Ginger Nuts of Horror
It's been a while since I last read anything by Peter Atkins, it must be something like 15 years, since I read Big Thunder. A lot can happen in 15 years, what you liked as then may well not be the same as what you lie now. Hell just looking back at some of the music I used to listen to then is embarrassing. . So 15 years down the line I picked up his collection of short stories and poetry Rumours of the Marvellous, published by Alchemy Press , in a rather fetching limited hardback edition, with an introduction by Glen Hirshberg. Thankfully these 15 years have been kind on my love for Peter's writing, the main reason for this is is Peter's writing is indeed rather marvellous.
Before I talk about my favourite stories in the collection, I have to admit, that I completely skipped over Dr Arcadia a peom that gives Tam O'Shanter run for its money in terms of length. I have never been able to get into poetry, and even though I started to read this poem, I just couldn't get into it. I'm not saying it's poor;y written, all I am saying is I can't make judgement on it. Poetry is as baffling to me as the female mind.
I'll admit I was hard pushed to single out the best stories in this collection, the quality within the book is exceptional, truly exceptional. However King of Outer Space, is a moving tale about love conquering the vast distances of Space, or so it seems. The twist ending to this ale is a stroke of genius. It also has one of my favourite lines from the book, "Flames shimmer from its boosters, their majestic roar telling the laws of physics to go fuck themselves" That sentence alone sums up a for me, an underlying tongue in cheek element to the stories presented here. I may be wrong, but it felt there was a very subtle line of humour, a sly wink to the camera, nothing to make you laugh out loud.
Stacy and Her Idiot, mixes drugs, severed fingers, some Lovecraftian monsters and a scorned woman on a mission of revenge. This is hugely fun read, with an ending, that makes me hope we will be hearing more from this plucky heroine. ( we do in the final story of this collection)
The Cubist's Attorney, is an odd tale indeed, full of very odd characters coming together for a reading of a will. A will that has some truly odd bequeathals. Again Peter pulls the rug from under the readers feet, with the ending of this tale.
Rumours of the Marvellous, is a brilliant collection. Sometimes single author collections can drag a bit, not so the case hear. Peter has such a varied style that it keeps the collection fresh, right up to the last page.
A marvellous collection from a master story teller.
You can purchase the book by clicking the link below. And you should. Aside from the great stories, this is another example of a small press producing an excellent looking book for a price that is remarkable.
First off, hanging my head in shame I had never heard of Herbert before. I blame it on growing up in St Andrews in the 1970's. In those days there was no internet, only three TV channels, and The St Andrews Citizen bookshop, was the only place you could buy books. A book shop that was just slightly bigger than my living room, so my exposure to the wonderful genre of horror was limited to what they stocked. They did well, every time I bought a book from them they would replace it with a different new book.
It was only in recent years that I became aware of all the great authors, collections and anthologies that had sadly passed me buy in my informative years. I'll admit that while I am a fan of horror I am in no ways an expert on it, I'll leave things like that to those in a much better place to do so. Johnny Mains is one of these people, his encyclopaedic knowledge and private collection of books and memorabilia is stunning. Seriously Johnny should lay on some catering and provide guided tours round his house. I et excited when I get a personalised book, this guy probably has the authors soul locked up in a mason jar in his cellar.
It's this love of the genre and his voracious quest to collect everything that is important to the genre that comes out in this book. This is clearly a love letter to firm favourite. Johnny is fully aware of the Herbert's place in the genre, and this book gives us mere mortals a window into the interesting and fascinating life of a genre great.
The book itself is composed of a biography of the man himself, photocopies of letters from Herbert, a check list that shows just how wide and far his influence on horror fiction spread, and some interviews that Johnny conduction with some of the authors whose work was published by Herbert in The Pan Book of Horror Stories. And finally a reprinting of Johnny's SFX article.
The book itself is a wonderful thing to behold with first class production values.
Do yourself a favour folks and grab yourself a copy from Screaming Dreams Press
Hersham Horror Books Presents 5 original stories from the minds of: Alison Littlewood Neil Williams Mark West Adrian Chamberlin Peter Mark May Fog can hide anything: from ghostly encounters, to shape-shifting monsters; from buried childhood memories, to creatures born from the mist-shrouded air around you, to atrocities that have no ending, on a train ride into terror..... FOGBOUND FROM 5
Right I think it' about time I did another real time review. And I can't think of a better book to do this with. Stay tuned for the first instalment.
First impressions well apart from the rather excellent cast of authors this is a great looking book. I particularly like the brilliantly understated cover, the monochrome photo of a fogbound railway track is perfect. It shows that you don't need a load of fancy flashy artwork to convey the mood of the book.
