Friday, 23 December 2011

Merry Christmas!

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish readers of this blog (and their loved ones) a very Happy Christmas, with all best wishes for the New Year.

Thank you for your continued support and interest, let’s hope 2012 is a storming year for all of us!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

A Year In Books

Well, it’s that time of the year again, as we gear up for Christmas and remember the good (and not so good) of 2011. Here, I present the now Third Annual ‘My Best Reads Of The Year’ award and my top 20 reads like this:

Joint 1st:
Love & Freedom, by Sue Moorcroft
The Concrete Grove, by Gary McMahon

3: The Silent Land, by Graham Joyce
4: The Hellbound Heart, by Clive Barker
5: Nearly Departed, by Rook Hastings
6: It Knows Where You Live, by Gary McMahon
7: Fogbound From 5, edited by Peter Mark May
8: Peel Back The Sky, by Stephen Bacon
9: The Howling, by Gary Brandner
10: The Derelict, by Neil Williams
11: Immortal Remains, by Rook Hastings
12: Early Autumn, by Robert B Parker
13: Lantern Rock, by Stephen Bacon
14: King Death, by Paul Finch
15: Play It As It Lays, by Joan Didion
16: Nowhere Hall, by Cate Gardner
17: Necropolis Rising, by Dave Jeffery
18: Angels Of The Silences, by Simon Bestwick
19: Last ManThroughThe Gate, by Tim C Taylor

There’s no number 20 listed here, since I’m currently reading Alison Littlewood’s superb “A Cold Season” and that will definitely feature.

The worst, without any close competition, was “Almost Blue”, by Carlo Lucarelli (translated by Oonagh Stransky), a dreadful piece of work.

Stats-wise, as of this writing, I’ve read 50 books - 31 fiction, 8 non-fiction and 11 comics/nostalgia. I didn't read any Three Investigator books at all, since I finished my epic read-through of the first 30 last year but, to be honest, I've missed them.

All of my reviews are posted up at Goodreads here

Friday, 16 December 2011

Writing round-up

“The Mill” continues to gather good notices, the latest appearing at The Book Den, where I also contributed a guest blog post on where the story came from.

The Review can be found here, whilst my guest blog can be found here.

I was also thrilled to discover that the story came at number 8 in the Top 15 Reads of the year, as compiled by Jim MacLeod at the Ginger Nuts Of Horror website.

In other news, “Fogbound From 5” is starting to roll out - it’s available in print and digital editions over in the USA, with the print edition due here very early in the new year, though you can get it from Amazon on Kindle. Really proud of this collection - not only does it contain my story “Last Train Home”, by Neil Williams & I were responsible for the cover artwork.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Coming soon....

..."Fogbound From 5", a new collection from those nice folk at Hersham Horror Books. It features brand new fiction from Alison Littlewood, Adrian Chamberlin, Neil Williams, Peter Mark May and me, with the cover art and design by Neil and myself.

My story "Last Train Home" features a monster dear to my heart and the ending was suggested by Matthew. We were driving one day and I was thinking aloud about what the story could be and he told me how it should finish - and, with a couple of tiny tweaks, I've managed to write what he suggested.

Here's the trailer I produced, ordering details will be coming soon...

Thursday, 24 November 2011

My sister

Tomorrow, the 25th, is my Dad’s birthday - he’s a sprightly pensioner now, his life more full of activity than when he was gainfully employed and he has a great time chasing around after his two grandchildren. We’ll visit him tonight, to give him his cards and gifts and wish him all the best.

Tomorrow, the 25th, my kid sister Sarah & I will go up to the cemetery, just on the edge of town and put flowers on our sister Tracy’s grave. It’ll be the eighth anniversary of her passing, which doesn’t feel like any time at all, until you think about everything that has happened since.

When Tracy passed away in 2003, Alison & I were trying for a baby and now we’re the exceptionally proud parents of Matthew, who’s 6 years old and as bright as a button. He’s the best thing I’ve ever created in my life and I’m sure Tracy would have loved him. He knows all about her, he’s seen her pictures, watched her in the wedding video, we talk about her, but there’s a constant nagging sadness that neither of them got to meet. I’m sure they’d have got on brilliantly - I’m convinced of it, in fact - but it wasn’t to be. Likewise, Tracy never got to meet Lucy, my god-daughter and niece, who is a beautiful and lovely two-year-old. Nor did see get to see Sarah graduate from university, meet Chris and get married. Worse, she never got to see how well my parents coped (in a situation that is almost unfathomable in its horror), how strong they were and how determined to keep moving forward - to remain as wonderful parents to me & Sarah and superb grandparents for Matthew & Lucy.

Time does ease pain and scars do heal over, but at certain points of the year, that time is rolled back and those scars are re-exposed. Tomorrow is that day for us.

It’s been eight years, but I remember that awful phone call as if it was yesterday. I wish I didn’t have to hear it, I wish my Mum hadn’t had to make it.

RIP, Tracy, never forgotten.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Another hero - Michael Hutchence


Today marks the 14th anniversary of Michael Hutchence's death. I still clearly remember hearing the news on the radio that morning and not quite believing it - he was dead, how could that be?

I followed without liking the awful media circus that broke out in the aftermath - the various dysfunctional family activities, the muck-raking, the missing funds, the death of Paula Yates making an orphan of their daughter - but still retained my image of the man. I never met him, though I was lucky enough to get to a few of their concerts (I'm in the crowd at Wembley XS and Alison & I saw them at the NEC in the summer of '97 when the whole band seemed to be on top form), but I wish I had. I've since read biographies and he generally comes across as a decent enough bloke - he loved his family and friends, he lived like a rock star and he always wanted to do his best.

We've seen INXS since - at the NEC again, with Jon Stevens fronting and also on Clapham Common earlier this year, with JD Fortune - and whilst they're still very good, they're definitely missing him. I've only listened to Switch briefly (though Alison really likes it), but their pre-97 music still moves me.

14 years is a long time, though it doesn't feel that far away as I write this. RIP, you true rock star.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

I Met Caroline Munro...

On Friday, through a friend’s Facebook update, I found out there was a Memorabilia fair at the NEC, in Birmingham. I’ve wanted to go along to one for years and, after having had a crap few weeks at work, thought it’d be a nice treat. With the promise that there would be plenty of Mario-related toys, I convinced Dude to accompany me.

We headed off on Saturday morning and I was overwhelmed with the scale of it all - I’d expected a big area, with plenty of stands, but this was just so much more. The second stand was selling badges and we were off, with Dude picking up a load and me finding a Six Million Dollar Man one. We worked our way around the place, meeting various characters on the way - Darth Vader, R2-D2 and the Stig were quite happy to pose with Matthew and Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger approached us, but Dude saw them off with a swish of his newly-bought Lightsaber. He got to sit in the DeLorean (“you’re Doc Brown,” he said to the man running the stand), we picked up a few Mario characters for him and I got a couple of vintage Stormtroopers to add to my growing collection.


In the centre of the hall were the famous faces, little booths where you could meet and greet and get autographs from actors who’d been in various sci-fi/fantasy/horror films over the years. I’ve never been a big one for collecting autographs (though I’d queue for hours to get Roger Moore’s), though seeing Ian Ogilvy’s name (he had a white XJS across from him) made me pause - but he was at lunch. We walked around the corner and, out of idle curiosity, I checked the names of the people there. And stopped. Dude stopped too and looked at me, frowning.

