Thursday, 26 October 2017

Competition time

Earlier in the year, I was invited to submit to an anthology that was being compiled by an emerging indie author, Mark Lumby. The project sounded fun and was all in the name of a fantastic charity - Macmillan Cancer Support. I submitted my story - To Catch a Killer and was delighted when it was accepted. Since then, the collection has grown into an absolute beast of a book, featuring some of the best names in horror. These were authors that I had read and admired whilst growing up. To share a TOC with them and once again having the opportunity to stand side-by-side with my respected peers and colleagues, in their own rights, some of the best modern talent from this industry is truly mind-blowing.
To help with the promotion, to increase awareness and sales, Mark and the publishing company, PS Publishing have decided to launch a competition which gives you, the reader a chance to win some phenomenal prizes as well as help with such a worthy cause.
Please see below - Mark's original post from Facebook:

Wanna Play? For a chance to with one huge bundle of books from some of your favourite authors, you're in the right place!
To enter the competition its on the link below and buy the ebook from Amazon. Post a snapshot in the comment for your chance to win.
The competition will run until 10PM on Friday 3rd November where a winner will be picked at random!
This competition also applies to the hardcover and if you can’t get it from amazon, go over to the PS Publishing website via the link below. Same snapshot rules apply!
What's in the Mega Bundle? Well, I have a feeling there will be more to add to this but for now here's the contents:
Ramsey Campbell signed edition hardcover
Graham Masterton -Dead Girls Dancing - signed edition
Matt Hickman - Amnesia, Jeremy, and Gemini - signed
Justin Park - Terror Byte - signed
Lee McGeorge - Mr Deathmask - signed
Adam Nevill - The Ritual tie-in - signed
Stuart Keane - Outbreak - signed
Me - Rats in the Loft - signed
Michael Bray - Funhouse - signed
Andrew Lennon - Life to Waste - signed
12 books and counting...
So why should you buy the book anyways...
Introduction—Shaun Hutson
I Love You—J.R. Park
Late Shopping—Brian Lumley
Lady in Waiting—Ken Goldman
At the Patio Door—Vincent V. Cava
The Box—Richard Chizmar
Rabid Squirrels in Love—Jack Ketchum
Tube Head—Lee McGeorge
The Cure—Elizabeth Engstrom
Underbed—Graham Masterton
The Good Father—Mark Lumby
The Straw Man and a Murder—Jeff Menapace
Apartment 11—Michael Bray
In Sheep’s Clothing—Alex Laybourne
Eater—Peter Crowther
Worse Than Bones—Ramsey Campbell
To Catch a Killer—Matt Hickman
The Dark Net—Jeff C. Stevenson
Thank You, Thad—Susan Murrie MacDonald
The Keeper—Edward Ahern
Upping the Production Values—Ken MacGregor
No Tomato—Jeff Strand
Wendall Lane Diaries: You Shouldn’t—Vincent V. Cava
Seek—Stuart Keane
To Forget and Be Forgotten—Adam L.G. Nevill
Born Bad—Mark Parker
...that’s why!!! £3.99 for 25 stories...that’s less than 16p each!!!!
I will add that all profits from the sale of either ebook or Hardcover will be donated to Macmillan Cancer Support so even if you don't win, you'll have a great book anyway and your money will go to charity!
United Kingdom only.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Book review - Whispers Volume 3 - Stuart Keane

So, can you believe we are here already? Whispers Volume 3. In a fairly short space of time, Keane has shown quite a prolific pace of releases with both his longer works and with this - his third collection of short stories. Anyone familiar with Keane's works will recognise the usual backdrop of the setting, Lake Whisper. For an extra little bit of trivia knowledge I will let you know that this setting is actually based upon a location from Stuart's home county of Kent.

Once more we see a chillingly delightful cover form the cover artist, Mark Kelly, in addition to an introduction by Keane himself and a nice foreword from his colleague at Dark Chapter Press, Jack Rollins.

What do we have in store? I'll try not to give too much away.

Lake Whisper
Thomas and Richard visit Lake Whisper and splendour in its beautiful scenery and heritage. Their third friend, Harold is missing. When they stumble upon a creepy old house, there's no harm in investigating surely? A dark, creepy opening to the collection with a surprisingly brutal twist.

Careful What You Wish For
Gerald is not a nice man, but he has poetry that he wants to share with the world. He already has twenty one kills already under his belt and is looking to make his next as he decides to take a private dance with a stripper named Cyndi. Three wishes - £1000, choose wisely.

Rose Above
It's the end of the world. Civilisation is no longer as we know it, London is a total death zone. a lone soldier goes in search of answers armed with her personal stash of chocolate. Not what I would class as a traditional horror story but I actually found this to be one of the most enjoyable stories in this collection.

