Showing posts from 2009

Let the Right One In

It’s been snowing, and as I write this the year is dying. A good time, then, to review a film set in a Swedish winter during the second Cold War.             Let the Right One In is a remarkable, unpretentious and very satisfying retake on the theme of the vampire as lonely outcast, and the fascination such a creature might exert on a certain kind of human. The twist, as you probably know if you’re into that sort of thing, is that the vampire in this case is a child – girl called Eli who has been ‘twelve for a long time’. While child vampires have been around a while, Eli is – I think – the first leading character of this sort.             Oskar, Eli’s lonely neighbour, has been twelve for just over nine months. He lives with his divorced mother and sometimes visits his (gay) dad. He is being bullied at school and collects newspaper cuttings about grisly crimes; remember, we are in the late Seventies and there are not yet any handy websites for such lads. A strange killing in which

Review of 'Red Christmas'

'Red Christmas' by Jim Steel is an interesting modern-historical ghost story in the latest spiffing issue of ST. Over at the parallel blogiverse of In The Gloaming, it's got the thumbs up ! Huzzah! What's more, it's a story about an unusual Christmas gift, so it's seasonal and everything. That's what we editors call planning, y'know. I don't think Nathaniel Tapley will mind me quoting from his generous review, so here goes: There isn’t a weak story in this issue. Gary Fry’s ‘Night Watchman’ is suitable M.R. Jamesian; and I enjoyed Jane Jakeman’s nasty little tales. Ray Russell’s nightmarish ‘Company’ (another based on a visit to an elderly person for Christmas) was a highlight, and, although I thought it promised a little more in the way of explanation than it delivered, its waking dream is deliciously disorienting and horrifying. Bill Read (or his character) obviously felt much the same way about his school as I did, and he expresses it wonderfu

Compliments of the Season


Ghosts in Spaaace!

For me, Christmas will always be linked to the first season of The X-Files, which was shown over the winter of 1994-5 in the UK. The first episode (the pilot) was aired by the BBC on 19th September, the final one – Scully finds the alien in a flask – on 9th March. The period between Halloween and Christmas is of course a time for ghost stories. And oddly enough, for a series that will always be associated in the popular imagination with UFO conspiracy claptrap that made no real sense, TXF really delivered the goods on supernatural fiction. Rewatching Season 1 over the last week or so served to underline what a mixed bag of ideas Chris Carter introduced. The UFO stuff was rather ponderous and silly from the start, while the standalone episodes were often sprightly and great fun. And what a lot of ghosts there are. There’s the murdered company boss in ‘Shadows’, the haunted computer of ‘Ghost in the Machine’, the maybe-spirit of Scully’s old dad in ‘Beyond the Sea’, a reincarnated kill

Spookery and Rudery for the Festive Season!

I have received an electronic mail communication from Mr Tapley, which I will copy in full... Hi David, The In The Gloaming Christmas Special went up this afternoon, and it's here: It's a festive ghost story with a terrifying twist. And some jokes about dildoes... Hope you enjoy it, N

Festive Frights, Gorblimey

Those loveable Cockney Sparrers at One Eye Grey have come up with some scary podcasts, all on a London theme. Murder, mayhem, madness, mince pies - that's how it's done round our house, and I trust that's also the case for you, too, dear listener. I'm now going to try and embed this PodcastMachine in my blog, like an idiot. Update: it didn't work. Blogger seems very hostile to embedding podcasts. Oh well.

In which I am praised

Fanzine Fanatique, a Lancastrian publication, has said very nice things about ST for some years now. The autumn 09 issue is particularly fulsome so - overcoming my natural modesty - I thought I'd quote it in full. 'Well, Steve Jones, Ellen Datlow and Charles Black are keeping the short story alive commercially, but their source material invariably comes from semi-prozines such as this, and it's quality throughout, with a prize for the best story as determined by the readers. Indeed, much as I enjoy those giant anthologies, zines such as ST are not limited to putting 'names' on their covers in order to sell. I've certainly had to endure some trash from established writers (I'll not name names) in those pro anthologies, which is why ST is such a joy. Included also some book reviews. There's a reappraisal of the work of forgotten author Gerald Kersh. I recall the name but...' Nice, eh? I think we've all had that nasty sinking feeling when we rea

