Author and Scriptwriter

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

Wednesday 31 December 2014

So, 2014....

It's been an eventful year, both good and bad.

2014 was the year that I moved from Swinton to Liverpool to be with the woman I love. A big decision, but one I'm still very happy about.

2014 was also the year in which we lost a lot of good people. I can't count the actors and musicians and writers that were taken from us, among them Graham Joyce, one of our best novelists. The first anniversary of Joel Lane's passing came and went, and I tried and failed to find something to say. And, this month, it hit closer still to home, when Cate's mum passed away.

I published a few stories, together with a serial that might possibly count as a new novel - and I still have that Very Good News to deliver (but that will have to wait until the New Year.)

I want to take the opportunity to thank the many people whose kindness and support have meant so much of late. My family, my friends - and the reviewers and fans too. A good online review, or a personal message on how much you enjoyed a story or what it meant to you, means one hell of a lot, and it's one of the kindest gifts you can give a writer.

Just a quick round-up, then, of my credits this year:

As White As Bone, published in Matter #13 (May 2014, allegedly. I'm still yet to receive either payment or a contributor copy.)
The Lowland Hundred, published in Dead Water, ed. Len Maynard and Mick Sims. (June 2014)
The Battering Stone, published in Horror Uncut, ed. Tom Johnstone and Joel Lane (October 2014)
Night Templar, published in Blasck Static #43, ed. Andy Cox. (November 2014)

It may or may not count as a novel - although it will be coming out as a single volume print edition in the future - but if it does, there was Black Mountain. The first episode went up on the Spectral Press website last Christmas as a free taster, before being published as an ebook in early 2014. Thanks to the eagle-eyed James Everington and Anthony Watson and to all kind souls on Amazon for noticing it and reviewing it. And to Simon Marshall-Jones for commissioning it, Graeme Reynolds for the proofing and formatting, and Neil Williams for that stellar artwork.

It was still a tough year professionally, with many crises of confidence. But I'm still here. And the work goes on.

Here's to a better 2015 for us all. Have a good - and safe - New Year, folks.

Saturday 13 December 2014

Caroline Trayler: Getting Away With Murder

In his introduction to Night Shift, Stephen King talks about writers having a brain filter. It’s like, he says, the grille over a drain; depending on size, some stuff falls through and is washed away, while some sticks, and stays. In the case of a writer, the stuff that sticks and stays becomes what you write about.

Some stuff sticks and some doesn’t, and what gets caught in the filter sometimes seems to be without rhyme or reason. In my case, it tends to be the weird and the odd, peculiar little ‘what-ifs?’ or ‘what-happened-nexts?’ Sometimes it’s stuff out of history (and that can be a ballache, given the need to research, although the internet makes it a lot easier – to the point that you can get happily lost in the highways and byways of it, forever clicking just one more hyperlink on Wikipedia to learn about this or that.)

Disasters often catch my attention, though not always the obvious ones: the Titanic fell through my personal brain filter whole, but the R.101 airship stuck, resulting in a book I can’t seem to sell and an ability to put people into a light coma by telling them stuff about airships that they never knew and never particularly wanted to.

Big things, little things, without rhyme or reason. The latest among them is a young woman who died thirty-one years before I was born. Her name was Caroline Trayler.

You’ll read about Caroline Ellen Trayler, nee Stapleton, in a number of true crime books. One or two of them may even have a picture of her. But – at least in Britain – you’ll be hard-pressed to find one on the internet. There's one here - which I was unable to copy - but it won't show up on Google Image searches. I'll have more to say about that shortly.

Caroline was eighteen years old, with auburn hair. She was a very pretty, even beautiful, young woman; she’d just married Sergeant Edgar Trayler, of the Durham Light Infantry, who’d shortly after been posted to North Africa. Lonely and bored, she was a popular girl in the dance halls in Folkestone, rarely without a dancing partner. How much further it went than that is debatable, but on Sunday 13th June, 1943, when she left the Mechanics Arms pub on the arm of a soldier on leave, it went far enough. She was never seen alive again.

