Wednesday, 25 March 2015

My part in Sue's Bloghop

I've been challenged by my fine friend Sue Moorcroft to join in the Lovely Blog Hop to talk about some of the things that have shaped my life and my writing.

At the end of this post, you’ll find links to some blogs and writers I like. The writers have all agreed to participate in and continue this Lovely Blog Hop.
me, Dude & Sheepy, April 2010.  Dude's probably forgotten this...
First Memory
As the father of a young son, it’s become increasingly obvious that whilst I’m already aware even the most vivid of memories will fade over time, when you’re a kid, they can slip away altogether.  Sometimes I’ll ask Dude if he remembers something and he’ll look at me blankly, even though I know we had a great time doing it and I have the photographs to prove it.  In my case, my first memories go back to living in Corby in the early seventies with my folks - playing with my friends, collecting Planet Of The Apes cards, the toys of the era (especially Action Man), Saturday morning pictures, Bullet comic and Spider-Man weekly.

Bearing in mind that I write horror, this is what I recall as my first memory of being scared (always good for a laugh, eh?).  When I lived there (and it's the same today), Corby had a huge contingent of Scottish folk and some of their cultural elements were brought down with them, including the Highland Gathering.  One year (I reckon it was either 1974 or 1975), my parents took me and my sister to one such gathering and we sat on the grass (near to the rope ‘fence’) and I can’t remember anything we saw, except perhaps for a motorcycle display team.  One act that I do clearly remember, however, was a bunch of clowns that ran into the ring to, I assume, distract the kids attentions whilst something was being set up.  I remember one clown in particular, a short round bloke who seemed to be completely blue, running over towards us - in my minds eye, he’s gibbering and laughing and sticking his tongue out as he waves his arms wildly in the air, but maybe didn’t happen in real life.  What did happen, though, was that I reacted - I was terrified.  I remember Dad hugging me and taking me away, I remember him explaining what clowns were and - later - I remember him assuring me that no clowns could get into the house and none of them would be hiding under my bed when I went to sleep.

I’m not coulrophobic, though they’re still not my favourite thing in the world - there’s just something about their need to hide behind a mask and caper desperately to get a laugh, that jars me.  Not nice.

Books
Me and Dude, reading on the patio, summer 2013
I can’t remember when I started reading for pleasure, but (see above) I was reading comics - Spider-Man and Bullet - from an early age and once we moved to Rothwell in 1977,that took off.  Having an excellent town library - in the old Market Square building, up a spiral stone staircase and into a dark room with what seemed like more books than the space should have fitted - and a great one at my juniors school, I embraced them.  At school, I discovered The Three Investigators series (as I’ve blogged about here) and began reading some of the books from my Dad’s shelves (though his copy of “The Fog” - with the cut-off ladies head on the cover - scared me for years).  In the early 80s, Dad took me and my sister into a second-hand bookshop in nearby Wellingborough and, because I’d heard people talking about having watched it on TV, I picked up a battered copy of “’Salem’s Lot” by Stephen King.  That was a revelation and I gobbled up as much of his work as I could, using his non-fiction exploration of the horror genre “Danse Macabre” (which I blogged about here) as a guide for further reading and I got into Clive Barker early, on King’s written recommendation.

I still love reading and often get through sixty or more books in a year.  I used to be one of those people who, once they’d started a book, couldn’t stop it midway through but life’s too short for that - I have books on my shelves that I know I’ll probably never get to, so why waste my time reading something that clearly doesn’t sit well with me?

I try to read widely across genres and take in crime, thrillers, drama, Chick-Lit, autobiographies, behind-the-scenes stuff on films, Snoopy and Calvin & Hobbes collections, some sci-fi and - of course - horror.

Libraries
Rothwell's old library, or The Market House, designed by
William Grumbold for Sir Thomas Tresham.  Construction
began in 1577.
As I mentioned above, my first experience with a public library was in Rothwell and even though it’s not in the same building any more (a new one was built on wasteground across the road in the 80s and although it’s lovely and well-stocked, it’s not a patch on the old one), I still use it and signed Dude up for his library card as soon as we were able to.  Back in the day, when research didn’t mean a few sentences typed into Google, the library was where you did homework that required the use of encyclopaedias and it was generally a treasure trove of information (and new Three Investigator books!).  Whilst that research aspect might have been replaced with laptops, tablets and smart phones, the wealth of books, the huge range of worlds that are ready to be visited with the aid of the readers imagination, is a wonder to behold.  I don’t use the library enough - and if you saw my TBR pile you’d understand why - but I passionately believe they should be there, open to everyone who wants to explore the written word.

