Ginger Nuts of Horror
It's that time of the year, where we all start looking back on the year that has just passed. and I'll be honest this past year has been a son of a bitch for both personal and genre wide reasons. It's a year that almost saw this site close down after everything became too much, three bouts of debilitating injuries and infections, saw this reviewer hot rock bottom. And the never ending genre infights, and this new fad where every author is determined to prove that they are more socially aware and woke than the next one brought me to a point where I just didn't care anymore. I just wanna to have fun, I just want to talk about the genre I love and the writers I adore without being made to feel that I should be waving the flag and riding my white horse into battle every ten seconds, I'll leave that to those of you who want to do that. It got so bad that that I really didn't want to do this round up of my favourite reads, however as I sat here at 2am looking at the bookcase filled with books read this year I realised that despite all the bullshit this year, it has been a great year for reading, so without further ado here are my picks of the year. If any of these books tickle your fancy please use the universal Amazon link at the end of the feature to take you to your country specific Amazon store. Purchasing items from this link helps to fund the running cost of this site.
My Book of the Year
SHRAPNEL APARTMENTS BY CHRIS KELSO
Last year there was a little bit of confusion as to the actual running order of my pick of the year. To avoid the same confusion this year I'm going to make it clear, THIS WAS MY TOP BOOK of 2017. A daring, and challenging novel that dares to play around with standard narrative structure this is a book that broke the mould.
"Shrapnel Apartments is a triumphant return to the world of Unger House Radicals, Kelso as carried over many of the themes and narrative styles that made the first book such a success and turned then up to eleven. Kelso dares to make us step out of our comfort zone, dares us to pay attention for fear of missing a vital tidbit, and dares us to be repulsed at the dark nature that resides in all of us. "
Read the full review here
My other top reads of 2017 in no particular order
CHALK BY PAUL CORNELL
Paul Cornell's powerful tale of revenge and the impact that it has on the person seeking it is a dark and fascinating folk tale for the modern world. Mixing a perfect blend of 80's nostalgia ( done in a way that should have the makers of Stranger Things hanging their heads in shame) with the frightening wild magic of the woods, Chalk reminded me of an X rated version of those sadly now long gone Sunday teatime dramas.
"Chalk is a savage and harrowing, yet moving read, Cornell never shuns from dealing with the brutal nature of bullying and the neverending cycle of the bully and the bullied, and skillfully sways the reader's feelings towards Waggoner from sympathetic to disgust at what he does. Chalk is an uncompromising novel, the flourishes of cruel and barbaric violence inflicted on Waggoner and others are truly shocking, thanks to the almost clinical and matter of fact way in which they are described adds to their shock value. "
Read the full review here
HAP AND LEONARD: BLOOD AND LEMONADE BY JOE R. LANSDALE
There is no denying that Joe Lansdale is a master of storytelling and the latest Hap and Leonard novel is a triumphant return to the world of these two hapless heroes. Written as a prequel to their very first adventure Lansdale gives us an emotionally charged insight into what makes the two of them tick.
"At times this is a hard book to read, due to its cultural setting, Lansdale has captured the sociopolitical zeitgeist of the era perfectly. A period where racism was rampant and times were excruciating for Black people and those who didn't fit in with the general feeling towards them. Be warned the use of the N-word is utilised many times in this book, but it is never used for shock value, it drives the story to such an extent it almost feels as though your soul is taking a beating as you read it. Blood and Lemonade is an emotionally compelling tale which puts the reader through an emotional whirlwind in a way that only a great writer such as Lansdale can do. "
Read the full review here
HEKLA'S CHILDREN BY JAMES BROGDEN
Hekla's Children can be read as a sort of companion piece to Paul Cornell's Chalk. Both stories deal have a similar theme of the old wild world trying to break through into the modern day. But where Chalk is a more introspective novel, Hekla's Children is glorious adventure with horrific overtones. Brogden never lets the pace drop in this thrilling adventure story,
"The collision between the prehistory world of "The Un" and the modern world is handled in an adroit manner. The mundane, unmagical modern world is a perfect counterfoil to mythical lands of The Un. The grey concrete world stands as a stark mirror to wild and untamed lands of the Un. Brogden development and world building with regards to The Un is exceptional. This is the world that is entirely different to ours, with different laws and socio-political concepts that would be abhorrent in our world. The level of detail and depth in which he goes into gives the novel a firm foundation from which to build the culture shock story. "
Read the full review here
FUNGOID BY WILLIAM MEIKLE
If you are looking for fun filled exciting stories filled with daring do and adventure then you really can't go wrong with Willie Meikle. Fungoid is a thrilling eco thriller that combines Meikle's unique sense of storytelling with his knowledge of ecosystems and biology. A modern day fable for the excessive and reckless nature of mankind Fungoid is a story that will make you think about the impact that you have on the world as much as it will entertain you.
"With hints of Harry Adam Knight, John Wyndham and Doomwatch Fungoid is a deeply satisfying "when nature attacks" novel. Where the book excels, above and beyond the sheer entertainment factor is the refreshingly believable use of a fungus as a monster. Yes, the fungus can be described as sentient, but the spread, development and actual process of infection for once is delivered by someone who understands microbiology. There are no cases of someone getting infected then seconds later succumbing to the disease. I'm looking at you Walking Dead, Z-Nation and just about every other zombie book and film."
Read the full review here
DEFENDER BY G.X. TODD
The post apocalyptic novel genre is probably one of the most tired and over used sub genre of the horror world. Everyone who is anyone has dipped their toes in this pond so it takes a rather special novel to make this reviewer sit up and take notice.
Todd's Defender is one such novel, yes you will recognise many of the same old tropes and characters from countless other stories, but Todd's slightly leftfield approach to the genre is like a breath of fresh air.
"If you are looking for answers and reasons as to what the voices are and why they are here, you will be slightly disappointed, in the grand traditions of the Saturday serial Todd keeps the majority of the facts close to her chest. If you want the answers, you will just have to wait for the three planned sequels, which is no bad thing as Defender is a gripping and momentous addition to the genre.
Todd uses the narrative of Defender to explore in a thoughtful and credible manner some deep themes. Such as the consequences of violence, loneliness and psychology of survival. These themes are handled in such a way that they are allowed to get their message across without ever getting in the way of the story, elevating Defender above your usual end of the world story. "
Read the full review here
REVIEW: BORN IN BLOOD BY NICK HARDY AND GEORGE LEA
George Daniel Lea is a writer who can at times intimidate me. This is a writer whose intellect and knowledge of the genre far outstrips my own. Hell my review of this collection took far longer to write than it should have done as it took me so long to assimilate and fully understand parts of it. However when it finally clicked and I felt I knew exactly where he was coming from, I realised that this was a powerful, unique and rather special book. The stories contained within this book are like brief insights into the fractured and tortured minds of people suffering from severe mental illness. George's sympathetic use of the short story format to highlight these issues is challenging and upsetting, but ultimately this is a book that shines with its brilliance. Aided by a series stunning photos from Nick Hardy Born In Blood will stay with you for along time.
"Born in Blood is an excellent example of a mixed media collection where all the elements of the book work together to create something truly magical. I highly recommend purchasing a copy, and doing so will help to raise money for some very worthy causes. "
Read the full review here
YOU DON'T BELONG HERE BY TIM MAJOR
Time travel is a funny old game, so many novels and stories are written using time travel as theme, but so many of them fail to understand the complexities and consequences of it. Luckily for us we have writers like Tim Major who are capable of writing an enthralling novel that uses time travel in a logical and well thought way. "you don't Belong Here" Is an exciting rollercoaster ride across time that challenges the reader to pay attention.
"You Don't Belong Here is a demanding novel, but one that ultimately rewards the reader for their patience and concentration. Major's almost languid writing style that reminds me of a Humphrey Bogart noir thriller. Major takes him time with the plot, and the narrative reveals allowing the reader to become invested in daniel's plight. This in turns makes it possible to understand and at a push root for him, he might not be a classic hero, and he certainly isn't a time honoured good man, but he is a man who is trying to change his life, more akin to a weak man caught up in a time Tsunami. And this the main strength of the novel, it is so easy to have a likeable "hero" and grab the readers attention; however, it takes a great writer to make a character who is so intrinsically flawed As Daniel into a person that the reader can connect with on a base level. "
Read the full review here
WHAT GOOD GIRLS DO BY JONATHAN BUTCHER
Horror can be many headed monster, it can have its quiet head and it can have the head that will rip your soul apart and make you weep with despair. Butcher's brutal novella of urban horror will leave you feeling broken dirty and heartbroken. This nihilistic story of the horrors of what some people are capable of doing to each other is not an easy read, but that is the whole point of this story. Butcher expertly walks the fine line between horror and voyeurism with a deft touch of an extremly talented writer
"The descriptions of the events that unfold are brutal, nihilistic and downright disgusting, but Butcher has an ability to keep the reader in the palm of his hand, despite the events of the book, you will find that you become trapped like a twig in a never ending whirlpool of depravity and despair.
