Monday, 21 November 2022

Still Waters Run, by Mark West

I'm pleased to announce that Still Waters Run, my fourth mainstream thriller published by The Book Folks, is now available.

In late summer, sixteen-year-old Dan and his recently divorced mother head to a Norfolk seaside town’s holiday park for a vacation.

Shy Dan soon strikes up a friendship with a girl of his age, quirky and pretty Charlie, and his mother is swept off her feet by a suave local property developer.

Yet a shadow is cast over their stay when one of the camp attendants, Mia, goes missing. And things go from bad to worse when her body turns up near the town’s derelict lido.

Charlie draws Dan into her efforts to discover the truth about Mia’s death. But as the locals close ranks, cracks begin to show in their new friendships, and he’ll soon find himself in deep water.

This could turn out to be a holiday that mother and son will remember for all the wrong reasons, if they survive.



* * *

STILL WATERS RUN is set in Seagrave, the same seaside location as my debut novel, DON'T GO BACK. It takes place in 1985 over the course of a week as Jude and her sixteen-year-old son Dan go to stay at the Holidaze holiday camp. There, Dan meets Charlie - a pretty fellow teenager with a keen interest in photography - and Jude meets Paul, a local real estate developer. When a local woman goes missing, all four of them are drawn into a tangled web of mystery that leads to murder.


I started writing this last November (just after I'd signed the initial deal with The Book Folks) and, once again, it was plotted out with my good friend David Roberts on our Friday Night Walks. 




Monday, 7 November 2022

A White Christmas on Winter Street, by Sue Moorcroft

Regular readers of the blog will know I've been friends with Sue Moorcroft since we first met at the Kettering Writers Group in 1999 (we genre writers were consigned to the back of the room, where we had a great laugh).  Since then she's gone from strength to strength, hitting number one in the Kindle Bestseller charts (with The Christmas Promiseon her way to becoming a Sunday Times Best Seller, while her novel A Summer To Remember won the Goldsboro Books Contemporary Romantic Novel Award 2020.  As well as featuring her a lot on blog (to see more, click this link), I'm also pleased to be one of her beta-readers and thoroughly enjoyed her latest novel, A White Christmas On Winter Street, which has just been published in paperback and e-book.

When Sky Terran returns to the village of Middledip after losing the job she loves, she anticipates a quiet Christmas getting used to her new life. However, the annual street decoration competition is coming up and this year, the residents of Winter Street are determined to win.

As she is pulled into the preparations, Sky quickly grows to love the quirky, tight-knit community she is now part of. Including the extremely handsome Daz, who soon becomes more than just a friendly neighbour.

But when Daz’s ex turns up determined to win him back and it seems he might not be the man Sky thought he was, she remembers how much allowing people into her life – and heart – can hurt. As the snow falls, will she and Daz find a way through – and help win a Christmas victory for Winter Street?

A gorgeously festive novel about love, family and the power of forgiveness from Sunday Times bestseller Sue Moorcroft, perfect for fans of Sarah Morgan and Phillipa Ashley.

* * *

Sky Terran comes from a broken home and her only real family is Freddy Walker, who was briefly her foster brother when they were in the care of Nan Heather in Middledip village. Sky works for property developer Freddy but when his new girlfriend Minnie causes problems, she resigns and moves into The Corner House in Middledip. She plans to do the house up and make it her home but another local, Daz Moran, had been hoping to get it for a Youth Activity Centre. Soon, Sky and Daz are bumping heads over a lot of things.

Sue Moorcroft conjures up another winner with this wintry Christmas tale set resolutely in her wonderful village of Middledip. Characterisation, as always, is strong and vibrant and our lead couple make for a sparky and interesting relationship but the supporting cast is equally well drawn and quirky, from Marietta next door to the lovely Courtney and her brilliant realised son Wilf. 

Middledip shines and there are plenty of nods to Sue’s previous books - places, venues and especially characters - and each one brings a warm smile as you remember where they popped up before. The novel is sometimes challenging, often very funny and also nicely raunchy on occasion. Told with great pace, a keen eye for detail and a wonderful grasp of location, this is a fantastic read I heartily recommend.