Caroline’s body was found four days later in an abandoned shop. She’d been raped and strangled, and her wedding and engagement rings taken. Gunner Dennis Edmund Leckey, originally from Manchester, now of the Royal Artillery, went AWOL the same day. He admitted leaving the pub with Caroline, but claimed she’d been alive when they parted. He’d run off because he was overcome with guilt at his infidelity and wanted to get home and tell his wife. The claim might have been more believable had Leckey not been in another woman’s bed two nights after Caroline Trayler’s death. A friend testified Leckey had shown him an engagement ring he claimed another woman had given him.

Leckey was convicted and sentenced to hang, but the sentence was quashed on appeal. The judge, in his summing-up, made much of the fact that when picked up, Leckey had refused to speak until his solicitor was there. A guilty man might well have more to fear from the truth than an innocent one, but – at least in those days – the law was clear that no inference of guilt could be drawn from a suspect exercising his perfectly legal right to silence.

In the films, of course, blatantly guilty men escape justice on some tiny technicality all the time. Just as all a psychopathic killer needs to do is hire a smart lawyer and the copper’s hands are tied, and there’s always a ticking clock, somewhere, that means we’ve just got to throw the Declaration of Human Rights out of the window and torture this suspect. That’s in the films. In real life, it almost never happens. Almost.

That one technicality – an inexplicable error in an experienced, well-respected judge’s summing-up – meant that Dennis Edmund Leckey walked free. No-one else was ever charged with Caroline Trayler’s murder, for the excellent reason that the killer had, almost certainly, been caught already... and then got away with it.

Caroline’s husband went AWOL too, rushing home when he heard of his wife’s murder. And Leckey? Well, a copy of The London Gazette dated 11th February 1944 declares thata Dennis Edmund Leckey – of Manchester, currently serving with thearmed forces – was changing his name to Haines. A question on agenealogy forum mentions a Dennis Edmund Leckey dying in 1997. (Interestingly, another Dennis Leckey, also from the Ashton-under-Lyne area where Gunner Leckey originated, was convicted of multiplecounts of child abuse in 1997.)

But there’s very little else. And if you type the names of either killer or victim into Google and search for images of them, you’ll find none. You will find a note at the bottom of the Google search page telling you that some results may have been removed under European data protection law. When you follow the link to learn more, you’ll see it refers to the right to be forgotten.

Given just how much a complete stranger can learn about you through those means, it’s no bad thing that you can effectively make your personal data invisible to web searches. It’s still out there, of course, but it’s a hell of a lot harder to find. And of course, if you have had something like a wrongful murder conviction hanging over you, you might well want to exercise that right.

Maybe Caroline’s family wanted her to be forgotten, rather than have her cruel and ugly death dragged out into public view. Or maybe it was to protect the man convicted of her murder. In which case – as her name would invariably come up in connection with his – Dennis Leckey, or those acting on his posthumous behalf, have largely erased Caroline Trayler. You could almost say that for the second time, he killed her and got away with it scot-free.

This is the kind of thing that sticks in my personal ‘filter’, anyway. It’ll probably become a story at some point.

The right to be forgotten is one thing; being condemned to it is something else. Caroline Trayler didn’t deserve to die that way, didn’t deserve to have her killer escape justice. No-one can do anything about that now – unless you believe in an afterlife – but she doesn’t deserve to be forgotten either. Whatever I write will be a tiny act of commemoration, like a candle lit in memory.

You might ask – quite reasonably – why I feel that way about one of the millions of the world’s dead – a woman I never knew, dead three decades before I even popped out into the world. But I can’t give you an answer to that. Any more than I can answer why her case, out of so many others in a true crime book, stuck in my memory. Why I wrote a novel about R.101 and not the Titanic. Why I write ghost stories instead of Westerns, crime stories instead of romances.

It’s just the way I’m built.

I can live with that.

Tuesday 9 December 2014

Black Static #43

A belated note to say that Black Static #43 is out, including my story Night Templar.

There's also a host of other fiction, like Ralph Robert Moore's novelette Drown Town, Andrew Hook's Black Lung, Annie Neugebauer's Hide, Aliya Whiteley's Many Eyed Monsters and - my personal favourite - Usman Tanveer Malik's Ishq. All the stories are good, Drown Town is excellent, but Ishq is one of my favourite stories this year.

