Friday 25 May 2012

Walking a tightrope in a world of crime!

I have some amazing publishing news that I’m now able to share with everyone.

I can’t tell you all how long I’ve been waiting to publicise this. Several times I’ve almost jumped the gun and gone ahead and said something, but have always, thankfully, managed to restrain myself.

Now, at last, I can make this very exciting announcement.

In a nutshell, I have agreed a three-book deal with Avon Books – an imprint of HarperCollins, no less! – for a new series of hard-boiled crime novels.

Though I write a lot of horror and fantasy, some of those who read this column will also know that I had a former life as a cop and that I entered the world of professional writing by penning TV scripts for the ITV crime drama, THE BILL.

I’m a sucker for a good thriller, and have long sought to create a few of my own. In fact, it’s always been an ambition of mine to add to my literary repertoire by writing no-holds-barred cop novels, telling gritty tales about the modern police and their war against the underworld.

If you suspect that this ambition does not really include ‘Sunday evening’ type police stuff concerning investigations that proceed at a stately pace, usually in leafy rural locations or under the thatched eaves of opulent country mansions, you’d be very right. I prefer my cop stuff to be pacy, suspenseful, violent, frightening and smeared liberally with blood and grime from the darkest heart of Britain's inner cities. Like most current fictional detectives, I prefer my cops to be thoughtful, affable, imaginative and intelligent – but I also like them to be hard-edged rule-benders who will stop at nothing to bring justice to the streets.

Those were the goals I had in mind when I wrote my first police novel, THE NICE GUYS CLUB.

Think you haven’t heard about that one before, and you’d be correct. It has only recently been completed, and late last year was sent out for the perusal of publishers. Now, finally, we're green-lit. Avon Books have come back to me – not only wanting to publish THE NICE GUYS CLUB, but asking for three novels featuring the central character, Detective Sergeant Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg, a tough but tortured loner, who uses every trick in the book as he grapples with a succession of psychos, creeps and maniacs.

I guarantee you these will not be like anything I've written before. These books are firmly in thriller territory. We’re dealing with crime here, not the supernatural – but I’ve not let my horror expertise go to waste. If I’ve done my job properly, this new series should have you shuddering all the way through, both with revulsion and fear.

Anyway, enough bragging. The final issues are sorted and I'll be signing the contract next week. What can I say after that, apart from start looking out for THE NICE GUYS CLUB.

Saturday 19 May 2012

Woods where witches and monsters roam!

More interviews this week. Well … part three of my in-depth interview with THIS IS HORROR, one of the coolest horror sites on the Net. Yet again I blather my views on various aspects of the genre, though I focus more in this final section of chat on THE DEVIL’S ROCK – how it came about, how we devised the movie’s look, feel and ethos, etc – so please feel free to pop along there and check it out.

In case you’re wondering what relevance this has to the spooky woodland above … well, here’s the thing: it doesn’t.

In actual fact, this creepy coppice, and the various others that you see pictured at regular intervals in this column, are location shots taken by film director Paul Campion in advance of pre-production for our next movie collaboration, DARK HOLLOW – the adaptation of Brian Keene’s best-selling novel of the same name.

DARK HOLLOW is set in the heart of rural Pennsylvania, and for those who haven’t yet read it, it concerns a small country town on the edge of a dark and sinister forest, from which a magical entity emerges with extremely unpleasant intentions. It has much to do with arcane rustic folklore – most of it unique to Pennsylvania – and will be heavy on atmosphere and mystery (not to mention gore and sex, but both of those feature prominently in the novel as well, sometimes both at the same time, so blame Brian for that, not us).

For all this, it may surprise American readers of this column to learn that these pictures were not snapped in the Keystone State, or in fact anywhere in the USA, but over here in England’s New Forest, a deep, mysterious and much tangled stretch of woodland, originally planted as a hunting chase by William the Conqueror, who demolished half a dozen occupied towns and villages first in order to create the space, and slew any poor Saxon who objected. It now covers a vast area along the South Coast, encompassing the counties of Hampshire and Wiltshire. Perhaps in recognition of its violent origins, one English king – William the Conqueror’s second son, Rufus, was murdered in its gloomy depths – and his damned soul is supposedly still seen riding a black ram along the meandering footpath to Hell. Ghosts, goblins and other apparitions reputedly abound in its leafy dingles, and tales of witchcraft are commonplace there even today.

If all that isn’t strange enough for you, check out the image on the right – it’s the inn sign for a lovely and ancient pub in the heart of the forest, The Trusty Servant. In case you were wondering, it isn’t supposed to be demonic so much as allegorical – it depicts the Hircocervus, a mythical monstrosity said to represent something unreal but understandable. (I’m sure students of philosophy can enlighten us more on that).

Okay, I suppose all of this must seem like a bit of a diversion from our pre-production schedule involving DARK HOLLOW, but I only mention it to illustrate that, even when UK-bound, we are treating Brian’s weird and scary subject-matter with the utmost respect.

In other recent news, I was pleased to see my chapbook of last year, KING DEATH, published by SPECTRAL PRESS, get short-listed for a British Fantasy Award in the capacity of Best Short Story. These days, I’m a bit too long in the tooth to get too excited by this sort of thing. I had three short-list nominations last year, in various capacities, but ultimately none of them won the big prize, and this year I’m up against stern opposition in the form of Simon Bestwick (for Dermot from Black Static), Michael Marshall Smith (for Sad Dark Thing from A Book of Horrors), Adam Nevill (for Florrie from House Of Fear), Rob Shearman for Alice Through The Plastic Sheet from A Book Of Horrors) and Angela Slatter (for The Coffin-Makers’ Daughter from A Book Of Horrors). So it’s going to be another tough contest.

Tuesday 8 May 2012

Messing around with the genre's big boys!

There have been a couple of interesting developments this last week or so. First of all, I’ve been informed that mine and director Paul Campion’s next movie project together, DARK HOLLOW – an adaptation of Brian Keene’s best-selling horror novel of the same name – has officially entered the Fantasia Co-Production Market.

A quick explanation is perhaps needed here.

Basically, Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival, which is widely acclaimed as one of the largest and most influential genre film festivals in the world, is now embarking on its 16th edition with a major new industry-driven venture: The Fantasia Industry Rendez-Vous.

The Industry Rendez-Vous will feature the new Frontières International Co-Production Market. Frontières is the first international co-production market to connect North-American with Europe and Australasia, in an environment focused specifically on genre film production.

It will also include the Fantasia Film Market, making its official debut in 2012 to support the sales efforts of the features that will be part of the festival’s programming.

The Industry Rendez-Vous will be held from July 26th to 29th 2012, within the three-week body of the Fantasia Festival. Over the course of these four days, a Frontières pitch session, various meeting and networking sessions will be held, and a series of conferences will be organised to assemble the participants around current industry topics. These events will be coupled with the regular Fantasia schedule of public screenings and parties.

The projects to be presented in the market have now been chosen and feature an amazing array of filmmakers, from gifted newcomers to renowned maestros, as well as numerous established international producers. The selection of the first edition of Frontières will consist of 14 projects, of which DARK HOLLOW is only one. But it’s pretty nice to be mentioned in the same breath as some of those who’ll be in there alongside us: Bruce McDonald with his sequel to Pontypool; Stuart Gordon with Purgatory; Hobo With A Shotgun director Jason Eisener with Turbo Kid; and Keep Quiet from Jorge Michel Grau, who won great praise at Cannes in 2010 for his Mexican cannibal horror, We Are What We Are.

For more details, including all the other contenders, check these articles in the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER and SCREEN DAILY

Exciting stuff, I think.