Audio Fun

This blog isn't an interesting as it could be. I'm well aware that people who stop by on occasion don't always find it's been updated, and even if it has I've often got nothing much to say but 'Ooh, I'm listening to the wireless'. So I'm throwing open the comments section for readers to suggest things I could do. Nice ones, please. One thought that occurred to me some time ago is this: would you like to hear my dulcet tones, or those of other folk, actually reading extracts from the stories? Or perhaps even reading some shorter stories complete (after they're published in ST, and of course with the author's permission)? If so, there's a problem. It seems blogger can't sustain simple MP3 files for some reason. Unless you know different? Is there a way to get an audio file here without making it part of a video, which seems a bit mad? Over to you, gentle reader.

A Stir of Echoes

Richard Matheson's early novel A Stir of Echoes is about a regular guy who, after being hypnotised at a party, finds he can apparently read minds. Or is it that simple? It's a clever novel that, with typical Matheson precision, builds from one strange incident to another. I recently read the novel and, by coincidence, it's now being serialised on BBC 7. Not a bad reading, though it sounds somewhat abridged.


'Not far to the east of York lies an empty stretch of country known as the Wolds ; a region of tiny hamlets, distant farms and meagre population. Yet, within living memory, it was a scene of bustling enterprise. I speak of the deserted railway tracks once connecting with the Great North Eastern Railway. A tiled mural depicting the network prior to nationalisation adorns to this day the concourse at York Station, epitaph to the glory of the Railway Age, grim reminder of the depredations of Dr Beeching. The Malton-Driffield Railway wove its way through North Grimston , Wharram, Fimber, Sledmere, Wetwang, Garton-on-the-Wolds. It served the long desolate chalk quarries of Wharram and Burdale, supplying the chemical industry of Teesside. During the Second World War the line transported evacuees to country estates and troops to training camps; once carrying General de Gaulle on a visit to French soldiers billeted at Malton. The passage in 1948 of the Royal Train, hauled by ‘Irish El

A Fancy Room (but is it en suite?)

'The room was huge. All around the walls stood tall black and silver candelabra, as graceful as the antlers of stags, bearing stands of flaming candles. Looking down the room, she saw a vast stove covered in gold and black tiles that rose to the ceiling. Long couches stood around it, their arms terminating in carved animals. Even from here, she could see some grinning faces, a monkey mouth opening wide   to expose the teeth, a roaring lion with a gilded mane. To these creatures also, the unstable candlelight gave disturbing impressions of movement, too quick to catch, registering on the eye as barely-seen glimpses, the effect enhanced by flecks of   ivory and mother-of pearl which inlaid their gleaming milky eyes. Along the backs of the couches were carved intertwined lizard-like creatures: she had seen these forms before, and was trying to recall them to her memory when she happened to look up and saw one painted in gilt and scarlet which seemed suspended almost above her.' F

The Glamour of the Snow

I was re-reading this Blackwood story the other week, and it struck me that it's a perfect example of the author's greatest strengths and weaknesses. If you don't know it, it's here . The plot is simple. An Englishman called Hibbert who's a bit of a loner, and sensitive to nature in that way Blackwood's characters often are, goes to an Alpine ski resort. He enjoys himself, but always feels a certain detachment both from his fellow skiers and skaters, and the locals. His nature was too “multiple” to subscribe to the set of shibboleths of any one class. And, since all liked him, and felt that somehow he seemed outside of them—spectator, looker-on—all sought to claim him. Typical outsider, of a sort very familiar from many ghostly tales. But it's fair to say that Blackwood set the template, here. M.R. James' characters are often loners, too, but they sometimes seem a little dates in their bachelor-scholar status. Blackwood's protagonists seem more

Who Knows Where The Time Goes?

