Monday, 27 December 2021

The Mezzotint (BBC 2021)

Well, the verdict is in. I liked it. Some people didn't like it. But there it is, a ghost story for Christmas, helmed as per by Mark Gatiss, the Beeb's go-to guy for genre stuff with a touch of class. The I-hate-everything-Gatiss-does brigade has been out in force, denouncing his latest effort. But that's silly and futile, not least because if the internet had been around in the 70s Lawrence Gordon Clark would've got the same treatment. 

Indeed, when I compare 'The Mezzotint' adaptation with some of the classic Ghost Stories for Christmas of the Clark era, I see some similarities. I rewatched 'The Treasure of Abbot Thomas' last night and was struck by how much extra material writer John Bowman had added. What's more, the ending - quite definitely not found in the original story - was somewhat similar to Gatiss' take on 'The Mezzotint'. Then there's the implicit sexual involvement of the squire and the witch in 'The Ash Tree'. If Gatiss had done that, I shudder to think what the online reaction might have been. 


Anyway, the point is that I thought Rory Kinnear was a superb lead in this year's Christmas ghost story. I was struck by how much he has come to resemble his late father, an accomplished comic actor who could 'do straight' very well. Some have found fault with Gatiss 'tidying up' M.R. James' plot by having Gawdy still active and seeking to settle a final score. I didn't think it was heresy to give the tale an actual horror climax, because people expect it and it worked well. 

The drama had its faults, but I won't dwell on them. While it's not quite in the same league as 'A Warning to the Curious', few things are. It looked good, it was well-paced, it was well cast (mostly) and it had the undeniable feel of M.R. James' world, albeit the starker post-WW1 era rather than that of cosy 1890s Chit-Chat storytelling. 

Next year, 'Count Magnus'? Or will we, perchance, finally see some runes cast? One can but hope.




Saturday, 25 December 2021

'The Clearance' by Paul M. Feeney

The penultimate story in Terror Tales of the Scottish Lowlands is set in the countryside north of |Glasgow. A man with a special talent goes to meet the local laird, who is having some supernatural problems. It turns out that the main character has a special power - he can not only see ghosts but assists them in 'moving on'. This talent is nicely handled by way of flashbacks, before the nitty-gritty issue of the haunting is tackled. 

I like a story that could go in a number of ways and still surprises you. This one (no spoilers) does not follow the conventional route of ghost seer or exorcist, but there is a definite sense of closure. The only other living character, Lumley, is a well-drawn example of an all-too-familiar British type, one of whom is currently ensconced in Downing Street. This is a solid horror tale, modern but with a definite tinge of Gothic.



Tuesday, 21 December 2021

Typewriter (Netflix)


If you're looking for a different kind of ghost story over the Christmas season, you might try Typewriter, which I enjoyed a lot. Set in the Indian state of Goa, it has a lot of familiar ingredients. It's a five-parter that packs a lot into its regular-length TV episodes. Here are some pesky kids, complete with a dog, forming a ghost hunting club. Here is a young family moving into an old house where, it turns out, the wife's grandparents lived - and died in unusual circumstances. Sinister characters, one of them distinctly murderous, are watching the house and awaiting the Blood Moon. 

Monday, 20 December 2021

Dead of Winter - 'Tis the Season to be Spooky!


It's a mini-anthology, and it's on your interwebs! 

Four spooky readings - four, count them! - by myself, Helen Grant, Lynda E. Rucker, and Sean Hogan. If you read Supernatural Tales, Helen and Lynda need no introduction. If you've seen the film The Devil's Business (which I reviewed here) you will be delighted to see its writer/director Sean here too. 

Enjoy!

Sunday, 19 December 2021

'A Christmas Carol' by Charles Dickens



Scrooge on a loop! 

This is nice. You can drop in on 'A Christmas Carol' at any time and listen to the familiar tale while enjoying a real fire on your videotronic screen. This is a good, old-school reading, with clear diction for us old folk. As often happens with familiar stories, listening to it read properly has brought home to me just how good it is. 

That Dickens bloke knew a thing or two. 

Friday, 17 December 2021

'Birds of Prey' by S.J.I. Holliday

This story from Terror Tales of the Scottish Lowlands interweaves the terrible history of witch persecution with the modern domestic tyranny of domestic violence. It mentions a silver statue erected somewhere in the Borderns (I think it's the right one below), which commemorates those women - and quite a few men - who were executed for witchcraft. The book contains 'pardons, for people misunderstood'.

The main character, Dallis, is routinely assaulted by the thuggish Tommy, a familiar 'man's man'  type who is all too commonplace in our screwed-up culture. Toxic masculinity, official indifference, and self-blaming hamper Dallis' ability to get away or protect herself. But then she encounters a mysterious woman who gives her a business card that suggests a very different way to deal with the problem. 

A straightforward story of tables turned, and supernatural vengeance. The idea that witchcraft might be a real force in the world is of course familiar, but this is a neat twist on a well-worn idea. 



Sunday, 12 December 2021

'Long Ago' - A Ghost Story for Christmas

'Herders' by William Meikle

 Our next story from Terror Tales of the Scottish Lowlands has all the right ingredients. An archaeologist working on a Roman site discovers some mysterious drawings. The images he finds are in fact reminiscent of the famous Dancing Men in the eponymous Sherlock Holmes adventure - but with an important difference. These stick figures always seem to be missing parts of their body. A limb here, a head there, it all adds up. 

Or rather, it doesn't, as attempts to decode the stick figures fail. Then a clever student makes a breakthrough that I will not drop here as a Great Big Spoiler. Suffice to say that our protagonist makes a classic blunder and delivers a talk that is well-received, but not quite as he expected. The conclusion is foreshadowed well and overall this is a satisfying tale of small-town horror.

We're approaching the end of the anthology in time for the festive season. Will we get a ghost story for Christmas? One can only wait and wonder.

Monday, 6 December 2021

'Echoes from the Past' by Graham Smith

Another story from Terror Tales of the Scottish Lowlands, and one written in the present tense. This one has all the classic ingredients of the traditional ghost story. A woman is sleeping alone in an old house miles from anywhere. She hears sounds in the night - a baby laughing, where logically no baby can be. She checks the locked doors and windows, finds no evidence of an intruder. The setting is contemporary so there are security lights linked to motion sensors outside, and they have not been triggered. 

