Friday 26 August 2011

Who reigns over this region of the dead?

Check out THIS - a rather nifty YouTube trailer for my next novella, KING DEATH, which is due out in December from the excellent SPECTRAL PRESS, but can be ordered right now.

(Look to my earlier posts for the cover artwork; the trailer is by Mark West, who has done a very fine job indeed).

Without giving too much away, KING DEATH is set in England during the early 14th Century, a land utterly devastated by the Black Death - so be prepared for some scenes of blood-chillling horror drawn from that real-life catastrophe. But that's only the start of it. The supernatural is at work in this tale as well, not to mention plenty of human depravity.

I don't want to say any more, but in a time when all law, faith and culture have collapsed, who knows what may come slinking in to fill the void?

Nothing good, that's for sure.

For those not quite in the know, the Black Death first struck England in 1348, after ravaging much of Europe and Asia. It is still regarded as the most devastating pandemic in human history. In England alone, an incredible 70% of the population is believed to have perished. It wasn't just the peasantry who were affected. Kings died in their palaces, bishops in their cathedrals, and barons in their manor houses. Entire towns and villages were left bare of life ... except for the overpopulous black rats, who spread the illness in the first place, and are still the stuff of nightmares as we picture them swarming triumphant over piles of human corpses.

Not surprisingly for a superstitious age, there are many tales of terror associated with this disaster. Stories abounded that a poisonous black fog was drifting across the land, annihilating everything in its path. Witches and sorcerers were blamed. A gateway was said to have been opened to Hell. The plague was even portrayed in the form of a ...

But no. Enough spoilers. You need to buy the book to know more.

(The above image is a detail from Peter Bruegel's horrific masterpiece, THE TRIUMPH OF DEATH. It charts the advance of Death upon Man in general terms, though because it takes a distinctly medieval perspective, it is often depicted as an illustration of the Black Death).

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Butchering a guy in the name of surgery

Here's a picture which might intrigue a few movie fans. It's a on-set photo taken during the filming of the crude military operation that is performed in THE DEVIL’S ROCK.

Those who haven't seen the film yet (and shame on you!) will need know that one of the characters is shot but only wounded, and to save his life another one has to extricate the bullet from his gut with nothing more than a pair of tweezers and, it has to be said, very little good will. A recent poster on film-director Paul Campion's website described this moment as "the best bullet removal scene in the history of bullet removal scenes".

In other news re. THE DEVIL’S ROCK, I'm happy to report that the movie is currently sitting at no. 298 in the IMDB's ranking list (based on the most searches made on that colossal website), which means that, as things stand, we are being searched for more than Brad Pitt's forthcoming zombie epic WORLD WAR Z!

Here's the proof, below:

It's also worth reporting that the British Horror Film Festival are hosting a special screening of THE DEVIL’S ROCK at the Empire Cinema, Leicester Square, London on Tuesday 30th August at 9.15pm (tickets are priced £5 and can be booked online HERE). Both director Paul Campion and star of the film, Gina Varela, will be in attendance and will feature in a Q&A session afterwards. I wish I could join them. I was invited, but regretably - very regretably, I assure you - I'm not available on this occasion. But just to prove that I sometimes am, below is a shot of another Q&A which I did earlier in the year, in company with Paul Campion (left) and star of the film, Matt Sunderland (right).

Gina meanwhile has now become something of a celebrity on, a free collaborative site dedicated to the assessment of celebrity feet. The scene in the film where a barefoot Gina walks prettily along a nasty streak of blood has apparently got a few people salivating. Well ... it takes all sorts, I suppose. I could include a still taken from this part of the movie if I wanted, just to illustrate the point, but why should I? If the thought of this makes a few more of you want to go out there and rent or buy a copy, then I'd be bonkers to interfere.

Blood and vengeance from the Dark North

Fancy a story about love, hatred, blood and revenge with a few flesh-tearing, bone-crushing monsters thrown in for good measure?

Course you do, otherwise you wouldn’t be on this blog, would you?

It’s not very often that I post information about my works in progress, but while ABADDON BOOKS are now happy to start promoting my next novel, DARK NORTH, I thought “Hell, why not drop a few hints myself?”

It’s part of the KNIGHTS OF ALBION series, which chart the adventures of those lesser known knights of the Round Table as they pursue personal quests in the mysteriously anachronistic but incredibly brutal and dangerous Dark Ages that the medieval poet and warrior Thomas Malory described in his vivid writings.