What’s Your Passion?
My family, especially adventures with the Dude and hopefully giving him a childhood he’ll look back on favourably (assuming he remembers our adventures...).

Learning
I quite enjoyed school and have warm memories of my junior school years (I’m a Parent Governor now and although the old building is still there, the new additions mean that it doesn’t really resemble the place I remember) and my stint at Montsaye (especially the Sixth Form, which I think was the best school year of my life).  I wanted to go on to study journalism, though that never quite happened and I fell into accountancy, which led me back to night school, where I got my professional qualifications (the course was three hours a night, up to three hours a week - how on earth did I manage that?) just before Dude was born.

Writing
I’ve been writing stories for a long time, starting when I was about eight and wanted to know more about “Star Wars” so expanded the universe and put me and my friends into the various adventures.  I also wrote about Steve Austin (there were always short stories in the Six Million Dollar Man annuals and I enjoyed reading them), spies (for a while, I wanted to be either James Bond or Simon Templar) and detectives.  I didn’t write much about my own life until I went to Montsaye (our Comprehensive, or senior school), which coincided with the start of “Grange Hill” (“flippin’ ‘eck, Tucker!”), but apart from a few stories, I focussed on crime fiction (I homaged The Three Investigators with my own Three Intrepids series).  I hope I’ve come a long way since then and I love the process (though I do prefer editing to writing - I’m one of those writers who ‘likes having written’).  I don’t write as much as I would like to - there’s a lot of life going on, but I’m also still battling a couple of the demons from a serious block that struck me just after Dude was born - but I’m still there, still plugging away.  After all, whatever would I do without it?


Sue's original post can be found here.

These are the links to other blogs from writers you might find interesting. Not all of them write in the same genre as I do, but they're all very good, as is Sue herself.

Anthony Cowin
Sue Fortin
Donna Bond
Steve Harris
James Everington

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Dude in print...

A chuffed Dude, with the anthology
On Monday, when I got home from work, a very excited Dude came barreling through to the kitchen to greet me.  He was clutching a copy of "Out Of This World", which features his poem "Icy Wind".

My Dude, a published poet.

I read his poem again (it's very good) and watched him over the course of the evening, as he looked at the book cover, checked out his poem and beamed, from ear-to-ear.  It reminded me a lot of the way I reacted when I first saw "Strange Tales" and also the way Dad looked at his book of my Grampy's war diaries (which I blogged about here).

My Dude, a published poet at aged nine (knocking on ten).

I was first published, in the school magazine at Montsaye, in my first year there (so I'd have been 11 - I went on to co-edit an issue when I was in the Sixth Form).  My wonderful son, the apple of my eye, has beaten me by two years.  The little git.

He's taken an interest in my writing for a good few years now (though he's never read any of my published stuff) and has helped me out a couple of times too.  I sometimes run through ideas in my head as I drive and, when I was working on my werewolf short "Last Train Home", I was thinking aloud in the car.  Dude, in the passenger seat, gave me the perfect ending and what he said is the last line of the story (he was thrilled to discover that, though I haven't let him read the rest of it).  So instead of horror, I've written a few short stories for him and we've collaborated on a couple of things and I've really enjoyed those moments.

As I've mentioned elsewhere before, I started writing fiction when I was eight, expanding the Star Wars universe or coming up with new adventures for The Six Million Dollar Man and my love of the creative process - whilst taking dents over the years - has never lessened.  I'm not sure yet how strong Dude's love for writing is but I am happy to nurture it and I hope it never goes away.

Very proud Dad.

Friday, 13 March 2015

The Death House, by Sarah Pinborough (a review)

In a new edition of the occasional series, I want to tell you about a book that I've read and loved, which I think adds to the horror genre and that I think you'll enjoy if you're a fan.


Toby’s life was perfectly normal… until it was unravelled by something as simple as a blood test.

Taken from his family, Toby now lives in the Death House: an out-of-time existence far from the modern world, where he, and the others who live there, are studied by Matron and her team of nurses. They’re looking for any sign of sickness. Any sign of their wards changing. Any sign that it’s time to take them to the sanatorium.

No one returns from the sanatorium.

Withdrawn from his house-mates and living in his memories of the past, Toby spends his days fighting his fear. But then a new arrival in the house shatters the fragile peace, and everything changes.

Because everybody dies. It’s how you choose to live that counts.