Blimey, I seem to have lost the year 2009, or a substantial part of it. Never mind, my fiendish plans for 2010 are well under way.  First up, the contents of ST17. This is list is highly provisional, but I thought you might like to have a peep. 'The Tunnel' - Peter Bell 'Mr Nousel's Mirror' - Michael Keyton T'he Dress' - Elizabeth Brown  '13 Nassau St' - Martin Hayes 'Cabin D' - Ian Rogers 'The Language of the Nameless Region' - Richard Gavin  'Lessons' - Katherine M. Haynes This list is interesting (to me at least) because it contains so many new names. Not that I think ST has become in any way tired, I just happen to have been getting a lot of submissions from new writers (new to me, that is). This is a good thing. There's an inevitable 'churning' effect in publishing a tiny little magazine as an amateur editor. A really good writer will stop off along the way to greater things - lik

The Haunted Pen of Richard Matheson

No, he doesn't really have a haunted pen, or at least doesn't admit to it. But there's a good interview with the celebrated author here . I recently read his lesser-known supernatural novel A Stir of Echoes. Recommended. But, unlike Matheson's other early books, ASoE doesn't lend itself to film or TV because it is about a man's internal and highly subjective supernatural experiences. There's also a good interview with RM in the Dark Dreamers series:

Wrong Again

My previous post  on this topic was clearly incorrect. THE new president of the European Union is a Catholic German vampire who craves the blood of your children, experts warned last night.  As the unelected leaders of Europe chose the unelected Belgian prime minister to be your unelected president, vampirologists revealed Herman Van Rompuy's true identity as a 486 year-old blood-sucking monster of the night. Read the full story here . I Googled 'Belgian vampire' to find a pic and got this.

Oooh! I'll be checking this out...

Dear David, I'm a subscriber to your Supernatural Tales blog, and thought you might be interested in this: We've just made the first in a monthly series of horror-comedy audio plays starring some of Britain's best young comics, and Celebrity Love Islander, and Beppe from Eastenders, Michael Greco. Called In the Gloaming: Creepy Tales of Now, they are a chilling and darkly comic look at modern life, and are available as a free podcast. The first episode, Dead Skinny, is out now, and has received great reviews from horror masters like Ramsey Campbell, and more than 1,000 downloads. It is available here: There is more information at our website (  ) and I'd be happy to answer any questions. The next episode is out on Friday 27th November... Best of luck with everything, and I hope you enjoy the podcast! Yours, Nathaniel Tapley -- Twitter: InTheGloaming

Vampires Can't Be Good Catholics

The Vatican has decided that, on balance, all things considered, it's against vampires . Damn. I had a tenner at Ladbrokes that said the Pope would, in his Christmas message, say that demon-possessed bloodsucking corpses in cloaks were more in accord with the tenets of the Council of Nicaea than, say, Methodists. (Thought I was going to type Muslims there, didn't you? So did I, but you've got to be careful these days.) Anyway, the Pope's propagandists say the Twilight series of books by Stephenie Meyer are a Bad Thing, as is the series of popular feature films currently being produced to - if you read the Daily Mail - DEPRAVE OUR TEENAGE DAUGHTERS! For the Daily Mail, anything that is new and popular must deprave somebody, and if they can get a picture of a nubile young lady in the story, badda bing! But I digress. This is what the bead-jigglers think, allegedly: According to the Daily Mail Monsignor Franco Perazzolo, of the Pontifical Council of Culture, said

The Sound of the Borderland

I seem to be banging the drum long and loud for BBC 7 these days. So be it. I've sort of given up on the telly - I can do without it, so I do. Radio I can listen to while I think, type, doze, eat crisps, sew on a button, and still miss nothing. And BBC 7 does usually have a good spooky or weird tale on the go. One very good reading is of William Hope Hodgson's odd, hard-to-define novel The House on the Borderland . I've never been quite sure of Hodgson . He has many admirers and his best work is powerful. But his style is starchy and his ideas are often maddeningly vague. THotB is probably his most accessible book. The central idea - of a strange house besieged by weird 'swine things' - really stays with you, as does the rather Wellsian cosmic reverie of the unreliable narrator. Oh, and did I mention this reading  is by Jim Norton? Yes, Bishop Brennan himself. Wonderful voice.

They're Still At It

Those crazy guys at the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society have been filming a new movie for, well, strange aeons and a bit. But they're getting there, and I for one look forward to the finished product. You can read their production blog here . And this is the trailer, which I posted a long time ago. Still good.


I've been reading a short novel by Mike Chislett. It's good. Should I publish it as a Supernatural Tales special issue? How many people reading this would buy a long story by Mike? I suspect quite a few people would be happy to stump up around a tenner, but I'd like a bit of feedback.

Green Man

Pagan survival? Mediaeval joke? Good or evil or just plain there? Whatever the truth behind the Green Man, he is present in hundreds of English churches. And there's a song about him by one of my fave bands....