DARK NORTH focuses on Sir Lucan, the ‘Black Wolf of the North’, one of the more enigmatic and vengeful figures associated with Arthurian legend. Essentially he was a good guy, but he was only human too, and we humans are not always known for turning the other cheek when our plans and dreams are thwarted.

Here’s the official blurb as it currently appears on Amazon:

When King Arthur faces a challenge for his crown from the reinvigorated Roman Empire, he must call his supporters from every corner of the British Isles. One of these, Sir Lucan, the ‘Black Wolf of the North’, has more reason than most to join the coming campaign. Lucan's beautiful wife, Trelawna, hoping to lead a new, better life in Italy, absconded with a young Roman officer. Lucan, already a fierce warrior but now with tainted blood due to his battle with the Penharrow Worm, thus turns the mission into a bitter personal vendetta. His former squire, Alaric, soon comes to fear for his overlord's soul, but is more afraid still for the safety of Lady Trelawna, whom he always loved from a distance. Meanwhile, the Roman family Trelawna has fallen in with are the influential Malconi clan, and their matriarchal head is the sorceress Zenobia. She sees it as her motherly duty to stop Lucan with any demonic force she can summon ...

The above image is currently being used to promote the book, which will be launched next March, though this may not be the final cover art (even though I think it pretty well captures the mood). Put it this way, like most Arthurian texts, DARK NORTH, contains plenty of pageantry and romance, but it also takes a long, unstinting look at the grim reality of medieval warfare and the savagery of an unconquered land still riddled with nefarious pagan forces (not to mention the savagery required to finally bring it to heel).

Thursday 18 August 2011

Devils with devils damned - in Guernsey!

"As if Man had not hellish foes enough besides, that day and night for his destruction wait!” - John Milton, Paradise Lost

I have absolutely no reason for making this latest post other than the self-indulgent delight I get from posting yet more stills from THE DEVIL’S ROCK.

Above, when man meets demon. Just think, this could be the fate that awaits a good number of us in the afterlife if we don’t start getting our act together.

Next, another horrible image – the movie’s much talked-about “German deep throat” scene. Not perhaps what many were expecting when they first heard that phrase. I suppose this second pic makes the movie look a little more like Saw With Swastikas, as a rather uncharitable critic once proclaimed it, but we’ve already had that argument. I repeat, this movie is not gore-orgraphy, but there’s no point pretending it isn’t gory. You can’t put on a devil’s banquet without mashing up a few humans in the process.

Below, some of those responsible for this witch's brew. Yours truly, the writer, is centre left. Far right is Paul Campion, the director. Far left is Matt Sunderland, one of the stars of the film, and centre right is Rob Moore, of BBC Guernsey, who interviewed us all on Channel Island TV, and did a damn good job of it too. We are pictured in front of yet another World War II relic on the island – the entrance to an underground complex, this one in St Peter’s Port, wherein Nazi forces nervously awaited an invasion that would never come.

Wednesday 17 August 2011

More pix from Hell and stuff about 'Mist'

Okay, I know the movie is now out and in the public domain, and that everyone has probably already seen it, but here are a few more stills from THE DEVIL’S ROCK, which I thought I’d publish for posterity.

The first one features Gina Varela slipping into transformation mode. The second one shows Nick Dunbar as a German soldier who has never been confronted with the sort of horror that he discovers in the Forau island bunker.

For those more interested in the mechanics of movie making, here are a couple of shots taken on set during production.

The first one shows director Paul Campion, lord of all he surveys, and makeup supervisor Davina Lamont at Wright’s Hill Fortress in Wellington, where we shot the exteriors.

The second one displays some frenzied activity in the gun-pit, with star Karlos Drinkwater in the background, and cinematographer Rob Marsh and cameraman Matt Tuffin to the fore.

On a slightly different, though I don't suppose it's a totally unrelated subject, one of my 2010 books of stories and novellas, both of which have made the final ballot in the British Fantasy Awards for 2010 (in the capacity of Best Collection), has been garnering some rather nice responses online.

WALKERS IN THE DARK was published by ASH-TREE PRESS in March last year, but as collections, anthologies of stories and so on tend to take a long time to be read in their fullness, only this year have I started to see regular extensive reviews, almost all of which, I’m glad to see, are positive.

This latest one comes from PAGE HORRIFIC, and is probably the most fulsome I’ve had yet. In fact I like it so much that I’m reprinting it in full, below.

