Monday, 24 December 2012

Festive frights are just a button-push away

Alas, only time for a very quick blog post today. But then, on the upside, it is Christmas Eve, so there are plenty of other exciting things for us all to do in preparation for the big night tonight.

So this is just a quick Christmas greeting to everyone who checks in on here, and - as a sort of unofficial Christmas prezzie - a link to MIDNIGHT SERVICE, an entirely new festive horror story, courtesy of my good self, which you can find on KILLER READS, the HarperCollins blogsite. Hope you all enjoy and approve.

I won't give too much away, except to say that it may bring an entirely new meaning to that time-honoured phrase, 'Christmas Eve in the workhouse'. Anyway, why not pop over and have a read? Unlike many other things this Christmas, it won't cost you a bean.

Have a great Christmas and a splendid New Year.

And thanks to Paul Campion and the rest of his devilish crew, for letting me pinch their Devil's Rock seasonal greeting.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Share this slow, steady descent to madness

Well, it's now mid-December, and various Christmas-themed things are on the horizon, including a couple of online stories of mine, which people might enjoy checking out.

The grim picture above could illustrate either of them, but more about those later. In the meantime, I have a new post up and running at KILLER READS, the HarperCollins crime-writing blog.

This will be my forth since Avon Books commissioned a new series of crime novels from me, and it won't be the last - they are set to run well into next year. But in this one I discuss my early days as a professional author - joining the writing team for THE BILL while I was still finding my feet as a journalist (having just left the Greater Manchester Police).

I won't say too much more, otherwise there'd be no point in anyone going and reading it there, but I'm really grateful for the opportunity KILLER READS has given me to create a brief blow-by-blow account of my gradual transition into authordom (or my my slow descent into madness, as my wife, Cathy, would doubtless say).

I highlight several watershed moments from that early stage of my career: not just the obvious ones like the first time I was invited to THE BILL offices in response to my sending them an on-spec screenplay, but the later frustration I found in trying to produce tough cop thrillers in the slightly sanitised environment of pre-9pm TV, the spin-off of which was my search for other venues in which to extrapolate some much darker themes and my subsequent arrival on the horror scene.

Anyway, as I say ... you'll have to go THERE to see the rest of it.

On the subject scary stuff, that brings us rather neatly to the point I raised at the beginning of this session - Christmas is fast approaching, always a popular time for spooky tales, and this year looks like being no exception.

To start with, a brand new Christmas story of mine, a particularly creepy one, I think - MIDNIGHT SERVICE - will be appearing on KILLER READS sometime in the next couple of weeks. I haven't got an exact date for that yet, but it will be up there in time for Christmas (I hope). Watch this space for more details on that.

A bit sooner - in fact on Tuesday this week, December 18th - a story of mine entitled DOWN IN THE DYING-ROOMS, will appear on the always excellent VAULT OF EVIL website, which specialises in fun and scholarly assessments of horror and dark thriller literature. This will be part of webmaster Demonik's annual Advent Calendar, which presents us with a different terror tale each day.

To access it, you'll need enter the Vault's actual ADVENT CALENDAR section. It isn't just my story, of course - numerous luminaries of the horror game have contributed this December already, not to mention last December and the December before. So you'll have plenty to read. But first you'll need to register (in order to get the downloads). Don't be put off by that. It won't cost you anything, no-one is going to pester you or shower you with advertising, or even expect you to participate in the Vault's daily life. If you like your daily chillers, it's a good place to be at any time of the year, but you can always delete your account afterwards if you're not satisfied.

Just for your info, my story next Tuesday will be DOWN IN THE DYING-ROOMS, which not many people over here in the UK will have read as it has only appeared once before, back in 2005 in the cracking US horror mag, DARK DISCOVERIES.

Again, I won't go into further detail, but put it this way, if you like the macabre atmosphere generated by the two derelict hospitals displayed in this column - (top, Denbigh Mental Hospital); bottom, Cane Hill in Croydon), then this one could be right up your street.

Thanks to Howzey for these amazing images of two medical facilities that time forgot.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Cool to have a bit of power in your corner

I can't tell you what a nice warm feeling it gives you inside knowing that a publishing powerhouse like HarperCollins is throwing all its muscle behind the promotion of your next book.

Regular readers of this column will know that Avon Books, an imprint of HarperCollins, are my new publisher, and that they'll be putting out a trilogy of my cop thriller novels next year, starting in February with STALKERS (in which Detective Sergeant Mark Heckenburg, originally a Manchester cop but now assigned to the Serial Crimes Unit at Scotland Yard, is put on the trail of 38 mysteriously vanished women).

As pictured above, each one of these beautiful slip-cased extracts - which I received through my letterbox only this morning - is representative of a new novel due out in 2013 from Avon. Apparently - and this is very flattering indeed - I'm told that these particular selections have been made because they are the "standout voices of the year". All I can say is that to see STALKERS on top of this pile makes me feel ten feet tall.

These slip-cased extracts will now go out to publicists and retailers all over the country, as part of a big marketing drive. For a writer I don't think there's any better feeling on Earth than being able to sit back and let your work do the talking.

And now from a future project to a past one, but one which nevertheless continues to reap rewards for all those involved.

It didn't really surprise me last week to learn that Sean Foot, the hero whose team were behind the special make-up on THE DEVIL’S ROCK (the World War Two themed horror move I scripted, which was distributed to the cinemas in 2011), has scooped the prestigious Best Make-Up prize at the New Zealand Film Awards. Sean is pictured left, posing proudly with his trophy.

I think all those who have seen THE DEVIL’S ROCK will agree that the make-up was pretty extraordinary. The transformation of ever-alluring Gina Varela from pretty London housewife to lusty, cannibalistic devil-incarnate was a bit gob-smacking to say the least. The final product is pictured below right.

Equally amazing, handsome hunk Karlos Drinkwater morphed spectacularly from a stolid Maori commando into a grotesque shambling zombie.

(The image below was taken to illustrate how Karlos's own eye-socket was digitally replaced using the eye-socket of the skull).

On top of that, other members of the cast suffered an array of gruesome yet utterly believable injuries, including Jonathan King, who had half his head blown away (pictured bottom), Haydn Green, who got a rifle shoved down his throat until the firing mechanism jammed against his teeth, and master villain Matt Sunderland, whose entire head was bitten off and swallowed during a grisly Satanic ceremony that went catastrophically wrong.

All pretty grim, I admit. Why on Earth would someone celebrate this?, I hear you ask. Well hell, this is the movies, ya know, man. It's called tripping the light fantastic (or should that be 'dark fantastic'?).

Meanwhile, back on the self-promotion trail (am I ever off it?, you're probably thinking but this is my blog, so yaaah!), if anyone is dithering about whether or not to buy SPARROWHAWK, my Christmas themed horror / supernatural / romance / fantasy / period piece, etc, first published in 2010, please check out this exceedingly nice review from 'Wag The Fox', which has appeared on Amazon US. Before you do, make a note that SPARROWHAWK will be re-issued in a special illustrated hard back version this time next year, but it is still available, and will continue to remain so, in softback and electronic formats:

A Christmas Carol is a perennial favorite of mine this time of year. The movie that is, and has been since I was a little kid. Everyone has their favorite Christmas movie; that one's mine, namely the Alistair Sims adaptation. That's how I came to know the story, and always will, even after reading Dickens' own words. As for a Christmas read, I don't really have one. It's Halloween that gets my attention when it comes to seasonal books. For Sparrowhawk, however, I may make an exception.