So begins a tale that follows a fairly predictable pattern.The main character is carrying the burden of a dark secret, and the baby's laughter offers a strong clue even before the truth is revealed. While she did no wrong, she cannot share this part of the past with her husband, a srong-minded man of the Borders. Noises persist and she calls the police, who act pretty much as cops always do in this kind of tale. Is the haunting - if that's what it is - purely psychological? 

This story, while up-to-date in many ways, reminded me of old-school TV shows that rang the changes on the ghost story.  An old folk belief is invoked, but then something very different is duscovered, quite literally in the woodwork. We are almost reassured that the mystery has been solved. But then comes another twist...

I can't say more because that would be too spoiler-y, but I suspect this one will divide readers. More from this running review very soon.

Sunday, 5 December 2021

SAINT MAUD - A Film By Rose Glass (2019)

 


Imagine one of Alan Bennet's Talking Heads characters turned up to 11 and given a horror twist. Maud is a twenty-something trained nurse in Scarborough, and has recently moved into providing care for the elderly with a private agency. This follows a bad incident at a hospital that haunts her - the film opens with her cowering in a corner of a tiled room, her hands bloody, looking up at an insect crawling on the ceiling. Imagine following this superficially ordinary woman through a very convincingly acted breakdown as she becomes fixated on saving the soul of a former dancer/choreographer she is sent to care for. Imagine what we call insanity as something profound, complex, terrifying, even beautiful. 

Saint Maud is one of those horror films that is also a powerful character drama with a strong thriller element. Alan Bennet and Ruth Rendell put in a blender, perhaps, with a dash of Stephen King. Maud is superbly acted by Morfydd Clark as an isolated, confused, but often religious ecstatic young woman who we know quite early on could be dangerous. She is, after all, in a job where caring for the vulnerable is her job and she routinely injects drugs. 

Saturday, 4 December 2021

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Dark Corners - Ghost in the Invisible Bikini: Review




I heartily recommend the Dark Corners YouTube channel for its vast array of movie reviews. As well as the bad ones (so many!) there's also some great stuff about good movies, esp. those of Val Lewton.

Tuesday, 30 November 2021

'Coulter's Candy' by Johnny Mains

Our next story in Terror Tales of the Scottish Lowlands takes us back to Victorian times, and a genuine candyman on a downward curve. The story opens with Robert Colthart collapsing in the street, mocked by children for his ponderous belly. We've all been there. He wakes up on the kitchen table and his long-suffering wife tries to reassure him. A certain 'she' is dead and he has no reason to keep hitting the bottle, and indeed the pavement.

We then flashback to Colthart before the magistrate, admitting his unruly behaviour in a bumptious fashion. The penalty is stiffer than expected, and the seller of sweets faces a bleak future. But then, on a journey through a certain wood, he encounters someone who can solve his problems. For a fee, of course. A mention of Thomas the Rhymer makes clear who the lovely creature is, and how dangerous she could be. But at first, it seems Colthart has gotten the better of his problematic helper. However...

This is a nifty tale that combines a modern horror sensibility with a period setting. It's also a timely warning to older gentlemen to lay off the sugar, to be honest. I particularly liked a nod to one of my favourite M.R. James stories as Robert puts his fiendish plan into operation. 

More from this enjoyable anthology very soon...




Sunday, 28 November 2021

'Bubbling Well Road' by Rudyard Kipling


My first reading of a story by a Nobel Prize-winning author. Published in 1888, this bears some slight resemblances to a certain tale by M.R. James. Check out the detail of the pathways through the grass...

Thursday, 25 November 2021

'The Ringlet Stones' by Charlotte Bond

 


It's always interesting to find a new twist on an old idea - in this case, a very old one indeed. Charlotte Bond's story brought back childhood memories of holidays in Scotland, where we would wander off the road into forests and find beautiful lochs that seemed to be hidden, but were in fact more likely just private. Fortunately, unlike Bond's characters, we never found a ruined cottage, and mysterious runes etched into its stones and filled with iron.

The stones of the title ward off a menace from folklore that is well-realized. This story would make a good episode in an anthology horror film, especially in the way the horror aspects interweave with the problems of a young couple's relationship. I was left guessing at to what would happen as Meg and Erika retreat into the relative safety of the cottage, only to find themselves trapped. This is somewhat Blackwoodian weirdness, but with a distinctly modern tone. And the ending is artistically right despite violating all the principles of conventional horror, as found in Hollywood.

So, another winner from Terror Tales. Stay tuned for more, we have many stories ahead of us.

Tuesday, 23 November 2021

'Two Shakes of a Dead Lamb's Tail' by Anna Taborska

An anthology entitled Terror Tales of the Scottish Lowlands will involve sheep at some point. When they do turn up, they feature in this comedy-horror tale of strange doings at a holiday home in Dumfries and Galloway. They are not nice fluffy sheep. 

The story begins with a seemingly unrelated anecdote about drugs that becomes relevant later. The main narrative concerns a woman going on holiday with her husband and his parents, something she is not keen on. I can only sympathise with someone who does not want perfection and relentless good cheer. Holidays are a time for brooding, drinking, and getting lost. Anyway, our heroine goes for a walk alone and encounters some ovine horrors that have a hallucinatory quality. Is she - given the first few paras - on something? 

Suffice to say the ending has a good, old-school horror feel about it, and reminds the reader not to take anything for granted here. This short story packs a lot in, and does so with style.

Saturday, 20 November 2021

Satanic Panic - 2019 (Dir. Chelsea Stardust)



I never have great hopes of anything obscure that's available on Prime (the home of truly naff genre movies). But I keep trying and sometimes it pays off. Satanic Panic won only average reviews, but for me, it was a very pleasant surprise. The film is essentially what happens when the world of Dennis Wheatley collides with the tropes of American teen comedy horror. It's a bloody and often witty collision, with an intelligent but not too portentous take on the whole idea of devil worship and such.

Thursday, 18 November 2021

Issue 48 - Have Yourself a Spooky Little Christmas!

 


Now available in print and in ezine formats! I thought I would offer a little taster from the stories, so buckle up and here we go.


Rain filled Sandgill’s high street like low cloud. Roadside grates gurgled as they drank it in. Gulls cried and Sean could smell the sea. With the red-brick slab of the library in sight, he dodged around pavement dawdlers, finally dashing to the back door. Inside, he shook droplets off his blue kagoul, hung it on one of the hooks then went through to Lending.