Butcher is an incredibly talented writer, in the hands of a lesser writer, this novella would have caused me to go on a rant about empty shocks at the expensive of a real story, but Butcher knows how to draw the reader in the, especially during the home invasion scenes of the novella. Butcher's decimation of suburban middle-class bliss is a masterclass in narrative rhythm. "
Read the full review here
A WARNING ABOUT YOUR FUTURE ENSLAVEMENT THAT YOU WILL DISMISS AS A COLLECTION OF SHORT FICTION AND ESSAYS BY KIT POWER
This collection of short stories and essays from Kit Power was a complete revelation, I have always known that Kit was a hugely talented writer of both fiction and non fiction, and I had read many of the entries in this collection before. But is was the clever and beguiling way in which Kit linked these stories together that was the real eye opener. How anyone can link stories about psychotic chickens, the dangers of going to the toilet in the workplace, along with essays on The Wildhearts, and obsession with Robocop, and his time as a child slave trader ( for the record he never was one in reality), with a coherent and satisfying linking stories just goes to show what a talented writer he is. AWAYFETYWDAACOSFAE is perfect jumping on point for anyone not familiar with Kit's writing.
Full review to follow.
Exploring The Labyrinth
In this series, I will be reading every Brian Keene book that has been published (and is still available in print), and then producing an essay on it. With the exception of Girl On The Glider, these essays will be based upon a first read of the books concerned. The article will assume you’ve read the book, and you should expect MASSIVE spoilers.
I hope you enjoy my voyage of discovery.
Prologue: Clickers - J.F.Gonzalez & Mark Williams
It feels oddly appropriate that my first steps into the labyrinth would seem, on the surface, to be a wrong turn. Clickers was, after all, not written by Brian Keene, so starting a new discovery/career retrospective here, rather than with The Rising, could seem, at the very least, a little obtuse.
But it makes perfect sense. Honest.
See, while Keene may not have written any part of this novel, he did subsequently go on to write three Clickers titles with Gonzalez, including one that crossed over into the literary universe of The Rising. In that sense, then, Clickers is a hugely important strand in Keene’s career, so it makes sense to go back to ground zero, and see what came before - not only to help make sense of what follows, but also to try and tease out what influence Keene had on the Clickers series - and indeed what influence Gonzalez may have had on Keene, given how close the two were as friends and contemporaries.
Throughout this series, I’ll also be checking in with Jim Mcleod, Gingernuts proprietor and lifelong Keene fan, to get his perspective as a more experienced fan. He had this to say about Clickers -
“Clickers is the bastard offspring of Guy N Smith and HP Lovecraft. Brutal, graphic, and exciting, with a hidden depth lurking beneath it’s bloodsoaked waters.”
I read the most recent Kindle edition of the book, which has an additional Foreword written in 2010, over a decade after the initial publication date. I mention this because said foreword mentions this is the 6th edition of the book, and that one of the things this edition does is fix some earlier editorial and formatting issues that had apparently plagued prior editions.
And I’m afraid that brings me to one more order of business before I get into the essay proper, and that’s the somewhat vexed subject of criticism.
Let’s start here: I am not a critic, and this is not a series of critical reviews. I am a writer, and I am a genre fan. I don’t dislike critics, or criticism - in point of fact, I actually think that criticism is an art form unto itself (and yes, there are ‘bad’ critics, just like there are ‘bad’ novelists or storytellers, and ‘bad’ can apply in the moral sense, or in the sense of ‘bad at their job’, or both - but still). It’s just not what I do, as neither my enthusiasms or my talents lie in that direction.
That’s not to say I don’t have critical faculties, or that I engage with creative work without any thought or attention to craft, or that I can’t see flaws even in work I admire, enjoy, or love. It’s more to say that, most times, I’m writing from a place of enthusiastic engagement, because that’s how I tend to feel about the work I enjoy, whether it’s music, movies or books. There’s plenty of folks out there who will try and sell you the snake oil of ‘dispassionate critical assessment’ (and some of them will be their own best customers, come to that) but I’m not one of them. Chances are, if I get to the end of a book (which is far from a foregone conclusion), I will have enjoyed the experience, and I’ll mainly want to talk about why.
Clickers is a pretty fine example of that. I fucking loved it.
The intro talks a lot about the pulp 50’s B-Movies and Guy N Smith/James Herbert influences, and they ain’t kidding. The structure is pure Rats-era Herbert, with chapters following the ‘lead’ characters interspersed with sections where you get to meet various interesting people, and then watch them get hideously killed. I point out the formula merely to highlight, not to sneer - it’s a classic for a reason, and one I fully intend to emulate myself some day, in a future work. Both the characters and the deaths are vivid and well drawn. The characters especially, actually. Rick Sychek certainly appears to be a hilariously on-the-nose authorial insert, given his status as a midlist horror author on the way up, heading to a remote seaside town in Maine to get that difficult fourth novel put away, but the guy absolutely crackles on the page - smart, charismatic, and just the right side of charmingly roguish, he’s a pleasure to hang out with. Similarly, the small town sheriff with a racist stick up his butt (and, it transpires, almost certainly a dose of PTSD from his ‘Nam service), his essentially decent but slightly hapless deputy, the town doctor - there isn’t a character in this book that doesn’t feel fleshed out, alive, and with their own interiority that brings them to life, from the lead on down to the one-chapter victims. It’s a huge strength of the book as a whole.
Similarly, Jack Ripley - Ripper to his fans, of course - who runs the local comic shop is a delight - a man with a cult underground comic career that he passed over to run a comic shop in a small town on the edge of the country. The lengthy scene where the two men meet, and discover a mutual fandom, really should be cheesy and overindulgent - and certainly the narrative slams to a halt for a dozen pages or more as they discover their mutual fandom, and then talk about their career paths and the state of the creative industries.
But honestly, it was one of the highlights of the book, for me. There’s an incredible authenticity of the sequence, the dialogue - as the reader, I felt like I was getting to listen in to two working artists in a private conversation, and the passion and pragmatism really rang true. It’s not a million miles away from the experience of listening to Keene’s podcast, as I think of it - especially the interviews conducted at crowded conventions or noisy hotel rooms, where the audio challenges add to that atmospheric sense of, in some sense, actually being there.
It’s the quality I most look for in writing, I realise - the one I most value: that feeling of falling into the page, being swept along by events. And Clickers delivers that in spades.
It manages this in spite of some occasional rough edges in the prose. There’s a tendency to word repetition in places, and the odd clumsily constructed sentence. The pacing is mostly superb, but there were also a couple of sequences (especially once the main event started and the Clickers were marching up Main Street, spitting acid and chowing down on half the town) that for me dragged a bit - perhaps especially the moment of exposition, though I suppose that’s usually the least convincing moment of any B-Movie, almost by definition.
Despite that, I found the book for the most part to be a lethally quick read, a gleeful headrush of horror set pieces populated by vividly drawn characters that feel in many ways like broad stroke stock characters, yet all of whom come to life on the page, with a combination of deft personal flourishes and authentic dialogue.
And then, of course, there are the Clickers.
Somewhere between a crab and a lobster, three feet long with foot long claws whose snapping gives them their titular name. Oh, and they have stingers, which inject what appears to be fantastically corrosive acid into anyone unlucky enough to get into striking distance (spoilers: that turns out to be rather a lot of people). And of course, there’s thousands of them, apparently driven from whatever hellish sea depths they usually inhabit by some freakish 100 year storm. God, they’re fucking brilliant. Seriously. Classic critter feature monsters - basically recognizable, but outsized, twisted, more deadly. Add in speed, viciousness and weight of numbers, they’re exactly the kind of implacable, unstoppable, unreasoning opponent you want for this kind of tale. The venom is a particularly brilliant touch, both upping the danger stakes, and providing some superb gross out splatter moments, as stomachs swell and explode, and the clickers move in to eat the steaming bubbling organs from the still screaming victims.