In an unspecified near future, children under the age of 18 can contract a mysterious and apparently terminal illness.  If tested positive, these so-called Defectives are taken away from their families to an isolated country manor which serves as both a boarding school and a hospice to see out their days, which end in the dreaded sanatorium.  The Death House, as they all call it, is run by the Matron and a squad of nurses, backed up by teachers who sit through lessons teaching children who will never need the information they’re being given.  Toby, the narrator, is 17 and top dog of Dorm 4, keen to protect his friends - young Will, brainy Louis and the religious Ashley - and while away his time until he falls ill, thinking about the past and what might have been with a girl he fancied from school.  Understanding that the kids are sedated at night, he stops taking his ‘vitamins’ and roams the house whilst everyone else is asleep, catching up on his rest during the day.  When a new batch of Defectives is brought in, one of them is a girl called Clara who also skips her medication and likes to roam after dark.  After an initial frosty period - Toby resents her presence, thinking she will spoil his night-time freedom - the pair become friends, even as things begin to go bad in the house.

Simply put, this is a stunning novel, perfectly constructed by a writer who is at the top of her game.

The characterisation is superb, from the main players down to those who are seen only briefly during lunchtime.  Toby is angry, with his condition, the House and being away from his family, sinking into a mass of hopelessness and it’s only the arrival of Clara that brings him back.  As one of the older kids, his young friends - Will and Louis especially - look up to him for guidance (and, perhaps, love) and his interactions with them form part of the books emotional heart.  The other part is his burgeoning relationship with the vivid and vital Clara, a free spirit who gives him a new sense of purpose.  Their love affair is wonderfully observed, from the first stirrings to the night-time adventures as they explore the house and island, making plans for their future.  They begin to form a family unit, rescuing an injured bird they call Georgie, as well as uniting the kids in the house who before struggled to cope with the situation.  Those kids are written as real children - stroppy and funny, playful and spiteful, eager and annoying - and never less than believable.  This did have the drawback for me, however, that as the parent of a young boy, I identified strongly with one particular character and it was heart-breaking to follow his development, especially that his greatest adventure was also his last, a set-piece that brought tears to my eyes.

Another strength is seeing the adults as Toby perceives them, vague characters who intrude upon his life (apart from his parents, where we see their love for him clearly, especially in a harrowing flashback) with the Matron the de facto villain who might, actually, just be someone who divorces herself from reality in order to cope.  When touches of humanity from the adults are glimpsed - the kindly nurse who mentions she’s read “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe”, for instance - the reader is surprised as much as the children are.

Perfectly paced, the book is peppered with well staged set pieces, from the Northern lights on the cold beach to the special cave that becomes more signficant as time goes on; from the one-up-manship between Toby and Jake over who’s top dog to Ashley’s increasing religious fervour, that creates divisions in the house; from the desperate plans made for the future and a tough decision that breaks a lot of hearts.

The location is well used, with the gloomy house, its empty rooms and the bare countryside around it - we don’t know where the Death House is any more than the characters do and their sense of being isolated and trapped seeps into the gaps between the sentences, creating an air of foreboding that is never properly shaken off.  In fact, the sounds and activities of the Death House create the horror, especially the clanking of the lift as it comes down from the upper floor to whisk away the ill children.  In a clever touch, the disease - and what happens to the Defectives in the sanatorium (indeed, why they need to go there) - remains a mystery, as does the timeframe (at one point, the children mention that it hasn’t snowed in England for over 100 years, yet they are all familiar with record albums) and I liked that it added to the sense of unease.

The writing is smart and assured, capturing a teenaged voice (as I remember it) with apparent ease and there wasn’t a jarring note in the book.  Topped with an ending I didn’t see coming - that is both uplifting and melancholic, but absolutely perfect - this is already a strong contender for my book of the year.  Tightly constructed, well paced and full of believable characters, this is a fantastic tale that packs a real emotional punch and I think it’ll linger with me for a long time.  Very highly recommended.


The novel can be bought from Amazon in hardback here or as a Kindle ebook here

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

More matte painting magic

Following on from my other blogs last year about matte paintings (here, here (the Return of the Jedi one), herehere and here) which seemed to go down well and which I enjoyed doing, I've had great fun tracking down some more bits and pieces.

