THE BROOD by Stephen R. Bissette

A Midnight Movie Monograph on THE BROOD was a no-brainer. When comics artist and film critic Stephen R. Bissette said he wanted to write it, I think I almost bit his hand off.

I still think that it’s Cronenberg’s most powerful film, the first film he made where everything came together in perfect synthesis. And Steve . . . well Steve’s writing was part of my formative development as a film lover, in the pages of GOREZONE and DEEP RED.

I don’t remember how we got to know each other, but that’s social media for you. I think it may have been reminiscing about DEEP RED editor Chas. Balun that broke the ice. And somewhere a friendship began to grow so that, when I came to edit WE ARE THE MARTIANS, I invited Steve to come aboard. And really, given the way his contribution to that collection grew beyond his and my expectation . . . I wasn’t entirely surprised when this one did as well.

But still, what Steve handed in to me was like nothing I have ever read before . . . and like everyone here at PS Towers, I’ve read quite a lot.

Seriously: It’s huge, and all encompassing. It ranges across the history and lineage of the genre in film and literature, what came before THE BROOD and what came after; it opens doors on Cronenberg’s biography and Stephen’s too. It looks at how ideas in natural history, science, mythology and metaphysics influenced the times and culture in which THE BROOD was conceived, and into which it was then born. It explores disturbing elements of Canadian cultural and political history involving the systemic abuse and experimentation on orphan children in the name of science; looks at cults and deprogramming; and takes a bold and heartfelt look at how trauma and abuse affects not only the victims, but also the people who love them. Not to mention the unique production and distribution history of this most unusual family drama.

There are precedents of course: Raymond Durgnat’s A LONG HARD LOOK AT PSYCHO comes to mind, but that’s a forensic book, picking apart the film in question shot by shot; it puts the movie under a microscope and as a result the focus is sharp, but necessarily narrow. I’ve never read anything that takes quite such a holistic approach as Stephen has done here. Not about a single film. The nature and history of an idea. He approaches the film like psychogeography, exploring the ripples both backward and forward in time, climbing the vertical and horizontal axes of its influence to see what went in to the film, and what came out.

The breadth of topics that Steve covers in this book is breathtaking. The number of threads that he finds woven into the intricate tapestry of this single 90 min film is dizzying, and he picks at them all. This book breaks new ground for Electric Dreamhouse, and at an entirely new length—six times longer than a standard monograph volume! We’re in the final stages before this enormous book goes to press. The signing cards that we did for the HORROR EXPRESS book went down well, so we’re doing more (and backtracking to do signature cards for some earlier entries in the series too). This time out, were looking at something extra exciting. Not only will Stephen Bissette be signing but we should be adding signatures from stars Art Hindle and Cindy Hinds as well.

I can’t wait for you to read this.                                                                                                                           —Neil Snowdon

Now available for pre-order. 

Sneak Peek Extract: Lost Americans by Jeb Burt

‘The Dead Kingdom’

One dusk, he was caught on camera. He kneeled at the brink of Jade Falls, in the center of the park, cupped hands into the yellow bell of water into a pool. Bringing the cold chlorine to his mouth he drank deeply. Security came in a minute but he was gone.

No one knew where—not even those who saw him go. The tourists at the railing snapped photos of the gunslinger and then argued: a Quebecois saw him dash over the lip into shady Pioneer Forest. Others claimed he tore off his boots and swam the lagoon’s curry to Lost Children’s Isle. The security men ran fingers through their hair, staring over the surface of churned carotene in the low sun. Excited children clambering on rocks on the island, their screams loud over the water, looked at the white steamboat that whistled. Tiers lit by oil lanterns glistened calmly in a cake of white pine.

Foreign to the tan Californians, the gunslinger was always discerned in the crowd. His raw physiognomy under the sombrero was ruthless. Wind harsher than the breezes here, laden as they were with marine moisture, had aged him prematurely. Incipient cancers specked his face, his eyes kinked at their sides though he could not have been twenty-one.

The first girl vanished from the Triassic Train.

The Junior Astronaut, on a lone voyage in the Sky Ships, parents clapping at the rail, was snatched away in his slow migration to the Emerald Chateau across the sky.

Next two teens.

Their parents left them playing in Babylon while they got lemon ice. The girls did not emerge from the vines when their parents screamed.

The gunslinger stood staring into a mirror pool, light webs menacing him under his sombrero, minutes after the girls descended into the crevices of the ruins.

Initially corporate requested the costumed rustler for questioning, but the sheriffs and gunhands of Lincoln, New Mexico—two zones east of Babylon—did not know the strange man staring with a wistful look into his image, the tourist stream forking around him on the video, ants around a coal.

Rumors of sightings passed among the crews, toy vendors, popcorn men and sugar sculptors. He moved in smooth silence through the visitors, colts and belts burning, jeans dark on the ecstatic color.

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Aeota by Paul Di Filippo

Sneak Peek Extract:

5.

Judge Dread

       The opalescent murk outside my windshield had gotten pretty bad by the time I hit the outskirts of the city where AEOTA had its corporate HQ, and I was grateful I didn’t have to head any further north.  Just breathing this stuff was becoming problematical.

       Past an elementary school, a mall, a junkyard, a milk-bottling plant—

       find aeota yesterday everywhere.

       The building that housed AEOTA bore discreet signage in a modest font attesting to the company’s humble presence.  An elegant single-story block of offices, more viridian-tinted glass than steel, was dwarfed by a tall windowless monolithic manufactory wing longer than a couple of football fields, all utilitarian coppery metal.

       I took a visitor’s parking space and entered a pleasant atrium.  A receptionist ensconced as eye-candy behind a circular desk might have wandered in off the pages of Vanity Fair.

       “I’d like to see Mr. Thaumas, please.”

       “You’re expected?”

       “No.  But if you tell him I want to talk about Holger Holtzclaw and Eurybia Enterprises, he might get all puppy-dog eager.”

       Three minutes later, I had a temporary badge and a guide—a young intern who looked as if he could shave the down from his cheeks with a lettuce leaf—and was heading toward what I hoped were, if not some definitive answers, at least some further milestones along this crazy road.  I felt a little as if I were Nick Fury walking through the dangerous corridors of AIM, but since I didn’t see any guys in yellow bee-keeper suits, I tried to shrug off the feeling.  Besides, I wasn’t right for the role of Nick:  I looked awful with an eye-patch.

       The wooden door bore the title of CEO and my man’s full name:  Thomas T. Thaumas.

       I don’t know who I expected to see behind that door.  The Devil, Gordon Gekko, Hannibal Lecter, Dr. Evil.  But whatever menacing figure my imagination might have supplied, it wasn’t that of Judge Hardy.

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Next Stop—

Interested to learn more from Mark Steensland? 

Here’s a little piece about Rick Hautala, NECon, and his new collection AUTUMN PROSE, WINTER VERSE.

Plus, check out the link to the short film “Lovecraft’s Pillow” that was played in a handful of festivals around the world: http://ow.ly/E5J150kmKla 

“In 2006, during a conference at Ithaca College in upstate New York, I was standing in the auditorium lobby, waiting for the doors to open, when my eyes lingered on the badge of a guy who just happened to share a name with the author of Night Stone. I introduced myself and discovered–to my surprise–that it really was Rick Hautala. Since we were both attending solo, we sat next to each other, starting a conversation that lasted until his death in March of 2013.

Over our too-brief time together, we collaborated on all sorts of scripts, films, novels, and stories, one of which (called “Lovecraft’s Pillow”) is included in this collection. I can say without qualification that Rick was the best friend I ever had. I often told people that he was more of a brother to me than my blood. And if you had the great good fortune to know him, you understand exactly what I’m talking about.

It was Rick who introduced me to NECon, and then to everyone there. Thanks to Rick, Chris Golden helped get my middle-grade novel Behind the Bookcase to an editor at Random House, and, thanks to Rick, F. Paul Wilson gave me a cover blurb when they published it. Thanks to Rick, Richard Chizmar produced our best short films: “The Ugly File,” based on the story by Ed Gorman, “The Weeping Woman,” based on the story by Paul Kane, and “Peekers,” based on the story by Kealan Patrick Burke. Thanks to Rick, Pete Crowther saw “Peekers” and loved it. And now here I am, writing a blog entry for PS Publishing as they send my short story and poetry collection into the world. I hope some of what I’ve done in these pages honors all of those who helped me get here.

Did I forget to mention the name of the conference where I met Rick? No, I didn’t forget. It’s the best part of this tale, which is why I saved it for the end, to make it one of those stories that proves truth is stranger than fiction.

It was the first Rod Serling Conference. Of course it was.”

Now available for pre-order.

PS titles 2018

The Ammonite Violin & Other Stories by Caitlín R. Kiernan (January 2018)

SYNOPSIS

In The Ammonite Violin & Others, the author rises to meet the high expectations she set with such collections as Tales of Pain and Wonder, A is for Alien, and the World Fantasy Award-nominated To Charles Fort, With Love. Within these pages, you’ll discover a dazzling suite of stories situated on the borderlands between the unspeakable and the erotic, the grotesque and the sublime. Here are stories of dream and metamorphosis, strange lands and beings existing beyond the veil of death and beyond this earth. Here is a selkie who’s lost her sealskin, a woman with a blackhole in her heart, a fairie girl fallen to the Queen of Decay, the descent of a modern-day Orpheus, and a killer who has fashioned the most exquisite musical instrument from the remains of one of his victims.

Here are dreams, nightmares, and worse things yet.

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Wakulla Springs by Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages (January 2018)

SYNOPSIS

A novella about four generations of an African American family and their ties to the beautiful and mysterious Wakulla Springs, the deepest submerged freshwater cave system in the world, in the jungle of the Florida panhandle. This remarkable work encompasses a unique history of the fantastic, featuring Tarzan, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, overlaid with the shadow of Jim Crow laws in the Deep South. Ranging from the late 1930s to the present day, “Wakulla Springs” is a tour de force of the human, the strange, and the miraculous, a masterpiece of American magic realism.

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Best New Horror #28 edited by Stephen Jones (January 2018)

SYNOPSIS

In this latest edition of THE WORLD’S LONGEST-RUNNING ANNUAL SHOWCASE OF HORROR AND DARK FANTASY you will find CUTTING-EDGE stories by such authors as ANGELA SLATTER, STEPHEN VOLK, RICHARD CHRISTIAN MATHESON, DENNIS ETCHISON, LISA TUTTLE and STEVE RASNIC TEM, amongst many others, along with the usual OVERVIEW OF THE YEAR IN HORROR and NECROLOGY of those who have left us.

CONTENTS

  • Introduction: Horror in 2016 – The Editor
  • Pale Tree House – Angela Slatter
  • ​​​​​​​The Light at the Centre – Maura McHugh
  • ​​​​​​​En Plein Air – J.T. Glover
  • India Blue – Glen Hirshberg
  • ​​​​​​​Walking with the Cross – Peter Bell
  • Bedtime Story – Richard Christian Matheson
  • ​​​​​​​The Symphony of the Normal – Darren Speegle
  • ​​​​​​​The Ballet of Dr. Caligari – Reggie Oliver
  • Who is This Who is Coming? – Lynda E. Rucker
  • ​​​​​​​The House That Moved Next Door – Stephen Volk
  • ​​​​​​​Princess – Dennis Etchison
  • ​​​​​​​A Home in the Sky – Lisa Tuttle
  • ​​​​​​​On These Blackened Shores of Time – Brian Hodge
  • The Enemy Within – Steve Rasnic Tem
  • ​​​​​​​The Court of Midnight – Mark Samuels
  • ​​​​​​​Far from Any Shore – Caitlín R. Kiernan
  • ​​​​​​​The Fig Garden – Mark Valentine
  • White Feathers – Alison Littlewood
  • ​​​​​​​Over to You – Michael Marshall Smith
  • In the Dark, Quiet Places – Kristi DeMeester
  • ​​​​​​​Mare’s Nest – Richard Gavin
  • The Red Forest – Angela Slatter
  • ​​​​​​​Necrology: 2016 – Stephen Jones & Kim Newman

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Lovecraft Illustrated: The Curse of Yig Vol 17 by Pete Von Sholly (February 2018)

SYNOPSIS

In this volume are five stories that really belong in the Lovecraft canon, even though they have been presented previously as “revisions”. From Lovecraft’s letters we know that he wrote these stories from ridiculously scrappy notes and/or some very poor prose and that he wrote (or re-wrote) them fresh from beginning to end himself. Many of HPL’s “mythos” creations appear in these tales and there is much to enjoy for fans who think they have read everything by HPL and are looking for more. Oddly, at least one “revision” has been presented by Arkham House as a Lovecraft story (Under the Pyramids) and many have not. We have already addressed ‘The Mound’ in a previous book and these others fit comfortably along side that gem as more real Lovecraft fiction.