Man-Sized in Marble

This excellent story by E. Nesbit can be heard for the next few days in dramatised form. Not bad. Also, it's set on Halloween.

Happy Halloween!

Skeleton Dance

Casting the Fun Runes

This young feller-me-lad from Down Under has probably never heard of M.R. James. But...

The Eye (original Hong Kong version)

When it comes to modern supernatural horror movies, East Asia has it over Hollywood. Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and - more recently - Thailand have all produced memorable examples of the ghostly film genre. One of my favourites is The Eye, which was made by the Pang brothers. It's a cracking story well told, and it's heart is in the right place. Good for Halloween - or any dark night. It's not visceral or especially disturbing, just spooky enough to keep you interested and complex enough to keep you guessing. There's a great twist, too. This scene isn't it...

Halloween Movies!

If you're capable of renting a DVD for next Saturday, I have some suggestions. Do you? Let me know via this blogulatory device what you think a good Halloween movie would be. I'm going to get you started with a great favourite of mine, which remains rather obscure... Dracula - Pages from a Virgin's Diary (2002) 75 mins, Tartan DVD There have been so many versions of Dracula that it's surprising to find a new and rather 'arty' production to be one of the best. I rented it out of curiosity and then bought it in delight. The film is based on a work by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, but don't be put off by the B word - the film is essentially a silent movie with dance and music (apparently it's Mahler - I'm a bit philistine about this classical stuff). There are also some (often very funny) intertitles. (FLESHPOTS!) But we all know the story and the characters, don't we? So we can sit back and enjoy the virtuosity of the performers. The basic pl

An American Werewolf in London

This film has just gone on cinema release, apparently - a good move for Halloween. Radio 4 today (or yesterday) featured a good - if short - interview with director John Landis. It's here . One thing I learned - the silver bullet that an kill a werewolf? It was inserted into the legend simply because, while he was working on a script, writer Curt Siodmak happened to be listening to the Lone Ranger radio serial... Oh, and in AAWIL, I'd totally overlooked Rik Mayall in this scene, overshadowed as he is by Brian Glover.  

The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus

Review of Terry Gilliam's latest opus have been generally thumbs-down. Notable exceptions include the genre magazine SFX, which was quite thumbs-uppish about it all. And I suspect this is part of the problem. While Gilliam isn't a sci-fi or fantasy director as such, he does have a huge following among us nerds. The kind of people who can give a detailed synopsis of many Doctor Who stories or Star Trek episodes also tend to like Gilliam. This is both his glory and his curse, I suspect. The serious, arty film crowd don't quite trust Gilliam, for all his top-notch credentials. And perhaps they are right, as he doesn't seem to like them very much. In interviews he has rightly dismissed most CGI movies as boring and gimmicky, and questioned the prevailing habit of simply cobbling together bits of all your favourite movies in a sterile overblown homage. Taxi for Mr Tarantino. Anyway, what's it all about? One thing everyone knows is that Heath Ledger died in the making

Voting has already begun

Blimey, I've only just finished sending out ST16 this morning and already I've received two votes for best story. Not for the same story, either. So far comments about the mag have been very positive. Reader 'R' of Chester remarks: '... many thanks for ST 16, which contains much to enjoy. I liked pretty much all the stories, although I WOULD have been hard put to choose my favourite between Tina Rath's and Jane Jakeman's ("Adoptagrave"). I say WOULD because the decision was more or less taken out of my hands when I read Mike Chislett's tale. It's easily the best story in the issue and one of the best I've read anywhere in a while. I suspect from its placing at the end of the fiction part of ST that you feel the same. Mike is such an original talent (...) Oddly enough, "The Coast Guard" in its own way combines what I like about Tina's and Jane's tales - the slightly spooky whimsicality of the first, and the down

The Winter Ghosts

A part of my rather odd day job is reviewing audio books. One of the latest releases I managed to listen to over the weekend was The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse . The unabridged reading is by Julian Rhind-Tutt, the floppy-haired one from Green Wing. It runs to 5 CDs and makes for quite an absorbing listen. This is my first encounter with Ms Mosse, but I'm informed that all of her books so far focus on France and its medieval history. The 'official' time period of the narrative, however, is between the two great wars of the last century. Freddie Watson's life stalled when his beloved older brother George died on the Somme in 1916. Freddie suffered a nervous breakdown, began to see George's 'ghost', and found himself unable to work or indeed do anything much. (He is one of those privately wealthy individuals who don't have to work - a standard 'between the wars' protagonist, in fact.) The first chapter of TWG is a neat exercise in foreshado

Supernatural Tales 16 is alive and well...