Sue Moorcroft is an international bestselling author and has reached the #1 spot on Kindle UK. She’s won the Goldsboro Books Contemporary Romantic Novel Award, Readers’ Best Romantic Novel award and the Katie Fforde Bursary. Published by HarperCollins in the UK, US and Canada and by other publishers around the world.

Her short stories, serials, columns, writing ‘how to’ and courses have appeared around the world.

Born into an army family in Germany, Sue spent much of her childhood in Cyprus and Malta but settled in Northamptonshire at the age of ten. An avid reader, she also loves Formula 1, travel, family and friends, dance exercise and yoga.

Monday, 31 October 2022

Halloween Horrors (Painted Movie Posters)

It's Halloween, when all the ghosts and ghouls come calling (usually for chocolate), when the evenings are dark and the air smells of woodsmoke and the thoughts of us all turn to the idea of watching or reading something scary and creepy.
For my fifth Halloween post (following paperback covers, Top TrumpsVHS cover art and behind the scenes special effects shots), I've decided this time to go with something else I love, namely painted movie posters.  Looking at some of these again reminds me of being a young horror film fan in the late 70s and early 80s (when BBC2 began showing Universal horrors in the early evening), seeing gaudily gorgeous posters for films I wouldn't get to see for quite some time (and which, sometimes, didn't live up to my imagining of what they'd be).

So with all that in mind, enjoy this Halloween treat of posters that (very occasionally) promise more than they deliver...
1959
Produced by Gene Corman, this is the perfect horror film poster (something the Corman team did very well indeed).  I really want to see this, even though I know the monsters won't look anywhere near as convincing as they do here (which isn't saying a lot, I realise).
1963
I first read about this in Stephen King's Danse Macabre and couldn't wait to see it, though by the time I eventually did (late one night on BBC2, if I remember correctly), I was waiting for King's suggested last line.  He wrote that there was a legend of a lost ending, where Xavier - having plucked his eyes from their sockets - shouts "I can still see!"  Unfortunately, it's just a terrific rumour - Roger Corman said, in interview, that the scene was discussed but never filmed.
1965
There's so much to love about this film, it makes for perfect Halloween viewing.  An anthology film (an Amicus speciality), this features "Werewolf" with Neil McCallum, "Creeping Vine" with Alan Freeman (which is properly creepy, though it'd sound silly if I explained it), "Voodoo" with Roy Castle and his trumpet, "The Disembodied Hand" with Christopher Lee and Michael Gough lending real weight and "Vampire" with Donald Sutherland (and a cracking ending).  Peter Cushing plays Dr. Shreck in the framing story.
1970
A so-so film (it feels very long) but a great Arnaldo Putzu poster
1971
A brilliant poster from Vic Fair which does so much without really doing a great deal.  How could you not want to see the film are seeing this?
1972
Swinging Dracula on the Kings Road (with added Caroline Munro gorgeousness).
1973
Another terrific Amicus anthology film, well served by an Arnaldo Putzu poster.  This features "Midnight Mess", a creepy vampire story (with some great in-camera effects) with Daniel and Anna Massey, "The Neat Job" with Terry-Thomas, "This Trick'll Kill You" with Curt Jurgens, "Bargain In Death" with Michael Craig (and, in a nice touch, Robin Nedwell and Geoffrey Davies as two trainee doctors - they'd appeared together in "Doctor In The House", an ITV sitcom) and "Drawn And Quartered", with Tom Baker and Denholm Elliot (as well as Terence Alexander, who gets a bigger head on the poster) and some great views of early 70s London.  The framing device sees five strangers boarding a descending lift in a modern London office block.
1976
We can't be sure what H. G. Wells would have thought of this but surely, bearing in mind all the animals they could have chosen for the poster, was a giant chicken really the best one?
1977
Also known as "Shocklines" (the title I first saw it under, as a VIPCO release), I was first aware of it when I saw an advert in Starburst magazine.  The film itself is slow and creepy but those underwater nazis are as effective as the poster art makes them out to be.
1978
A cracking little horror film (you'd be better off with this than the remake), Joe Dante is on top form with a John Sayles script, make-up effects by Rob Bottin and piranha effects by Phil Tippett, amongst others.
1981
Unnerving, dark, claustrophobic and frightening, this is an excellent film (which I wrote about, in detail, here) that was unfairly classed as a Video Nasty for while.  Best seen knowing very little about it, you're wrong-footed from the start and all the way through.  Great stuff.
1981
There's never a great deal of subtlety in a Lucio Fulci film but they're all the more fun for that.  I first saw this on a VIPCO tape (and if you remember that label and their claims, then you'll understand why I thought it was a confusing mess), re-watched it on another label and liked it a great deal more.
1981
A wonderful Graham Humphreys poster for a funny little film that was, sadly, a bit out of step with the times for when it was released (though it did get a Look-In cover).
1987
Graham Humphreys again, giving us some of the highlights from Sam Raimi's bizarre and very funny sequel.
1987
A clever and fairly subtle poster for a darkly intense and unsettling modern vampire tale, long before those creatures of the night got all spangly and sparkling.  I love the film (especially the uncomfortable sequence in the bar when you suddenly realise that everyone's in trouble) and I think this poster serves it well.


