Monday 23 March 2020

Coronavirus update

Supernatural Tales 43: Spring 2020 by [Duffy, Steve, Clark, Chloe N., Foley, Tim, Johnstone, Tom, Haynes, Katherine, Dawson, Sam, Hopkins, J.S.]I have developed a bit of a cough. No other symptoms and it's probably just a cold, because it's winter and so forth. But I'm spending a few days indoors and avoiding all human (and inhuman) contact for a while.

In the meantime, I'll be uploading various things here (I hope).

If anyone wants some free reading matter, I can easily email you a free pdf of ST, Just let me know the issue(s) and where to send it/them.

You can also get some free stuff, including some ebooks of mine, free from Scare Street.

Thursday 19 March 2020

Latest issue now available - ST #43 is here

The Spring 2020 issue of Supernatural Tales is now available to order online.

Supernatural Tales 43

New stories of the strange, weird, and uncanny from Tim Foley, Chloe N. Clark, Steve Duffy, Katherine Haynes, J.S. Hopkins, and Tom Johnstone. These are not normal times, but I think at least some of these tales of unease will provide a measure of escapism. 

I will be releasing the ezine version very soon.

Monday 16 March 2020

Ghost pirates? What a novel notion!

I apologise for not posting here more often. I have been worried, stressed, distracted for so long now it's becoming my new normal. However, if you're interested in my writing activities, I will soon have a new book out from US publisher Scare Street. See if you can guess what it might concern from this provisional cover.

Yes, there are pirates.

Of the Caribbean, as it happens.

Why no, I don't have a good lawyer. Why do you ask?

Thursday 5 March 2020

Supernatural Tales 43New stories of the strange, weird, and uncanny from Tim Foley, Chloe N. Clark, Steve Duffy, Katherine Haynes, J.S. Hopkins, and Tom Johnstone.

Due out very soon indeed!


Wednesday 4 March 2020

'You Have Reached Your Destination'

The final story in Last Stop Wellsbourne is, I believe, a heartfelt elegy by Tom Johnstone for a writer who is much-missed, who was taken too soon. It is a fitting end to a book that is in many ways a lament for goodness and decency in our society, a collection of political horror that succeeds where many lesser writers would have fallen.

Lauren is a writer attending a convention, where she misses the recently-deceased writer Daniel Way. I assumed that Daniel Way represents Joel Lane, especially after it emerges that Lauren and Martin were going edit an anti-fascist anthology together. At the convention Lauren meets an old man selling Way's book collection, and finds he will have to take most of them back again by public transport. She offers to load them into her car and drive them back. Whereupon her adventure begins.

The books, it turns out, have a life of their own. The boxes move about in the back of her car. They seem to be urging her on, to a particular location. It is always tricky to pay tribute to an author, but here I think Johnstone manages it, evoking Joel Lane's work with this subtly weird tale set in a suitably grotty England.
The boxes continue their thumping, muffled but insistent. That’s easier to cope with. It’s also more in  keeping with their contents. Daniel Way obviously preferred quiet horror to the noisier, more attention-grabbing sort. She wonders if it’s him that’s speaking through this strange medium, or maybe the countless authors living and dead printed on the pages inside his collection. 
I was really rooting for Lauren, hoping she would find happiness with the nice Gabrielle she met briefly at the convention. But, this being Wellsbourne in Little England, happy endings are off the menu. Despite high hopes and good intentions, things do not go well.

And so ends an ambitious and complex collection, one that aspires to offer a 'state of England' snapshot of a nation's pathology via the horror genre, and largely succeeds. Tom Johnstone has quietly risen through the ranks to become a first-rate craftsman of the short story.  I recommend this book to those who like their fiction strong, well-written, uncompromising in its moral outlook.

Sunday 1 March 2020

'Last Stop Wellsbourne'

Last Stop Wellsbourne: A Collection by [Johnstone, Tom]And so we come to the title story (but not the last story) of Tom Johnstone's themed collection about a town that may or may not be Brighton. This is an interesting modern take on that well-loved sub-genre, the spooky train ride. Our protagonist is a rather unpleasant would-be property tycoon who finds his commuter service transformed into an old-style steam train, which brings him into Wellsbourne station rather than modern Brighton.
'It must be some kind of theme park, like when they run old steam locomotives and want the platform to fit with them. And when I get off, I hear the pistons hissing, turn to see a black iron funnel rising from the engine of the train I’ve just left. If the station’s a mock-up, everyone’s in on the act, and the sign says, “Welcome to Wellsbourne, where the land meets the sea, where all your dreams come true!”'
In a Twilight Zone episode we all know what would happen next. Wellsbourne would turn out to be a rather quaint, somewhat Utopian community where modern greed and brutality has not penetrated. The businessman would learn to think better of his fellow humans amid nice people doing nice things. He might fall in love and settle down. Or maybe he'd be found dead by the railway tracks, having tried to disembark at his dream town at the wrong moment.

Johnstone, however, shuns the sentimental, and indeed optimism of any kind. Instead the ghastly chancer finds Wellsbourne is old-fashioned in unpleasant ways - unpleasant to you and me, anyhow. In fact the darkness of the 'unreal' place it taken to surreal extremes, as when child beggars saw their own limbs off to earn more money. Wellsbourne is Brexit Britain as it truly will be, and then some. Not a prosperous, free nation, but a corrupt, failed state presided over by bigots and thugs.

I only wish I could believe this was fantasy.

Supernatural Tales 56 - contents

The next issue - due out in the autumn - will see a mixture of familiar names and some newbies. I hope, as always, that the stories find fav...