And there’s a lovely change up a little way after the halfway point, when you discover the reason the clickers have been driven to the shore line. Because the Old Ones are coming.
So I guess we also need to talk about Lovecraft.
I’ll be brief, as I’m both woefully under qualified, and have not a single original thought on either the man or his work (I’ve got a complete works on my Kindle, and I’m currently at the 23% mark, having just finished The Rats In The Walls - so I wasn’t kidding about underqualified). I have, however, read enough, and followed enough of the recent debate, to know that there will be a subset of Lovecraft fandom that must feel personally insulted and aggrieved at the usage of Lovecraft iconography in such a brazenly pulp environment as this novel. I imagine it might feel sacrilegious, even.
I laughed like a goddamn drain.
It’s so delightfully, deliriously punk rock, that’s all - to take creatures from the cosmic horror, creatures where, in the source material, their horror comes from their indescribability, their unknown qualities, their barely-glimpsed-through-mist-monstrosity… and then fling them into a garish, technicolor splatterfest, and let the violent disemboweling and beheadings commence! It’s gleeful, irreverent… and yet, there’s sincere love here, too, for both the source material, and for the genre the Old Ones stride into. The way that translates is that they are utterly badass, cutting a bloody swathe through the now battle-hardened townsfolk that endured the initial clicker surge, in the process upping the stakes and energy as the book careers towards it’s conclusion. It’s a bonkers, gonzo idea, and it shouldn't work, and it works so well I’m grinning right now, thinking about it.
I guess we should talk about that ending, given the wider scope of this project (and I wasn’t kidding about the spoiler warning up top, so if you don’t want the entire thing ruined, as well as The Rising and City of the Dead, and you haven’t read all of them yet, last chance to bug out and unfuck that).
Because there are undeniable echoes, with both The Rising and City of the Dead. In both cases, there’s a promise made to a kid, a vow of protection - and ultimately, in both Clickers and Keene’s stories, that promise fails. In Clickers, it’s an especially brutal and graphic moment, and for me it cut through, shocking me out of the shlock horror glee of the scenes of carnage by breaking one of the taboos that even horror won’t often cross - killing a kid. I’m not sure the emotional fallout for the characters played out as deeply as it could have done - to be honest, it feels like the narrative ran out of road before that could really happen - but still it’s a hell of a moment, and a reminder that the authors really aren’t pissing about. I hadn’t expected an emotional shock to land that late in the book, and the fuckers got me good - it was a real rug-from-under moment.
So. That was my Clickers experience. I really cannot emphasise enough how much damn fun I had. The pages flew by, and I was left with a series of vivid portraits of characters, and some moments of visceral, visual horror that will linger long. I haven’t gone into a lot of detail here, but there’s some amazing horror set pieces here - the clickers in the powerstation leaps to mind, as does the initial attack on the kid (and for that matter, that batshit prologue that sinks an entire fishing vessel). Yes, the prose is unpolished in parts, but there are times when that matters and times when it doesn’t. When it betrays a deeper lack of understanding of the form, when it’s symptomatic of a wider failure to grasp the fundamentals of storytelling, it can be a dealbreaker.
Here, it’s entirely besides the point. Because this is a ferocious, bloody, and gleeful expression of imagination, a joyous love note to the B-Movie and the paperback nasties of the 70’s and 80’s.
Just like it said it was in the intro. These guys knew exactly what they were doing,and they delivered as advertised. With glee, passion, and love. And every ounce of that made it onto the page.
This was so much goddamn fun.
I can’t wait for the sequel.
By Tony Jones
“For the teens that still read… Some YA horror stocking fillers
The YA horror scene has been relatively quiet these last few months, but there are still plenty of great titles to chew over, some of which might make lovely Christmas presents for your favourite niece or nephew. Of course, some may throw that book straight back at you! Should you do that then duck and read it yourself… All but one is from 2017, a couple have been around since summer but are recent discoveries to me. None of them have been previously reviewed on Ginger Nuts. There is not a lot of straight horror on offer, more an eclectic mix of dark thrillers, speculative fiction, dystopia and fantasy crossing into horror. There are some fantastic books to choose from and they are not ranked in any particular order.
You can click on the titles and the cover images to purchase these books from your region specific Amazon store, thanks to our universal purchasing links, by purchasing the books via these links you help to Ginger Nuts of Horror afloat.
“Bleeding Earth” has been name-checked by very cool YA horror writers such as Amy Lukavics and I certainly found it to be a very enjoyable and rather different read. It’s a clever mix of apocalyptic, dystopia and an end of the world scenario cleverly played out through the eyes of a very spunky and likable teenage girl, Lea. Near the opening of the novel blood begins to seep from the earth, initially it is thought to be an isolated incident, but it quickly worsens and soon you cannot go outside without your welly boots on. Before long the water supply is contaminated, and the shops are empty of food, this is all played out very convincingly and deliberately low key as things go from bad to worse. Before long hair and bones start growing out of the earth and the hair really does have a life of its own. Lea is a great lead character, she is gay and is just embarking upon her first serious relationship when things all kick off and you’ll root for her all the way. You could argue not enough is revealed at the end and the resolution comes too easily, but that was a minor quibble, and this was a top-notch novel which I’m very happy to recommend for kids aged 13+.
Wow. This really is the perfect Christmas present and one of the best books I read in 2017, for kids or otherwise. “Thornhill” by Pam Smy is a pretty huge book, and it’s also a pretty pricy book until the paperback turns up next year. However, if you’re looking to give a kid a rather special gift then this absolute beauty might just be it. Even though it totals the best part of 500 pages an adult could still easily read it in a couple of hours, mainly because it is a time-slip story with the present-day section being told completely in pictures, which are just so easy to read! So “Thornhill” has a lot of illustrations, in a style made popular in recent times by Brian Selznick “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” and his subsequent novels. “Thornhill” itself is a care home for kids in 1982 which is shortly going to close for good, the story focusses on Mary who is a lonely orphan who suffers from selective mutism and is bullied mercilessly by other girls and one particularly nasty girl who is the ringleader. Flick forward to 2017, Ella moves into a new house which overlooks the burned-out shell of Thornhill and she is sure she can see a ghostly figure watching her in the derelict building. Adult readers will be able to tell where the story is going, but it is so beautifully told you will still have a tear in the eye come the end. The drawings are so great they really do tell the 2017 story of Ella without the needs of any words at all. Simply terrific, and if this book does not end up on the short lists of the top children’s book awards of 2017 I will eat my hat. It’s a big old book, but anyone over the age of 10+ (adults included) will adore it. Wonderful in every possible way.
Patrick Moody’s debut novel “The Gravedigger’s Son” was another absolute belter and was every bit as good as “Thornhill” telling the sad tale of a ten-year-old boy who is the son of the local gravedigger. For generations that go back for hundreds of years Ian Fosser’s descendants have always had this same job, which he will inherit from his father in due course. However, Ian would rather work with herbs and study, escaping the generations old family traditions, which is one of the main themes of this wonderful novel. Ian is tutored by the matters of the dead by a 400-year-old ghost called Bertrum and to ensure the dead are truly at peace, the words heaven and hell are never used, but the gravedigger’s role is an important one in this process. Ian may well only be an apprentice and before long he is sucked into a supernatural mystery involving his dead mother, his friend Fiona who has the power to hear the restless dead and an old family feud. Amazingly the whole of this beautiful novel is set pretty much entirely in the graveyard and the world Moody creates is so believably vivid you’ll be cheering for Ian right up to the superb ending. A tremendous book I would recommend for anyone aged from ten to 110.
“There's Someone Inside Your House” was a very quirky change of direction for an author best known for writing teen romances, so it’s great to see Perkins do something different. Essentially it harks back to the teen horror films popular in the 1980s and 1990s with a serial killer on the loose. Set in a small sleepy Nebraska town a teenager has been killed in a particularly gruesome way and when there is a second death tension ratchets up. The main character is a mixed-race Hawaiian girl, Makani Young, who is living with her grandmother after her parents split up and have little time for her. Makani has her own secrets as to why she left Hawaii, which are revealed slowly, and the novel very carefully builds her friendships and relationships, whilst maintaining a certain level of attachment, even nostalgia, to its slasher roots. It’s by no means perfect, has some gruesome scenes, is a lot of fun and overall a very decent page-turner for kids aged 13+, equally entertaining for those who do not normally read horror and are more drawn to thrillers.
