Friday 25 July 2014

First review of "Drive" is in...

...and, thankfully, it's a great one from Jim Mcleod from The Ginger Nuts Of Horror.

Drive  is a  welcome addition to the hard, fast paced genre of british Noir.  It is a tightly written novella that goes from 0 - 60 at a breakneck speed.  This is a simple yet highly gripping story of a good guy, a dame in distress and gang of nasty bad boys.

The full review can be read here at the GNoH site.

If you're interested (here's the sales pitch), the book (print and ebook) can be pre-ordered from the Pendragon Press website.

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Edge-Lit 3, Derby, 19th July 2014

It was pouring with rain as I parked up at the Assembly Rooms car park in the centre of Derby.  I’d been here once before, almost ten years ago, to celebrate the graduation of my sister but it was to be my first experience of the Edge-Lit festival (now in its third year), held at The Quad.  I got signed in and made my way up to the first floor (the Con was set over the first and second floors), saw Peter Coleborn, Jan Edwards and Mike Chinn, said hello to them and then Jay Eales & Selina Lock arrived, then Andrew Reid came over, his lovely daughter shyly clinging to him.  Steve Harris and John Travis turned up, closely followed by Phil Sloman and James Everington and so that was our Andromeda gang all assembled.  Since we were clogging the stairwell - and Rod Rees passed by, on his way to his panel - we moved and saw Chris Teague setting up the Pendragon Press stall.  My novella “Drive” was supposed to be launching but, as is often the way, there’s a slight delay but he was taking pre-orders (which apparently went well, as the day wore on).  Standing with Chris was Ross Warren, so I introduced him to the rest and we all went down to the ground floor café for both a respite from the heat and a much needed drink.  Crowded around a little table, we then had the kind of writers-together conversation that makes a Con for me, with all of us comparing rejection horror stories (as James points out in his great blog on the event, it was like the scene from “Jaws” when they compare scars).

me, Alison Davies, James Everington, Phil Sloman
We went upstairs to watch Simon Clark mostly shave Theresa Derwin’s hair off (for the Breast Cancer Research Campaign) and I then bumped into Alison Davies, who I haven’t seen in ages (several FCon’s ago, in fact) - she looked well, we caught up with each others lives and it was really good to see her.  By now, it was lunchtime so we rounded up the troops - now with Richard Farren Barber - and headed out for something to eat.  Passing the Acropolis café, which each one of us mentioned without apparently hearing anyone else say it - and working on my decade-old knowledge of the town centre - managed to not find anywhere we wanted to eat.  Wandering back, someone (I don’t know who it was) suggested the Acropolis so - amongst the pensioner specials (and yes, each of us said “I don’t want a pensioner”) - we ate and chatted and laughed and had a nice time.  James and Phil left early, for their reading and we took our time but went to the Knightwatch Press launch and listened to the readings.  It was the first time for both Phil and James and they did really well, the game raised by the wonderful K. T. Davis who is clearly a born performer.
the lunch crew (from left - Richard Farren Barber, Steve Harris, John Travis, me, Ross Warren).
Acropolis cafe not pictured
Back in the foyer, Johnny Mains was at a signing table with Conrad Williams, so we had a chat, grabbed a photo with Peter Coleborn and Pixie Puddin and Johnny showed me a huge stash of paperbacks he’d picked up from a stall in the market.  I left my stuff with Steve (who was sequestered in the café) and followed Johnny through to the Eagle Market, talking about his Pan Book Of Horror Stories Scrapbook (which has since finished successfully) along the way.
left to right - Peter Coleborn, Conrad Williams, me, Pixie Puddin, Johnny Mains
Eagle Books was brilliant - a cube of a stall and filled to bursting with books, Johnny & I were in our element.  I went through the horror box, picked up a load of stuff and then checked out the rest of the place.  Johnny found a Corgi Books shelf sign and bought that - which took the owner by surprise - and it was like standing inside a very well organised, however chaotic it might have looked, treasure trove.  As we were leaving, Johnny asked if we’d been good business - sadly, the old boy told us we mostly were business.  “Since the Kindle,” he said, looking at the filled shelves, “nobody buys books much any more.”  What a sad and sobering situation, from a bloke who clearly loved being a bookseller.  So if you’re in Derby at any time, go to the Eagle Market and support that stall!
Outside Eagle Books (look at those shelves!) with Johnny Mains and his Corgi Books sign
My stash from Eagle Books
On our way back it began to rain, then it began to thunder.  Outside the venue, a carnival was in full swing and nothing - rain, thunder or lightning - put those dancers off.  Johnny was off to a panel, so I showed off my purchases (and met Paul M. Feeney, who’d joined our group) and then headed up to the “What An Editor Really Wants” panel which Conrad Williams was moderating and sat with Richard, who was already in there.  We stayed on for the raffle, Chris Teague joined us and we waited, with bated breath, hoping for another Andromeda-One-style whitewash.  It wasn’t to be, sadly, though I picked up a whole stack of SF Masterworks books and John Travis also exchanged his Hitchikers Hardbacks with me.
The Derby Dhansak Daredevils
(left to right - James Everington, Richard Farren Barber, Ross Warren, Chris Teague, John Travis, me, Paul M. Feeney, Steve Harris)
By now it was getting on for seven and thoughts turned to dinner.  Following the Brum Balti Balls-up (at Andromeda One, when the four of us - me, Steve, Phil and James - couldn’t find a curry house in Birmingham), James had already located a venue and so, after saying goodbye to Phil who had to go and catch his train, we set off.  The venue wasn’t close, it wasn’t really even nearby but it did give us a chance to chat as we walked (and James & I discovered that Paul, who we’d badgered to come along, wasn’t as close to the Con as we’d thought but, in fact, lived in Berwick On Tweed!  Oops, sorry Paul).  The restaurant was nice but pricey, upstairs was decadently decorated and highly air-conditioned and we took over a table for eight and had a fine old time.  We discussed writing, books, films, gave away spoilers (I was talking about NOS4R2 and Richard, sitting next to me, hadn’t read it so I got him to look away but he still saw the move I made pertaining to one characters fate - a gesture that re-appeared several times during the meal) and it was perfect, just what a curry run at a Con should be, a bunch of like-minded mates talking about what they love.

