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Showing posts from April, 2018

Links to Authors!

I have been a bit remiss in the past by not publicising ST authors as much as I could. So I am going to try to turn over a new leaf by posting links, if they exist, to writers currently in the readers poll thingy. Thus you can find out if a writer whose work you like has published other stuff, has a book to flog, or is just Up To Something in general. Here we go! Helen Grant has a blog here . Chloe N. Clark has a blog here . C. M. Muller's blog is here . Mark Valentine does not seem to have a blog, but some info about his books is here . Jeremy Schliewe is also a bit shy, but you can read his story 'The Church of Laughter' here .

'A Fold in the Curtain'

The next story in Kate Haynes' collection Waiting in the Shadows is a previously unpublished ghost story. It's pretty good, again drawing upon the great tradition of the genre. Morgan is a student who is somewhat miffed to find that, instead of spending Christmas with his parents, he must go and look after his grumpy grandfather. Things take a spooky turn when a mysterious, beautiful woman appears outside the old man's house and leaves a rose on the windowsill. It then emerges that granddad will not spend Christmas at home, but always books into a hotel. A backstory describes how, when young, the old scrote rejected the love of a passionate woman in favour of a 'safe' marriage. Morgan, alone in the house, finds himself re-enacting his grandfather's last encounter with the Spanish beauty. The story's title comes from pareidoila, the tendency to see faces in random patterns. It recalls Catherine Wells' story 'The Ghost', albeit with a very dif

Lock Your Door (1949) - Algernon Blackwood on Film

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'The Folded Hands' & 'The Changing Room'

These two stories from Kate Haynes' collection Waiting in the Shadows come pre-approved. I published them in Supernatural Tales - #20 and #10, respectively. 'The Folded Hands' is an interesting example of a quasi-Decadent tale. The mysterious Jones is a wealthy individual who surrounds himself with impoverished failures, apparently so that he can gloat over their misfortunes. The Great Gontasky is a magician who has yet to make it big in the halls (we're in the Edwardian Era, judging by internal evidence), who resents Jones even while accepting his hospitality. The magician suddenly finds fake insects appearing in his drink, his food, and just generally about the place. It's a story of stage magic v. the real kind. 'The Changing Room' has a modern setting. A couple buy a nice house in the country, only to find that it has a dodgy past involving black magic. What's more, a strange couple who wanted to buy the house has moved in next door, and are appa

'Something in the Fog'

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One thing about reading a collection by an author whose work you are very familiar with is that you get to re-examine said author's influences. In this tale from Kate Haynes' new book  there's a distinct feel of between-the-wars writers such as L.P. Hartley and Hugh Walpole. The story follows Jill, a woman who decides on impulse to attend a school reunion. Her journey to the venue takes her through a fog-bound London, in which she encounters a mysterious cyclist and other shadowy figures. At the same time Jill finds herself thinking of a very pretty girl whose name she can't remember - someone she disliked. Revelations follow. When Jill heads home another encounter in the fog has terrible consequences. As well as being a well-constructed story of supernatural payback, there's a nice twist to this one. More from this running review in due course! I seem to have quite a backlog of books to review...

Vote, Vote, Vote for Something Spooky!

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Over on the right (and up a bit) you'll find a poll on the stories in ST#37. At the moment of writing Mark Valentine is doing well, but it's early days yet. Will Mark continue to pull away from the pack? Or will one of the other authors manage to catch him? Over to Steve Cram... "Well, Dave, I reckon the lad Valentine has got the stamina for a long poll, but don't underestimate any of these other wordsmiths. Schliewe has the advantage of a very long, substantial story, Helen Grant's an award-winner with a lot of kudos, Chloe Clark has a poet's visionary insights, and C.M. Muller looks very poised and subtle." "So it's anybody's race at this stage, Steve?" "Why aye, man. Have some of me chips." The point is that you should read the magazine, then vote for your favourite story/stories if you have not yet done so. That's what I'm trying to convey here.

'The Second Crown'

This story from Kate Haynes' collection Waiting in the Shadows (Sarob Press) is a pendant to M.R. James' 'A Warning to the Curious'. The second of the three crowns of East Anglia, as you may know, is held to have been lost when a Saxon palace was inundated by the sea. In this story we find a diver with modern gear who thinks it's possible to recover the 'lost' crown. That, in itself, is a pretty good premise. What's interesting is the way in which the treasure hunt is the 'A plot' that runs alongside the 'B plot'. The diver's wealthy girlfriend, who funds his expeditions, is the protagonist, and she is pregnant when the story begins. It is her pregnancy and concern for her unborn child that takes us forward as much as the revelation that the second crown has a guardian - and a familiar one to MRJ fans. 'The Second Crown' is an unusual story. Not by any means a Jamesian pastiche, it instead combines the Gothic element - a

The Friends of Count Magnus

A shadowy occult organisation  has asked me to publicise their activities here, and to be honest I was too scared not to. You can't be too careful in this game. The Friends of Count Magnus are holding a two-day conference in York on all things M. R. Jamesian. This will mark the 120th anniversary of James' visit to York 'to examine the painted glass of twelve of its mediaeval parish churches. His notebooks from the time are filled with descriptions of angels, demons and scenes of the Apocalypse…' If you click on the link above you will find details galore! (I'm going, but don't let that put you off, I'm very quiet unless someone spikes my port and lemon.) What's more, the intellectual shindig is being held in the Bar Convent, which sounds fascinating. The dates are 26th and 27th of September. Speakers include Helen Grant, Paul M. Chapman, Peter Bell, and Gail-Nina Anderson. In addition, Robert Lloyd-Parry will be giving a performance of one of MRJ&#