CONTENTS

  • Introduction by S. T. Joshi
  • The Curse of Yig by H. P. Lovecraft (with Zealia Bishop)
  • Medusa’s Coil by H. P. Lovecraft (with Zealia Bishop)
  • The Horror in the Museum by H. P. Lovecraft (with Hazel Heald)
  • Out of the Aeons by H. P. Lovecraft (with Hazel Heald)
  • The Diary of Alonzo Typer by H. P. Lovecraft (with William Lumley)
  • The Shadows out of the Madness of the Horrors in the Texts by Pete Von Sholly
  • Smother’d by Night-Gaunts by W. H. Pugmire
  • Did Lovecraft Write Lovecraft Pastiches? by Robert M. Price

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Phantom Limbs by Margo Lanagan (February 2018)

SYNOPSIS

Ghosts, deformed fairy tales, animal transformations, dystopic futures and twisted histories-these are the stuff of a Lanagan story.

An adolescent Hansel is enslaved by wicked tramp Grinnan during the Black Plague; a middle aged woman in country Australia has a last chance to save her swan-winged brother; Hans Christian Andersen’s tinderbox shows up as a battered Bic cigarette lighter in a world of blasted cities and morals; gangs of sheela-na-gigs ride the city train system, unnerving the populace with their strange singing.

Phantom Limbs collects fourteen stories published in anthologies, magazines and small collections throughout the past decade, and adds one brand new story, ‘The Tin Wife’, to deliver an extended tour of the country of the weird.

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The Tommyknockers by Stephen King (SOLD OUT)

Late last night and the night before,
Tommyknockers, Tommyknockers,
knocking at my door.
I want to go out, don’t know if I can,
’cause I’m so afraid
of the Tommyknocker man.

It begins with nothing more frightening than a nursery rhyme; yet in Stephen King’s hands it becomes an unforgettable parable of dread, a threat from an unimaginable darkness that drags the practical inhabitants of a New England village into a hell worse than their own most horrible nightmares . . . and yours.

It begins with a writer named Roberta Anderson, looking for firewood in the forest that stretches behind her house. Bobbi stumbles over three inches of metal, which unusually heavy spring runoff has left sticking out of the soil. A logger’s beer can, she thinks at first, but “the metal was as solid as mother-rock.”

It begins with Bobbi’s discovery of the ship in the earth, a ship buried for millions of years, but still vibrating faintly, still humming with some sort of life . . .faint . . . weak . . . but still better left alone.

Bobbi then begins to dig–tentatively at first, then compulsively–and is joined by her old friend (and onetime lover) Jim Gardener. Aided by a weirdly advanced technology, their excavation proceeds apace. And as they uncover more and more of an artifact both familiar and so unbelievable it is almost beyond comprehension, the inhabitants of Haven start to change.

There is the new hot-water heater in Bobbi’s basement–a hot-water heater that apparently runs on flashlight batteries. The vengeful housewife who learns of her husband’s affair . . . from a picture of Jesus on top of her TV, a picture that begins to talk. Not to mention the ten-year-old magician who makes his little brother disappear . . . for real.

The townspeople of Haven are “becoming”–being welded into one organic, homicidal, and fearsomely brilliant entity in fatal thrall to the Tommyknockers.

In this riveting, nightmarish story, Stephen King has given us his tautest, most terrifying novel to date. And the next time someone raps at your door, you may want to keep the chain on. It just might be the Tommyknocker Man.


One More Kill by Matt Hughes (March 2018)

SYNOPSIS

He was a trained killer, an orphaned kid who rose from raw recruit to the rank of major in the US Army Rangers. He was looking forward to retiring at the end of a thirty-year hitch, but when he developed a low-grade form of leukemia, the Army pushed him out and left him feeling alone and useless – until a fluke encounter with a rogue doctor tipped him into a new hobby: killing those who had done great harm and gotten away with it.

But then a police detective starts to dig into his “operations,” while a vicious old enemy resurfaces with a scheme to draw the Ranger into a web of contract killing and gun running. Pushed too far, the Ranger means to solve his problems with bombs, bullets, and his own bare hands.

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Dislocations by Eric Brown and Keith Brooke (March 2018)

SYNOPSIS

Project Kon-tiki, the world’s first extra-solar colony expedition, is just weeks away from departure, and tension is mounting at Lakenheath Base. Psychologist Kat Manning is one of the eighteen specialist whose clone will be sent to the stars, and her job is to work with the original specialists, the ‘left behind’, to monitor and support them through their dislocation . . . But when Kat is kidnapped by the Allianz, a faction opposed to the colonisation program, more than just her safety is at stake. The entire mission is in jeopardy. In Dislocations, the first volume of the Kon-tiki Quartet, Brown and Brooke tell the story of humankind’s last-gasp efforts to reach the stars, set against the backdrop of an Earth torn apart by looming environmental disaster.

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Firing the Cathedral by Michael Moorcock (March 2018)

SYNOPSIS

In the 1960s Jerry Cornelius was the coolest assassin on the Ladbroke Grove block.

By the 1970s The Condition of Muzak had won the Guardian Fiction Prize and The Final Programme was a feature film starring Jon Finch, Jenny Runacre, Hugh Griffith and Sterling Hayden.

In the 1980s the world’s first cyberpunk continued to inspire a generation of writers including William Gibson, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, and bands like the Human League.

By the 1990s he was up and running towards the guns again in stories like ‘The Spencer Inheritance’, ‘The Camus Referendum’ and ‘Cheering for the Rockets’, which dealt with the icons and key events of the day.

At turn of the millennium, in Firing the Cathedral, he responded to the attacks on America of September 2001 and their consequences, to the realities of global warming and global terrorism, and the apocalypse had never seemed more terrifying, never been more fun. Cooler, sharper, his fingers firmly on the pulse of the twenty-first century, Jerry Cornelius was back, counting names and taking heads.

In this book and its new companion volume Pegging the President, modern life will never feel the same to you again.

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Pegging the President by Micheal Moorcock (March 2018)

SYNOPSIS

At turn of the millennium, in Firing the Cathedral, he responded to the attacks on America of September 2001 and their consequences, to the realities of global warming and global terrorism.

Now, in Pegging the President, Jerry Cornelius is back; the ambiguous, amoral, androgynous English Assassin, cooler, sharper, his fingers still firmly on the pulse of the twenty-first century, counting names and taking heads, showing once again that colonialism and despotism — the roots of empire gone sour — do not change. The apocalypse has never seemed more terrifying, never been more fun, and modern life will never feel the same to you again.

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To Charles Fort, With Love by Caitlín R. Kiernan (April 2018)

SYNOPSIS

To Charles Fort, With Love is award-winning fantasist Caitlín R. Kiernan’s third collection of short fiction, a haunting parade of the terrible things which may lie beyond the boundaries of science, the minds which may exist beyond psychology, and the forbidden places which will never be located in any orthodox globe.

To quote the object of Kiernan’s affection, meta-poet and arch-enemy of dogma Charles Hoy Fort, “The little harlots will caper, and freaks will distrac t attention, and the clowns will break the rhythm of the whole with their buffooneries—but the solidity of the procession as a whole: the impressiveness of things that pass and pass and pass, and keep on and keep on and keepon coming.”

A deceptively even dozen, this collection includes Kiernan’s celebrated stories “Onion” and “Andromeda Among the Stones,” as well as a number of more obscure pieces. Though Kiernan was recently praised as “the new Lovecraft,” these stories stand as testimony that she will never be merely the “new” anyone, that hers is a unique and demanding voice entirely unlike any other.

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The Dragon’s Child by Janeen Webb (May 2018)

SYNOPSIS

Meet the shapeshifting dragons of Hong Kong. Adept at passing for human, they are the kind of dragons you’d find at a Gatsby party—charming, sophisticated, glamorous, outrageously wealthy—and utterly ruthless.

Nothing, it seems, can challenge their privileged lives—until Lady Feng leaves one of her eggs to be raised by human foster parents in a remote mountain village.

The dragon child hatches. Born with dragon power, raised with human emotion, this child is trouble. And his powers are growing . . .

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The Inhabitant of the Lake by Ramsey Campbell (May 2018)

SYNOPSIS

The influence of H. P. Lovecraft spans the centuries. Several of his correspondents who were writers learned by imitating him. The early tales of Robert Bloch and Henry Kuttner read very much like Lovecraft, while others of his friends—Donald Wandrei, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard and August Derleth among them—incorporated his ideas and myths into their fiction. Bloch and Frank Belknap Long even wrote tributes to him that used him, barely disguised, as a character.

After Lovecraft’s death August Derleth took control of his mythos, adding to and organising it more systematically than its creator ever had. Derleth was a jealous guardian of Lovecraft’s reputation, and insisted on vetting any stories by new writers that used the mythos. Few found his favour until 1961, when a Liverpudlian fifteen-year-old sent him the first drafts of several Lovecraftian tales. The outcome was a ten-year professional relationship and the appearance in 1964 of the first book of previously unpublished Lovecraftian fiction for five years. It was The Inhabitant of the Lake.

This fiftieth anniversary edition reprints that book in full, including the original introduction. It also includes the first drafts of all the tales that were rewritten before publication and reproduces Derleth’s editorial responses to the stories.

This edition is superbly illustrated by Randy Broecker in the great tradition of Weird Tales.

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Visions from Brichester by Ramsey Campbell (May 2018)

SYNOPSIS

This companion volume to the complete PS Publishing edition of The Inhabitant of the Lake and Other Unwelcome Tenants collects all of Ramsey Campbell’s remaining Lovecraftian stories that are of less than novel length. It begins with the first tale Campbell wrote immediately after that first Arkham House book, and comes up to date with the novella The Last Revelation of Gla’aki, his recent return to his own Lovecraftian territory, where he rediscovers Lovecraft’s first principles and strips away the accretions of the mythos that developed after Lovecraft’s death.

The book includes the first publication anywhere of the first drafts of “Cold Print” and “The Franklyn Paragraphs”, and offers the bonus of “Mushrooms from Merseyside”, all his Lovecraftian tales inhumanly transmuted into limericks. The book also collects his Lovecraftian non-fiction, not least his transcription of an English correspondent’s letters to Lovecraft and a close reading of three Lovecraft tales.

Like the companion volume, this book is superbly illustrated by Randy Broecker in the great tradition of Weird Tales.

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Extrasolar edited by Nick Gevers (June 2018)

SYNOPSIS

Among the brilliant visionary scenarios in Extrasolar: military antagonists meet in the atmosphere of a gas giant; gifted children hijack a starship to search out a new home; a superjovian world yields mysterious and much-coveted gemstones; aliens find our solar system disconcertingly paradoxical; a feminist SF writer of the Seventies crafts liberating exoplanetary dreams; the habitats aboard a gargantuan spaceship cater to the needs of truly exotic aliens; and scientists eagerly seeking exoplanets confront a devastating truth. And then there are songs of home and far away and bitter exile; intelligence calling to intelligence across light years and species barriers; utterly immersive dives into perilous planetary atmospheres; brave responses to enigmatic messages from the stars; a machine embracing a Gothic destiny; and a truly different kind of space opera.