Paul Finch's darkly-tinged novella is set against the sooty backdrop of 1840s London. Captain John Sparrowhawk is rotting away in a debtors prison (onga familiar setting in more than one Dickens story) until a mysterious and alluring woman, Miss Evangeline, visits him and offers him a job and a new start. His debts are paid in full and all he has to do is protect an anonymous man from three nefarious persons out to do him harm. Given Sparrowhawk's harrowing experiences in Afghanistan, he's well suited to do some muscle work, though he carries a good deal of emotional baggage given his fall from grace when he returned from the war, and that threatens to undermine his second chance at life.

In a modest 130-or-so pages, Paul builds a rich and memorable story of a tormented man whose torment has not nearly reached its end. London is captured expertly, warts and all, in this story, and the dialogue between John Sparrowhawk and Miss Evangeline is magnetic. The back-and-forth between them initially feels a bit familiar with the dashing rogue and femme fatale vibe, but it quickly develops into something all its own, with just enough sinisterness to make you wonder just which side she's on. The struggle doesn't come from Miss Evangeline, but from the powers that be out to harm the man Sparrowhawk is sworn to protect--and do so without the man ever knowing he exists.

The ending packs a punch and the allusions to Dickens' A Christmas Carol are a treat as the story progresses. It is 19th-century London, after all. I'm a guy who continues to struggle with appreciating historical fiction, at least the kind that steeps itself in the language of the time. As much as I'm a fan of Dickens for A Christmas Carol and Great Expectations, his prose is a chore to get through more often than not. Paul Finch, on the other hand, offers a style of writing that harkens to that time but offers enough of a contemporary feel to make a schlub like me get immersed in the story with little effort.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

For those keen on truly devilish horror ...

If you fit that description, you might be interested in this first teaser-trailer for DARK HOLLOW.

The link will take you through to BLOODY DISGUSTING, which, despite its ominous name, is one of the premium horror movie websites on the planet. So don't be a wuss - get in there now and check it out.

DARK HOLLOW is the movie adaptation of Brian Keene's 2008 best-seller of the same title, which I wrote for director of THE DEVIL’S ROCK, Paul Campion, about a year ago.

Brian's original novel - which can still be purchased HERE - is set in rural Pennsylvania, and tells the tale of a mysterious woodland entity summoned back to life by ancient magic. To add anything else would be a big spoiler, but suffice to say that it features an extremely nasty monster, plus lots of sex and lots of violence, and that it is laced with ancient mythical rites of a distinctly dark and devilish nature.

For those among you who like their horror served with a side-dish of arcane lore and eldritch mystery, this one will definitely be for you.

Between Paul and I, we've produced several drafts of the movie script, and have even shifted it from one continent to another, and back again, during the relatively brief period that has passed since the release of THE DEVIL’S ROCK, but with the recent attachment to the project of an international sales agent, things are moving along rapidly and a 2013 shoot is not by any means impossible.

The top two illustrations speak for themselves. But above left, we have the visuals maestro himself, Paul Campion, busy grading the trailer. And below that, a piece of Paul's original conceptual art for the project.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Memories of terror both real and imagined

Lots of people have seemed to want to interview me this last couple of weeks, which is rather nice (if a little baffling, knowing me as I do).

However, for those whose interest in my opinion extends beyond the inane ramblings you'll read in this column, please feel free to check in at ARMED WITH PENS, where parts FOUR and FIVE of the rather prolonged chit-chat I had with top man Dan Howarth, can be seen.

In addition, the latest instalment of my new blog on the HarperCollins crime website, KILLER READS, can now be read and assessed. In this latest episode I talk about my journalist days, and how they prepared me to write dark thrillers.

I also drop in a few anecdotes, which may be of interest - covering everything from copycat Ripper murders to comical exploding devices, but I suppose if you want the actual nitty-gritty you'll have to get over THERE.

You may be interested to see the above photograph, which is one of a pair that I dug up specially for my latest piece on KILLER READS. This was taken during my days as a reporter on the Wigan Observer newspaper, some time in the early/mid 1990s.

In actual fact, there's a rather grim story behind it. There'd been a series of prostitute murders in nearby Liverpool - which, as of this time (as far as I'm aware), remain unsolved - and two of the victims, having been abducted from Merseyside, were dumped on wasteland in Wigan borough. They'd both been stabbed and slashed to death in ritual attacks ghoulishly reminiscent of Whitechapel during the days of Jack the Ripper. In the above picture, I'm in the process of going through a file of 19th century newspapers, specifically from that long autumn of 1888, cross-checking the recent details with the accounts of the original murders as written by reporters at the time.

It's all seems a long time ago now, and of course it is. These days I make my living penning imaginary horrors. But occasionally things crop up, as this photograph did, to remind us that reality can be far, far worse.

Now ... on a less gloomy note, I have a very exciting announcement to make in regard to SPECTRAL PRESS, who, if you recall, published my short story KING DEATH last year, helping it to gain selection for the prestigious YEAR'S BEST DARK FANTASY AND HORROR, 2012, edited by Paula Guran, and who, in time for this year's festive season, are putting out the rather marvellous 13 GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS.

It also concerns SPARROWHAWK, my Christmas novella of 2010, which thus far is one of my best ever sellers. In short, this time next year, SPECTRAL PRESS will be publishing a new hardback edition of SPARROWHAWK, specially illustrated. Alas, it's far too early to give you any small details yet - such as prices, publication dates, etc, but rest assured I'll keep you all fully informed if you keep checking in.

For those who've never read SPARROWHAWK, it tells the story of Victorian soldier, Captain John Sparrowhawk, of the 16th Light Dragoons, sole survivor of a brutal massacre in Afghanistan and a man who then returns home to London to find his life in ruins - his wife dead, his property repossessed. Broken and embittered, Sparrowhawk gambles and drinks away the little money he has left and finds himself in the debtors' prison, which is literally the next stop to Hell. Salvation of a sort finally arrives in the shape of the enigmatic and beautiful Miss Evangeline, who bails Sparrowhawk out on the condition he will stand guard over a house in Bloomsbury throughout the month of December. Sparrowhawk undertakes the mission, but it isn't just the ice and snow he must contend with. An unknown entity, a supernatural foe of the most ruthless and unrelenting kind, is soon stalking him. Sparrowhawk has never been one to back down from a challenge, but it seems this adversary has some very nasty (and very personal) Christmas tricks up its sleeve.

Here's a snippet:

He continued to walk around the exterior until he encountered the narrow side-gate that he and his sister, Nan, had used as children. It was made of wood, but had rotted with age. Its lock hung off, so he pushed it open. On the other side lay what had once been the Parsonage’s west lawn, though all he found now was deep, snow-covered bracken. He waded through it to a stone path, which he followed around to the front door. This stood half-open, icy blackness skulking on the other side.