Happy Halloween!

Monday, 17 October 2022

The Secret Of Phantom Lake, by William Arden

2014 marked the fiftieth anniversary of The Three Investigators being published and, to celebrate, I re-read and compiled my all-time Top 10 (safe in the knowledge that it would be subject to change in years to come, of course).  I posted my list here, having previously read all 30 of the original series from 2008 to 2010 (a reading and reviewing odyssey that I blogged here).

Following this, I decided to re-visit some of the books I'd missed on that second read-through, without any intention of posting reviews of them but, as if often the way, it didn't quite work out like that.  Happily, this is on-going and so here's an additional review...
Collins Hardback First Edition (printed in 1974 and never reprinted), cover art by Roger Hall
"Step carefully and look behind you - mystery and danger await all who follow The Three Investigators to Phantom Lake."

That's Alfred Hitchcock's warning...

Not only do Pete, Bob and Jupiter hunt lakeside phantoms - thy're also haunted by a ghostly gunfighter.  Not to mention a piano at plays itself and a saloonful of poker-playing miners - invisible ones!

Where will the spooky treasure trail to Phantom Lake lead them next?

You have been warned...

Detail from the back cover of the Armada format a paperback,
art by Peter Archer.  There were no internal illustrations
in the UK editions.
The fifth entry in the series by William Arden, pen name for the prolific thriller writer Dennis Lynds  (his fourth, The Mystery Of The Shrinking House, was published just prior in this in 1972 and I wrote about it here), this is as well plotted and paced as all his books.  There’s some action in the Jones Junkyard (including Jupiter using “Plan One!”), but most of the piece takes place at the Gunn estate, which is well observed and described.  With a haunting visit to Cabrillo Island (where Arden really ramps up the atmosphere - it provides the basis of the hardback artwork) and the diverting trip to Powder Gulch (a ghost town which gives the paperback editions their imagery), the book also makes good use of a trip to Santa Barbara (utilising real locations, I was pleased to discover).

The central mystery - was there actually any treasure and where might Gunn have hidden it? - is well put together and the way the boys unlock the clues is nicely played, though I was amazed at all these businesses that just happened to have one-hundred-year-old documents lying around.  Aunt Matilda and Hans have decent sized roles - the latter participating in a few key scenes  - and Arden makes good use of the Christmas period, with the boys helping their parents/guardians put up the decorations and seeing them all over town, while the season adds a chill to the air.

As well written as always, this has some decent set pieces - especially the Santa Barbara and Cabrillo Island sequences - some nice touches of comedy (there’s a bit where Jupiter runs one way, only to see his compatriots coming the other way) and a mention for Ruxton University (where Dr Barrister, who the boys first met in The Mystery Of The Singing Serpent, works).  Although the ending is perhaps wrapped up a bit too quickly for my liking, this is a solid mystery that works well and gives each of the boys their moment to shine.  I would very much recommend it.
Armada format a paperback (printed between 1976 and 1979), cover art by Peter Archer
(cover scan of my copy)
Armada format b paperback (printed between 1980 and 1982), cover art by Peter Archer
(cover scan of my copy)

There were no internal illustrations for the UK edition which is a shame, since some of the set pieces used in the US hardback edition would have been ably served by Roger Hall.

