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)