Friday 25 October 2013


I'm absolutely delighted to announce that the fifth volume in my series of regional British horror anthologies - TERROR TALES OF THE SEASIDE - is at last available to order from Amazon. As usual, its cover packs a massive punch courtesy of artist STEVE UPHAM, and it contains a number of stories by some of the genre's current finest writers, including STEPHEN VOLK, STEPHEN LAWS, RAMSEY CAMPBELL, SAM STONE and REGGIE OLIVER.

At the outset of this series, I discussed its potential with Gary Fry, head honcho at the immensely supportive GRAY FRIAR PRESS, and we agreed to try for an initial five in the series, just to test the water. Well, to date the books have sold so well and have won such praise that we are in no doubt we must continue, so for the moment at least, the books will run and run; two more are now scheduled and being worked on as we speak.

Today's launch sees the first in the series that doesn't actually restrict itself to any particular locale - though location, geography, folklore etc will always be important in these books - but rather focusses on a particular cultural aspect of British life: the traditional seaside holiday. Followers of the series will guess, rightly, that its release was planned to coincide with the WORLD FANTASY CONVENTION in Brighton at the end of this month (and it will be for sale at the Con with all the others in the series). Brighton itself is therefore spotlighted in the anthology, but so are various other popular coastal resorts like Torquay, Blackpool, Southport, Rhyl, Bognor and so on. Not that in this collection they are really underlined as places you'd like to visit.

Perhaps the back-cover blurb will explain:

The British Seaside – golden sands, toffee rock, amusement arcades. But also the ghosts of better days: phantom performers who if they can’t get laughs will get screams; derelict fun-parks where maniacs lurk; hideous things washed in on bitter tides …
The death ships of Goodwin
The killer clowns of Bognor
The devil fish of Guernsey
The Night Caller of St. Derfyn
The Black Mass at North Berwick
The grisly revenge at Brighton
The tortured souls of Westingsea
And many more chilling tales by Stephen Laws, Ramsey Campbell, Stephen Volk, Sam Stone, Simon Kurt Unsworth and other award-winning masters and mistresses of the macabre. 

Hopefully that will whet your whistles for more. But in case it doesn't, here's the full table of contents, which I'm sure you'll agree gives it added sex appeal (the italicised items are the 'true' tales with which I always like to intersperse the fictional ones):

Holiday From Hell by Reggie Oliver; The Eerie Events At Castel Mare; The Causeway by Stephen Laws; The Kraken Wakes; The Magician Kelso Dennett by Stephen Volk; Forces Of Evil; A Prayer For The Morning by Joseph Freeman; Hotel Of Horror; The Jealous Sea by Sam Stone; The Ghosts Of Goodwin Sands; The Entertainment by Ramsey Campbell; The Horse And The Hag; The Poor Weather Crossings Company by Simon Kurt Unsworth; The Devil Dog Of Peel; Brighthelmstone by R.B. Russell; The Ghouls Of Bannane Head; Men With False Faces by Robert Spalding; This Beautiful, Terrible Place; GG LUVS PA by Gary Fry; In The Deep Dark Winter; The Incident At North Shore by Paul Finch; The Walking Dead; Shells by Paul Kane; Hellmouth; The Sands Are Magic by Kate Farrell; Wild Men Of The Sea; Broken Summer by Christopher Harman.

Previous books in the series can still be purchased, and you don't need to go to WORLD FANTASY to get hold of them. They can be found at all good online retailers, such as Amazon, or at their point of origin, the GRAY FRIAR PRESS website. For those interested, they are: TERROR TALES OF THE LAKE DISTRICT, TERROR TALES OF THE COTSWOLDS, TERROR TALES OF EAST ANGLIA and TERROR TALES OF LONDON.


Don't forget, by the way, that my new e-collection, DON'T READ ALONE (70K words of spine-tingling horror) , is currently available for download on Amazon completely FREE of charge, and that it will remain so until midnight on October 27, from which point it will be subject to a special Halloween promotion and can be yours for only 99p, this second deal to run until November 10. 

Wednesday 23 October 2013

This week only ... get your horrors FREE!

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 – which 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 Road …

“So … the Green Man, he wasn’t actually supposed to have existed then? He wasn’t like a god or spirit?”
“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 narrow.”
“Yuk!” she interrupted, and he knew immediately what she was looking at.
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?
A child maybe?
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 opened.
     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 awaits them!

“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?”
Grimwood made no reply.
“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 advised.
     “Easy?” For 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 man!”
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 alone.
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).