“What’s up, Dad?”

“Holy crap,” I said, “it’s Caroline Munro.”

I got a tap on the arm for the swear word (Alison has declared ‘crap’ in that category) but it didn’t matter. I was standing across from the booth that Caroline Munro was signing at (she must have been at lunch with Ian Ogilvy at the time).

“We have to come back,” I told my six-year-old son, as if our roles had been completely reversed and I wasn’t the forty-two-year-old Dad in this scenario, “I can’t miss this opportunity.”

“Okay then,” said Dude, “can we go and see if we can find Donkey Kong now?”

In order to understand just why this was so important to me, we have to go back to the mid-70s. I would have been 8 or so and, when my parents took us shopping (usually on a Friday night, to Sainsbury’s in Corby town centre), I’d sometimes go out to explore. Near the old fountains (long since gone now), there was an advertising hoarding and sometimes I’d look at it, sometimes I’d ignore it. One day, it was an ad for Lamb’s Navy Rum. And I fell instantly in love with the model on it, her wet-suit zipped down to her belly, her cleavage glistening with water - she had a pretty face, long dark hair and I knew I was in love.


A little later, I went with some school-friends to watch a couple of Sinbad films at the cinema, a double bill of “The Eye Of The Tiger” and “The Golden Voyage”. And there, in the latter, was my lovely lady. Later still, Dad took me to see “The Spy Who Loved Me” (which remains, to this day, my favourite Bond film) and there she was, flying the helicopter during the exciting Lotus chase sequence. It was her, the Lambs Navy Rum girl, all pouty and pretty and with cleavage on show.

I stayed for the credits and found out her name was Caroline Munro and my crush was then complete. As the 70s eased into the 80s, she made films - “Maniac” and “The Last Horror Film” - that I didn’t have a chance of watching, then appeared as a hostess on “3-2-1”, a Saturday night gameshow that initially I had to endure because the folks liked it, until Ms Munro appeared.


Even though I stopped watching “3-2-1” soon after (and still haven’t seen those horror films), I never forgot Caroline Munro and she’s always had a special pull for me - very pretty, very sexy but somehow curiously safe (in that English way) - and she’s the one woman I say I fancy where Alison doesn’t roll her eyes.

Anyway, back to the present, back to 2pm on Saturday 19th November 2011. After getting Donkey Kong for Dude, we made our way back to the booth that Caroline Munro was based at. There were some people in front of us, talking to her and my nerves started to get the better of me. What should I say? Is it polite to say to a lady that you’ve had a crush on her for almost 35 years - would I sound like a pervert? Would it worry her? Should I mention her films? Perhaps the fact that Dude & I have recently re-discovered “3-2-1” on Challenge TV and had seen her only the last week on there?

The people in front of us moved away. We stepped forward. The still-very-attractive Caroline Munro looked up and smiled and my heart melted - all of a sudden, I was 8 years old again, staring at that Lambs Navy Rum poster.

“Hello,” she said and, before I got a chance to say a word, Dude said, “hello” and that was it, they were off. She asked him his name, how he liked school, what his favourite lessons were. They chatted easily, taking in everything from maths to Super Mario and I stood there like a spare part, still trying to figure out what to say. Should I mention that I’d found the old ads on the Net? Should I mention that her wink, just before she tries to destroy James Bond is still one of the sexiest moments in film for me?

“I’m almost speechless,” is the classic line I eventually came out with, “you have no idea how much of an honour this is for me.”

She smiled and nodded - it’s probably a common reaction, I suppose - and then we talked for a while and she signed an autograph for me (“pick the Bond picture,” said Dude but I ignored his advice and went for the red swimsuit one). She noticed my camera and said “Would you like a photo?” and I agreed.


She got up from behind her table and we met at the end of it. She called Dude over and he stood between us and she put a hand on his shoulder and one around my waist. I tempted fate, put my right arm around her. The afternoon couldn’t get much better - I’d now not only met and talked with my boyhood crush, I was posing for a photo with her and my arm was around her. I was beyond happy, though in the photograph I look scared to death.

Caroline sat back down and I thanked her and shook her hand and she held out hers for Dude. He duly shook it and she told him to keep working hard at school and then we were away.

It took me several minutes for me to get my breath back and as I write this, I can still feel the terror and excitement as I stood before her. What’s nicest about the whole thing though (apart from the fact that I had no idea she’d be there) is how nice she was - she was lovely and friendly, warm and encouraging and she was genuinely interested in her conversation with Dude, which was a delight to witness.

So that was our day - both of us loved it, for mostly different reasons and when Dude suggested last night, as I put him to bed, that we go again today, I seriously considered it for a moment or two.

Yesterday, I met a hero of mine, a crush of three decades standing and she was more delightful than I could have ever imagined. And it made me think that I wish I could go back and say to the eight-year-old me, mooning over that Lambs Navy Rum poster, “One day, mate, you’ll get to meet her and please, please, please, think of something intelligent to say!”

Friday, 18 November 2011

I love this sequence...

It's taken from "Flasbbacks Of A Fool", a film directed by Bailie Walsh that was, in my opinion, unfairly lambasted on its release. It has a sequence in it, embedded from YouTube below, where the hero and his hoped-to-be girlfriend dance and lip-synch to Roxy Music. It's beautiful, it's nostalgic, it's quite poignant, it reminds me of my friend Pauline and I really like it.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

More reviews for "The Mill"

The great Pablo Cheesecake reviews "The Mill" at The Eloquent Page where, amongst other things, he writes, "West treats what could be difficult subject matter with a delicate, reverential touch and it shows. Subtle and affecting, this is a captivating read."

The brilliant Shaun Hamilton, over at the Horrifically, Horrifying blog, had this to say, "THE MILL is a haunting tale about loss and grief and the lengths people might go to just to spend one more minute with their dearly departed. A ghost story in the Susan Hill mould, THE MILL is gentle in its writing, offering respect for the subject matter as opposed to continuosly heading for the gullet."

On Goodreads.com, G.R. Yeates says, "The theme of losing a loved one is visited with rare sensitivity and once again showcases Mark West's skill at realistically portraying interpersonal relationships with dialogue that shines."

Alessa Dark on Twitter wrote "Bold mix of real and supernatural horror, often difficult to pull off, but well-handled in this case."

I can't tell you how heart-warming this is to read. If anyone wants a PDF review copy, email me or the publisher for details.


Available from Amazon.co.uk here
Available from Amazon.com here

Available from iTunes (UK) here
Available from iTunes (US) here

Available from Barnes & Noble here

Available from Smashwords here

Monday, 31 October 2011

"Later", a short film by Simon Duric

Note:
It’s my opinion that the “Later” experience (for both the short story and the short film) is made all the better by not knowing what’s coming, by letting the piece of work guide you and confound you and move you without prior knowledge. To that end, this review/essay won’t give you a blow-by-blow plot breakdown but there might be minor spoilers within. You’ve been warned!


Sometime in 1996, in a Stephen Jones themed anthology (I won’t tell you the name of it, since it sort of gives the game away), I read a short story called “Later” by Michael Marshall Smith. At that point, I hadn’t read anything by him and when I got to the last line, I was amazed and moved and astonished at how much power that story packed (for those interested, it’s reprinted in all its glory in Smith’s 1999 collection from Harper Collins, “What You Make It”). I became an instant fan and continue to tell as many people as will listen just how good it is - I even homaged (well, alright, stole) the beautiful “Later…” line in my own novel five years later.