I am posting magazines out now. I will continue to do so while I have breath in my wizened frame. Contributors' copies may already have arrived, I'm that efficient. My aim is to have the mag to everyone before Hallowe'en. Need I say why? But I am compelled by family emergency to go away this weekend and there may be a postal strike by the end of next week! Will I get them all posted out in time? Stay tuned to this channel. But don't expect any more blog posts for a while because of the 'going away' thing. The end. Except for these edited highlights from the forthcoming ST movie:  

Congratulations to the Cardinal

Peterborough's leading poet, Cardinal Cox , has only gone and won the John Clare Trust Poetry Prize ! He was awarded this fabulous prize on National Poetry Day, last Thursday. There's even a press release that runs: 'The Cardinal has been having his verse published in the small-press for around twenty-five years. He was the chair of Peterborough SF Club through the nineteen-nineties. He was the Poet Laureate of Peterborough for 2003 and was Poet-in-Residence at Broadway Cemetery, also in Peterborough, from 2005 until 2008. He has twice been a runner-up in the Data Dump Award for Best British Published SF Poem and this year his pamphlets of his work included on given away at the steampunk convivial The Asylum held in Lincoln. The John Clare Trust manages the John Clare Cottage in Helpston and Cardinal Cox intends to use his year (until the final of the next competition) as a Poetry Ambassador for them.' Congratulations to the Cardinal. The Nobel beckons... And h

Le Fanu's 'Ghost of a Hand'

The BBC is running some Classic Tales of Horror  this week. Among the authors are Kipling ('My Own True Ghost Story'), E.F. Benson ('Caterpillars') and Le Fanu. The latter crops up now and again on BBC 7. A rather good dramatisation of Uncle Silas has been run a couple of times at least. 'Narrative of the Ghost of a Hand' is not first-rate Le Fanu, but does have his trademark air of oddity coupled with authenticity. It's not clear what the hand is about, or why the house might be haunted. I'm also not clear whether we are supposed to regard the hand as truly supernatural, or might it be he work of a very mortal troublemaker? *Forgot to add, Friday's story is 'The Mezzotint', read by Robin Bailey.

Wot Larks, Pip

Dearie me. The postal workers union has decided to hold a strike , in addition to the unofficial strikes that have already undermined the system. This is great fun, because the printer has just informed me that ST16 is winging its way to me right now. So, what do I do? Wait for the strike(s) to blow over, if they do? Post stuff out before the strike(s) and hope for the best? I'll have to ponder this one. If a lot of copies go astray I won't be able to replace them all, as I just don't have that many spares - can't afford 'em. But I don't want to lose readers. I suppose I could guarantee that people in the Tyneside area received their copies by hand delivering them. I have an A to Z.

Max Faversham - Demon Puncher

The wacky comedy gang The Penny Dreadfuls do amusing stuff based around Victorian melodrama - a bit like Ripping Yarns for the 21st century. Anyway, their stories of the Brothers Faversham, each of whom has a special talent, continues with Maximilian, Victorian England's greatest writer of horror stories. The extracts from Max's books are hilarious, as are the details of Max's disastrous life. There's also a reference to owls, so be warned if you're phobic. More Penny Dreadfuls at their site here .

More Coffin Nails

I've been a good boy and read some more stories from John L. Probert's excellent collection Coffin Nails . 'The Ossuary' is a variation on that old (and rightly much-used) theme of 'someone visits a somewhat spooky place'. The idea of a house full of decoratively carved human bones is weird enough, and it's a tribute to the author's imagination that he manages to make the finale of his story as strange as its setting. That's followed by 'Final Act', with its combined themes of the spooky girlfriend - a very popular one, again - and love that endures beyond the grave. There's also a nod to a horror classic. One flaw, for me, is a central incident that leaves a character seriously disabled. It is based on a real-life event, but that is perhaps the problem - it doesn't quite fit and seems less probable, somehow, than the supernatural stuff. 'Between the Pipes' is very strange indeed. The central theme of someone using an evil

The Swan River Press

If I can work this infernal engine there should be an extra link over to the right, sending you to The Swan River Press. If you can't see it or indeed anything else on this site please let me know. I am using a new editing gizmo and am a bit worried that things may be going out of what. Anyway, there it is. Possibly.

