Archive for December, 2017

Nailbiters by Paul B Kane

December 16, 2017 - 8:44 pm No Comments

NAILBITERS by Paul B. Kane.

Black Shuck Books, Kent, UK.
Reviewed by Pauline Morgan.

Where once horror stories tended to involve the supernatural, these days writers have a choice, either to follow traditional patterns of ghost and demon motivated stories while avoiding the clichéd plots or to go more for the splatter-type nastiness. Both types play on the fears of the reader but with the development of the ‘benign’ supernatural being such as the noble vampire, this type of fear as tended to dissipate. There are, though, some excellent practitioners of the ghost as horror story. The world has become a much scarier place and there is a lot of potential in drawing on the concerns and uncertainties of ordinary people. Part of this might be that the news of atrocities reaches more, more quickly, partly with an increasing population there are more people around to might commit them.
In this latest collection of short fiction from Paul Kane, the focus is mainly on the contemporary situation and the horrors that can stalk everyday lives for a variety of reasons. Many of the stories are an exploration of why seemingly normal people carry out abnormal acts. Although most of these stories are seen from the point of view of the perpetrator there isn’t necessarily a sense of having been cheated by not being told the thought processes of how they reached the situation the reader sees them in. Partly that is because the conscious mind is not always in control and reason is not what is driving the actions. Despite what may be thought, horrific crimes are not usually planned in detail.
Grief is a powerful emotion and people often act irrationally under its influence but it can get out of hand as in ‘Grief Stricken’ in which a husband feels the need to punish a surgeon for his wife’s death during a routine operation. The grief in ‘The Torturer’ only comes clear at the end of the story but also results in irrational and horrific actions. Under stress, minds can create fantasies and in ‘Remote’ the protagonist has detached himself from reality, believing that he is an agent on a mission.
The desire for revenge isn’t always associated with grief. Sometimes the victim doesn’t even understand why he has been selected. So when in ‘Cold Call’ a call centre worker hangs up on a potential client he is surprised that the man wants revenge for his perceived rudeness.
Obsessions can be a cause of aberrant behaviour. Janet, the check-out girl in ‘Check-Out’ is obsessed with Mark who once made the mistake of making her think she was important to him. Now she is determined that he will notice be properly. Sebastian in ‘Gemini Rising’ has a different kinds of obsessions. He wants to know who his real parents are and after discovering a passion for cutting up (initially dead) bodies transfers his obsession to twins. OCD is an obsession rooted in the idea that if patterns are not observed, then disasters will happen. In ‘1,2,3,…1,2,3’ Michelle has proof of it, even when Josh tries to show her otherwise. Although the counting does get irritating after a time, it does give insight into the way someone with this disorder thinks.
Fear, too, is strong emotion and although fear may be induced in many of Kane’s victims it is the fear of change that makes Beryl in ‘The Anniversary’ behave the way she does as her husband of twenty-nine years threatens to leave her. Fear of the dark is fairly universal. For Kelly in ‘Blackout’ having the light go out on a night when she is alone in the house bring all those fears to the surface, to the extent that she is irrational. ‘The Cyclops’, too, is a story about fear tough in this case it arises from a misconception and illustrates the need for relationships to be taught in schools.
Horror, as the news keeps showing, can occur in unlikely places, where you are meant to be safe. ‘A Nightmare On 34th Street’ shows that even a visit to Santa’s Grotto on Christmas Eve can prove very hazardous.
Not all horror stories have bleak endings. There is one in this volume that has a happy ending. Also amongst these offerings are a couple of police procedural stories – cops are not immune to having nasty things happen to them. Not all of these stories are perfect as more than one has a predictable outcome. Since the creations of Conan Doyle are now out of copyright, Kane has added to the Sherlock Holmes franchise with ‘The Greatest Mystery’.
All writers would like to see their work on screen. ‘The Opportunity’ is an atmospheric piece showing a felon stalking a woman with the clear intention of murder. Lewis Copson made it into a short film and the script is reproduced here. While we hear horror stories of what script writers do to stories, in this case, seeing both the original and the script it is clear that the latter is faithful to the former and the film itself may well have enhanced the atmosphere.
To add to his versatility, this volume is book-ended by poems.
Paul Kane is a good writer and for the horror reader, this is an excellent book to dip into.

The Ghost Club by William Meikle blog tour

December 13, 2017 - 6:23 pm No Comments

So who is William Meikle, he’s a Scottish writer, now living in Canada, with over twenty novels published in the genre press and over 300 short story credits in thirteen countries. He has had books published with a variety of publishers including Dark Regions Press, DarkFuse and Dark Renaissance, and his work has appeared in a number of professional anthologies and magazines with recent sales to NATURE Futures, Penumbra and Buzzy Mag among others.



As part of The Ghost Club tour, I got to ask him his views on Scotland in horror films, this is what he had to say.