CONTENTS

  • Holdfast – Alastair Reynolds
  • Shadows of Eternity – Gregory Benford
  • A Game of Three Generals – Aliette de Bodard
  • The Bartered Planet – Paul Di Filippo
  • Come Home – Terry Dowling
  • The Residue of Fire – Robert Reed
  • Thunderstone – Matthew Hughes
  • Journey to the Anomaly – Ian Watson
  • Canoe — Nancy Kress
  • The Planet Woman By M.V. Crawford – Lavie Tidhar
  • Arcturean Nocturne – Jack McDevitt
  • Life Signs – Paul McAuley
  • The Fall of the House of Kepler – Ian R. MacLeod
  • The Tale of the Alcubierre Horse – Kathleen Ann Goonan

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Best New Horror #25 edited by Stephen Jones (June 2018)

SYNOPSIS

This 25th edition of Best New Horror showcases some of the very best short stories and novellas published in 2014. So get ready to spread your wings and take a bite out of this latest anthology of agony. And don’t forget to tell your fellow fiends about our new series of Best New Horror reprints. Just let them know who sent you . . . The Old Hag

CONTENTS

  • Introduction: Horror in 201
  • Who Dares Wins: Anno Dracula 1980 by Kim Newman
  • Click-clack the Rattlebag by Neil Gaiman
  • Dead End by Nicholas Royle
  • Isaac’s Room by Daniel Mills
  • The Burning Circus by Angela Slatter
  • Holes for Faces by Ramsey Campbell
  • By Night He Could Not See by Joel Lane
  • Come Into My Parlour by Reggie Oliver
  • The Middle Park by Michael Chisleet
  • Into the Water by Simon Kurt Unsworth
  • The Burned House by Lynda E. Rucker
  • What Do We Talk About When We Talk About Z— by Lavie Tidhar
  • Fishfly Season by Halli Villegas
  • Doll Re Mi by Tanith Lee
  • A Night’s Work by Clive Barker
  • The Sixteenth Step by Robert Shearman
  • Stemming the Tide by Simon Strantzas
  • The Gist by Michael Marshall Smith
  • Guinea Pig Girl by Thana Niveau
  • Miss Baltimore Crabs: Anno Dracula 1990 by Kim Newman
  • Whitstable by Stephen Volk
  • Useful Addressess

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Parasites by Eric Brown and Keith Brooke (June 2018)

SYNOPSIS

Humankind has at last sent a ship to the stars, leaving an Earth ravaged by environmental disaster and torn apart by competing sectarian interests.

Kat Manning is one of eighteen specialists aboard the starship Kon-Tiki, clones whose various areas of expertise will be crucial in the months and years ahead as they forge a new life on a strange alien world.

But what Kat finds on Newhaven is nothing she could have planned for, and every bit as surprising and challenging as the issues she left behind on Earth: mysterious aliens, political in-fighting, and someone willing to go to any lengths to keep a deadly secret.

In Parasites, the second volume of the Kon-Tiki Quartet, Brown and Brooke tell the story of humankind’s taming of an alien world – and of confrontation with the demons that lurk within the very psyche of humanity itself.

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Plague of Gulls by Stephen Gregory (July 2018)

SYNOPSIS

It’s David Kewish’s 18th birthday, but it doesn’t turn out quite as he expected. After suffering a horrible accident he receives a bizarre present in the form of a baby black backed gull. Only this bird isn’t his friend, instead his curious connection to the young bird is the catalyst for a series of incidents, which turns everyone against him.

Kes meets The Birds in this terrifying story of loneliness and madness in a small seaside town in Wales.

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Les Vampires by Tim Major (August 2018)

ABOUT THIS BOOK

UK novelist Tim Major, author of YOU DON’T BELONG HERE, has written a monograph on the sublime silent serial LES VAMPIRES, and in the process reignited my own obsession with its director Louis Feuillade, and Paris in that period. One of the reasons I always wanted to approach authors as well as critics for this series was precisely the hope that they’d bring a different angle to that we might expect and Tim has delivered in spades. His book is part commentary and exploration of his own fascination with the film, and part metatextual fiction that responds to, and evokes, the uncanny texture of the dreamlike world of the film itself.

—Neil Snowdon

1915, and in America D.W. Griffith is breaking new ground with his BIRTH OF A NATION, charting a path for the next century of US Cinema, as an art dedicated to narrative clarity and cohesion/certainty. Meanwhile, in France, the absinthe dream of the Belle Epoque was coming to an end in the nightmare of the First World War, and yet in the midst of it all, films were still being made.

Already famous for his amoral crime serial FANTOMAS (1913), Louis Feuillade embarked upon LES VAMPIRES on location in Paris, even as the War came close enough that German guns could shell the city. It was to be his masterpiece, and—in a way—the antithesis to D.W. Griffith. Feuillade’s was a cinema of uncertainty, of ambiguity and unease, even as it embraced comedy, metatextuality, breaking the fourth wall to wink at the audience/make us complicit. It is oneiric, poetic, sensual, and uncanny.

Born of the French literary and artistic heritage of the ‘fantastique’ it would, in it’s own way, set the course for the future of French film as a cinema in which ambiguity remains a defining characteristic, and a central pleasure to be embraced.

Join novelist Tim Major as he explores the dreamlike underworld of Louis Feuillade, the original femme fatale, Musidora, and her gang ‘The Vampires’…anything can happen, nothing is certain, in LES VAMPIRES.

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The Wind in His Heart by Charles de Lint (August 2018)

SYNOPSIS

Ottawa author Charles de Lint has finally returned to adult fiction with the release of his first major fantasy novel in eight years. The Wind in His Heart arrived on the shelves September 19th in conjunction with de Lint being inducted to the Canadian SF and Fantasy Association’s Hall of Fame. Renowned as a trailblazer of the modern fantasy genre, de Lint has won the World Fantasy, Aurora (three times), Sunburst, and White Pine awards, among others.

The new novel weaves a rich tapestry of story. Young Thomas Corn Eyes sees into the otherworld, but all he wants to do is get off the rez. Steve Cole escaped from his rock star life to disappear into the desert and mountains. Fifteen-year-old barrio kid Sadie Higgins has been discarded once too often. Blogger Leah Hardin needs to leave Newford, come to terms with the suicide of her best friend, and actually engage with her life. When these lives collide in the Hierro Maderas Mountains, they must struggle to escape their messy pasts and find a way to carve a future for themselves.

In recent years de Lint took a break from adult fiction to focus on juvenile books, which were weathering the rocky publishing business with greater stability. His young adult Wildlings trilogy earned him two Aurora awards; his middle grade novel The Cats of Tanglewood Forest won the Sunburst award and was also chosen by the New York Times as one of the top six children’s books of 2013.

The Wind in His Heart took de Lint three years to write. Rather than go the traditional route with a major publisher—which he says would have been simpler and probably far more lucrative—de Lint prefers the creative freedom that independent publishing offers him. The novel was published under his own imprint, Triskell Press, but it ended up as a hybrid indie/traditional release since Recorded Books, the “Rolls Royce of audiobook publishers” snapped up the audio rights when the editor read and loved the novel, and British specialty publisher PS Publishing grabbed limited edition hardcover rights.

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Walking with Ghosts by Brian James Freeman (August 2018)

SYNOPSIS

“Freeman’s prose is clean and lovely, painting the canvas of the printed page so unobtrusively yet with such pronounced effect. His writing will leave you both chilled and deeply moved.”

And he’s right. Brian’s first full-length collection, features twenty-nine unforgettable tales including several that are seeing print for the very first time. Intense, eerie, and compelling, the pages within contain characters and creations that will leave a haunting impression on the reader long after the final page is turned.

CONTENTS​​​​​​​

Introduction by William Peter Blatty

Foreword by Brian James Freeman

Part One: Weak and Wounded

  • Running Rain
  • Mama’s Sleeping
  • An Instant Eternity
  • Where Sunlight Sleeps
  • Marking the Passage of Time
  • Walking With the Ghosts of Pier 13
  • A Mother’s Love

Part Two: More Than Midnight

  • Pop-Pop
  • Answering the Call
  • The Final Lesson
  • Loving Roger
  • Among Us
  • Not Without Regrets
  • What They Left Behind

Part Three: Dreamlike States

  • The Temperament of an Artist
  • The Gorman Gig
  • One Way Flight
  • Monster Night
  • Tomorrow Could Be Even Better
  • One More Day
  • The Christmas Spirit
  • Silent Attic (Amy Walker)
  • Danny Dreams (Daniel Walker)

Part Four: Lost and Lonely

  • Ice Cold Dan the Ice Cream Man
  • Losing Everything Defines You
  • As She Lay There Dying
  • How the Wind Lies
  • Perfect Little Snowflakes
  • The Plague of Sadness
  • The Last Beautiful Day
  • Story Notes

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The Colorado Kid by Stephen King (New Artwork by Dave McKean)

SYNOPSIS

On an island off the coast of Maine, a man is found dead. There’s no identification on the body. Only the dogged work of a pair of local newspapermen and a graduate student in forensics turns up any clues, and it’s more than a year before the man is identified. And that’s just the beginning of the mystery. Because the more they learn about the man and the baffling circumstances of his death, the less they understand. Was it an impossible crime? Or something stranger still?

No one but Stephen King could tell this story about the darkness at the heart of the unknown and our compulsion to investigate the unexplained. With echoes of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon and the work of Graham Greene, one of the world’s great storytellers presents a moving and surprising tale whose subject is nothing less than the nature of mystery itself.

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Ice and Other Stories by Candas Jane Dorsey (September 2018)

SYNOPSIS

Beginning with the iconic 1988 story “(Learning About) Machine Sex” and ending with a new tale written specially for this volume, Ice gathers thirty years of the dazzlingly imaginative short fiction of Candas Jane Dorsey, who, as writer, editor, publisher, writing teacher, reviewer, anthologist, and essayist, has had a dramatic and formative effect on Canadian literary, queer and feminist speculative fiction since her debut story was published in 1977.

In Ice:

An alienated would-be assassin makes a hobby of destroying drowned skyscrapers…

A stolen child trained to kill discovers an alternative…

A detective fails to save her digital daughter from a predator…

A city becomes a museum under the curation of a bored former space-traveller…

An abuse survivor discovers the shocking pain that underlies an ambitious personal art project…

A tough, hard-boiled poet laureate tracks down a lost raison-d’être…

A bridge of virtual birds leads a shape-shifting futurist into a turbulent landscape of love, e-mail spam, and money…

These are only a few of the scenarios brought to edgy, literate, evocative life in this landmark collection.

CONTENTS

  • (Learning About) Machine Sex
  • Sleeping in a Box
  • Here Be Dragons
  • Turtles All the Way Down
  • Dvorzjak Symphony
  • Death of a Dream
  • Living in Cities
  • Going Home to Baïblanca
  • Mapping
  • Ice
  • How Many Angels Can Dance
  • Locks
  • Once upon a time…
  • Blood from a Stone
  • Mom and Mother Teresa
  • …the darkest evening of the year…
  • A Trade in Futures
  • Seven in a Boat, No Dog
  • First Contact
  • Dolly the Dog-Soldier
  • The Food of My People
  • End of the Line, or, Desperate Russian Girls Looking for Love
  • Notes and acknowledgements

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Uncommon Miracles by Julie C. Day (October 2018)

SYNOPSIS

A grieving man travels through time via car crash. A family of matriarchs collects recipes for the dead. A woman gains an unexpected child in the midst of a bunny apocalypse. An outcast finds work in a magical slaughterhouse. Julie C. Day’s debut collection is rife with dark and twisted tales made beautiful by her gorgeous prose and wonderfully idiosyncratic imagination. Melding aspects of Southern Gothic and fabulism, and utilizing the author’s own scientific background, Day’s carefully rendered settings are both delightful and unexpected. Whether set in a uniquely altered version of Florida’s Space Coast or a haunted island off the coast of Maine, each story in this collection carries its own brand of meticulous and captivating weirdness. Yet in the end, it is the desperation of the characters that drives these stories forward and their wild obsessions that carry them through to the end. It is Day’s clear-eyed compassion for the dark recesses of the human heart and her dream-like vision of the physical world that make this collection a standout.

