RECIPIENT OF MULTIPLE awards within the literary field, author, compiler and editor Stephen Jones returns with the second volume in his Alchemy Press Book of the Dead series, detailing and commemorating those within the creative arts who have made significant contributions to our collective genre of horror, fantasy and science fiction, and with whom passed away in 2021.
The entries span various artistic professions, with more than 500 included covering writers, publishers, artists, actors, film directors and producers, special effects wizards, and more. The tribute sections are split up rather nicely with various classic film posters (the images in full colour this time), each relating to a name who is featured in the book. Same thing for the front cover by Enzo Nistri, originally a poster for the 1966 Hammer horror film Dracula: Prince of Darkness, which starred actress Barbara Shelley, who also passed away in 2021. The striking fantasy-inspired frontispiece – originally the cover for Fantasy Tales (Autumn 1988) – is by Chris Achilleos (1947–2021) whose work I personally have fond memories of viewing as a child on the covers of various “Fighting Fantasy” gamebooks.
Jones recalls in his Introduction how he has been, more or less, collecting obituaries all his life, something of a fascination for him even during his school days when he learnt of the deaths of such iconic names as Stan Laurel and Boris Karloff, later going on to pen various “in memoriams” of his own for publications like The British Fantasy Society Bulletin, Fantasy Media, Locus and Shock Xpress, along with, of course, the ‘Necrology’ section of his long(est)-running Best New Horror anthology series. This Introduction lends important – and compelling – background and context to the origins of this book and the series as a whole, the author also posting the entries on his Facebook page.
As I stated in my review of the first Alchemy Press Book of the Dead, this series is an important one, aside from being a very interesting read. A reference book such as this pays tribute to not just the “big names” who have left their mark on our genre, but also those whose contributions may otherwise run the risk of going unrecorded.
Some of those names included in this current volume are as follows:
Within the field of literature: Gary Compton, Storm Constantine, Larry Flynt, Bryn Fortey, Steve Lines, Simon Marshall-Jones, William F. Nolan, Darroll Pardoe, Anne Rice and Wilbur Smith.
From the worlds of film and television (and music): Lionel Blair, Johnny Briggs, John Challis, Sonny Chiba, Mary Collinson, Neil Connery (brother of Sean), Martha De Laurentiis, Richard Donner, Olympia Dukakis, Pat Hitchcock, Larry King, Yaphet Kotto, Helen McCrory, Michael Nesmith, Christopher Plummer, Paul Ritter, George Segal, Jim Steinman, Dean Stockwell and Betty White.
There are many others, of course, and kudos to Jones and The Alchemy Press for yet another finely researched and compiled entry in this series.
The Alchemy Press Book of the Dead 2021 is available to purchase from Amazon and other outlets. For more information please click the link button . . .
“You’ve seen them. Little towns, tucked away far from the main roads. You’ve seen them, but have you thought about them? What do the people in these places do? . . .”
—Extract from Rod Serling’s opening narration for The Twilight Zone: ‘Valley of the Shadow’
PAUL DUNSTAN IS a former child musical prodigy, although a reluctant one at that. When his parents died in a car crash, he was adopted by his music tutors, Winifred and Rafe Staveley, who have always strongly believed in his prodigious, unique talent – obsessively so, it appears. As a young man, Paul, now going by his adopted name of Michael Staveley, went against his guardians’ wishes by leaving them and the family home in the village of Fellstones to go to university. He never returned, for reasons he cannot fully remember.
Now in the present day, and having resorted back to his birth name and working in a music/book shop in Liverpool, Paul soon discovers that the Staveleys haven’t quite given up on him – or his musical talent – just yet, when he is visited in the store by their daughter Adele, whom Paul/Michael was once very close to. Adele wants him to pay his former guardians a visit, a homecoming of sorts to Fellstones, one that will coincide with the village festival, where the residents pay respect to the large stones in the town green that give it its name. What follows sees the protagonist slipping down into a rabbit hole of manipulation, repressed memories, ancient ritualistic alchemy related to the (real life) mathematician and occultist John Dee, and the dark secrets of the Fellstones and their connection to his musical genius.
After his excellent psychological drama, Somebody’s Voice, the ever-prolific Ramsey Campbell returns to supernatural horror with this new work and the results are just as impressive as I – and so many others – have come to expect from the author.
Whilst the “strange little town and its off-kilter residents getting up to even stranger types of shenanigans” story has been regularly written about within the horror field, here Campbell very much adds to and runs with the sub-genre in a tale filled with several of his very own “Campbellian” tropes – obscured identities, the ambiguity of memories, the subtle blurring of reality, awkward family dynamics, a car crash playing an important part in the plot, and such.
