Monday 26 September 2016

The Factory

I'm pleased to announce that my new novella The Factory was published on 24th September and launched at FantasyCon this past weekend by Hersham Horror Books.

"[A] skilful, gradual escalation of detail, a suggestiveness reminiscent of Ramsey Campbell."
- Gary Fry

Twenty years ago at college, Martin, Paul, Jane and Gwen were members of the GLUE Club - the Gaffney Legendary Urban Explorers - run by the charismatic Tom.  Now, following his mysterious death, they agree to meet up again and undertake one final exploration to honour his name.

Aside from Paul who never left, none of them has been back to Gaffney since and the reunion is awkward, re-opening old wounds.  As they begin to explore the long-abandoned Pocock Factory, it seems they might be intruding on something better left alone.  As they succumb, one by one, to the spirits in the darkness, it quickly becomes a battle to see who will survive the night...

The central idea for this came to me in August 2015 when I was approached to write a short story for an anthology.  I was working on other projects at the time but by December I had the bare bones of the story in place and then the anthology collapsed.  By then, however, I’d fallen in love with the idea and when Peter Mark May at Hersham Horror Books asked me in March for a novella, I pitched this to him and he liked it.  Bits and pieces attached themselves to the project as time went on (it took me a while to have it as a group of people going to the factory to honour their recently deceased friend) and by the time I was free to write it, I was excited.  Written between April and July, this ran a lot longer than I thought it would (it’s over 34k words) and got a lot nastier, but that was my intention so it worked for the best.

When I spoke with Pete, I told him my main goal was to make this a proper horror novella.  Drive had shown me a different route (and the fact it got nominated for a BFS Award made me sit up and take notice), which I explored further with the soon to be published Polly and so I decided this should be a way to clear the decks, an old-school-shocker before I looked towards working on a dark thriller.

My cast were really put through the wringer (I explained the concept to my old friend and pre-reader David Roberts and we had a fine time one-upping each other with gruesome demises) and the fate that befalls the character closest to me was particularly gruelling to write (but good fun, at the same time).  The Factory itself was my own invention - the location is an abandoned boot-and-shoe factory in Rothwell that I pass on my daily walk - but I used some reference books to get the layout right (though, in the end, I twisted everything to my own advantage).  I also added a canal to Gaffney and included a couple of nods to my older works (including my novel In The Rain With The Dead).

I grew to like Martin, Jane, Paul and Gwen - collectively known as the GLUE club - but I also had a lot of fun giving them grief as they explored ever deeper into The Factory.

Gary Fry gave me an early review which you can read here.

Paula Limbaugh reviews it at Horror Novel Reviews, which you can read here.

Anthony Watson reviews the slate of HHB novellas here.

Charlotte Courtney-Bond reviewed it at The Ginger Nuts Of Horror, which you can read here.

At the HHB launch (from left - Phil Sloman, Stephen Bacon, me, James Everington)

The novella is available through Amazon

The Gaffney Legendary Urban Explorers - the Glue Club for short - had been Tom’s idea but, to Paul’s way of thinking, most of the good ones back then were.  A force of nature at Gaffney Tech, Paul had wanted to get to know him better from the moment he saw him across the crowded refectory, holding court about some pop band or another and bursting into bits of the song in question when it helped his argument.  They had a couple of classes together - Tom confident, gregarious and hilarious, Paul much less so - fell into easy conversation and began to occupy a similar orbit.  Away from the hubbub of social student life, Tom could be intense and serious, keen to ask questions and understand, fully aware Paul was smarter.  Paul revelled in it, looking forward to the nights they sat up late, drinking and putting the world to rights.  Both young men were interested in architecture, hated Brutalism and loved the Victorian factories that dotted Gaffney and when one was scheduled to be turned into flats, they decided to explore it.  It had been a fun experience Tom was eager to repeat.  He dropped a few hints, put up a couple of flyers and within a fortnight, he’d formed a club.  Paul wasn’t keen on the idea of sharing his new-found friend, but enjoyed the fact his social circle had widened and, after tolerating the two girls and other bloke, had grown to like them.
     The club met infrequently, taking on perhaps three or four explorations in an academic year, but met for drinks two or three times a month.
     Paul had missed the group ever since he left college and following Tom’s death, he’d found it hard to focus on much else, as all thoughts of his old friend centred back towards the idea of urban exploration.  It had been Paul who’d let Tom know about the Pocock Factory - for years, Tom’s holy grail - and now it had somehow taken his life.
     The idea played on his mind.  He’d taken to going for a walk after his dinner and found, on most nights, his route took him past the Pocock factory to the canal.  The first couple of times he’d tried to rationalise it - after all, wasn’t it kind of ghoulish to visit the place his old friend had lost his life - but then just accepted it.  There wasn’t anything ghoulish about it, he just wanted to be here, to occupy the same space and pass on his best wishes.
     When Tom’s mum rang with the details of the funeral, the idea took further shape though it was another couple of nights before he had it clear enough in his mind what he wanted to say without telling everything.
     That night, he sat at the small desk in the corner of the lounge and looked out the window at the common.  A group of kids were playing football with far too many players on each side and the smallest child in goal.  Older kids, perhaps late teenagers, were playing proper games on the pitches either side of them.
     Turning his attention back to the flat, he looked at the line of photographs above the desk.  Most were of family - in a fit of pique, he’d smashed his favourite of him and Jenny when the divorce papers came through - but he couldn’t imagine ever taking down the one of his college friends.
     Jane and Gwen were holding an A4 sheet of paper that Tom had scrawled Glue Club on and the three lads - him, Tom and Martin - lined up behind them.  They were all dressed for Urbex - dark clothes, helmets with torches and gloves - and all looked happy.  The picture was taken, almost twenty years ago, on the night they explored Bentley’s cinema on Russell Street.  Locally notorious, a woman had been kidnapped and held there briefly before most of the building was destroyed in a fire.  They’d found nothing unusual on their exploration, apart from a windowless room with glass all over the floor, but it had been exciting.
     Glue Club and excitement, two things sadly lacking in Paul’s life.  He had a job he enjoyed, enough social life to keep him busy and a flat he didn’t want but - thanks to the divorce settlement and having bought the family home at the right time - was mostly his.  He missed the life and friends he’d had in college and was looking forward to seeing them again, though he’d have preferred any other circumstance to the one he found himself in - he still couldn’t believe he’d never see Tom again.
     He’d written a draft of the email that afternoon and now he was editing it, his fingers braced over the keyboard.

Hi all,
As everyone is coming to Gaffney for the funeral, I had a thought of how to give Tom a nice send-of.  Do you remember back in the day, he was adamant that one day the Glue Club would explore the Pocock Factory near the canal?  How about we do that for him?  Nothing too strenuous, I’ll provide the equipment, just a quick look around the building to say a final goodbye then we’ll head for home.
What do you think?
All the best,

     Was that any good?  Would they share his enthusiasm?  He looked out the window and saw the big game of football had broken up into several smaller games, which didn’t even look like five-a-side.
     The email wouldn’t look any better if he left it five minutes or five hours, he decided and pressed send.

     By ten o’clock they’d all responded, thanking him for a wonderful idea and a great gesture for an old friend.
    Paul switched off his laptop and went for a bath.

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