Monday 31 December 2012

Goodbye 2012, hello 2013

So here we are, 2012 draws to a close and we look forward to 2013 bringing us bigger and better things.

I had a great 2012 as it goes - in my personal life (joined a gym, got fit, then got injured and got unfit unfortunately), with my family (wife voted Miss Slinky for her Slimming World group and the Dude joined Junior school and took to it like a duck to water), I became a Parent Governor and I had some good publishing credits, including my Spectral Press chapbook “What Gets Left Behind” which has been very favourably received.

So what of 2013?  I don’t usually make resolutions but this year, I’m going to.  And they are:

Love more, less anger
Write more, less procrastination

Bearing in mind that this blog is, at least partly, about my writing, what does 2013 hold for me, creatively speaking?  Well, quite a bit as it happens

* My short “The Witch House” will appear in Anachron Press’ Urban Occult anthology
* My short “Falsche See, On the North German Plain (N is for Nickar)” will appear in Dean M Drinkel’s Demonologica anthology
* My (as yet unwritten) short will appear in the Crystal Lake Publishing anthology For The Night Is Dark
* Two of my shorts - “Empty Souls, Drowning” (a revamp of my 1999 story) and “The Taste Of Her” - will appear in Screaming Spires anthologies
* My short “The Bureau Of Lost Children” will appear in “ill at ease 2”
* My short "World Outside Your Window" will appear in the Second Annual Spectral Press Christmas Ghost Story anthology, edited by Simon Marshall Jones

"What Gets Left Behind" will be reprinted, with an afterword, in the "First Eight Chapbook Volumes" collection from Spectral Press

My novellas “Drive” and “The Lost Film” will appear from Pendragon Press

"Conjure" will be published as an ebook by Greyhart Press, with the interior illustrations re-instated and new cover art.

My (as yet unwritten) short will appear in the next Hersham Horror Books PentAnth - The Anatomy Of Death (in five sleazy pieces) - alongside Stephen Volk, Johnny Mains, Stephen Bacon and Andrew Murray - which I will project manage and co-edit with Peter Mark May.

And that’s what I know, as I write this and so, on that note, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all readers of this blog a very happy, safe and productive New Year!

Monday 24 December 2012

Happy Christmas

I would like to take this opportunity to wish readers of this blog (and their loved ones) a very Happy Christmas and a hale and hearty New Year.

Thank you, as ever, for your continued support and interest - let's hope 2013 brings us all everything we want!

Friday 21 December 2012

The Fourth Annual Westies - review of the year 2012

Well this year seems to have whipped by and so, as we gear up for Christmas, it’s time to remember the good (and not so good) books of 2012. 

It was a really strong field this year (or, alternatively, I made some good reading choices) and places in the top 20 were hard-fought.

So without further ado, I present the Fourth Annual Westies Award - “My Best Fiction Reads Of The Year” - and the top 20 looks like this:

Joint First
Last Days, by Adam Nevill
Whitstable, by Stephen Volk (not actually published until next year)

3:  Silent Voices, by Gary McMahon
4:  Dream A Little Dream, by Sue Moorcroft
5:  Reaping The Dark (not published yet), by Gary McMahon
6:  A Cold Season, by Alison Littlewood
7:  Ceremony, by Robert B Parker
8:  Beyond Here Lies Nothing, by Gary McMahon
9:  Darcie’s Dilemma, by Sue Moorcroft
10:  The 9 Deaths Of Dr Valentine, by John Llewellyn Probert
11:  Into The Penny Arcade, by Claire Massey
12:  Eyepennies, by Mike O’Driscoll
13:  The Widening Gyre, by Robert B Parker
14:  The Way Of The Leaves, by David Tallerman
15:  Taming A Sea-Horse, by Robert B Parker
16:  Marionettes, by Claire Massey
17:  Joe & Me, by David Moody
18:  Videodrome, by Jack Martin (Dennis Etchison)
19:  The Eyes Of Water, by Alison Littlewood
20:  Valediction, by Robert B Parker

The next ten, in no particular order, were:
One Summer In Malta and Where The Heart Is, by Sue Moorcroft, Thin Men With Yellow Faces by Bestwick & McMahon, Hell’s Ditch (critique) by Simon Bestwick, The Butterfly Waltz by Lisa McCarthy, Small Animals by Alison Moore, Black Mirrors by Paul Edwards, The Respectable Face Of Tyranny by Gary Fry, Vampire Circus by Mark Morris and The Howling 2 by Gary Brandner. 

Nothing was spectacularly bad this year, though The Plague Pit by Mark Ronson and The Cartoonist by Sean Costello were both a bit ropey and only garnered 2 stars.

Stats wise, I’ve read 59 books - 35 fiction, 14 non-fiction and 10 comics/nostalgia.  Having not read any Three Investigator books last year - and missing the series - I’m just about to start The Mystery Of The Invisible Dog as my Christmas read and I’m really looking forward to it

Of the 59 books, the breakdown is thus:

5 biographies
25 horror novels
9 film-related
5 drama (includes chick-lit)
4 crime/mystery
1 sci-fi
1 nostalgia
9 humour (including the first two Adrian Moles)

Just in case you’re interested, the previous awards are linked to from here:

Wednesday 19 December 2012

What Gets Left Behind - again!

Following on from it's appearance on Jim Mcleod's excellent Ginger Nuts Of Horror year round-up, plus it's shortlisting on the This Is Horror Awards for short fiction - both of which I'm still reeling from, to be honest, comes the next.

Gef Fox, who favourably reviewed the story earlier this year, has included it in his round-up of favourite novellas/novelette and says; "What Gets Left Behind by Mark West - Spectral Press never disappoints with their limited edition chapbooks, but this one about two boys and a serial killer manage to stand out from a very impressive herd of stories."

Thank you, Gef - and Jim and whoever voted for This Is Horror - this is bloody marvellous

This links to Gef's post

This links to the This Is Horror Awards page

This links back to the Ginger Nuts post

Tuesday 18 December 2012

What Gets Left Behind is shortlisted...

"What Gets Left Behind", my chapbook from Spectral Press (and many thanks must go to Simon Marshall Jones for his faith in it and me), was released in October but had already sold out four months prior to that.

It's not for me to say if it's a good story - I like it a lot, obviously and it touches on themes I'm interested in pursuing, such as old friendships, nostalgia and father/son interaction - but I can say it's picked up some of the best reviews I've ever received.

All of that has been raised another level today, as it's been shortlisted in the Short Fiction Of The Year category of the This Is Horror Awards.