We finally got away for about 9.30 and discovered we’d all parked in the Assembly Rooms car park, so we paid for our tickets (all different prices), tried to finish conversations, made plans for FCon and said our goodbyes.

It was a good Con (I’m definitely up for Edge-Lit 4), in a good location and the day was helped by great company.  Brilliant fun.

Thursday 17 July 2014

The Pan Book Of Horror Stories Scrapbook

In general, I like the idea of Kickstarter and I've contributed to a few causes in the past - the last being the successful Morph one - and here's another I'm supporting, which has less than three days to go.

As a kid, in an experience shared by many of my horror loving friends, myr first experience of this wonderful genre was finding old Pan paperbacks on Dad's bookshelves and looking at the cheerfully gruesome covers, daring myself to read what lay inside.  As the years went by, I moved on to Stephen King and Clive Barker et al and left the Pan books behind, though I did pick up the revamp of the series that Stephen Jones and David Sutton edited.

My friend Johnny Mains is an authority on the Pan series and he's set up a Kickstarter fund to create the "Pan Book Of Horror Stories Scrapbook".  He's passionate about the subject and a dogged and determined researcher, so I'm convinced he'll do an excellent job of this.

Here's the press/Kickstarter release...

A complete history of The Pan Book of Horror Stories, the infamous anthology series which ran from 1959-1989.

THE PAN BOOK OF HORROR STORIES SCRAPBOOK will be the result of 5 years in-depth research into this series which has haunted and thrilled me since I was thirteen years old.

The funds collected for this book will be put towards the following things:
* There is still some more research needed and people to interview
* Getting a high quality artist to do the book cover and illustrations.
* Paying for a professional proof reader.
* High-res scanning of artwork, photos, letters etc.

Printing of the actual books which will be to the highest standards available.

The cult of the Pan Horrors continues to fascinate, more than 55 years after they were first published and 25 years after the last volume hit the shelves. This book aims to publish the definitive history of the series, its editors, its authors - with as much information and paperwork that I've been able to gather together since 2009.

I've still got a lot of work to do on it, so have given myself the publication date of December 2015. It's a bit of a wait, but I'm working on this on my own, and have a full time job plus editing the Best British Horror series for Salt Publishing.

I'm the only person I know of bonkers enough to attempt a book such as this, and the main reason I want to do it is so I can be the first person to read it!

This will be a book for any fan of horror, its authors, the history of publishing, social history in a wider context and how a gentleman called Herbert van Thal created a series of books which has been ingrained into the national psyche.

If you'd like to support the project, all the details can be found on the Kickstarter site here

The project was fully funded on the evening of Thursday 17th July, though Johnny has said that all additional funds will go into making the final book "even better!"  This is, clearly, great news.

Monday 14 July 2014

The Mystery Of The Dancing Devil, by William Arden

Since 2014 marks the fiftieth anniversary of The Three Investigators being published, I thought it’d be enjoyable to re-read and compile my Top 10 (which might be subject to change in years to come, of course).  I previously read all 30 of the original series from 2008 to 2010 (a reading and reviewing odyssey that I blogged here), but this time I will concentrate on my favourite books and try to whittle the best ten from that.

So here we go.
Collins Hardback First Edition (printed in 1977 and never re-printed), cover art by Roger Hall
A horrendous being stood on top of the dune.  Vast and shaggy, with long horns, blazing red slit-eyes and rows of jagged teeth that glowed like fire, the creature was totally evil.