I adored this quirky and highly original dystopian tale of a land where the whole population have every significant moment tattooed on their skin for ever. The whole culture and society is built around this weird concept and when teenage Leora leaves school she hopes to get a prestigious job working on tattoos. Alice Broadway has built a very believable and realistic world which sucks the reader right in, however, tragedy strikes and Leora’s father dies. After death the deceased is skinned, and their tattoos are turned into a book, this acts as a memory and is stored as a memory. However, a few are refused this type of ‘burial’ without reason and this happens to her father. She then begins to investigate, and the novel develops into a terrific thriller which effortlessly throws in a dash of romance and a lot of fantasy. What a terrific read, suitable for ages 12+. Book two is coming in 2018.
“Shallows Graves” does not have a UK publisher yet, but it well worth having a look at from Amazon. It’s an engaging mix of fantasy and horror which has a very freaky opening you’re not likely to forget in a hurry. Breezy Lin wakes up in a shallow grave one year after her death and murder, she doesn’t remember who killed her or what exactly happened. All she knows is that she’s somehow conscious—and not only that, she’s able to sense who around her are hiding a murderous past. This is all revealed very closely and cleverly when Breezy sees something akin to black smoke trailing behind those who are murderers, she compares it in some way to guilt. Around the same time, she discovers she has the power to kill, by touch, but only those who are murderers, this weird power does not work on anybody else. She then begins to search for her own killer, but hitchhiking for any teenage girl (even a dead one) is a dangerous one in America. It’s a strange journey as Breezy Lin is not really the vengeful time, but nevertheless goes on the hunt. She’s not exactly a superhero, but it’s certainly a very odd gift she has. Without giving too much away, the crux of the novel revolves around the discovery of others who may be like Breezy, and a cult attempting to control their powers. Breezy may be dead, but she’s a great central character and the flashbacks to her living life are believable and powerful, showing what she has lost without dwelling on sentiment. Highly recommended for kids 13+.
“Monster” begins the series which follows the bestselling predecessor “Gone” which lasted for an exhausting seven books. The problem is I’m not sure how many kids had the stamina to read all seven books, I certainly did not. However, this series is written in such a way you can dig it without having read “Gone” which kicks off a very long alien invasion series which opens when everyone over the age of fifteen disappears into thin air. “Monster” continues the extra-terrestrial horror theme and begins with a huge dome mysteriously appears in America, several hundred children are trapped inside, eventually out of the blue the dome disappears and the story moves four years forward. It has a great range of teenage characters which have all been affected by the dome in some way, a few even become minor celebrities if they were one of the captives. As the story develops slowly we find out went on in there comes out and the survivors begin to change into something else. I’m a huge fan of Michael Grant, few teen authors mix horror and science fiction better than him and this is a great start to a proposed trilogy. Great fun for kids aged 12+.
“Grave Matter” by the prolifically cool Juno Dawson, an author who effortlessly moves between supernatural and standard teen fiction, is an addictive fast paced read dealing with guilt and loss. Samuel was involved in a car crash which killed his girlfriend Eliza, picking up the story some months later Sam is still crushed and struggling to deal with life. He stumbles upon a way of bringing Eliza back from the dead, but at a price, and before long Sam empties his bank account to pay for the ritual. This was a deliberately fast paced read by Barrington Stoke who specialise in high interest but relatively easy books to read for kids who are dyslexic or have lower reading abilities, but are looking for good challenging plots which do not patronise them. If you’re looking for something along those lines Juno Dawson delivers, this very talented author usually does.
The latest novel by Virginia Bergin “Who Runs the World” is a very cool twist on the dystopia/utopia (which is it?) theme… Set sixty years after a virus has killed off the male population, imagine what a world would be like with no men? Fourteen-year-old River lives a pretty normal life and believes men are extinct. However, whilst walking in a local forest she discovers a half-dead boy called Mason who has escaped from somewhere where effectively the few men who were immune to the virus are used as permanent sperm banks to keep the human race going whether they want to or not. This book is very clever on many levels, reveals its secrets slowly and you’ll enjoy the reactions as the teenage girls get to meet a real-life boy. I’m a real fan of this author and her other books “Rain” and “Storm” are also highly recommended apocalyptic fiction. Highly recommended for ages 12+.
Popular teen horror writer Cliff McNish makes a welcome return to horror, albeit a brief one, with “The Craving” a short punchy read with a similar aim as the Juno Dawson novel above. Published by Badger this high interest horror novel is perfect for a kid struggling to finish long books, has language or concentration problems. They should happily whizz through this entertaining tale of a teenage boy who realises his whole family are vampires, and just as he wants to fight ‘the craving’ he realises his parents want him to give into it. Easy reads often play into genre stereotypes, but this book does not do this at all and I’m sure a casual adult reader would also be entertained. I’ve been a fan of Cliff of many years and he has many great horror and fantasy novels to recommend including “Breathe”, “The Hunting Ground” and “Savannah Gray”. He also has another short read published by Badger, which is more of a thriller “Silent Valley” about a teenage girl who gets her revenge on the mother who abandoned her as a baby after many, many years. Both Badger books are perfect for ages 9+.
The Treatment by CL Taylor has had some hype in YA land recently, being the teen debut for a bestselling adult thriller writer, ultimately though it was disappointing. I haven’t read any of her adult offerings, but this was decidedly underwhelming and although it was well written with an engaging free flowing style the plot was completely telegraphed and very, very predictable to an adult reader. Sadly, I think teen readers will agree also and Taylor really needed more of the twists and turns which she is known for in her thrillers. Drew is having a tough time at school, and is being bullied after her troublemaker brother is sent to a reform school. This is a new type of school, called Residential Reform Academy (RRA), Drew finds out that the RRA may have some dodgy ‘treatment’ which reconditions and cures these troublesome teens. Of course, before long Drew also ends up in the RRA and it all becomes very predictable. It’s more thriller than horror and an undemanding teen might get some entertainment from it. If Taylor returns to YA she really needs more going on than dodgy doctors, the acknowledgements mention “Prison Break meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest but for teens.” It really, really isn’t.
the folded land by tim lebbon: an EXCLUSIVE COVER REVEAL and EXCERPT from the sequel to the smash hit relics
Earlier this year, and boy what a year it has been, Ginger Nuts of Horror was honoured to get an advanced readers copy of Tim Lebbon's Relics, the first of a new trilogy of novels from an author who has always been a firm favourite with the site. Now, thanks to our review of the excellent book (which you can read here), we have been asked to host the exclusive cover reveal and excerpt of The Folded Land. the second part of this exciting trilogy.
Tim Lebbon is the New York Times bestselling author of the movie novelizations of 30 Days of Night and The Cabin in the Woods. He has also written many critically acclaimed horror and dark fantasy novels. Tim has won three British Fantasy Awards, a Bram Stoker Award, a Shocker, a Tombstone and been a finalist for the International Horror Guild and World Fantasy Awards.
After being struck by lightning, young Sammi is drawn towards a strange place, a folded land where a powerful fairy will live out eternity. The faction amongst the Kin who seek to rise once again need the fairy to aid their cause. Now Vince and Angela, on the run in the USA, must draw together to rescue Sammi, and prevent the growing horror of Ascent.
The Folded Land will be published as a trade paperback by Titan Books on 20 March 2018. Stay tuned for more details and hopefully another early bird review.
There were three men running toward him. He stood his ground as they dashed past, and ignored their panicked, shouted warnings, swapping a glance with one of them. There was sheer horror in the man’s eyes.
Gregor smiled. He’d come to the right place.
He walked on toward the source of their terror. It was a direction he was used to taking. When there was fear amongst people, that was where he often found what he was searching for. Sometimes those frightened people thought of him as a kind of savior, that he had come to rescue them from things with teeth and claws, and faces unlike their own. He did nothing to disabuse them of the notion.
They ran, he arrived, and the monsters went away.
Gregor had been watching the illegal logging camp for seventeen days, hiding out in the jungle, circling by day and hunkering down at night. He grabbed ten minutes of sleep here and there, but most of the time forced himself to remain awake. He’d been watching for signs and didn’t want to miss anything.
The settlement was large. During the day it often took him ten hours to complete a full circuit of the rough camp and the logging operations that spread out from its heart. Down ravines, up steep hills, always alert for movement and careful not to be seen, he enjoyed the physical challenge. He liked pushing himself. The pain was cathartic. Nothing good came to those who did not strive.
