Showing posts from February, 2016

Cast A Deadly Spell (1991)

This TV movie (from HBO, in its infancy) was a lot of more fun than I expected. The premise is simple enough - in 1948 Los Angeles magic is now routinely used by everyone. This has made policing organised crime even more difficult, and private eye Phil Lovecraft is a dinosaur, a 'shamus' who uses no magic at all. So why does a rich, eccentric Amos Hackshaw hire Lovecraft, of all people, to retrieve a very valuable book that's been stolen from him? And yes, it is the Necronomicon . This might sound like fanfic of the silliest kind, but in fact Joseph Dougherty's script is spot on in its combination of traditional hard-boiled crime fiction and supernatural horror. Fred Ward's Lovcecraft couldn't be more different from his illustrious namesake, as he punches and wisecracks his way through a satisfying plot that sees him encounter dames, gangsters, cops, zombies, demons, and quite a few other things. Ward is a convincing gumshoe with a face that looks like its bee

Free eBook!

If you're a Kindle personage, you might want to pick up my collection of stories for free. It's here . Or, if you're American, it's here . Rather sadly, it's only garnered one review so far, but the person concerned was kind enough to say: 'Excellent, well-written stories that are disturbing and unnerving rather than full-on horror. 'If you want something gourmet rather than fast-food, these are for you.'

Arthur Machen Poll

Let's have a referendum on Arthur Machen! You know it makes sense. We're all a bit decadent at heart. To the right is a column of blog things, and if this is working properly there'll be a Machen poll at the top until the end of the month. So, which of Machen's tales do you rate? You can vote for more than one, if you like. Personally I'm torn between 'The Great God Pan', 'The White People', and 'The Inmost Light'. I know there are Machenites out there, lurking in the hills, so get voting! UPDATE: Hurrah! People are voting. It seems that, as of now, 'The White People' is doing well. But it's still early doors (in the Welsh hillside). Next up - M.R. James.

'The Photograph' - Short Film


Robert Westall - 'The Wheatstone Pond'

This BBC radio drama is a treat for fan of old-school supernatural horror. Starring John Duttine and dramatised from Westall's story by Martin Reed, it's the tale of an apparently harmless project to drain the eponymous boating lake. A local antique dealer is keen to see if there are any interesting finds, as is the curator of the local museum. But what they find in the sludge at the bottom of the pond is of more than historical curiosity. What I like about this is the way it's carefully constructed and rather low-key for much of its length, but when the horror emerges it is very disturbing. Westall, most of whose works were for children, really knew how to reveal something nasty in a subtle, intelligent way. There's a sound back story featuring a mediaeval abbey, the murder of an occultist, and a model boat. Westall's work has been sadly neglected by TV and film producers, perhaps because he's out of fashion, or seen as primarily a children's author.

Weird Fiction on Audio

It occurs to me that, for someone who listens to a lot of audiobooks and dramas, I seldom review any here. So let me remedy that situation by mentioning a few of my favourite audio productions. Let's begin with Naxos Audiobooks, a firm that's long specialised in extremely good readings with classic music soundtracks. Naxos deals in the classics, by and large, and anyone who's into Dickens should seek out their recordings of the wonderful Anton Lesser. The firm offers downloads in its online shop , but its CD releases are well worth having, not least because they usually contain extensive notes on the text in an accompanying booklet. In the realms of supernatural horror Naxos offers a handful of ghost story collections, including M.R. James' Ghost Stories of an Antiquary . Read by David Timson and Stephen Critchlow, this 4 CD pack offers are first-rate readings. You can listen to an audio sample here . For devotees of the Great Old Ones, most of Lovecraft's stori

Special Offer Time!

Any aspiring writers might like to know that I offer Editorial Services at reasonable rates. What's more, if your a first-time client I'm offering you free advice! Submit a short story of up to 7,000 words and I will give an honest, detailed, and (I hope) rather helpful assessment of it, absolutely free. Oh, and it doesn't have to be in the supernatural genre, I'll happily consider any kind of fiction. You know it makes sense. But just in case you're unsure, let's see what Simon says. 'David is a fantastic editor with an amazing eye. You're in great hands with him.' Simon Strantzas   Burnt Blacks Suns, Cold to the Touch, Nightingale Songs, Aickman's Heirs (ed.)

Malevolent Visitants - Review

Lovers of the traditional English ghost story need no introduction to the work of C(live) E(dward) Ward. His first two collections from Sarob Press sold out quickly and I'm sure the same will be true of this latest book. Malevolent Visitants consists of eight stories, two of which are previously unpublished. They're all, like Ward's previous collections, very much in the M.R. James tradition. His characters are usually prone to investigate historical matters best left unexplored, and pay the same sort of price as Mr Wraxall or Mr Paxton. The main difference is that Ward's interest in military history means that events of the Civil Wars or similar turbulent periods often provide the basis of a story. That said, one tale - 'The Mound' - is entirely devoid of historical framework. Instead it concerns an ordinary man who gives in to the excusable desire to investigate a road that, according to a sign, leads to the eponymous landmark. It turns out that, far

'The Willows' wins!