Fifteen years on and I’m in Brighton, attending the British Fantasy Society’s FantasyCon, held the weekend that September rolls into October. Martin Roberts, an old friend, has organised the film shows for the event and, knowing of my love for the story, tells me that he’s secured a screening of a short film version. I didn’t even realise one was being made.

Slight dilemma. I read quite a lot and, on occasion, I’ve read a book or story before it’s been made into a film and, in general, the viewing pleasure is often a bit of a let-down (and sometimes it’s a lot of a let-down). Dare I risk going to see this? How could they capture the feelings and emotions that the story had raised in me? How could they make it as powerful as the story was? Only one way to find out.

On Saturday evening, at 9pm, I gathered up a little band of mates - who’d I been regaling for the past hour about how good the story was - and we went into the screening. Martin introduced it, the lights went down and the film started. At 9.20pm, I left the screening room on my own and felt the need to get a breath of fresh air. You see, the film did work. Not quite in the same way as the story had, but it did enthral me, it did raise powerful emotions in me and it was upsetting in parts. I went back to find my friends and spent the remainder of the weekend telling everyone who’d listen that the short film of “Later” was very, very good indeed.

- warning, here may be spoilers -

According to the Nimble Pictures website (the production entity behind this mini-masterpiece) “Later” is the story of Richard and Rachel, a young couple who are deeply in love. Their life together is torn apart when, on the way to a party, Rachel is killed in a tragic accident. Unable to cope with the idea that he’s now alone, Richard decides that death doesn’t have to be the end of everything.

Richard (Neil Newbon) and Rachel (Nessa Wrafter) meet at a party

By their very nature, many low-budget films (especially short ones) are acting rather than action driven and so they stand and fall on performance. In the case of “Later”, they picked superbly well as the acting is top notch. Neil Newbon plays Richard and appears in virtually every shot, doing most of his acting with expression - he conveys enough emotion that the audience not only sympathises with him but empathises too. Equally at ease whether still - reflecting in the car at the beginning - or caught amid violent movement - earlier in the car or much later, with spade in hand - he’s never less than watchable. As Rachel, Nessa Wrafter arguably has the more difficult role - with much less screentime, she has to make her character memorable enough for us to believe in what Richard does and she achieves this admirably. Her Rachel is beautiful and smart and loving and so when she does get hurt, we feel Richard’s pain because we want her to live. We want them to be together. And that, essentially, is the crux of the whole film.

Rachel & Richard, in the bedroom

It’d be difficult to pick a “best” scene, with regards to the performances, but since tying a tie is very important in the short story, I’ll go with that one. Getting ready for the party, Richard can’t knot his tie and is getting frustrated when Rachel comes into the bedroom, clad in a towel. Whilst kissing him, we’re aware of movement and she steps back - having knotted the tie perfectly - says her “later…” line and things move forward. In that sequence, we know as much as we need to about the characters, we understand them (hell, we’ve even been them at some point) and the actors play off each other perfectly. There’s also a nice little visual trick, a beautifully observed moment where the camera pans across Rachel’s upper arm and focuses on the beads of water that have escaped the towel.

Richard bathes (for reasons I can't go into for fear of spoilage) in a wordless sequence that highlights Neil Newbon's superb acting

The cinematography, by Luke Bryant, is gorgeous with a lovely muted palete and - in the couple sequences at least - a real warmth to the image that you don’t often find with DV (it was shot using a RED HD camera). The music - by Nate Connelly - is nicely understated but insistent and the editing, by Ben Jordan, keeps everything moving nicely. Often, with low budget films, the editing is where things have a tendency to fall down (shots linger too long, or are cut too quicky) but Jordan and Duric seem to know precisely how long everything should remain on screen for.

Again, without wanting to throw in too many spoilers, there’s only one major make-up effect - by Natalie Guest - but it’s so shocking to see it that (in the screening I attended, at least) it drew a gasp. A prosthetic piece, it adds a real sense of poignancy to a scene that’s already difficult enough to watch. According to the director, he kept the actors apart when the scene was shot, so that Neil wouldn’t know how Nessa would look, making his reaction all the more believeable. And it does work, his stunned and wordless expression an extension of the audiences own.

Pulling all of this together is writer & director Simon Duric and he’s done a superb job, in both adapting the short story and making it work so well and so movingly as a film.

Simon started out in the small press, getting his break with Andy Cox at TTA Press (a role Andy has performed for a lot of those writers and artists amongst us - in my case, his zine “The Fix” opened up a whole new world in 1999) and was nominated for Best Artist in the 2001 British Fantasy Society awards. Finding work as a storyboard artist, he got in touch with Michael Marshall Smith “and I cheekily asked him if he'd be willing to let me try and adapt one of his short stories into a short film. He asked which one, I said LATER.” Writing his first draft overnight, Smith liked it enough to let Simon carry on and the film was eventually shot over four days (though it’s so polished, it certainly doesn’t look like it).

At present, the film is on the festival circuit, premiering in 2011 at the Fantastik Film Festival in Lund, Sweden and it was also invited to the Sitges Film Festival in Barcelona (where it was nominated for a Melies D'argent award). Beyond that, who knows? With the market for short films being what it is - anyone remember Channel Four’s “Shooting Gallery” strand, which sadly appears to have bitten the dust - there are no plans for “Later” other than being a terrific calling card for all involved.

Personally, I think the film deserves a bigger audience and I hope this little review/essay has inspired you enough to want to watch it. Maybe if you're reading this and are interested in seeing it, you could perhaps email Nimble Pictures at info@nimblepictures.co.uk and show your support.
(Interesestingly, they also have “Dark Hollow” in development, based on the Brian Keene novel, with a screenplay from my friend Paul Finch to be directed by Paul Campion, ie, the writer and director behind “The Devil’s Rock”).

And just to finish on a high - how about Rachel’s line? The line that made the short for me and is delivered so wonderfully by Nessa Wrafter in the film? Here it is, in it’s entirety:

“Later,” she said, smiling in a way that showed she meant it. “Later, and for a long time, my man.”

Track this film down, it’s well worth a look and very highly recommended.


ADDENDUM (May 2014) - Thanks to Michael Marshall Smith for pointing this out to me - the film can now be watched at his website on this link - http://www.michaelmarshallsmith.com/new-page-1/


(I'd like to thank Elisabeth Pinto, the producer of the film and owner of Nimble Pictures, who graciously passed my "well done!" email on to Simon Duric.  I'd also like to thank Simon for both answering my email and his patience and good humour with my questions and queries thereafter )

all photographs are (c) Nimble Pictures, used with permission

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Drive, a novella

It's now public and official, so I can announce that Chris Teague's Pendragon Press will be publishing my 'dark urban thriller' "Drive", probably next year. I have a real soft spot for this (which was inspired when I was driving to Luton airport at 3am to catch a plane for a business trip and found I was the only person on the M1).

Chris writes, "A departure from Mark's horror writing, though still quite terrifying: a fast-paced thriller set in the darkness of Gaffney's streets."