The Amazon jungle was sweltering. Even the regular afternoon downpour was warm, but at least the water swilled some of the stale sweat and dirt from his clothes, and he caught some in his hat to drink. He ate acai and figs from hanging branches, and sometime he plucked grubs and spiders from damp, dark places in the bark of giant trees. The loggers would be destroying their habitats soon enough. At least he was putting their succulent, crunchy bodies to good use.
With his time here almost over, he felt a flush of satisfaction. It had been wise to wait and watch. The landscape felt right, the surroundings and location perfect, his information had been correct. He’d known that given time the loggers would uncover what he sought.
In the distance he heard mewling in the naked sunlight.
Gregor broke into a jog. In any normal jungle, moving at such speed would have been impossible, but this place was dying. He vaulted felled trees, climbed onto pale fleshy stumps, leapt off and kicked through thigh-high piles of chopped branches and lank vines. Skirting around a massive stack of stripped trunks, he almost ran into two more men who were running away. One of them skidded to a stop and grabbed Gregor’s arms, opening his mouth to shout a warning, snot running from his nose, sweat washing dirt and sawdust into his wide, terrified eyes.
The man saw something in Gregor’s expression that gave him pause, and the warning remained unvoiced. Pushing away,
Gregor ran on, turning his head slightly from side to side, sniffing the air.
A machine idled nearby, sitting at the end of a trail of deep ruts in the jungle floor. Its caterpillar tracks had churned harsh wounds into the ground. Its heavy clasping claws held a tree horizontally, ready to drag it through a macerator that would chew off limbs, bark, and thick side branches, processing it for future use. It was a mechanical version of Gregor himself, albeit larger and far clumsier.
Gregor grinned at this comparison. It pleased him, and he laughed as he ran past.
A flock of birds took flight, startled by the sound.
He stopped at the edge of a large hole It had once been home to the roots of a massive tree, now tumbled ready to be chopped. The upended root ball formed a tall wall to his left, and crawling blind things still scampered for shelter.
In the hole, the pale thing also tried to crawl back into dank shadows. Tropical sunlight hit its slick skin. Steam rose from its body. It looked up at Gregor. Perhaps it smiled, or grimaced, and the faint whisper might have been an attempted growl to see him away.
Gregor jumped into the hole and landed several feet away from the naked beast. It was the size of a small child, thin and weak-looking, despite its long limbs that seemed to flex and curl around it. It pulsed and moved as if unused to such exposure.
“You’re not afraid of me,” the creature said, the words sounding unfamiliar in its mouth. It must have been a long time since it had felt the need to speak.
“Should I be?” Gregor asked. He pulled a long curved knife from a sheath on his belt. It was razor sharp on its outer edge, the inner blade serrated for sawing through bone. Though well-used, it was still keen and clean. Gregor knew how to look after the tools of his trade.
The creature hissed, but the sound turned into a low, pained sigh.
“Poor leshy,” Gregor said, kneeling in the mud. “How long have you lain here?”
“Too long to remember,” the leshy said, eyeing the blade. It was a tree spirit of this jungle, and it had used the living weight of this giant kapok tree to hide itself away. It might have been there for five hundred years.
Gregor reached out, not with the knife but with his free hand. He touched the creature’s slick brow and whispered words of comfort. It’s heavy eyes drifted shut and it purred, twisting itself against his hand.
“Please don’t hurt me,” it said, and although its language was one that no human should know, Gregor understood.
“Tell me where you came from,” Gregor said.
“I’ve been here for…”
“Not here. Before here.”
The leshy opened its eyes again, onto a whole new world. Gregor saw a shred of understanding there now. He would have to be careful. This creature was weak, pitiful, but appearances could be deceptive.
“North,” the leshy said. “There were too many of us there. I came here to be on my own.”
“So sad,” Gregor said.
“Have you come to save me?”
“Yes,” Gregor said. “Yes, I have.”
The leshy blinked and its limbs curled in on themselves.
Gregor lashed out with his knife and sliced the creature’s throat. It’s eyes snapped wide. He saw its surprise, but behind the surprise there was something else. Perhaps it was relief.
He cut again, reversing the knife and pressing down, sawing until the leshy’s head parted from its body. Above and around him a heavy sigh passed through the canopies of those trees that were still standing, but Gregor did not let such a thing distract him from his task.
He dug in deep and cut out the dying creature’s heart. Holding it up, sunlight touching where it never should caused the dripping organ to shrivel and cauterize.
A nearby tree began to shed its heavy leaves. Further way, several other trees collapsed with a grief-stricken roar.
“You’re saved,” Gregor said. He pocketed the heart, climbed from the hole, and started walking north.
Half an hour later he came across two of the men he’d seen fleeing. They were huddled in the cab of a truck, doors and windows closed despite the humidity and heat of the midday sun. They were smoking, their frightened faces hazy behind a miasma of fumes.
As Gregor passed by, one of them wound down his window, just a few inches.
“It’s gone?” he asked.
“Gone.” Gregor did not stop walking.
“What was it?” the man called after him.
“Amazing,” Gregor said, and he walked on, looking forward to leaving that awful fucking place.
By Amber fallon
“We are the weirdos, mister.” – The Craft, 1996
Last year, I signed a contract with Eraserhead Press to publish my first bizarro book! As a longtime fan of a huge number of the books they’ve put out, as soon as I was given the go ahead to share the news publicly, I took to Facebook to announce my ecstatic enthusiasm over being part of their lineup.
I was understandably dismayed when I almost immediately received a private message from a dear friend, who shall remain nameless, who wasn’t quite as happy for me. The (paraphrased) conversation went something like this:
Friend: Eraserhead Press, huh? Don’t they just publish books about refrigerators and stuff that go on violent rape sprees?
Me: Um, no?
Friend: But they’re a bizarro publisher, right? Isn’t that what bizarro IS?
Now Friend is a solid person, and I love them to bits. They weren’t trying to be dicks or disparage me at all, they just legitimately thought that that was bizarro fiction: kitchen appliances coming to life and committing acts of sexual violence. I promptly took the opportunity to correct that false perception for them, and I’d like to try and correct it for you, too.
Let me say that things like that do exist within the genre, just like torture porn and extreme rape depictions exist within the horror genre. There is nothing at all wrong with that, or with the people who enjoy reading things like that (since I’m one of them, heh) but it is FAR from all there is to explore in the world of the weird, just the same way there is so much more to horror than Edward Lee’s The Bighead and Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door.
Let’s start by giving the term bizarro an official definition. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it:
“Bizarro fiction is a contemporary literary genre, which often uses elements of absurdism, satire, and the grotesque, along with pop-surrealism and genre fiction staples, in order to create subversive, weird, and entertaining works.”
I’d be willing to bet that there are several things you already know and love that fit comfortably into that definition. Things like Rick and Morty, Adventure Time, Twin Peaks, David S. Pumpkins, and The Lobster, just to name a few. I’m sure you could think of dozens, if not hundreds, of others if you tried. These things feature elements of the absurd, the surreal, satire, the grotesque, the unusual, abstraction, and general weirdness that make them wonderful, unique, and well loved. Yet, for some unknown reason, they aren’t labeled as bizarro, and bizarro remains sort of a dirty word in a lot of circles.
The article goes on to say that “In general, Bizarro has more in common with speculative fiction genres (such as science-fiction, fantasy, and horror) than with avant-garde movements (such as Dadaism and surrealism), which readers and critics often associate it with.” Interesting. I wonder if that perception might have something to do with the stigma that’s often associated with the bizarro genre?
Speaking of that stigma, where does it come from? Where did it start? Who started it? Why? Honestly, I’m not sure. I wish I knew, so that maybe changing that perception could be made a little easier. As it is, I know that my friend’s reaction was hardly unique. The important part is that they were willing to learn more and expand their horizons. If you’ve got the same openness, let me share a list of bizarro books for beginners; things to help you get your toes wet in the genre I love so much.
If any of the following books tickle your fancy then please click on the title or book cover to purchase from your local Amazon store
Moon Snake is a pair of similar-ish novellas, which is great if you don’t want to invest a lot of time in your first taste test of the genre. While both of the stories are definitely bizarro in nature, they’re also comprised of a lyrical kind of beauty, one that transcends genre and I think would do a great job of bridging the gap. There are some scary things in here, but nothing so extreme that it would send new readers running for the hills. If you’re looking to try bizarro fiction on for size, Moon Snake by Kirsten Alene is an excellent place to start.