 The landscapes and towns of Scotland have been sadly underused over the years in horror film, considering the epic possibilities of old cities like Edinburgh or Glasgow used to such effect in REBUS and TAGGART. That’s even before we get to the many isolated coastal communities or the stunning scenery of the Highlands that was put to such great use in out of the genre movies like HIGHLANDER or CENTURION to choose two particularly fine examples.

That said, there have been several Scottish based horror movies that have made their way onto my all time favorite list, and I’d like to bring attention to three in particular that span my movie watching life.

My first viewing of the early Hammer horror X – THE UNKNOWN was sometime around 1970, late night on BBC 2, and it was made vivid in my memory because one of the actors, Scottish character actor Jameson Clark, lived in my home town and we’d often see him in the street.

The movie itself is full of all the stuff I’ve come to love over the years: Hammer horror, big blobby things, a Scottish setting, and scientists dabbling in things best left alone.

It was originally intended to be a sequel to THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT, and you can see some of the joins in the script as a result, but it still holds up well to repeat viewings, and there’s an array of faces that would become much better known in later genre movies and TV, like Leo McKern, Kenneth Cope, Michael Rimmer, Frazer Hines and even a quick appearance from Anthony Newley.

It moves along at a great clip, there’s some decidedly iffy FX, the obligatory child in peril, a pervy doctor hitting on nurses and some lovely melting flesh. Everything a growing lad like me loved at the age of twelve, and still does to this day.

The setting is Scottish seen through an English studio lens, there’s a joke Scottish soldier who gets killed off early after some ludicrous banter, the geography is all over the place, as one minute they’re near Glasgow, then they’re near Inverness, and there are plenty of stock Scots locals harrumphing behind the non-Scottish leads. But none of that matters.

It’s got a big radioactive blob wreaking havoc in Scotland.

That’s enough for me.

There are no big blobby beasties in THE WICKER MAN, but there are monsters, of the very human variety.

My first viewing of this classic was during the cut version’s run as the poor relation of DON’T LOOK NOW in a double bill in the cinema in Glasgow, back some time in ’74 with my then girlfriend. She wasn’t impressed by either, and didn’t last long after that, but both films have stayed with me as favorites down the long years since.

Of the two, DON’T LOOK NOW remains my favorite from an aesthetic and intellectual viewpoint, but the WICKER MAN speaks to my heart in a way few other movies have managed.

The history of the various versions of the film that now exist makes interesting reading on Wikipedia, but even on that first viewing, with bits missing and things moved around from the director’s original vision, the power of the story was evident.

In this one at least the scenery is fully Scottish, even if the south west area of Dumfries and Galloway stands in for a Northern island. Christopher Lee does a grand job of holding the whole thing together, Edward Woodward looks suitably lost, and there’s the best use of a stunt bottom in a movie. Yet again, there are few Scots actors involved, although given the film’s low budget, many of the extras were locals roped in for the duration, which serves to give it at least a bit of authentic colour.

The main thing that struck me, and still does or repeat viewings, is the use of the music. The old songs sung in new ways make the pagan aspects both familiar and new at the same time. I’ve tried using the old songs to this kind of effect in several of my own stories in the new collection THE GHOST CLUB, and I have even been known to sing them on occasion, but I’m no Britt Ekland, who gives Willow’s Song a certain something that did serious things to the teenage me. The songs in the movie serve to disorient the viewer in disconcerting ways, keeping you off guard in much the same way that Sergeant Howie is never quite sure what’s going on until the end that is all the more horrific once we see its inevitability.

All in all, it’s a lovely film, and speaks to the romantic Celt in me in a way few other movies have managed. It was my favorite Scottish-based horror movie for a long, long time.

But it has since been usurped, by a brash, gory, interloper. DOG SOLDIERS which, even although it was almost totally shot in Luxembourg with some stock scenery shots edited in later, still feels like a Scottish movie by dint of Kevin McKidd’s square-jawed lead role.

The in-jokes, the squaddies’ camaraderie, and the big fucking howling things all combine to make this exactly the kind of glorious monster romp that I have always loved. I’ve seen complaints about the monster design, complaints about the accents, and complaints about the script online, but for me, it all worked perfectly, and the first viewing of it left with a huge grin on my face that took a long time to fade.

The setting, starting in wooded glens and moving to the climax in a lonely farmhouse is one I’d love to see more of, and the siege with its deliberately echoed nods to Rorke’s Drift and another favorite movie is tightly managed by a director who just gets what makes a movie like this work.

All of the cast put in great performances, Sean Pertwee gets some great one-liners and a big scenery chewing ending, and McKidd’s physically carries him through the monster attacks with aplomb.

After this, the director’s next movie, DOOMSDAY was also set on Scotland, more sci-fi than horror, and it didn’t speak to me as much as DOG SOLDIERS, which remains, for me, the highlight of Scottish based horror movies.