Also book reviews by Peter Tennant, including an interview with James Cooper, and movie reviews by Tony Lee.

The two columns are Coffinmaker's Blues by Stephen Volk and Blood Pudding by Lynda E. Rucker - two of the finest practising writers of dark fiction, and two consistently intelligent and interesting commentators on the field. Volk's piece is about writer's block, which is something I'd thought I never got. You're having problems with the writing, you turn up and you write and you keep trying till you get somewhere. But as Volk points out, writer's block isn't having no stories to tell, but the constant, insidious dread that you can't do it, you aren't up to it, that you're used up or burnt out or that even your best achievements are really just gimcrack, poor quality shadows of far better writers' work. It's a painfully honest and illuminating piece.

Rucker offers a piece on the use of H.P. Lovecraft as the face of the World Fantasy Award, in a peace showing the balance and nuance that has been lacking in too many commentaries. I saw Daniel Older's petition to remove HPL's likeness from the award, and a counter-petition to keep it. I didn't sign the petition demanding HPL's removal, not least because it described him as a 'terrible wordsmith', which is PC asshattery of the worst kind - 'he was a racist, so he must be a bad writer!' But I wasn't signing the one to keep him, either, since that descended into a cretinous anti-feminist rant that like the flowers that bloom in the spring, (tra-la) had nothing to do with the case.

The conversation about this started when Nnedi Okorafor won the WFA for her novel Who Fears Death. If you haven't read Who Fears Death, then I highly recommend that you do. It is a superb novel - visionary, beautiful, brilliant, and different. Whether you call it SF or Fantasy, it adds something new and fascinating to the field. When idiots bitch about women, or people of colour, coming to play in the SF/F/H sandpit, I think about books like this. The fiction we love is better for having those different voices in it; we might actually learn to be better people from it.

Okorafor, incidentally, didn't explicitly call for HPL's head to be taken off the award. You can - and should - read her blog on the subject here. And - I'll say it again - you should also read Who Fears Death, because it's great.

What she said about the award, though, was this:

"This is something people of color, women, minorities must deal with more than most when striving to be the greatest that they can be in the arts: The fact that many of The Elders we honor and need to learn from hate or hated us

Do I want “The Howard” (the nickname for the World Fantasy Award statuette. Lovecrafts full name is “Howard Phillips Lovecraft”) replaced with the head of some other great writer? Maybe. Maybe its about that time. Maybe not. What I know I want it to face the history of this leg of literature rather than put it aside or bury it. If this is how some of the great minds of speculative fiction felt, then let’s deal with that... as opposed to never mention it or explain it away. If Lovecraft’s likeness and name are to be used in connection to the World Fantasy Award, I think there should be some discourse about what it means to honor a talented racist."

That's the kind of nuance that is needed (and that Lynda's Black Static article brings to the debate.) . Howard Phillips Lovecraft was a brilliant, important writer in our field. He was also a hateful and poisonous racist. He was not 'a man of his time' or any such hogwash; even by the standards of his day he had a virulent and uncompromising hatred of black people (and most other non-white, or non-'Nordic' ethnicities and cultures.) Also, the 1920s and 1930s, when Lovecraft wrote, was a period of great social change; the great civil rights struggles of the '60s were far off but the NAACP had been around since 1909 and had begun to make significant progress, to say nothing of the Tuskegee Institute. Many of the NAACP's early prime movers were white. Whites in the US no longer had the excuse of ignorance.

The problem with Lovecraft, I suggest, is not that he was a racist, nor that his racism erupts spectacularly and vilely in many of his stories. It isn't even that you will, try as you might, search his stories in vain for a single black character who isn't portrayed as a subhuman near-animal (his prose might have evolved since he wrote the poem quoted in Okorafor's blog, but his views didn't - letters from Sonia Greene, his ex-wife, indicated that his racism - in particular his anti-Semtism - was in fact one of the main reasons for their marriage's failure.) I suggest the problem is that without the racism - or without the mindset from which his racism inevitably sprang - he wouldn't have been able to write his fiction.

