Ginger Nuts of Horror
Some writers thrill me with their action packed all guns blazing horror. Some chill me to the bone with their dark and scary imaginations, and some authors dig their icy talons deep into my emotional cortex and tear it to pieces. Mark West is one of those authors, his stories have always struck an emotional chord with me, and this, the latest chapbook from Spectral Press is no exception.
"A collection of twelve very different horror stories, six original to this book. Author Reggie Oliver said that "Johnny Mains follows in a great tradition of horror stories which he knows and respects, but his stories have a power and strangeness which is all their own". And anthologist Stephen Jones said his fiction "would not have been out of place in the old Pan Book of Horror Stories". In his introduction to this volume, author Stephen Volk remarks that "These stories absorbed and disturbed me. And confirmed to me that Johnny Mains not only carries a flame for the old horrors, but wants to cause a bit of a conflagration of his own".
Not content with being an excellent anthologist, Johnny is also a rather fine author as well. Frightfully Cosy and Mild Stories For Nervous Types (FCAMSFNT), is the perfect place to begin, your education in the writing of Mr Mains.
Reclusive outdoorsman, Jimmy Kerrigan, finds himself battling a vampiric plague which threatens to destroy Hobson’s Valley, the isolated mountain community he calls home. When his family, friends and neighbours fall prey to the ‘Fugue’, Kerrigan is the only one who can save them and prevent the disease spreading beyond the remote town’s boundaries.
The illness and its effects have, like tetanus, survived in the earth around the mountain for countless generations. The lineage of Fugue Hunters has always been able to reverse an outbreak but not this time; someone wants the disease to spread and, in combination with a mutation of the virus, Kerrigan realises he may not be strong enough to contain it.
David A Riley, is one of those authors, whose name I was familiar with, but one whose work I wasn't really familiar with. So when David announced the release of this collection of five short stories / novella's I thought this is as good a time as any to sample his work. Was it worth it? You'll have to read on to find out.
This is another one of those reviews that has taken a lot longer to get round to than I had first imagined. The reason for this is I think that ancient wonders contained within it's pages were conspiring to make my life difficult. During my time reading this anthology the book decided to disappear. I hunted high and low looking for this book, and both times it mysteriously appeared on a book shelf that I checked at least twice. Trust me here are strange and wondrous powers working within this book.
I will imagine that to many of you reading this blog are of a certain age. And with this age there will always be that era of golden memories, of simpler times, where the summers where endless and the potential for adventure was limitless. To me, and judging by the this novella, the mid 1980's was that era, to myself and Steven Savile. Those of you who are too young to remember, or too old to have lived through this point in time as a teenager, have too understand that it was in many ways a magical time, but one that was tinged by a sense of darkness as well. With this novella Steven Saville has managed to capture this magical, yet darkness tinged feeling wonderfully.
This review has taken rather a long time to make it's way onto the site. There is a reason for this, and it's a good one. Two days after buying this book, I found out that yes I was indeed going to interview Joe Hill in front of a live audience. This meant that there was no way I could do this book the service it deserved until I got that out of the way. So |Saturday morning I took the book down from the shelf and headed out to one of those places where I could fill my body live giving sugary coffee. Was the wait worth it? Well you're just going to have read on......
As part of Benjamin's blog tour to promote his book Bottled Abyss, here is my review of his rather excellent novel. Stay tuned for an interview with Benjamin, and a guest post from the man himself.
Herman and Janet Erikson are going through a crisis of grief and suffering after losing their daughter in a hit and run. They’ve given up on each other, they’ve given up on themselves. One afternoon, to make a horrible situation worse, their dog goes missing in the coyote-infested badlands behind their property. Herman, resolved in preventing another tragedy, goes to find the dog, completely unaware he’s on a hike to the River Styx, the border between the Living World and the world of the Dead.