I'm genuinely thrilled and chuffed about this and touched that people have thought enough of Mike and Geoff and the Rainy Day Abductor to nominate me.

Thank you.

Full details here on the This Is Horror site

Thursday 13 December 2012

Guest Blog - Colin F Barnes

As regular readers of this blog will know, I don't generally open this space out for tours (the previous one was the lovely Cate Gardner which, it has to be said, went well).  Having said that, today I have a post from my friend Colin F Barnes, who is doing some very good work at the moment with both his own writing and also his publishing arm, Anachron Press.

So say hello to Colin and take a look at his work - it's very good and well worth your time.

* * * * *
Mark was kind enough to allow me to take over his blog today to talk about my new novel Artificial Evil: Book 1 of The Techxorcist. What is it you might ask? Well let me tell you.

Artificial Evil is the first book in a trilogy. It's a cross between Blade Runner, Mad Max, and The Exorcist. It's set in a near future, post-cataclysmic earth. The few survivors are kept within a dome city run by a so-called benevolent dictatorship called The Family. The problem with the city is that everything is monitored and assessed on a citywide network. Every individual is plugged into this network via an implanted 'Artificial Intelligent Assistant.'

On the face of it, these AIAs are very helpful. Imagine having a smart computer in your head that you can interact with via your mind. That's pretty cool, and there are a lot of very practical applications for such things. Such as: brilliant recall abilities. Image storage and using your eyes as cameras. Computational power outside of your mind. Want to figure out a sum, or calculate something? No problem; give your AIA all the factors and let it do the hard work for you.

However, practicality comes at a great cost: the loss of freedom. Because in the post-cataclysmic world, resources are incredibly short. There are no huge factories building things anymore, there aren't countries or governments or corporations to mine the earth for resources and build infrastructure and technology. There is only the dome and The Family who run it.

Due to the resources being finite, it requires a lot of management to ensure a good standard of living, and health, for everyone. And that's where the network comes in. It monitors everything; the air the population breathes, the energy they consume, the energy they create. All this adds up to a complicated set of factors that go into in the death lottery. To maintain the status quo, and thus the continued existence of humankind, The Family have deemed it necessary to control the population.

A certain amount of children are allowed to be produced only when there are sufficient resources. To achieve this, our main protagonist for the first book, Gerry Cardle, heads up the design of the algorithm that decides the death lottery. When your numbers are up, the network takes over, and via the AIA extinguishes your life and releases your resources into the system. Of course, Gerry himself is exempt from this lottery as he is a very important part of the system, but things take a sinister turn one morning when via his AIA, he's informed that his numbers have come up, and he has just seven days to live.

Thinking it's some kind of practical joke, Gerry heads into work on a Saturday morning to sort it out, but he's refused entry. Lottery winners aren't allowed into governmental buildings. Frustration builds and soon he's in an altercation with security and flung out onto the streets. Such is the confidence and reliance on the network, no one dares question it, even when someone as prominent as Gerry Cardle, the death lottery designer himself, finds his numbers up.

It is at this point he starts to discover what's behind the peculiar occurrence. While coming round from being ejected forcibly from his place of work, he's approached by a hobo resembling a priest. This man, Gabe, informs that he's possessed by a demon and that his code and AIA have been hacked. This has dire consequences not just for Gerry but the entire city. It's the first instance of any security breach.

With the aid of his new friend, and his friend's partner, a young violent hacker called, Petal, Gerry sets about finding the origins of the demon before it's too late.

* * * * *

Colin F. Barnes is a writer of dark and daring fiction. He takes his influence from everyday life, and the weird happenings that go on in the shadowy locales of Essex in the UK.

Growing up, Colin was always obsessed with story and often wrote short stories based on various dubious 80s and 90s TV shows. Despite taking a detour in school into the arts and graphic design, he always maintained his love of fiction and general geekery. Now, as a slightly weathered adult, Colin draws on his experiences to blend genres and create edgy, but entertaining stories.

He is currently working on a Cyberpunk/Techno thriller serial 'The Techxorcist.' which combines elements of Sci-Fi, Thriller, and Horror.

Like many writers, he has an insatiable appetite for reading, with his favourite authors being: Stephen King, William Gibson, Ray Bradbury, James Herbert, Albert Camus,  H.P Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith,  and a vast array of unknown authors who he has had the privilege of beta reading for.


Friday 7 December 2012

"The Mill" picks up another mention!

It's that time of the year again (my round-up is coming soon), when people reflect back on the books they've read over the past year and pass judgement on them (who doesn't love a 'best of'?).

This time it's the turn of Peter Mark May, my friend and occasional partner-in-crime and his list (including all the books he's read which formed the voting pool) can be found on this link.  You really should go and read it but I'll just say that he's declared "The Mill" as his favourite short story/novella.

Thanks Peter, I really appreciate it.  And if you're intrigued, the ebook is still available from Amazon on this link.

Wednesday 5 December 2012

What Gets Left Behind (Ginger Nuts round-up)

Jim Mcleod, who runs the terrific resource Ginger Nuts Of Horror, is putting together his review of books for 2012.  A keen supporter of my work - for which I am very grateful - who highlighted "The Mill" last year, has done me proud once again and included "What Gets Left Behind" in his round-up.

As I write this, my little chapbook is joined with Adam Nevill's masterpiece "Last Days" and I am truly honoured to be in such good company!

Jim says: "I like to think of Mark as the heart of horror, and this story in particular set partially in the present and in the 1980's manages to evoke a huge feeling of loss and nostalgia.  Emotionally written this story shows that horror has a range of styles that most people don't give the genre credit for."

This links back to the Ginger Nuts post

Friday 30 November 2012

Whitstable, by Stephen Volk (a review)

As regular readers of this blog might remember, I occasionally make mention on here of books that really strike me, that I feel ought to get as much attention as is possible.  Well, this post is about just such a book (which, even though I only finished it yesterday, has become my joint favourite read of the year).

When I was at FantasyCon, I went to the Spectral Press readings (my own Spectral Press chapbook - sold out in advance of publication - was delivered over that weekend too), which was a two-hander between Simon Bestwick, a friend of long-standing whose work I admire a great deal  and Stephen Volk, a writer I am - to be frank - somewhat in awe of.  He was reading from a novella called “Whitstable”, which wouldn’t be published until May 2013 and as he described the way his lead character smoked, wearing a glove, I thought ‘that’s Peter Cushing’ - and it was (May 2013 marks the centenary of his birthday).