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By the Light of My Skull by Ramsey Campbell (October 2018)

SYNOPSIS

Before I could prevent myself I jerked up the flashlight beam. What did I see? Not much for long, but far too much. The hands belonged to a shape that occupied all the space on a solitary dilapidated chair. Like the hands, the shape appeared to owe its substance to the grime that was everywhere in the dark. Perhaps the soft insidious sound I heard was demonstrating how restless that substance was, but I had the awful idea that it could be an attempt to breathe. I just had time to glimpse a face―eyes as black and unstable as the rest of the lopsided bulk, nostrils desperately dilating, lips that sagged into a helpless grimace and then struggled to produce another expression if not to speak―before the figure collapsed…

By the Light of My Skull collects many of Ramsey Campbell’s recent tales of supernatural horror and psychological disintegration, and finds disquiet in the most familiar places. A game of Bingo and its calls conceal a dark secret, and the number-plates of cars convey a monstrous message. A headphone commentary guides a visitor to a stately home deep into terror, and the remains of a funfair are unearthed, awakening much worse. A fairy tale is retold for our time – both grim and Grimm – and a page from a book turns into a tribute to one of the greatest creators of fantasy. A search on a beach brings an uncannily unwelcome helper, and a return to a childhood memory rouses a nightmare. The power of the first great horror film refuses to stay on the screen, and even a Beatles tour contains the seeds of madness. The classically spectral is roused by brass rubbing, and Halloween is celebrated by an apparition. A bird hide conceals an increasingly sinister watcher, and a communication from the dead letter office leads to the restless dead. The passwords we all need these days may work on our nerves, but here they’re the source of worse than panic.

The book is illustrated by the award-winning artist J. K. Potter, whose surreal images perfectly complement the nightmares in the prose.

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Dark Mirages edited by Paul Kane (October 2018)

SYNOPSIS

The Cenobites from Hellraiser return to their spiritual home of London for a showdown to end them all, and the legend of the world’s most famous vampire – Dracula – gets a fresh spin. The ghost of an elderly lady’s past returns, while a mysterious old-fashioned TV is rented out. And as a race against time begins, a deadly game of chance takes place… Dark Mirages is your chance to read unmade or rare TV/film treatments and scripts from talented writers such as Stephen Jones & Michael Marshall Smith, Stephen Gallagher, Axelle Carolyn, Peter Crowther, Muriel Gray and Stephen Laws. Compiled and edited by Paul Kane (Hellbound Hearts, Beyond Rue Morgue, A Carnivàle of Horror) this is a unique book no genre fan should be without!

CONTENTS

  • Introduction by Paul Kane
  • HRXX End of the World — Smith & Jones
  • Dracula — Stephen Gallagher
  • The Last Post — Axelle Carolyn
  • Prime Time — Peter Crowther
  • The Seven — Muriel Gray
  • Dead Man’s Hand — Stephen Laws

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Horror Express by John Connolly (October 2018)

SYNOPSIS

Remember watching Horror movies late at night, alone, in secret, when you you were just a child? The special thrill of forbidden fruit, the delightful dread that this one might cause nightmares . . .

Is there one film that stands out for you? One film in particular that defines that experience? For author John Connolly, it’s HORROR EXPRESS. But why? Why this one? What was it about this slightly ramshackle, British/Spanish co-production that, despite obvious flaws, made it such an effective, entertaining, and memorable Horror movie?

A British producer, a Spanish director; a star in mourning, another in debt; a script written around leftover sets from a previous film . . . it could have been forgettable trash, but it wasn’t.

And, during a late night screening on Irish television, it would make an indelible impression on the young boy who would grow up to become best selling crime author, John Connolly. 30 years after that first viewing John Connolly goes back to the source to find out why it stayed with him, and if it still works…

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Spirits of the Dead by Tim Lucas (October 2018)

SYNOPSIS

Dismissed as a ‘gloomy and sentimental hack’ by American and British critics in his day, Edgar Allan Poe was nonetheless revered in France as a ‘poete maudit’ and ‘master of the short story’ by Charles Baudelaire, praised as a ‘sublime poet’ by Mallarme, celebrated as a ‘lucid theoretician of poet effects’ by Valery. The difference could not have been more stark.

And yet, when the filmic poets of European Cinema came together to adapt Poe’s stories for SPIRITS OF THE DEAD (Histoires Extraordinaires) they were largely derided, with only Fellini’s ‘Toby Dammit’ segment receiving unanimous praise, while the American adaptations of Poe’s stories, by Roger Corman and AIP, received both popular and critical acclaim.

Fitting then, that the wheel should come full circle, as US author and Critic Tim Lucas mounts this compelling re-examination of a film which he has long defended as a Classic of the genre, and which in his own words ‘changed his life’.

Embracing the poetic and the sublime, Lucas takes to task the common misconception that this is a film of parts, to look at it as a richly imagined, sensual, cohesive, and poetic whole. A film which aims for something ‘other’ than straight forward scares, that eschews the clinical Freudianism of the Corman movies, for something more deeply felt.

Poe himself claimed that “a poem deserves its title only inasmuch as it excites, by elevating the soul.” For Tim Lucas, SPIRITS OF THE DEAD does just that.

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Octoberland by Thana Niveau (October 2018)

SYNOPSIS

Thana Niveau’s stories feature people on the edge – the edge of death, the edge of sanity, the edge of reality. In this diverse collection, two sisters leave a trail of bodies behind them as they go on the run, desperate to outrun the dark secrets of their past. A film fan is haunted by the actress whose brutal horror films he can’t stop watching. A child hears a ghostly voice through the radio reciting only numbers. And a young woman revisits the place she and her brother loved above all else—Octoberland—the strange amusement park that tore their world apart. Horror wears many faces here, from creeping dread to apocalyptic devastation, and no one escapes its dark touch.

Between summer and winter, between night and day, between good and evil, lies Octoberland.

Where the old Gods go to die

I got the feeling that the figures in the carvings weren’t wearing masks, that the ugly, snarling expressions were meant to be actual faces.

Where modern evils lurk …

The subtitles only translated the spoken dialogue, so Alex had no idea what the words carved into her flesh meant.

Where the world rebels against us …

The snow swirled like ocean currents, like the avalanche in her dream that had drowned the world.

Where both land …

The labyrinth is sevenfold, each turn leading deeper inside, winding towards the raised centre.

… and sea …

They found him lying in the surf, ranting about a black abyss the dolphins had shown him.

…are mysteries we may be better off never understanding.

Thana Niveau invites you to tour Octoberland, a place where hidden horrors lurk, love can be found in the most unusual places, and nothing is ever as it seems.

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Rime by Tim Lebbon (October 2018)

SYNOPSIS

In search of a new home after the downfall of planet Earth, the massive generation ship Cradle carries seventeen million souls in cryosleep.

One man, a control room technician, is part of a generation destined to live and die protecting these sleeping millions.

When Cradle encounters five unknown entities in the deepest reaches of interstellar space, he makes a fateful decision that will affect the future of the entire human race.

‘Rime’ is a powerful retelling of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner set against the cold, inhospitable backdrop of deep space.

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The Dark Masters Trilogy by Stephen Volk (October 2018)

SYNOPSIS

Whitstable – 1971

Peter Cushing, grief-stricken over the loss of his wife and soul-mate, is walking along a beach near his home. A little boy approaches him, taking him to be the famous vampire-hunter Van Helsing from the Hammer films, begs for his expert help . . .

“A beautiful piece of work . . . heartfelt, respectful, elegant, brave”—Dread Central

Leytonstone – 1906

Young Alfred Hitchcock is taken by his father to visit the local police station. There he suddenly finds himself, inexplicably, locked up for a crime he knows nothing about—the catalyst for a series of events that will scar, and create, the world’s leading Master of Terror . . .

“Volk possesses a questing mind and an expansive heart and paints dark and light sides of the human equation like few others”—Mick Garris, producer/director, Masters of Horror

Netherwood – 1947

Best-selling black magic novelist Dennis Wheatley finds himself summoned mysteriously to the aid of Aleister Crowley—mystic, reprobate, The Great Beast 666, and dubbed by the press ‘The Wickedest Man in the World’—to help combat a force of genuine evil . . .

“Beautifully written. Perfectly nuanced. I loved it”—Neil Spring, best-selling author of The Ghost Hunters

“Mesmeric and demonic. An instant classic”—Johnny Mains, series editor, Best British Horror

“The perfect finale to the Dark Masters Trilogy. Packed with word magic, full of illuminating darkness”  A. K. Benedict, author of The Beauty of Murder and Jonathan Dark or The Evidence of Ghosts

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The Smallest of Things by Ian Whates (October 2018)

SYNOPSIS

There are many Londons. From pomp to sleaze, from sophistication to dark corruption, Chris knows them all. A fixer with a particular set of skills, he can step between realities, piercing the thin veils that separate one London from another to find objects or locate people that have fallen between the cracks.

When a close friend, Claire, comes to him fearing for her life he is forced to use his abilities as never before, fleeing with her through a series of ever stranger Londons, trying to keep one step ahead of the men who murdered her boyfriend and are now hunting her.

At some point, Chris hopes that he and Claire can pause long enough to figure out why these mysterious figures from another London want her dead, but right now they’re too busy simply trying to stay alive.

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The Way of the Worm by Ramsey Campbell (October 2018)

SYNOPSIS

The ground floor of the shop was an extensive labyrinth of counters and displays. Merchandise surrounded me in no order I could grasp: perfumes, kitchen utensils, crockery, electrical equipment, televisions by the dozen… Some items I could scarcely make out, given the unhelpful dimness. I might have enquired why the place was so poorly lit if I’d seen anyone to ask, or were my eyes or my mind to blame? I headed for the televisions, which ought to lend me some illumination while I waited to feel equal to venturing outside again. All of them were silenced, and every one was showing footage of a film about a war zone if not a city devastated by some other disaster. A subtitle was gliding off the screens, but I caught the single word WORLDWIDE. I was growing uneasier than I cared to define when I noticed a man, presumably a sales assistant, in the furthest aisle of screens. “Excuse me,” I called, “what’s happening there, do you know?”

He was turning towards me when I began to wish he would do nothing of the kind. Far from growing more prominent as it came, his profile appeared to be shrinking, the long sharp nose and outthrust chin dwindling by the instant. On the whole I was glad of the dimness, which prevented me to some extent from seeing his face. If only this had been the solitary reason that I couldn’t make it out – but as he confronted me across the screens displaying desolation I saw his face implode, sucked inwards like a rubber mask turned inside out. Before the features disappeared into the bulb of flesh perched on the neck he thrust out a hand, if very little of one. As the fingers swiftly atrophied I realised he was pointing the rudimentary lump at the end of his arm at me . . .

More than thirty years have passed since the events of Born to the Dark. Christian Noble is almost a century old, but his and his family’s influence over the world is stronger than ever. The latest version of their occult church counts Dominic Sheldrake’s son and the young man’s wife among its members, and their little daughter too. Dominic will do anything he can to break its influence over them, and his old friends Jim and Bobby come to his aid. None of them realise what they will be up against – the Nobles transformed into the monstrousness they have invoked, and the inhuman future they may have made inevitable . . .

The Way of the Worm is the final volume of Ramsey Campbell’s Brichester Mythos trilogy, in which he returns to his original themes and develops them in his mature style. The first volume, The Searching Dead, received the Children of the Night Award from the Dracula Society for the best original Gothic fiction of the year.

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The Long Way Home by Richard Chizmar (November 2018)

SYNOPSIS

Gathered here for the first time ever are seventeen short stories, two essays, and a short script by award winning and New York Times bestselling author, Richard Chizmar.

Eerie, suspenseful, poignant, the stories in The Long Way Home run the gamut from horror to suspense, crime to dark fantasy, mainstream to mystery. This brand new collection features more than 100,000 words of short fiction, as well as more than 5,000 words of autobiographical Story Notes. Chizmar’s previous short story collection, A Long December, was published in 2016 to starred reviews from Library Journal and Kirkus, and was included on numerous “Best Books of the Year” lists. Entertainment Weekly gave the book high praise: “Each tale is a magic trick, luring you toward the light while leading you down an ever-darkening path. There is hope mingled with horror, and that’s Chizmar’s secret power. His storytelling always beats with a huge, passionate heart.”