This is the cover art test I did back in 2008 (when the novella was written), which is obviously subject to change, but I quite like it and thought I'd give it an airing!

Very chuffed about all of this, as you can probably tell!

More news as and when I have it.

Some love for "The Mill"

Anthony Watson has posted a review of "The Mill" at his website and, as a writer, it makes for very pleasant reading.

He says, "The emotional content genuinely is moving and is never mawkish or sentimental and the conclusion fits in perfectly with - and is as moving as - everything that's gone before."

Can't ask for better than that, can you?


Available from Amazon.co.uk here

Available from Amazon.com here

Available from Smashwords here

Monday, 10 October 2011

In The Rain With The Dead


“In The Rain With The Dead” is now available as an eBook from Tim C Taylor’s Greyhart Press.

This is a revised, leaner version of the novel, which originally appeared from Pendragon Press in 2005 (an edition that is completely sold out now). “In The Rain With The Dead” features Jim and Nadia, once teenaged sweethearts, reunited now after a decade apart and Magellan, a demon who is desperate to make Nadia his own.

“A tale of lost love and gut-wrenching terror”.

If you choose to give it a chance - and I hope you do - I hope you enjoy it.

Pick it up from Amazon.co.uk here

"In The Rain With The Dead" in the Greyhart Press catalogue

Thursday, 6 October 2011

My FantasyCon Report

Brighton - 30th September to 2nd October 2011

Friday 30th September
I dropped Matthew at school, then Jay Eales & Selina Lock picked me up and we set off on our ROADTRIP! down to London. We had a playlist of CDs but didn’t need them, chattering all the way, though as the traffic was quite heavy and the sun was very hot, it perhaps wasn’t quite as glamorous as we’d all perhaps expected. Having said that, it was still an exciting ROADTRIP! and so that’s how we all referred to it for the duration of the weekend.

After lunch at the Pease Pottage Services (great name, terrible design of car park), we hit Brighton at about 2pm. Jay & Selina went to park and I took the bags into the foyer where, almost immediately, the joy of FCon hit me. As I queued up to get my name badge, I got a wonderful hug from Pixie Pants (she’s lovely, she really is), said hello to Sarah Pinborough and Simon Kurt Unsworth, Simon Clark, Martin Roberts, Peter Mark May, Dave Jeffery and a raft of others and knew I’d arrived. FantasyCon means a lot of things to a lot of people - to me, a big chunk of the enjoyment is meeting up with old friends, making news ones and talking about our shared love for the genre. This year, in a change, I was looking forward to meeting up in person with a load of people who’d become Facebook friends since the last Con.

I had a good room - third floor, above the main entrance (a shame I didn’t get a sea view but, on the bright side, it didn’t get any direct sunlight so remained blissfully cool as the Con sweltered in a mini-heatwave over the weekend) and the only issue I had with it was a nightclub over the way which thudded long into the night (but if I closed the window, all was well). I dropped my stuff off, sorted the goody bags, returned the books I wasn’t interested in (my tastes seemed to be the same as a lot of con-goers, if that welcome table was anything to go by) and headed into the throng.

Reading a section from "Mr Huxton Goes Camping" at the Alt-Dead reading
(photo by Peter Mark May)

The programme was packed, which was excellent, though it had the unfortunate knock-on effect that there were plenty of schedule clashes. I went to my first reading - Sara Jayne Townsend - then back to Bar Rogue for the Alt-Dead readings, in the company of Pete May, Dave Jeffery, Richard Barber, Ade Chamberlain and Stuart Young (who also brought me a bag of Robert B Parker novels). The readings went well, we drew a small crowd and then indulged in a Q&A session which was good fun. As the welcome meeting started, we stayed put and I caught up with Simon Marshall-Jones and met his lovely wife Liz and also finally met Stuart Hughes (ex-editor of ‘Peeping Tom’ and my cohort in Stumar Press). By now, it was time to eat and so our merry little band - the Marshall-Jones’, me and Jay & Selina, Stuart, Richard, Pete and Dave - set off. Jay had satellite navigation on his phone, Pete had a print out of local restaurants, but we still got lost. We ended up in a decent place, which was empty but still took ages to serve us, though it allowed for plenty of conversation and getting-to-know you.

At the Indian, with Richard Farren Barber and Selina Lock
(photo by Jay Eales)

Back at the hotel, I bumped into Mark Morris and had a chat with him and Stephen Volk (both lovely men), which is always a treat. Then I spotted Graham Joyce and - after he’d introduced me to Catherine Rogers - I got to tell him just how much “The Silent Land” had moved me. He seemed genuinely pleased to hear it and we had a nice long chat, joined by Simon Bestwick. Back to the Regency Lounge for the raffle which, as ever, went on for far too long - though Sarah and Guy Adams did their best to make it enjoyable - and I won a US edition of Clive Barker’s “Mister B Gone”. A nice surprise was discovering I was sat next to Paul & Mandy Edwards - we’d first corresponded over ten years ago, when Paul edited Unsane magazine and it was great to finally meet them both.

After the raffle, I went straight into the Russell Room for the midnight screening of “The Devil’s Rock”, written by Paul Finch. I’d seen it before, but it was a real treat to watch it with Paul in attendance and we had a short Q&A session afterwards. As we left, at 2am, Chris Teague said he was heading for the bar but I decided to head back to my room.

Saturday 1st October
Hotter today, if possible. Refreshed after a good kip, I had breakfast and sat with Trevor Denyer and caught up. By this time, I’d missed a couple of panels I’d planned to attend, so I went down to the dealer room instead. It was a small-ish, windowless room and it was like a sauna - even with the blowers/fans dotted around, I don’t know how any of them stood it. I wandered around, ummed-and-aahed over “The Five” by Robert McCammon (still too expensive, sadly), introduced myself to Peter Coleborn (I’d done the book trailer for “Rumours Of The Marvellous”) and Jan Edwards, hung around the Pendragon table, hung around the DCP/Hersham Horrors table and then had a long chat with Steve Harris (from the Inner Circle newsletter), John Worley and Stuart Lambeth about the joys of being a teenager in the 80s and working your way through Betamax video nasties! Coming out of the dealer room, I took a wrong turn and suddenly I was in the middle of Spinal Tap, trying to figure out where I was in a maze of corridors and odd, stand-alone blocks of wall.

I had lunch with David Price at a deli in the Lanes, then back for the Alchemy Press launch. Peter sent me upstairs to get my “contributor” copy and got Peter Atkins to sign it, explaining who I was in the process. Now Peter Atkins is a big man, physically and in projection and he’s successful, yet he stood up and shook my hand and enthused about my book trailer and made me feel wonderful. After a quick chat with Mick & Debs Curtis and Gary Cole-Wilkin & Soozy Marjoram (and an agreement that Gary would do the soundtrack to my Spectral Press chapbook and I’d make him a music video), I went to the Hellraiser Franchise panel, which was informative and good fun. Out of there and back to Bar Rogue for the Pendragon Press/Screaming Dreams launch, where I gave Johnny Mains the copy of “Worms” I’d picked up in Great Yarmouth. I bought a copy of his “Lest You Should Suffer Nightmares” as we chatted about sleazy horror paperbacks and Charlotte Bond, sitting next to him, joined in. She was puzzled about the book, so we explained the 70s and 80s horror boom and then it struck me. “When were you born?” I asked and that solved everything.

