Anyone tempted by my latest e-collection of horror stories
and novellas, DON’T READ ALONE
, may be interested to learn that it will be FREE
to download from midnight tonight, October 23, and will remain so
until midnight on October 27.
From that point on, it will be subject to a special
Halloween promotion, enabling those still interested to download it for only 99p.
That deal in turn will run until November 10.
In case anyone is still undecided, allow me to fill you in a
little on the book itself. Though I’m better known for writing crime and
thriller novels these days, I have dipped into the horror market on a number of
occasions, primarily to pen movie scripts but also short stories and novellas.
I’m certainly no stranger to having collections of my stories published, though
up until now only a handful have appeared electronically.
Anyway, all that is now set to change.
The first of these new e-collections, DON’T READ ALONE
I repeat (because I reckon it’s worth repeating) can be yours completely FREE
from midnight tonight until midnight on October 27 – comprises
70,000 words of hopefully chilling and challenging fiction.
It features five long
stories in total, each one of which I’m fairly proud of – just read on for
further details, snippets and such.
(I should point out that the images scattered throughout this column,
while for the most part do not relate directly to these stories, should give
some indication of the kind of horrors you’ll find in there).
THE OLD NORTH ROAD
(winner of the International Horror Guild Award, 2007)
A disgruntled writer pursues the legend of the Green Man,
only to run into trouble of a less ethereal kind on the isolated Old North
“So … the Green Man,
he wasn’t actually supposed to have existed then? He wasn’t like a god or
“Well … no.” Drayton was caught on the hop: she’d clearly understood
his introduction. “No, he’s more of a symbolic figure. His original meaning, if
there ever was one, is lost to us now. He’s often associated with paganism of
course, and fertility rites … but that’s all bollocks. It’s just New Age
fantasy. In medieval times he was a representative of Nature … an embodiment of
all its beauty and danger. The Church used him as an allegorical figure; an
image of what Man could turn into if he didn’t stay on the straight and
“Yuk!” she interrupted, and he knew immediately what she was looking
Among his notes, he’d inserted a variety of cut-outs and original
photographs, the majority of them depicting the so-called ‘foliate heads’, the
original and most common way in which the Green Man was presented to his
mystified audience. These were invariably carvings, drawings or mouldings,
usually found in religious buildings, and nearly always they’d feature a
humanoid head that was either peeking out through dense vegetation or which had
actually become part of that vegetation. In most cases, the semi-transformed
heads were quite beautiful, their normal human features melding flawlessly into
concentric layers of crisp new leaves, their hair hung with fruit and flowers,
though one or two – and these were undoubtedly the ones that Shirley had just
found – were more gory; in their case, thick vines tended to uncurl from the
face’s gaping mouth, buds hung from the nostrils, branches often sprouted from
the eye sockets, having first, presumably, popped out the eyeballs. They made
for a very ugly sight, and Drayton had often thought them reminiscent of
rotting corpses through which natural undergrowth had penetrated.
When two college friends fall out over the same girl, one of
them turns to withcraft, and unwittingly unleashes a nightmarish force …
I took the kettle from
the cupboard, filled it at the sink and plugged it in, then went to close the
blinds and draw the curtains, and as I did I glanced out of the window – down
onto the quadrangle. And for the second time that evening I stopped dead.
Someone had just vanished out of sight below. Someone who had just
walked diagonally across the quadrangle.
The chill went to my very bones.
There was nobody else here, I told myself. Aside from Cheerwick, and it
certainly hadn’t been him. I tried to recall who it was I’d just seen. But no
answer was possible, because who could there be in Crawford House who was less
than three feet tall and walked with an ungainly limp?
But there were no children here. And in any case, when did you ever see
a child wearing a headscarf and old, peasant-type clothing?
Downstairs, I heard the swing and bang of the door being violently
A terrible second
passed, before I threw myself across the room and yanked my own door open. What
sounded like heavy but strangely hollow feet were clumping up the stone stair.
A suspected murderer leads a bunch of a cops into a network
of derelict air-raid shelters to find a missing child – where a hideous evil
“Where the fuck are you taking us to?” Brunton asked. He
was still coming the heavy, but the eyes were darting about, rabbit-like, in
his red, pudgy face.
“We’re almost there,” Grimwood
answered, a curious half-smile twisting his mouth.