The just-a-bit-of-fun poll on the stories of Algernon Blackwood ended with a resounding victory for 'The Willows', with 'The Wendigo' lagging in second place. I think the next author should be M.R. James - but which stories to include? Or, more importantly, which ones to leave out? Here is a provisional list - what's missing? "Oh Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad" Casting the Runes Lost Hearts A Warning to the Curious The Ash-tree Count Magnus Canon Alberic's Scrap-Book UPDATE Well, this is annoying. The very simple Blogger poll widget that I used before has now stopped working. I will explore alternatives.

Black Mass: 'All Hallows'

Over at the ST YouTube channel (oh yes, we have one of those as well) you can hear a number of old radio shows and readings of classic tales. Here's one, an excellent dramatisation of Walter de la Mare's classic tale, broadcast back in the Sixties on US radio.

City of the Living Dead (1980)

I could just have typed 'WTF Fulci?' about a hundred times, but instead I'm going to try and convey the essence of what I experienced as I watched this remarkable film. I recorded my 'thoughts' on a small digital device as I went along. I may have been slightly drunk. What follows has been edited for swearing, repetition, and repetition. Do I hear Tubular Bells in the distance? Okay, this is City of the Living Dead, a Fulci film from 1980. It begins with a piercing scream followed by the familiar white titles on a black background. Then we find ourselves in a graveyard as the credits roll. The camera moves in a wobbly way as I read a list of Italian names. The soundtrack has a distinct whiff of John Carpenter about it. 'Story and screenplay by Lucio Fulci, Dardano Sachetti'. An Italian production, but from the blurb I know it's set in America, and I'm watching the dubbed version, so fun and hijinks will probably ensue. Now we see someone wal

Spooky Book Arrives!

Malevolent Visitants by C.E. Ward is now available at Sarob Press , but it's going fast. I thought I'd mention it as I've just become the proud owner of a review copy. The superb Paul Lowe cover is a hint as to its contents. Malevolent indeed! With swords and that. Anyone who knows Clive Ward's fiction will know that he is 'old school', creating modern tales that are solidly in the tradition of M.R. James. If you like traditional English ghost stories try and get hold of this book, not to mention his previous Sarob volumes Vengeful Ghosts and Seven Ghosts & One Other .

Horthólary: Tales from Montagascony - Review

Horthólary: Tales from Montagascony  by Michael Reynier  (Tartarus Press, 2015) contains four stories set in a fictitious, but very well-realised, region of France. The time is the 18th century, a new scientific enlightenment vies with both superstition and Catholic dogma, and Summanus Horthólary, a provincial scholar, keeps getting involved with weird events. It only occurred to me after I'd finished that Sherlock Holmes was of French descent, on his mother's side. It may be that there were a few Horthólary genes in there, as the investigative methods of the two men are not dissimilar. The first story, 'The Angel of Pessane', sees Horthólary investigate an apparent murder. The body of an eccentric Englishman (is there any other kind in France?) is found in a forest near the city. The corpse lies in fresh snow, and there are no footprints around the body when it is discovered by local children. The local bishop, Philippe Rapin (the scientific sleuth's arch-enemy)

Satanic Goat Peril!

I don't bother with 'news' items about ghosts, as a rule, because a. there are just too many of them and b. most of them are quite silly. But I feel that claiming you were driven out of your house by a Satanic Goat is worthy of note. As Cole Porter so very nearly wrote. The haunting spectre of a satanic goat has left a woman so terrified of her home that she's put it up for sale.  Vanessa Mitchell's cottage has been dubbed "Britain's most haunted" after a series of spooky incidents prompted the terrified home owner to search for a brave buyer.  The 43-year-old claims to have been shoved while heavily pregnant, smacked on the bottom and to have seen blood splattered across her floor whilst living in the house in St Osyth, Essex. I don't want to trivialise Ms Mitchell's plight, but being smacked on the bottom and seeing blood spattered about the place are not always paranormal phenomena, and that goes double for Essex. Oh, hang on. Th

Votes for Algernon (and a radio rarity)

I've put up another opinion poll to the right (or above and to the right, depending on when you read this). I wondered if people would care to choose their favourite Algernon Blackwood story from the ones listed? You can vote for more than one. To be honest, I could have just put three there - 'The Willows', 'The Wendigo', and 'Ancient Sorceries' (the one about the French town o' cats) I've sure the battle for first place will involve 'The Willows' and 'The Wendigo'. But I thought I'd give people a wider choice. I might just as well have added 'The Glamour of the Snow' or 'A Victim of Higher Space', as Algy did write rather a lot of good, readable tales. In other Blackwood news, someone on Facebook recently posted a link  to an old BBC radio drama based on AB's novel The Human Chord.   (The link leads to Dropbox, but I don't think you have to have that app for it to work.) It's by Sheila Hodgson, be