Consider: Lovecraft grew up in genteel poverty; while not rich, he was surrounded by the extensive Whipple Phillips library. He became deeply erudite and spent much of his childhood alone, in self-constructed fantasy worlds. And then he found himself in the real world, forced to try and make a living - a loud, crude, different place. 

I recall Lovecraft being once described as 'omniphobic' - he feared virtually everything that wasn't himself, that was outside his own narrow comfort zone. It's not a bad description, and xenophobia and racism are well-nigh inevitable products of such a mindset. Such a person might not be someone you'd want to meet (although Lovecraft in person was apparently a gentle and amiable character), but who better to convey - to viscerally feel - the concept of humankind as very alone and very small and vulnerable and helpless, in a universe at best indifferent and at worst hostile?

Complex. But so is life. The sooner we accept that - and that it isn't a choice between acquitting Lovecraft of racism on the one hand, or subjecting him to a literary damnatio memoriae on the other - then I suspect the happier we'll be.

Friday 14 November 2014

Black Mountain, Darkly Mused Upon

Well, the saga that is Black Mountain is done at last - all eleven instalments, complete with Neil Williams' fantastic artwork, are now up on Amazon (UK, US and elsewhere) to buy.

Anthony Watson over at Dark Musings reviewed the serial as a work in progress back in May; having read it to the end, he now returns to give his final verdict.

 'I had to put the kindle down at one point, so effective - and downright scary - was the imagery being presented. That hasn't happened since I read Adam Nevill's Last Days - so kudos to Mr Bestwick for that.'

As you can imagine, I'm very happy with that.

Friday 31 October 2014

Happy Halloween! Black Mountain 11: The Dancers In The Pines

Yes, it's here at last. The Dancers In The Pines, the eleventh and final instalment of Black Mountain, is now available on Amazon. Here for the UK, here for the US.

Hope you enjoy. Special thanks to Simon Marshall-Jones, Neil Williams and Graeme Reynolds for helping make this happened - and most of all to Cate, who was each instalment's first audience.

Happy Halloween, folks.

Saturday 25 October 2014

Writing News:The Last Black Mountain and Stuff I Can't Talk About Yet.

Well, the day had at last to come, and now it has. Last weekend, I finished TheDancers In The Pines, the eleventh and final episode of Black Mountain, and sent it over to Simon Marshall-Jones at Spectral Press on the Monday. Mr M-J has professed himself very happy with the conclusion to the series.

So, that's it; at last, the saga of Mynydd Du and the Bala Triangle is at an end. Or is it? You'll have to wait until Halloween to find out, because the final episode won't be available for download till the 31st October. In the meantime, though, there's a sneak preview of Neil Williams' artwork.

In other news... well, I have some very exciting news indeed to share with you - soon. A very nice new writing development, but I can't talk about it yet. Keep watching this space and I'll tell you more soon.

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.

Saturday 28 June 2014

Dead Water

July sees the release of Dead Water, the latest in the 'PentAnth' series from Peter Mark May's Hersham Horror: mini-anthologies containing stories from five different authors. This will be the fifth, the other four being Fogbound from 5, Siblings, Anatomy Of Death and Demons And Devilry.

The series has showcased some brilliant talent: Alison Littlewood, John Llewellyn Probert, Stuart Young, Thana Niveau and Stephen Volk to name but (appropriately) five.

The fifth anthology in our PentAnth range brings you five more stories chilled tales of watery terror. We all need water to live, but what if that life-giving body was not so friendly after all..?

Dead Water is guest-edited by the formidable writing duo Maynard and Sims, who also contribute one of the tales. Also present and correct are Daniel Boucher, Alan Spencer, and apocalyptic horror king David Moody.