In the Regency Room, with (from left) Stuart Young, David 'Dai' Price, Terry Grimwood
(photo by Gary Cole-Wilkin)

I went to the Comics Panel which Jay was moderating (though my knowledge of comics is limited to Bullet and The Crunch from when I was a kid and 2000AD into the early 80s, or what Jay, Selina and Stuart Young tell me) and that was enjoyable, then found myself involved in a passionate discussion about the DC-52 (I think) with several folk, including Selina and a woman who clearly thought I knew more than I did.

Greg James caught up with me - Facebook friends for a while now, but our first face-to-face - and we went to the bar where he introduced me to his friends (hi Dolores and Jason!). I then went for a wander, checked out the art exhibition with Russell John Morgan and saw Jon Oliver, with whom I chatted about books and babies.

Arrangements had been made for dinner, so I met up with everyone outside the main entrance and our splinter group - me, Paul & Mandy, Stuart Hughes, Richard and Dai - decided to try out the Pint With A Pizza on the pier. It was a mistake - a grubby pub, cheap and nasty pizza - but the company was terrific and really made the evening. Walking with Mandy back to the hotel, we marvelled that everyone was dressed for summer yet it was 7.30, dark and the 1st of October - very odd.

On the pier, waiting for dinner, with Mandy Edwards, Stuart Hughes, Richard Farren Barber, Dai Price
(photo by Paul Edwards)

Chatting with Paul Edwards
(photo by Mandy Edwards)

The DCP/Hersham Horror went very well, with a good number of writers on hand and cake from Bev Chamberlain. Selina came by and we adopted her and I think she should have sat with us and signed some books.

Eating cake at the Alt-Dead launch, with Stuart Hughes, Dave Jeffery, Steve Lockley and Stuart Young. Peter Mark May hands out the grub!
(photo by Selina Lock)

Martin Roberts had collared me on the first day, telling me he was screening a short film based on Michael Marshall Smith’s “Later”, which is probably my favourite short story. I went into the Russell Room at 9pm - with John Travis, Jay & Selina, Pete, Chris and Stuart - with trepidation but I needn’t have worried, it’s a brilliantly made film, with great central performances from Neil Newbon and Nessa Wrafter and assured direction from Simon Duric (who used to be involved with the BFS). It’s also very touching, not quite reaching the poignancy of the story (which made me cry), but not falling far from it - I left the screening room straight away and had 5 minutes on my own.

Then it was on to the evening’s big events in the Regency Lounge. Pete got me and John Worley seats on the front row and I sat at the very end, in front of Jay & Selina. Teatro Proberto (John Llewellyn Probert and Thana Niveau) performed a stripped down panto-version of “The Blood On Satan’s Claw”, inventively playing all the parts themselves and it was hysterical, a brilliant production that had the audience howling. This was followed by the first set of Burlesque, as organised by Alessa Dark, a troupe of lovely ladies (and, later, a man who I will now always think of whenever I hear ‘Bright Eyes’ played) who put on a fine show (I’ve never seen one in real life, so I wasn’t quite sure what was going to happen). One lady came on - Baby Box, I think - and danced to ‘Good Times’, by INXS. All good so far. Our dancer got down to her stockings, knickers and bra and loosened the straps. She looked at me. I looked at her, nervously. She began to move across the stage, coming my way. “Oh no,” I thought, “go the other way.” She kept coming, stepped off the stage, smiled at me. I must have looked like a panicked rabbit to her, then she leaned forward and gave me a wiggle and there was a big reaction from the audience. For my part, I closed my eyes and heard Graham Joyce, sitting across from me, shouting about the unfairness of seat positions or something. Our dancer smiled at me, got back on stage and finished her set and it was terrific. Teatro Proberto came back, to perform “Corruption”, a film I haven’t seen but now desperately want to. It was another barn-storming show, with added puppets this time and one of the funniest things I’ve seen in ages. The burlesque came back, for another terrific set, ending with Alessa herself dressed as a wolf, dancing to Led Zeppelin. Great stuff.

I went to Ramsey Campbell’s Midnight Read, then headed to the bar and went over to see Esther/Alessa, to compliment her and her troupe for the great burlesque performance - she’d been so nervous beforehand, but it went down a storm.

Sunday 2nd October
Bloody roasting today. Up bright and early because I hadn’t heard the message that FCon attendees had until 4pm to check out, so I packed my bags and lugged them downstairs, then lugged them right back up again. I had breakfast with Trevor again, sharing the table with Simon Clark this time, who is a thoroughly nice chap. I went to Alison Littlewood’s reading in Bar Rogue and thoroughly enjoyed myself - she’s very talented and very nice, we only met this weekend and I was won over by her sheer enthusiasm (though her head-girl-style of getting stories in well in advance could get a bit wearing!). After another quick trip to the dealer room, I nipped into the “How To Market Your Novel” panel, moderated by my friend Gary McMahon. It was well attended, had some good names on the stage and there was plenty of good advice (though, on reflection, a lot of it seemed to come down to common sense). I was going to make a point about not giving friends all 5* reviews on Goodreads and Amazon (or your own stuff, for that matter), but there was a sea of hands each time Gary asked for questions. I stayed in the room for the Genre Movie Panel but it wasn’t as good as I’d hoped, though some panel members were very refreshing - especially Anne Billson and Stephen Gallagher.

Me, with the "Alt-Dead" poster
(photo by Peter Mark May)

Jay, Selina & I headed out into the Lanes and the sunshine. We had lunch in a pub, I got Matthew a finger-puppet and we headed back, expecting the banquet to have ended. It hadn’t, so we sat up on the bar terrace with Gary & Emily McMahon, the Marshall-Jones’, Dai Price and Rob Spalding. The banquet went on, the weather got warmer and people started to get cranky. By the time the hall was ready, most of us couldn’t get in and so stood in the doorways, watching.

Plenty has been written elsewhere about the awards, about what happened and about the reactions, so I won’t go into details here except that I was there, it was uncomfortable and I wish it hadn’t happened. I was glad when it was over, to be honest and as I collected the bags, I tried to block it out of my mind.

Since Brighton was mobbed, it took ages to get the car, we said our final goodbyes, then loaded up for our return ROADTRIP! (with Raven Dane on board this time, at least until Hemel Hempstead). The traffic was terrible and it took us well over an hour to get out of Brighton, but conversation was easy and brisk and kept us all going on the gruelling drive home. I finally got in at 10.30, a rucksack full of books heavier.

Apparently, this was the best attended Con in years (which I can well believe, there were a lot of people in that hotel) and I enjoyed The Albion, I had a good room and it was very convenient to pretty much everywhere I wanted to walk (though the lift breaking down wasn’t good, I had to help David Hebblethwaite downstairs at one point). The Con itself was fantastic, never a dull moment and that was helped immeasurably by the volunteer red-shirts who - I think - should have won an award themselves (especially the lovely Pixie Pants). The awards debacle aside, this was a terrific FantasyCon and I had a truly wonderful weekend, meeting up with loads of old friends and making plenty of new ones and coming away feeling fully recharged!

Roll on the next one!