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
artwork by Alan Maley
James Bond heads for the light display at the Pyramids
The Blues Brothers (1980)
artwork by Albert Whitlock and Syd Dutton
"Have you seen the light?"
 Ghostbusters (1984)
artwork by Matt Yuricich
The real location only went to the 20th floor.
Venkman: "When we get to twenty, tell me... I'm gonna throw up"
Aliens (1986)
artwork by Robert and Dennis Skotak (the opening shot, all painted)

Who's That Girl? (1987)
Artwork by Mark Sullivan
This Madonna/Griffin Dunne comedy featured several pieces of wonderfully 'invisible' art.  In this sequence, Dunne is hanging out of his car which, in turn, is hanging out of a building.  The building is painted, the car is a large scale miniature and the actor is replaced by a small articulated puppet.  Note how the painting and model are precisely lined up, whilst Sullivan stop-motion animates the puppet.


Robocop (1987)
Artwork by Mark Sullivan
The matte shot was combined with a stop-motion animated puppet of Ronny Cox's Dick Jones, falling to his death.

The Doors (1991)
Artwork by Mark Sullivan

And simply because I adore it (and this is a much better quality image than any I've seen before), here's Albert Whitlock's wonderful painting of Covent Garden by night, from Hitchcock's "Frenzy" (1972)
"Lovely..."
thanks again to http://nzpetesmatteshot.blogspot.co.uk

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Breakfast At Tiffany's, by Truman Capote - a review

cover scan of my copy - it looks a bit the worse for wear but I love the cover art
With her tousled blonde hair and upturned nose, dark glasses and chic black dresses, Holly Golightly is top notch in style and a sensation wherever she goes.  Her brownstone apartment vibrates with Martini-soaked parties as she plays hostess to millionaires and gangsters alike.  Yet Holly never loses sight of her ultimate goal - to find a real life place like Tiffany's that makes her feel at home.


I realise I'm very late to this party, since the novella was first published in November 1958 - it originally appeared in the magazine Esquire, before being collected with three short stories and published by Random House - but I thought I’d take some time to write about my thoughts on this, especially since a lot of older works are, I feel, under-represented with reviews on the Net.

 I’ve seen the film and enjoyed it and had wanted to read this for a while but we were like ships that passed in the night.  Late last year, though, I picked up a Penguin edition (which is undated - I bought it in a charity shop but it appears it might have been a promotional item) and having just read Stephen Volks’ “Leytonstone”, for a change of pace I decided to dip into it.  I’m so glad I did.


Opening in Autumn 1943, the unnamed narrator becomes friends with Holly Golighty, his downstairs neighbour in the Upper East Side brownstone they live in.  She is a charming woman, a society girl who manipulates the men around her to give her money and gifts, hoping to marry one of them one day.  As the friendship develops over the course of a year between the narrator and Holly - she calls him ‘Fred’ because he reminds her of her beloved brother - he finds himself falling under her spell and who wouldn’t - she fiesty and free-spirited, likes to shock people with revealing details of her personal life and sits out on the fire escape on summer evenings, playing the guitar as her hair dries.  ‘Fred’ is a writer, observing everything around him and although he’s inclined to want to protect Holly, she seems more than capable of doing so herself, until a family tragedy, a blast from the past and a betrayal by a friend turn things on their head.

A brisk read, this is full of life and even though there are dark aspects to the story and characters, they don’t overwhelm at any time (well, apart from perhaps the once).  War-time New York is seen and explored but always at a distance (at one point, ‘Fred’ worries about being drafted), with most of the story taking place either in the brownstone or at Joe Bell’s bar, where both of them are treated as friends.

The writing is deceptively simple, filled with beautifully constructed sentences and little throwaway lines that just build and build as the book goes on (“another night, deep in the summer, the heat of my room sent me out into the streets”).  The characterisation is equally wonderful, from Joe Bell and Mag Wildwood (the stuttering former socialite and model, who muscles in on Holly’s men), Rusty Trawler, O. J. Berman, “Sally Tomato” and Jose Ybarra-Jaeger, the men Holly charms (especially the latter) and poor Doc Golightly but the story, of course, stands on the two leads.  ‘Fred’narrates and gives everything his personal spin but we never really get a sense of him from anyone else, so he effectively becomes the reader (as a male writer, that worked well for me) but Holly - oh, Holly.

A walking contradiction - an escapee of a terrible childhood but always full of ‘joie de vivre’ - she doesn’t set down roots (her cat has no name because it’s not hers to name - they met at the river) and her flat is barely furnished.  As ‘Fred’ finds out more about her, so her mystery seems to deepen and when bad things do happen (especially with the real Fred), it’s all the more shocking for it and we feel for her.  Na├»ve but tough, she knows what to say and how to act (Berman calls her a “phony, but a real phony”) and looks great, with her ever present smile, dark glasses (and their prescription lenses) and great clothes, facing a mans world and taking it on in her own way.