The reading whetted my appetite and so when Simon Marshall Jones, head honcho of Spectral Press, mentioned that the book was available for pre-order, I put my name down and suggested that if it was possible to read it beforehand, I’d love to do so.  Simon sent me the ms as a Word document and I read it quickly, enjoying and savouring every last word.

This is my review, which I posted at Goodreads.

In 1971, a recently bereaved Peter Cushing locks himself away in his Whitstable home, intending to cut himself off from day-to-day life in order to grieve privately.  For years, as the star of numerous horror films, he has despatched creatures of the night with their fake fangs, pelts and blood but after a trip to the beach and an encounter with a young boy, he quickly discovers that some monsters are human.  With grief weighing heavily on him but a strong desire to protect the innocent, Peter Cushing now faces a very real terror. 

Using certain real-life events, Volk deftly creates a loving - if occasionally harsh and unblinking - fictional biography of an actor most (if not all) genre fans are familiar with and through the strength of his writing, we come to love Peter Cushing, feeling his immense hurt and pain and wanting the absolute best for him.  Interwoven with this is a beautifully underplayed horror story - with no ghosts or ghoulies - where Cushing comes up against Les Gledhill, a man whose step-son-to-be thinks of as a vampire but is, in reality, much worse.  Their two key exchanges, once on the doorstep of Cushing’s house and another, at the local cinema, are fantastic, with tour-de-force writing that managed to enthral, terrify and appal this reader.  In addition, the latter confrontation takes place whilst the two men are watching “The Vampires Lovers” and Volk intersperses scenes from the film in a way I’ve never read before, that is about as cinematic as it’s possible to be on the printed page. 

Richy detailed (1971 is lovingly and painstakingly reproduced and even if you’ve never been to Canterbury, you have been in that tea shop), with some amusing exchanges (Carl, the boy who starts it all off, can’t quite work out what connection this Peter Cushing person might have to Van Helsing ) and nicely written memories (of Morecombe & Wise and the personalities he worked with on the Hammer films) this is the kind of book you wish you could read anew each and every time. 

Darkly elegant and full of almost poetic moments (“Cushing trembled a smile…”), showing the horrors of life and the consequences of losing a beloved whilst also remaining strong in the belief that love is forever, this is a truly beautiful book, scary, moving and hopeful in equal measures, that should be read by everyone who has even a passing interest in the horror genre.  Highly recommended.

If this sounds like your cup of tea, the book can be pre-ordered direct from the Spectral Press website here

Thursday 29 November 2012

a "Short, Sharp Interview"

Over at his "You Would Say That, Wouldn't You?" blog, the crime writer and genre champion Paul D. Brazill conducts a "short, sharp interview" with me.

Check it out here, if you're so inclined.

I still haven't actually done any writing on "Never Tear Us Apart"...

Sunday 25 November 2012

The Passage of time

Today is my lovely Dad’s 69th birthday, we’ve bought him gifts, we’ve got him cards but apart from a small cake, we won’t be celebrating in as much style as I’d like to.

Today is the 9th anniversary of my sister Tracy passing away.  Sometimes it doesn’t feel like nine years since I had that phone call at work, from Mum who was standing in the car park at Leicester, red raw with emotion and running on sorrow and fear and grief.  Other times it does - we now have Dude, Lucy and baby Milly, Sarah is married to Chris, we’re back in Rothwell - but neither state seems or feels right.

Today I shall celebrate the life of my Dad, who is the nicest, kindest man I know and I shall mourn the passing of my sister, who was my constant companion - and often bitter enemy - through my childhood.

Most of all, I’ll give thanks to the fact that I’m part of a loving, warm and incredibly supportive family, who picked me up when I needed it and allowed me to try and pick them up when they needed it too.  Happy birthday to my Dad, a million hugs and kisses and warm thoughts to my beloved Mum & Dad on this day and a hug to my sister, gone but never forgotten.

Us outside Madame Tussauds, March 2003 (Sarah didn't make the trip)

Wednesday 21 November 2012

The Next Big Thing

THE NEXT BIG THING is a chain of book and author recommendations. The way it works is this, one author tags up to five others, who then each tag five others until the Elder Gods are satisfied that we are all hard at work telling their stories and you're all hard at work reading them. 

Stephen Bacon tagged me on his blog and now it's my turn.

1) What is the working title of your next book?
It doesn’t really have one, though I’ve referred to it as “Never Tear Us Apart” a few times (I’m a big INXS fan).

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
As with most of my projects, it’s been rattling around in my head for years and was originally two completely separate stories before they started to entwine with each other.  It deals with a lot of things that I’ve been exploring over the past few years - an out-of-season British seaside town, grief, ghosts and a haunted place.  And love, always love.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I haven’t thought about it, to be honest.  I very rarely do, for me the lead characters are more often than not me and my friends.  Though Isabel Mundy, in Conjure, was definitely Monica Bellucci and Saskia, in The Mill, was Esther Hall.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A couple of lost, lonely people try to connect at an out-of-season seaside town and there’s a house that eats people.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I haven’t even started it yet, though I can say with a good degree of certainty that it won’t be self-published.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
See the answer to question six.  If I’m looking at a full-length novel, the first draft would probably be written anywhere between six months and a year.  Hopefully quicker.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
There isn’t anything in particular that I’m using as a touchstone for this, to be honest, though that might change once I start writing.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
It was a desire to write another novel, to be honest.  I started publishing in the small press in 1999 and worked my way up from short stories to a novel (In The Rain With TheDead) and a short novel (Conjure) and then I hit a writers block that took me out of action for a couple of years.  Since then, I’ve been slowly getting back into things, publishing short stories and novelettes and working my way up to novellas (two are due from Pendragon Press next year).  The next logical step seemed to be another novel and I wanted to write something dark and personal and bleak and scary and now seemed as good a time as any.  I’ve stripped back the premise of my novelette The Mill and used the spine of that for this, plus added in a ghoulish landlord, a man who has ‘the gift’ and a house that’s always hungry.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?
If you like haunted house stories, ghosts and frightening things, I would hope you’d like this.  If, like me, you have a thing about sad coastal towns, this could work for you and I hope the relationship angle would touch people too.

And now for the tagging... You can read their answers to the same questions on Wednesday 28th November.

Go for it, Andrew Murray, Neil Williams, Jay Eales, Steve Harris and David Price

Tuesday 20 November 2012

Bye bye, typewriter

On the way into work this morning, I heard the news that the last typewriter to be built in the UK has been produced at Brother, in North Wales.

Although I haven't used a typewriter for years, this is still sad news - I wrote (and published) my earliest stories on an old Remington upright my Dad rescued from work (which explains my 3-fingers-and-a-thumb on each hand typing method) and being able to produce readable, professional looking pages was like opening a door to a new world.