Anyone else might have held back at this point, but Sparrowhawk was too perplexed to think straight. He entered a long, wood-panelled reception hall, which, though cloaked in near darkness, he could have walked blindfolded. A door stood ajar on the left. Through it, lay his father’s old study. Glacial moonlight spilled into this, revealing shelves filled with dust and debris, a desk and floor strewn with torn books and dog-eared papers. Further along the hall, on the right, a door stood open on the old dining room. Sparrowhawk gazed through at a scene of equal desolation. It had once been decked for Christmas, but now evergreen trimmings hung desiccated from the overhead beams. Goblets and wine bottles lay shattered. Bowls of dates, figs and scented candles had once adorned the sideboards, but the candles had long ago dissolved and the fruit was nothing but mulch. On the central table, the festive feast was a malodorous shadow of its former self. Mice, cockroaches and other vermin scuttled amid the odious relics: a goose that was now carrion; steamed vegetables that were cobwebbed husks; an ornate Christmas cake thick with fungal fur. Strangely, there was no fetor, though the temperature might have accounted for that – the few intact panes in the window were rimed with frost both on the inside as well as the out.

Sparrowhawk strode on. Ahead of him, the door to the parlour was closed but, spotting a ruddy light around its edges, he opened it.

The room on the other side had been the cosiest in the house. It looked through French windows onto a garden that in summer was a profusion of flowers and greenery. Its walls had been papered in pastel shades. It had always boasted comfortable furniture. Over the large mantelpiece there had once been an oil painting depicting his parents in their younger, more carefree days. Now the room was a shell: drab walls, bare boards on the floor, furniture shrouded with mildewed sheets. The ruddy light was cast by a few meagre coals glowing in the hearth, though these were sufficient to illuminate the elf figure, which waited for Sparrowhawk in the far corner, its arms raised above its head as if it was about to cast some fairy tale hex.

He approached it, frightened but at the same time fascinated.

The elf made no move, and when he got close he saw why. It wasn’t a real man, but a marionette. It was life-size, but its face and hands were carved from jointed wood and had been crudely painted. Its body and limbs were suspended by strings, which rose towards the ceiling but were there lost in dimness. It was also – and this was perhaps the most disquieting thing of all – a close representation of his father.

It seemed that Doctor Joseph Sparrowhawk, the one-time academic, philosopher, publisher and pamphleteer – was now little more than a comic mannequin. Its head lay to one side; its eyes were glass baubles containing beads designed to roll crazily around. Its chin and nose were exaggerated – Punch-like, in the tradition of the season – but the lank white hair was the same, the white side-whiskers were the same, the prominent brow, the small, firm mouth.

Sparrowhawk prodded at it, wondering how he could have followed this effigy all the way from Doughty Street ...

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Great grue and sexy demons - will we win?

Amazing though it seems to me, it's almost a year and a half since THE DEVIL’S ROCK was released in the UK. Given how intensive an experience it was writing it, and then being a party - albeit over long distance - to a very rapid but equally intense production turn-around, it's quite breathtaking how quickly it all now seems to have been and gone, if you know what I mean.

But one of the nice things about writing movies (and the same applies to books as well) is that once they're out there, they continue to attract interest for quite some time and, to an extent, will continue to do business on your behalf. Though progress on the sequel seems to have hit a few snags of late, the details of which I won't bore you with, the original is still proving a hit in certain quarters, and is still earning the plaudits.

To begin with, it's up for yet another clutch of awards. In THE SORTA UNOFFICIAL NEW ZEALAND FILM AWARDS, it's been nominated in the capacity of Best Visual Effects, Best Makeup Design and Best Costume Design, illustrations of which are dotted throughout this column.

Top: Craig Hall looking suitably heroic; next down, Matthew Sunderland looking suitably fiendish, next down, Gina Varela looking suitably demonic (and just for the more red-blooded among you, lower down still, an extra one of Gina looking more her delightful self - even if some of that red blood seems to have got all over shirt).

On top of all that, a few new reviews have come my way which have all commended us in the strongest possible terms. Here is just a handful:

"I was surprised that a movie who'’s entire cast is made up of four, maybe five people could be so good. The script is well done and the acting only serves to support it ..." 101 JOKES I TOLD MYSELF

"Devil’s Rock is about misdirection, simplistic style, and a lot of good writing. The movie is tense in a lot of spots that most horror can’t even begin to be ..."– THE HORROR SHOW

"Don't let the DVD cover art fool you, it's actually a taut, well-acted film that happens to involve a demon and buckets of gore ..." SSCREENPHILES

"It's a quiet little flick that delivers on almost every level. It especially delivers on the sexy Demon front..." THE HORROR CLUB

And now, on an entirely different matter, as I mentioned not too long ago, winter is fast approaching, that time of ice, snow, blazing Christmas fires and things that go bump in the long, dark nights. In celebration of this most enjoyable season, we have yet another anthology that I'm proud to have been included in THE 13 GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS, the first ever Christmas Annual from the inexhaustible SPECTRAL PRESS.

How does this cover art by VINCENT SHAW-MORTON grab you?

I don't think I've ever seen anything more atmospheric of the ghostly festive season. I've already posted the full TOC for this forthcoming box of delights, so check back through a few posts in case you missed it.

My own contribution is DECEMBER, which tells the tale of Brenda, an attractive widow, who is approaching her first Christmas without her husband, and absolutely dreading it. Her younger sister, Josie, rallies to the cause, determined to give Brenda a festive season she'll never forget, but there are other forces at work here. Brenda's past was not entirely sweetness and light, while Yuletide itself has always possessed some dark and vaguely sinister undertones ... and that's it for now. If you want to know more, I guess you'll just have to get your orders in.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Okay ... time for the next 'Next Big Thing'

I was quite honoured last week when the indefatigable TIM LEBBON tagged me as part of his ‘The Next Big Thing’ blog. For those not totally in the know, this is a kind of chain-letter thing in which a writer answers a bunch of pre-set questions, and then tags some other writers of his own choice, and they repeat the process the following week and so on.

Or something to that effect. Anyway, it's a fun process, which, if it works as it should, will take those interested - readers, fans, genre buffs, internet explorers etc - through a variety of authors' blogs, which all share a love of the weird and wonderful. Who knows, it may open up a whole new world of reading matter that you didn't even know was out there.

So here we go. First the questions, then my own taggees.

1) What is the title of your latest book?


2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

It’s the first novel in a trilogy due out next year from Avon Books, describing the investigations of Detective Sergeant Mark 'Heck' Heckenburg, an obsessive blue-collar cop attached to Scotland Yard's elite Serial Crimes Unit. Where did the idea come from? My own experiences as a police officer in Manchester, and just about every exciting, suspenseful and hardbitten cop movie or TV series that I've ever seen.

I'm a big fan of the horror genre as well as the thriller genre, so there is be plenty of dark stuff in there too - nothing supernatural I hasten to add, but this is not just a police procedural. It features some big action sequences and some very nasty killers. Those who read it - at least, this is my intention and hope - will be thrilled, intrigued and scared in equal measure.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

It’s an crime thriller, which goes heavy on action, suspense and urban grime.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

If I could pick absolutely anyone, the following:

Mark 'Heck' Heckenburg – Tom Hardy

Lauren Wraxford – Nathalie Emmanuel

Gemma Piper – Melissa George

Des Palliser – Malcolm McDowell

Mike Silver - Jason Isaacs

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

At least 38 victims; an unknown number of killers; one detective at the very end of his tether.

