Thursday, 30 August 2012

More tales of terror with a regional flavour

Well, the final proof for TERROR TALES OF EAST ANGLIA has been checked, and is now winging its way to the printers as we speak. And given the quality of some of the stories in there, I’m hopeful that it will be at least as successful as those others that have gone before it – TERROR TALES OF THE LAKE DISTRICT and TERROR TALES OF THE COTSWOLDS.

As usual, the book is packed with original spine-chilling material from a cast of old reliables as well as a few newcomers, plus a couple of classic reprints and a hatful of those macabre myths so prevalent in the eastern region. In short, we’re offering another motley assortment of varied, hair-raising horror, covering everything from marsh-monsters to vengeful spectres, from ancient curses (with a distinctly modern twist) to killer brutes enflamed by supernatural rage.

But of course none of these books would be possible without the crafty connivance of the geographical regions in which they are located. I chose these places, the Lake District first, the Cotswolds second, now East Anglia (and others to follow) not just because they are notable for their natural beauty and picturesque scenery, but because they boast deep, dark histories filled with reports of ghosts, ghouls, witches, battles and bloodshed.

Only last weekend I was traversing the leafy flatlands of East Anglia, to sample some of its secrets. All were given up with alarming ease. For every Flatford Mill, where John Constable honed his miraculous art, there is a pile of rubble which was once a spooky old building notorious for its ghosts, like BORLEY RECTORY (pictured above, with some idiot standing in front of it). For every quaint country manse, there is a lonesome church of the type MR James would have enjoyed, with menacing Latin incantations inscribed over its ancient entryways. For every verdant vista, there is a stark reminder of darker days, such as the Caxton Gibbet (pictured near the top). For every charming shadow-clock, there is an eerie lump of stonework, usually mist-shrouded and forgotten by time, but covered with demonic carvings (such as that pictured below, at Dedham).

For every … but no, we could go on indefinitely, and frankly I haven't got space even for most of the photos I took. Better perhaps to leave it there and just say that for further installments of East Anglian mystery and terror, keep checking back here for updates or pop over to GRAY FRIAR PRESS, where TERROR TALES OF EAST ANGLIA will be available for pre-order in the very near future.

Thanks for the pictures to Eleanor Finch and (for the gibbet) to Andrew Dunn.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

It seems that I am now - officially - a killer!

Yes indeed, I am now – officially – a killer!

Okay, first of all that intro (not to mention the headline) is a little bit misleading. I am NOT an actual killer. But apparently I AM a ‘Killer Read’.

That’s right. And how proud am I to be able to say this?

I’ve been slaying them for years. Or at least that’s what I’ve been trying to do. Not just characters in my books and stories, but my readers, who it’s always been my ambition to put through an absolute wringer. I’ve never really wanted anyone to put a book of mine down, sit back and say: “Wow, what a satisfying read that was. How uplifted I feel.”

I want them to be a nervous wreck. I want them to lurch for the nearest bottle of brandy.

And now it’s all official. But don’t take my word for it. Pop over onto the HarperCollins website, KILLER READS (check out the official logo below), where I now have my own monthly blog – to run parallel with this one, but concentrating mainly on my crime writing.

It’s a great honour, of course, to be asked to write this new blog. It will run in tandem with the marketing campaign for STALKERS, the first of a trilogy of very hardboiled crime thrillers that I’m writing for Avon Books at Harpers, which tell the collective tale of Scotland Yard’s elite Serial Crimes Unit, and one particular detective, whose pursuit of some of Britain’s most depraved killers takes on the dimensions of a full-blown war.

Between now and next summer, I’ll be using KILLER READS to evolve my thoughts and ideas with regard to this new series – much the way I do with this blog and my other written material. The first installment is really a brief introduction to who I am and what I do, though I talk a little bit about the coming novel as well.

Just to refresh, STALKERS will be the first in a trio of tales concerning Detective Sergeant Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg, already a battle-scarred street-veteran even though he’s only in his late 30s. Heck is an affable, even-tempered guy, but he knows every trick in the book and will stop at nothing in his battle for justice.

Heck knows better than anyone that you don’t get the job done by trying to heal ‘broken Britain’, understand the disenfranchised or apologise for living to the nation’s creeps and psychos. Heck is a law-officer: there’s a system and he respects it, but old habits die hard in the depths of our inner cities – for those on both sides of the fence – so correct protocols will not always be followed, nasty tricks will be played and lowlives will be leaned upon. As such, these books will be light on finicky procedural and heavy on action and suspense.

And again – don’t just take my word for it. If you get yourself over there to KILLER READS, there’s an online link to an extract from the first book in the series. But you may need to move quickly, as I’m not sure how long that link will be open for.