I progressed to an Olympia, with which I wrote four ‘novels’ and my Three Intrepids mystery series and I never looked back.  At school, with a small gap in my timetable, I had to take either typing or needlework to fill the space and chose the former, quickly getting my RSA.  However, once I started work and saw what computers and their word processors could do (I loved Q&A Write and resisted Word for a long time) I never looked back but there’s something delightfully nostalgic about the whole typewriter business.  I loved the sound of the keys clacking (and often getting stuck), the way you always got blue and red on your fingers when you changed the ribbon, the ding of the carriage return and those little thumb-wide strips of Tippex paper. Ah, history...

Brother, who say they’ve made 5.9 million typewriters at their Wrexham factory since it was opened in 1985 have donated the last machine to London’s Science Museum.  Pretty soon, I imagine, it’ll be like cassette tapes, where kids look at them and say “you used to use this?”

My kid sister Sarah, learning to type in 1985

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Guest post at Sue Moorcroft's blog

My good friend Sue Moorcroft is a great writer and a great person.  We first met in 1999, at Kettering Writers Group, where she & I were the only published writers.  As she says, “[we] sat at the back and sniggered, passed notes and probably annoyed everyone else. We also set up a critiquing partnership that endured.

I’ve had the pleasure of critiquing all but two of her six novels (and some of her sparkling novellas) - her latest is sitting in my Inbox waiting for me - I’ve loved them all (my personal favourite is All That Mullarkey, because I fancy the heroine).  Click here to find out more about her books at Amazon.

To celebrate the publication of her latest novel, Dream A Little Dream - new out from Choc Lit and well worth a read - she has been running a blogathon and asked me to be a part of it.  My entry appears today, it’s about dreams and I’m thrilled to be included so why not click the link below, have a read and support Sue!

me and Sue, at Alt-Fiction, Leicester, April 2012

No more tours for INXS

I'm an INXS subscriber and received an email today, a press release that's also posted on their site (which you can read here in full).  Basically, they're not going to tour any more, which I suppose means - taking into account the word retirement - that they're splitting up.

“We understand that this must come as a blow to everybody, but all things must eventually come to
an end. We have been performing as a band for 35 years, it’s time to step away from the touring

“Our music will of course live on and we will always be a part of that.”

“We would like to express our heartfelt thanks to all the friends and family that have supported us
throughout our extensive career. Our lives have been enriched by having you all as a part of the
As regular readers of this blog will know, I'm a massive INXS fan and have been since accompanying an ex-girlfriend to their 'Summer XS' gig at Wembley stadium, in 1991.  I saw them again, with Alison, at DeMontfort Hall in Leicester as part of the 'Get Of Out The House' tour (this blog post is kind-of about that), then at the NEC in 1997, as they supported 'Elegantly Wasted'.  After Hutchence's death, we saw them again - at the NEC - with Jon Stevens on vocals and whilst it wasn't a bad concert, it didn't really work for me.  I avoided the whole Rockstar thing and the album 'Switch' (though Alison likes it a lot) and we saw them last year, at the Clapham Common gig (see here).

There was also a link on their Twitter feed to a Rolling Stone article from 1988, when they were in the prime as the mighty KICK album was just starting to take over the world and it makes great reading (here's the link).  Reading that brought home the fact that, for me, the true INXS sound ends with the suicide of Michael Hutchence and it's been 15 years since he departed.  Having said that, they're a great live act and their gigs were always worth going to, so it's a real shame.

“It’s been 35 years for INXS as a live touring band and unbelievably it’s been 15 years ago since we
lost Michael” said Jon Farriss.
“We lived for each other in the trenches and we loved each other. It was the six of us against the
world and then suddenly and inexplicably we were but five. We were lost right at the moment we
were on top.”
As Jon Farriss says, “INXS’ touring days could never last forever. We wanted it to end on a high. And it has.”

Thanks for everything, boys, for the pleasure you've given me and millions of others over the years and rest assured that I'll be listening to your music for a long time to come.

Long live INXS.

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Bonfire night

A conversation yesterday:

Dude:  Dad, can you get some sparklers on your way home from work?
Me:     Yes, of course I will


Dude: Yay, sparklers.
Me:    Okay, hold still, I'm just going to light it.
Dude: Light it? What're you doing, are you setting fire to it? Dad, what're you doing?

(by the last sparkler in the pack, he was enjoying himself...)

Wednesday 31 October 2012

Disney Buys Lucasfilm

The news broke yesterday that Disney has bought Lucasfilm from George Lucas for $4.05bn (roughly £2.5bn), taking on all of the related companies such as Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), LucasArts and Skywalker Sound.  Lucas was already planning to step down from the company and had positioned Kathleen Kennedy (who produced a lot of Steven Spielberg films through the 80s and 90s, including the Indiana Jones films) to take over and she will continue to run Lucasfilm, with George taking on a creative consultant role for new Star Wars films.

Yes, new Star Wars films.  The plan is for a new one, episode seven, to be released in 2015 which will be followed by episodes eight and nine, than a new movie every two or three years.

Lucas was quoted as saying “It's now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of film-makers”.  A treatment for episode seven has already been written by Lucas, with outlines in place for episodes eight and nine.

In Skywalking, Dale Pollock’s excellent biography of George Lucas, the evolution of the Star Wars saga is thoroughly detailed and my understanding of it was that seven, eight and nine would deal with the heroes of the original trilogy, after the Empire had been vanquished.  I can’t really see them rounding up the original cast and the “expanded universe” has worked on events after “Return Of The Jedi” (including the Timothy Zahn novels that kicked everything back off in the early 90s), so I’m not sure what they’ll be about but I imagine that there’ll be a lot of CGI bangs, bashes and crashes.

I should state that I’m a fan of the original trilogy.  It opened in this country in December 1977, so I would have probably seen it in early 1978 making me eight or nine, the perfect age to fall in love with this spectacular space saga.  And I did fall for it, in a big way, to the extent that I still rank “Star Wars” as my favourite film and I’m now busy collecting vintage toys to share with my own little boy.

Does this news worry me?  When I saw the article yesterday, that thought did cross my mind.  I wasn’t a fan of the prequels (I didn’t like Jar Jar Binks, I wasn’t overly impressed with the CGI onslaught) but then, was I really the target audience?  Did George owe it to me and my generation to make a film that we wanted, rather than a film that would appeal to everyone including kids who weren’t even thought of when the original films came out?  At the time, I did feel like that, I felt like he’d sold out the whole saga, filling it with stupid characters and events that almost derided the quality of the original trilogy.  But did it?  Of course, the answer is no - I still love the first three films, the first three films still exist (in various different formats) and nothing can remove that.  Does it worry me that people associate Star Wars with Darth Maul or the Clone Troopers now (well, the latter does because I love the look of the Stormtroopers, but hey…)?  Not any more because the prequels were there for other people, the kids who’d missed out the first time and could buy into the hoopla this time around.