6) Who published your book?

Avon Books, an imprint of HarperCollins.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

About four to five months.

8) What other books are similar in tone to this story?

Hell Is A City by Maurice Proctor, and Jack's Return Home by Ted Lewis.

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

My late-father, Brian Finch, was, and remains, the inspiration behind everything I've ever written.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Violent action, dark mystery, even a dollop or two of romance (though that will be developed more in the later books). Plus, the eternal drama of working class heroes confronting darkness in the heart of the urban jungle.

And now … enough about me. Here are my recommended taggees:

ALISON LITTLEWOOD (mistress of the taut thriller, but always with a magical, mystical undertone), and SIMON BESTWICK (master of the brutal urban nightmare, but never without a cutting political edge).

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Looking forward to the long, dark season?

Now that we’ve switched to Greenwich Mean Time, the dark nights are again setting in, and of course the leaves are falling and the temperatures plunging, we inevitably start thinking of the season ahead – and by that I mean Christmas, which is always a great fillip for fans of ghost and horror literature.

This may seem like a strange thing to be talking about around Halloween, but I’m guessing that Halloween will long have passed by the time most of you read this blog, and in any case I always think of Halloween as being the start of an all-round haunted season, which culminates in the depths of December and the grand finale that is Christmas.

It’s not a totally strange thing that Christmas has long been associated with ghosts and ghouls. It was traditionally a time for stories, particularly up here in the far north, where families and friends would gather together in the light and warmth of a roaring fire, and try to ignore the icy cold and impenetrable darkness encircling them by telling enjoyable stories.

The spiritual side of Christmas also has some responsibility. Before it was a Christian feast, late December hosted the great pagan festivals of Yule and Saturnalia. In all these traditions, both Christian and pagan, this was an important and mysterious occasion – the shortest day of the year and the coldest weather brought normal life to an eerie standstill, and was definitely deemed worthy of sacrament. But it was a joyous occasion too, a time of celebration and giving, but also a time for reflection, for pondering, for new resolution. In the tales of olden times, ghosts appeared far more frequently at Christmas than at Halloween, but nearly always on these occasions their purpose was to instruct rather than frighten. They were warnings from the past or heralds of possible future misfortune. Charles Dickens was ploughing a popular furrow when A Christmas Carol was first published in 1843.

Since Dickens’s day, of course, there have been countless wonderful chillers set during the festive season (many of which are unashamedly horror stories, rather than meaningful frolics) Just off the top of my head, I can recall several.

Who could forget The Travelling Salesman’s Christmas Special by C. Bruce Hunter, in which a lecherous sales manager participates in a very curious and progressively more disturbing Christmas Eve party? What about Christopher Harman’s terrifying The Last To Be Found, in which a Christmas game of hide and seek turns very nasty indeed? And then there’s that old Christmas chestnut, All Around The House (originally an EC Comics classic, but later novelised by Jack Orleck), and telling the story of a faithless wife, who, having murdered her husband on Christmas Eve, is terrorised by a serial killer dressed as Santa Claus.

(The image at the top of this column is captured from the 1972 movie, Tales From The Crypt, in which this time-honoured Christmas tale is beautifully realised with Joan Collins starring as the murderess about to be murdered).

But why, you may ask, am I telling you all this? Well, as usual, and unfortunately, my reasons are entirely mercenary. I’m rather delighted to announce that a Christmas ghost story of mine, simply entitled December, will now be appearing in the SPECTRAL CHRISTMAS ANNUAL: THE THIRTEEN GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS, from SPECTRAL PRESS, which will be published in December.

I’m not the only one of course. Check out this finalised table of contents:

Where The Stones LieRichard Farren Barber; A Taste Of AlmondsRaven Dane; All That Is LivingNicholas Martin; And May All Your ChristmasesThana Niveau; Carnacki: A Cold Christmas In ChelseaWilliam Meikle; Concerning Events In Leinster GardensJan Edwards; DecemberPaul Finch; An Odd Number At TableJohn Costello; We Are A ShadowNeil Williams; Lost SoldiersAdrian Tchaikovsky; RitualismGary McMahon; Now And ThenMartin Roberts; The Green Clearing - John Forth.

But more importantly perhaps, how does that title grab you?


Go on, admit it – doesn’t it evoke images of yesteryear: snow outside, fairy lights glimmering on the holly, that thrill of once-a-year-excitement as you and your brothers and sisters, knee-deep in tinsel and Christmas paper, rip away yet more wrappers, uncovering one book after another – some of them filled with Jamesian tales perhaps, others containing lighter-hearted stuff, comic strips like The Duke’s Spook, Scream Inn and Frankie Stein, but all of which you just know you’re going to treasure until … well, until the end of your childhood at least?

For those of you who enjoy spook stories, and festive spook stories in particular, or for those of you who simply seek to recapture the essence of Christmases long past, I suggest you snap this one up.

SPECTRAL PRESS are relatively new on the scene – at least they seem that way when you’re as long in the tooth as I am – but they’ve already established themselves as one of the most stylish and innovative small presses in the horror/fantasy market. Their books have won wide acclaim both from fans and critics alike, not just for the quality of the writing, but for the care and attention with which they’ve been illustrated, typeset, printed and bound. Wake up on Christmas morning and find your stocking crammed with SPECTRAL PRESS products, and you’ll truly experience the spirit of the season.

(You’ll especially experience it if the THE THIRTEEN GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS is in there too – yes, I’m sorry, another shameless plug. But what the heck, I wouldn’t tell you I think it’s going to be great if I didn't genuinely believe it).

And now, before I sign off, a word of congratulation to the monstrously talented PAUL CAMPION, my good friend and the director of THE DEVIL’S ROCK, the horror movie I scripted, which was released to the cinemas in summer 2010. Paul has now scooped the prestigious Shocker Award at the Knoxville Horror Film Festival for his amazing and ultra-disturbing short movie of 2008, EEL GIRL (illustrated here).

For any fans of the horror, sci-fi and fantasy genres who haven’t yet seen this one – shame on yer! Get it watched!

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Some really wicked men are on their way!

It's been a couple of weeks since I've blogged, but not to fear ... after a several days of frantic running here and there, racing to meet deadlines, slogging through numerous proofs and corrections, having meetings and so on, a modicum of normality is at last returning.

That said, there isn't a great deal new to report this week, though there are updates of sorts. To begin with, the first three parts of my recent lengthy interview with ARMED WITH PENS, can be found here: PART ONE, PART TWO and PART THREE.

ARMED WITH PENS is an excellent resource website for writers and editor, to which I'm exceedingly grateful (I'm especially grateful to interviewer Dan Howarth) for giving me the opportunity to elaborate about myself and my work.