Bon Appetit
A tasty little morsel - see what I did there? A short, sharp tale told in first person perspective about a man with some interesting tastes in food. Why waste years cooking food when the real delicacies are right in front of you. Some extreme content and a great twist. Another bit of trivia is Keane's influence for this story as a nod to his past life as a chef.

On The First Day Of Christmas
A short story about a young boy named Ben who is eagerly awaiting the arrival of Christmas. Snow is falling, the scene is set. Don't you know that its bad luck to see Santa on Christmas eve. I happen to know that the character was actually based on Keane himself on Christmas eve as a child.

Rae Mercer is a Lawyer working her last case. When a man is murdered in his home the list of suspects could be as long as his list of charges. Another interesting story seeing Keane move away from the more traditional roots of horror.

Another story told from first person perspective about a broken man with his own agenda. From a collection of stories about Easter where anything goes, and in this one, everything goes! Think Silence of the Lambs meets the Easter Bunny.

Apartment 3B
Introducing Connor, a real sleaze bag who seems to be having real difficulties whilst trying to navigate his own apartment. A real mind bender of a story that nods heavily towards the influences of Tales From The Crypt and my pick of the bunch.

That's them all. In summary the collection is another testament to Keane's story telling ability whether its a full novel or a 5000 word short story. I've said it before and I'll repeat the statement, Keane has a brilliantly astute mind for all things horrific. I don't think he could physically write a poor story. Each and every one of these immediately manages to throw you into a situation that you weren't prepared for and spit you out the other end thinking, what the hell just happened? Those little twists and feints are the key to making these stories work and Keane once again, excels.

Writing a short story can be difficult in itself as the writer has to balance the correct amount of detail along with character development in such a short time, something that Keane does with ease. He has a real knack of creating sleazy, detestable characters that really get under your skin. Combine these with regular moments of true horror, dark humour and proper WTF moments and you are about at the mark.

Another fantastic collection.

My rating 5/5

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Book Review - Two Minds - Matt Shaw & Sam West

I received an ARC Copy of this book from the authors.

Right, so I'm well versed in the work of Matt Shaw, although Sam West is an author I'm aware of, I have never read. So when a trademark black cover book gets announced by Shaw, I'm usually in an expectant frame of mind as what to expect, only this was different, or so I thought.

The book starts off very unassumingly as two strangers - Sally and Jack meet in a bar. Their conversation moves along tentatively with the characters being written in first person perspective by each author. West takes on the roll of Sally while Shaw takes Jack. The whole story is written with each author taking on a small section story and sending it backwards and forwards to the other.

As the story starts, you find yourself asking where is this going? The conversation between our two characters starts off innocently enough, you find it almost as if the authors are teasing the reader with what is going to happen, maybe they were finding their own way. As the story begins to unfold, we begin to learn of the deep flaws within both of these characters. Both of these people are looking for something, yet neither author is willing to give the game away... Yet. The whole opening scene is a deliciously woven thread of tension.

So after the initial scene, the book moves on to somewhere much more sinister. This is where the extreme nature of these guys really begins to pan out. People who have read the Peter Chronicles by Shaw may be familiar with the type of relationship that develops between the two. The style of writing between both authors works extremely well and both compliment the other.

About half way through, the book really takes a nastier turn as scenes are introduced which may leave you wincing and quite possible retching. Consider yourself warned, this is not for the faint-hearted or for anyone that doesn't like their horror realistic, and splattered with sex and violence.

Its difficult to sum this up because I don't want to give any spoilers. You find it difficult to sympathise with either of the characters as you are thrown into a zig-zag of emotions as you think you are getting to grips with them, and then a massive curve ball is thrown in for good measure. Just when you think its gone about as far as it can go, something else happens and it goes even further. That being said, Its not gore porn, there is a solid story line - albeit dark and very twisted, its there.

I have to give a warning, within a fairly short book, these guys have created a story that is likely to get under your skin and remain with you for a while. The characters are basically vile - the worst type of people imaginable, and they are totally unashamed. If horror at the most extreme end of the spectrum is your thing, go check this out. It may even shock the most hardened of reader. If you're not, I would steer well clear. This one is likely to make you cry.

My rating - a very sick and twisted 5/5

Book review - Amy - Stuart Keane

Stuart Keane's latest release - Amy is the third book in the chronicles of Amy and the sequel to his earlier novella - Charlotte. I received an ARC of the novel.

I was interested to see how the final book in the trilogy would shape up after following the story of a young girl and her sadistic imaginary friend. The original book, Charlotte was a suspenseful and violent piece of brooding, dark fiction. The prequel to Charlotte - Awakening, for most part was a powerful, gut wrenching biopsy of a young child growing up suffering abuse at the hand of the one person that she should have been able to trust; a story that will stay with the reader for a long, long time and the background to the creation of Amy Brunswick's imaginary friend.