I will admit to a vague worry that since Disney now has it, the film will become more of a testing ground for merchandising opportunities and that is a concern, but all they’ll do is exploit what’s there.  Imagine “Return Of The Jedi” being made today, the gallery of grotesques in Jabba’s Palace would be a goldmine for soft toy manufacturers (whereas at the time, we had the Palitoy figures to collect - and collect them we did).

My love for “Star Wars” hasn’t been diminished by the prequel trilogy, the expanded universe or the Clone Wars cartoon and so it won’t be diminished by whatever comes in the future.  But how about, for a change, a fan of the original trilogy looks for the positive?  This news means that there will be at least three more Star Wars films made and I’ll watch them, even if they don’t touch me in the same way.  But I’ll be able to take Dude to the cinema to see them, we’ll be able to share that universe together (and he will obviously know the history of it all too) and if it opens up a whole new generation of fans, then my beloved Original Trilogy will live on even longer - and that can’t be a bad thing.

source - BBC News

Monday 22 October 2012

"What Gets Left Behind" continues to shine!

“What Gets Left Behind” continues to pick up some nice notices, as the chapbook gets out to the subscribers.  As I mentioned before, it’s always great to see something that you wrote connecting with people and in that spirit, I’ll share some of the reviews here!

First up, R. B. Harkness posted his review up at Goodreads (which can be seen on this link).  He says “Loved Mark West's style in this short story, wonderfully atmospheric, with deeply vivid descriptions.”

Gary Fry posted to the Spectral Press Facebook page (which can be seen on this link).  In an in-depth, articulate and critical review he writes, “I enjoyed this chapbook – an effective example of what we might call ‘nostalgic horror’ (hey, we 40-somethings dominate the field now) [with] nice, crisp writing, and well paced suspense. The ending, too, is strong, with a lot of suggestive material contributing towards a well-timed last few lines.” 

Dave Jeffery, also at Goodreads (which can be seen on this link) says “Mark West uses the evocative tenets of nostalgia and grief to weave a ‘coming of age’ tale that throbs with regret. The writing has a smooth sheen and the reader glides through the narrative with ease.”

Staying at Goodreads (see the review on this link), Gef Fox writes The atmosphere of early 80s, small town Britain is captured about as crisply as one could ask for. Despite a few mentions of local trivia, this Canadian was able to get swept right up in the tale.  The boyish mix of naivety and intrepidness came through with remarkable clarity, to the point that it rivals any Stephen King yarn like The Body.

Finally, for now, Anthony Watson, over at Dark Musings (click this link to see itsays, “High standards have already been set in this series of chapbooks (this is number 7) so the question is whether this new story by Mark West maintains those standards. The answer is a resounding yes, something that will come as no surprise to anyone who's read any of Mark's previous work.”

Friday 19 October 2012

The Concrete Grove Trilogy, by Gary McMahon

Gary McMahon, in my opinion, is in contention for the “next big thing” mantle in UK horror (currently sharing said status with Adam Nevill).  I’m not the only person who thinks that, clearly, though as a point of interest, I should mention that he’s my friend and I often critique his work in draft.

I'm writing this blog post because I’ve just finished "Beyond Here Lies Nothing", the third book in his “Concrete Grove” trilogy.  As a collection, I think it’s a work of brilliance, with each volume not only working superbly well as a stand-alone novel, but also fitting into the cycle and contributing to the mythology of this godforsaken council estate.

Here are my thoughts on the trilogy, with my reviews which were originally posted to Goodreads.

The Concrete Grove (critiqued in draft)
The Estate had no formal name, it was just a grouping of streets.  But the locals called it the Concrete Grove.  Lana Fraser has been forced to move there, along with teenaged daughter Hailey, following the death of her husband.  Quickly getting herself deeply in debt with the local crimeboss, Monty Bright, she gives him her body to help pay off the sum.  But he wants more, specifically Hailey, who may just know more about the supernatural powers in the Grove than anyone realises.

This is Gary McMahon at his best, writing prose that almost seems to seethe, vibrating with anger and energy as it details the depths to which people can plummet.  Set in a depressingly real environment (very cleverly realised, sometimes painful to read) but touched with flashes of the fantastic and phantasmagorical, the Grove becomes a character in its own right, as details of its history are slowly revealed.  For a work that feels so epic, this has a surprisingly small cast - Lana and Hailey, Bright and his lead henchman Francis Boater (both terrifying characters, one almost supernatural, the other not so) and Tom, who begins a tentative relationship with Lana as his bedridden wife slowly turns into a sea creature.  But these characters fill the space admirably well, pulling the reader into the depths of their despair until we finally see the Grove in its true light - though, bearing in mind this is book one of a trilogy, I imagine we’ll see much more further down the line.

This is a terrific book, assured and dark, painful and pitiless, that maintains a cracking pace from start to finish and is aggressively individual whilst subtly nodding its head towards ‘Weaveworld’-era Clive Barker.  A fantastic read, if the other two books are anywhere near the quality of this, “The Concrete Grove Trilogy” is destined to become a series to be reckoned with.

Silent Voices
Twenty years ago, three ten-year-old boys - The Three Amigos - went missing in The Needle, in Concrete Grove.  When they were found, nobody knew what had happened to them, the boys included, but it tainted their lives and their friendship.  Now, Simon is a successful property developer in London, Marty is a hard man and Brendan is a lost soul, the only one with family but ground down by life.  Simon is haunted by the past and, spurred on by mysterious letters and emails, he decides to head back to the Grove - and his old friends - and see if he can uncover the truth.
Welcome back to The Concrete Grove, the second in McMahon’s trilogy about that eponymous hell-hole of an estate.  Moving on from the events in book one (Hailey and Bingo re-appear, the former with seemingly more to do with the Grove than we’d originally thought), this spends a lot of time getting to know the three leads, how their lives are and how they’ve changed since their childhood (we get some flashbacks to them as ten-year-olds) and the book works fantastically well because of that.  We are shown their pain, we are shown how it affects - and sometimes runs - their lives, we are made to empathise with their existence.  Simon is a millionaire, with a Russian lingerie model girlfriend, who feels that something is missing from his life.  Brendan has a wife and children that he loves - and who love him dearly (Jane, his wife, is wonderfully developed and rounded, even though a lot more of her story is hinted at than shown) - but he’s one of life’s losers.  The same can’t be said for Marty who was psychologically and physically scarred by his father and continues to push his body and his hard-man existence to extremes.  An occasional doorman, he lost his boxing licence after an accident that killed the only girl he ever truly loved and now he takes part in illegal bare-knuckle fights.  The moments of horror all focus on the main characters - Brendan and his acne, his son and a small bird (a scene that is very disturbing) and Marty’s fight with an untrained Polish opponent is as brutal as anything I’ve read in a long time.
The construction of the novel is pitch-perfect, doling out just enough information to keep the plot moving forward, allowing the reader to piece it all together - who is Captain Clickety, what are the hummingbirds doing, why is Bingo in The Needle, why is Marty obsessed with Humpty Dumpty?  We see more of what’s powering the grove, more of what’s inside The Needle and the confrontation between good and evil that doesn’t end here.