Jigsaw Youth is a novel, so it’s a bit meatier than the previous selection. It’s a brilliant, vivid look at the life of a woman told in remembrances and fractured glimpses at a broken past. It’s sad, it’s powerful, it’s traumatic, it’s heartbreakingly real. This is the kind of book that I would put on an Oprah-esque book club reading list.
Angel Meat is a short story collection, so it’s another great choice for someone who is looking to try on the genre for size without a big commitment. Think of it like one of those little sampler boxes you get around the holidays with different kinds of chocolate in them. There are stories in the book that range from heartbreaking modern realism to weird science fiction, to outright bizarro. It’s a great way to see a lot of different styles from one really talented individual.
Towers is quite possibly the most bizarre bizarro book on this list. The concept may be a little out there if you haven’t read bizarro before, but the book is solid. If you’re looking to bite off a bigger chunk of weird than the previous suggestions, this one is for you. It’s the story of sentient towers, reincarnated as human beings living in those towers. It’s full of heart, imagination, triumph, and a whole host of human emotions. Can there be a more classical tale than the search for a lost love? Towers takes that idea and runs with it, sprinkling in elements of horror and bizarro along the way.
The breadth of human emotion is played out in Our Love Will Go the Way of the Salmon by Cameron Pierce. Love, loss, beauty, tragedy, hope, it’s all here. There are elements of horror and, of course, bizarro, but this is another excellent book for someone wanting to become more familiar with the genre.
I’ll call this particular selection “Advanced Bizarro for Beginners”. It’s weirder and more ‘out there’ than most of the other selections on this list, but I chose it for two reasons. Number one, it’s a great book. It’s well written, with rich characters and a full gamut of emotions. Number two, it’s a great way to end the list. If you’ve read and enjoyed some of the other books here, this is a great next step for you. In kind, if you’re a more daring reader in general this might be a good book for you to get started with.
There are many reasons why I’m so passionate about bizarro fiction. I have always loved the absurd. I revel in the weird, the unique, the different. As a writer, I love the lack of constraint there. I can, and frequently do, explore literally anything, alongside some of the friendliest, funniest, most wonderful people I know, my brothers and sisters in bizarro. There is nothing quite like the sense of gleeful abandon I feel while reading through Carlton Mellick III’s latest book. If you made it through this list and enjoyed what you read (and I’m betting you did!), check him out. Carlton is pretty much the king of bizarro for a reason. His books are so weird, so incredibly different, that they provide a vivid, even somewhat disorienting, escape from reality. He has written about everything from mermaids to a magical post-apocalyptic grocery store, and done so with some serious style.
I hope I’ve inspired you to take a walk on the weird side, and I hope that if you have, you’ll join me in helping the world to embrace bizarro! Share it far and wide! Help us all erase that weird stigma that’s associated with bizarro and tell everyone that it is so much more than violent kitchen appliances come to life.
As a simple country lad I have two fears from my childhood. Trees and faces. And sometimes both combined.
I grew up in the wilds of the Sussex countryside on a farm where our nearest neighbours were a mile away in either direction and the only way to get to our house was along a winding country road enclosed on either side by woodland. Beautiful and picturesque as you can imagine. And there’s the problem right there. Imagination.
For those of us who were born in the late 70s there is a wide catalogue of children’s television which was designed to scar our impressionable young minds. Not least of these was Children of the Green Knowe based on the books by Lucy M. Boston. Green Knowe itself is an old estate replete with woodland, country house, river and gardens looked after by Mrs Oldknow and the groundskeeper Boggis. Throw in some ghostly children, a big old statue of St Christopher (which moves) and a big old baddie and you’ve a spooky tale right there. Now someone in their wisdom at the BBC decided to make a four part dramatisation of this for the run up to Christmas back in 1986. The adaptation focuses on young posh lad Tolly who is sent there to live with his great-grandmother the aforementioned Mrs Oldknow. He goes wandering round the estate encountering the ghostly children and other characters along the way. Nice and spooky but gentle enough. And then some bastard introduces Green Noah – a menacing nightmare inducing tree and our big old baddie noted earlier. A tree which is able to uproot itself and walk across the lawn, a tree able to stalk a young child. The sort of tree which could live along a gentle country lane in the middle of sleepy Sussex where a similar young child may walk home from a day at school down said dark country lane with the creaks and groans of wind tugged branches filling his ears. Of all the bloody things to get a fear of when you are surrounded by woodland!
So what does this have to do with faces other than the leering features carved into Green Noah’s bark? Well let’s blame the BBC yet again. The BBC created some wonderful adaptations of ghost stories for Christmas (mainly M.R. James) and I am a proud owner of the superb box set which you can buy nowadays. However, my first encounter with these stories was some thirty years previously on re-runs back in the 80s. I loved these shows. I would sit with my Dad and watch them on Christmas Eve instead of going down the local church for midnight mass. One of my favourite stories is based on Charles Dickens’ marvellous short story The Signalman. It tells of a railway signalman on a single track line who is plagued by a spectral visitor who warns him of impending doom. Denholm Elliott (as the Signalman) and Bernard Lloyd (as the Traveller who Elliott tells his fears to) play of each other superbly and director Lawrence Gordon Clark builds a palpable sense of unease and tension. There is not a wasted second across the 39 minutes of the piece and yet the moment to haunt me comes as we come close to the end and the spectre is revealed in his full glory. The face of that spectre haunted me for years!
So this is where my tale ends. Or does it? So it wasn’t just the face in The Signalman which haunted me. No, that delicious imagination of mine decided it want to delve deep into some weird part of my psyche and have a little bit of fun. Not content with spectral visages, I decided I needed a new nightmare. I would dream of strangers coming up to me, leering creepy individuals, people who would lean in to me. And I would grab their faces and pull. And the face would come away and underneath it would be a different face. And that face would be pulled away to reveal another face. Men becoming women. The elderly becoming young and the young becoming old. Face after face after face after face until I would wake up in the darkness with my bedclothes slick with sweat. And I have no idea why though I am sure a psychiatrist would have a field day with this one! For those who have read my books, I suspect you might see elements of this broadly scattered throughout my writing. Or perhaps I’ve hidden it deep enough. Why not peel back the visage and see what lies beneath?
by Ramsey Campbell
There has been a lot of guarded whispers going around the internet chat forums these past few years about a mysterious series of horror books apparently penned anonymously by some of the greatest names in horror fiction, secret books never openly sold to the public. Such was the air of mystery that presided over them they quickly became the stuff of legends.
Established in 1919, The Eden Book Society was a private publisher of horror for almost 100 years.
Presided over by the Eden family, it was handed down through the generations issuing short horror novellas to a confidential list of subscribers. Eden books were always written under pseudonyms and rumoured to have been written by some of the greatest horror authors of their day.
Until now they have never been available to the public.
Are these books real or just another case of of the Mandela Effect, or did these book really exist, well horror legend Ramsey Campbell remembers them, and has agreed to talk about them in the article below. Then click here to find out more about this project to bring these lost texts into the public domain!
I still recall when I originally heard of the mysterious Eden Project, that series of macabre books pseudonymously penned by some of the greats in the field. It was in 1975, during my first trip to America. I’d been a guest of the first World Fantasy Convention and now was staying with Manly Wade Wellman and his wife Frances in Chapel Hill. The Wellmans had organised a get-together in my honour, including a local journalist who managed to misreport both Manly and me in the local newspaper. Most of the guests had gone, but Karl Edward Wagner had stayed for a last glass or two of bourbon. I believe I’d enthused about some of the rarities on Manly’s shelves, which led either Karl or me to ask Manly if there was work in our field he wished he’d collected. (Manly’s knowledge of obscurities in the field alerted Karl to several of the novels he included in his famous list of thirty-nine great horror novels in the Twilight Zone magazine.) Manly cited the Eden Project, of which he’d apparently learned from no less a luminary than Farnsworth Wright, editor of Weird Tales. Wright had planned to reprint several of the novellas, but for some reason was unable to secure the rights. Manly thought one had actually been announced as forthcoming in an issue of Weird Tales, but none of the authorities on the history of the magazine have been able to locate the reference.
