time lately.  Nothing to do with the ever-reigning Ms G; that’s been one aspect of my life that’s been consistently great, in fact.  No, this involves the world of work, and it’s still ongoing, so can’t be discussed here as yet.  Hopefully that’ll be resolved in the next month or so, and I can be a little less mysterious about it.

Secondly, a more specific apology goes out to Paul Finch and Carole Johnstone, both of whom asked if they could tag me in this meme a while back and didn’t even receive the courtesy of a reply as my head was firmly up my arse.  As penance, I’m tagging them here.  (Also, there’s practically no-one I know left to tag, so that’s its own punishment.)

Anyways, that most excellent Aussie, Mr Antony Mann, tagged me in this meme to write about my WIP.  So here goes…

1) What is the working title of your current/next book?
Riders On The Storm.

2) Where did the idea come from?
The R.101 airship, the biggest British aircraft ever built- 777 feet long and 132 feet high- which crashed in France on October 5th, 1930, killing 48 of the 54 men aboard.
R.101 over St. Paul's Cathedral

3) What genre does your book fall under?
God alone knows.  A sort of bizarre mix of science fiction, fantasy, horror, comedy, action-adventure and love story.  But despite the airships, I don’t think it counts as steampunk.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
That’s an interesting question as many of the characters are based on the real-life crew and passengers killed in the crash.  The main character, Sam Church, was a young crewman who nearly prevented the disaster, and survived the crash only to die of his injuries shortly before his father and fiancee reached his bedside.  The other crew members have largely been fictionalised, so that’s a bit easier: if I could borrow a time machine, I’d nip back to the ‘80s and collect the late great Bob Peck to play Lieutenant-Commander Joseph Stakowski Martindale (R.101’s First Officer) and a greying but still tough-looking John Thaw for Flight Sergeant Bill Rathbone (the ship’s Chief Coxswain.)  Plus a younger Liam Neeson, from around the time he did Darkman, to play the villain of the piece, Mr Quill.  For other characters, I’d go for Pauley Perrette as Sidgeley (a brilliant, geeky Goth chick from 2007), Naomie Harris as Captain Jane Rhymer (an 18th century pirate) and Hermione Norris as Dr Gail Anderman (an archaeologist from 1936.)
Rigger Samuel Church, 1904-1930

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
At the moment before it crashes, the R.101 airship and the men who were killed aboard her are pulled through space and time to a distant world to help save a community of people from throughout earth’s history from an inhuman, Lovecraftian menace that’s awakening after aeons of slumber, and the insane, decaying Mr Quill.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

My wonderful agent, Sharon Ring, will be representing it.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft?
The first twenty or thirty thousand words took months of writing and rewriting, because there’s so much stuff happening- you’ve got to set up the historical event (the R101 disaster) and the background to that, plus the alien planet and everything going on there; also, you have to introduce the airship and get enough information across for readers to understand what’s going on. As well as that, you have to introduce a bunch of characters.  Oh, and on top of all that, there’s the actual story.  The hard work’s trying to combine all that in a way that flows naturally and doesn’t seem clunky.  Once that was finished, the rest- eighty or ninety thousand words- came very easily and the first draft was finished in a couple of months.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I’m really not sure!  Michael Moorcock’s The Nomad Of Time is a bit like it, I suppose- it involves airships and time travel.  I did once jokingly describe it as Battlestar Galactica with airships, though I think- hope!- it’s developed beyond that.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Are you sitting comfortably?

In 2010, I went to the Fantastic Films Festival in Manchester, where Ramsey Campbell presided over the raffle.  The prizes were a mix of stuff you’d really want and stuff you wouldn’t accept as a free gift if there was a gun to your head.  One such example was a book on girl’s dolls, apparently written for adults.  Frankly I found that creepy enough, but Ramsey started doing the dolls’ voices… I still have nightmares about that bit. 

Anyway, he made it clear that no-one was going anywhere till somebody bid at least a pound on this book.  Which I did, just to make it go away.  Of course, no-one else was stupid enough to do that, so I ended up with the infernal thing.  I tried to surreptitiously abandon it in the hotel as I was fairly sure that I’d get put on some sort of register if I was caught with it in public, but some bugger found it and posted it to me.  No idea who.  In a way, that’s the most worrying thing about it.

But there was another book that was part of the same prize, called Survival of Death, all about the ‘evidence’ for the afterlife.  And one of the articles in it was about the R.101 airship disaster, and a medium who claimed to have made contact with the spirits of the dead crewmen.

I’d read bits about R.101 before, back in pre-internet days, and this article rekindled my interest.  People still argue today about the causes of the crash and whether she was simply a bad ship or a good one plagued by ill-luck.  I knew there was a story in it somewhere and read more widely about R.101 and the great rigid airships in general.  They cast a spell, which I think you either get or you don’t, and R.101 was certainly a beautiful ship.  Anyway, I originally intended to write two or three stories about R.101- each completely different versions of the story- to try and sell as a chapbook.  Somewhere along the line one of the story ideas- where the ship escaped destruction- expanded and pushed the other ideas out.  First it was going to be a novella… then a novel… now it’s planned as the first in a series of novels.  No idea how that happened.

R.101 over Elstow, Bedfordshire

10) What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?
There are also: Spitfires, pirates, monsters, battles and true love.

Thanks again to Antony for tagging me, and I hereby tag Jeannie Alderdice to carry the meme on by answering the same 10 questions and tagging others to carry it on on January 23rd!