Of course, even if you’re not bothered about taking in this trailer, you can do me a favour by checking KILLER READS out every so often. If nothing else, it’ll help me shed more darkness into your world of light.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

The eyes have it in a new look terror tease

Two developments this week, which perhaps show that, despite currently having buried myself in DESECRATOR, the sequel to my new, forthcoming crime novel, STALKERS, from Avon Books (HarperCollins), I still have an active involvement in the world of horror fiction as well.

First of all, check out the rather sexy teaser poster which has now been produced for DARK HOLLOW, mine and Paul Campion’s movie adaptation of Brian Keene’s famous horror novel of the same name.

DARK HOLLOW is set in rural Pennsylvania, and is a sexually charged tale of ancient lore and woodland witchery. It’s also pretty gory in parts and rises, if I say so myself, to some real crescendos of movie horror. It’s quite a while now since I wrote the actual script for this, but this poster was released at the FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL earlier this summer, and interest in the project was very high. Watch this space for more info on this. It ought to be coming thick and fast in the near future.

Over here in the UK, meanwhile, I’m delighted to be appearing in several new horror anthologies between now and the end of the year. One of these, the 9th BLACK BOOK OF HORROR, from MORTBURY PRESS, will be well worth checking out. As always with the BLACK BOOKS, there will be strong emphasis on the Pan Horror style ‘contes cruels’, but with plenty of supernatural shockers included as well. I urge anyone who hasn’t already done so, to try out a couple of the BLACK BOOKS. For my money, the editor, Charles Black, has published several of the best horror stories of recent times in Minos Or Rhadamanthus by Reggie Oliver (7th Black Book of Horror), Family Ties by Steve Lockley and Paul Lewis (3rd Black Book of Horror) and Two For Dinner by John Llewellyn Probert (5th Black Book of Horror).

Though I haven’t got a copy of the cover art for the 9th BLACK BOOK OF HORROR (which is expected to be launched at FANTASYCON in Brighton next September, but may be available for purchase a little earlier) here is a full table of contents. I’m sure most of you will agree that this line-up ought to be well worth catching:

The Anatomy Lesson by John Llewellyn Probert; The Mall by Craig Herbertson; Salvaje by Simon Bestwick; Pet by Gary Fry; Ashes to Ashes by David Williamson; The Apprentice by Anna Taborska; Life Expectancy by Sam Dawson; What's Behind You? by Paul Finch; Ben's Best Friend by Gary Power; The Things That Aren't There by Thana Niveau; Bit on the Side by Tom Johnstone; Indecent Behaviour by Marion Pitman; His Family by Kate Farrell; A Song, A Silence by John Forth;The Man Who Hated Waste by Marc Lyth; Swan Song by David A. Riley

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Flawed hero to tackle creeps and maniacs

Well here it is, an early stage design for STALKERS, my new novel for Avon Books (HarperCollins), due out next February.

For those not yet aware, STALKERS (which was originally titled THE NICE GUYS CLUB) is the first in a trilogy of novels, which tell the tale of Manchester police detective Sergeant Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg, a driven but flawed individual, who joins Scotland Yard’s elite Serial Crimes Unit and finds himself on the trail of some terrifying maniacs and killers.

As you may have guessed from this cover, we’re not in horror territory here. The Heckenburg books will belong firmly to the thriller category: frank cop stuff interweaving with suspense, mystery and hard, brutal action (lots of the latter, I can promise you that), but there will definitely be some very dark edges to these tales. I finally finished STALKERS about a year ago, having first come up with the concept during a brainstorming session designed to hatch new ideas for horror stories. Its central notion is extremely grim, or so I’m told – a fellow professional whose opinion I always value and who read the first draft after I’d finished it, said that he loved the police elements but that he thought it was too dark and too violent to be published as a crime novel.

On this one occasion, I’m more than happy that he was proved wrong.

The cover is clearly not finished, as you can see, but this is pretty much what the final book will look like. For those interested in knowing more, here is an early draft of the back-cover blurb, as it appears on the HARPERCOLLINS website and at AMAZON UK:

All he had to do was name the woman he wanted. It was that easy. They would do all the hard work.

Detective Sergeant Mark 'Heck' Heckenberg is investigating the disappearance of 38 different women. Each one was happy and successful until they vanished without a trace.

Desperate to find her missing sister, Lauren Wraxford seeks out Heck’s help. Together they enter a seedy underworld of gangsters and organised crime.

But when they hear rumours about the so-called 'Nice Guys Club' they hit a brick wall. They're the gang that no one will talk about. Because the Nice Guys can arrange anything you want. Provided you pay the price…

Dark, terrifying and unforgettable. Stalkers will keep fans of Stuart MacBride and Katia Lief looking over their shoulder.

It might also be interest for crime hounds that I’ll shortly be commencing a brand new blog on the HarperCollins KILLER READS website. I’m not quite sure when, but I think it will be pretty soon. Watch this space for more information on that.