That same year I visited Sauk City and met the personnel of Arkham House. Over dinner I mentioned the Eden books to James Turner, then the Arkham editor. He’d heard of them and encouraged me to track down any I could in Britain, with an eye to publishing at least one omnibus. I duly kept an eye out for them in second-hand bookshops and asked various friends who were booksellers – John Roles in Liverpool, Richard Dalby in Scarborough – to do likewise on my behalf. John, who had served in India before taking up his profession, told a frustrating tale of encountering a set of several dozen volumes in Delhi. Although they were displayed in a bookshop, the owner refused to part with them, declaring that he wanted to reread them. John had the impression that they exerted a strange fascination over him, or perhaps just their rarity did.
The following year I attended the World Fantasy Convention in New York. By now I was sufficiently obsessed with the Eden books to question various veterans of the field about them. This produced one intriguing anecdote, although by now Frank Belknap Long (the source) was somewhat unreliable in his memories (as Jim Turner learned when he edited Frank’s memoir of Lovecraft). According to Long, he and Lovecraft found a set of all the Eden Project up to 1927 in a Brooklyn bookshop (a statement he revised on being reminded that Lovecraft returned to Providence from New York in 1926). Long said that he and Lovecraft could afford only one book each at that time, but asked the bookseller to hold the rest until their return. When Long went back, the bookseller told him the items had been sold. Frank remembered his own acquisition as Lightless Water, apparently the name of a fictitious lake in Wales that acts as a focus for the infinite. He was unable to recall the title of the book Lovecraft bought, and when Frank lent him Lightless Water it went astray in the mail.
Years later T. E. D. Klein asked Karl Wagner to list his favourite horror novels for Twilight Zone, the magazine Ted then edited. Though Karl provided three lists of thirteen titles each (supernatural, science fiction and non-supernatural), no Eden Project books were included. I feel a little guilty about this. Before he made up his lists Karl wrote to me, saying that he’d traced a substantial set of Eden books to a bookseller in Preston. Apparently because of their rarity, the seller refused to take responsibility for shipping them and would only yield them up for cash to a personal caller. I drove the forty miles to Preston, only to find the shop shut although there was no indication of an early closing day. Several of the books Karl had listed in his letter were displayed in the window, and I was dismayed to see that the bindings were badly sunned. I left a note to indicate that I was shopping on Karl’s behalf and then rang the number at least a dozen times without result over the next few days. At last the phone was answered, and the bookseller insisted that he had sold the entire Eden Project set (which he claimed was absolutely complete and in very fine condition) before receiving my note.
That’s as close as I’ve ever come to the publications until now. Richard Dalby almost secured a set on my behalf, but the seller then withdrew the offer and sold the books to some buyer who doubled the asking price. I look forward to reading these legendary books at last and attempting to determine who wrote them.
14 November 2017
Dead Ink Books is pleased to announce that it has secured the rights to the entire Eden Book Society backlist and archives. For the first time, these books – nearly a century of unseen British horror – will be available to the public. The original authors are lost to time, but their work remains, and Dead Ink will be faithfully reproducing the publications by reprinting them one year at a time.
Dead Ink hopes that you will join us as we explore the evolving fears of British society throughout the 20th Century and eventually entering the 21st. We will begin our reproduction with 1972, a year of exciting and original horror for the Society.
Click here for more information on The Eden Society and how you can help support their Kickstarter campaign to make these lost texts public
When I gaily stepped forwards waving my hands in the air in response to The Ginger Nuts of Horror’s invitation to write about the things that freaked me out in childhood, I imagined writing a clever and witty piece about the Daleks and the *shriek* giant maggots that troubled poor Jon Pertwee and his companions in the early 1970s (Dr Who, The Green Death, BBC, 1973). But when I actually paused and gave it some thought, I realised with a kind of nauseous sinking feeling that my monsters are actually much more mundane, very real, and they still scare me to tears.
Now I don’t want to get all hot and heavy, and I certainly don’t want any psycho analysing, thank you very much, but the things that frightened me to death as a freckly-faced gangly kid, are the same things that keep me awake as a pale and plump fifty-year old. They are quite simply, loss and loneliness.
As I write this I still have my parents and my older husband almost fully intact: minus a prostate or two here, and with added pacemaker there, but joy of joys, they are all alive. I lost three of my grandparents young. I was inconsolable when both my grandmothers died, Durham Nan when I was 8, and Devon Nan (who remained with us until I was 41). I’ve had several good friends taken cruelly young, but on the whole I’ve been pretty lucky where humans are concerned.
But I’m not simply talking about the loss of people I love (or even like lots). I am a product of my upbringing for sure. I was an army brat. Mum, Dad, me and my annoying terror of an even ganglier and freckled-face ginger brother (he was once a true ginger nut of horror himself, but these days he’s my hero). We moved constantly. I went to 15 different schools between the ages of 5 and 18. Every twelve months or so, sometimes less, I lost my security blanket of familiar places, familiar objects and belongings (packed up or given away), and familiar faces. We uprooted and I had to start again, and every time the fear of being new, of not being able to identify who I was in relation to my surroundings, or the people I’d befriended, bit deeply.
Very occasionally when we moved, I would find myself easing straight into school, with happy welcoming children, and I’d have a whale of a time. That made it all the more difficult when the next move brought me face-to-face with cliques and bullies. That sense of being ‘other’, ‘alien’, has stayed with me till this day. You’ll probably recognise that feeling – from when kids whisper about you behind your back and laugh, or even worse, pull your hair, or say something cruel. Jesus. It brings me out in a sweat just thinking about it.
Being bullied is something so many of us can identify with. What made it different for me, is that I managed to move away (regularly) from one set of miscreants, only to be confronted by a new batch – usually equally as imaginative as their predecessors. I can’t describe the paralysing fear I had of being the new kid, on the first day, at a new (to me) school, when all the other kids already knew each other and had friends. I would agitate endlessly about how to ingratiate myself, and go home and cry in bed. Friendless and alone. That was pretty much me till the age of 17.
I don’t like to dwell on it, but boy, I was a lonely child. I lost myself in a world of books. I was a voracious reader, and I loved to write, and when I wasn’t writing I was daydreaming and putting myself in the heart of all the stories I read or imagined. S. E. Hinton was my favourite, and Alan Garner, Laura Ingalls Wilder, C.S. Lewis, Lewis Carroll and later at 12 or so, the Brontes, Charles Dickens and other Victorian writers, Peter Straub and Shaun Hutson. All those wonderful authors made me feel welcome. When I was reading I was among friends, I was alive, and I was safe.
Nowadays, I’m a little more settled but I’ve moved around far too much, even as an adult, to have any close friends, and loneliness haunts my nights along with the fear of losing those I love. My luck can’t hold out forever after all, and I dread it with every fibre of my being.
My monsters are very much part of my writing life. Of course they are. I have never intentionally set out to write about loss and loneliness, and in fact, initially, my short stories had traditional monsters – serial killers, witches and man-eating trees, you know the kind of thing. However, my long fiction (while still nodding to witches and man-eating trees) have loss and loneliness at their core. I didn’t really understand this until I began to plot my current project, provisionally entitled ‘Beyond the Veil’, which has three dead characters at the centre of the story. So much loss, it makes my eyes sting.
In Crone (May 2017), the protagonist, Heather, has lost her teenage son, and uncovering the truth about his death is what drives the plot forward. In The Municipality of Lost Souls (yet to be published) Amelia Fliss’s melancholy loneliness is almost a character in itself, in spite of the fact that she has a husband who is devoted to her.
Loneliness is often a state of mind, something that is deep-rooted within ourselves even when we’re in the company of others. And the dread of loss before it actually happens? It prevents us being our true selves. Somewhere along the line, I have become accustomed (although not comfortable) to being lonely, while my fear of being left alone in the world thanks to being bereaved has become irrevocably entangled in my intestines. I think my anxiety about a bleak future in my old age prevents me living my life to the full NOW. I hate it, but I can’t seem to shake these thoughts off. They live with me, gnawing away, a constant companion I don’t want, shuffling alongside me as I travel in the world, casting knowing looks my way.
And perhaps that’s what’s really scary, isn’t it?
Jeannie Wycherley leapt at the chance to write when she was made redundant from lecturing in 2012. Since then she’s been honing her craft, learning as much as she can from other writers, and scribbling short stories as Betty Gabriel. She finally took the plunge with her novel Crone in May 2017. A repackaged anthology of her short horror stories, Deadly Encounters followed in August. Her short story, ‘A Concerto for the Dead and Dying’, is included in the vampire anthology, Mrs Dracula, due for release October 13th, 2017.
