Monday 25 October 2021

Halloween Horrors (Old School Horror Paperback Covers)

It's almost Halloween, when all the ghosts and ghouls come calling (usually for chocolate), when the evenings are dark and the air smells of woodsmoke and the thoughts of us all turn to the idea of watching or reading something scary and creepy.
For my fourth Halloween post (previously I wrote about VHS cover artbehind the scenes special effects shots and Top Trumps), I've decided to stick with something I love, the cracking paperback covers of the 70s and 80s.  One of the blogs I follow is Will Errickson's Too Much Horror Fiction, where he posts some cracking scans (I've tracked down a few of the books because of them) and in a nice twist, he sought out The Happy Man based on my post about the Eric Higgs novel.  Looking at those old covers reminds me of being a young horror reader in the 80s when there was so much reading waiting for me to discover (along with the awful realisation that sometimes the artwork was the best thing about the whole book) and so much to be enjoyed.

These fit perfectly into my occasional Old School Paperbacks thread, blogs celebrating those cheesy, sleazy old-school pulp paperbacks from the 70s and 80s, which are now mostly forgotten .  They might not be great art, certainly, but they have their place - for better or worse - in the genre and I think they deserve to be remembered.

So with that in mind, enjoy this Halloween treat of covers that (on occasion) promise far more than they deliver...
New English Library, 1978 - cover scan of my copy
I first encountered this book at my cousin's - the back copy, amongst the film credits, calls Rick Baker 'the master of them all' for his make-up effects.

Sphere, 1978 - cover scan of my copy
This promises everything, doesn't it - ravening, gut-chilling worm-power (what the hell is worm power?).  As it is, I read this earlier in the year and enjoyed it well enough (you can read my review at Goodreads here).  And  in a nice touch, even though the technology didn't exist when this was designed, if you scroll up the screen with your mouse roller, the title text seems to wiggle.

New English Library, 1980 - cover scan by Will
My Dad had this edition on his bookshelf and it scared the living daylights out of me.  A few years later, around about the time the first Evil Dead film was being banned in the UK, someone at school mentioned how gruesome this book was and so, of course, a bunch of us read it.  As I recall, the scene in the school was considered the worst (we were all about 12 or 13 at the time) but, as an adult, I found the suicide at sea sequence much more disturbing.

New English Library, 1980 - cover scan of my copy
There is so much to enjoy about this - the font, the blurb, the woman, the horns, that skull.  Genius.

Pocket Books, 1981 - cover scan by Will
Brings new meaning to the term "chained to the photocopier..."

New English Library, 1982 - cover scan by Will
Mr Johnson was obviously on a winning streak, though this cover's not a patch on The Succubus, but I do love the way NEL have re-defined the word Homunculus (the Oxford English dictionary says it's 'a microscopic but fully formed human being from which a fetus was formerly believed to develop').
Futura Publications, 1983 - cover scan of my copy
I'm not entirely sure how this glorious cover (the screaming woman is lifted from the poster of the 1981 shocker Nightmares In A Damaged Brain) reflects a novel about killer jellyfish but I've read it (and blogged about it here) and quite enjoyed it.

Pocket Books, 1984 - cover scan by Will
Is it just me, or did you look at this picture and hear that little Bill And Ted air-guitar-riff?

Panther, 1985 - cover scan of my copy
Peter Tremayne is apparently the fiction writing pseudonym of the Celtic scholar and author Peter Berresford Ellis.  The hardback edition (which I can't find a decent scan of, unfortunately) features a lifted image from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Pocket Books, 1985 - cover scan by Will
This might well be a terrific novel (Kirkus reviews seemed to like it) but I think Village Voice might be overplaying their hand here.  As an aside, Campbell Black wrote the original novelisation for Raiders Of The Lost Ark in 1981 and The Intruder, which I blogged about here.