For those who haven't been following this blog, my career has taken a partial change of direction this last year. Though I tend to write a lot in the horror and fantasy fields, that isn't the whole story by any means, and my recent commission from Avon Books to produce a trilogy of crime novels, recalling as much as possible my own days as a cop in Manchester, has brought me into the sphere of the thriller crowd.

The three novels concern the investigations of Detective Sergeant Mark 'Heck' Heckenburg, who is attached to Scotland Yard's elite Serial Crimes Unit, and they pitch him against various colourful but ultra-fiendish foes.

The first book, STALKERS, will be published next February, and concerns the hunt for 38 'Middle England' women, who have all inexplicably dropped from sight. The seedy underbellies of several UK cities are explored as Heck gets into the guts of Britain's criminal underworld to find some answers.

The second book in the series, the title of which has now been changed from DESECRATOR to SACRIFICE, is due for publication in July next year. I can't give too many details away about this one. Suffice to say that Heck is once again up to his ears in a gruesome, disturbing and baffling mystery. The new title, however, may give drop some clue as to what this one about.

The third book doesn't have a title yet, and cannot be discussed in any shape or form at this stage. So, sorry ... all I can say about that one is that you'll have to watch this space.

Anyway, as per my last entry, I've illustrated this blog with a few more memorable moments from the best in British crime drama, just to give you a flavour in advance of the atmosphere I'm aiming for Mark Heckenburg books.

(Top: defending hearth and home against a maniac, from STRAW DOGS, 1971. Middle: justice gangland style, from GET CARTER, 1971. And just above here: "The Mafia! I've shit 'em!", from THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY, 1979).

On the horror front, meanwhile, things haven't been completely inactive at this end. I'm pleased to announce that the hardback versions of ENEMIES AT THE DOOR have arrived and I'm applying my signatures to them as we speak. To all those who've pre-ordered, they'll be dispatched forthwith. ENEMIES hasn't received any online reviews as yet, though the word of mouth seems, on the whole, to be good. Meanwhile, some of the stories in another recent publication of mine, TERROR TALES OF EAST ANGLIA, which was launched at Fantasycon last September, have started to elicit responses.

Thus far, Deep Water by Chris Harman has been described as "a landmark reading experience", Alison Littlewood's Like Suffolk, Like Holidays "will become a classic", and of Roger Johnson's The Watchman, check out this comment: "There is something paradoxically warm and comfortable about fictionally exploring a country church (here a Suffolk one) despite horrors emerging regarding legends underlying its history ..."

And on that note, pictured right is the mysterious entrance to one such isolated church in rural Suffolk, compete with eerie Latin engravings on its ancient door, which I stumbled upon during my ramblings last summer.

Of course, that's only a handful of opinions regarding TERROR TALES OF EAST ANGLIA. Pray, don't let them stop you from buying a copy and posting a few viewpoints of your own ; )

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Mad guys, bad guys and those on their trail

Well, after an enjoyable weekend dwelling in the realms of fantasy and horror down at Fantasycon in Brighton, it's back now to the reality of violent crime.

But a few quick words about the Con first. I didn't win the British Fantasy Award in the capacity of Best Short Story. Even though KING DEATH made the final nominations, for some reason it wasn't announced as a contender at the actual presentation, which left a few people - yours truly included - rather baffled. Though I have been assured that this discrepancy will be looked into.

Never fear, the disturbing images on this column are not supposed to be representative of my state of mind in the light of this (more about those later). I'm not bothered by it - some you win, some you lose - and in fact hearty congratulations go to all those who did win awards this year, especially my good pals, ADAM NEVILL (Best Novel) and ROB SHEARMAN (Best Short Fiction Collection).

And now, as I promised earlier, something a little different.

My latest KILLER READS blog is up and ready to read on the HarperCollins website. Get over there and check it out, why dontcha?

In it, I elaborate a little on my days in the Greater Manchester Police and explain as much as I'm able to in the space provided how this experience empowered me as a crime and thriller writer. The are one or two anecdotes on there which some people may find amusing, or maybe a little bit hair-raising depending on your position re. these matters (personally, I recollect them all fondly).

This is all in preparation for my new series of novels from Avon Books concerning the investigations of seasoned cop, Detective Sergeant Mark 'Heck' Heckenburg, who is attached to Scotland Yard's elite Serial Crimes Unit. The first of these books, STALKERS, is due out in February next year. On that note, I've recently completed the copy-edit for it and what a nerve-racking job that always is. It won't be the last time I get to see it, but when a page is passing through your hands and this time you know that you really are reaching the stage where you must spot anything you don't want to appear in the finished edition, it concentrates your mind wonderfully.

That said, I was very happy the way this near-final draft of the book read. STALKERS puts Heck on the trail of 38 women who have gone missing without explanation, and takes him through the dark, seedy underbellies of two of Britain's dirtiest and most dangerous cities, pitting him against various creeps and psychos, not to mention a plethora of organised crime characters, any one of whom would happily kick you to death if he thought he might gain.

A quick note in advance: though it contains as much authentic cop stuff as I could cram into it, STALKERS is neither a police procedural nor a clue-by-clue whodunnit of the sort we normally associate with Sunday evening TV. Expect horrible murders, tough action and uncompromising language all the way through. Even if I say so myself, it's more in the dark, violent vein of GET CARTER!, THE FRENCH CONNECTION and SE7EN. Lavish self-praise perhaps - so I should maybe qualify that statement by saying that this, at least, is what I'm striving for. Ultimately, you folks out there must decide whether or not I've succeeded.

In celebration of the tone the Mark Heckenburg books will adopt, I've illustrated this piece with some memorably chilling moments from the best of British violent crime drama: At the top VILLAIN (1971); below that THE SWEENEY (1974) and third down, the crazy sledgehammer killer from one of my own episodes of THE BILL: PROTECT AND SURVIVE (2001).

Monday, 24 September 2012

New collection: ENEMIES AT THE DOOR

Very pleased to announce that a new collection of my novellas and short stories is now available to purchase.

ENEMIES AT THE DOOR comes to you courtesy of the tireless GRAY FRIAR PRESS, and is the 12th collection of my short horror fiction that has been published to date. It contains a combination of brand new material and timely reprints, and is available in either hardback – signed copies and all that stuff – or paperback.

For those who will be in attendance, the paperbacks will be available to buy at FANTASYCON in Brighton at the end of this week, while the hardcovers will be out in early October.

Also check out the amazing cover. That is entirely the work of my daughter, Eleanor Finch, a skilled graphic designer and photographer who at some point in the near future will have her own website up and running and will be available for commissions.