For me, Campbell’s brand of “thinking person’s horror” places him right at the very top of the pile of his contemporaries, something I make no exaggeration about either, I must add. I absolutely relished the slow build-up, the mounting tension, the brief glimpses of something very nasty lying underneath the village stones – culminating in a truly horrific and disturbing finale which I read with a large, morbid smile pasted right across my face; my twisted catharsis complete. The ultimate fate that befalls some of the characters (I’m aware that I’m now entering potential spoiler territory here so I’ll tread carefully) is – when you really think about it – straight out of the most hellish of nightmares and a concept that will remain with me for a very long time to come. It is abject horror in its purest form, and when I experience this type of material it reminds me of why I love our genre so much. Beautifully paced and executed, lively dialogue and a darkly comedic edge running throughout, Fellstones is a must for all serious readers of modern horror fiction.
Ramsey Campbell is undoubtedly a national (and international) treasure in our field, whom – along with his many works – deserves to be appropriately celebrated.
Fellstones will be published by Flame Tree Press on September 13, 2022, and will be available to purchase from their website, Amazon and other outlets. For more information please click the link button . . .
NEW EXPANDED EITION Edited by Stephen Jones
HAVING READ AND thoroughly enjoyed 2020’s The Art of Pulp Horror from the same editor, Stephen Jones, I was quick to snap up this recently released second edition of a title originally published in 2015. Unsurprisingly, it’s more of the same with a weighty full colour hardback, packed to the brim with an extremely large collection of horror film posters and artworks from across the decades, many of them rarities, along with enjoyable articles relating to each period by some very well respected names in the field, including an appropriate foreword by the director of An American Werewolf in London, John Landis.
At its very core this tome is essentially a detailed history of horror films, brought to colourful life with the many aforementioned images – and a definite collector’s item for both film and art buffs worldwide.
Each decade is given the full treatment, from the silent era to the Universal monster heydays, through the 1950s atomic age-inspired sci-fi B-movies and the slasher craze of the 1980s, right up to the present day. Not only that – and this is the thing that interested me most – but great time and effort is given to multiple obscure and unknown to the mainstream movies (and their posters) from right across the globe over the last one hundred years. I was particularly amused by some of the international versions of posters for famous horror flicks, portraying scenes and objects that don’t even appear in the film it is promoting, with some of the artworks rendered on sack cloth, no less! It is also wonderful to be introduced to so many artists whose gloriously macabre work I had not viewed before.
Some of the featured artists include Randy Broecker, Jeff Carlson, Guillermo del Toro, Les Edwards, Bob Eggleton, Thomas Gianni, Basil Gogos, Graham Humphreys, Daryl Joyce, Douglas Klauba, Dave McKean, Rick Melton and Pete Von Sholly, while the well-informed written pieces come from the previously noted Landis, Jones himself (Introduction), Sir Christopher Frayling, Tom Weaver, Barry Forshaw, David J. Schow, Kim Newman, Jonathan Rigby, Lisa Morton, Anne Billson and Ramsey Campbell. With Applause Books as publisher, collectively they have produced a beautiful book aesthetically and an entertaining and educational one academically.
I would imagine that in years to come horror film nerds like myself will still be discussing and recommending this book (along with the Pulp Horrorvolume and the first book in the series, The Art of Horror) as something of a go-to reference bible for the field – deservedly so – and one that will always take pride of place on the bookshelf of any serious and respectable aficionado.
Note: As the subtitle of this edition obviously suggests, it contains a plethora of new material and images from the previous Rondo Hatton Award-winning one.
The Art of Horror Movies: An Illustrated History: New Expanded Edition is published by Applause Books and is available to purchase from Amazon and many other outlets.
DAVE CARSON IS a multi-British Fantasy Award-winning horror illustrator. His most legendary illustrations center around the themes and creatures experienced within the vast world of H.P. Lovecraft. Exceptional in his field, Carson has also provided illustrations for H.P. Lovecraft’s Book of Horror, of which he was also co-editor, as well as Called by Cthulhu: The Eldritch Art of Dave Carson. This is to name a few of his rich contributions to the curious domain that is the Cthulhu Mythos.
Four Portfolios of Lovecraftian Art, published by Shoggoth Press, is a stunning testament to Carson’s talent. High praise is given throughout from legends such as Brian Lumley, Karl Edward Wagner, Ramsey Campbell and Carl T. Ford. Carson also recently appeared in the 2021 Phantasmagoria Karl Edward Wagner Special issue, edited by Trevor Kennedy. Stephen Jones also contributed his expertise as well to this remarkable publication, specifically the layout and design of the Lovecraft’s Pantheon booklet and cover. Four Portfolios of Lovecraftian Art is a chance to admire once more many out-of-print illustrations and spark what can only be a new-found love for generations to come.