My Aunt Margaret's Adventure

Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu produced some of the best supernatural stories of the Victorian era. For my money 'Carmilla' is his best, but it is run pretty close by 'Green Tea', 'The Familiar' and 'Schalcken the Painter'. Le Fanu's lesser tales have - to some extent - ridden along on the coattails of these superb efforts. The same might be said of the lesser novels, which might not be available if it weren't for Uncle Silas. And of course there was the M.R. James' edited collection, Madame Crowl's Ghost, which must have brought thousands of new readers to Le Fanu. James collected stories that were (in his opinion) penned by Le Fanu but published anonymously. He specifically excluded 'My Aunt Margaret's Adventure' because - while Gothic enough - it doesn't have a ghostly theme. It is, however, a fairly Gothic tale of lost travellers, a spooky inn, and sinister doings at night. Brian J. Showers at Swan River Press is to be comp

'The Brook'

I'm steadily working my way through John. L. Probert's Coffin Nails (see previous post). 'The Brook' is an interesting example of a school story - of which M.R. James' 'A School Story' is one of very good example. The late Robert Westall - a teacher by profession and of course a children's author - wrote many school stories on a supernatural theme. So how good is 'The Brook', give that this sort of thing has been done many itmes before? It's very good. Indeed, it reminded of Westall by its economy and originality. 'The Brook' is a poem by Tennyson which a group of schoolboys are required to read, in turn, by a substitute teacher. It becomes obvious quite early on that the teacher is getting more from the readings than a keen awareness of his charges' grasp of Victorian poetic nuance.  It's not a sinister poem, incidentally. It's the one that goes: I come from haunts of coot and hern, I make a sudden sally And sparkle ou

Madame Talbot's Victorian Lowbrow

Oh dear, this is a wonderful opportunity to spend An Absolute Fortune. There is so much stuff here . Vampires, ghosts, stiffs, mummies, weird spooky memorabilia, and more skulls than a skull shop would reasonably stock if there'd been a sudden glut in the skull market.  It's a bit Gothic, I suspect. I'm always stumbling across sites like this but I am not very punctilious about mentioning them. Perhaps I should do a regular 'weird spooky links' update or something? Anyway, big ups to Madame Talbot and her minions.

Coffin Nails

John L. Probert's collection Coffin Nails arrived a bit too late for a proper review in ST16, which will be off to the printer this weekend, probably. So I'll be writing a review for ST17 next year. In he meantime, I thought I'd bung in a few perceptive comments as I read my way through the book, which is a hefty collection of spooky tales.  For a start, it includes two stories I published first and therefore claim some credit for in a totally unscrupulous way. 'The Moving Image' is the one about the horrible thing in the old film. 'Guided Tour' is the one about the man who goes on, erm, a guided tour - just after his girlfriend has dumped him. You'd think the poor sod would get a break, but not. Needless to say they're both damn fine stories. I've also perused a few other tales. John's way with words is certainly evident in 'Of Music and Mayhem', which is about a terrible musical entitled Oh, Hell! A cleaning lady who has false tee

It's Not Out Yet

In fact, ST16 is not even with the printer yet. Please ignore what it says at the ST web page, this is a mistake and I'm not sure what happened. It should be a 'Coming Soon' rather than an 'Out Now'. Please be patient. It's not easy, but I'm nearly there.

The Burkiss Way

Fans of the late Seventies BBC radio comedy - all four of us - won't need to be told how good it was. The very last show had a strong Gothic-horror theme, beginning with the Lea & Perrins Lovecraft gag. Tee-hee. You can hear the BBC recording here for a few days. I love the bit where the husband lists all the rooms in the house into which his wife must not go - all 97 of them. Note that the 'Mr Different Adams' referred to at the end was the (now late) Douglas Adams, who had in fact written for the show before going on to more lucrative projects. 