Thanks to Ian Regan for the artwork (you can see more at his excellent Cover Art database here)

Monday, 3 October 2022

New Nightmares - Horror Writing School

Alex Davis, the mastermind behind the fantastic Edge/Sledge Lit conventions at Derby Quad (which I've written about extensively, as you can see here) has now posted the modules in his latest online writing school.

I am thrilled to be involved with such a great line-up of writers and very happy to be putting on a module for "Plotting and Planning" alongside my dear old chum and plotting partner David Roberts

While we haven't finalised our event yet, we'll be going through the processes that have so far seen the creation of four thriller novels with the fifth just about to get underway. This will cover everything from the initial idea to creating a spine for the set pieces and how to put together compelling characters. There might also be a practical element where we plot out a novella in the session!

More details on the event link here and David & I hope to see some of you online.

I can guarantee it'll be fun and you never know, we might even teach you a new trick! Get your tickets and find out!

David & I in his study standing in front of the white board where we'd just finished bashing out the plan for what became ONLY WATCHING YOU.

Tuesday, 20 September 2022

An 80s Newspaper Clipping

A few weeks ago, I was flicking through my copy of Skeleton Crew and found this newspaper clipping.  I can only assume I ripped it out of the Kettering Evening Telegraph (dated 20th September 1986 - 36 years ago!) to take into work so my friends & I could plan what we were going to see at the cinema.  We went a lot in those days.
Just look at that terrific selection of films!    While Cobra was the first 18 certificate I got into (as I wrote about here, though according to my diary I saw it in Corby), I managed to see The Evil DeadRocky IV and Karate Kid 2 at one of the venues shown, at those astonishing prices (I remember a double-bill would cost £2.50 except, I presume, on Mondays and Thursdays).

I loved these places and they held a lot of history for me.  Dad took me to see my first James Bond film at Corby cinema (as I wrote about here), I saw a lot of great films at Kettering (Dad took me and Claire to Star Wars, Nick & I saw Raiders Of The Lost Ark, which I wrote about in What Gets Left Behind, Dad & I saw ET, the list goes on) and when Bentley’s opened it quickly became a favourite.

Attendance must have been falling (probably not helped by the fleapit nature of these cinemas, well past their prime) but the independents were clearly knackered and on their last legs when the multiplexes arrived and did away with them.  Sixfields in Northampton dealt the first blow and the Odeon in Kettering finished the job.  I'm not a big fan of the multiplex (I still go to them, obviously) because to me they feel like heartless, sterile places, more interested in selling food and drinks than anything else.  Yes, Kettering Ohio had holes in the ceiling and seats were missing and it was often better to sit down in the dark so you couldn’t see the state of your seat, but it felt real, like a proper cinema, where everyone there cared about the films.

On the bright side, independent cinemas have made something of a comeback and we often go to the Northampton Filmhouse (which was originally called the Errol Flynn), where Jon & I saw a brace of Hitchcock, Alison & I watched the INXS Live Baby Live film and I took Dad to see Dunkirk where the soundtrack almost rattled the speakers off the wall - it's small and comfortable, well run and shows an eclectic range of films.

 And yes, I know I sound like a dinosaur.
Another clipping I kept, this one from 1982
If we fancied a change, we'd sometimes go to the ABC Northampton (now a Jesus Army Centre) or the Palace Wellingborough (now a pub called The Cutting Room).  Later, when we had our own cars, we'd go to the midnight movie at The Point in Milton Keynes (the only multiplex I ever had any fondness for, it now stands by the MK shopping centre looking knackered and forlorn).

I took this picture in 2005, knowing that the building
would eventually be knocked down and wanting to
have a record of it...
Kettering Ohio started life as the Savoy Cinema, opened as a dual purpose cinema and theatre on 21st May 1938 with Spencer Tracey in The Big City plus a variety show on stage. It was built over the remains of the Coliseum Theatre which had opened in 1910 but burned down in 1937.