Christopher Harman - 'The Abbey Hoard'

Monday, 15 November 2021

'Drumglass Chapel' by Reggie Oliver

One of the pleasures of a good anthology (see earlier posts) is the sheer diversity of stories. They should keep you guessing, not just with regard to content, but also tone. I like a bit of contrast. So it was enjoyable to go from a tale of hideous doings in medieval (and modern) Berwick to this more restrained and slightly wry offering. Reggie Oliver often draws upon his background as an actor and playwright for inspiration and this story is is a prime example.

In 1979 the eponymous Edinburgh chapel has been converted into a small theatre and the narrator finds himself performing there as part of the Fringe Festival. There are lots of nods to the period, notably the distinguished actress performing her one-woman show about Rosa Luxemburg and the then-new recognition of eating disorders. 

But the main thrust of the story concerns the chapel itself, and a deranged, millenarian cult whose spiritual presence still lingers. The familiar haunted church plot is here put to good use, with a wheezing harmonium offering a nice contrast to laughter in the belfry. The framing narrative ends with news of the chapel's demolition, and what this revealed.

So, another entertaining read. What will I make of the next story? Pop back later in the week and find out...



Lawks!

 


Friday, 12 November 2021

'Proud Lady in a Cage' by Fred Urquhart

We're back to Terror Tales of the Scottish Lowlands, and the (to me) nearby town of Berwick-upon-Tweed. Berwick has a very bloody history, complete with one massacre during which the river supposedly ran red with the blood of the innocent. Things have quietened down a bit lately but as this story shows, the past is seldom far away. 

Bella is a young woman who likes knitting and works a cash register. She is put-upon by overbearing people, including her grandma, and a nasty old woman who pesters her at work in a shop. She is also oppressed by disturbing visions of the past, when Edward I (Longshanks) put a Scottish noblewoman in a cage outside the town walls of Berwick. Her crime? Presiding at the coronation of Robert the Bruce.

The brutality of medieval times is juxtaposed with the commonplace nastiness of modern life to good effect. This story has a nice, pulpy feel, with the revelation that a medieval witch and warlock have their counterparts in modern Berwick. No more spoilers, just a satisfying denouement, in which Bella escapes the terrors of the past - or does she? 

Another fine selection by editor Paul Finch. Sorry I'm not blogging reviews as fast as I should, I'll try to get my next post in a bit quicker. 

Monday, 8 November 2021

'Land of the Foreigner' by Tracy Fahey

The next story in Terror Tales of the Scottish Lowlands (Telos, 2021) is by yet another writer I've been privileged to publish in ST. Tracy Fahey's chosen location is an island in the Solway Firth, where a couple with serious relationship problems encounter a strange phenomenon. Not exactly a ghost, but something very like. 

The story is elegant, intense, and does a fine job of evoking a bleak landscape that mirrors the main character's inner despair. Back in Dublin, she made a serious misstep, though we don't find out exactly what until quite late. She is an artist and tries to focus on her work, drawing a centuries-old shipwreck with a fine figurehead. But then a mysterious figure is glimpsed around the couple's cottage.

Another excellent story, very different in tone from its predecessors. This is shaping up to be a first-rate anthology. Stay tuned for more!

Friday, 5 November 2021

'Gie Me Somethin' Ta Eat Afore I Dee' by John Alfred Taylor

The third story in Terror Tales of the Scottish Lowlands (Telos 2021) is a short and pithy account of a treasure hunter who finds more than he bargained for. A rather unpleasant American ventures to Scotland in search of the oubliette of a ruined castle. Ostensibly this character is researching family history. But in truth, he is after the gold carried by one Malcolm MacDonald, who was cast into a dungeon to die by treacherous Covenanting cousins. 

You can guess the protagonist will not fare well, simply on the basis of the low opinion he has of Scottish cuisine. The historical background of the vicious civil strife of the 17th century is nicely blended with the modern plot of a chancer closing in for the kill. And a kill there is, without giving too many spoilers. Suffice to say that it's good, bloodthirsty fun. And the related, non-fictional matter by editor Paul Finch is excellent too - a kind of prose slide-show of weird, grim locations.

Onward to the next tale, which is by Tracy Fahey and bears a somewhat ominous title.

Issue 48 is under way...

 


I know it's only mere nanoseconds since issue 47 appeared, rather late in the year (sorry) but I've decided to put out another issue for the Yuletide season. This one will include stories by:

Christopher Harman
Sam Dawson
Victoria Day
Timothy Granville
and
Katherine Haynes

plus an extract from Stephen Cashmore's new novel.

Stay tuned for further developments!

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

'The Strathantine Imps' by Steve Duffy

The second story in Terror Tales of the Scottish Lowlands (see the previous post) takes us back in time to the Seventies. A girl called Amanda and her little brother Euan live with their wealthy father in a country house. A succession of nannies look after the children while dad spends his time exploring the limits of consciousness via chemical means. Then some new friends of Amanda's father arrive, and things take a distinctly unpleasant turn. No spoilers, here, just a warning that this story offers the opposite of nostalgia. 

The adult Amanda tells this tale by a campfire. We know she survives, and soon after we can deduce who does not. The arrival of the ghastly Alge - a kind of poundshop Aleister Crowley, but with more depraved habits - heralds the end of childhood and a disaster that will wreck what little family Amanda has. The slow realisation that Alge is not merely a threat but has some dangerous occult knowledge is handled in an excellent, low-key manner. There are passing nods to (I think) Hartley and de la Mare. The final scene reads like a sober updating of many a camp horror film conclusion, complete with a mob of villagers and a fire raging out of control.

As always, Steve Duffy sets a very high standard and more than delivers on the promise of the opening few lines. I will be pleasantly surprised if any other contributors to the anthology can top this.


Friday, 29 October 2021

Terror Tales of the Scottish Lowlands - Running Review


A new paperback (and ebook) from Telos brings us fourteen tales set in a part of the world I know well, as I live not far south of the border. Editor Paul Finch has cemented his reputation as an assured and inspiring creator of regional anthologies. As well as the stories he offers a series of non-fiction items on various legends and real-life horrors, so I'm reading them one at a time too. The first is 'Bastions of Dread', which looks at some bloody shenanigans that took place at lowland castles. 

It's nice to see some familiar names from ST here. Paul Finch himself, of course, plus Reggie Oliver, Tracy Fahey, and Steve Duffy. But most of the contributors are unfamiliar to me. First up is 'The Moss-Trooper' by M.W. Craven, set in a pub at Gretna, right on the border. Gretna is of course famed for eloping couples being married by the village blacksmith. But the tale told here is about as grim as it gets, a reminder of just how low humanity can sink in times of political and religious upheaval. There's a nice twist that explains just why the pub seems so smoky, and the story sets a decent standard. 