As some of you will almost certainly have a yearning to know more, here is the table of contents, with a tiny bit of tantalising detail for each entry:

When …: A pastoral care worker learns the limits of his power when he tries to counsel a disturbed but mysterious schoolboy …

Slayground: An elite police firearms team is set on the trail of an apparently crazed gunman, but this opponent is a far cry from anything they’ve experienced before …

Those They Left Behind: On the 40th anniversary of her son’s execution, elderly Mrs. Dawkins alarms her home-help by taking in a lodger whom nobody ever sees …

We, Who Live In The Wood: A hotshot TV producer takes his depressed wife to a remote cottage on Dartmoor, but has no idea how close it is to Wistman’s Wood, home of the legendary Yeth Hounds …

The Faerie: Henpecked Arthur leaves home with his baby daughter, but his attempts to cross the Peak District falter in a furious blizzard. The duo take refuge in a lonely house, where they are are hosted by a seemingly perfect woman …

Daddy Was A Space Alien: The gutter press come unstuck when they pursue a fallacious article about the hybrid offspring of Earth women raped by aliens …

The Doom: Money-mad Rev. Bilks can’t believe his luck when his country church is renovated and a medieval wall-painting is uncovered depicting the horrors of Hell. But for his wife Pamela it’s all a bit too realistic …

Blessed Katie: Upwardly mobile Maddie returns to the slum terrace where she was born, now a fashionably remodelled townhouse. Everything has changed beyond recognition but one particularly eerie memory won’t go away …

Elderly Lady, Lives Alone: Chockton is a sadistic burglar who likes to beat up little old ladies. The next one he targets lives alone on an otherwise abandoned housing estate. What could go wrong?

The Ditch: Prostitute and police informer Nicolette faces dire peril when two gangland thugs throw her down into a derelict stretch of the London Underground. It doesn’t comfort her that this was once the place where King Canute fed his enemies to savage dogs …

The Poppet: Oxford undergrad Richard is amused by the faceless doll he buys for his sister’s birthday. Whatever happens, he is told, he must never draw a face on it. Richard doesn’t. But what about the friend he recently betrayed?

Enemies At The Door: A brain-damaged war veteran lives a contented life with his long-term girlfriend, but everything changes when he finds a strange door in his office which he has never noticed before …

Friday, 21 September 2012

Terror Tales of East Anglia ready to order!

Well, here we go again ...

I can officially announce that the third volume in my series of 'regional' horror anthologies, TERROR TALES OF EAST ANGLIA, is now available to pre-order direct from its publisher, GRAY FRIAR PRESS, to be unleashed on the world in the next week or so, with copies available to purchase at FANTASYCON at the end of this month.

With any luck, those of you who enjoyed the first two volumes in this series, TERROR TALES OF THE LAKE DISTRICT, and TERROR TALES OF THE COTSWOLDS will already be on board and eagerly placing your order, but for those who haven't yet read the first two books, or maybe who don't know Britain too well, this anthology is set exclusively in East Anglia, a vast ancient landscape in south-eastern England, very rural in atmosphere, very flat and very marshy - it was always said that in the days when gibbets were erected at crossroads, those in East Anglia (and their grisly burdens) could be seen for miles in every direction.

East Anglia also incorporates the legendary English 'fen country' - thousand of acres of winding, mist-shrouded waterways, and has its own unique and mysterious folklore, not to mention a long tradition of battles, murders, witch-hunts and ghost stories of the most eerie variety (East Anglia, of course, was the preferred stamping-ground of one Montague Rhodes James). But never mind all this expostulation. Time for me to zip it and let the back cover blurb do the talking:

East Anglia – a drear, flat land of fens and broads, lone gibbets and isolated cottages, where demon dogs howl in the night, witches and warlocks lurk at every crossroads, and corpse-candles burn in the marshland mist …

The giggling horror of Dagworth
The wandering torso of Happisburgh
The vile apparitions at Wicken
The slavering beast of Rendlesham
The faceless evil on Wallasea
The killer hounds of Southery
The dark guardian of Wandlebury

And many more chilling tales by Alison Littlewood, Reggie Oliver, Roger Johnson, Steve Duffy and other award-winning masters and mistresses of the macabre.

The book contains ten works of original horror fiction set in East Anglia, and three classic reprints. It also features the usual anecdotal tales concerning supposedly true incidents of East Anglian terror.

In case your appetites haven’t been whetted enough, here is the full table of contents:

Loose by Paul Meloy & Gary Greenwood
The Most Haunted House in England
Deep Water by Christopher Harman
Murder in the Red Barn
The Watchman by Roger Johnson
The Woman in Brown
Shuck by Simon Bestwick
The Witchfinder-General
The Marsh Warden by Steve Duffy
Beware the Lantern Man!
The Fall of the King of Babylon by Mark Valentine
The Weird in the Wood
Double Space by Gary Fry
The Dagworth Mystery
Wicken Fen by Paul Finch
Boiled Alive
Wolferton Hall by James Doig
The Wandering Torso
Aldeburgh by Johnny Mains
The Killer Hounds of Southery
Like Suffolk, Like Holidays by Alison Littlewood
The Demon of Wallasea Island
The Little Wooden Box by Edward Pearce
The Dark Guardian of Wandlebury
The Spooks of Shellborough by Reggie Oliver

Once again, I wholeheartedly thank these authors for their efforts, not to mention STEVE UPHAM, whose artwork propels any project he's connected with into new realms of horror, and Gary Fry of GRAY FRIAR PRESS, without whom none of this would have been possible. (As a footnote, the book will be also be available from most good online retailers, AMAZON UK and AMAZON US for example, in a few weeks' time).

Well, what are you all waiting for ... get in there!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Quartet of horror as the Con approacheth

Well … FANTASYCON is fast approaching – in fact it’s only seven days away – to be hosted in Brighton at the Royal Albion Hotel. Veterans of the Con will know that it always presents a great opportunity to pick up all the latest books, and to get them signed by those authors and editors who happen to be there in person (and that’s usually most of them).

I myself am fortunate enough to have two new books at the Con this year: TERROR TALES OF EAST ANGLIA, which I’ve edited, and ENEMIES AT THE DOOR, which is latest collection of my own short fiction. (Links, artwork, TOCs and so forth, will appear on this blog in the next couple of days – keep checking back). But short stories of mine will also be appearing in four other anthologies due for launch in Brighton:

The 9th BLACK BOOK OF HORROR is the 9th in the series of the same name (well, obviously), and is basically the latest chapter in editor Charles Black’s amazing endeavour to recreate the style and atmosphere of the old Pan and Fontana series of horror anthologies, rebooted for the modern age.

The BLACK BOOKS OF HORROR have premiered some exceptional horror stories to date, Minos Or Rhadamanthus (by Reggie Oliver), Two For Dinner (by John Llewellyn Probert) and Schrodinger’s Human (by Anna Taborska) having already earned themselves a cult status similar to that enjoyed by such Pan classics as Belvedere’s Bride (by Jane Gregory) and It Came To Dinner (by R. Chetwynd-Hayes).

I haven’t read any of this latest installment in the series yet, but the cover, as always, is a delight – thanks to artist Paul Mudie (as displayed above), and the TOC, which follows, ought to make anyone grab this book off the shelves at the first opportunity:

The Anatomy Lesson by John Llewellyn Probert
The Mall by Craig Herbertson
Salvaje by Simon Bestwick
Pet by Gary Fry
Ashes To Ashes by David Williamson
The Apprentice by Anna Taborska
Life Expectancy by Sam Dawson
What’s Behind You? by Paul Finch
Ben’s Best Friend by Gary Power
The Things That Aren’t There by Thana Niveau
Bit On The Side by Tom Johnstone
Indecent Behaviour by Marion Pitman
His Family by Kate Farrell
A Song, A Silence by John Forth
The Man Who Hated Waste by Marc Lyth
Swan Song by David A. Riley

The next book in which I’ll feature at the Con marks my second appearance this year in a PS publication. For those not in the know, PS PUBLICATIONS, helmed by a writer of no small repute himself, Peter Crowther, also focus on horror, fantasy and science fiction, but pride themselves on truly beautiful products: exquisite hardcover collectables, engraved slipcased editions and so forth.