'Chalk'

The second story in Waiting in the Shadow s (see previous blog entry) begins thusly: 'Pansy Williams had the misfortune to be exceptionally pretty.' You wouldn't think, with such an opening, that an enormous primeval phallus would feature prominently in the denouement. But it does. Sort of. Pansy's brief journey through life is neatly described by Kate Haynes as a series of disappointments and frustration. She's too attractive to have friends, too shallow and self-centred to keep men. Eventually she resorts to changing her name to Paula and going on a dating website. It's that bad. At first things seem to be looking up, as Paula/Pansy contacts Rufus, a nice-seeming chap. They agree to meet up in a quaint old English town 'to the north east of Longleat'. A nearby landmark is a chalk giant, a figure of a man 'in a state of arousal'. Paula does not approve of that sort of thing and is dismayed to find a mezzotint of the randy giant in her hotel

Waiting in the Shadows - Running Review

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Sarob Press has published a new collection of stories by Katherine Haynes. As you can see it has a typically classy cover by Paul Lowe. I'll be reviewing it over the next couple of weeks (probably), Waiting in the Shadows is bound to appeal to lovers of the traditional ghost story, particularly M.R. James fans like me. The first story, 'The Chapel in the Woods' is based on an outline by MRJ in his 'Stories I Have Tried to Write'. It does, however, offer a significant variation. A schoolboy joins a friend for Christmas at an isolated country house. The friend's guardian covets the house but it is the boy's by right. A friendly local priest takes an interest in the young folk, who explore the eponymous chapel. A book found in the derelict chapel seems likely to interest the erudite clergyman. The narrator urges his host not to give it to the priest, however, because it seems 'evil'. The priest suffers an unpleasant fate. That is where MRJ's o

Vote, Vote, Vote for Spiffing Stories!

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Yes, the latest mighty volume of ST is out there, and the authors are eagerly awaiting the verdict of the reading public. Or at least the proportion of the reading public that can be bothered to vote on the poll, top right (look over there, yes that's it). Remember, the winner of the ST readers' poll will receive £25 and tremendous kudos. But they can't buy stuff with kudos, so think of the money! Think of the happy little author deciding that they can afford that second-hand cloak after all. Or just some booze. The point is, vote! You can vote for more than one story, too. I should have mentioned that earlier.

Supernatural Tales - Kindle Edition

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Follow the link to the digital, Space Age version of the magazine. You know it makes cyber-sense.

New Issue Available!

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If you go to this link you will find Supernatural Tales 37 - Spring 2018. It contains stories by Helen Grant, C.M. Muller, Jeremy Schliewe, Chloe N. Clark, and Mark Valentine. You will also find lots of lovely back issues, hint hint.

Indian Horror

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Bollywood Gothic A few years back I became semi-addicted to what was termed Asian horror. This was down to the horror boom that followed the surprise success of the Japanese film Ring(u). It was followed by more Japanese films, plus Korean and Hong Kong horror. A little later other countries joined in, notably Thailand, with movies like Shutter. Vietnam and Cambodia have also produced some interesting films. A lot of Asian horror movies were made for DVD release in the US, such was the demand. But, inevitably, the genre went a little stale as tropes quickly became familiar and sequels suffered from the law of diminishing returns. At the same time other Asian countries that we don't associate with horror have started to 'come through', notably Iran - A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night. However, while I was noodling about on YouTube looking for clips of likely movies I did notice that roughly half of the population of Asia did not seem keen on being scared. Bollywood is

Issue #37 is almost here!

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Includes stories by Helen Grant, Mark Valentine, C.M. Muller, Jeremy Schliewe, and Chloe N. Clark. Soon to be available to purchase as a paperback and ezine. Cover illo by Sam Dawson. Is it really 2018? Blimey.

The Prozess Manifestations - Review

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I received a free copy of this stylish, numbered edition from Zagava . As you can see it's got one of the least expressive covers of our time. But perhaps that's the point, as The Prozess Manifestations is a thoroughly dark book. The contents are: “Decay” “An End to Perpetual Motion” “Moon Blood Red – Tide Turning” “The Crimson Fog” “The Court of Midnight” “In the Complex” The central conceit linking all but one of these tales is an offstage character called Doctor Prozess, who is responsible for various baffling and disturbing events. Howeve, Prozess is not mentioned in the longest story, 'The Crimson Fog', leaving this collection almost but not quite themed. A fault, a joke, a deliberate snook-cocking? I don't know. In the first story a convincingly unpleasant Silicon Valley type sets off in search of a possible solution to the problem of Artificial Intelligence. Carlos Diaz spends so much timed and money on prostitutes and drugs that he fails to notice civ

3 Extremes II

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A confusing title for the second in the Asian horror anthology series, in which leading directors from various countries tackle (relatively) short stories. The first 3 Extremes was a mixed bag, inevitably, but contained one undeniable - if extremely nasty - masterpiece, in the form of 'Dumplings'. Don't ask. If you've not seen it, just watch it on an empty stomach. Because there was so much visceral horror in the first 3 Extremes I expected the second volume to be, well, extreme. So I braced myself. And I kept bracing myself all the way through. Far from being extreme horror, this is a collection of well-made horror tales. They will disappoint carnage lovers, but anyone else should find something satisfying. First up is Kim Jee-Woon, Korean director of A Tale of Two Sisters. If you've seen the latter you know that Kim is a master of bait-and-switch weirdness. This story, 'Memories', does not disappoint. It begins with a new take on a cliched scenario