Stephen King says he writes “terrific stories served with a very large slice of Disquiet Pie,” and with The Long Way Home, Richard Chizmar has taken his evocative and compelling storytelling to an entirely new level.

CONTENTS

  • The Man Behind the Mask
  • The Bad Guys
  • The Meek Shall Inherit…
  • Silent Night
  • Widow’s Point
  • My Father and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine
  • The Witch
  • A Nightmare on Elm Lane
  • Dirty Coppers
  • Mischief
  • The Man in the Black Sweater
  • Odd Numbers
  • The Hunch
  • Roses and Raindrops
  • Stephen King at 70: A Tribute to the Gunslinger
  • The Association
  • The Sculptor
  • Murder House script
  • The Custer Files
  • The Long Way Home
  • Story Notes

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Unholy Land by Lavie Tidhar (December 2018)

Lior Tirosh is a semi-successful author of pulp fiction, an inadvertent time traveler, and an ongoing source of disappointment to his father.

Tirosh has returned to his homeland in East Africa. But Palestina―a Jewish state founded in the early 20th century―has grown dangerous. The government is building a vast border wall to keep out African refugees. Unrest in Ararat City is growing. And Tirosh’s childhood friend, trying to deliver a warning, has turned up dead in his hotel room.

A state security officer has now identified Tirosh as a suspect in a string of murders. A rogue agent is stalking Tirosh through transdimensional rifts―possible futures that can only be prevented by avoiding the mistakes of the past.

From the bestselling author of Central Station comes an extraordinary new novel recalling China Miéville and Michael Chabon, entertaining and subversive in equal measures.

A limited numbered edition (100 copies signed by Lavie Tidhar) housed in an illustrated slipcase and including:

  • “The Road to Unholy Land” —a postscript by Lavie exclusive to our edition (1000 words)
  • “The Time-Slip Detective” —by Lavie Tidhar — a short ‘seed’ story (3000 words) for the novel, also exclusive to our edition.

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Neil Snowdon chats about Horrorthon 2018

A short account of Horrorthon 2018 . . .

. . .  courtesy of Neil Snowdon, editor in chief of our Midnight Movie Monographs series, part of the Electric Dreamhouse imprint, following Horrorthon 2018 in Dublin, scribbled while sitting in the airport at silly o’clock in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Take it away, Neil.. . . a special event, courtesy of Neil Snowdon, editor in chief of our Midnight Movie Monographs series, part of the Electric Dreamhouse imprint, following Horrorthon 2018 in Dublin, scribbled while sitting in the airport at silly o’clock in the early hours of Sunday morning.

I had a wonderful time at FantasyCon 2018, and was absolutely delighted by the response to the books we launched there: Tim Major’s LES VAMPIRES, Tim Lucas’s SPIRITS OF THE DEAD, and John Connolly’s HORROR EXPRESS. Thanks to everyone who came to the PS Launch, to everyone who bought books or sought me out to chat about what we’re up to and what’s coming next, and to go check out Tim Major’s post-con blog about it for a lovely summing up, and his Fact File on LES VAMPIRES over at Ginger Nuts Of Horror

gingernutsofhorror.com/features/les-vampires

if you need further enticing to read his book . . .

As I mentioned already, last weekend saw me in Dublin

So, had a chance to chance to catch your breath? Good. Let’s do it all again!

For the Irish Film Institute’s annual Horrorthon weekend where they screened HORROR EXPRESS to coincide with the release of the awesome John Connolly’s Midnight Movie Monograph on the film, and what a fantastic weekend it was!

The Irish Film Institute is a fantastic venue on Eustace Street in Temple Bar. So it was a pleasure to discover the place on arrival. Not only that, but it has a fantastic shop attached, selling a superb range of Books, Blu-Rays and DVD’s.

It really is a film geeks paradise, and my heart leaped with glee . . . while my wallet screamed in pain.

My thanks must go out to all the staff at the venue, but especially to Kevin Coyne, and Ed King, who programme the event, and Gerard Sweeney at the Filmshop.

They are exactly the kind of kindred spirits that meant Electric Dreamhouse fit right in, and they ensured I was well looked after and everything ran as smoothly as possible.

With our screening set for the Saturday, I had Friday night to kill

So I took the opportunity to catch a film. In this case, NIGHTMARE CINEMA a new anthology film by festival Guest Of Honour, Mick Garris (CRITTERS 2SLEEPWALKERSMASTERS OF CINEMA et al) who produced, and co-directed along with Joe Dante (GREMLINSMATINEETHE HOWLING), Ryuhei Kitamura (Vs), David Slade (HARD CANDYHANNIBALAMERICAN GODS), and Jorge Brugues (JUAN OF THE DEAD) . . . and who should I run into in the queue, but Swan River Press honcho Brian J. Showers.

The film was a lot of fun, and the crowd had a great time, but there was no doubt in my mind—and in Brian’s—that the standout episode came from David Slade, whose black & white episode ‘This Way To Egress’ based on a story by Lawrence C. Connolly (no relation) put us both in mind of Joel Lane or Gary McMahon. Meanwhile, I got a chance to talk briefly with Mick Garris himself, who lived up to his reputation not only as the ‘Peter Bogdanovich of Horror’ (he really does know EVERYONE!), but also one of the nicest men in the business. If you haven’t caught his many interviews

Never fear, Dublin readers, they will have more soon!

After that… well after that I could relax, and relax I did, Dublin has a LOT of good places to eat and drink, and John knows the best of them. It also has some gems for book and music lovers (check out The Secret Book And Record Store), Gutter Books (who will also be stocking John’s HORROR EXPRESS), and Alan Hanna’s Bookshop if you’re ever in town.

Now I’m in the airport, heading back to Newcastle, suitably shattered, and ready for a day of rest. The film is flapping in the projector and the light is flickering out. See you soon!

with genre titans, pop over to mickgarris.com, or check out his Post Mortem Podcast. You won’t be disappointed.

And so came Saturday and the HORROR EXPRESS screening . . .

. . . where John was, as ever, eloquent, and impassioned, and gave a great intro to the film that really set the scene for the 130 or so people who turned out to see it… a good half of whom had never seen the film before (take that, Stephen Volk! I told you it’s not THAT well known!).

The film went down well, and afterward books were bought and signed to the point where, by the time I left, there was only one left in the IFI Filmshop.

Never fear, Dublin readers, they will have more soon!

After that… well after that I could relax, and relax I did, Dublin has a LOT of good places to eat and drink, and John knows the best of them. It also has some gems for book and music lovers (check out The Secret Book And Record Store), Gutter Books (who will also be stocking John’s HORROR EXPRESS), and Alan Hanna’s Bookshop if you’re ever in town.

Now I’m in the airport, heading back to Newcastle, suitably shattered, and ready for a day of rest. The film is flapping in the projector and the light is flickering out. See you soon!

HORROR EXPRESS is in-stock and available to order. 

The Long Way Home by Richard Chizmar

Sneak Peek Story Extracts:

“I’m scared,” the dying cop said.
“You’re gonna be okay. Help’ll be here soon.”
“I’m dying.”
I shook my head. “No, you’re not. You’re gonna be okay.”
My partner of fifteen years coughed and blood bubbled from between his lips. I lifted his head higher, my fingers slick with sweat. My other hand remained pressed against the bullet wound in his chest, a warm scarlet glove.

From The Bad Guys

 “What’s going on, man?”
Jimmy looked over his left shoulder at the house, and then over his right at the front yard. Seemingly content that no one was eavesdropping, he scooted his chair closer to Brian. Lowered his voice. “You remember what we were talking about yesterday…about Mr. Pruitt?”
“About him being sad?”
Jimmy shook his head. “About him being different, acting weird.”
“Okay, yeah.”
Jimmy looked over his shoulder again in the direction of his next-door neighbor’s house, then back at Brian. “I was thinking about it last night…remembering things.” He took a deep breath. “I think something bad might be going on over there.”
“What exactly does something bad mean?” Brian slid his chair a little closer.
Jimmy thought about it for a moment before answering.
“You promised you wouldn’t laugh.”
“Just tell me what you—”
“I think Mr. Pruitt might be a serial killer.”

From The Meek Shall Inherit

The man holds the video camera in his left hand and grips the steering wheel with his right. The road, and calling it a road is charitable at best, is unpaved dirt and gravel, and the camera POV is unsteady. Mostly we see bouncing images of the interior dashboard and snippets of blue sky through a dirty windshield. The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” plays at low volume on the radio.
After another thirty seconds of this, we hear the squeal of brakes in need of repair and the car swings in a wide circle—giving us a shaky glimpse of a stone lighthouse standing atop a grassy point of land—and comes to a stop facing rocky cliffs that drop perilously to the Atlantic Ocean below. The ocean here is dark and rough and foreboding, even on this clear day.

From Widow’s Point (with Billy Chizmar)

 “I hate Halloween.”
“You hate everything,” I said.
“That’s not true.”
“Name three things you don’t—”
“Pizza.”
“That’s one.”
“Fishing.”
“Two.”
Frank Logan, bald head, double chin, and wrinkled suit, stared out the passenger window of our unmarked patrol car.
“Well, I was gonna say you’re the third thing I don’t hate but that was before you started with this shit.”
I laughed and swung a right onto Pulaski Highway.
“So what do you have against Halloween anyway?”

From The Witch

My father and I started digging the day after school ended.

From A Nightmare On Elm Lane

 “You got any money?” Heather Neely asked.
“Not much,” I said. “Why? You runnin’ short again?”
“Yeah, kinda.” She looked over at me. “Maybe it’s time for the gorilla mask.”
I nodded. I needed some extra credits myself.
Now before you get all uppity about this very delicate subject we’re about to discuss, just remember one thing. You take that forty-seven percent inflation rate we’ve got, and you couple that with the new budget cut-backs imposed on coppers, and you consider that most of us are married with families, and maybe you can understand why we don the gorilla mask so damn often.
I said, “It’s my turn to be the robber.”
“The hell it is. We flipped for it last time, remember? This time it’s my turn.”

From Dirty Coppers (with Ed Gorman)

Lester Everett Billings. White male. Devoted husband. Father of two lovely daughters. College educated. Local business owner. Avid fly fisherman. Volunteer volleyball coach. By all accounts, a good family man, neighbor, co-worker, and friend. And one of the most prolific serial killers in modern history.

From Mischief

six ninety-three…six ninety-four…six ninety-five.
I live three blocks from the corner of Hanson and Cherry I stop in front of the Redbox machine and tap the toe of my right shoe against the bottom of the unit. Three times. Not two times and not four times. Always three.

From Odd Numbers

Another child was killed yesterday…
And probably right around the time that it happened, I was sitting alone on my screened-in back porch, eating dinner and watching the storm break.

From Roses And Raindrops (with Brian Keene)

Someone was standing in the middle of the street, staring up at the house.
Between the darkness and a tangle of overhanging tree branches, Harold couldn’t make out whether it was a man or woman. All he could see was the still figure of someone standing there, watching. He was about to go downstairs and investigate further when the shadowy figure turned and started slowly walking away.
Harold watched the person disappear down the street and then climbed back into bed. He clicked the remote to turn off the television and lay there in the darkness, thinking about what he’d just seen. He wondered how long the person had been out there watching the house before he’d walked by the window and noticed him. Harold felt unnerved and was certain that sleep would be a long time coming, but within minutes of turning off the television, he was snoring even louder than his wife.

From The Association

The sound came again, louder this time, a harsh scraping sound, as if something heavy were being moved in increments over the floor. Something much heavier than Sophie. It came from the direction of his studio down the hall.

From The Sculptor (with Ray Garton)

I was watering the tomato plants on my balcony and trying to decide whether I should take a shower or go for a run when the phone rang. No one called me these days—except for misguided solicitors a few times a week—so I let the answering machine pick up. It beeped and I heard my mother’s voice, sounding much older than the last time I’d heard it: “You need to come home, Charlie. Your father died.”
And that was it.
I sat on the armrest of my rented sofa and played the message. When it was finished, I played it again and listened with my eyes closed. My mother sounded like a stranger. I pictured her standing in the kitchen of the small house I’d grown up in, staring out the window above the sink at the ancient weeping willow tree that bordered our side yard, absently twirling her hair in her fingers, the phone pressed tight against her ear.