Long ago the gods died and the River dried up, but a bottle containing its waters still remains in the badlands. What Herman discovers about the dark power contained in those waters will change his life forever…
Regular readers will be well aware of my love for Spectral Press, in the short time since its inception it has become one of the UK’s finest small Presses. From their excellent chapbook series that has showcased some of the brightest names in UK supernatural fiction, authors such as Gary McMahon, Alison Littlewood, Cate Gardner and Paul Finch, to their first novella by Gary Fry. Each and every one of these books has had not only the highest production values, they have also held within their pages stores of the highest calibre. Their latest publication The Nine Deaths of Dr Valentine by John L. Probert unsurprisingly carries on their fine tradition.
Previously the tone of Spectral Press has been subtle for want of a better word “quiet” horror. This time there has been a sideways shift into pure unadulterated, unashamed, and unrelenting fun. And boy does it work. Those of you who know John, will be well aware of his love for horror films great, bad and downright terrible, but more importantly you will be aware of his love for the late great Vincent Price. Some of John’s best work has harked back to that golden age of the 1970’s where horror still had a heart, and still had a sense of fun. It’s these qualities that form, in my opinion, the core of John’s writing. Nine Deaths, feels like the story john has been building up to writing for his whole career.
In short this book is fabulous, if like me you are of a certain age, you’ll remember sneaking down the stairs at night after your parents had gone to bed, to watch the Horror Double bill that screened on BBC2 on a Friday Night. Where you would sit wide eyed and opened mouth at films from Hammer or Amicus. Nine Deaths will transport you back to those days of wonder with its glorious over the top and joyous plot. Yes the idea of a vengeful Doctor recreating death scenes from Vincent Price films is an over the top, but you will be too engrossed in the writing and John’s near perfect storytelling to care. You can tell right from the first paragraph that this story is filled with John’s love for the source material, and by the time you turn the final page you will be filled with the same love. As the finale kicks in and certain plot elements fall into place, you’ll hear the voice of Vincent Price mysteriously manifest just over your shoulder.
This really is a brilliant novella, it’s by turns fun, funny, shocking, and thrilling, but more importantly written my someone who knows just how to write a story that will make the rest of the world disappear as it wraps you in pages that somehow have the feel of a lovely velvet smoking jacket.
Sadly folks the limited hard back edition of this book has sold out. But don’t fear you can still get your hands on the paperback version of this amazing story.
To order your copy please click the link below. And while you are there, do yourself a favour and take out a subscription to the chapbook and the novella series. That way you won’t miss out on some great books that are coming your way.
Those of you who know their genre history will know who Professor Challenger is. Those of you who don't shame on you. Professor Challenger is the creation of the master of story telling Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, not as well known perhaps as his fictional brother Sherlock, but to this reviewer he was by far my favourite. When I heard that this character was going to be brought back from the literary graveyard, I could have banged by head against a wall in despair, however, when the name of William Meikle was attached to the project my forehead was sparred a bashing.
How better to start a story but with talk about mysterious lights over an English moor, and a letter from Professor Challenger summoning his associate Mallone to investigate. The investigation soon leads to a research station in the Bristol Channel, where our heroes will face a ravenous terror from a time before man.
Regular readers to this blog will know all too well about my sheer joyous love for the works of William Meikle, a love that has out lived the very book store where I bought my first ever Meikle book. You see Willie write books I want to read, no need to read. These are the sort of books that will bring a big cheesy grin to your face. And this one is no exception. Willlie's lean writing style, strips away any superfluous prose, to throw the reader into a non-stop, action packed and glorious Saturday Morning matinee style romp, that will not fail to entertain.
This may well be a highly entertaining story, but for this story to really work, it has to stand up to being a Professor Challenger novel, otherwise there is no point in it being marketed as one. Rest assured folks Willie does a grand job in capturing the essence and spirit of what made these books a favourite of mine. If ever there was a character that Meikle was destined to resurrect then I think Professor Challenger is it.