One of the stories it singles out for particular praise is SEASON OF MIST, which I’m very pleased by as the reviewer, James Carroll (who is not known to me, I swear), correctly surmises that this is one of the most personal stories I’ve ever written; it is indeed, as Mr. Carroll says, semi-autobiographical – a couple of the people who in real life actually shared this experience with me have been in touch since the book was published, to talk about it, so it’s nice to know that I kind of hit the nail on the head.

Anyway, enough flowery prose from me. Those who aren’t fans of self-promotion, avert your eyes now (though these are James Carroll's words, not mine):

Lancashire native Paul Finch is yet another great writer who I’ve only recently discovered even though he’s been around for years, and this wonderfully dark and evocative collection blends supernatural horror and modern life with remarkable effect.

A young man travels to the Scottish Highlands in search of a missing woman only to become caught up in sinister events involving her Father’s new family and a jilted suitor in "The Formless". This dark tale of love and revenge is also an original take on the classic story of Macbeth which will have others writers wondering why they didn’t think of it first.

Up next is the novella length "Season Of Mist", one of the most stunning coming of age stories I’ve yet encountered. When children begin turning up dead after being violently beaten by a mysterious figure, a young boy and his friends attribute the murders to a local legend; the malignant spirit of a dead miner who is said to haunt an abandoned colliery. This tale of a young boy struggling with childhood fears and his newfound desire for an older woman is also a semi-autobiographical story based on Finch’s youth spent roaming the gutted wastelands of England’s industrial northwest, a world he describes in the kind of intimate detail that can only come from personal experience.

In "Fathoms Green And Noisome", a group of crypto-zoologists set out to explore an isolated lake in the Welsh mountains in search of a mythical creature only to discover that the real danger is among themselves. Finch conjures some astonishingly vivid imagery here and it’s testament to his skill as a storyteller that I was completely drawn into the reality of this monster hunt. My only complaint is that after such an intense build up I felt the ending was something of an anti-climax. Nevertheless, this was another superb story.

"Golgotha Way" has a war veteran become increasingly unhinged after a local cenotaph is desecrated and his fallen comrade appears to return from the dead. This is the shortest story in the collection but one of the most poignant, the view point shifting between horrific scenes from World War II and the present, as the veteran relives the pain and guilt of leaving his friend to die in order to save himself.

The most powerful tale however, is saved till last. "Walkers In The Dark" is an outstanding novella that blends dark age myth and history with modern day adventure when four students go in search of Viking treasure beneath a condemned monastery. This is absolutely riveting stuff, and to apply a simple label to it, or indeed to any of these stories, would be a great injustice.

This is imaginative fiction at its finest, and these highly atmospheric tales of haunted lives and innocence lost, transcend genre boundaries and ultimately defy classification.

Monday 15 August 2011

"War is a bitch" - the grindhouse factor!

The general consensus thus far seems to be that most people have enjoyed THE DEVIL'S ROCK.

You always get one or two who dissent – inevitably there will be someone who deserves to be led out to an icy, wolf-infested wilderness and abandoned naked – but overall most folk who’ve put their views online or in the movie press appear to appreciate the blood and sweat we shed (well … blood mainly, as those who’ve seen the movie will attest) in bringing this wartime horror to the screen.

reviewer, Mike Chinn, gives us a nice thumbs-up: “Overall, a film that works very well within its limitations. Recommended.”

Cheers for that, Mike.

And FEARNET.COM, who saw the movie at the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal, were fulsome in their praise: “Overall, a strong first effort from Campion (Paul Campion, the director) and his team, and one wouldn't be surprised to see them do twice as much damage on their next one.”

Nice one, FN.

However, it wouldn’t be true to say there hasn’t been some controversy en route. A recent storm in a teacup has broken over the promotional poster for the New Zealand release of the movie this coming autumn.

The poster is pictured above and shows star Gina Varela in the sort of guise that might have been more appropriate accompanying a 1970s exploitation flick like SS Experiment Camp.

It certainly creates a sleazy ‘grindhouse’ aura, which I don’t think is representative of the actual movie, though it has to be admitted that sex and violence are key components of THE DEVIL'S ROCK and hey, who am I to question the distributors? Clearly in this case they’ve decided to try to appeal to the young male audience, whereas in the UK there seemed to be more of an effort to sell the movie’s occult factor.

I suppose this underlines what is one of the best kept secrets in horror, namely that within the H community there exist many sub-genres, not to mention varying standards of taste; some horror fans - several of whom have been active on Facebook on this matter since the NZ poster appeared - clearly aren't impressed by the grimier, more lurid adventures that have been submitted to celluloid.