From The Long Way Home

Available for Pre-Order.

The Dark Masters Trilogy by Stephen Volk

Whitstable – 1971

Peter Cushing, grief-stricken over the loss of his wife and soul-mate, is walking along a beach near his home. A little boy approaches him, taking him to be the famous vampire-hunter Van Helsing from the Hammer films, begs for his expert help . . .

 “A beautiful piece of work . . . heartfelt, respectful, elegant, brave”

—Dread Central

 

He couldn’t face going outside. He couldn’t face placing his bare feet into his cold, hard slippers. He couldn’t face sitting up. He couldn’t even face opening his eyes. To what? The day. Another day without Helen in it. Another day without the sun shining.

For a moment or two before being fully awake he’d imagined himself married and happy, the luckiest man on earth, then pictured himself seeing her for the first time outside the stage door of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane: she a shining star who said a platypus looked like “an animal hot water bottle” – he in his vagabond corduroys, battered suitcase, hands like a Dürer drawing, breath of cigarettes and lavender. Then as sleep receded like the waves outside his window, he felt that dreadful, dreaded knot in his stomach as the awareness of her no longer being there – her non-presence – the awful, sick emptiness, rose up again from the depths. The sun was gone. He might as well lie there with his eyes shut, because when his eyes opened, what was there but darkness?

Habitually he’d rise with the light, drink tea, take in the sea view from the balcony, listen to the wireless and sometimes go for a swim. He did none of these things. They seemed to him to be activities another person undertook in a different lifetime. Life. Time. He could no more picture doing them now than he could see himself walking on the moon. The simplest tasks, the very idea of them, seemed mountainous. Impossible.

Yet it was impossible, also, to lie there like a dead person, greatly as it appealed to do so. It was something of which he knew his darling would so disapprove, her reprimand virtually rang in his ears and it was this that roused him to get up rather than any will of his own.

His will was only to . . .

But he didn’t even have the strength for that.

She was his strength, and she was gone.

Helen.  Oh, Helen . . .

Even as he sat hunched on the edge of the bed, the burden of his loss weighed on his skinny frame. He had no choice but to let the tears flow with the same cruel predictability as his dream. Afterwards, weaker still, he finally rose, wiping his eyes with now-damp knuckles, wrapping his dressing gown over baggy pyjamas and shambling like something lost and misbegotten towards the landing. A thin slat shone between the still-drawn curtains onto the bedroom wallpaper. He left the room with them unopened, not yet ready to let in the light.

A half-full milk bottle sat on the kitchen table and the smell hit him as soon as he entered. The sink was full to the brim, but he poured the rancid liquid in anyway, not caring that it coated a mound of dirty plates, cups, saucers and cutlery with a viscous white scum.

He opened the refrigerator, but it was empty. He hoped the milkman had left a pint on the doorstep: he hated his tea black. Then he remembered why he had no groceries.  Joycie did it.  Joyce, his secretary, did everything for ‘Sir’. He pictured again the hurt in her eyes when he’d told her on the telephone she would not be needed for the foreseeable future, that she needn’t come to check that he was all right because he was all right. He’d said he needed to be alone. Knowing that the one thing he didn’t want to be was alone, but that was not the way God planned it.

Nasty God.

Nasty, nasty God . . .

He shut the fridge. He didn’t want food anyway. What was the point? Food only kept one alive and what was the point of that? Sitting, eating, alone, in silence? What was the point of that?

He put on the kettle. Tea was all he could stomach. The calendar hung facing the wall, the way he’d left it.

The letter box banged, startling him, shortly followed by a knock on the wood. It was Julian the postman, he thought, probably wanting to give his condolences in person. He held his breath and had an impulse to hide. Instead he kept quite still.  Julian was a sweet chap but he didn’t want to see him. Much as he knew people’s wishes were genuine, and appreciated them, his grief was his own, not public property. And he did not want to feel obliged to perform whenever he met someone from now on. The idea of that was utterly repellent.  How he dealt with his inner chasm, his utter pain and helplessness, was his own affair and other people’s pity or concern, however well-meaning, did not make one iota of difference to the devastation he felt inside.

He stood furtively by the doorway to the hall and watched as a package squeezed through and fell onto the welcome mat, and beyond the glass the silhouette of the postman departed.

It had the unmistakable shape of a script.

His heart dropped. He hoped it was not another one from Hammer. He’d told them categorically via his agent he was not reading anything. He knew Michael had newly found himself in the chair as Managing Director, and had a lot on his plate, but could he really be so thoughtless? Jimmy was a businessman, but he also counted him a friend. They all were.  More than friends – family. Perhaps it was from another company, then? Amicus?  No. Sweet Milton had his funny American ways, but would never be so callous. Other companies were venal, greedy, but not these. They were basically gentlemen. They all knew Helen. They’d enjoyed laughter together. Such laughter, amongst the gibbets and laboratories of make-believe. Now, he wondered if he had the strength in his heart to meet them ever again.

He picked up the package and, without opening it, put it on the pile of other unread manuscripts on the hall stand. Another bundle sat on the floor, a teetering stack of intrusion and inconvenience. He felt no curiosity about them whatsoever, only harboured a mild and uncharacteristic resentment. There was no small corner of his spirit for wonder. They were offers of work and they represented the future. A future he could not even begin to contemplate. Why could they not see that?

He sighed and looked into the mirror between the hat hooks and what he saw no longer shocked him.

Lord, the make-up job of a master. Though when he sat in the make-up chair of late he usually had his hairpiece to soften the blow. Never in public, of course: he abhorred that kind of vanity in life. Movies were different. Movies were an illusion. But – fifty-seven? He looked more like sixty-seven. What was that film, the part written for him but one of the few he turned down? The Man Who Could Cheat Death. But he couldn’t cheat death at all, could he? The doctors couldn’t, and neither could he. Far from it.

Dear Heavens . . .

The old swashbuckler was gone now. Fencing in The Man in the Iron Mask. The Sheriff of Nottingham. Captain Clegg of Romney Marsh . . . He looked more like a Belsen victim. Who was it said in a review he had cheekbones that could cut open letters? He did now. Cheeks sucked in like craters, blue eyes sunk back in deep hollows, scrawny neck, grey skin. He was positively cadaverous. Wishful thinking, he thought. A blessing and a curse, those gaunt looks had been his trademark all these years, playing cold villains and erudite psychopaths, monster-hunters and those who raised people from the dead. Yet now the only person he desperately craved to bring back from the grave he had no power to. It was the one role he couldn’t play. Frankenstein had played God and he had played Frankenstein playing God. Perhaps God had had enough.

The kettle whistled and the telephone rang simultaneously, conspiring to pierce his brain. He knew it was Joycie. Dear Joycie, loyal indefatigable Joycie, who arrived between dry toast and correspondence every day, whose concern persisted against all odds, whose emotions he simply couldn’t bear to heap on his own. He simply knew he could not speak to her, hear the anguish in her voice, hear the platitudes even if they weren’t meant as platitudes (what words could not be platitudes?) and, God knows, if he were to hear her sobs at the end of the line, he knew it would tip him over the edge.

Platitude:

An animal that looks like a hot water bottle.

Hearing Helen’s laughter, he shut his eyes tightly until the phone stopped ringing, just as it had the day before. And the day before that.

Quiet loomed, welcome and unwelcome in the mausoleum of his house.

He stared at the inert typewriter in the study, the signed photographs and letter-headed notepaper stacked beside it, the avalanche of mail from fans and well-wishers spilling copiously, unattended, across the floor from the open bureau, littering the carpet. He pulled the door shut, unable to bear looking at it.

Hardly thinking what he was doing, he re-entered the kitchen and spooned two scoops of Ty-Phoo into the tea pot and was about to pour in boiling water when he froze.

The sudden idea that Joyce might pop round became horrifically possible, if not probable. She wasn’t far away. No more than a short car journey, in fact, and she could be here and he would be trapped. Heavens, he could not face that. That would be unbearable.  Instantly he realised he had to get out. Flee.

Unwillingly, sickeningly, he had no choice but to brave the day.

Upstairs he shook off his slippers, replacing them with a pair of bright yellow socks. Put on his grey flannel slacks, so terribly loose around the waist. Needing yet another hole in the belt. Shirt. Collar gaping several sizes too big now, too. Tie. No time for tie. Forget tie.  Why was he forced to do this? Why was he forced to leave his home when he didn’t want to?  He realised he was scared. The scaremonger, scared. Of this. What if he saw somebody? What if they talked to him? Could he be impolite? Unthinkable. Could he tell them how he really felt? Impossible. What then?

He told himself he was an actor. He would act.

Back in the hall he pulled on his winter coat and black woollen hat, the kind fishermen wear, tugging it down over his ears, then looped his scarf round his neck like an over-eager schoolboy. February days could be bright, he told himself, and he found his sunglasses on the mantelpiece in the living room sitting next to a black and white photograph of his dead wife. At first he avoided looking at it, then kissed his trembling fingertips and pressed them gently to her cheek. His fingerprints remained on the glass for a second before fading away.

I’m a little saddened whenever I think of Peter Cushing, and not for the usual reasons of his loss of his wife and, of course, our loss of his remarkable talent. I bought two huge bound volumes of the classic EAGLE comic, both of them the original property of Cushing—and they came with a bona fide provenance. They were the pride—or one of the prides cos I have a lot—of my collection but, alas, a day dawned (as they always do, eventually) when I had to let them go. I often think of those wonderful bound volumes. If you’re reading this and you’re the fine fellow into whose custody I placed those marvelous volumes—and you’re thinking now of letting them go on to someone else—then please do get in touch.

 Leytonstone – 1906

Young Alfred Hitchcock is taken by his father to visit the local police station. There he suddenly finds himself, inexplicably, locked up for a crime he knows nothing about – the catalyst for a series of events that will scar, and create, the world’s leading Master of Terror . . .

 “Volk possesses a questing mind and an expansive heart and paints dark and light sides of the human equation like few others”

—Mick Garris, producer/director, MASTERS OF HORROR

 

“Desirée . . . Maxine . . .”

Pigeons nod at crumbs on a pavement.

“Burly Rose . . . Royal Kidney . . .”

Water empties over the flagstones. The winged pests scatter with a grey fluttering.

“Kennebec . . . Avalanche . . .”

Dark legs stride in mirror-black shoes. A man scrubs the pavement with the stiffest of brooms.

“Belle de Fontenay . . . Pentland Javelin . . .”

Indoors, a small framed picture sits like a window on the Byzantine Lincrusta wallpaper. Francis of Assisi, eyes turned piously upwards, arms outstretched like Christ on the cross, birds perched along them, treating them like branches, and aloft, circling his head and halo.

“Sharp’s Express . . . British Queen . . .”

In the greengrocer’s at five hundred and seventeen The High Road it is evening, but this room behind the shop is dark even at noon. The fruit and veg are out front to catch the sun, but the spuds, like the family, are kept at the back, in the gloom for safe keeping.

“Northern Star . . .”

The boy sits with elbows up on a plain wooden table, frowning with deepest concentration, hands cupped round his eyes.

“Eightyfold . . .”

Fred is a chubby little dumpling with a cockscomb of hair on top. (Born 1899 – last knockings of the old century, when Victoria was still on the throne – making him just under seven now.)

“Evergood . . .”

A woman’s hand removes the potato from the table-cloth in front of him, replacing it in a flourish with another.

“Up To Date . . .”

Another.

“King Edward . . .”

Another – the last, and it’s done.

“Red Duke of York . . .”

She shows him her empty palms. The silent, regal mime of applause that accompanies a miniscule tilt of the head is praise enough to make his cheeks burn. Sometimes it takes a lot to make his mother smile, he knows, but when she does it’s like getting a gold medal from the Queen. A V.C. for gallantry. And she is the Queen. In this house, anyway. Prim and proper and elegant – so much more elegant than any of his schoolmates’ mothers. A different class entirely. And dresses – oh, immaculately. Never seen outside without her white cotton gloves. Spotless. What are the others? Loud-mouthed fishwives, most of them, with brown baggy stockings and bruises where they’ve been on their knees all day.