Gary McMahon is one of those writers who constantly ups his game, delivering more power and emotion with every new work.  I thought “The Concrete Grove” was an astonishing achievement, moving away from straight horror into something that was much more of a horror/urban fantasy hybrid, but this novel tops that, pushing both sub-genres further.  He barely puts a foot wrong, immersing the reader completely into the world, writing with strength and passion about friendship, family history, urban history, location and sins of the past and it’s genuinely brilliant stuff.  I've been lucky enough to read “The End” (awaiting publication) and since I did, I've considered it my favourite McMahon novel - this runs it very close and has perhaps his bleakest climax so far.
With “Silent Voices”, Gary McMahon writes about childhood and friendship and how adults can perhaps reclaim the past and he does it superbly, with as much love and tenderness and bleakness and brutality as we've come to expect from him.  I can’t wait to find out what the third Concrete Grove has to offer us.

Beyond Here Lies Nothing
The third part of the Concrete Grove trilogy, this extremely accomplished piece of work has four main strands - Marc Price is writing a book about the Northumberland Poltergeist phenomenon in the 70s; Abby Hansen, a physical and emotional wreck whose daughter Tessa was one of the ‘Gone Away Girls’ (young girls kidnapped by persons unknown and still missing); Craig Royle, a copper who is struggling to keep himself together, haunted as he is by the ‘Gone Away Girls’ and Erik Best, a gangland thug who is a colleague of Marty, from ‘Silent Voices’ (and Tessa’s father). 

To explain more of the plot would be to the detriment of the reading (though I should mention the scarecrows, which is a scary image brilliantly used) but it’s as strong and uncomfortable as its two sister volumes, whilst at the same time upping the mythology of The Grove. 

With some powerhouse writing and a huge sense of scale, McMahon brings the trilogy to an almost apocalyptic finale, never once losing track of the fact that however explosive everything else is, the book runs on the strength of its characters.  Here, as ever, he displays a fine touch, investing even minor characters with quirks and personality that make what happens to them all the more interesting.  Nicely tying up threads from the previous two books (it was good to see Tom Stains again), this is horror with ambition, not afraid to tackle the human condition whilst placing it in mythological, almost fantastical realms at times and makes me want to see the next McMahon book on the shelves right now!  A stunning read, very highly recommended.

Thursday 18 October 2012

A film review

Geraldine Clark Hellery is running a 30 Days Of Horror season on her blog. A fellow contributor to the Fox Spirit "Tales Of The Nun & Dragon", she asked me if I'd like to contribute a review of one of my favourite horror films.

 How could I resist?

The review is here 


Monday 15 October 2012

The Millennium Falcon And Me

On February 11th 2011, I wrote a blog post (linked here) where I talked about the nostalgic fix that you can get from old, childhood toys.

Whilst I am nostalgic, I do very much appreciate the times that I live in because through the wonders of eBay and little retro toyshops (such as the one I use, The Leicester Vintage & Old Toy Shop), I’ve been able to piece together bits of my childhood that had disappeared in the sands of time or through passing down to various cousins.  I now have almost the entire collection of Three Investigator books, for example, in the early 80s Armada editions (I just need TheSecret Of Skeleton Island now) and I now have a (vintage) Stormtrooper army (something I didn’t have as a child but always wanted).

Dude & I were in Leicester on Saturday and we called into the shop, as we always do when we’re in town.  We wandered around, checking the shelves and then I spotted a Palitoy Millennium Falcon.  The Millennium Falcon!  I really wanted one of those when I was 9 but never got one and although I’d seen them around in the past, at toy fairs and the Memorabilia at the NEC, I’d always been struck by two things - a) they’re expensive and b) where the hell would I put it?  Standing next to the Falcon was an AT-ST Walker that Dude said he would like, to go along with the one I already have.  I pondered his request, whilst he & I checked out this Falcon (which wasn’t cheap, but was nowhere near as dear as most you see) and it suddenly occurred to me - if I didn’t buy it, I’d probably regret it.  So I did and Dude & I walked back to the car, a pair of excitable kids and I wondered just what Alison would make of it (her response - “very nice, where are you going to put it?”).

The purchase gave us the excuse to get the old Star Wars toys out (I gave Dude all of the ones I bought in the late 90s, when the films were re-issued), we watched some of the films and had a great time.  Yesterday afternoon, we set up camp on the patio table with a toothbrush each and a bowl of hot water (with Ariel washing liquid) and scrubbed the Falcon until it shone.  We’ve done the outside and the removable parts, the inside and underside are on for next weekend and it looks good.

Last night, as I put Dude to bed, he asked if the Falcon was mine, or ours.  I told him it was for both of us, that if he ever wanted to play with it, he could do.  You see, as much as I love it and as much as it means something to me as a relic from my childhood, it’s not designed to sit on a shelf somewhere gathering dust.  It’s a toy, a hark back to an age where you saw the film at the cinema and then recreated the action with the toys rather than video games - it’s supposed to be played with.

And I'm happy to finally be in a position where I can.
Sorry, no, I meant where Dude can.  Yes, that's what I meant...

Wednesday 3 October 2012

New reviews for "What Gets Left Behind"

Two new reviews to report on, following FantasyCon and the release of "What Gets Left Behind".

The first comes from Paul Holmes (Pablo Cheesecake to his friends) who has been very supportive of my writing in the past and when I met him and his lovely wife at FantasyCon, he mentioned he'd read "What Gets Left Behind".  He smiled and nodded, though I daren't ask if he liked it or not.