But at the end of the day, who can second-guess what people are attracted to? And there's no denying that, like it or not, the NZ poster is pretty damn eye-catching.

We must assume that everyone has researched their own demographic. There's no possibility that these chaps and chappesses employed in movie distribution don't know what they’re doing, otherwise they wouldn’t be in the lucrative business they’re in.

Monday 8 August 2011

To walk among giants (and a few devils)

I have some more anthology news today.

I'm proud to say that I'll shortly be appearing with a number of other authors in FULL FATHOM FORTY, a specially commissioned collection of short stories and poems, edited by David Howe, to be published in celebation of the British Fantasy Society's 40th anniversay (and free to all members).

I'm proud to boast that I've been a member of the BFS since 1994, and in that time I've made some very good friends, and have been introduced to, influenced by and fortunate enough to work with some of the best and most creative horror, sci-fi and fantasy people in the UK, not to mention quite a few Stateside and in Canada as well. (The BFS isn't exclusively a British membership).

The new book will certainly be a collectors' item - not just because it contains FULL CIRCLE, a new story by yours truly, but because it comprises 500 pages of weird and fantastical fiction, much of it original. Check out this impressive list of contributors:

Nina Allan; Suzanne Barbieri; Carl Barker; Mike Barrett; Ramsey Campbell; Jonathan Carroll; Adrian Chamberlin; Simon Clark; Raven Dane; Jan Edwards; Murray Ewing; Paul Finch; Christopher Fowler; Matthew Fryer; Stephen Gallagher; Cate Gardner; R.B. Harkess; Ian Hunter; Wilf Kelleher Jones; Jasper Kent; Joel Lane; Stephen Laws; Mark Lewis; Alison J Littlewood; Steve Lockley; Graham Masterton; Peter Mark May; Geoff Nelder; Kim Newman; Stan Nicholls; Martin Owton; Cas Peace; John Llewellyn Probert; Tina Rath; Steven Savile; Robert Shearman; Jim Steel; Sam Stone; Deborah Walker; Conrad Williams.

Meanwhile THE DEVIL'S ROCK appears to be continuing to capture the interest of horror fandom.

BLOODY-DISGUSTING.COM, in my opinion one of the best and most informative horror websites in the world, calls the film: "A satisfying little movie that’s a perfect rental on one of those boring Sunday nights".

While THE HORROR CLUB is even more lavish in its praise, saying: "There's really nothing about this film that is lacking. The story is great, the atmosphere is tense and creepy, and there's a good amount of blood and gore. Something about creepy movies set in bunkers always seems to work. Nazi bunkers, even better."

Nice, eh?

Anyway here are couple more video-grabs from the movie, featuring Gina Varela managing to look both alluring and devilish, while HERE is a link to a video shot by the movie's director, Paul Campion, when he, Gina and one of the film's other stars, Matt Sunderland, attended the North American premiere in Montreal, as guests, and were taken aback - to say the least - by the size of the audience.

Lots of people now want us to make a sequel. Well, all I can promise at this stage is that we'll talk about it ...

Thursday 4 August 2011

Just be thankful you didn't live back then!

"In the centre of one village there was a timber chapel with a thatched roof. Its front door stood open on blackness, from which came a monstrous buzzing of flies. Rodric didn’t need to enter to know what he would find in there: bodies piled seven or eight deep; when all else failed, holy sanctuary would have been the only place left where the dying wretches could imagine they’d find solace or comfort, or – laughably, he now realised – refuge."

Hopefully that nasty little nugget will whet all your appetites for KING DEATH, my new novella from SPECTRAL PRESS, the amazing cover to which, courtesy of artist Neil Williams, is posted above.

I won't say too much for fear of giving things away, but KING DEATH is a full-on horror story set in my beloved Middle Ages, fourteenth century England to be precise, and it takes us to a world so ravaged by disaster and despair that the dividing line between normality and deranged fantasy has quite literally collapsed - which, it won't surprise you to learn, is not to the dissatisfaction of everyone.

The book is only officially available from December 6th, but I hear that orders and subscriptions are being placed at a rate of knots, so if you're interested in getting hold of this, it's advisable to get in there quickly.