This brings us to the latest piece - simply titled Amy. November, 2021 - We return to Lake Whisper. Amy Brunswick, now eighteen years old has been contained within Whispers Ward for the last eight years, since the unexplained massacre in her family home all those years ago. During her incarceration within the facility, Amy has been using the time to reflect upon her experience, Keeping herself to herself and the inner beast that is Charlotte remaining dormant. That is until the opening scene which sees Dr Stone sanctioning her release under questionable circumstances.

The book doesn't hang around, it gets straight into the action from the offset, immediately encompassing Amy Brunswick into a shroud of mystery and suspicion. The next few chapters were probably my favourite part of the book where we see an unexpected swerve into the unknown, as characters and plot are introduced that could be  reminiscent of a modern day version of Evil Dead. These are scenes that are dark, visceral and Keane in his element, offering the reader first class thrills. There is one character in particular who I won't name, who becomes absolute evil personified - you'll know exactly who I mean when you read it.

So, back to the main plot where we see Amy Brunswick going in search of her mother - Patricia Price. A woman who since abandoning her daughter in Whispers Ward nearly eight years ago has moved on to a new marriage and family life with her husband, Walter and her two boys Ethan and Corey. Patricia has feared that the day of her daughters release, knowing full well that she will be spending the rest of her life constantly looking over her shoulder. This love / hate relationship forms the main catalyst for the latter part of the book as we see the depths that a woman will go to protect her family against her eldest child.

I can't really give much more than that without some major spoilers, so I will leave it there. Throughout this book you will find yourself asking the question - Is Amy Brunswick a bad person? Is Charlotte in control of Amy or is Amy in charge of Charlotte? Does Charlotte even exist or is she a scapegoat of Amy's darker side of nature? Where reasoning is provided, you may find yourself feeling empathy for the character yet.. not.

That, I believe is what makes this book so good. Although the pieces are all slotted into place and the boxes are ticked, you are left with lingering questions and afterthoughts. Just as I thought I had the end sussed, Keane throws in another little twist that left me way off mark. Touche.

In summary, a wild and thoroughly horrifically entertaining read. A fantastic stand alone book, but the final piece in an amazingly powerful trilogy.Think The Exorcist meets Evil Dead meets Cape Fear and you may be somewhere near the mark. There are a fantastic new breed of horror authors currently emerging from the UK and Keane is at the forefront of that crowd. This book is testament to his amazing talent.

My rating - 5/5

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Book review - Flies - Andrew Lennon

For Andrew Lennon's latest offering, he gives us Flies - A short story. I was given an ARC copy in exchange for an honest review.

Justin is a young man, a very wealthy and spoilt young man. He's not really a very likable person. He's a bit lazy, but that's okay because his daddy owns the company that he works for, which gives him the right to be work shy. He's one of those - to hear him talk, he's always swamped under with work; there simply aren't enough hours in the day. Justin is used to getting his own way in more than one sense of the word. He is a man with seriously questionable integrity, believing that people can be bought and sold as a commodity.

One day whilst at work, Justin takes enormous advantage of a fly in his office and calls his father with the impression that the place has a serious infestation and that he has called in a fumigation team. The result; an afternoon off work. He gets himself off down to The Pony Dive, a local gentleman only club, where he instigates a business transaction with his favourite stripper - Cherry.

With a date lined up, Justin departs to set up his upcoming party with recreational pharmaceuticals. As the afternoon progresses, those pesky flies seem to be getting everywhere.

So, what did I think of it? I thought it was a top notch story. With it being a short, I can't really give the game away too much. It flows along nicely at a steady pace giving a decent amount of character development, especially in the case of our friend, Justin. I really felt like I wanted to slap him around the face at moments. You're not entirely sure where the story is going to be headed, you have an idea of what the story involves - hence the title, but that's really about it. Like with most writers, I can see the maturity of Lennon's writing and story telling ability over time. This flows seamlessly, he obviously had a great time whilst writing.  An almost tongue-in-cheek, comedic great time.

It is a creepy little number and will most likely make you start scratching, fully intended. It really strikes me as the type of story that would have fitted perfectly in place in Tales From the Crypt or The Twilight Zone. The cover image is actually a really good representation for the feel of the pulpy style of tale contained within. If I had one gripe, it would be that the ending, albeit totally unexpected just seemed to be a little abrupt. I think it could have been strung out just a little further to really strengthen that creepy undertone that's carried throughout so well.

In addition, there is a great short Sci-Fi horror short from Michael Bray and a creepy little number from Shaun Hupp that really sits well with the main title. The third bonus story from Norman Turrell isn't what I would traditionally class as horror, but its worth a read.

All in, a very solid 4/5.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Book Review - The Haunted Halls - Glenn Rolfe

Despite sharing appearances alongside Glenn Rolfe in a couple of anthologies, this is the first time that I have indulged in a full length piece of his work. I have previously read a few of his short stories, and I always found his work enjoyable and consistent.

