Ginger Nuts of Horror
Today is a special day. Why's that you ask? I'll tell you why, the Fabulous Jasper Bark has kindly written a review of the British Fantasy Society's members exclusive anthology The Burning Circus. This anthology is only available to members of the Society, if you are wondering why it's being reviewed, it is to show you the readers one of the benefits of joining this long standing genre community.
So click on read more for Jasper's splendid review.
NOTE : This is an updated review of the original book to take into account the audiobook version. Amazon and Audible don't distinguish between the different book formats)
I'm going to get right to the point you need to go and buy this novel. Normally when I read the debut novel from an author, I lower my expectations a little. It takes time for an author to hone their craft and find ther own voice and style. This is a brilliant book, I decided to cast aside all first novel expectations after 30 minutes of reading this book. Graeme has produce what can only be described as howling success of a novel (see what I did there folks)
I'll be honest I can count the number of werewolf books I have read on one hand, so I have very few points of reference to judge this book against. What I will say is that out of those books this ranks up there with the best of them. This is an utterly thrilling read, that will have you turning the pages at breakneck speed. The book is littered with great characters, both loveable and despicable. Characters that you will grow to care about, to such extent that the midway climatic scenes ring with emotional intensity.
As for the werewolves Reynolds has created a great and believable mythos. The pack has a strong identity, these are not just the monster of the week type werewolf, their actions and rules are an important factor in what makes this a great book. These are proud, but vicious animals, don't go into this book looking for cuddly furballs, you will be disappointed, these werewolves have big sharp teeth and claws, and they are not afraid to use them
The majority of the story takes place in 1986. I was 15 in 1986, having a ball of time. Reading this book is like looking back at old film footage of my life. Reynolds has expertly captured the feel of what it was like to grow up in a small town in 1986.
But fear not folks this is in no way a rip off Stephen King's It. High Moor is it's own novel, it will strike one hell of a chord with those of a certain age, who grew up in the UK. But it will also appeal to a much wider audience such is the strength of Reynolds writing. The last time I connected so strongly with the setting of a novel was with Joe Donnelly's Twitchy Eyes, and in many ways this book share similar themes, and is of a similar quality.
It takes a writer of tremendous skill to imbue a an action packed novel with as much depth, as is displayed here. This book was a joy to read, not just for its ability to transport me back to a time gone by, but also because it is so well written. If this is the level of writing Graeme is capable of producing in a début novel, then I for one cannot wait for his next novel.
Right so we all know that I am a huge fan of this book and its sequel, so how did I feel about the audiobook treatment of this splendid novel?
Audiobooks, are a funny thing, unlike normal books they can live or die nit just by the quality of the writing, but also by the quality of the production of the book. Many a great story has been rendered unlistenable by poor production values, and terrible narration. If you don't believe me just search for M.R. James audiobooks, don't say i didn't warn you though.
The author of High Moor handed over the mammoth task of bringing this book to audio glory to fellow Scot,Chris Barnes of Dynamic Ram Audio Productions. A task that Chris has risen to with fantastic results. Chris's narration and use of incidental music breath new life into this already brilliant book. We all read books with our own voice, and while unlike myself, your voice probably doesn't have a lyrical Scottish brogue to it, upon hearing Chris's voice for the first time you will be drawn into the story immediately.
Chris's reading of the book is full of excellent vocal performances as he gives each character their own voice. His narration is polished, confident and above all very engaging, this isn't just a plain a reading of the book, this is perfomance in its own right. The book lasts for about seven hours and at no time throughout listening to it did I find myself drifting from the narrative.
Even if you already own a copy of this book, I would still recommend purchasing a copy of the audio version, as it really does add to the overall enjoyment factor of the book.
File Under Horror Novel Review
It's getting to that time of year when the nights are drawing in, and a chill is forming in the air. So it seemed the perfect time to swap my usual Country music playlist, for something more fitting for the bus journey to and from work.
Thirteen as the title suggests is an audiobook of thirteen horror short stories from some of the finest writers working today. So the words of Social Distortion's Bad Luck was "thirteen my lucky number," or was I "Gonna hang down my head and cry."
Every story has a beginning, and every story has an end, but sometimes the end is the beginning and the beginning is the end.
Soul Masques is the latest in he rather splendid line of chapbooks from Spectral Press. This is the tenth installment in what has been a first class series of chapbooks, that have al shared a common theme of quiet unsettling creepy horror.
Soul Masques, however is a bit of a departure from the core theme of the series, and for that I applaud Simon for trying to do something different with the line, to stop it from going stale.
Stylistically this is the most complex story that has appeared in this series, however for me this story while intelligently written and full of clever writing lacked a certain substance. Told in a non linear form with the climax at the beginning of the book I found the story hard to engage with and at times I was left wondering what exactly was going on.
The thing I hate most about reviewing books like these where the writer is clearly talented and gifted, over books that are just badly written, is the who is a fault here? Is it the writer for writing a story that engages with me? or is it me for not getting the story. Lets be clear here this is not a badly written story, I just don't think I was the target audience for the story.
I'm sure this is just a bump in the road, and Spectral's next book from Simon Bestwick will see this series of chapbooks back on the straight and narrow.