My own contribution is a Welsh terror tale, 'The Lowland Hundred,' and here's a free sample:

'It was naked but sexless, without genitals or breasts. Fins ran up the sides of its arms and legs; its long, taloned fingers and long splayed toes were webbed. The face was minimal, almost featureless. Glistening black eyes, like a shark’s, that flickered white as nicitating membranes darted across them. Two small bloodlness slits, like tiny parallel stab-wounds, where the nose should have been. A row of gill-slits each side of the neck, and a mouth curved in a wide, ear-to-ear – except that it had no ears – grin, lipless and filled with thin, sharp, needle teeth...'

You can buy the paperback here, or download the ebook if you're in the UK, or here and here if you're in the US.

Friday 13 June 2014

Black Mountain #6: The House By The Cemetery

My apologies, first of all: the latest instalment of Black Mountain is a couple of weeks late. There was some sad news in our family, and the work train got a tad derailed. But here is the sixth episode, The House By The Cemetery and the seventh, The Master Of The House, is almost finished, and should be out on schedule at the end of June (fingers crossed.)

Yes, the title The House By The Cemetery is a nod to the great Lucio Fulci. No, the title The Master Of The House has nothing to do with Les Miserables. Although a recent one-star Amazon review of The Faceless complained that it was 'depressing and dreary', so perhaps adding musical numbers to my stuff to liven things up would be a good thing.

As ever, The House By The Cemetery boasts fantastic cover art by Neil Williams. Here's a taster of what you can expect...

The watcher by the lake...

It began with a dream; it ended in obsession, insanity and death.

The fire in the woods...

The old farmhouse stood on high ground near the mountain of Mynydd Du. Long-abandoned though it was, Ronald Ashington still saw potential in it.

The dancers in the pines...

The Ashingtons had a vision: a luxury hotel, a hidden gem tucked away in the wilds of the Welsh countryside, a home away from home for couples looking to get away from it all. Yes, this house was perfect, except for the name: Ty Mynwent.

The house by the cemetery.

What you’ve got to understand, doctor, is this. If I told you in detail everything that happened at the farm, everything I saw, you’d call me mad. You’d say it was a delusion, that I saw things that weren’t there, heard voices that didn’t exist. But it’s not like that...

I have experienced, I have witnessed, things, phenomena, so… removed from the normal run of human experience that they have brought about a fundamental change in my understanding of the nature of reality. In how I… interact with the world. And with others. This places me at odds with the majority of people, and even with society as a whole. But this is not because of illness. Not because of chemicals in my brain or any stupid shit like that. It’s because while I was up I saw and heard and understood things. And I can’t carry on as I did before, as if the old things matter. Because they don’t...

Money. Conformity. Family. Marriage. All the sacred cows. They’re meaningless. Compared to what’s up there.

Monday 5 May 2014

Black Mountain #5: The Last Of Russell Ware

The Black Mountain saga is just shy of its halfway point with its latest instalment, courtesy of Spectral Press. As ever, it boasts a cover from Neil Williams, who continues to do truly stellar work on this project.

Author and journalist Russell Ware was the man who’d coined the term ‘The Bala Triangle’, chronicling the phenomena that surrounded the North Welsh mountain Mynydd Du with ever-increasing obsession.

On the 2nd January, 1981, his career and marriage in ruins, he set off for Bala for the last time.
The following morning, Ware’s body was found in Llyn Daioni, the lake at the heart of so many of Mynydd Du’s mysteries. An accident, or suicide; either way, his torment, and that of his loved ones, was at an end.

But in the shadow of Black Mountain, nothing is as it seems. Rob Markland, following in Ware’s footsteps, finds one man willing to break a silence of thirty years, and tell the true story of the last of Russell Ware.

'The light came from a fire. A big, bright bonfire in the middle of a clearing where there shouldn’t have been any clearing, flames shooting ten, twenty feet up into the air. And standing all around the fire were a bunch of people in pale-coloured robes. They were all hooded, so I couldn’t have told you what sort of faces they had. To be honest, I’m far from sorry about that.'

UPDATE: The Last of Russell Ware is now available to download here and here.

Monday 31 March 2014

Black Mountain #4: The Beast Of Maes Carnedd

Not had time to get a new website organised yet - I'm still unpacking my crates of books - so this one will have to stay in service a little longer, in order to let you know that the latest instalment of the Black Mountain saga, The Beast Of Maes Carnedd, is now available on Amazon, with - as you can see - yet another awesome cover by Neil Williams.