Next up, Steve Duffy with a tale of imps...


Wednesday, 27 October 2021

Hallowe'en Movies - The Creeping Flesh (1973)


Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee star in a non-Hammer horror film about a huge monster that is the source of primal evil. Columbia pictures produced this mini-classic, which was directed by veteran British actor Freddie Francis. It's a bonkers story by any standard, with Cushing as the idealistic but careless boffin who unearths a giant skeleton in the East Indies. This being, the natives say, should not have been unearthed because it is very, very evil indeed... So of course he brings it back to his English country home for further analysis. It turns out that the creature can be restored to full fleshy awfulness by simply adding water - it's dehydrated evil! Cushing discovers this by starting to clean a finger then lopping it off - a move that has unfortunately consequences later.

 Meanwhile Lee, as Cushing's nasty brother, is keen to get the credit for the discovery himself and finds this easier to achieve as things get rather weird. Lorna Heilbron co-stars as Cushing's daughter, who is saved from one of those Victorian diseases by an injection of evil juice. Having recovered her physical health she flees to London and turns into a sex-crazed murderer.

I could go on, but it's just mad stuff and played looks very like a decent (if not first rate) Hammer effort. Worth seeking out for the performances by old pals Cushing and Lee, plus some of the ideas - implicit or otherwise - lurking in a lurid Gothic plot. 

Sunday, 24 October 2021

Hallowe'en Movies (of the Week)


On YouTube you can find a lot of old ABC Movies of the Week, dating from the early Seventies. I've already mentioned Trilogy of Terror, but there's also The Cat Creature (1973), scripted by none other than the great Robert Block of Psycho fame. Bloch also wrote for The Twilight Zone and early Star Trek, so he had good TV chops. What's more, The Cat Creature is clearly a love letter to all those classic Hollywood movies in the Egyptian Gothic school, complete with a mummy, an amulet, and a cat goddess cult. 

Hallowe'en Movies - I Walked With a Zombie (1943)

 Available on the BBC iPlayer if you can access it, this wartime tale of strange forces and stifled passions in a Caribbean island has worn well. 


Canadian nurse Betsy (Frances Dee - her character has no surname) leaves a chilly Toronto to care for the wife of British sugar planter Tom Holland (Paul Conway). She finds that Jessica Holland (Christine Gordon) is in a kind of trance, and Holland's boozy American half-brother Wesley Rand blames Tom for this. A love triangle and voodoo shenanigans emerge in parallel as Betsy falls for Tom. There's some interesting stuff about the medical science of the day, including an attempt to cure Jessica with shock treatment involving of a diabetic coma. But in the end, it is the drums in the night that prevail...

Any film of this period with a large cast of black extras involved in the occult might be expected to have a lot of cringe-making moments. But in fact the script by Curt Siodmak and Ardel Wray is almost 'woke' in its sympathy for the plight of the slave-descended islanders. Voodoo is not mocked or shown as inherently evil. The white characters are intelligent enough to grasp that people need beliefs and traditions, especially when they are up against terrible hardship. 

With Val Lewton producing and Jacques Tourneur in the director's chair, it's not surprising that IWWaZ is a lot classier than its premise (or wartime budget) might imply. As in Cat People and Night of the Demon, the use of light and shadow is superb, and the pacing is excellent. At just over an hour, this is really a short feature that punches far above its weight. It's also interesting to note that, while the men make a big fuss about everything and are constantly point scoring, it's actually some assertive women - Betsy, Alma the servant, and Mrs. Rand - who make a real difference. 

I was going to include the original trailer but it is so plonkingly at odds with this subtle, intelligent film that I decided against it.



Byland Abbey Ghost Stories

In 1922 M.R. James published a collection of a dozen 'true' medieval ghost stories collected by Cistercian monks at a Yorkshire Abbey. You can read them online in translation here.


'What I write is a great marvel. It is said that a certain woman laid hold of a ghost and carried him on her back into a certain house in presence of some men, one of whom reported that he saw the hands of the woman sink deeply into the flesh of the ghost as though the flesh were rotten and not solid but phantom flesh.'




Where the Red Baron failed...

 

h/t Steve Duffy

Friday, 22 October 2021

Hallowe'en Movies - The Haunted Palace (1963)


Roger Corman's place in the history of cinema is assured by his prodigious output of low-budget genre films. He jumped on the horror bandwagon that was set rolling by Hammer in the late Fifties, and made a decent job of several Edgar Allan Poe tales. The best of these is arguably House of Usher (1960). Rather oddly at the end of this 'Poe Cycle' Corman turned his attention to the (then virtually unknown) H.P. Lovecraft. Taking a fairly free adaptation of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward and retitled it Edgar Allan Poe's Haunted Palace - the credits include a reading of Poe's poem, which is sort of marginally relevant.

Hallowe'en Movies - [REC] (2007)


I'm not that keen on zombie movies, and the found footage genre has produced so much tat since Blair Witch. But this Spanish horror shocker proves that both concepts are not, in themselves, wonky when handled properly. The film has a good premise - a TV crew making a live show as they follow Barcelona's firefighters on a night call out. The situation in an apartment building quickly goes pear shaped as they encounter people seemingly infected by some sort of virus. The building is quarantined and the uninfected have to try to survive as the 'virus' spreads. As the story develops it becomes clear that this disease has a distinctly occult dimension. And the reporter finally discovers the cause. 

Like The Descent, [REC] relies on night-vision camera footage and other technical gimmicks to create tension and deliver shocks. The 'zombies' are effective and the cast do a fine job of being confused and terrified. Give this one a try if you don't mind your horror cranked up to a high level and aren't in need of a happy ending...

Thursday, 21 October 2021

Hallowe'en Movies - The Whisperer in Darkness (2011)


After winning well-deserved accolades for The Call of Cthulhu, the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society opted for a talkie in their ambitious adaptation of this sci-fi horror classic. For me, it's another triumph, with some fine performances, excellent direction, and a cracking score. The New England landscape is beautifully evoked, and the somewhat sedate early chapters of the story are livened up by the addition of Charles Fort. Fort pops along to Miskatonic campus to record a radio debate with sceptical Professor Wilmarth on the subject of extra-terrestrial visitors. As you can see from the trailer above, this Fort is a plump and cheerful charmer and Wilmarth gets the worst of the exchange. Then he is presented with some evidence of strange doings at the Akeley Farm... 