A few minutes later they
entered an area of tunnel more heaped with debris than anything they’d so far
seen; huge sections of its roof and walls had long ago collapsed. In
consequence, this space was the tightest and dingiest yet. A black fungus
coated the damp and rotted fragments of wall that were still visible – it
seemed to leach away what minuscule light there was, and fuelled the sensation
that the party had now burrowed to the deepest point of the air-raid shelters.
In that respect, when Grimwood suddenly stopping to think, chuckled and,
hunkering down, began to scoop bricks and dirt away from the piled rubble with
his cuffed hands, it filled the three cops with revulsion.
“Can you imagine,” Craegan
said, “this slimy little toe-rag brought a child down here!” His gun was
trained firmly on Grimwood’s back; sweat gleamed on his pallid face.
Lockhart glanced warily at the
firearms man. “That’s behind him now though, isn’t it? Eh … Gordon?”
“Confession’s good for the
soul,” Lockhart added.
“So’s prison,” Craegan said,
his voice rising. “Too good. He should’ve been strung up for what he did!”
Grimwood ignored him and
continued to dig.
“Easy, Craegan,” Lockhart
the first time, the firearms man looked round at the chief super. “Easy? He’s
had it easy … for way too long!”
When holiday-makers are marooned in a Mediterranean sea-cave, they at first think it's a joke, only to find themselves at
the mercy of a relentless and voracious beast …
“We may have another
problem,” Dolph said. “This cave-system is of course tidal ... it may be that
with high tide, some of these passages become impassable.”
The terror of that thought gripped us like a vice. “Let’s go now!” I said urgently. “Now!”
We moved in a group towards the tunnel, at a steady breast-stroke – but
not before Dolph handed us two flares each in case any of us got separated from
the rest, though we were only to use them one at a time. The two Germans were
proving themselves good companions – they both took off their flippers and
fastened them to their harness, so as not to get too far ahead. As we swam,
Karen came up beside me and asked if I was sure I could make it. I could have
laughed. What choice did I have?
I could never have imagined however, just what a feat of strength and
endurance was required even to make it out of that deepest chamber. Anyone who
has ever tried to swim against a rising tide, even in shallow water off some
pleasant beach, will know how difficult it is. For every three yards we made
towards the black crevasse that was our first exit, the current pushed us back
two. We gasped and grunted and strained every muscle, yet at the same time we
knew we couldn’t afford to overtax ourselves. Just thinking about the distance
between us and the outer world was unbearable. Mind you, I doubt in that
particular moment that any one of the four of us knew the real meaning of fear.
One second later, we did.
It was Karen who first saw it coming up behind us. She was in front of
me and had glanced around, concerned that I was dropping behind, when I saw her
face change. She gave a shrill, prolonged scream. I looked around too, and had
a fleeting vision of some vast shape barrelling towards us, under the surface.
Before I could cry out, a huge object –
squashy, rubbery, freezing cold – bundled into me with such force that I was
catapulted out of the water and into the midst of the others.
An ageing metal band reunite to make one last album, but the country mansion they choose for a venue has a history of madness, massacre and necromancy …
“Luke! Luke …wake up
But it was too late. Because suddenly they were onto me, ragged hordes
of black and ragged things swarming out from either side of the path. I
ploughed into them, crunched headlong into their midst as though driving
through a cluster of saplings. There was a grinding of metal, a tearing and
snapping of fibrous limbs, and then bodies were being hurled aside or going
down flailing beneath my wheels. The next thing, the world turned upside-down:
the quad bike flipped over and I was flung hard onto the verge. I took the
brunt of it on the right shoulder and the right side of my head. It knocked me
senseless, and for some time I lay grovelling in the leaf-rubble and what I
assumed was a pool of my own vomit. But even groggy, I knew that I wasn’t
With agonised dizziness, I was able to look up.
The crash had put out the headlight, so I was denied much detail, but I
sensed as much as saw them standing all around me – those still capable of
standing, for I had mown a good number down, and I had the distinct impression
that beneath their dented plate and mildewed leather they were more bones and
filth than actual flesh.
(The witch doll image is by Malcolm Lidbury, the image of the Green Man costume is by David R. Tribble, and the image of the Green Man in stone by Johanne McInnis).