Maes Carnedd lies in ruins now. It’s more than a hundred years since the Welsh mining village, in the shadow of Mynydd Du, was abandoned by its inhabitants.

In the summer of 1903, terror came to Maes Carnedd, and left a trail of corpses in its wake.

Something that killed with the strength and savagery of an animal, but the cruelty and sadism of a man. Something that brought death to its victims in the heart of the woods, in the tunnels of the mines, or behind the locked doors and windows of their own homes.

Only one man knows the truth of the events that doomed Maes Carnedd.

And now it’s time to tell.

'We could all hear Bert Williams' screams, fading away as it dragged him off. And we could have gone after him, but we didn’t. No point. We’d have been dead too. You didn’t see what it did to those men. 

They were torn to pieces. I mean literally. Limb from limb. Like you’d pull a roast chicken apart – rip off the drumsticks, gouge and tear off the breasts. Strip the carcass. We could recognise the faces, just – and by Christ, I wish I hadn’t – but as for the rest? You couldn’t tell which bits were Bill’s and which were Jack’s.

As for Bert Williams - no-one ever saw him again, living or dead.'

The first three episodes of Black Mountain, The Red Key, The Ghosts Of Hafan Deg and The Strange Death Of Britt Nordenstam, are all available for download too.

American readers can download the saga here.

Friday 21 March 2014

And The Birds Fly South For Winter

This is my last morning in the house I've lived in for twelve years. I moved in at the end of 2001, halfway through writing a novella called Until My Darkness Goes, which appeared in my first story collection. I remember that because it's a ghost story, and on my first night alone in the house, as I was writing a suitably creepy scene, a floorboard creaked somewhere and terrified the bejazus out of me. The next night I put some music on, only to switch it off when other sounds intruded. After a moment I realised it was the couple next door. Making love. Very, very loudly. I managed not to bag on the wall and tell him to give her one from me.

I was twenty-seven when I moved in here. Last month I turned forty. I spent the last of my twenties and all of my thirties here. For most of that time I was single, and on occasions despaired of ever not being alone.

Not that I was. I've made good friends living here in Swinton; the guy over the road is one of my best mates. My next door neighbour, a former lodger, is someone I knew at college.

I learned to be happy on my own in this house. While I've lived here, I saw my first books published, and my stories appear in annual 'Best Of' collections. I wrote Tide Of Souls here, and The Faceless.

And I fell in love while I lived here. And that love has deepened, and now I'm moving to another city - Liverpool - to be with the woman I love. A new life begins, exhilarating and scary all at once.

I will miss this house. I'll miss Swinton. I'll miss the little Chinese takeaway up the road where I'm on first name terms with the owners. I'll miss the nature reserve ten minutes walk from my front door and the country park up the road, and all the bits of green belt and natural beauty I've come to know, living here.

But it's time to go.

This is a good little house. It's taken care of me, far better than I've taken care of it. I'm glad that the people buying it from me are friends. I'm glad it will be in good hands.

This might be the last post here on this blog, too. I'm hoping to set up a WordPress site. This blog has been good, but I think I need something different now.

Thanks to everyone who's been following me since I set it up six years ago. Take care, be well and be happy.

Tuesday 25 February 2014

The Strange Death Of Britt Nordenstam

The third instalment of Black Mountain, my serial for Spectral Press, is The Strange Death Of Britt Nordenstam, released at the end of this month.

Once again, the cover artwork is by the immensely talented Neil Williams, who's outdone himself with this stonking cover.

'I could hear him. Not one voice, but dozens. Hundreds. You know your Bible, Mr Ware? ‘Call him Legion, for we are many?’ Many voices, but all one. It was a call and it was beautiful but I could never quite hear it, and I had to. I wanted to follow it. Same as Britt. But it was worse for her, because it was her the devil wanted...

...I could hear it too, and it was calling me up into the pines. Because, you see, Mr Ware, that wood – Coed Capel – it isn’t always as small as it looks. There are places where the pines stretch out and out forever, and the paths through them coil around so you can never find your way back. And the devil’s waiting there for you in them.'