Events set in motion by a fairly cerebral debate lead to a climactic aerial chase, but not before we see some excellent visual effects courtesy of the Things from Yuggoth. The sinister technology - I won't include spoilers here, just in case - is suitably retro-futuristic. The overall look, courtesy of Mythoscope, captures much of the feel of classic Thirties horror movies. Matt Foyer is a credible Wilmarth, and the addition of new characters and a modified finale work well. All in all, a creative adaptation rather than a slavish homage, and all the better for it. 


Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Hallowe'en Movies - The Descent (2005)


Not a supernatural tale (so far as I can tell) but definitely a fine reworking of an ancient tradition - the descent into the underworld. A group of women go potholing, but dishonesty and recklessness lead them into an unexplored part of a vast, unexplored cave complex. Primitive art and animal bones suggest that the region is not unknown to human beings - or beings that were once human. 

The Descent is grim and grisly, with plenty of shocks and some intensely claustrophobic moments. It's not for the fainthearted. The use of night-vision tech has seldom been equalled and the 'live' footage aspect is very effective. Fear of the dark, fear of the unknown, fear of confined spaces - The Descent taps into visceral terrors that are at least in part programmed into our DNA. And it is far from rose-tinted in its view of how people react under unexpected and intense pressure. 

Probably not one for a family night in. 

Tuesday, 19 October 2021

Hallowe'en Movies - Trilogy of Terror (1975)


The ABC Movie of the Week produced many successful spin-off TV series - Kolchak, Starsky and Hutch, The Six Million Dollar Man. It also produced this remarkably cheesy but oddly compelling anthology movie based on three stories by the renowned Richard Matheson. It's available on YouTube, and is - interesting. 

If you want something that is by no means a classic but has great entertainment value, you could do worse. Much of the film's appeal depends on Karen Black, one of the big stars of  the Seventies. She stars in all three stories and actually has four roles, as in the second segment she plays twin sisters. And yes, it's the old 'one twin is uptight and prissy and the other is sexy and bonkers' trope. The first part is interesting in the MeToo era because of the college setting and the twist on sexual exploitation. But it's the final story, 'Prey', that has given Trilogy of Terror its reputation for absurdity. Suffice to say that, once seen, it's never forgotten. 

One to watch while not entirely sober...

Sacred and Profane by Peter Bell (Sarob Press 2021)


Dustjacket art by Paul Lowe 

A new collection of seven stories from Peter Bell is always a joyous event for those who like their weird fiction to be intelligent, well-crafted, and humane. I added 'humane' there because Bell's work is often centred on human suffering above and beyond the usual rigmarole of the ghostly horror tale. And the lead story here is an excellent example. 

'Lullaby' is set in Ireland during the terrible (and, from a British perspective, eternally shameful) period of the the famine. During the 1840s potato blight ravaged Europe. Ireland was especially hard hit, not least thanks to the contemptuous dismissal of the famine by the Tory elite. (Sound familiar?) In this story the great hunger strikes a small fishing community in Donegal, where a young widow, Sheelagh, lives with her daughter Erin. 

Unfortunately Sheelagh is forced to abide with her late husband's mother and aunt, two awful old ratbags who scare Erin with dark folk tales when Sheelagh is away. Erin shivers in fear of the Dearth Bird that swoops in by night to take its victims. Sheelagh, however, enriches Erin's life with more positive stories, involving a wonderful Blue Bird. Erin is also shown a special, sacred place in the mountains, where the old gods were worshipped. 

As the worst of times approaches, the Blue Bird and the Death Bird feature more prominently in Erin's dreams and daytime imaginings. At the same time the community starts to blame Margot Bailey, an old 'wise woman', for a series of deaths. Eventually this leads to a hideous crime. Sheelagh vanishes, and then Erin is visited by night by what might be a ghost, or something altogether stranger. The story ends with a coda as an old man recalls a bizarre experience in the scared place, which offers the reader some closure. It's an intensely poetic story. I was surprised that it begins with an epigraph from Wilde, but by the end I got the point. Wilde would have approved the way that Bell finds beauty and hope even in the most terrible tragedy. 

Monday, 18 October 2021

Hallowe'en Movies - Kwaidan (1964)


Guillermo del Toro likes it, and he's right! Kwaidan is arguably the best anthology horror movie, offering powerful performances and compelling stories. This is of course Serious Cinema, and that might be off-putting to some. Don't be deterred, however. Yes, the tales are told in a fairly leisurely way. But every one is cleverly done, and I guarantee that you will find at least one that stays with you and enriches your imagination. Here are epic battles, snow vampires, ghosts appearing in a bowl of tea, samurai who are unworthy of love on either side of the grave, monks who betray the trust of long-dead warlords, and a whole lot more beside. It is beautiful and strange, and I watch it around once a year simply to re-enter the world of Masako Kobayashi. 

King Satyr - a novel by Ron Weighell



Ron Weighell, whose collection The White Road is rightly considered a classic, passed away last December. Now Sarob Press is to publish his novel, King Satyr. This will generate a great deal of ezcitement, as Weighell is one of the true greats of modern British weird fiction. More information here on the Sarob blog. I just have to quote this here, though:

In Ron's Afterword to KING SATYR he shares a discovery from his research into Mayan folk magic: ‘...there is an animal companion or familiar, associated with the Shamanistic opening of the portals of the Underworld, called the Wahy or Weyhel. One of the most powerful forms of the Weyhel is the Scribano, or writer. This kind of Weyhel is considered immortal, because even after death he can create himself anew with a piece of paper. He can reinvent himself by writing himself into existence.’

Sunday, 17 October 2021

Hallowe'en Movies - The Call of Cthulhu (2005)


As somebody remarked at some point, friends are better than critics. The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society are the best pals any long-dead writer could have. Not only have they created a veritable horde of excellent radio dramas based on Lovecraft's tales, they've also produced not one but two feature films. Their first effort is a silent movie, an attempt to produce the kind of horror film that Hollywood might have made in the 1920s. It has its drawbacks, but these seem trivial compared to the compelling imagery and faithfulness to the plot. The original story offers many opportunities for creative effects and full-blooded acting, and the HPLHS team do a great job of getting the job done with panache. An instance of a fan film that's a lot better than some supposedly professional efforts, in fact.

Saturday, 16 October 2021

Hallowe'en Movies - The Changeling (1980)


George C. Scott in a stylish horror movie? Well, yes - this is an oddity, and all the odder because it seems to fall so squarely into the haunted house genre. In fact The Changeling delivers some good scares and interesting plot twists that leave you wondering what the finale will be. Scott, as a troubled composer, is gruffly believable, and the supporting cast is excellent. Despite the trailer's suggestion that this is kind of full-on stuff, much of the film is subtle and even understated. A ghost story for grown-ups who want a story that engages all the various bits of the brain, not just that primal stuff. 