There are more, like THE DEAD OUTSIDE, which I found a tad dull, and UNDER THE SKIN, which I’ve yet to see, but the three I’ve mentioned are top of my pile.

I’d love something else to come along, knock my wee Scottish socks off, and replace one, or even all, of them though.



William Meikle’s newest book, out 9th December from Crystal Lake Publishing is THE GHOST CLUB.

It’s a simple premise.

In Victorian London, a select group of writers, led by Arthur Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker and Henry James held an informal dining club, the price of entry to which was the telling of a story by each invited guest.

These are their stories, containing tales of revenant loved ones, lost cities, weird science, spectral appearances and mysteries in the fog of the old city, all told by some of the foremost writers of the day. In here you’ll find Verne and Wells, Tolstoy and Checkov, Stevenson and Oliphant, Kipling, Twain, Haggard, Wilde and Blavatsky alongside their hosts.

Come, join him for dinner and a story.


Imposter Syndrome edited by James Everington and Dan Howarth

December 12, 2017 - 11:26 pm No Comments

Imposter Syndrome edited by James Everington and Dan Howarth
Published by Dark Mind Press on 25th November 2017
182 pages
Reviewed by Yvonne Davies

What if you see some who looks like you? or you think you are living with the wrong family? These questions and more are answered by 10 authors in this anthology.
I Know What They Look Like by Gary McMahon: A taxi driver picks up a fare and gets more than he bargains for. A great opening to the book and really sets the scene. Strange things tend to happen at night, evil lurks in the shadows. Whilst reading this I was imagining it set as a black and white movie, and felt the apprehension when he picked up his fare and was completing his 1st task.
In the Marrow by Laura Mauro: Most little girls imaging they see faeries, and come up with ways to trap them. Hazel and Tara were no different. However, when Tara became ill, Hazel knew exactly how to cure her. As I was reading this story, I did wonder if Hazel was making the story up to cope with Tara’s illness. A beautifully written story.
Who is that on the Other Side of You by Timothy J Jarvis: Croker and Learmouth are on an expedition to Antarctica. Spitting imagine of each other except for a birthmark. The story of the expedition is writing in actual time, whilst their history was written in the format of a diary. This enabled the story to flow and helped describe the characters in detail. An intriguing story about adventure and betrayal.
What’s Yours is Mine by Holly Ice: After visiting her mom, Sophie finds out a secret that will affect her whole life. Whilst it was early on that Sophie found out her mom’s secret, the author writes it in a way that you think that due to her mom’s illness she is making it up. Throughout the story bits of Sophie’s past is revealed and slowly you realise just how big the secret was. The ending could have been a bit more graphic for me, but I enjoyed how this story was planned out
The Insider by Neil Williamson: A story based on the online world. Raymond is in Italy on business and a similar twitter account is causing him problems. This story explored how it is so easy to pretend to be someone else online. It shows how folk can hide behind a keyboard and post to get a rise from other users.
Other People’s Dreams by Stephen Bacon: Waking up after being involved in a bombing not knowing your past is scary enough, but add to that the graphic dreams, you can understand why he needs to see a doctor. Coming across a double gives him a new purpose in life. I really enjoyed this story, the graphic dreams, memory loss and the psychobabble. It had me wondering throughout what type of man the main character was, was he a murderer. The obsessive nature of the character once he found his double was scary. The author kept you guessing where the story was going.
Hold my Hand and I’ll Take You There by Ralph Robert Moore: This story follows Noah as a boy he battles a life-threatening illness, as a man he falls in love with Audrey, a woman who is suffering with mental health. This was one of the most moving stories that I have read. As a mom reading about young Noah’s suffering was heart-breaking, but the author gave me hope when Noah met Audrey. A twist had me stopping reading for a minute as I did not expect where the story was going. A great read.
The Wrong House by Tracy Fahey: Tom wakes up one morning and finds out that he is in the wrong house with the wrong family. Following Tom over a couple of days, the reason for his feeling is revealed. From the opening paragraph, you know something is wrong, but you do not know whether it is Tom or the house. Scenarios kept running through my mind as I was reading. The author has a way of telling a story that draws you in and makes you want to read more so you can find out what is happening. A heart-rending ending that explains the whole story.
Little Heart by Georgina Bruce: I have always wondered what goes through a child’s mind when their parent is a famous actor. The story explains detachment and how even as an adult it affected her. This story had a film noir feel to it and with scenes involving the film, added intrigue to it. A story that if you read it again, you will find something new.
Virtually Famous by Phil Sloman: From the start this story got me hooked. The opening line “He died a thousand times today and would die a thousand more”. Chet Tyler was fixated on his own game and whilst some gamers wanted to be him others wanted to kill him. The fascination Chet had with the game was unnatural. The author has the knack of making you unsure whether you are reading the gaming or Chet’s experience. The lines of fact and fiction is blurred. You know Chet had a substance abuse but was he imagining it. All this made me want to read more. A page turner with a great ending.
This anthology was a great read and a brilliant choice of authors.

