Friday, 29 August 2014

A stranger stalks the night with evil intent

Here, for your delectation, is an exclusive first peek at the cover for the next Heck novel, DEAD MAN WALKING, which is published on November 20 this year.

In a nutshell, after the tumultuous events of the previous novel, THE KILLING CLUB, Detective Sergeant Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg is living in a kind of self-imposed exile in the quiet Lake District village of Cragwood Keld. He’s still a cop, he still investigates crime, now in the company of spirited sidekick PC Mary-Ellen O’Rourke. But life moves at a slower pace up here. Heck spends more time rounding up stray sheep than he does feeling the collars of violent criminals.

And then something terrible happens. One misty autumn night, two female hikers go missing on the nearby fells.

Not only that, they go missing in frightening and peculiar circumstances … circumstances that remind Heck discomfortingly of a serial murder case from many years ago, when a nameless, faceless phantom known as ‘the Stranger’ preyed on courting couples late at night, leaving a trail of 13 brutalised corpses.

But the Stranger is dead. Heck is sure about this. He even contacts Detective Superintendent Gemma Piper down at the Serial Crimes Unit at Scotland Yard, and she confirms it. The Stranger died over 10 years ago. Someone else must be responsible for this mysterious double-crime.  

Heck can’t help wondering, though ...

After all, they never actually found the Stranger’s body.

Suddenly Cragwood Keld and other high Lakeland villages feel very isolated and remote. And right on cue, the thickest, coldest fog in living memory descends on the Cumbrian mountains and valleys, bringing life to a standstill. DSU Piper, sufficiently concerned by Heck’s report that she makes the trip north, is one of the last people to arrive in the region before everything grinds to an abrupt halt.

And still this case won’t break. And increasingly, despite all logic to the contrary, Heck becomes convinced that the Stranger is back.


Okay, that’s the nitty-gritty of it. Here, for your further delectation, is an excerpt from the novel:

With such fears in the forefront of his mind, it was probably not the ideal time for him to spot the writing on the far wall of the boathouse interior. This only happened slowly, as his eyes adjusted to the deep gloom, but once the piece of crude graffiti had swum properly into view, he jumped to his feet.
     Now that he was fully out of the water, it was bitterly cold. Ice felt as if it was forming inside his clothes, but fleetingly Heck was too distracted to notice that. He limped around the interior to the far pier, so he could examine it up close.


     There was no question about who’d written it or what it meant, though had Heck not been so cold already it would still have been numbing to see it in front of his face like this. In the dimness he was colour-blind, so though he didn’t immediately realise the sentence had been inscribed in blood, the idea struck him hard when he dabbed at it with a fingertip, and felt it both slimy and congealed …

Hopefully that will whet a few whistles. In case it didn’t, and completely gratuitously, let’s finish off now with the actual blurb from the back of the book:

Beware the stranger in the night…

Consigned to a remote valley in the Lake District, DS Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg is getting used to a quieter life – a far cry from the bloodbath of his former division, the Serial Crimes Unit. But wherever Heck goes, trouble is never far behind.

Unknown to Heck, ‘the Stranger’ has returned. Last seen on Dartmoor ten years earlier, this prolific serial killer has found a new home. As a dense, frozen mist descends on the Lakes, the Stranger returns to his old ways, starting with two young women lost high on the hills. Only one girl is ever found – barely alive – but able to confirm Heck’s worst fears.

As the Stranger lays siege to the remote community, Heck helplessly watches as the killer plays his cruel game, letting off his trademark call before viciously picking off his victims.

And with no way to get word out of the valley, Heck has no choice but to play ball…

Lock your doors and bar your windows. This is a thrilling, spine-chilling, nail-shredding book that will leave you scared to turn the lights out. Because when the mist descends, you never know who’s watching you …

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Yorkshire blood and Green Men - all here!

I'm very pleased to announce the imminent arrival of the next volume in our TERROR TALES anthology series. This, as you can see from the image, is TERROR TALES OF YORKSHIRE. Okay, those among you with Lancastrian origins, like me, won't need reminding about that nightmarish land on t'uther side 'ut Pennines, but mysteriously not everyone will share that view, so I have now taken the responsibility on myself to show the rest of the country in no uncertain terms what we in the real God's country already know.

And what a joy it's been, as always ... working with some amazing writers, with the amazing artist, NEIL WILLIAMS, and the amazing publisher/author GARY FRY at GRAY FRIAR PRESS.