Turns out he did like it and this is my favourite pull quote from the whole thing:

"West is part of a small group of authors that I’ve come across who are particularly gifted when it comes to capturing the sights and sounds of childhood."

You can read the whole of the review here.

That's brilliant, I've always wanted to do something that really captured childhood and it appears that I might just have done it with this tale!

* * *

The second review comes from James Everington at Scattershot Writing, who has also been very supportive of my writing and I was keen to see what he thought.  Thankfully, he liked it!

My favourite bit:

"West's evocation of the 80s is note perfect - not just in the period details like Star Wars t-shirts and Noel Edmonds (and excitingly for this reader East Midlands Today!) but in the recreation of a time when no one had mobile phones and kids played outside at "the Rec" because there was nothing else to do."

You can read the whole of the review here

Tuesday 2 October 2012

FantasyCon, Brighton, 28th September to 30th September 2012

Friday 28th September
Jay & Selina picked me up at 10.30 and we made good time - it wasn’t as sunny and hot as last year, so we didn’t have to share the road with a lot of opportunistic weekend holidaymakers.  Creating a new tradition, we stopped off at Pease Pottage again, had lunch and I got to stretch my legs - my heel is still sore and so I’m still limping.

By the time we got to Brighton, it was about 2pm and Selina & I took the bags in whilst Jay went to park the car.  Saw Paul & Cath Finch, who remarked they knew more about Dude than me recently from my Facebook feed and talked about their son’s rugby, then went into the hotel.  We got booked into the rooms whilst there wasn’t a queue, then booked into the Con - and seeing the smiley faces of Helen Hopley and Pixie Pants is always a good thing.  This year, topping the Jo Fletcher Books canvas bag of 2011, the goodies were in a proper bag (courtesy of PS Publishing) and I think pretty much everyone used theirs all weekend - I know I did.

I went to check my room, which was in the basement.  It was nice enough but only had an unopenable skylight (it wasn’t, as it transpired) and so I went back to the desk to see if I could change (since I get a little claustrophobic).  The hotel was full for the night, so I gave up and went to the Fear magazine launch.  John Gilbert was on hand and it was good to talk to him and I also met up with Steve Harris and John Worley.  We got chatting, as we normally do, about sleazy 70s/80s horror and were having a right old time and when I mentioned my room, Steve suggested we swap.  He reckoned he’d only be getting a couple of hours kip a night so wouldn’t have a problem with the basement (nearer the bar and dealers room, he said).  So we swapped and I moved into his 3rd floor corner room which looked out on the pier -very nice (I did feel guilty about swapping, but he was adamant).

Went into the dealers room and said hi to Chris Teague, who was setting out the new Gary McMahon collection.  Gary & Emily came along then and whilst he signed, Emily & I chatted for ages about work and schools, joined by Simon Kurt Unsworth.  They had copies of “What Gets Left Behind” (and wanted me to sign them), which looked very nice.  Met up with Peter Mark May, then headed up to the bar when I bumped into Simon & Lizzie Marshall-Jones, of Spectral Press.  Simon gave me my contributor copies of the chapbook (and it does, seriously, look very nice) and two Spectral badges, one for me and one for Dude.  Met and chatted with Mick & Debs Curtis, Gary Cole-Wilkin & Soozy Marjoram, then had a wander and said hello and got into little conversations here and there (Mathew F Riley said he was looking forward to the chapbook, I said I hope he didn’t get his hopes up too high!).  Saw Adam Nevill en route and stopped to have a quick word with him.  I thanked him again for “Last Days” and he thanked me for my promotion of it and the faked book cover.  Good see to him and fingers crossed for the awards on Sunday (he’s up for best novel with “The Ritual”).

Arranged to go to dinner with Jay & Selina, Peter, David Price, Stuart Young, Stuart Hughes and Richard Farren Barber and we set off to find an Indian restaurant that Jay was keen to sample.  In a repeat from last year, the restaurant eluded the SatNav of both Jay and Richard though when we did find it (I stopped a passerby and asked them), they didn’t have room for us.  We ended up in a buffet Indian which wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t brilliant and the eight of us were squashed around one table.

Back to the hotel for the Pendragon Press launch, which was delayed for a bit and then the Spectral one, where I chatted with Anna Taborska and met up with Pablo and Mrs Cheesecake - good people all.  John Llewellyn Probert, whose collection “The Nine Deaths Of Dr Valentine” was launching, was in fine form and the crowd was almost eating out of his hand.  Saw Dean Drinkel there too and had a chat with him, about horror in general and the demon anthology he’s editing (that I’m writing a story for).  Headed into the raffle with Ross Anthony Warren and Paul & Mandy Edwards but didn’t win anything (though Ross later gave me a copy of James Herbert’s “Haunted), so nipped up to hear the readings from Gary McMahon and Simon Bestwick (both excellent).  Back down to the bar, where I had a quick chat with Sarah Pinborough who’d hurt her back and then sat with Tim Taylor and Paul Melhuish, from my writing group (Tim is also Greyhart Press) and Ross.  We were joined by Stu and Graeme Reynolds and talked the hind legs off a donkey until the early hours - Graeme nipped out for a fag, Ross went on a beer run, I called it a night.

Saturday 29th September
A nice and sunny day.  I went down to breakfast and sat with Paul Melhuish, then went to the Alchemy Press launch in Bar Rogue as Selina has a story in The Book Of Ancient Wonders, edited by Jan Edwards and Jenny Barber (both of whom were visibly thrilled to be there).  I was really pleased for Selina, especially since she’s blaming my poking her into action for her sudden rash of publishing achievements!  Wandered back into the lounge, where Robert Spalding collared me - we’d passed each other two or three times but had been en route, so it was nice to sit down for a bit.  Mark Lachlan came by and we had a chat, then Adele Wearing and Kat Heubeck (of Unbound) joined us - I haven’t seen Kat since The Staff Of Life recording and it was good to catch up with her and it’s always a pleasure to see Adele.

Gavin Williams, Stuart Young and me, in front of the pier

Caught the start of the Titan Books launch and got Danie Ware to sign her book, then went up to Jon Oliver’s reading which was very good (and got a nice reaction from the audience at an OAP sex scene).  Rather than risk the lounge and the James Herbert signing, I went into The Lanes for lunch with Stu Young (and no, we didn’t find any secondhand bookshops this time) and Gavin Williams, the latter of whom has his short film “Sleepworking” showing.  Back to the hotel for the Solaris giveaway (though I didn’t pick anything up) and a chat, then I headed for the dealers room.  As I crossed the restaurant, Johnny Mains called me over.  He and Mary Danby were sitting in the corner whilst they signed hardback copies of her collection “Party Pieces” and so I got to have a chat with her and tell her how much I loved her Armada Ghost books during the 70s - great stuff.  After chatting in the dealer room for a while, I went up to the Russell Room where Mark Morris interviewed Guest Of Honour Mark Gatiss - it was a great interview, with some top quality questions and Gatiss was a superb interviewee, funny and knowledgeable and really down to earth.  I caught up with Steve Harris and Gavin Williams on the way back and chatted with them for ages, then joined Paul & Mandy Edwards, Selina and Jan Edwards for yet another chat.