Friday, 15 October 2021

Hallowe'en Movie - The Unnameable (1988)


One of a slew of Lovecraftian movies made during the straight to VHS era of horror, and all the better for it. A low-budget effort with a young cast venturing into a creepy old house to encounter a demonic entity that's just been waiting around for a few centuries to, well, do some horrific stuff. It's not unfaithful to the original story and plays the usual tricks with character names - Howard is the smart one who solves the mystery etc. Cheap and cheerful horror that works surprisingly well. Don't take it too seriously - just seriously enough to enjoy!

Wednesday, 13 October 2021

Hallowe'en Movies - Ghost Story (1981)


Intriguing in a number of ways. Based on a Peter Straub novel. Fred Astaire in a leading role. A tale of a ghost with a very physical presence. And wonderfully atmospheric, with its small town setting and wintry landscapes. It's an odd film in many ways, definitely old-fashioned in some, but extremely absorbing and effective. Alice Krige is superb (and naked a fair bit of the time). It's a solid, stylish watch for any fan of traditional ghost stories.

Pariah & Other Stories

I've published only a handful of non-ST material down the years, and the most recent is this excellent collection by author and cover artist Sam Dawson. I don't think I launched it with quite as much fanfare as it deserves, so I'd like to offer you a taster of each story  usually the first few lines. As you will see, there are a lot of 'em, and the themes and ideas are immensely varied. Read these extracts, then ask yourself if you want to find out how the stories end. I think you will be keen to find out...

And Where Will She Go and What Shall She Do?


So, we like to go to graveyards at night and get drunk, do a bit of drugs, play with a Ouija board on a grave, party a little, try to summon ghosts, talk about death and think about dying, discuss demonic possession and generally flaunt our youth, vitality and desirability to the resident dead. The more isolated and darker and haunted the place the better.


 


A Fine Cellar

It had been a most satisfactory dinner. Followed by stimulating conversation with my friend and host and a little tasting of wine. He kept a good cellar, did Jules Fanshawe. A fine cellar in fact.


Wednesday, 29 September 2021

The Fatal Move & Other Stories (Swan River Press 2021)

The six stories in this slim volume comprise the entire fictional output of Conall Cearnach, the pen-name of F. W. O’Connell. In an excellent introduction, Reggie Chamberlain-King describes the author as 'a peculiar Protestant divine, linguist and Irish language scholar, oddball essayist, and early national broadcaster.' O'Connell was a prolific translator and his deep knowledge of various literary traditions informed his fiction, or at least some of it. 

All these stories were written during the traumatic period of Irish partition in 1921. As such they can be read both as entertaining weird tales and attempts to come to terms with contemporary anxieties in a creative way. Writing as therapy, if you like.

The title story harks back to the contes cruel of the 19th century, with its tale of two obsessive chess players who are rivals for the love of the same woman. One contrives a terrible variant on the royal game that will eliminate one of the rivals. 

'The Vengeance of the Dead' is a solid excursion into more conventional territory, with again the theme of vicious rivalry proving fatal. The story, for me, is badly marred by the author's attempt to reproduce an Indian accent on the page, which has a distinct whiff of Peter Sellers about it. The central idea is good, though, and the ending works nicely enough.

'The Fiend That Walks Behind' uses the same Coleridge quote that appears in 'Casting the Runes', and also features a learned gentleman who becomes obsessed with a supernatural pursuer. However, the treatment is very different to M.R. James tale, with more emphasis on psychology. #

Slightly more playful is 'The Homing Bone', in which an anatomist commits what he thinks of as a venal sin, but finds that some spirits are very jealous of their mortal remains. This one comes close to E.F. Benson in its depiction of a solitary individual who finds himself the focus of unwanted paranormal attention. 

'Professor Danvers' Disappearance' returns to the world eastern mysticism with the tale of an academic who immerses himself in Indian religion, then vanishes after receiving a death threat couched in supernatural terms. An alternative explanation is suggested, however, in a manner that reminded me of some of Chesterton's more restrained efforts. 

The final story, 'The Rejuvenation of Ivan Smithovich', is a short squib about a refugee for a Soviet-controlled England where Russian has replaced English. The light tone and slightly absurd premise - a Cockney driven bonkers by monkey glands - is balanced by a reference to British attempts to suppress the Irish language. What goes around, the author seems to suggest, might well come around. 

The book also contains some essays which show the breadth of Cearnachs's learning and his considerable wit. Overall, this slight book has much to recommend it to the aficionado of weird fiction, and illuminates some of the more obscure byways of Irish literature. 

Saturday, 18 September 2021

Sunday, 12 September 2021

Issue 47 is out in time for Hallowe'en

 


With luck I should have all copies mailed out to contributors and subscribers by the end of this month. 

Go here to purchase print on demand copies. Ezines to follow soon

Thursday, 2 September 2021

Static (2012) Dir. Todd Levin


I think I've praised this movie before, but it deserves to be more widely known. It happens to be on Prime at the moment so if you have that platform, give it a try.

Static is one of those films that cleverly subverts the horror genre in a stylish, ultimately moving way. A couple, played by Sarah Shahi and Milo Ventimiglia, live in a pleasant semi-rural home, but their lives are troubled. Author Jonathan Dade has just finished his latest book but his wife, Addie, is deeply depressed. It emerges that their small son died in an accident and blame, anger, and despair might well tear their marriage apart. 

This seems to be shaping up as a ghost story in which their child, Thomas, might play a role. It's listed as a horror movie, after all. But things do not proceed in a predictable way. Instead, Jonathan keeps hearing some kind of weird electronic interference - hence the title. Then, in the middle of the night, someone comes knocking at the door. The visitor turns out to be a scared young woman, Rachel (Sara Paxton) who says her car has a flat tire and she has been chased by men in gas masks. The situation is becomes even more fraught when Rachel reveals herself to be a fan of Jonathan, arousing Addie's suspicions. Jonathan cheated on her while she was pregnant. 

Rachel's behaviour becomes increasingly bizarre and provocative, but then the masked men appear and cut the power. Rachel is grabbed by one of the intruders and dragged away, screaming. The Dades are suddenly besieged by faceless strangers. When Jonathan tries to contact the police he can't get through, and mobiles don't work. The intruders start to move through the house while the couple retreat and try to work out what's happening and why. 