A CARNIVALE OF HORROR looks like being a particularly interesting addition to their list. It is yet another anthology edited by that indefatiguable duo, Paul Kane and Marie O’Regan, and it tells disturbing stories centred around the circus and the fairground. The cover, as you can see here, comes to us from Ben Baldwin, and is very special indeed.

No less impressive, in my humble opinion, is the TOC, as follows:

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
A Flat Patch of Grass by Muriel Gray
Some Children Wander By Mistake by John Connolly
Spurs (AKA Freaks) by Tod Robbins
Tiger, Tiger by Rio Youers
Blind Voices by Tom Reamy
Mister Magister by Thomas F. Monteleone
Twittering From The Circus of The Dead by Joe Hill
The Pilo Family Circus by Will Elliott
Face of The Circus by Lou Morgan
Escardy Gap by Peter Crowther & James Lovegrove
The Circus of Dr Lao by Charles Finney
In The Forest of The Night by Paul Finch
All The Clowns in Clowntown by Andrew McKiernan
Nine Letters About Spit by Robert Shearman
To Run Away and Join The Circus by Alison Littlewood

Next up we have the SCREAMING BOOK OF HORROR, edited by Johnny Mains, another grafter in the genre who has great ambitions to resurrect the golden age of the horror anthology. As such, this one could be a simple one-off or may prove to be the start of something incredibly exciting in terms of an ongoing series (Johnny sounded undecided when I last spoke to him). Its unmissable cover comes to us courtesy of STEVE UPHAM and, once again, it boasts an amazing line-up of talent in its TOC. Check ’em out:

Christenings Can Be Dangerous by John Llewellyn Probert
Larva by John Brunner
The Swarm by Alison Littlewood
Natural Selection by Robin Ince
One of the Family by Bernard Taylor
Cut! by Anna Taborska
The Christmas Toys by Paul Finch
The Quixote Candidate by Rhys Hughes
Helping Mummy by Kate Farell
The City of Plenty by Alex Miles
The Iron Cross by Craig Herbertson
Sometimes You Think You Are Alone by Alison Moore
Bird Doll by Claire Massey
What Shall We Do About Barker? by Reggie Oliver
Old Grudge Ender by David A. Riley
Jack and Jill by Steve Rasnic Tem
The Blackshore Dreamer by John Burke
Imagination by Christopher Fowler
The Baby Trap by Janine Wood
The Tip Run by Johnny Mains
Dementia by Charlie Higson

Last but not least – not by any means least (this one is likely to be one of the biggest of the year) is ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE: FIGHTBACK!, edited by STEPHEN JONES, which forms a sequel to ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE!, the massive hit of 2010 – and who knows, it may actually end up being part two of a dedicated trilogy.

The first book – which was really a mosaic novel rather than an anthology – detailed the eruption of a zombie plague in London when demolition workers inadvertently opened the guts of a medieval church. Black magic and deranged science interwove to provide the explanation for what, in the opinion of many reviewers, was the most vividly and realistically portrayed ‘dead men walking’ cataclysm to date. A number of writers were involved, yours truly included, several of which make their mark again in this second book in the series. Check out these contributors, and admit that you can’t afford to miss it:

Tabloid Tales by Jo Fletcher
From Prof Margaret Winn by Christopher Fowler
From Simon Wesley #1 by Christopher Fowler
Lord Of The Fleas by Reggie Oliver
The Hobbs End Horror by Jo Fletcher
From Simon Wesley #2 by Christopher Fowler
Hard News by Jo Fletcher
Morphogenesis by Brian Hodge
Dead Air by Paul Finch
Consent Form by Amanda Foubister
From Simon Wesley #3 by Christopher Fowler
The Well Of Seven by Christopher Fowler
From Simon Wesley by Christopher Fowler
Paris When It Sizzles by Anne Billson
Pages From A British Army Field Manual by Guy Adams
Peace Land Blood by Sarah Pinborough
Zz Experiment Camp by John Llewellyn Probert
Down Among The Dead Men by Neil Gaiman & Les Edwards
#zombey by Simon Strantzas
Rendition by Paul Mcauley
Fright Club by Brian Hodge
The World According To Bernie Maughmstein #1 by Peter Crowther
In The Cloud by Pat Cadigan
The World According To Bernie Maughmstein #2 by Peter Crowther
Corpse Gas by Peter Crowther
The World According To Bernie Maughmstein #3 by Peter Crowther
Getting It Right by Michael Marshall Smith
The World According To Bernie Maughmstein #4 by Peter Crowther
A Shamble Of Zombies by Roz Kaveney
Day Of The Dead by Lisa Morton
To Serve Man by Amanda Foubister
You Are What You Eat by Peter Atkins
The World According To Bernie Maughmstein #5 by Peter Crowther
The Play’s The Thing by Robert Shearman
The World According To Bernie Maughmstein #6 by Peter Crowther
Island Life by Lisa Tuttle
The World According To Bernie Maughmstein #7 by Peter Crowther
My Fellow Americans by Nancy Holder

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

New Who, Hollywood horror, harsh words

I had a pleasant surprise this week when the paperback version of HUNTER’S MOON, my Dr Who novel of 2011, arrived as part of a neat little box-set from BBC Books – the official ‘2013 Collection’.

Also included in the package is THE WAY THROUGH THE WOODS by Uma McCormack and DEAD OF WINTER by James Goss. Both are an excellent read, and provide two other very good reasons why folk should invest in this product.

My tale, HUNTER’S MOON, takes the Doctor (the 11th of that name), Rory and Amy to a futuristic space platform where the workers of an intergalactic industrial confederation let their hair down. This really is the party to end all parties – there is much drinking, much riotous behaviour in various space-age fleshpots and much mixing of gamblers and villains with socialites and celebrities. But it’s also a place were you really don’t want to step on the wrong set of toes. To cut a long story short, Rory gets kidnapped by a brutal crime-lord, Amy gets a job as a skimpily-clad waitress and the Doctor, having impersonated a vicious bounty hunter, finds himself embroiled in a violent game of death …