Right I'm going to make myself a coffee and read Alison's story.
The Quiet Coach by Alison Littlewood
Say Hi to Kev, he is one of those people that seem to be everywhere, obnoxious, angry and just downright unpleasant. When he boards the the quiet coach with the sole intention of winding up the other passengers even he couldn't imagined how things would turn out.
If this story of indicative of the quality of the rest of this collection, then we are onto a winner. Alison Littlewood has created a wonderful tale that is full of heartache, regret, and sadness. I loved how Alison used the fog in this story, and description of what the fog may well be is a great concept.
Fal Vale Junction by Neil Williams
This could almost read as a companion piece to the opening story, as it also deals with the loss of a family, and the regret that follows it. In this story, Andrew slowly remembers the events of that fateful night when he lost the rest of his family in a terrible house fire. The tension slowly builds as each new memory breaks through the the thick fog of memory. I thought I had guessed how the fire had started, but I was wrong. This is another emotional piece that is full of some great imagery, I particularly liked the scene with the toy train set, and the screaming face at the windows of the train, a truly chilling scene.
So two stories down, and I am really enjoying this collection, the first two stories are both of a really high standard. Not that I expected any different as I am a fan of both Neil and Alison's writing.
Last Train Home by Mark West.
Alex Griffen is just trying to get home to his family, stuck on the last train home from platform five. Alex's journey is going to take a turn for the worst.
After the last two emotional charged tales, Mark West's story shifts gears, throws more coal into the boiler, and lets out a big blast from its steam whistle to deliver a fast, action packed tale of terror. I really enjoyed reading this punchy tale, that lets rip with a classic horror monster.
Kriegsmaterial by Adrian Chamberlin
Kriegsmaterial, is another excellent World War II story from Adrian Chamberlin. in this story Adrian has managed to take a subject matter that even after all these years could be seen as being a rather insensitive topic for a horror story. However, Adrian has given this story about a mysterious prisoner of ALineuschwitz a moving and touching treatment. This story really touched me, due to the fact that my Grandfather was among the first contingent of Allied soldiers to liberate this dreadful blot on human history from the hands of the nazis. The tale stressfully combines the horrors of war, the horrors of just what a man will do to survive and a brilliant use of folklore. If you are reading this Mr Chamberlin, this story is screaming out for a sequel, or even to be turned into a full length novel. For me this is the highlight so far of this anthology.
End of the Line by Peter Mark May
So it's down to the editor of this rather damn fine anthology to close the book off. End of The Line, is a much more light hearted tale than the previous story. After a night out on the town Garry Harrison, finds himself at the end of the line, and what me very well be the end of his life. While this story may be more light hearted it's still a very satisfyingly gruesome story that gives some nice knowing nods to some of the great zombie films. Yes folks they snuck in a zombie tale. Nevertheless Peter's story is a fun enjoyable read,
with an ending that is open to further adventures.
Fog Bound From 5 is a very satisfying read that brings together some very talented authors, who all manage to bring something different to to the table with this themed anthology. I whole heartedly recommend this book, not only is this a very good anthology, it also works as a showcase for five authors who deserve your time. If you haven't read anything by these guys then this is perfect starting point for you. Read it then go and check out some of their other stuff, you won't be disappointed.
It's always been a happy day at Ginger Nut Towers when an Adam Nevill book gets cracked open. Adam is one of handful of British authors who everybody whether they are a fan of horror or not should read. His novels, whether they be about Witchcraft in St Andrews, ( that's how I first discovered Adam, setting a book in my home town is always a sure fire way of getting me to pick it up), or a brilliant take on the haunted house genre, Nevill never fails to bring a fresh and terrifying perspective to the genre. With the Ritual, Adam Nevill delivers his most chilling and frightening novel to date.
Four middle aged university friends Luke, Dom, Phil, and Hutch, decide to go camping in Sweden. What is with middle aged men, do we never learn, did these guys not see Deliverance, this sort of adventure is never going to turn out well. After only a few scant days it's clear that two of the group are just not up to the arduous task of the hike, so they decide to take a short cut in the hope they can make it back home before Dom and Phil collapse.
As is want in these sort of book this was a bad idea. The discovery of an old creepy cottage, neolithic grave markers and the corpse of an animal strung high up in the trees, soon has the gang realising that not all is well in this far from enchanted forest.