Jeannie’s inspiration is largely drawn from the landscape where she lives in East Devon: rocky coast, pebble and sand beaches, winding lanes, picture perfect cottages, cliffs and forest. She lives with her husband and three dogs, make a lot of soup in her cauldron, is a terrible insomniac, and plays a lot of Runescape.
Crone is available to Purchase from Amazon
Deadly Encounters is available to purchase from Amazon
Mrs Dracula is available: to Purchase from Amazon
BY DANI BROWN
Delirious June 2009, too sick to know the date, but after the 21st.
I don’t care how sick you are, get out of bed and put on Sky News. That was an actual text I received when the news broke that childhood tormentor of my dreams had died. I didn’t know that until I dragged my feverish, aching body from the bed.
The text seemed important. It was from a journalism contact of mine. I was too sick to wonder if some sort of terrible event had been unfolding in the outside world. It wasn’t time for more medicine and whatever the strongest painkillers nursing mums are allowed to take (they didn’t work by the way, neither did the medicine).
I somehow found myself in front of a TV with a baby monitor in my shaky, feverish hands. I remember the baby monitor clearly. I brought that thing with me every time I left the bed. Being sick with a new born creates a very special mother/baby bond. I left my phone in the other room. It wasn’t as important as the baby monitor. I switched on the news.
Someone had died. Michael Jackson. I went back to bed until it was time to feed the baby. I’m not sure if I felt anything.
I used to be terrified of him as a child. As an adult, I still find him creepy. These days, if one of his songs comes on the radio or someone’s playlist (certainly not mine), I’m in a foul mood for the rest of the day. It doesn’t leave me diving under my Troll bedding for cover though (I miss that Troll bedding).
I don’t know what came first, the fear of some random popstar or the dislike of his screeching vocals and crouch grabbing. All I know is that at some point before I could remember, I started to fear Michael Jackson. As a kid, he was the monster under the bed.
I don’t think Michael Jackson has seeped into my writing or art in any way. One thing that has is The Wizard of Oz. Why, Grandma, why did you make me watch that? I have never read the book. I have no intention of doing so. It seems like something I would like, but I still have nightmares of the Lollipop Kids on PTS-free nights (although they have to share with the Cold War). The only time I’ve seen the entire film was that one time my American Grandmother put it on.
The set for Munchkin Land sticks out in my mind. It was awful and plastic and bright. All except the house falling on the witch and her feet curling up when the shoes were taken away. That was dark.
I went to a slumber party a few years after having the most horrifying film known to humanity inflicted upon me. Apparently, I was saying flying monkeys in my sleep. That’s when I knew it would never go away.
I’ve heard the beginning of The Wizard of Oz goes nicely with a joint and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon or The Wall. I can’t remember which as I was never able to try it due to the terror. It would be just my luck that while high on some super-strength hallucinogenic weed (that I don’t think existed way back in my teen years when I used to get high), the characters in The Wizard of Oz transform to have Michael Jackson’s face and dance moves, all set in the landscape of a nuclear holocaust from Cold War era propaganda that I can’t remember. With giant plastic flowers with Michael Jackson singing in them while dressed as Munchkins.
Lollipop Kids and Flying Monkeys have never crossed the threshold into my Cold War themed nightmares. I was born in 1984. I don’t have any vivid memories of anything Cold War related, but for whatever reason, this stuff has played out in my nightmares since childhood. I suck at history, even when it concerns stuff that people only a few years older than me would remember. I might take it in, in some way my conscious mind can’t recall but it gets distorted by my subconscious.
The first nightmare I recall that I put in the nuclear holocaust/Cold War category involved a bomb shelter with a bead curtain. Maybe the beads had some sort of special lead? I don’t think it would have protected against a nuke. It defied gravity though. The shelter in my dream was set into the floor with the bead curtain covering it. It was well-stocked with Doritos and my mother’s friends. This might actually be a reoccurring nightmare. As I type this more details come back, like the hard wood floors surrounding where it was set into the floor. And the metal shelves set onto the concrete of the shelter.
I don’t recall spending my early days scared of nuclear bombs and nuclear power. I probably had no clue what they were, until it came time for sleep. Daylight hours were consumed trying to avoid Michael Jackson, Lollipop Kids, Flying Monkeys and dinosaurs. Yes, dinosaurs. And playing with Sylvanian Families (my go-to toy until Trolls re-entered in the market).
The Land Before Time is not an innocent children’s film. There’s huge dinosaurs which could come back and step on my house. I woke up one-night screaming. My mother had to remove all the dinosaur toys (and anything that remotely resembled a Flying Monkey) from my bedroom, otherwise I wouldn’t sleep. The dinosaurs could have come out of the TV.
Luckily, I was older when Jurassic Park came out. I don’t care about DNA breaking down, I’ve convinced myself that it could happen and there’s probably some seedy scientist in an old lab with active small pox sitting on a dusty shelf messing around with dinosaur DNA. I’m too much of a wimp to google Jurassic Park 3D to see if that’s a real thing. I’m going to assume it is and then assume the makers of that will be bringing us The Wizard of Oz 3D and Michael Jackson holograms.
I’m not about to speculate on the reality of a nuclear war. Apart from that, rational, adult, waking me, understands the rest of the stuff can’t happen. There are three very real things that can and those are bees, wasps and hornets. I saw a wasp today. I know they’re real. I know I’m going to have nightmares about wasps tonight unless I fall asleep while listening to Ultravox’s Greatest Hits.
Melissophobia and Spheksophobia are very real. I remember when it started. I was camping with my mother and sister and stepfather (and possibly little brother) in Rhode Island. There were bees, according to my mother, killer bees. I saw the bees a few days before everyone else and told my mother, but she wasn’t listening (story of my life). I had nightmares about the bees until someone with more credibility than a child said there were bees and convinced my mother they were Africanised bees (I was never able to confirm if they were). My mother said to me, “why didn’t you tell me about the bees?”. I did tell her about the goddamn bees. By this point, I was waking up screaming in the night about bees. Every night. Michael Jackson, Munchkins, the Cold War and dinosaurs had nothing on them.
After that, we went back to England for a few weeks. Possibly the following summer, possibly not. I lived in Western Massachusetts, hot enough to need air conditioning in the summer months. We had the air conditioners that would hang out of windows. No one wanted to reinstall the air conditioners upon our return. Me and my sister had to share a room and we were forced to go to sleep in the middle of the afternoon upon our return. I couldn’t sleep. Wasps had built a nest close to the window. It was too hot to not have it open. There was a hole in the screen. They were coming in.
As my mother’s mental health declined, she used my fear of bees, wasps and hornets to manipulate me. It gradually became worse and started to incorporate hummingbirds (they’re hornets in reverse) and scorpions (I don’t know what they’re meant to be). It ended up at a point where I was scared to leave the house in the summer or open the windows. I’m not that bad now, but I won’t wear perfume in the summer and I keep my hair tied up (incase one gets caught in my hair). There’s a can of Raid within arm’s reach.
This is a fear that carried over from early childhood into adulthood. I still have nightmares about the other things, but they aren’t real. Bees, wasps and hornets are very real. I’m here alone. If I have a nightmare of the wasp I saw earlier, there’s no one to comfort me. She was there, on the wet pavement. I can’t even step on them because I’m that scared. I wish I did.
One day, I might be able to. I’m going to go listen to Ultravox now. Nuclear holocaust is the only way to ensure there won’t be a wasp.
Suitably labelled “The Queen of Filth”, extremist author Dani Brown’s style of dark and twisted writing and deeply disturbing stories has amassed a worrying sized cult following featuring horrifying tales such as “My Lovely Wife”, “Toenails” and the hugely popular “Night of the Penguins”. Merging eroticism with horror, torture and other areas that most authors wouldn’t dare, each of Dani’s titles will crawl under your skin, burrow inside you, and make you question why you are coming back for more.
Dani Brown’s latest book, and first self-published book, is out now.
Dani Brown's second person experimental piece you've been waiting years for. Witness first hand as a fiction author breaks the list of writing rules (or a list, there are many of these things). You wake up. Your day doesn't get much better after that. Dive into your mind as your body releases every bit of fluid it had and then more. When your mind is done with you, it is your body's turn. Is there any hope for you?