The history of cinema is full of unsung heroes, those whose work is often forgotten and overlooked, those who don't get the recognition they deserve and in the case of John Burke, someone whose name has all but been struck from the history of a particular film.
Thankfully for us there are people like the brilliant and passionate Johnny Mains. Johnny is one of those people who I like to call a Guardian of The Genre. He works tirelessly to not only preserve the history of horror, but also to ensure that the cultural importance of this genre is recorded and recognised.
Previously Johnny has published a fantastic biography on Herbert Van Thal, the man behind Pan Book of Horror Stories as well as the critically acclaimed anthology Back From the Dead: The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories. This time Johnny has turned his attention to John Burke.
For those of you who don't know who John is, he was a great writer, who wrote in many genres, from the Atlantic Award in Literature winning Swift Summer, to Science Fiction, horror and even a load of film and Television novelisations. However this book centres around his screenplay for the film The Sorcerers.
The film, which was directed by Michael Reeves and staring Boris Karloff concerned hypnotist Professor Montserrat who has developed a technique for controlling the minds, and sharing the sensations, of his subjects. He and his wife Estelle test the technique on Mike Roscoe, and enjoy 'being' the younger man. But Estelle soon grows to love the power of controlling Roscoe, and the vicarious pleasures that provides. How far will she go, and can the Professor restrain her in time.
However it was the fact that for all intents are purpose John Burke's name was removed from the film. You see John wrote the screenplay for this film, and yet his only credit for the film is a 'From an idea by John Burke' It was only in a 2003 biography of Reeves that this fact became know to the wider population.
Which brings us to Johnny's fantastic book. The Sorcerers collects together all the proof and documentation of John Burke's actual place in the history of this film. Johnny has collected letters received by John, a full reprint of the film's shooting script, and more importantly the version of his script before it was altered by Reeves and Tom Baker.
Complimenting these are a wonderfully moving introduction from Johnny, a fascinating insight from film guru Kim Newman, a chapter from Reeves biography, and a message from Burke's widow, all rounded off with some revealing stills from the film.
The Sorcerers as a film has a very important place in horror history and Johnny's book does this film and more importantly John Burke a tremendous service. You can tell that was a labour of love for Johnny. It provides a fascinating insight into not only the film and those associated with it, it also gives the reader an insightful snap shop of the era itself.
With The Sorcerers Johnny Mains has produced an exceptional book that will appeal to not only film fans but also fans of horror fiction. This is another clear example of why Johnny is such an important figure in the horror genre. The dedication and the amount of hard work that he puts into projects like this is a joy to behold. You need to own this book, it's that plain and simple. I learned a huge amount from this, to the point that I am now on a quest to track down as much of Burke's writing as possible.
File Under Horror Novel Review
Another month and another new book from Darkfuse publications. I swear to god this publisher has taken up more of my time, this last year, than any other publisher out there. So it's good thing that the time spent between the pages of their books has been some of the most enjoyable and fun filled periods I have had this year.
So when you factor in author such as William Meikle, whose novels and short stories have thrilled me for more years than I care to remember, you just know you are in for something special.
For the most of my reading selections I play it safe, in the words of Peter Gabriel I know what I like and I like what I Know. Occasionally I like to mix it up, and take a chance on something new or different, you got to keep things spiced up folks. So when I got I copy of Snake Eyes I thought this was going to be a safe read, I've read Joseph's novels Meat and Garbage Man, and really enjoyed them. Man was I ever wrong, those of you expecting a nice easy comfortable tale, are in for a hell of surprise.
Sometimes the best horror fiction is hard to read. And by hard to read I don't mean because of the writing style and language used. I mean it should grab one of your base emotions and wrestle it to the floor. Mark West's The Mill does this with great style. We have all lost someone, we have all felt the emotions associated with loss. It's a common feeling that lingers with you for the rest of your life. Mark has created a an amazing novellette, that is packed with more emotion and feeling than you could imagine would be possible in a story of this length . This is a powerfully moving story that will tug at your heart strings and stay with you long after you have finished reading it.The writing beautifully conveys the feeling of loss and hopelessness that one feels after losing a loved one. The Mill has one of those endings that will have you smiling and shedding a tear at the same time. Well I did and if you don't you must have a heart of stone. The Mill, cements Mark West's place in the ranks of the new wave of quality UK horror authors, who are turning out intelligent, thought provoking and extremely well written stories.
One of the best things about getting sent books to review, is discovering authors, who up until now, you had never heard of. The flip side of this though is realising that you have missed out on some great authors. Thankfully David A. Sutton of Shadow Publishing, has published this collection of short stories from Eddy C. Bertin. For those of you not in the know Eddy is Belgian author who was first published in 1968.
The Whispering Horror, brings together fourteen of Eddy's best stories in one rather splendid collection.
It's no secret that John Llewellyn Probert is one of my favourite authors. His stories bring a huge smile to my face; you can clearly see John's love for classic horror films in these books. They are intelligently written books full of wry humour, gloriously over the top villains, dashing heroes, and more importantly a joyous sense of fun, that is so infectious, they should be a notifiable disease.
However with Differently There, his latest novella from Gray Friar Press, John has dramatically changed the tone of his writing.