Suffice to say that, for a short movie (just 83 mins), this one manages to pack in a lot of panic and paranoia. Some reviewers didn't like, for reasons that will become obvious if you watch it. But no spoilers here. I think it offers the horror fan something different, the central performances are excellent, and it holds up well on rewatching.




Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Too Near the Dead by Helen Grant

 


Long-term ST contributor Helen Grant made her name with young adult novels with a mystery/thriller element. Her latest novel represents a departure, in that it's aimed at a general audience. It is also her first novel that is also a ghost story, with full-on Gothic elements. Here is the blurb.

Sometimes it's terrifying, loving someone this much...For Fen Munro and her fiancé James, it is a dream come true: an escape from London to a beautiful house in the stunning Perthshire countryside. Barr Dubh house is modern, a building with no past at all. But someone walks the grounds, always dressed in lavender. Under a lichenous stone in an abandoned graveyard, a hideous secret lies buried. And at night, Fen is tormented by horrifying dreams. Someone wants Fen's happiness, and nothing is going to stop them—not even death...

The first chapter sets down a marker for horror. Fen wakes up not in bed with her beloved James, but interred in a coffin wearing an antiquated wedding dress. Fen has her own demons, the result of an unhappy childhood marred by death and loneliness. She rebels against her oppressive parents, gets a job in publishing, and meets exciting new author James. Much to her own surprise they fall in love and buy a house in a part of Scotland the author brings to live with ease (no doubt in part because she lives there). 

But of course, the house is haunted. We know from the start, because this is a Gothic novel and Fen is the beautiful, troubled heroine. However, it's also a modern novel and Fen is not just some panicky idiot flitting around in a nightie going 'Eek!' She tries to handle the problem. Admittedly her first attempt is to ignore it, but that's grown-up problem handling in my book. When it doesn't work in this book, Fen starts to try and find out more about the house that stood on the site of her new home, and uncovers a grimly convincing Victorian tale that nods to Dickens and Le Fanu, not to mention Poe. 

No spoilers here. Suffice to say that virtue prevails, more or less, and true love finds a way. But the perils of Fen and the way in which she ultimately faces them makes for an absorbing read. This is a very satisfying ghost story by an author who not only knows the genre inside out, but truly loves it.

Friday, 27 August 2021

Unstoppering a 17th-century 'witch bottle' at the Pitt Rivers Museum


h/t to Helen Kemp of A Ghostly Company for circulating the link provided by António Monteiro.

Back to Plan A...

 


The course of true love never did run smooth, but true love has got nothing on publishing. After experimenting with Amazon I found that the actual format of the proof copy I obtained is too big to fit in standard A5 envelopes, and there were also some cost issues re: postage etc. So I've had another got at  the old Lulu site, despite its annoying clunkiness, and so far it seems to be working okay. So, with luck, issue 47 will be published on time.

What's in it?

New stories by: veteran British contributors Jane Jakeman, Carole Tyrrell, and Mark Nicholls, plus two new stories by American authors Clint Smith and Elie Lichstein. More info to follow! Cover art entitled 'Gibbet' is by Sam Dawson. 


Monday, 16 August 2021

Lonely Water (1973)

Quick update on ST 47

Sorry I haven't been blogging much of late. I could blame pressures of work but, to be honest, I haven't been doing much reading or viewing since the pandemic hit. One might expect repeated lockdowns to generate a need for more fiction, not less. But there it is. I write and edit a lot of horror fiction and, perhaps for that reason, seek enjoyment in other genres to a great extent.

That said, I plan to continue publishing the magazine so long as people want it. But I won't be publishing any more print-on-demand issues at Lulu.com. The site has become ever more difficult to use and unresponsive. Lately I have run into a brick wall so far as issue 47 is concerned - I can't get the site to work at all. Frankly their customer service has always been poor so I've decided to take the whole shebang over to Amazon Direct Publishing. 

I know some may object to buying from Amazon but the fact is I know how to use the interface already and time is ticking by. It also means that both print and ebook editions of ST will be available at the same place from now on. Hope this doesn't upset anyone and that ST's small band of readers will stick with me.

End of public service announcement. 

Wednesday, 11 August 2021

Afterimages (2014)



I am a huge fan of anthology/portmanteau horror movies. I am always ready to take the hit 'n' miss nature of several short stories over the potential disappointment of a 'normal' film that starts well but then fails in some way. So I was interested to find Afterimages, a Singapore horror movie, pop up on Prime lately. 

The framing story is simple - five film students get to spend time lounging around for the holidays in a big old house. The time of year is Ghost Month, when various sacrifices - usually imitation currency - are burned for the souls of dead ancestors. One of the students makes and burns an imitation paper camera instead. The next day, in the ashes, they find some photos. The next logical step is to burn an effigy of an old film camera. Sure enough, a reel of old-school celluloid film appears. 

The first film is subtitled Ghost Pool Leg. A voyeur pervs at various female neighbours, and becomes intrigued by a beautiful young woman who regularly goes swimming just after midnight. He goes down to the pool and is warned about ghosts by a caretaker. Of course he ignores the warning and encounters an aquatic ghost. The water sequences are very well done, and the plot - while obvious - moves along nicely.

The next paper camera to be burned is more modern in appearance. Sure enough, the resulting medium is a large memory card. On this is the story Xiao Bao Bao. A young woman living in a high rise witnesses a neighbour's suicide. She takes a picture of the body and is then haunted by the victim. Again, it's well-handled, with a lot of slick and stylish visuals to jazz up what is a fairly simple tale. 

The third tale is produced by a camera with the letters CCTV on it. The resulting security tape is footage of an elevator that breaks down. As well as the normal characters trapped inside, there is a beautiful woman with a very strange secret. The title, Skin Deep, is a clue. 


The fourth film, Rekindling, concerns a dismembered corpse dumped in a river that proves to be more agile than most. Here there are some predictable jump scares, but a very good central performance and some nice effects make it watchable. There's a distinct 'Beast With Five Fingers' vibe at times.

The final film concerns the students' plans to assemble their 'found footage' into a project. It does not go well, and they find themselves watching the forces they have tinkered with close in on them. Then we switch to an investigation of the students' deaths, which is complicated by the presence of an extra body...


If you like collections of short horror movies put together with confidence and skill, this might be for you. There are a few bumpy moments, and I think a major strategic error was to have all the characters in every story speak English, rather than Chinese with subtitles. The result is dialogue that at times sounds a little stilted or requires subtitles anyway. But this is a minor quibble. It's a nice watch. 