Chapter Twelvety: In which I receive a letter

Cardinal Cox , the peripatetic poet of Peterborough, has penned a fulsome missive thanking me for promoting his works on this here blogospheric communiboard. I seek no thanks - poets deserve praise because poets are ill-rewarded. (When T.S. Eliot died he was still doing two paper rounds, you know. Fact.) Anyway, amid the general niceness, the Cardinal adds the following anecdote, of interest to all aficionados of the ghostly tale. It concerns an author who was also the Big Cheese - or possibly Canon - of Peterborough. 'Also this weekend I met a little old lady who, as a young girl, went to tea with E.G. Swain ; her brother was a chorister and she was the only girl to go with the choir to these teas. She especially remembered the big round table that the tea was set out on, and if you wanted something from the other side, Canon Swain would rotate the table until the desired food came round. I met her at a tour around the cemetery that I used to be poet for. She mentioned that she


Dear David, Can you put this news on the blog: I've got a 100-word story appearing on Microhorror, the place to be for flash horror fiction. It's called Wouldn't Move Out and it's about wiseguys:

Spine Chillers

Spine Chillers is a collection of short BBC radio dramas based on the ghost stories of M.R. James. Well, five of them. They were originally broadcast at Christmas, 2007, as part of Auntie Beeb's annual homage to the ghost story tradition. Now, at the time I wasn't overly impressed by these mini-dramas. They were good enough, I suppose, but I felt that - as introductions to MRJ's work - they lacked a certain something. What they have is Derek Jacobi as MRJ, doing a bit of narration at the beginning. Then each story is acted out by what is, I admit, a pretty impressive array of actors. Here's a quick summary of the contents. 'Oh Whistle...' stars Jamie Glover as Parkins and Nicholas Boulton as a very young Colonel Wilson. 'The Tractate Middoth' stars David Garrett, with John Rowe as the nasty Eldred. 'Lost Hearts' features the excellent Peter Marinker as Mr (even nastier-than-Eldred) Ashby. 'The Rose Garden', not a strong story, is given a

Schalken the Painter

Another BBC reading of a classic ghost story . What's going on? Somebody has decided that it's autumn and therefore we all need a good scare as the nights draw in? Whatever the reason, it's all very welcome. While not my favourite Le Fanu tale - that honour has to go to 'Carmilla' - this is one of the best Victorian ghost stories of its kind.

The Face

A good dramatisation of E.F. Benson's ghost story - which is one of his best - can be heard here in the old series Fear on Four.
This is a cross-posting (not an angry posting) with my other blog , because it fits into both. Sarah Millican is a brilliant Tyneside comedian who - at the current Edinburgh Festival Fringe - read her short story about a lonely hairdresser to a live audience. It's poignant and witty, packed with observational humour of the best sort. Anyone who thinks women can't be funny should listen to this. Plenty of men laughing, methinks. NB it's only available for a few days. Listen soon, my humournauts. 

The Mysteries of Nightmare Abbey

Many years ago I read Nightmare Abbey by Thomas Love Peacock . It is a witty Regency parody of those wacky Romantic dudes like Shelley, Byron and Coleridge. Well, apparently a group of Lincolnshire intellectuals were so impressed by this book that they formed a society called Nightmare Abbey. According to poet of Peterborough Cardinal Cox - whose new pamphlet takes its name from Peacock's book - the society soon split amid the usual rivalry and petty jealousies. But this may just be something he made up. I've no idea. Some of the entertaining notes to the collection of poems seem kosher, some - like the one that mentions an M.R. James character as a real member of the Order of St Leon and St Irvyne - seem distinctly iffy. But that's the fun of it all. This booklet was written for a steampunk event* and has the genuine touch of alternative or alternate history. The first poem, 'Queen V's Rocket', concerns the eponymous spaceship blasting off from Rockall. Glad

Japanese Ghost Paintings

If you, like me, are a fan of Japanese supernatural movies such as Kwaidan and Kuroneko, you'll like the ghost pictures of Kyosai. Spooky is the word. I found them at the excellent Japanese culture blog Pink Tentacle .

The Amorous Ghost

Paul Daneman reads Enid Bagnold's story here . Be warned - there is a reference to stays. It's an interesting story, not just because it takes a slightly naughty tack on the familiar haunting theme. It also omits to give a reason for the haunting. It's likely that Bagnold thought of the ending first (or perhaps dreamed it) and then worked backwards. It certainly veers between country house comedy and something more disturbing.