Signet, September 1985 - cover scan by Will
I'm not sure how it took three people to write this (Bischoff is a noted sci-fi novelist and scriptwriter) but it sounds like fun.  Here's the blurb - A college professor of medieval literature, drunk and desperate to liven up a dull party, performs a demon-summoning ritual, which, unexpectedly, succeeds. The demon, a four thousand year old half-human female, proves more alluring and mischievous than the professor anticipates, and proceeds to turn his life upside down.

Paperjacks edition, 1986 - cover scan of my copy
I reviewed this slim novel in an earlier blog post, which you can find here and liked it a lot.

Tor ,1987 - cover scan by Will
This is the kind of kiss where, in later years, they reminisce and laugh, saying "remember that time our teeth clashed?"

Arrow Books, 1987 - cover scan of my copy
John Halkin is, apparently, the pseudonym of an unknown British author who's most famous for writing the 80s "slimy" trilogy - Slime, Slither and Squelch - none of which I've managed to find reasonably priced copies for.  All look like cheesy fun as, indeed, is this one.  I read it earlier this year and you can find my review at Goodreads here.  The US had an alternate cover, which Will posted, though I prefer the UK one.
Guild Press, 1988 - cover scan by Will

Leisure Books, 1989 - cover scan by Will
A skull, shark teeth, some kind of weird eye - seriously, what's not to like?

Pocket Libary, 1989 - cover scan by Will
I love this cover and I think that's because the thing we initially think is the monster with a screwed up face might, in fact, just be a person who's been startled by the monster grabbing their shoulders from behind!

Tor Books, 1994 - cover scan by Will
Published in 1994 (but an honorary 80s cover, I'm sure you'll agree), this must have caught the tail end of the horror boom.  I first saw this on TMHF and managed to track down a copy (for much less than I thought) through Amazon US - I mean, what a fantastic cover (by Joe DeVito).

* Thanks to Will for the use of his scans

For a few years now, I've been collecting old 70s and 80s paperbacks (mostly horror), picking them up cheaply in secondhand bookshops and at car boot sales and slowly building a collection.  My friend (and fellow collector) Johnny Mains once told me that charity shops sometimes pulp old books like this because the market for them is so small - I understand why but I think it's terrible.  We might not be talking great art here but on the whole, I think these books deserve to be remembered.

Monday 11 October 2021

Writing News!

I have some exciting writing news that, to be perfectly honest, I'm chuffed to bits with.  As of last week, when I signed the contract, I became a writer for The Book Folks.

Although the bulk of my published work is horror, I got some great feedback on my novellas Drive and Polly, both of which were dark thrillers.  To that end, as long-time readers of the blog will know, I've spent the last few years working on mainstream thriller novels and going through every writers nightmare of submission and rejection (and rejection, trust me, absolutely does not get any easier whether it's the first, the tenth or the fiftieth).

But now my books have a home and I couldn't be happier.

JENNY WAS A FRIEND OF MINE will be published in early 2022.  Here's the tag-line I put together as part of the submission package.

Forced to confront a dark secret she’s spent fifteen years trying to bury, Beth discovers that sometimes, the past is murder.

Set in Seagrave, a British seaside town that feels very much like Great Yarmouth and is, indeed, just down the coast from Lowestoft, the novel is told in two timelines and was great fun to write.  I started it just before the pandemic and it (the story and the town) became a lovely place for me to visit, to get away from reality for a while and ended up at 208k words in first draft (the fourth draft, which Erik at The Book Folks accepted, was 95k words).  Plotted out with my good friend David during a walk one Friday evening, it took a few twists and turns in its progress from idea to finished tale and features tension and suspense, some scary parts, some funny bits and a few sad moments too.  I'm really proud of it and very pleased it will start my career with The Book Folks.

JENNY will be followed by:



and a fourth novel, which isn't even planned yet.  

A huge thanks to everyone who has helped me get to this point, who's either supported me, listened to me (like poor Dude, who endured countless lockdown walks over the fields, listening patiently as I worked through ideas for JENNY and gave me a few of his own), offered advice or read my stuff and liked it enough to tell me.  And, of course, David for those brainstorming sessions and the Friday Night Walks with Pippa.

Once I have more details on the books and their publication dates, I'll let you know all about them.