What makes this book work so well, is the fact the Adam, has created a book that works on so many levels, yes we have this brilliant creature hunting our unhappy campers, but he has also created an amazing landscape that in itself is almost as scary as the creature. Just imagine being lost in some ancient forest, days from even the barest traces of humanity. Then when you add, strange statues, ancient pagan cults and the perpetual rain you get a forest that seethes with tension. And finally Adam has created an amazing group in Dom Phil and Hutch, these guys live and breath on the page, they all have their own distinctive personalities, personalities that are full of old grudges resentment and anger. These guys may have been best friends at university but all of that is in the past. Even id they all survive this ordeal there will be no going back, even before the hunt begins their friendship has been severed.
It's this group dynamic that really lifts this book into excellence, far too many horror books forget that for a book to really work, you need real characters that interact in a real and believable way.
It's been about six months since I read this book for the second and a half time. The first time I read this I accidentally dropped it in the bath. And even after all this time this book still effects me. Just last night I went for a walk in Rosslyn woods. The woods are an eerie place at the best of times, an ancient primeval forest full of trees that look like they have skulls embedded in them, silent save for the rustling of woodland creatures, trees that have been pushed over whose roots look like they have been covered in blood, and every now and then the rotting corpse of a sheep or deer can be found of the beaten track. We where there at dusk last night and when I got ever so slightly separated form the family, my heart started to pound, and my hand went straight to my trusty knife that I always have on me when we go for walks. There has only ever been one other book that has actually changed the way I act Graham Masterton's Prey, caused me never to sleep with an open wardrobe in the room. All because when I read it the pile of clothes in the bottom of my wardrobe looked liked the hunched form of Brown Jenkins.
The Ritual, is now one of my all time favourite books, for me personally this is a powerful book that ticks every box in horror writing.
It's not every day that you come across an new author whose talents knocks you for six. I first came a cross Frank's writing a while back with his excellent short story Mountains of Smoke. So when I heard that he was going to release a collection of his short stories I was ecstatic. Frank is one of those rare authors who manages to combine a compelling literary style of writing with deeply chilling and entertaining stories. This is not a emperors new clothes collection, at no point does Frank sacrifice fancy writing for a good, engaging and at times terrifying short stories.
The Signal Block & Other Stories, is a bleak, bleak collection, that will slowly and surely scrape away at your inner light. However this almost relentless attempt to smother you in darkness is worth it, as you read your way through this collection you will bear witness to some of the freshest writing in horror today. Dark images will haunt your memory for days after, that dimly lit path that you take home every night will suddenly be teeming with foreboding and menace.
The collection opens with the wonderfully creepy The Signal Block, which sees a film crew enter an abandoned prison. This powerful and chilling story is the perfect opening story to the collection as it sets the mood for the rest of the book.
My personal favourites of this collection are the aforementioned The Signal Block, And When The Lights Came On, is an eerie tale that tells the story of Arthur, the city's last Lamplighter, this is a slow burner that slowly adds layer upon layer of creepiness until the the brilliantly shocking finale.
And No Longer Lost, which closes the collection is a masterpiece of short story telling, that will invoke that adrenaline fuelled heart thumping in the chest feeling, that all good horror stories should.
This is the sort of book that I initially set up this blog to review. Those who already know of Frank and his writing will already have this book in their wish list, but sadly Frank's name is not as well known as it should be. If you are a fan of dark, thoughtful and well written horror then you really must get yourself a copy of this book. I promise you won't be disappointed.
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Sometimes, and I must stress that it is only sometimes, a nicely worded and polite email asking for a review will tip the balance. Black Mirrors by Paul Edwards is one of those books that slipped past my defences and got itself a place in my review pile. And I am glad it did. This is an extremely good collection of 14 short stories that covers a number of styles and themes, which showcase writer with a great deal of talent. All of the stories are linked by a central theme of mirrors, and reflections.
Damn you Peter Mark May, just when I though I had purged the last zombie form my reading list, you had to go and publish this rather fine anthology, that shows, and I really hate myself for saying this, there may well be a flicker of life in this rotten and bloated genre. To be honest any flicker of life in the genre is probably more done to the talent held within these pages, I don't think I'll be rushing out to pick up the latest 99p offering from the next big thing in zombir fiction.
I'm going to do a real time review of this book. Some of the reviews will be out of sync, as I couldn't help but jump to some of my favourite authors. Last years Dark Minds was an excellent anthology that mixed some well known names and for me some unknowns, Darker Minds, sets out to do the same, so along with tales from Gary McMahon, Mark West and Simon Bestwick, we have a number of, to me, lesser known authors.
As with the previous book, the production values are high with some excellent cover work and some nice internal plates that frame the authors biographies. A small but nice touch.