"What is it?" Pete quavered.

Before Bob or Jupe would answer, the demonic figure began to move slowly towards them...

The Three Investigators have been called in to investigate some bizarre thefts.  To late, they realise that their adversary is no flesh-and-blood thief, but a terrifying supernatural spirit known as the Dancing Devil...

internal illustration from the Collins/Armada
editions, by Roger Hall
A bizarre series of thefts have been perpetrated on Pete Crenshaw’s block and the Three Investigators are hired by his neighbour’s daughter Winifred (for 50c) to find her missing doll.  Setting a trap on a chill, foggy evening they not only discover the crook but also a terrifying apparation, allowing the criminal to escape.  Finding his location, though the clever use of Jupe’s walkie-talkie, they discover all of the stolen goods but also run into the Dancing Devil, a monster who appears to them on the beach.  Jupe correctly deduces that the criminal is looking for something that he hasn’t yet found and declares the case has just begun but what is the thief looking for - and what connection does he have to the horror of the Dancing Devil?

This is William (Dennis Lynds) Arden’s seventh entry in the series and I thought it was a great read.  Taking place solely in Rocky Beach - as did Arden’s last book, The Mystery Of The Dead Man’s Riddle - and giving us a whole new set of locations to imagine, this makes good use of the town and adds the story a nice flavour.  Opening on Pete’s street and staying close by for several chapters, it brings a touch of realism to a tale that, it has to be said, needs to be sometimes taken with a pinch of salt.  Now I like pulpy action, I like twinges of horror in my mysteries and so I loved the whole Dancing Devil (the spirit/demon/man, rather than the statue) concept (especially how people accept its existence) but I can see that others might have problems with it though who could deny that “The Dancing Devil of Batu Khan, dated 1241AD and inscribed ‘To the Exalted Khan of the Golden Horde’” isn’t a touch of brilliance.

With an interesting cast of characters - the boys are superbly written, with nice interplay and some smart touches of humour - from the ratty looking thief (who is only ever seen from a distance, his wearing a cape whilst trying to look inconspicuous another nod to pulp), to the mystery man with rimless glasses, from Andy the good-natured drifter to Jim Clay, son of businessman H P Clay who provides the MacGuffin for the tale and local bully Frankie Bender, great use of locations (especially the beach and canyons at night) and a neat little mystery, this is almost perfectly constructed.  On the downside, I felt that the middle section reminded me somewhat of Arden’s earlier The Secret Of Phantom Lake (with the curio shop and getting trapped on a boat), but that’s a minor niggle.

It’s tightly written, as is typical of Arden and full of twists and turns and with some stand-out set pieces along the way - Pete’s block at the start, the cave, the Demon on the beach.  Well paced, well constructed and damned good fun, this is a great entry to the series and I highly recommend it.

Armada format B paperback (printed between 1980 and 1982), cover art by Peter Archer

The internal illustrations for the UK edition were drawn by Roger Hall.

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

Friday 11 July 2014

INXS - 21 years on from Get Out Of The House

This Sunday (July 13th) marks the 21st anniversary of me & Alison going to see INXS play the DeMontfort Hall in Leicester as part of their "Get Out Of The House Tour".

I wrote about this extensively last year (click here for the post - which seems to have gone down well), so I won't go into the where's and whyfore's of the tour, or the gig (check the post for that) but I'll share some music instead.

This was shot on the tour, in Glasgow on July 9th (4 days before I saw them) and whilst the sound isn't brilliant, it does give you a great sense of the experience and features two of my favourite songs.

Here they are, performing KICK in California, 1988

And performing "The Stairs" (one of my favourite songs) at Summer XS, Wembley, the first time I ever saw them live (and in a weird coincidence, that was also on the 13th of July, but in 1991).

* I know it's not the 13th today, but it fits with the "INXS Friday" tag and I get to make the rules on my blog, so there you go!

Monday 7 July 2014

Drive, the novella book trailer

This is the book trailer for my forthcoming novella "Drive", due to launch at the Edge-Lit 3 convention in Derby, Saturday 19th July. Published by Pendragon Press, it will be available as a limited (to 100 copies) edition paperback (which will contain an exclusive afterword) and unlimited ebook, across platforms.

“Drive takes you for a journey down the darkest alleyways of human savagery.  
A fast paced, high tension thriller that delivers on all fronts....”
- Jim Mcleod, The Ginger Nuts Of Horror

"Drive is a gripping, tense urban noir with prose as tight as a snare drum..."
- Paul D. Brazill, Guns Of Brixton.

“Mark West writes the kind of fiction that gets under the skin where it lies dormant until you turn out the lights ...”
- Dave Jeffery, author of the Necropolis Rising series

The Rude Dude Films trailer is scored by gcw, who also produced the theme for my "What Gets Left Behind" chapbook trailer and who I interviewed here, last year.