“Onions!” he cries. “Test me on the onions now! Please, Mother! I know them all!”

“Back home they say onions are a great cure for The Baldness,” she singsongs in her Irish brogue. “Rub the scalp with a spoonful of onion sap, it’d put hair on a duck’s egg!”

Fred chuckles, but at the sound of the latch the moment between them is lost, and so is the chortle in his throat.

His father comes in, taking off the flat cap which confers him a degree of status to those he employs, and hangs it on a peg. Unties the knot of his tan apron at the small of his back and dips his fingers in the font, quickly genuflecting to Our Lady before hanging up the apron on the hook behind the door.

“The sailor home from the sea,” Fred’s mother says, as if some joke is being shared between her and her son. Fred twitches a smile, but just as swiftly it is gone and he lowers his eyes.

His father washes the earth off his hands under the tap at the Belfast sink. Water runs black down the plug hole. The soap is an unforgiving brick. A disinfectant smell bites at the air. There is no mirror, but while his face is still wet he flattens his moustache and eyebrows with several strokes of a forefinger and thumb.

“Father, I’ve been learning how to – ”

“Is he ready?”

The stiff tap turns off with a harsh twist leaving a stain of grime where the man’s thumbs went. He dries his hands briskly in a tea towel. “Now, Bill,” his wife says. “Just a little longer . . .”

“No.” For once he gives her no quarter. He is adamant. “If it’s to be done, let’s have it done.”

“Name o’ God, let him have his tea first.”

“Name o’ God nothing.” He returns the tea towel to its nail and rolls down his sleeves, folding over his cuffs and prodding in the links which he keeps next to his shaving paraphernalia on the shelf. “Fred, put your coat on, son.”

Fred’s mother rises and lifts the small tweed jacket from the back of Fred’s chair and the child puts it on. It matches his shorts exactly. It’s a suit like that of a grown man. She crouches in front of him, buttons it up, tucks his shirt tail in at the back, adjusts the knot of his little tie. Fred notices her smile is still there, yes – but it is not the same smile as was there before.

“Where are we going?”

“You’re going with your father.”

She wraps a woolly scarf around his neck. Knots it. There.“Don’t mollycoddle him, Em. Leave him.”

His father takes a black jacket from its hanger, flicks off dust with his fingers and slips his arms into the sleeves. He takes a different hat – a black bowler this time – from the peg next to the flat cap.

“Come here,” says Fred’s mother to her child. She gives him a hug – a swift hug, but a tight one, then a kiss on the cheek so hard it almost hurts. She rubs the red stain from her lips off with a licked thumb. Then kisses him a second time, even harder. He tries not to wince. “I’m going to make a great big steak and kidney pie. That’s your favourite – a nice big steak and kidney pie, isn’t it?”

Fred nods enthusiastically then turns at the sound of a cough.

His father cocks his head for Fred to follow him. Which the boy does, smiling and obedient as ever and smiling because his mother is smiling, after all.

They walk through the shop, the boy behind the man, smelling the sweetness of carrots and parsnips and the cloying heaviness of soil and sacks and straw and the boy does not see his mother sit back at the table, her knees suddenly weak.

When she hears the front door open and close, the shop bell tinkle, she clutches her rosary beads, closes her eyes tightly and for several minutes thereafter silently prays into her white-knuckled hand to Mary, the mother of her God.

Netherwood – 1947

Best-selling black magic novelist Dennis Wheatley finds himself summoned mysteriously to the aid of Aleister Crowley – mystic, reprobate, The Great Beast 666, and dubbed by the press ‘The Wickedest Man in the World’ – to help combat a force of genuine evil . . .

“Beautifully written. Perfectly nuanced. I loved it”

—Neil Spring, best-selling author of The Ghost Hunters

“Mesmeric and demonic. An instant classic”

—Johnny Mains, series editor, Best British Horror

“The perfect finale to the Dark Masters Trilogy. Packed with word magic, full of illuminating darkness.”

—A. K. Benedict, author of The Beauty of Murder and Jonathan Dark or The Evidence of Ghosts

 

“Netherwood”

The Ridge

Hastings.

23rd October, 1947.

Care Frater Scriptor

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

I beg of you, come immediately. I need a good man, with a strong heart. A life is at stake – and not my own. (Telephone number on reverse.)

Love is the law, love under will.

Oliver Haddo

A∴A∴

 

The view beyond the window was monochrome. A blighted land. Not green and pleasant, but ashen, a charcoal sketch. A thick layer of dirt separated him from the world, inhibiting his gaze as if ashamed of what lay beyond. Home and hearth despoiled. The very coach he was riding in, filthy, tired, dispossessed. Too weary, like the many millions of souls shivering by their firesides, to be a disgrace.

He remembered the poster he’d stood next to on the platform at Southampton. ‘SHABBY? YES! IT WILL TAKE TIME TO REPAIR OUR 800 SOUTHERN RAILWAY STATIONS – BUT IT WILL BE DONE AS SOON AS WE GET THE MATERIALS!’ A war-devastated company slow to recover after it had ended, like so many. The line had suffered all the more because of its closeness to the Channel ports – vital to the war effort – its routes commandeered for troops and military supplies, not least for Normandy, and Overlord, resulting in its malachite green carriages and sunshine yellow livery running the gauntlet along the south coast and getting a real pasting.

He tried to create a clean oval with his fingertip, and failed. The grime was on the outside. Nevertheless he could see enough of what he didn’t want to. Fields pitted by bomb craters. The landscape ravaged. Recovering, perhaps, like a crippled Tommy, but unbowed? Or was that a brave face it was putting on, still wracked with pain from its visible and invisible wounds? He felt it in deep his own body, too, as clearly as he felt the jostling of the track underneath him.

The Blighted Land.

A potential title? He took out his notebook and jotted it down, immediately capping his fountain pen self-consciously.

A young couple occupied the same compartment. Sweethearts, he guessed, from their whispered endearments, and the fact that they clasped hands so tightly. The man’s uniform that of a lance corporal, the three feathers in his cap badge indicating the Royal Regiment of Wales. Clean shaven. Not that there was much to shave. Forehead wide, chin small, he reminded him of Chad, the graffito character chalked on every wall for the last several years with variations of the same cri de coeur: ‘Wot, no sausages?’ ‘Wot, no girls?’ – or, in this case, possibly: ‘Wot, no war?’

Not wanting his lack of conversation construed as sullenness, he spoke.

“Glad to see you got through unscathed.”

“Not exactly,” the young man said. “Lost one of my balls at Zeeuws-Vlaanderen.”

Dennis raised one eyebrow.

“You and Hitler both, then. If the song is to be believed.”

The lad laughed, heartily.

Dennis reached out his right hand to shake the other chap’s. The lance corporal reached out his left. Dennis quickly swapped to his left and clutched it vigorously.

“Right-handed before I left.” The soldier still laughed. “Now I have to learn all sorts with my left hand. Quite fun doing so, to be fair.”

The girl blushed and nudged him in the ribs with her elbow. He pretended it hurt more than it did, then snatched a mischievous kiss on her cheek. The grin did not leave his face, and peculiarly that made Dennis sadder instead of happier, though he didn’t let it show.

He liked their playful banter, their intimate chatter, their sentimental need to touch. If there could only be that, he thought, they would be happy – and good luck to them. They probably read no newspapers, had no interest in world affairs. They’d probably had enough of ‘world affairs’ for a lifetime. He couldn’t say they’d be wrong, either. We’d all had a big party, but there was still rationing. The war was over, but nothing had changed. There were no planes droning overhead, but there were still bombed and demolished buildings. After the blackouts, it was odd to see all the shops with their lights on, but things hadn’t got better. Not in the way we’d all been led to expect. By a long chalk.

Was he the only person who felt the ubiquitous cheerfulness had a desperate, hollow ring to it? Under the surface, to him, there lay a mild sense of anarchy waiting to escape. He wondered how foreigners saw the British now? Could they perceive all too clearly we had a deeply false vision of ourselves? The jollity but a tiresome artifice? He for one still had the stink of the Blitz in his nostrils. A sense that he’d walked out of a burning building without so much as a scratch. He’d come out of Hatchett’s, a new basement restaurant, one night to see Burton’s the tailors ablaze, and Piccadilly lit up like a funfair. The Café de Paris, yards away, had suffered a direct hit, and he’d seen looters scrabbling amongst the dead and dying for valuables. One woman was bent over, cutting off fingers. He still had that feeling in his stomach now that he had back then, almost every day.

Best of all, he liked that the young couple didn’t recognise him. He was hardly a public figure or a matinee idol. He suffered no illusion about that. But some did, from the dust jackets. For now, though, he could enjoy the welcome anonymity.

A lover and his lass. He shut his eyes and drifted back to The Savoy, 1940. The band playing It was a Lover and his Lass by Ken ‘Snakehips’ Johnson and his West Indian Orchestra. The usual, painfully predictable litany of questions that always come once you’d made the schoolboy error of saying you’re a novelist.

Oh! What have you written that I’ve read?

He’d have to grit his teeth.

—I don’t know. What have you read?

His darling wife, in her element. Ferociously well connected. Joan Gwendoline Vanden-Bempe-Johnstone, as was. Daughter of the Hon what-what. Ex-wife of Sir what-what, Second Baronet what-what. And so it went back. Back to the dawn of time, it seemed.

So, old chap, do you make an actual living from this ‘scribing’ lark?

—Touch wood.

You know, I’ve an absolute corker of an idea. If I could only find the time to write the dashed thing.

—It does help.

Thing is, I know it would sell like absolute hot cakes! I say. Here’s a thought. We could collaborate. I’d have all the ideas, you wouldn’t have to worry on that score, but you can get it down on paper, you see? And you have the contacts. We could go 50-50. How’s that? Make a fortune!

—Rescue me.

These were Joan’s people, not his.

—Enjoy the claret, she’d invariably reply, from the corner of her mouth.

—About all I am enjoying.

The penguin suits were a far cry from the khaki sitting opposite. And he knew which he respected most.

“D-Day?” he said to the lance corporal.

“Nothing so grand.”

“I don’t care if you spent all your time spud-bashing. You did us proud.”

He meant it.

The young man looked embarrassed, and coloured slightly, examining his boots, which made Dennis admire him all the more. They were all heroes to him, and the sight of a uniform did peculiar things in his chest. He couldn’t help it. He’d cursed the fact that he’d been forty-two, over the age at which ex-officers could be re-commissioned. Additionally galling as two of his stepsons and his wife were all either in the forces or employed by the government. The thought of enduring the war as a dreary civilian was anathema. He’d tried everything to get a posting, by hook or by crook – applying to the Ministry of Information three times, without getting as much as a reply – finally, rather ignominiously, settling for becoming a fire warden. He bitterly regretted not serving in the thick of it as he had in the Great War. But he did do his bit, as it turned out, thanks to an extraordinary stroke of luck. The kind of luck that had been his boon companion all his life.

Joan had put her motor car at the disposal of the War Office, acting as a driver for MI5. She’d always liked mucking about with engines and, doling out fuel rations, came into her own, known, rather amusingly, as ‘The Petrol Queen’. One day she’d overheard an officer in the back seat saying it seemed horribly clear Germany would invade, but they had little idea how or when. “Why don’t you ask my husband?” she piped up. “He uses his imagination for a living.”

This was the welcome catalyst for him writing Resistance to Invasion. His avalanche of ideas went down well, and immediately. Greig and Darvall liked what they read and gave him his next assignment, to imagine himself as a member of the Nazi High Command. Not only a tough exercise, but a vitally important one, and he’d taken to it like the proverbial duck to water. In forty-eight hours solid, sustained by three magnums of plonk and tearing through hundreds of cigarettes, he’d churned out the 15,000-word Invasion and Conquest of Britain, putting himself in the shoes (or jackboots, rather) of a calculating and heartless enemy who’d think nothing of employing poison gas or bacteriological warfare, with no humanitarian considerations whatsoever. What followed, when his writing had gone to the Chiefs of Staff, and copied to the King himself, was a swift request for more reports – hundreds of thousands of words, delivered to ‘Mr Rance’s Room at the Office of Works’: the cover name for the Cabinet War Rooms in Churchill’s bunker under Whitehall.