The Savoy had 1,150 seats in the stalls and circle as well as a full stage (the Northampton Repertory Company performed regular seasons between 1949 and 1951) and was taken over by Clifton Cinemas on 25th August 1944.  In 1968 the circle was split off to make a smaller (485 seat) cinema called the Studio, with a bingo hall taking over the stalls and stage area.  In 1973 the screen was split into two (known as Studio 1 & 2, seating 160 and 140 respectively).  After briefly closing in 1986, it re-opened as the independent Ohio and finally closed in 1997 when the Odeon opened.

The Ohio is a key location in my novel In The Rain With The Dead (Magellan, the baddie, makes his base there) and I wrote about the cinema as it was being demolished in 2014.



Bentley’s of Burton Latimer was originally The Electric Palace, which opened in August 1914 with an auditorium that seated 500.  It became a Watts Cinema in 1938 but closed in 1960.  In 1985, Ashley Wyatt bought the building, renovated it and opened Bentley’s as a 182-seat cinema in January 1986 though it closed the following year.  It was re-opened in 1994 by Brian McFarlane (who owned the Ohio) but closed soon after.  The venue is now an Italian restaurant.

You can just see the wording "cinema" on the back of the auditoriums.
Photograph from the late 80s.
The Forum Cinema opened on 7th April 1973 as a Jerry Lewis Cinema (part of the US based Network Cinema Corporation), featuring two screens (each seating 325) as part of a new shopping centre being built in Corby.  It was almost immediately bought out by the Walker chain, re-named Oscar cinema and then, in 1980, Focus cinema before Ashley Wyatt took it over in September 1983 and renamed it Forum Cinema.  The number one screen was eventually twinned, with number two becoming a laser quest games centre and the cinema closed (to become an over-25’s nightclub called Talkies) on 24th September 1992.  The Forum Cinema site was demolished in the summer of 2005 when the shopping centre was rebuilt.

I like to think I sound like a wistfully melancholic dinosaur now...

sources:
Cinematreasures.org - Savoy, Kettering
Cinematreasures.org - Forum, Corby
Cinematreasures.org - Bentleys, Burton Latimer

Monday, 5 September 2022

An Interview and Writing Advice

A few weeks back, I was lucky enough to be interviewed by the good people at The Bookshelf Cafe News site.

You can read the whole interview here but I thought I'd put up one of my answers on the blog since it deals with a writing related question I sometimes get asked about character names.

The Bookshelf Cafe: How do you come up with character names for your stories?

MW: I usually have a name fairly soon for the male and female leads though sometimes when David & I are discussing them, we use “Fred and Ginger” so we can keep track of who we’re talking about. The problem there is what when the final names settle in, we’re still calling them Fred or Ginger. For the remainder of the characters, I like to keep it really simple by picking a favourite film or TV show and downloading the imdb cast & crew list. For instance, with DON’T GO BACK, I chose the “Hunter/Hunted” episode from THE PROFESSIONALS TV series and that’s why the baddie has Cowley for a surname. By mixing and matching characters, actors and technicians, you have more than one hundred name combinations in front of you instantly and it saves spending too much time trying to think of names for yourself (and, if you write enough stories, you’ll quickly find you tend to repeat names).

Over the course of the ten-question interview, I talk about what started me off with writing, how I plot and what music I listen to. You can find the rest of my answers on this link.


If you're interested, David & I recorded a little snippet on one of our Friday Night Walks where I talk about the same thing. You can see it on this link here 


To keep up to date with my writing adventures, you can now follow me on Facebook at facebook.com/MarkWestWrites/


You can pick up my books from Amazon on these links:



Monday, 22 August 2022

The Back Garden Play In 1982

Back in November 2020, I blogged about the photo-stories I used to produce (which you can read here).  As well as writing and directing those, I was also one of those annoying "hey, let's put on a play!" kids and, for two summers with friends, forty years ago, I did just that.
The Rasgdale Street Players (from left) - Steven Corton, Claire Gibson, me, Tracy, Caroline Gibson
(from the Kettering Evening Telegraph, August 1982)
The Ragsdale Street Players (we weren't actually called that but, with hindsight and since we lived there, we really should have been) was formed by me and my friend Claire Gibson (who had been in my class during junior school), along with my sister, Tracy and Claire's sister, Caroline.