He is releasing the music as part of the "Drive EP", which features this score, "What Gets Left Behind" and "Me" (a song from his next album).  The EP is now available to download on Bandcamp at this link -

Thanks to Gary, again, for the great music, Jim and Dave for the blurbs and Chris for taking a chance on my dark tale.

Friday 4 July 2014

Here's Morph!

For those who don't know - or weren't around in the late 70s - there was a childrens art TV show on called "Take Hart" (which ran from 1977 through to 1983).  Presented by the wonderful Tony Hart, he explained how to create paintings and effects and was assisted by a little sidekick called Morph, who took up space on his desk and generally created havoc.

Morph was a plasticene character, one of the first creations by Aardman Animations (now much more famous for Wallace & Gromit) and appeared in one minute 'shorts' which usually started with Tony saying something to him, before the animation took over.  Morph only ever spoke gobbledygook, his point often being made with expansive gestures but communicated perfectly well with his friend Chas (who was the naughty one of the pair).  He lived in a wooden box (how I wanted one of those as a kid) and, due to his being made of plasticine, was able to morph himself into different shapes as required.

I loved the character but when I stopped watching kids TV, I stopped watching Morph (and avoided the Neil Morrisey version like the plague) though I was bought some of the merchandise (a bendy Morph now stands on my Three Investigators shelf, holding the bookmark).  In March 2009, shortly after Tony Hart passed away, a flashmob of Morph characters was organised in London outside the Tate Modern art gallery and he also appeared briefly in an epsiode of "Ashes To Ashes".

In 29 October 2013, Peter Lord (co-creator of Morph and co-founder of Aardman Animations, both with Peter Sproxton) created a Kickstarter campaign to make new episodes.  The target was for £75,000 (to be matched by the studio) for 12 new one minute episodes and was reached after 9 days, with over 1,700 backers (of which I am proud to be one).  The campaign was so successful that when it ended (with over 2,600 backers), it had raised more than £110,000 and so 15 new episodes have been produced, all of which will debut on Morph's YouTube channel, starting on the Morph of July.  As a supporter I've already seen them and thankfully they're really very good - modern, certainly, but easily retaining the spirit of the originals (and Dude particularly loved the football episode).

I'm pleased to see him back, I'm pleased to have a piece of my childhood remain as pure and funny as it was back in the day and, hey, it's MORPH!

and here's Morph, as he was back in the 70s...
On Twitter, Aardman are running a #Morphie hashtag, where viewers and supporters post a selfie of themselves and their own Morph.  You know me, never backwards at coming forwards, here's mine...

Wednesday 2 July 2014

"Drive" and a bundle offer

This is the final cover for my novella "Drive" (as designed by me), which is due to be launched by Pendragon Press at the Edge-Lit convention in Derby, on Saturday 19th July.

David Moore has one night left in Gaffney and is at a party he doesn’t want to attend. Natasha Turner, at the same party, is lost for a lift home.
Meanwhile, three young men have stolen a car, and as the night darkens and the roads become deserted, David and Nat enter into a terrifying game of cat-and-mouse. . .

“Drive takes you for a journey down the darkest alleyways of human savagery.  A fast paced, high tension thriller that delivers on all fronts....”
- Jim Mcleod, The Ginger Nuts Of Horror

“Mark West writes the kind of fiction that gets under the skin where it lies dormant until you turn out the lights ...”
- Dave Jeffery, author of the Necropolis Rising series

Chris wrote, on the Pendragon website:
I've known Mark West for a long-time now – since his story in Tourniquet Heart (2002) – and it is safe to say that I like his writing. 

When I first read the manuscript to this, a novella which I believe is very much his strength as a writer, I understandably enjoyed it but moreso the fact it is very different to his usual horror stuff; in fact, there are no horror tropes – it is a pure, unadulterated gritty urban crime drama.

I'll be honest, I'm pleased with how "Drive" turned out and it was good fun to write a story set over the course of one evening and completely in my fictional town of Gaffney (though readers from certain parts of Northamptonshire will recognise roads and locations).

Pendragon Press are publishing it as a limited edition (to 100 copies) paperback (complete with an exclusive afterword) and an unlimited ebook.

As a sweetener, Christopher Teague - Pendragon's owner - is offering a two-for-one bundle, with "Drive" and Stuart Young's collection "Reflections In The Mind's Eye", where you can buy both of them for only £9.  The link for that is here

And if it helps, don't think of it as buying a book by him*, think of it as buying a book by me and helping him out at the same time.

(* I'm joking, of course - Stu's a good friend of mine and a talented writer (he won a BFS Award!), so I'm sure his collection will be excellent.  Plus, he'd probably cry if I didn't include this bit...)