I’ve missed out a whole host of people, I know, but it was also great to chat with (amongst many others); John Forth & Esther Sherman, Shaun Hamilton and his lovely wife, Ian Whates and Helen, Donna Scott, Neil Bond, Will Hill, Pablo & Mrs Cheesecake, Maura McHugh, Charles Rudkin, Dani & Mrs Serra, Rob Spalding, Anna Taborska, Reggie Oliver, Terry Grimwood, Steve Upham, Adam Nevill & his dad, Andy Bigwood, Roseanne Rabinowitz, Helen Hopley, Marie O’Regan, Paul Kane, Joe D’Lacey and Paul & Cath Finch.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Dead & Buried

When Michael Wilson asked me to be involved with his new horror film site, See-Horror, I jumped at the chance. He liked the reviews I'd been doing for VideoVista and asked what I'd like to do. I suggested revisiting old films that had somehow fallen through the cracks, he liked it, so off I went.

My first film in the Retrospectives section is "Dead & Buried". You can read the essay/review here - there's quite a bit of autobiography (sorry about the mention, Kiddo), some background on video nasties and my review of the film itself.

Hope you like it, if you choose to check it out.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The Mill

"The Mill" is now available as an eBook, from Tim C Taylor's Greyhart Press.

Previously published in the acclaimed Pendragon Press anthology "We Fade To Grey" (edited by Gary McMahon), "The Mill" is a story about grief, guilt and coughing ghosts and, according to Mark Morris, "is one of the most moving pieces of writing I have read in a long time".

If you choose to give it a chance - and I hope you do - I hope you enjoy it.

Pick it up from Amazon.co.uk here

"The Mill" in the Greyhart Press catalogue

Friday, 23 September 2011

More love for "Conjure"

The wonderful writer Greg James has just finished reading "Conjure" and left this mini-review on my Facebook wall. I'm really quite chuffed about it!

"What really worked for me about this novel was its evocation of the decaying resort towns along the coast of East Anglia that I grew up in as well as supernatural elements that were reminiscent of folktales from the same area. In this way, it is a very British story. Lastly, I would also like to comment on the writer's talent for smooth, naturalistic dialogue; never easy to pull off and always a joy to read."

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

A "Drive-by" interview with me

Thanks to the lovely - and very talented - Angela Slatter, I have a new interview up at her website, as part of her drive-by interview series.

Check it out here

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Alt-Dead is here

Freshly available at Amazon right now (in a gorgeous print edition and also as a Kindle eBook) is "Alt-Dead", edited by Peter Mark May and featuring a whole host of cracking writers and stories (including one by me, but don't let that put you off!). It also has some pretty nifty cover art too!

Click the link and give some small press writers a chance!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

About books (childhood edition)

I’ve been remiss in not posting to this blog more often - we went on holiday, to Caister, the week after the riots (re: lawless opportunism) and I found two terrific bookshops that I intend to blog about (18 books purchased over the course of a week, I loved it), but time hasn’t been on my side.

However, to distract from work issues and to further procrastinate from writing anything, I’ve decided to update my Goodreads.com account. Up until now, for the most part, I only posted books I’d read and/or reviewed over the past 9 years (when I started recording my reading habits). Now, I’ve decided to go back and add books on my shelves (that I’ve read) because, hey, it seemed like a good idea when I started it.

Two things have struck me. One is that the availability of Penguin cover scans, from the 80s and 90s, is dire. I appear to be the only person in the whole world who’s read Reynold Dodson’s “Urban Renewal” (I liked it a lot), because it has no reads/reviews/stars on Goodreads and I can’t find the cover image of the edition I have anywhere.

The second is that books from my childhood are slipping away. As a massive Three Investigator fan, I discovered - in the late 70s - a series of books about Roger Moore and The Crimefighters (published by Everest Books through 1977), but when I read them, I wasn’t overly impressed and gradually lost my copies as the years went by. I found one - “The Siege” - on eBay and bought it a couple of years ago, though I haven’t re-read it yet. There were no covers on Goodreads and only the most basic of information, so I checked around, found out some info and beefed the profiles a bit.

Sadly, I also had to do that for “The Restless Bones” (Armada Books, 1978), by Peter Haining, a collection - the cover of which drew me in immediately - of ten true-life tales that was one of the first spooky books I ever owned (purchased, for 50p, from the school Bookworm club). I’m writing this 33 or so years after I first read them - though I went back through the book constantly as a kid - and yet some of them, especially the title story, still stick vividly in my mind. Re-reading the contents page (the book’s been on my shelves forever, but it’s not something I often take out to look at), I saw there’s also "The Trail Of The Devil's Footprints", based around the same incidents that haunted me so badly from the Arthur C Clarke series.

But reading the title of the last story sent a delicious chill down my back because the kid-version-of-me, nine years old and laying in bed, reading by torchlight, was forever terrified by “The Voice In The Graveyard” and its plaintive cries of “please help us…” I like to think that maybe it’d still be quite chilling to read, even now, even after all the horror novels I’ve read since.

I’m a little sad that the book is dropping out of sight, but re-assured also that - in some small way, by updating info of it online - I can try and keep it visible for a little longer. It’s also very heartening to hold it, proud of my 9-year-old self for keeping his once-favourite book in such immaculate condition after 33 years. I’ll bet eBook editions don’t last that long!

Long live the paperback!
(just in case you're interested, all of my reviews are here - http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/640719.Mark_West)

Saturday, 6 August 2011

An ambition achieved!

For years - literally decades - one of my major writing ambitions has been to wander into a bookshop and see one of my novels on the shelves.

Well, today it happened.

Kettering Waterstones. Bottom shelf, three copies of "In The Rain With The Dead".

Oh yes!

Friday, 5 August 2011

Another (great) "ill at ease" review!

Another great review, this time from Colum McKnight at Dreadful Tales - read it here.

"Ill At Ease could easily pass itself off as the first volume in a series of chapbooks. All of the writers involved brings forth a high caliber writing, and a true understanding of how to scare an audience and, at the very least, how to creep out their audience with seemingly innocent situations gone awry."

Just in case this leads you to want to buy it, or get more information, you might find the following useful:

Purchase from Amazon in the UK here

Purchase from Amazon in the US here

Or get it from Smashwords here

In addition, you could also join our Facebook group

Thursday, 4 August 2011

New film reviews!

The August issue of VideoVista is now on-line, where I review “Robot Chicken” and the really rather good “The Devil’s Rock”, co-written by my friend Paul Finch.

Plenty of other great reviews too!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Terror Scribes Gathering Chesterfield 2011

Terror Scribes Gathering
The Royal Oak - Chesterfield - 16th July 2011


The message came through from the Terror Scribes Facebook Group - a gathering was going to be held, at the Royal Oak in Chesterfield, on Saturday 16th July. Did I want to go?

A Terror Scribes gathering? Organised by the head honcho, John B Ford, himself? In the spiritual hometown of Chesterfield? Oh yes, I was definitely in.

I decided to catch the train up, for ease and as Alison & Dude waved me off from the platform, I put on my MP3 player, got out my book and settled in (then had to change at Leicester, for the train that would take me directly to Chesterfield). Due to a delay, it was a little after two when I arrived and met up with Steve Bacon. He & I have had a busy year since we last met up (for the first time) at FantasyCon in 2011 - we’ve each written a novella for a joint collection and devised, written and published “ill at ease” with Neil Williams. It was great to see him and we walked up towards the town, catching up (email is great, as is Facebook, but nothing beats chatting face-to-face). It took us a while to find the pub - we later realised we’d strolled right past it - and then we were in, pretty much the last of the bunch to arrive.