 In the dealers room, with Selina Lock, me, Richard Farren Barber, Stuart Young

All too soon, it was time for dinner (Jay & Selina are die-hard Dr Who fans so we had a time restriction), so we gathered the troops and headed out.  On this particular expedition, we had Peter Mark May, me, Mandy & Paul, Stuart Hughes, Richard, Paul, Jay & Selina and Stu and, of course, there were too many of us to fit in the American diner.  Instead, we went next door to Steak-On-Sea and had a fantastic meal there, where conversational topics ranged right across the board.  

In the steak house - Stuart Hughes, Paul Edwards, Mandy Edwards, me, Peter Mark May, Stuart Young, Jay Eales, Selina Lock, Paul Melhuish, Richard Farren Barber

Jay & Selina left and the rest of us took our time heading back to the hotel where I managed to miss Alison Littlewood’s reading, which annoyed me.  Finally got up to the reading room for the joint John Llewellyn Probert/Stephen Volk Spectral half-hour and that was great fun - John’s brilliantly theatrical anyway and Steve’s tale, featuring the gentleman Peter Cushing was wonderful.  Back downstairs with Stuart, Jay & Selina, we tried some of the Evening Entertainment but it didn’t grab my attention, so I headed down for the film show.  This year, it was held in the Fitzherbert which wasn’t ideal - the room (like the rest of the hotel) was suffering with having the heating on, the air con units were noisy (and didn’t appear to work) and Health & Safety had apparently decreed that some of the lights had to stay on.  Oh well.  The programme had changed and Paul Kane’s film “Wind Chimes” was showing.  I like Paul, we go back a long way, but when he said his film was inspired by walking through a children’s graveyard and featured child mortality, I had to make my excuses and leave.  I felt even worse for leaving when I realised there weren’t too many in the audience.  Back to the bar, for a quick chat about Takeshi Miike films with Gary McMahon, Graeme Reynolds and Neil Buchanan, then back to the film show for Gavin’s short.  It was a very good, visually impressive (especially for the budget) and drew a good sized audience.  After he finished the Q&A, I went back up to Bar Rogue and met up with the NSFWG writers group contingent.

I think we might have been singing along to Donna Summer here...

The disco had already started and, being a self-conscious idiot, I was going to give it a miss until I heard DJ Rio Youers dedicate a song for Gary McMahon.  Stu & I, curious, wandered over to see what it was and Gary danced all the way through Footloose.  That, combined with seeing Paul & Mandy on the dancefloor, made up my mind and I spent the next two and a half hours happily dancing the night away (though pogo-ing with my injured heel perhaps wasn’t the wisest thing).  Singing along heartily to an inspired collection of 80s tunes (Sarah Pinborough apparently put together the playlist and it was very good), with an ever fluctuating gang of fellow dancers in our ‘circle’ (Peter May, Paul, Chris Teague, Emily McMahon, Lee Harris, Paul & Mandy and a whole load of people I didn’t recognise), we all ‘partied like it was 1999’ and I bloody loved it.  They closed off with two slower numbers and it was just like being back at school - some hardy souls kept dancing, but mostly the boys took to one side of the room and the girls to the other and some people (looking at you, Paul Melhuish and Chris Teague!) shouted “Metal, metal!”.  Back to the bar for some quick chats (difficult with seriously ringing ears), then back to the room for 3.15am.

Sunday 30th September
Woke up to find my ears were still ringing and, as predicted, all that pogo-ing had made my heel feel worse.  Oh well.  Sat with Steve Harris for breakfast and we almost (only almost) finished our epic, ongoing Fulci conversation and talked about what a great weekend it’d been so far.  I then went through to the Greyhart Press launch (of Paul’s book and Nigel Edwards’ two collections), some of which I’d critiqued at the writing group.  Unfortunately, we were in the lounge bit and people sat around us so we didn’t really get any attention - it probably looked like a group of friends sitting around, chilling out with piles of books on the table.  However, I did manage to sell Steve a copy of “The Mill”, bringing sales to a total of three (by me) for the weekend.

Me & Steve Harris

It was then the Hauntings launch and Ian got us all sorted out in the end part of the bar (where Forbidden Planet usually has their shop area).  I sat between Ben Baldwin and Alison Littlewood and our fellow signatories included Adele Wearing, Amanda Hemingway (who said “Hello, how are you?” to me in her urgent, clipped tones and I was just as keen to please her as I had been back at the Staff Of Life!), Kim Lakin-Smith, Paul Kane (I apologised again about the film show), Mark Morris (and I thanked him for the Mark Gatiss interview - he later emailed me to point out we hadn’t had our Three Investigators chat yet!), Adrian Tchaikovsky and Rob Shearman.  There was a real buzz in the air and there were a lot of people milling around and we signed a lot of books.  We also had a good laugh amongst ourselves, which was nice.

Alison Littlewood and me, "giggly schoolkids" taking it in turns to pull faces...

With Stuart Young looking on, Paul Kane and Adrian Tchaikovsky act professional.  
Alison and I act serious.

Went to the dealer room, chatted with Stu and Peter, then went for lunch with Jay & Selina.  We tried the American diner again but, once again, it was full so we wandered along the front a bit further and found a lovely Italian place that did a fantastic pizza.  Selina went to get the car and Jay & I walked back to the Albion, meaning to say our goodbyes.  We got as far as finding Simon Bestwick & Cate Gardner in the terrace area, John Worley and Roy Gray joined us and we didn’t get any further.  Said goodbye to Lisa Jenkins on the steps, then loaded the car up and Steve Harris came out to shake my hand and we were off.

We followed the Awards ceremony via Twitter on the drive home and I was pleased with the results, especially Angela Slatter getting short story and Adam Nevill winning for “The Ritual”.  If there’s any justice, “Last Days” will be nominated next year and he’ll do the double!

Another great con, over all too quickly but bloody hell, it was brilliant fun!

Leg’s still sore though…

photographs by me, Ian Whates and Fergus (Hauntings signing) and Jonathan Green (disco)