Meanwhile, if you can spare me a personal moment (yes I know, another one) my script for THE DEVIL'S ROCK has received it's most fulsome praise to date in advance of the movie's offical premiere in North America at the Fantasia Film Festival, Montreal. An article on SPECTACULAR OPTICAL refers to it in the following terms: "An admirably smart and talky piece that doesn’t use dialogue exclusively to trot out plot elements or backstory, as is all too common in historical horror films. The ongoing faceoff between Captain Grogan and SS Officer Klaus Meyer is defined by rich character work and sparking dialogue".

What more can I say, except that I agree with every word.

On the subject of new releases, the 8th BLACK BOOK OF HORROR, of which I'm proud to be part, is now officially available, or will be imminently, from MORTBURY PRESS and all the other usual places, such as Amazon etc. I have to promote this one, as it's not too often that a book is published with an image of your severed head on the cover.

Demonik, who rules his excellent website VAULT OF EVIL with a rod of critical iron, appears to be suitably impressed. He apparently read the whole anthology within two days of receiving it and has described it as "a monsterpiece". (For the full TOC on 8BBH, check back a few posts on this blog).

On the back of a great holiday in sun-kissed Guernsey and a chance to explore at first hand the German fortifications that I wrote about in THE DEVIL'S ROCK, this has been a pretty good week so far. All I need now is a PA who'll work for nothing, to sort out the mountain of paperwork that always seems to build up in my office when I'm out of it for more than a couple of days.

Wednesday 3 August 2011

The island where a devil fought demons

Well, I'm finally back from my holiday on sun-soaked Guernsey in the southern English Channel, much of which time I spent in the company of my lovely family and friends, but some of which I also dedicated to exploring the archaeological remnants of the island's Nazi occupation, which of course was the basis for my most recent horror movie, THE DEVIL'S ROCK, in the company of its director, Paul Campion, and one of its stars, Matt Sunderland.

For those interested, HERE is a TV interview done with us all on BBC Guernsey last week.

Thanks must also go to CINEGUERNSEY for arranging the special screening of the movie, which was massively and enthusiastically attended, and for the Q&A session following - Paul, Matt and I all felt it was one of the best ones we've done so far, with non-stop intelligent questions taking us well past our allocated time.

Pictured below, Paul Campion (left), Matt Sunderland (middle) and my good self (in a somewhat inappropriate Dad's Army t-shirt) in the gun-pit whose design we used for the movie, and where a full-size German howitzer is still in place.

I've visited Guernsey and Jersey several time before when I was a child, but it never struck me until this last time round just how alive the memories of World War Two still are on these small, apparently insignificant resort islands, particularly Guernsey, which Hitler was convinced would be the staging post for an Allied invasion of occupied Europe.

Subsequently, between 1940 and 1945, entire battalions of German troops were based here, and the glorious coastlines were studded with concrete watch towers, bunkers and gun installations. Most of these are still intact and can be visited free of charge, while the island's many museums recount those dark days in unstinting detail and display a wealth of memorabilia.

Ultimately, on June 6th 1944 the Allied invasion struck Normandy's beaches directly, and the Channel Islands - though it meant they were doomed to remain under the jackboot for another 11 months - were spared the horrors of heavy bombardment and close-quarter fighting that were necessary to breach Hitler's Atlantic Wall. The actual liberation of Guernsey occurred on May 9th 1945 without a shot being fired, and it is still celebrated by the islanders with a special public holiday and a crisp home-brewed beer, Liberation Ale, of which I'd be lying if I said I hadn't sampled a few jars over the last week or so.

Anyway, here are some more relevant pix from last week.

First up, I investigate one of the former tunnel complexes, which has now become a museum. Those who've now seen the movie will (I hope) note a not-entirely-accidental resemblance to the tunnels through which star of the THE DEVIL'S ROCK , Craig Hall, was stalked by his demonic nemesis.

Below that, my son, Harry (right) and his mate, Sam, (left) join me at yet another well-defended embrasure. When I say these German strongpoints are well preserved, I mean it - all of these guns looked as if they could actually still fire.

Meanwhile, THE DEVIL'S ROCK roadshow continues to travel, and has now, finally, hit the North American continent, as it opens this week at the Fantasia Movie Festival in Montreal. Sadly, I couldn't attend that one, but Paul Campion (the director), and stars Matt Sunderland, Gina Varela and Karlos Drinkwater will all be in attendance.

Pictured below, in descending order: I join Paul Campion, Matt Sunderland and Gina Varela at the London premiere of the movie, in Soho; Matt and Gina do the red carpet stuff in Montreal; and Paul delivers his expert lecture on the film's special effects at Bournemouth University.