The Royal Oak was an old coach-house, very nicely restored and - probably - with a lot of its original features. It was the ideal place for a gathering except turnout had been good, so it was a little cramped. Steve & I made it through the door and that, pretty much, was where we stayed for the remainder of the afternoon. Paul Kane & Marie O’Regan were sitting at the nearest table, along with Jay Eales & Selina Lock (with whom - “roadtrip!” - I’m travelling down to Brighton in late September for FantasyCon 2011) and we caught up with them for a while. Moving away from us, deeper into the narrow room, were Sue & Morgan Philips (who’d done an excellent job, organising the last few gatherings in Leicester), Des Knight, the wonderful John B. Ford, Simon Clark, Paul & Coleen Bradshaw, Simon Bestwick and Derek Fox. The latter had also brought along a few folk - three nice ladies and a chap in a terrific hat - from his writing class. In addition, there were three people I’d never met before, a writer called Lee Wilson and a couple who sat by the door, a very shy lady (who was nice to chat to) and her partner. Later arrivals than us included Martin Roberts & Helen Hopley and Steve Lines & Loretta Mansell - and they had the best excuse, having travelled up from Calne in Wiltshire.

Me, Selina, Simon and Steve

There was a buffet and a well-staffed bar and conversations struck up immediately. Steve & I, along with Simon and Selina (who’d decided to stand by the door to get some fresh air), expounded upon just about everything - comics to horror, the News Of The World to politics in general, feminism and women in anthologies - and it was a genuine delight to stand for an hour or more, talking with like-minded folk.

As a little side-bar here, I have to say I have a deep affection for The Terror Scribes. Back when I first discovered the small press, I kept reading about gatherings and meet-ups and desperately wanted to get involved. My first gathering was in Sheffield, at the Howard, in July 2000 (the original con report is here if you’re interested) and the roll call of people I met that day was incredible, the bulk of whom I’m pleased to say I’m still friends with. It was also the first time I’d ever met a famous writer, in Simon Clark, who was very down-to-earth and approachable. People made the effort to talk to me, to include me and their generosity and friendship has really stuck with me,. I’ve tried to attend as many gatherings as I could in the intervening years (including the fantastic one in Birmingham in 2002) and I’ve yet to go along to one that I didn’t enjoy.

The raffle kicked off then, eventually raising £45 for Alzheimers Care and seeing just about everyone bag at least two prizes. As a nice surprise, Steve had brought along a couple of copies of “Conjure” - always a treat to see that cover! - and I was asked to sign them, which goes a long way to making a writers afternoon! I picked up a Leisure edition of Simon Clark’s “The Tower” and got him to sign it for me.

Unfortunately, some of the gathered had to leave for various reasons and we lost the members of Derek’s writing group and Steve Bacon. Good to see them all, though. The readings followed, a longstanding treat of the gatherings. Derek led, then Coleen, Simon (with an excerpt from “Angels Of The Silences”), Martin (with a story he’d only just written, apparently), John and Sue. I read the train chasing sequence from “What We Do Sometimes, Without Thinking” and Jay followed me. They all seemed to go down well, which is always reassuring.

Me, reading about train chasing. Selina tries not to nod off in the background

By then, time was creeping on so we headed out for the curry house and, watching everyone gathered outside the pub waiting for stragglers, it was good to see so many smiling faces. We made our way through the Shambles and into town - with Simon Clark peeling off to catch his train - to the Indian. Ushered upstairs, we took up a long table and two roundtables, which separated us unfortunately. However, I shared my table with Marie & Paul, Martin & Helen, Loretta & Steve and Jay & Selina and Des Knight, so conversation never flagged.

The curry is an integral part of a gathering and, unfortunately, mine wasn’t good. Since I had to catch a train home, I had my main when everyone else had their starters and it wasn’t particularly warm but it was particularly stodgy. Having eaten what I could, I held out as long as possible but the time had come, so I said my goodbyes, shook plenty of hands and headed off to the train station.

For some reason, the train home this time swapped at Leicester, where I had a 15 minute wait. I stood on the platform with my fellow evacuees, in the gathering twilight, listening to my MP3 player. “Everybody Hurts” came on and the sounds, combined with what I could see - a small station and a bridge, houses being built across the way, the bright shades of day fading to black in the sky - inspired me. I might not use the imagery or the feelings it conjured for a while but I know I will, one day, because that’s what I love about Terror Scribes gatherings (and FantasyCon). I adore being around other writers and creative types, listening to processes, discussing ideas and solutions and always come away feeling re-energised about my writing.

A great gathering and it was good to see everyone again. Now, roll on the next one!

Friday, 15 July 2011

My Top Reads of 2011 (so far!)

Okay, so it’s a random date - 15th July, a Friday and I’m up at the Terror Scribes gathering in Chesterfield tomorrow (and really looking forward to it) - but I thought I’d share my top-10 reading list of the year so far.

To date, I’ve read 20 books in contention and 4 cartoons (Calvin & Hobbes and Snoopy) and I’m almost done with another, Rook Hastings' very good “Nearly Departed” (which, I imagine, will sneak into the top 10).

Anyway, here’s the list (subject to change, of course, as the year progresses) and it should be noted that my joint first spot is occupied by friends of mine. I also read both books in draft, to critique. I defend my choice though, since both books see their respective writers really firing on all cylinders.

joint 1st
Love & Freedom, by Sue Moorcroft

joint 1st
The Concrete Grove, by Gary McMahon

3:
The Elephant to Hollywood, by Michael Caine

4:
It's Only A Movie, by Mark Kermode

5:
The Silent Land, by Graham Joyce

6:
Nerd Do Well, by Simon Pegg

7:
Nowhere Hall, by Cate Gardner

8:
The Howling, by Gary Brander

9:
Abolisher Of Roses, by Gary Fry

10:
The Fog, by James Herbert

So there you have it, hopefully you’ll read this and get inspired to pick up something. If not, well, stuff you then!

As ever, you can find all my book reviews up at Goodreads.com.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

My friend Jon...

We worked out, the other day, that my friend Jon & I have known each other for 21 years (half my lifetime). He pops in here, every now and again and mentioned that not many people seem to comment on the entries. I explained that most people commented via Facebook, where these blogs also appear, but he's not on any social networking sites so he didn't realise.

Here's a picture of the pair of us, from 1993, in the old Rising Sun pub in Kettering. Around this time, we were writing material for the "The Fields & Wild Experience", our comedy duo that came out of The Committee comedy troupe we were part of.

I'm far left, with the beard and all the hair, Jon's next to me.

Hope you enjoy seeing yourself here, old friend!

Monday, 4 July 2011

Some more "ill at ease" reviews...

Two more reviews posted online for “ill at ease” and they’re very good.

Over at The Black Abyss, Colin Leslie calls the collection “excellent anthology of solid horror writing”. Read the review here

At The Hellforge, Matthew Fryer says of the collection, “It’s modern horror that understands subtlety, full of real characters and plenty of shivers. These three authors clearly take pride in their work, all writing with lucid, thoughtful prose, and the time and effort shows.” Read the review here


Just in case this leads you to want to buy it, or get more information, you might find the following useful:

Purchase from Amazon in the UK here

Purchase from Amazon in the US here

Or get it from Smashwords here

In addition, you could also join our Facebook group

Friday, 1 July 2011

PH4Q - Mark West

A quick interview - as part of the PH4Q series - with me over at David T. Wilbanks’ “Page Horrific”, where I shamelessly name writers whose work I enjoy!