As wonderful as I think this is, it’s worth mentioning that there are some jarring elements for the modern reader, from the casual racism to issues with Holly’s age (she ran away from home a fourteen-year-old wife and tells ‘Fred’, on the subject of past lovers, that she’s “not counting anything that happened before I was thirteen…”).  Those niggles aside, this is a terrific book and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It has a great pace, a wonderful atmosphere and a timeless feel to it, that draws you along.  Differing from the film (and ending with a sense of melancholy), this is remarkable piece of work.  If you haven’t read it before, then you really should and if you have, why not revisit it?

Very highly recommended.

Oh - and the title?  When Holly gets the "mean reds" (what 'Fred' identifies as angst) she's found that what "does the most good is just to get into a taxi and go to Tiffany's. It calms me down right away, the quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there, not with those kind men in their nice suits, and that lovely smell of silver and alligator wallets. If I could find a real-life place that made me feel like Tiffany's, then I'd buy some furniture and give the cat a name."


Truman Capote (Truman Strekfus Persons) was born in 30th September 1924.  An American author, screenwriter, playwright and actor, many of his short stories, novels, plays and non-fiction are regarded as literary classics, especially “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” and the true crime novel “In Cold Blood” (1966).  He died on 25th August 1984.  According to Random House, as of 2008, the book continued to sell about 30,000 copies a year.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Leytonstone, by Stephen Volk (a review)

In a new edition of the occasional series, I want to tell you about a book that I've read and loved, which I think adds to the horror genre and that I think you'll enjoy if you're a fan.

I came to this novella with high hopes.  I’ve long been a fan of Alfred Hitchcock - from the books to which he lent his name, to the masterful films that have thrilled and scared me over the years - and Stephen Volk’s previous novella, “Whitstable” (which I reviewed here), was one of my top reads of the year in 2012, a true five-star classic.

“Leytonstone” revolves around an anecdote Hitchcock told many times, that when he was seven his father had him locked away in the police cells with the warning “This is what happens to people who do bad things.”  The incident apparently left the great director with a morbid fear of the police and was also cited as the reason for his recurring use of “wrong man” themes in his films.  Volk takes this information and runs with it.

Fred Hitchcock is a chubby seven-year-old, who has friends but prefers time on his own and finds solace in lists - bus and train numbers, timetables - rather than the often unpredictable nature of the people around him.  His mother often seems poorly and he’s made to stand at the foot of her bed when he gets home from school, reciting what he’s learned that day whilst his greengrocer father is strict and distant.  A pupil at the local Catholic school, run with an iron-fist by the various priests and overseen by Father Mullins, Fred is only vaguely aware of girls, especially those in the school next door, apart from the one “with hair the colour of ripe bananas”.

When he is taken to the police station, we are introduced to Sergeant Stanley Sykes, a formidable presence with a Kitchener moustache, whose dark shadow hangs uneasily over the rest of the book.  He locks young Fred up and taunts him and the night spent behind bars is genuinely harrowing and unpleasant.  Released the next morning, the dynamics between Fred and his father (as well as those between his father and Sykes) are different, damaged in ways none of them really understand.  Following this event and the discovery of a peephole at the school, the tone of the book starts to grow darker.  After scaring the schoolgirls, Fred and his friends go to waste ground where there’s an abandoned, dilapidated house and there they try to kill a mouse - he doesn’t want to (he’s glad when it escapes), but he’s caught up in it.  Exploring the house later, he’s scared at first but also “tired of trying to imagine what fear is like all the time” and when he discovers a small cupboard, he realises he can do something about it.

Fred discovers the “girl with yellow hair” is called Olga Butterworth and she lives with her parents next to the railway.  They develop an uneasy acquaintance and when he decides to show her the old house, he sets into motion the last third of the book that will see everyone’s life change.

Set in 1906, an era Volk deftly captures of a changing (now largely gone) London, with the language, the dress, the rituals and customs (especially in the shops and pubs) vividly captured and brought to life.  The social mores, the confusion of young Fred, the overbearing nature of both the police (as typified by Sykes) and the harsher still priests and nuns, create an atmosphere that points to something awful happening.  And when that something happens it's shocking, with the fall-out of Fred’s action causing huge repercussions for everyone (especially his parents) apart from, it seems, himself, though perhaps this is addressed in the moving coda.