Dennis was inordinately proud of his war work, and grateful for it. It taught him about the lives of real people and true bravery and danger that would help no end in making his own tales plausible and authentic. More than that, it made him desperately conscious of the things he held precious, and the things he feared. His mind had spun. His fingers had developed calluses where his pencil rubbed. His hands got cramp. Yet his fears urged him on. The narratives he was dreaming up dare not stop. If they stopped, he would feel like a coward on the battlefield turning his back and running away. His fiction could wait. Sleep could wait.

And yet, the question plagued him, constantly, even now . . .

Was it enough? His million words, for a readership of four?

Could anything ever be enough?

“We are champions of Light facing the creeping Darkness,” he remembered writing, in those clearer, more terrified, more united days. But is the Darkness ever truly defeated?

The braying voices at the Savoy came back to him.

I couldn’t sleep for weeks after those dreadful scenes of devil worship in the Home Counties.

—Quite right too.

And the appalling Mr Mocata!

Where do you get your ideas?

—Little shop off the Marylebone Road. Terribly useful.

—He writes about what scares him, said Joan, her hands on his shoulders. Don’t you, darling?

Emboldened from his natural shyness by her kiss on his cheek, he’d happily sign with a flourish the next dozen, or two dozen, copies of the novel with his name on the cover. OVER THREE MILLION COPIES OF THIS AUTHOR’S NOVELS SOLD, it read. THRILLING BLACK MAGIC STORY, it promised. ‘THE BEST TALE OF ITS KIND SINCE DRACULA’ – JAMES HILTON, it heralded.  In the bottom corner, a gigantic scarlet goat stood on its hind legs exuding flames from its nostrils, while around it danced naked figures, one in a pointed hat hunched over a broomstick. Dominating all, the face of a bald-headed man bathed in emerald green light, with searing, malevolent eyes, his hands twisted in conjuring gestures, thrown as claw-like shadows behind the author’s surname.

That brought him back to the letter.

Its writer, behind the all-too-obvious pseudonym, not difficult to discern.

‘Oliver Haddo’ . . . the odious scoundrel in Somerset Maugham’s novel The Magician, described as having a head like a pea balanced on an egg, who inflicted his awful poetry on unsuspecting guests. Quite obviously an extremely thinly-veiled portrait of Aleister Crowley. In fact, when the subsequent film was released, Dennis seemed to recall, Crowley tried to sue for compensation, but there was, of course, no hope of damages. His reputation was deemed so black by then it essentially couldn’t be made blacker.

But he had known the identity of the sender before he’d read as far as the signature.

The envelope had been sealed with the cartouche of Ankh-f-n-Khonsu in blue-grey wax, made with the same seal ring Crowley had worn when they’d met, the significance of which he had gone to pains to elucidate. If further confirmation were needed, the letterhead was the telltale vesica enclosing Crowley’s ‘Magister Templi’ lamen, which consisted of a crown bisected by a sword, scales on its tip balancing the Greek letters alpha and omega, surrounded by five Vs, indicating Crowley’s motto of initiation: “Vi Veri Vniversum Vivus Vici”  – again, imparted to Dennis by the man himself: “By the power of truth I have conquered the Universe”.

Either an extraordinary statement of fact or quite remarkable wishful thinking.

 

   Now Available for Pre-Order.

Dark Mirages edited by Paul Kane

Let’s talk about visual entertainment . . .

TV shows/treatments and movies. And while we’re at it, let’s also talk about adapting tales for transmission.

In fact, to be more specific, let’s talk about DARK MIRAGES, a new anthology of unmade film and television scripts put together and edited by Paul Kane.

 

Here’s the lowdown from Paul himself . . . 

I love film and TV. I should do, I spent six long years at university studying both. And it was during my time at uni that I began reading scripts myself, some as part of my courses, but a lot of them purely for my own entertainment. It’s a hobby that’s stayed with me, through into my career as an author, editor and screenwriter myself.

My favourite kinds of genre shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who knows me or my work. I love the imagination involved in good SF, Fantasy and, especially, Horror movies and television. So, when I began thinking about a new anthology project a little while ago, it seemed an obvious choice to compile a book of TV/Film scripts and treatments. But, to give it a different slant these would be either rare or unmade, or both, meaning that this would be the only opportunity you’d ever get to read them…unless you’re fortunate enough to know the writers, that is.

And there were just so many to choose from, because—as anyone in the business will gladly tell you—a lot more material gets written than gets made. Too much choice, actually . . . However, to kick off proceedings we have six writers whose work I’ve admired for a good while, with projects I’ve long been a fan of.

Michael Marshall Smith and Stephen Jones (aka Smith & Jones) should need no introduction; their work in the genre is tireless and legendary— have been absolutely amazing if it had been filmed! Drawing on what series creator Clive Barker did with his original, and lacing this with nods to some of the other entries, I first came across this project back when I was writing The Hellraiser Films & Their Legacy, so it’s an honour to be able to present it here for your reading pleasure . . .

I’ve been aware of Stephen Gallagher’s BBC Dracula project for about as long, as Steve has been talking about it for years on various scripting panels. An attempt to ‘strip away all the perverse matinee-idol romanticism and get back to Stoker’s nasty-minded predator’, according to the man himself, this production was sadly cancelled when one executive heard an exaggerated rumour about the status of a rival ITV drama (starring Martin Kemp and the Cheeky Girls!). After reading Steve’s script yourself here, you’ll lament the fact that it didn’t happen just as much as he does . . .

I first came across—and was bowled over by—Axelle Carolyn’s work a few years ago, when I saw her excellent short movies Hooked and The Halloween Kid, which she wrote and directed after starring herself in movies such as DOOMSDAY, CENTURION and BLOOD + ROSES. Most recently, she wrote and directed the superb feature film SOULMATE (starring Hellboy II’s Anna Walton), and contributed an entry to Tales of Halloween. Here, though, is a rare opportunity to read the story that inspired her first short movie, The Last Post—another touching ghostly tale, which starred genre icon Jean Marsh (The Changeling, Crooked House)—presented alongside the film’s script.

Peter Crowther is another legend in the field, a British journalist, short story writer, novelist, editor, anthologist and—with the equally legendary and multi-award-winning PS Publishing, founded with his wife Nicky— publisher as well. Pete also scripts and the long-lost entry we’re presenting here was meant to be part of the CHILLER TV series back in the 1990s, but never appeared. I’m delighted that we can give it a new lease of life in this book.

I first met the wonderfully talented Muriel Gray when I interviewed her live on stage at FantasyCon over a decade ago. A massive fan of her novels—THE TRICKSTER, FURNACE and THE ANCIENT—plus her short stories, in particular the superb ‘Shite-Hawks’, I was incredibly nervous. But, Mu being Mu, she soon put me at my ease and we’ve been firm friends ever since. I knew from chats with her that there were treatments and scripts she had written over the years—some with fantastically original premises, like The Seven included here—so I was delighted when I was able to add her to the line-up of this project . . .

Finally, yet another famous name in the horror genre, Stephen Laws was at the forefront of the ’80s boom with bestselling novels such as GHOST TRAIN, SPECTRE and THE FRIGHTENERS right through to CHASM (* watch out for a brand new PS edition coming your way very soon indeed), FEAR ME and FEROCITY in the ’90s and 2000s. But, like many other horror prose writers, Steve also carved out another career for himself in film and TV, and we’re lucky enough to have here a supernatural telemovie that, once again, sadly didn’t get made—but is getting a fresh airing in this book.

So, film and TV fans, it only remains for me to say enjoy these scripts and treatments, presented in their original formats, and of course enjoy the Dark Mirages that they conjure up in your imagination!

Fade to black . . .

Now Available for Pre-Order.

 

Rime by Tim Lebbon

Sneak Peek Extract: 

I open my eyes and I’m still alive. It comes as a blessed relief and a welcome miracle, as it has every morning since I’ve been here. But then I remember the reason for my survival, and what came before, and guilt lands with the force of unknown gravities. I despair at the awfulness of it all, yet I can’t help but revel in my continued survival. The two emotions form the extremes of every waking hour. I am, as Luke insists on reminding me, a creature of contradictions.

As if bidden by my thinking his name––and perhaps that’s true, because there are many aspects I have yet to learn about this amazing, almost unfathomable future––Luke walks through the door as if it wasn’t there at all. I have seen this a dozen times since my arrival, and a dozen times I have tried, unsuccessfully, to leave the same way. For me, the door remains solid.

“Good morning,” Luke says. “Shall we go out onto the balcony?”

I’ve tried going out there as well, but have found no way to open the wide glass walls. Luke and the woman accompanying him walk straight through. I follow, feeling no hint of resistance at all. Once outside, I glance back briefly and see myself reflected in the glass, like a ghost from the past.

I’ve been avoiding my reflection because it reminds me of what I’ve done. I see the sad, haunted man; the thin, haggard face; the long limbs, tall body, waving hair framing my sadness. Yet it’s the unmistakable glint in my eyes that troubles me most. The knowledge of a second chance.

“Shall we sit?” Luke asks, and three comfortable stools rise from the balcony’s floor.

“Who’s we?” I ask, looking at the woman. Like everyone I’ve seen here she’s very beautiful, and perhaps one day soon I’ll ask about that. It’s one more question whose answer frightens me.

“This is Olivia,” Luke says. “She’s going to be your liaison for the case.”

“I’m being charged, then?”

Luke’s smile drops. Olivia looks away, out from the balcony and across the staggering view that I usually see only through glass. Now, being out in the open air and involved in the view itself, it almost takes my breath away. The building I’m being kept in must be over a mile high, one of seven set across the wide, flat plain. Silent aircraft drift gracefully between towers on slender wings, and huge airships sometimes cruise in from the distance, emerging from the haze to park high above and disgorge their smaller cousins.

A river flows across the plain, and the tall towers are built along its winding course. There are boats moving slowly along its length. Settlements speckle its banks, none of them large. Herds of creatures I can’t identify spot the ground, moving like shadows on my eye. Birds flock and swoop, and several times one or more have landed on my balcony, cleaning their feathers or scraping their beaks on the balustrade. None fly close now, not with us sitting there. I’m not surprised. It’s as if they know who I am.

“I don’t think there was ever any doubt,” Olivia says.

“You’re responsible for the deaths of seventeen million people.” She has no real expression as she states that stark fact. I can’t read her at all. I’m already doubting that they’re even human.

“You can’t kill those that are already dead,” I say.

Olivia sighs and looks away, as if I’m already a lost cause.

“That’s not what the ship’s records hint at,” Luke says.

He’s only repeating what he’s stated a dozen times before.

“You told me you’re not sure what they show. That they’re so old, you’re having trouble accessing them.”

Luke glances at Olivia and shrugs. It makes no difference. I know the truth, however unknowable it is.

I stand and lean on the balustrade, looking down. The height is dizzying, barely visible vehicles crawling around the base of the tower like ants, wisps of cloud drifting past below. I wonder if there are real ants on this world. Once, several days earlier, I awoke to find a low cloud layer obscuring the entire landscape, only the protruding tower tops visible, sunlight making the cloudscape glow with a gorgeous, unnatural light. It was beautiful, but didn’t make me feel any more lonely than I already am.

I wonder if they’re worried that I’ll throw myself from the balcony. I suspect there are safety measures I can’t see. And even if there aren’t, I would only be ridding them of an awkward, unprecedented problem.

“It wasn’t my fault,” I say, tears burning my eyes because I know, I know, that all of it was.

“Tell Olivia what you told me,” Luke says.

I laugh. “What, so it can become my defence?”

“Just so that I know,” she says. “Luke thinks…” She glances at Luke, and it’s the first time I’ve seen anything approaching doubt, uncertainty, humanity. It confuses me even more.

“I’ve told her you have an amazing story,” Luke says. I look out over that vast, incredible landscape once more, and wonder if I’ll ever feel that I’ve reached the end of my journey.

Available for Pre-Order.