TERROR TALES OF YORKSHIRE (which can't be pre-ordered just yet, hence there's no link - but watch this space constantly), is the seventh in the TERROR TALES series to date. I find that incredible given we only started this ball rolling in 2011, and it's being brought out, as you'll probably realise, to coincide with this year's FANTASYCON, which is being held in York on September 5,6 and 7.

Anyway, enough of my gibberish for the moment. The front-cover image is above, while the full wrap is posted a few paragraphs down. So from here on, why don't I let the actual blurb do the talking:

Yorkshire – a rolling landscape of verdant dales and quaint country towns. But where industrial fires left hideous scars, forlorn ruins echo the shrieks of forgotten wars, and depraved killers evoke nightmare tales of ogres, trolls and wild moorland boggarts...

 The stalking devil of Boroughbridge
The murder machine at Halifax
The hooded horror of Pontefract
The bloody meadow at Towton
The black tunnel of Renfield
The evil trickster of Spaldington
The shadow forms at Silverwood
And many more chilling tales by Alison Littlewood, Mark Morris, Stephen Laws, Simon Clark, Mark Chadbourn, and other award-winning masters and mistresses of the macabre.

If that doesn't whet your appetites sufficiently, hopefully the following Table of Contents will (as usual, the smaller non-fictional items are interspersed between the actual stories):

In October We Buried The Monsters by Simon Avery; The Decapitation Device; The Coat Off His Back by Keris McDonald; Haunting Memories of the Past; They Walk As Men by Mark Morris; The Yorkshire Witches; On Ilkley Moor by Alison Littlewood; The Black Monk of Pontefract; The Crawl by Stephen Laws; The Woman in the Rain; Ragged by Gary McMahon; The Hobman; A True Yorkshireman by Christopher Harman; The Town Where Darkness Was Born; All Things Considered, I’d Rather Be In Hell by Mark Chadbourn; A Feast For Crows; The Demon of Flowers by Chico Kidd; City of the Dead; The Summer of Bradbury by Stephen Bacon; Radiant Beings; Random Flight by Rosalie Parker; Death in the Harrying; The Rhubarb Festival by Simon Clark; The Alien; The Crack by Gary Fry; The Boggart of Bunting Nook; A Story From When We Had Nothing by Jason Gould.

As mentioned at the beginning of this piece, you can't yet order TERROR TALES OF YORKSHIRE (all retail outlets, online and otherwise, will be posted everywhere, as soon as you can). It's still in production as we speak, but we're very hopeful that it will be available at the Fantasy Convention in York, probably from the PENDRAGON PRESS table in the book room, along with other titles, such as our last one in the series TERROR TALES OF WALES.

On the subject of Yorkshire, and York in particular, I was recently very impressed to hear the superbly rendered audio version of my International Horror Guild Award-winning short story of 2007, THE OLD NORTH ROAD, as read by Jonathan Keeble of The Archers fame, published by WHOLE STORY AUDIO.

This story, first published in Alone on the Darkside in 2006 (for which, as I said earlier, it won the International Horror Guild Award for Best Medium Length Story in 2007), and republished in One Monster Is Not Enough in 2010, is hopefully the first of quite a few of mine to get the glossy WHOLE STORY AUDIO treatment, but it's very timely, as York - or more specifically, York Minster - is the location that originally inspired it.

THE OLD NORTH ROAD, which is about 10,000 words long and comes to roughly an hour's listening time, is a horror story describing a quest to find the origins of the mystical Green Man. Prior to my first visit to York Minster, the Green Man was no more to me than a background character I'd grown up with but had never really noticed: a figure on pub signs, or a clown at country fairs. What I certainly hadn't realised was just how much he figures in the architecture of our old and venerable religious buildings, York Minster being a classic example. And that's a curious thing given so many of us assume the Green Man to be a pagan icon - a fertility symbol or the representation of an ancient, long forgotten god.

But the fact is, he isn't ... at least, not according to the researches I made following my last trip to York. The real origins of the Green Man, are far stranger, and lie in ...

Well, perhaps that would be telling. Maybe it's better if you guys download the audio version, or buy the CD, and find out for yourself. (Sorry to be so mercenary ... but I've got to make a living, you know).

Of course, you don't have to go to all that trouble if you happen to be paying a visit to FANTASYCON in York in September. If so, just pop across to the Minster and check it all out for yourself. I'll be doing that for sure. It's now ten years since I was last there, and the mysteries of the Green Man, among many others, are calling ever louder.