The characterisation, always difficult when dealing with real people, is something Volk does especially well (his version of Peter Cushing in “Whitstable” was a culmination of both everything you wanted him to be and everything he came across as in interviews) and here is no exception. Fred is a little boy, at once an innocent and a manipulator, at odds with his contemporaries and his parents and scared of people he sees from his bedroom window, being adults in the night and acting in ways he doesn’t - and shouldn’t - understand.  His parents often seem as confused but as the book gets darker they reveal heretofore hidden depths of love and understanding, which make the emotional impact all that much stronger.  The villain of the piece, the unpleasant, perhaps sadistic, sleazy policeman Sergeant Stanley Sykes is a real monster, at once dedicated to upholding the law whilst at the same time making sure that he picks up his own little perks.

As a Hitchcock fan, I loved finding the allusions to his later career - the poorly Mother, coddling her son; the concept of “the girl with the yellow hair”; the voyeurism of late night windows and Olga with her parents; the body in the bag of potatoes; the stuffed bird in Father Mullins office and I’m sure there were many more - but none of them felt shoehorned it, they had a place in the fabric of the story and they contributed to the weight of the tale.  And it is a weighty tale, sometimes innocent and charming, often darker and grittier, but never once putting a foot wrong.

Superbly written, atmospheric and tense, this is perfectly structured and never less than gripping.  A wonderful read and a worthy successor to the powerful “Whitstable”, I look forward to whichever master of British cinema Mr Volk chooses to write about next.  Very highly recommended.


Friday, 13 February 2015

The Zabriskie Grimoire

I'm pleased to announce that the latest anthology edited by Dean M. Drinkel, "The Grimorium Verum", has just been published by Western Legends Press.  Amongst many others, it contains my story "The Zabriskie Grimoire".


Western Legends is excited to reveal the table of contents for our newest publication and third installment in the Tres Librorum Prohibitum series: The Grimorium Verum - a collection of 26 stories, edited by Dean M Drinkel.

Foreword – John Palisano
Introduction – Dean M. Drinkel
A Is For Annis – Tim Dry
B Is For Balefire – Raven Dane
C Is For Creature – Justin Miles
D Is For Drawing Down The Moon – Jan Edwards
E Is For Eihwaz – Adrian Chamberlin
F Is For Fury – Christine Morgan
G Is For Ghede – Emile-Louis Tomas Jouvet
H Is For Herb Law – Phil Sloman
I Is For Iya and Iktomi – Christopher Beck
J Is For Jimson Jane – Lily Childs
K Is For Krieg – Dan Russell
L Is For Legends – Amberle L. Husbands
M Is For Magic, Madness and Mayhem – Andrew Taylor
N Is For Nightmare – Sylvia Shults
O Is For Ordeal – Chris Dougherty
P Is For Poison – Tej Turner
Q Is For Quackery – Tracie McBride
R Is For Radix Omnium Malum – Mike Chinn
S Is For Slinky, Seedy & A Cool, Calming Womb – Martin Roberts
T Is For Transformation – D.T. Griffith
U Is For Umbilical – Anthony Cowin
V Is For Voudon – Lisa Jenkins
W Is For Writer’s Block – Barbie Wilde
X Is For Xaphan – John Gilbert
Y Is For Yearning – Amelia Mangan
Z Is For Zabriskie Grimoire – Mark West


The book is available, in print and digital editions, as follows:

Amazon UK 

Amazon US 

CreateSpace eStore 


My story features Mike Decker, who is hired to find the Zabriskie Grimoire, a “powerful text that allows the user to call up Lucifuge Rofocale, the devil himself.”

Decker, a hard-boiled character I loved writing, is an "acquirer" and this is how he describes himself: “I am an acquirer, a finder of items lost or hidden and although it’s an occasionally dirty job, I am well paid for it.  I take my job very seriously and I expect other people to do the same.  I once had a meeting with a dotcom hipster who compared me to a personal shopper and I’d broken his nose before he’d finished his first guffaw.”  I can imagine revisiting the character too, which is always a nice feeling to have.

It’s a dark, grim tale that takes you somewhere nasty (and then gets worse) and was the first story I wrote following my heart attack in August 2014.  It’s location was based on places I saw (mainly in Ffestiniog) when we were on holiday in Wales and the bookshop (where most of the action takes place) is an amalgamation of some of the wonderful secondhand emporiums I’ve whiled away hours in.

I enjoyed writing this and, as ever, I'm pleased to be involved in such a great project.