Check it out!

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

A round-robin interview (for ill at ease)

The "ill at ease" gang (me, Steve Bacon & Neil Williams) are interviewed over at Jim McLeod's brilliant Ginger Nuts Of Horror site and I think it makes for good reading - background on the stories, how the project came together and our plans for the future.

Check it out here

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Some love for "ill at ease"

Well, we're doing something right - below are links to on-line reviews of "ill at ease" and the general consensus is good!

Pablo Cheesecake’s review at The Eloquent Page

"Overall Ill at Ease was a great little collection…I wish that it were a bit longer. Perhaps if we’re lucky there will be an Ill at Ease 2?"

Max Wedge’s review at Page Horrific

"Suffice it to say, ILL AT EASE lives up to its title. And at $2.50 for the e-book, you should not hesitate to buy."

Jim McLeods review at Ginger Nuts Of Horror

"This is an anthology about finding horror in the everyday things of life, and how it affects those who come in contact with it. A master class in quiet understated horror."

Cate Gardner’s review at Goodreads.com

"Worth picking up if you like a slice of British horror."

Paul D Brazill’s review at “You Would Say That, Wouldn’t You?”

"Ill at ease is a highly recommended collection containing three splendid examples of modern, British storytelling."

Just in case this leads you to want to buy it, or get more information, you might find the following useful:

Purchase from Amazon in the UK here

Purchase from Amazon in the US here

Or get it from Smashwords here

In addition, you could also join our Facebook group

Saturday, 18 June 2011

An interview with me...

...as conducted by Michael Wilson at Read Horror.com.

I think I come across quite well - why not nip over and take a look? And yes, I do mention "ill at ease"!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

"ill at ease" - Available Now!


ill at ease is an e-chapbook collection from PenMan Press, available now from Amazon and Smashwords. Combining the talents of Stephen Bacon, Mark West & Neil Williams, ill at ease showcases three new tales of the macabre.

Waiting For Josh, by Stephen Bacon
Pete Richards returns to his hometown for the first time in years. His childhood pal is dying, and Pete realises he must face the past and confront some ugly truths if he is to fulfil his friend’s dying wish.
But the events of their childhood would prove to hold far more darkness than he’d ever imagined.

Come See My House In The Pretty Town, by Mark West
When David Willis travels to the picturesque village of Hoelzli, for a reunion with his old college friends Simon & Kim Roberts, he expects a weekend of laughter and reminiscing. But on a visit to the local fair, he manages to lose the Roberts’ seven-year-old son Billy and things take a decided turn for the worse.

Closer Than You Think, by Neil Williams
Dave is a loving family man, with a keen eye for a bargain. So when he spots a brand-new-looking child seat in a skip at the local tip, he decides to take it. After all, he needs one in his car to ferry his daughter around. But then he starts to notice things that seem otherworldly yet still familiar.
Could it really be an unquiet spirit, the echo of some past tragedy?
Or is it something else? Something that is much closer to home?


'Here are three writers with singular voices who have, nevertheless, somehow managed to merge their talents to imbue the whole of this slim collection with a kind of menace that is like oil on skin: difficult to remove and persistent. For relative newcomers to show such restraint, to trust in the subtle and the unsaid, is rare indeed. ill at ease is a treat, and I hope it finds many readers.'
Conrad Williams, British Fantasy Award winning author of One and Loss Of Separation

"Childhood memories, a seemingly idyllic English town, a car seat found in a skip... The three chilling tales from ill at ease ably demonstrate that horror can be found in the most mundane places, and a sense of unease is always much closer than we think."
Gary McMahon, author of Pretty Little Dead Things and The Concrete Grove

The book is available from Amazon - click the title below:

From Amazon.co.uk, priced at £1.77 - ill at ease

From Amazon.com, priced at $2.87 - ill at ease

The collection is also available, on a range of formats, from Smashwords.

Don’t have a Kindle? No problem, Amazon provide a range of free app’s that allow you to read them on whatever device you might have:

Kindle for PC & laptop
Kindle for iPhone
Kindle for Blackberry
Kindle for iPad
Kindle for Android

More details at the PenMan Press website or join the Facebook Group.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

"ill at ease" - Official Publication Date - 17/6/11

PenMan Press will publish “ill at ease” - through Amazon Kindle - on Friday 17th June. It will appear from Smashwords the following week and will be available on all formats.

The ebook collection features three original stories of the macabre, from Stephen Bacon, myself and Neil Williams, along with afterwords.

For more information, in addition to the publishers website, there’s also a Facebook Group that’s free to join.

The book has garnered two very nice blurbs already:

'Here are three writers with singular voices who have, nevertheless, somehow managed to merge their talents to imbue the whole of this slim collection with a kind of menace that is like oil on skin: difficult to remove and persistent. For relative newcomers to show such restraint, to trust in the subtle and the unsaid, is rare indeed. Ill at Ease is a treat, and I hope it finds many readers.'
Conrad Williams, British Fantasy Award winning author of One and Loss Of Separation

"Childhood memories, a seemingly idyllic English town, a car seat found in a skip... The three chilling tales from "Ill at Ease" ably demonstrate that horror can be found in the most mundane places, and a sense of unease is always much closer than we think."
Gary McMahon, author of Pretty Little Dead Things and The Concrete Grove

Come and find out what all the fuss is about.

Here’s the artwork and blurb for my story, Come See My House In The Pretty Town

Best Viewed Large!

Thursday, 9 June 2011

In a rare turn-up for the books, I've won something!

I found out yesterday that I won tickets so Alison & I will be here!

Haven't seen INXS since 2002, can't wait!

Monday, 6 June 2011

On Editing

Steve Lockley has decided, for the month of June, to open his blog up to various guests, who will each take a day and supply a post on whatever they want to discuss.  I chose editing, one of my favourite writing-related activities.

You can read the post here.  Why not pop over, have a gander, give it a read?  And if you like it, let me or Steve know!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Dude rode without his stabilisers today!

Imagine his little legs, pumping away at those pedals, his bike-helmet slipped back a little, his head forward slightly, concentration writ large on his face.

For a few moments, as I chased him down the folly, that kid was born to be wild...

Friday, 3 June 2011

June's VideoVista issue is now online...

...and, amongst some other cracking reviews, contains three of mine.

"The Eleventh Aggression" is terrible, a real waste of time. DO NOT WATCH IT (though my review might be quite amusing, for a passing chuckle)

"Arachnid" is bad, saved by a cracking Steve Johnson (of xfx) spider.

"The Beyond", the Fulci masterpiece from 1981, which I really enjoyed.

Check them out - and the other reviews here while you're at it!

Saturday, 28 May 2011

ill at ease - a collection

Coming soon, from PenMan Press, an echapbook collection with stories from Stephen Bacon, Neil Williams and me. It's a good package.

More details coming soon, but the final cover art is below (designed by Neil)


More information at the publishers website - PenMan Press

There's also a Facebook group, if you're on the network and fancy hooking up - there'll be a competition, with a nice prize - ill at ease on Facebook