I was lucky enough to feature in the first PentAnth from Hersham Horror Books, Fogbound From Five and had great fun with that so when Pete May asked if I wanted to edit my own, I jumped at the chance.
Free to pick my own theme, I decided to go for one of the ‘phases’ that I have a particular fondness for (as a kid of the 70s and 80s), namely that explosion of ‘sleazy’ horror that ran from the early 1970s. Think of the films of Hammer, Amicus and Pete Walker or the slim, gory and gruesome paperbacks from NEL, Corgi, Star, Hamlyn, Futura et al and you won’t go far wrong. It was a time of sex and violence, of pulpy horror and gratuitous nudity, of demons and monsters and no limit to what the writers would expect you to believe.
To fill out my collection, I decided to aim high first and contacted Stephen Volk. Perhaps best known for Ghostwatch, Afterlife, The Awakening and Ken Russell’s Gothic, he’s a writer I’m in awe of and his story, an envelope-pusher if ever there was one, was ideal - grim, gruesome but also blackly comic. A Pete Walker film made in type.
Johnny Mains, a true supporter of 70s horror, presented me with a blackly comic, rude and undeniably gruesome story that would have fitted the heyday of those garish paperbacks to a tee.
Stephen Bacon contributed a quieter tale that tells of the sins of the past coming back to haunt the present, the deliberate pace and atmosphere recalling something Hammer might have produced in the period.
John Llewellyn Probert came onboard with a wonderful Victorian drama, featuring a young lady in distress, something terrible from the Thames and a threat to London. It cannot be read without picturing Peter Cushing as the lead character.
For my story, I decided to embrace the period. I read a stash of 70s/80s horror paperbacks and had great fun with London during the 1976 heatwave and a glamour photographer who gets tangled up with a monstrous ‘beast’. I’m proud to share space with these fine writers and their stories.
I produced the cover art for the first two PentAnths (co-designing the first with Neil Williams) and we went through many iterations on this project (my teaser, blogged about here, got a lot of good feedback though unfortunately we couldn’t track the rights through Robert Hale). In the end, we decided on a simple graphic and I think it works well.
I've had great fun doing this. It was a real pleasure dealing with writers I admired, I loved writing my story and I've had a great relationship with Peter Mark May during the process. I’m not sure I’d like to edit again but it’s been an experience and I hope the finished product does what it’s supposed to do - thrill, sicken, terrify and entertain!
If you're intrigued, the book is available from the following sources:
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If you do decide to take a chance on the anthology - and I hope you will - reviews are always great to receive and the book has its own Goodreads page here.
Here's a sample of some of the reviews it's already received:
Anthony Watson, at Dark Musings - "Anatomy of Murder is fine addition to the Hersham back catalogue. Horror is indeed a broad church as Mark says in his introduction. Tastes may change, the genre will evolve (as it has to) but at the end of the day you can’t beat a bit of pulp."
Walt Hicks, at Hellbound Times - "Anatomy of Death is a ruthless, doleful (and yet often playfully satirical) paean to those glorious days of the 70’s and 80’s when horror was campy, bloody, violent, gory and gratuitously sexual. The selections are certainly well-written, provocative and extremely diverse, which may be problematic to some: the Mains and Volk stories are brutally graphic; Bacon and Probert wield a slightly less gory scalpel, while West's tale occupies more of a middle ground. Readers may find this wide range of styles and intensity slightly jarring, but then again, that's what horror is supposed to do. The easily unsettled or offended will probably want to go elsewhere, because this ain’t no ‘quiet’ horror anthology."
Mattew Fryer, at Welcome To The Hellforge - "I really enjoyed Anatomy of Death; in fact I demolished it in one sitting. “Just one more, then I’ll get up and do stuff…” was the repeated cry, but this slim, well-ordered volume had other plans. It’s deftly edited, the genre tropes are handled with affection, and there’s plenty of variation despite the specific theme. The stories shine with the quirks and particular strengths of each author, and if you’re not familiar, you could do worse than getting acquainted here."
Paul Holmes, at The Eloquent Page, - "This collection is a wonderful homage to all the horror it pays tribute to. Sometimes violent, often gory and in-your-face, this can be unforgiving stuff. You can rest assured Anatomy of Death is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. I have no doubt that some will consider it politically incorrect or perhaps even potentially offensive. Personally, I think it does quite an impressive job of dancing right up to the boundaries of good taste but never actually crosses the line. I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoys his or her horror unashamedly raw."
Adam Millard, at This Is Horror - "Back in the 1970s, thanks to Hammer, Amicus, NEL, Futura et al, the horror genre evolved into something altogether more exploitative and sleazy. Book covers were filled with lurid and often gory images, and movie posters contained visuals that would give the BBFC dreadful nightmares. The films themselves contained more breasts than scares; it was, for fans of the genre, a truly wonderful and sordid time. With Anatomy of Death: In Five Sleazy Pieces, the essence of that remarkable era is fully restored in the guise of five entirely divergent short stories."