Our first play, The Evil Of Dr Frankenstein, was performed in the Gibson's back garden during summer 1981.  My friend Nick was going to play the monster but, at the last moment, wasn't able to so he was replaced by a cardboard box robot (as I recall) who thankfully didn't have any lines.  The play was successful with its audience (friends, neighbours and relatives who weren't told what was happening when they were invited over) and I loved it.

After that, I read a book (Graphic Violence On The Screen, by Thomas R. Atkins, which I still have in my library) that included a picture of Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway in Bonnie And Clyde (1967).  I was really taken with it, got other books out of the library about the duo and decided that would be the basis for the 1982 play.

Everyone agreed, I did the research and Claire & I began writing the script on 3rd August (I only know this because 1982 was the first year I kept a diary).  Later entries record us rehearsing (though not every day) and the "for one night only" performance was Wednesday 11th August (we rehearsed morning and afternoon that day).  My diary entry reads:
"The play went down quite well and lots of people came.  
We raised £3.40 for the church tower appeal fund"

Smith & Jones, our play, was in two acts and we even had a singalong in the interval - Steve Corton could play the keyboard and knew the tune to We Are The Champions, which helped because Claire had the lyrics in her Smash Hits and we wrote them on boards for the audience to see.

We took the funds to the church the next day and that, I thought, was going to be it - the play had done well, I basked in the glory, that was us done for another year.  Except, on the Friday, I got a phone call from the local Evening Telegraph and dutifully recorded it in my diary:

"This morning, a lady from the Evening Telegraph phoned me up to say that Canon Cox had contacted them to tell them how much we raised etc.  She is sending a photographer at 2.30pm.  He came earlier and took 5 scenes [I presume I meant poses] but 20 shots.  There were two men."

The picture appeared in the Monday 16th August edition, 40 years ago.  I'm wearing my Indiana Jones fedora (bought the previous summer in Great Yarmouth), Steve is wearing my dad's St John's ambulance hat and we're all holding toy guns.  And seriously, how fantastic is that?
My diary says £3.40 and I stand by that...
The Ragsdale Street Players (I really wish I'd thought to tell the reporter from the ET that) bowed out at the top of their game and Smith & Jones proved to be our final show.  I can't remember much at all of the play, or the performance, but looking at that grainy photograph from the paper always makes me smile.  Claire and Caroline are both still doing very well, you'll be pleased to hear and I went on to appear in several Youth Club pantomimes with Claire as we moved into our teens.  I haven't done much acting since then but, on occasion, I've been known to write the odd thing or two...

Monday, 1 August 2022

Yet More Look-In Cover Art

In 2016 I wrote a Nostalgic post about Look-In (which you can read here), a much loved magazine (‘the junior TV Times’) of my childhood.  Designed and written for kids, it featured the major film stars, pop acts, sports people and TV stars of the day with comic strips, posters (most of the Six Million Dollar Man ones ended up on my bedroom wall) and behind the scenes articles.  It also had, through the late 70s and into the early 80s, painted covers by Arnaldo Putzu, an Italian artist working in London who made his name creating cinema posters in the 1960’s for the likes of Morecombe & Wise, Hammer (Creatures the World Forgot and The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires), the Carry On series and Get Carter (which I wrote about here).  Though other artists sometimes contributed artwork (including Arthur Ranson), his cover reign from 1973 through to 1981 still looks glorious today.

I’ve posted about the covers before (you can read previous posts here, here and here) and so, with a focus on those from 1981 (all of forty one years ago), here’s another small selection of that wonderful artwork.

Enjoy.
It was clearly a big deal for Bond to be on TV then (Dr No was released in 1962, 13 years prior to this edition.  As of today, we're 47 years after this edition, which doesn't feel right at all...)
Steve Austin, the Six Million Dollar Man, a major hero of my childhood
I didn't realise Just William was this old, to be honest - my sister-in-law still jokes about 'scweaming until she maketh herself sick...'
"Heeeyy"
At the time I didn't realise The Latchkey Children was based on the novel by Eric Allen, but I discovered and read it in 2013 (and blogged about it here)
My favourite film of 1981, I blogged about Raiders Of The Lost Ark here

for more, there's a great Look-In archive on Facebook here