Novocastria! Jewel of the North

Over the weekend Antonio Monteiro took many pictures of many of the many members of A Ghostly Company, many. From the right, it's me (hello fans), Malcolm Stevens, Kate Haynes, Ken Cowley, Sue 'The Hat' Gedge, Colin Penn, Helen Kemp (who won the quiz) and Tony 'The Dear Leader' Laverick. In the second picture, taken at Old Eldon Square, the large bearded chap is Mike 'Smiler' Calvert, who co-hosted the Newcastle Black Pilgrimage. On the far right, Helen's husband Mark. Note how it's almost impossible to get people to look at the camera, because Newcastle Is So Very Interesting!  

I'm going straight to Hell

I have a guest post at the political blog Heresy Corner, in which I lay into trendy intellectuals. Hah! Serves 'em right. In the post I say that a lot of supposedly sophisticated writers who defend religion against the attacks of Richard Dawkins and Co. are frankly rubbish. There, you don't need to read it now.

Little Goth Girl

As I've mentioned before, I like Goths, though I am not one of the tribe myself. One of the first things I took to watching on the interwebs was in fact The Little Goth Girl, a great cartoon series about - well, obviously it's about a little goth girl. You can see the animations here . It's a while since I visited Matazone, where the LGG lurks, but it's still geat stuff. Best to watch them in sequence. Other stuff on the site is great, as are some of the viewers' mad responses, like the woman who thought the monstrous yet pitiable Mr Snaffleburger was a real advertising gimmick. 


Just finished looking after members of A Ghostly Company , the supernatural fiction society. My friend Mike and I ushered nine people around Newcastle and Tynemouth without anyone getting killed, possessed, kidnapped or even lost. Along the way much ale was quaffed, though most of it not by me, and many pictures were taken. Weather variable, but bonhomie not impaired. I'm soaking my feet in a large bowl of warm water as I type this. Blimey.  And that's just the half of it. Last weekend I was in London - Southwark, in fact. There I encountered various folk, including Mike Chislett. Jim and Todd will be pleased to hear that I did retrieve two copies of A Game of Ghosts, so expect those very soon, chaps.

The Catacombs of Fear!!!!

Bwahahahahah! Welcome to my Catacombs of Fear! I've always wanted to say that. And what a cracking title for a collection of spooky tales. It sounds like one of those anthology films Amicus did in the early Seventies. Some old josser would be sitting on a bench in a churchyard, fumbling in his corduroys, and a succession of hapless twits would sit down next to him to have a smoke or do the Times' crossword, whereupon said mystic old geezer would take out a deck of Tarot cards and engage them in a spot of prognostication. Cue bucket of fake blood and much screaming.  But that's not what John L. Probert's new book is like. Well, I don't think so. It's a collection of tales with the linking theme of a cathedral; characters include: 'The beautiful girl whose looks are maintained by acts of violence... The crippled ballerina desperate for new legs... The television producer who discovers that murder improves his ratings...' Yes, sounds like the genuine artic

The Book Seer

This is fun, because I am frankly a bit sad. You tell the Book Seer the title and author of the last book you read, and he (really some kind o' fancy software) suggests other books you might like. Merry japestering, as I am wont to do, I typed in Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by M.R. James and got... Well, try it yourself. Slightly baffled by W.H. Hudson's The Purple Land . I've only come across one other reference to this book, and it's not a complimentary one. Hemingway rubbishes it in passing in The Sun Also Rises . 

One Eye Grey

Oddly enough, as I was setting out to Newcastle Central Station for a trip to London last Friday, I received the latest copy of One Eye Grey. Entitled 'The Last of the Chelsea Smilers', it consists of more macabre and downright weird tales of London. How much of a coincidence was that?!? Not much, really, but I'm easily impressed.  Anyway, it's a good collection. I read much of it on the train down and found myself enjoying stories that informed me what a preternaturally ghastly metropolis I had decided to spend a weekend in. The Chelsea Smilers of the title are particularly effective nasties in a story by OEG editor Chris Roberts. Like many of the beings in the stories they are the stuff of urban legend. Other highlights include Martine Jones' 'Erase Book', with its sinister electronic puzzling antics, and 'Walking on Water' by Benedict J. Jones. The latter has a good X-Files vibe.  But it's all good - the OEG gang continue to live up to the hig