You can download the second episode, The Ghosts Of Hafan Deg, here, and read the first episode, The Red Key, for free here.

Monday 3 February 2014


X7 is a slim but punchy little anthology from a new small press called Knightwatch, and is edited by Alex Davis. Its theme? The Seven Deadly Sins...
'We are punished by our sins, not for them' - Elbert Hubbard. 
X7 takes you on a sinister, startling and scintillating journey through the deadliest of sins with seven superb horror tales. 
In these pages both hero and anti-hero will succumb to sin and reap the results of their behaviour. Be it the gastronomic society that uncovers a unusual delicacy, a brother seeking to become closer to his lost sister, the wrath of a serial killer – and his psychologist – being unleashed or the simple sin of lazing a while by the waterside, this anthology will shock and surprise and equal measure. 
Featuring new and exclusive stories from Alex Bell, Simon Bestwick, Simon Clark, Tom Fletcher, Amelia Mangan, Gaie Sebold and Nicholas Royle. 
As you can see, it's a bloody good line-up. My own contribution is on the them of Greed, and it's called 'Stormcats.' Here's a quick sample:
'At the bottom of the slope, where a shore of silt and loose stone was forming where the grass had been washed away, lay a tide-mark of straggly fur.
Aaron went down to the water’s edge. Rats, maybe? But he already knew they weren’t.
Cats. All along the shoreline – there had to be thirty or forty of them, washed up at his door. All dead, of course, long-drowned. None, that he could see, still had eyes. Movement in the water – he looked up to see more limp, furred bodies being washed in.
He looked down at the cats again, prodded the closest one with his foot.
It moved.
Aaron leapt back. Must be trapped gas, or something inside it, eating it from within. But no; the cat writhed there brokenly, then rolled and rose up on its paws, then looked around and, despite its absence of eyes, it saw him. And when it did, it hissed and arched its spine, the remainder of its bedraggled hair rising on end as it did.
The whole shoreline was moving now, the rest of the cats thrashing back into life and motion – getting to their feet and hissing, arching their backs –
And starting to advance.
Aaron backed away. The ones in the water were moving too. They floundered their way to shore, to join the other cats – the other dead cats – as they advanced on him.'
X7 is available both as a paperback or an ebook.

Sunday 2 February 2014

The Ghosts Of Hafan Deg are unleashed!

Black Mountain #2: The Ghosts Of Hafan Deg is now available to buy. You can download it to your Kindle for a mere £1.86 here (or in the US, for $3.07 here.)

The first instalment, The Red Key, will soon be available as a free download as well. In the meantime, you can read it - also free - here.

Thursday 30 January 2014

World War Cthulhu

World War Cthulhu: Darkest Hour is a new Second World War setting from game company Cubicle 7, a variant on their Call Of Cthulhu RPG. Which may not be of interest if, like me, you're not a gamer yourself. But Cubicle 7 have produced an ebook anthology of horror fiction to accompany the release, and asked the wonderful Jonathan Oliver to edit it.

Jon's a fine editor - I've had the great pleasure of working with him on both Tide Of Souls and The Faceless - and having a story in a previous anthology of his, End Of The Line. World War Cthulhu includes tales from James Lovegrove, Weston Ochse, Rebecca Levene, Robin D. Laws, Gaie Sebold, T.P. Pike, Sarah Newton, Greg Stolze, Paul Finch, John Llewellyn Probert, Jonathan Green, Archie Black and World Fantasy Award winner Lavie Tidhar. All fine writers.

Oh, and I'm in there too, with a tale called 'Now I Am Nothing.'

'They’d been crushed flat, but there was no blood... All the blood - all the moisture of any kind, it looked like - had been sucked or squeezed out of them. The bodies were punctured and perforated, and in places the dried, withered flesh was burned, as if by fire or some strong acid. Not all of them still had faces, but the ones that did were still screaming. Even in death...

The dead man stared up at him with the bloody, ragged sockets that had been his eyes. His hands were red claws, pieces of tissue still clinging to them...