The Haunted Halls is no different. In fact, It is a phenomenal piece of work. I believe the book was originally released a few years ago, and has just had an overhaul and been re-released through Matt Shaw Publications. I'll admit, I picked this book up twice and left it alone as I felt I needed to give it the time for my fullest attention - I'm glad that I did. 

The tale is based around two hotel clerks at the Bruton Inn. A place with a dark secret and an even bleaker history. Built in 1977, the original owner was found murdered within its inaugural year. As the story begins to unfold, several characters are introduced as the horror truly begins to rear its head. As always, it's best to let a good story speak for itself, so I'm not going to give anything away on the plot.

Some may argue that there are parts of this book that are horror clich├ęs. The hotel with supernatural occurrences, the unwanted passenger in the seat of a car, the group of twenty-somethings awaiting their inevitable slaughter. In a way, they may be correct, however, it's the way that this book is written that really makes you forget all about that. Split between two time frames - back in the good old 80s and current day, the non-linear sequencing, really is a thing of beauty as the story unfolds and the mayhem really begins. 

I like a good old creepy story as much as the next and this book has it, in abundance. It also has something that I really didn't expect. In parts, the scenes are utterly brutal. I mean really, they will get  the adrenaline spiking around your system like madness. There are parts of this book that really reminded me of the writing style of the late, great Richard Laymon. Both in characterisation and delivery. Just when you think the tale is going one way, it totally shifts direction and heads in another.

Once I actually managed to find time to dedicate to the book, I finished it in no time at all. It felt like I had read a novella, I was amazed when I checked and the book was nearly 250 pages long. You find yourself totally immersed in this world that Rolfe has created.

So what can you expect from this one? Take your pick. Malevolent creatures, possession, anger, lust, desire, erratic behaviour, things that go bump in the night, bodies floating in the pool, degradation and death by Les Paul Gibson. 

In summary, I loved it. A great build up of tension, superbly crafted characters and more blood and goods as you could possibly ask for.

Can't give this one any less than 5/5

I will be reading more from Mr Rolfe.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Book review - Woom - Duncan Ralston

Woom is the latest offering from Canadian author, Duncan Ralston. Published through Matt Shaw Publications. With the signature black cover, it was obvious this book was going to be at the more extreme end of the horror spectrum.

It is...

The story itself is fairly simplistic. It is centred around a man who calls himself Angel, a man discovering a preference for women who are on the heavier side, the reason for this becomes clear later in the book. Introduce a hotel room with a bleak history and a hooker with a heart of gold named Shayla and the stall is set. Right?


This is where Ralston expertly displays his storytelling ability, by creating offset chapters; the result of a conversation between our two characters that are seemingly unimportant, and seemingly not relevant to the plot. After the disappearance into these mini stories, the focus shifts back to the unlikely rapport that blossoms between the two main characters. A few more people are introduced as the story develops, but again, they appear inconsequential to the real dynamic of the overall tale.


I fear I'm beginning to ramble, because it's difficult to sum this one up without giving away some major spoiler's so I'm going to leave that there. If you know Ralston's writing, you'll no doubt be aware that his style is smooth; his prose is defined and articulate, his dialogue is well balanced and descriptions near perfect. This is no different. For a book where a good portion of the content is relating on past events and little actually happening in real time, I think there are few writers who could have pulled this off half as well as he did without it descending into confusion or boredom. He manages to build tension throughout by mere indications and suggestions. For the majority of this book, the reader won't guess in a million years where it's headed. As the story hits it's climax and the aspects mentioned previously suddenly fuse together and become clear, the reader is treated to one final scene that will quite literally leave them with their jaws agape.

After reading Ralston's collection - Gristle and Bone, one story in particular stood out to me that hinted at the seedier abilities of his astute, horrific imagination. In Woom, it is showcased in abundance - truly. He creates some of the most unbalanced, twisted, and deeply flawed characters that you're ever likely to find. Aspects of the story are darkly sordid, twisted and downright wrong. however as an overall package, it's a totally compelling read. At times the reader will find themselves disgusted, yet strangely drawn into its foul glory.

For me, I've been wanting to read this book ever since I first heard about it's conception and it didn't disappoint. After turning the last page, I had to take a moment to compose myself and think... What the hell did I just read? That's the real beauty, Ralston is totally unapologetic about it. It's hard hitting, disturbing, and totally brutal, but in the best way possible. You may consider taking a bath afterwards, however, you may even be put off that idea.

It's not gonna be for everyone, once again, adhere to that warning on the cover, it's there for a reason. There is a whole host of wrong in this one for the unsuspecting, it can't be that bad crowd. If extreme isn't your thing, I wouldn't risk it.

For me, I was anticipating it, and I loved it.

No less than 5/5