Monday, 9 August 2021

Yuletide cheer a bit early this year

The BBC has announced a new Ghost Story for Christmas! It's 'The Mezzotint', with Rory Kinnear heading an impressive cast.




'Filming wrapped recently in the South of England. The Mezzotint will air this Christmas on BBC Two and BBC iPlayer.'

Saturday, 31 July 2021

Ars Gratia Sanguis

Not one but two ST regulars are to be found in a prestigious new collection from Black Shuck Books.

Web page here.




GREAT BRITISH HORROR 6: ARS GRATIA SANGUIS, features eleven more previously unpublished stories from authors at the very top of their game.

The Acolytes Triptych ~ Steve Duffy
Untitled (Cloud of Blood) ~ Brian Evenson
The Field Has Eyes, the Wood Has Ears ~ Helen Grant
From Life ~ Muriel Gray
Everybody’s Always Losing Somebody ~ Sean Hogan
The Redeemers ~ Andrew Hook
Having a Benny ~ Sarah Lotz
Blind Man’s Buff ~ Lucie McKnight Hardy
Our Lady of Flies ~ Teika Marija Smits
Sibyl ~ Lisa Tuttle
The Waiting Room ~ Stephen Volk

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Sir Michael Hordern's M.R. James Readings

Many years ago I bought one of the Argo double cassettes (remember those?) of... well, the title of this blog post will tell you what I bought. Now, after many years of bootlegs and general nonsense, there seems to be a legit downloadable version of the readings. They can be purchased at Audible here.


The cheap cover hints at a cheap production, and sure enough it is a barebones effort. However, all the readings are here. (Warning - there are several Quick Classics MRJ's but this is only one containing all the readings.) The contents are:

'The Diary of Mr. Poynter'
'Casting the Runes'
'Oh Whistle...'
'Count Magnus'
'The Ash-Tree'
'Canon Alberic's Scrap-Book'
'The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral'
'Lost Hearts'
'Rats'
'The Haunted Dolls' House'
'There Was a Man Dwelt...'
'The Mezzotint'

That's over six hours of fine listening! 

I'm not hanging around with this one...

 


Tuesday, 13 July 2021

The real 'Woman in Black'?

 A fascinating article about a celebrated Victorian haunting here. 


At the end of April 1882, two months after the Despards established their new household at ‘Donore’, Rosina saw an apparition for the first time. One evening after retiring to her room she was disturbed by the sound of someone at the bedroom door. Thinking that it may have been her mother, who we are told was an invalid who did not enjoy the best of health, she stepped to the door and on opening it reported the following: 

“I saw no one; but on going a few steps along the passage, I saw the figure of a tall lady, dressed in black, standing at the head of the stairs. After a few moments she descended the stairs, and I followed for a short distance, feeling curious what it could be. I had only a small piece of candle, and it suddenly burnt itself out; and being unable to see more, I went back to my room.”



Friday, 2 July 2021

Too Near The Dead Book Launch


Helen Grant is interviewed by Lalla Merlin about her new Gothic novel. 

Sadly, the swearing at the start when they didn't know I was listening has been censored. 

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

 


Frequent ST contributor and all-round literary lioness Helen Grant has a new book out! She has been kind enough to send me a signed copy and I began reading it this very afternoon. I've only read the first three (short) chapters but I can testify that it begins with a wonderful, nightmarish ordeal for her protagonist Fen. But what does Fen have to worry about? She's newly wealthy, has a wonderful fiancé, and has just moved into a picturesque house in rural Scotland. I look forward to finding out just how bad things are...

There is a virtual book launch on Facebook tomorrow (Thursday 1st July) at 7pm. Find out more here

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

FINDING YOURSELF IN THE DARK - Concluded

The last three stories in Steve Duffy's new collection from Sarob cover the last three months of the year. 'The Ice Beneath Us' was not first published in ST, but I had the pleasure of reading it early because it was inspired by an episode of Frasier. If you know the series, it's the ice-fishing one with the cabin on the frozen lake. Suffice to say that this take on that chilly notion does not end with a heartwarming moment. Blood-chilling, yes. It is, I think, the best modern takes on a legend that (not to give too much away) inspired one of the true classics of the genre.


'The Purple-Tinted Window' appeared in ST. On re-reading it remains an economical and moving account of someone faced with impossible choices. A young woman is possessed by a paranormal 'gift' that is of no value. All it does is point the way to her fate at the hands of a brute who wields near absolute power. She becomes an internet bride via the Filipina Dreamgirl agency and leaves her homeland for a cold, unwelcoming realm. There is a lyrical beauty about the writing that gives it the quality of a folk tale. And we all know how those generally turn out.

Finally, there's 'The God Storage Options', the kind of story that Duffy has made his own - what might be termed grotty horror. It takes as its theme the fact that many normal people in our malfunctioning 'society' end up in bloody awful places feeling miserable and lonely. Sometimes they escape. Sometimes not. Its main character is stuck in a converted old factory on an industrial estate over Christmas 1999. Things do not improve from this start. The ending is, once more, a variation on a classic theme and a damn good example of how to do it right. 

The notes by the author are, of course, informative and witty. I learned a few things from them, and I'd already discussed most of the stories with Steve Duffy. This is a fine book, by a first-rate author. It is also an object lesson in putting the hours in, refining each sentence until it works, respecting your reader enough to present him with nothing but good prose. It should take pride of place on the shelf of anyone who values the ghost story, the weird tale, Gothic horror, and good fiction in general.

Saturday, 26 June 2021

'No Passage Landward' by Steve Duffy


I've posted this before, but thought it was apt to put it out again. It gives a good flavour of Steve Duffy's new collection, and any deficiencies are down to my reading, not his writing. 

Thursday, 24 June 2021

Pariah & Other Stories

It's been many years since I produced a Supernatural Tales special i.e. a volume of short stories by a single author. However, cover artist and regular contributor Sam Dawson persuaded me to give it another go. So here it is - now available in paperback from the Lulu site. I can vouch for the quality of these stories. They are readable, interesting, intelligent, sometimes funny, more often disturbing. Recommended.


Not only is it jam-packed with tales of mystery, horror, and unease, but it's features some excellent black and white illustrations by Sam. 





As you can see from the contents page below, it's a substantial collection. I can recommend all these stories. The volume retails for £5.95 plus p&p, and is currently available only as print-on-demand from the Lulu site. 



Issue 50 is now available

  Order it here