 Its great, unending heap of a body glistened greasily; Its hide was smooth, pale and slimy, like intestine, like great sheets of gut. Pale and slimy except for dark, glistening patches that spotted it. Were there holes in the middle of those patches? And if so, what were they? More mouths? No matter. Under that hide things moved, like great armatures of bone. It was as if someone was trying to erect a tent from the inside; the great bulk of It rippled and shifted.' 

You can buy World War Cthulhu here. 

Tuesday 28 January 2014

Black Mountain #2 - New Cover Art

The cover art for the second instalment of Black Mountain, The Ghosts Of Hafan Deg, has now changed. Here's a sneak preview: see what you think. 
Llyn Daioni, in North Wales, is a lake about a hundred feet long by fifty wide, hidden in a pine forest, away from the outside world. To look at, it’s as tranquil and picturesque a scene as you could hope to find in Britain.
But when you go to Llyn Daioni, what strikes you most of all is the silence. Not a single bird sings, as if they know not to come near.
Beside the lake is a cluster of strange-looking buildings, their bright colours already fading, symbols of a future that will never come to pass; they are the only surviving monument to a story of greed and ambition that ended in ruin and death.
 You can meet the ghosts of Hafan Deg yourself in just another three days. Watch this space.

Monday 27 January 2014

Twisted Histories

Twisted Histories is a new anthology out from Snowbooks, edited by the steady hand of Scott Harrison. It features eleven tales that take some ancient myth or legend as their starting point. There's a great roll-call of authors, so I'm proud to be included.

My own contribution, Covenants, is based around the legend of the Ark of the Covenant, although it's a long way from Indiana Jones territory.

'When its body was tilted horizontally, its arms were bent at the elbows and its weight supported on its hands. It crouched on its four bent limbs, body suspended between them like a huge spider, and its head darted up and down and from side to side, twitching. Like a dog, sniffing for a scent. Then it stopped, went still, and its shrouded, sightless head swivelled smooth, like a mechanical part, till that face of blots and stains once more pointed directly at me. The eye-stains seemed to stare, the mouth-stain to scream.
I kept wanting to look away, seek witnesses or help, but I didn’t dare take my eyes off it, because I knew it would move the second I did; besides, there’d be no witnesses, not out on the beach at this hour. I’d wanted solitude; now I had it. The moment stretched out; the eyeless, faceless stare didn’t waver. When it scuttled towards me, dismayingly fast, it was almost a relief....'

You can buy Twisted Histories here.

Wednesday 22 January 2014

The Ghosts Of Hafan Deg

With episode two of Black Mountain due out from Spectral Press at the end of the month, here's a sneak preview of Neil Williams' cover artwork for The Ghosts Of Hafan Deg.

'It wasn’t sunlight. The pale smudges against the glass were too uniform in shape, too exactly duplicated on each window, to be that.

Even through the magnifying glass, they were indistinct, but it was the same shape each time; a blurred white oval with two dark stains side by side, and a third, wider one below. They looked like faces, screaming. Or maybe laughing. And below them, were those hands, pressed against the glass?'

Tuesday 21 January 2014

Black Mountain

I've been very tardy in updating this blog, I know, for which I apologise. There are various tales now out or due out soon that might be of interest, so I'll be posting about them over the next week or two to bring you all up to date.

I thought I'd start off with a new project of mine, Black Mountain, which is being brought to you by Simon Marshall-Jones and Spectral Press, and illustrated, as you can see, by the superb Neil Williams.

Black Mountain is a monthly serial about the 'Bala Triangle' in North Wales, an area plagued by disappearances, murders and mysterious deaths. Where the truth begins and the fiction ends is something you'll have to find out for yourself.

Episode One, The Red Key, has been posted on the Spectral Press blog to whet your appetites; the rest of the series will be coming out in ebook form every month, with the final episode due on Halloween. Episode Two, The Ghosts Of Hafan Deg, will be out at the end of January, and I've just finished the third instalment, The Strange Death Of Britt Nordenstam.

So click the link and prepare to explore the darkness around Mynydd Du, where the dancers in the pines are waiting.