Moonlight over Manhattan by Sarah Morgan

December 11, 2017 - 6:42 pm No Comments

Moonlight over Manhattan
(From Manhattan with Love Book 6)
Author: Sarah Morgan
Publisher: HQ
Release date: 5th Oct 2017
Page count: 384pp

Reviewed by Theresa Derwin

‘Do one thing every day that scares you.’ Eleanor Roosevelt.
These words from a noteworthy woman in history are words that have included the heroine of this, Moonlight over Manhattan, the sixth book in the Manhattan series.
When I first read Sarah Morgan, it was a series set in the U.K. with nurses and doctors (Lakeside Rescue) and I fell in love. I was gutted when she rolled up that series to start her next one; Snow Crystal series.
It won’t be as good, I thought. I was wrong. It was better.
In fact, with every new series Morgan starts, she weaves intricate stories, characters and settings together, until the reader is once again – addicted.
In this continuing Manhattan series, ‘Moonlight over Manhattan’, Morgan deals with the ‘other’ twin Harriet, now living alone with numerous fostered pets after her sister Fliss finds love and moved permanently to The Hamptons, running the other half of their dog walking business. Their brother Daniel found love with Molly and is getting married – and Harriet is alone.
“Here lies Harriet, who knew a lot about hair balls, but not a whole lot about the other kind.”
Yep, she’s single, determined to try dating, which is not her forte, all a part of ‘Challenge Harriet’ or ‘Things Harriet Knight Wouldn’t Normally Do.’
Each day she sets a goal to try something new; which is why she sprains her ankle falling out of a bathroom window desperate to escape the date from hell.
She meets a dashing doctor at the ER who she can’t shake out of her head.
What she doesn’t expect is to meet that doctor again as part of a dog walking job.
Regular client Debra has had to fly off to take care of her daughter Karen who’s been involved in a car accident. The only problem, is what to do with her dog Madi?
The answer seems obvious – get her brother Ethan to look after the dog with Harriet on walking duties.
Ethan – a familiar face from the ER.
This is my favourite in the series so far I think.
Partly because starting with a brief reference to a book by gold medal winning skier Tyler O’Neil, that Morgan fans will recognise from another series and smile at, we get to find out more about those other characters.
Also, because Harriet literally blooms.
Bullied for most of her childhood, she hasn’t stammered in quite a few years until she’s shouted at by Ethan, but she is no timid wallflower despite being shy.
She has fight, courage and compassion.
I also loved the antics of the dogs in this one and enjoyed reading about them. The dogs are another set of characters in the books, just as alive as the humans.
The comedy, the emotion, the romance and the heartache is all here, as well as tonnes of Christmas warmth.
Another fantastic festive feast!

Righteous Maleficia by Emir Skalonja

December 8, 2017 - 10:30 pm No Comments

Righteous Maleficia by Emir Skalonja
Published 30th November 2017
167 Pages
Reviewed by Yvonne Davies

If you know your history, then you would know that in Medieval times, parts of Europe were hit by the black death. A fatal disease that killed thousands, the majority being the poor villagers. The villagers in Blythe’s Hollow, not only had the plague to contend with but a treacherous land owner. As the plague hit the village, the downtrodden villagers, turned to Magdalene, a local witch, who could heal where others failed. However, any villager who was found guilty of witchcraft, faced the wrath of the Church. Using barbaric medieval torture devices, the priests did not care who they brought to judgement. The villagers needed a hero who would stand up and fight.
The Villagers: Living in such squalor, they relied on each other for help. Edgar and Farah were very much in love, living with Cederic Edgar’s disabled father. Bradyn was Edgar’s best friend and throughout you sense how close they were. Working on Lord Kenway’s lane Bradyn always tried to cheer up Edgar with his dry wit. Over time even he was feeling down trodden.
The Church: Father Lawrence overseas the church and is judge and jury when it came to the villagers. Father John and Brother Samuel, both got pleasure punishing the victims. The only monk that had some sort of conscious was the meek Father William.
From the start you are introduced to the horror of the medieval times, with graphic torture scenes, it shows that not all horrors are demon made. Magdalene was seen as hope for the village, although I sensed she had a hidden agenda to protect herself and when Edgar and Farah came her way she used their love for each other to get what he wanted. The villagers story was harrowing and the illustrative way the author wrote their story, made you feel that they were all going to perish. The story was a fast pace and you could tell that the author had done his research. Whilst I have read some short stories written by this author, this was the 1st novel I have read and I am looking forward to reading his other works.