Just in case that doesn’t whet your whistles sufficiently, here are some of the nice things that have been written about it online:
In a story full of excitement and adventure, the Doctor is pushed to the limits of his survival and cunning. With Amy forced to wear a skintight cat-suit, this would make a brilliant episode for TV …
To quote the Doctor, how cool is that.
This was very different from any Dr. Who novelisations and I think that’s what made it a very good read. It was gory and rough and that’s something you don’t see much with Dr. Who. This seems like it would’ve fit in the Old School Who, but also in the Moffat era with all of the different monsters …
Sounds like a man after my own heart.
I was very impressed with Hunter's Moon probably because the way the story was told it felt like something like the events described could happen. An ex-policeman, his wife and child are kidnapped and transported to an alien world where they are forced to endure horrific confrontations. The whole concept sent shivers down my spine. The Doctor, Amy and Rory always get out of scrapes – but here was a group of humans facing something that could only be experienced in nightmares! Well done, Paul Finch – love to see this book turned into a TV adventure ... or would I? Other authors of Doctor Who novels could learn a lot from Mr Finch ... in fact, so could the television production team! Highly recommended!
Wahaaay to the last one, or what? But now – boos-hisss! – the brickbats:
This is very much a hybrid of 1980s style Doctor Who (an interesting mix of late Davison/late McCoy era tropes & characteristics). It’s rather light on plot originality, and Amy is under-used ... but it’s full of great action writing. A superficially enjoyable read, but not quite as memorable as it could have been.
Don’t worry, if you want blood, you’re going to get it …
Not my favourite Doctor Who tie-in book, a bit too much gritty sci-fi action and not enough fun timey-wimey and character interaction for me. Didn’t really feel like an episode of Doctor Who – more like a questionnable post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie that might feature Keanu Reeves or someone equally awful …
Ouch! But if you thought I’d got off lightly so far, check this one out …
It is my dearest hope that Paul Finch will never write a Doctor Who novel ever again. I have a deep feeling that to gather information in preparation to write this novel, he sat down one night, watched a couple of episodes of Classic Who, and afterwards watched about thirty seconds of an New Who, most likely a clip in which the 11th Doctor portrayed as Matt Smith, says something is cool.
Ah well, you can’t please them all. But as they say, those who can write, do, and those who can’t … well, let’s not go there. No sense giving credence to the theory that bitchiness is catching (that would be no good for my street-cred). Suffice to say that I’ve apparently really offended someone by making Rory into an action-hero and Amy into a captive. Probably best not to ponder that for too long.

Anyway, on a happier note, I can report this week that Canadian sales agent, Raven Banner, have signed on the dotted line for DARK HOLLOW, and that the movie – which director Paul Campion and I scripted at least a couple of years ago now, and have revised several times since – is at last slated for production next year.

DARK HOLLOW is, of course, a film adaptation of Briane Keene’s superb horror novel of the same name. Raven Banner, who are regarded as genre specialists, picked up the world sales rights after it was pitched recently at the Fantasia co-production market in Montreal.

More details can be found here on the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.

To celebrate, above and below are a couple more shots of the eerie New Forest locations that we scouted for the movie earlier this year.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

More tales of terror with a regional flavour

Well, the final proof for TERROR TALES OF EAST ANGLIA has been checked, and is now winging its way to the printers as we speak. And given the quality of some of the stories in there, I’m hopeful that it will be at least as successful as those others that have gone before it – TERROR TALES OF THE LAKE DISTRICT and TERROR TALES OF THE COTSWOLDS.

As usual, the book is packed with original spine-chilling material from a cast of old reliables as well as a few newcomers, plus a couple of classic reprints and a hatful of those macabre myths so prevalent in the eastern region. In short, we’re offering another motley assortment of varied, hair-raising horror, covering everything from marsh-monsters to vengeful spectres, from ancient curses (with a distinctly modern twist) to killer brutes enflamed by supernatural rage.

But of course none of these books would be possible without the crafty connivance of the geographical regions in which they are located. I chose these places, the Lake District first, the Cotswolds second, now East Anglia (and others to follow) not just because they are notable for their natural beauty and picturesque scenery, but because they boast deep, dark histories filled with reports of ghosts, ghouls, witches, battles and bloodshed.

Only last weekend I was traversing the leafy flatlands of East Anglia, to sample some of its secrets. All were given up with alarming ease. For every Flatford Mill, where John Constable honed his miraculous art, there is a pile of rubble which was once a spooky old building notorious for its ghosts, like BORLEY RECTORY (pictured above, with some idiot standing in front of it). For every quaint country manse, there is a lonesome church of the type MR James would have enjoyed, with menacing Latin incantations inscribed over its ancient entryways. For every verdant vista, there is a stark reminder of darker days, such as the Caxton Gibbet (pictured near the top). For every charming shadow-clock, there is an eerie lump of stonework, usually mist-shrouded and forgotten by time, but covered with demonic carvings (such as that pictured below, at Dedham).

For every … but no, we could go on indefinitely, and frankly I haven't got space even for most of the photos I took. Better perhaps to leave it there and just say that for further installments of East Anglian mystery and terror, keep checking back here for updates or pop over to GRAY FRIAR PRESS, where TERROR TALES OF EAST ANGLIA will be available for pre-order in the very near future.

Thanks for the pictures to Eleanor Finch and (for the gibbet) to Andrew Dunn.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

It seems that I am now - officially - a killer!

Yes indeed, I am now – officially – a killer!

Okay, first of all that intro (not to mention the headline) is a little bit misleading. I am NOT an actual killer. But apparently I AM a ‘Killer Read’.

That’s right. And how proud am I to be able to say this?

I’ve been slaying them for years. Or at least that’s what I’ve been trying to do. Not just characters in my books and stories, but my readers, who it’s always been my ambition to put through an absolute wringer. I’ve never really wanted anyone to put a book of mine down, sit back and say: “Wow, what a satisfying read that was. How uplifted I feel.”

I want them to be a nervous wreck. I want them to lurch for the nearest bottle of brandy.

And now it’s all official. But don’t take my word for it. Pop over onto the HarperCollins website, KILLER READS (check out the official logo below), where I now have my own monthly blog – to run parallel with this one, but concentrating mainly on my crime writing.

It’s a great honour, of course, to be asked to write this new blog. It will run in tandem with the marketing campaign for STALKERS, the first of a trilogy of very hardboiled crime thrillers that I’m writing for Avon Books at Harpers, which tell the collective tale of Scotland Yard’s elite Serial Crimes Unit, and one particular detective, whose pursuit of some of Britain’s most depraved killers takes on the dimensions of a full-blown war.

Between now and next summer, I’ll be using KILLER READS to evolve my thoughts and ideas with regard to this new series – much the way I do with this blog and my other written material. The first installment is really a brief introduction to who I am and what I do, though I talk a little bit about the coming novel as well.

Just to refresh, STALKERS will be the first in a trio of tales concerning Detective Sergeant Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg, already a battle-scarred street-veteran even though he’s only in his late 30s. Heck is an affable, even-tempered guy, but he knows every trick in the book and will stop at nothing in his battle for justice.

Heck knows better than anyone that you don’t get the job done by trying to heal ‘broken Britain’, understand the disenfranchised or apologise for living to the nation’s creeps and psychos. Heck is a law-officer: there’s a system and he respects it, but old habits die hard in the depths of our inner cities – for those on both sides of the fence – so correct protocols will not always be followed, nasty tricks will be played and lowlives will be leaned upon. As such, these books will be light on finicky procedural and heavy on action and suspense.

And again – don’t just take my word for it. If you get yourself over there to KILLER READS, there’s an online link to an extract from the first book in the series. But you may need to move quickly, as I’m not sure how long that link will be open for.

Of course, even if you’re not bothered about taking in this trailer, you can do me a favour by checking KILLER READS out every so often. If nothing else, it’ll help me shed more darkness into your world of light.