The book opens with ‘Lovecraft’s Pantheon Series 1’, introduced by Brian Lumley who describes the devotion and sheer determination of the lifeblood that is the Cthulhu Mythos;be it classic Lovecraft or inventive interpretations, one thing is certain – this particular literary monster continues to live on. Lumley’s approval for Carson and his tremendous talent is indeed the highest of praise. This is followed by spine-chilling illustrations, the lead being that of Cthulhu whose unsettling eyes are depicted with such truth that one would swear the artist had gazed within them first hand. Dave Carson is one of those visionaries in which his passion bleeds into every creature, leaving behind a part of himself in each creation.
The second section of the book is ‘Masters of Nightmare’, with an introduction by Brian Lumley again and an afterword by Karl Edward Wagner. Lumley states that he is lost for words. He affectionately calls him a genius, to which I fully agree. The illustrations are hypnotic interpretations of works by Eddy C. Bertin’s ‘Darkness, My Name Is’, Robert W. Chambers’ ‘The Mask’, Karl Edward Wagner’s ‘Sticks’, Arthur Machen’s ‘The Great God Pan’, and Clark Ashton Smith’s ‘The Seven Geases’, each one more darkly pleasing than the next. The afterword by Karl Edward Wagner echoes a respect for Carson’s skill and after viewing his work personally one can full-heartedly agree.
The next portion is Carson’s portfolio ‘Haunters of the Dark’ with a foreword by Ramsey Campbell. In his distinctive voice, Campbell articulates in unparalleled fashion the unveiling of Carson’s ability and his belief that such exceptional revelations can only be described as the remnants of a dream. The illustrations that follow are a tribute to that of Ramsey Campbell – ‘The Tomb Herd’, H.P. Lovecraft – ‘The Whisperer in Darkness’ and ‘The Hound’, August Derleth – ‘The Gable Window’, Robert Bloch – ‘The Shambler from the Stars’, and lastly Brian Lumley’s ‘The Burrowers Beneath’. Hours could be spent poring over these enthralling masterpieces.
Carson’s chilling ability to bring nightmares to life is both a reflection of his passion for the subject and creative instinct. A perfect example of this is seen within the illustration of H.P. Lovecraft’s ‘The Hound’, and the horror that awaits within the coffin.
An afterword by Carl T. Ford gives a portrait of Dave Carson and his numerous appearances worldwide in various well-known publications, in addition to his own established Shoggoth Press.
Carson’s astonishing portfolio ends with a tribute through art to Karl Edward Wagner’s ‘Sticks’.
As a newcomer to this specific genre, I can honestly say that Four Portfolios of Lovecraftian Art by Dave Carson could not be a better catalyst into the brilliance that is H.P. Lovecraft.
Four Portfolios of Lovecraftian Art is published by Shoggoth Press and is available to purchase from Amazon in hardback and paperback.
by Lionel and Patricia Fanthorpe, edited by Stephen Jones and illustrated by Randy Broecker
SEVENTY YEARS AFTER his first published story, the extremely prolific Lionel Fanthorpe, along with his wife Patricia, presents us with a brand new collection of strange tales of Fortean-style folklore and the supernatural, this one edited by (the also rather prolific) Stephen Jones, part of his “Masters of Horror” series, the book brought to life even further by many wonderful and “jump off the page” illustrations by Randy Broecker. In addition, New Supernatural Stories is written in the vein of the old Badger Books series with which Lionel penned multiple works for in the 1950s and ’60s, many under pseudonyms.
The collection opens with a foreword by the editor, ‘Britain’s Last Pulp Writer’, detailing the life and career so far of Lionel, followed by a short introduction by the Fanthorpes themselves. There is an interesting afterword in the form of an interview with the Fanthorpes conducted by Justin Marriott.
And so to the fifteen original stories contained.
The Fanthorpes’ fiction has often been criticised for being clichéd, with stock characters and dialogue aplenty, along with padded, unnecessary scenes. Fair enough, but in context and to paraphrase Stephen Jones (and Mike Ashley) in his Foreword, many of these critics are not fully “getting it” – there is a certain “tongue-in-cheek-ness” to it all – it’s not meant to be taken too seriously and just enjoyed on face value. I particularly like how the good guys are almost always portrayed as really cheerful, optimistic and nice people, who unquestionably accept notions of the supernatural in such laid back, casual manners. Trust me, in the highly cynical and nihilistic world that we now find ourselves living in, this overall positivity is extremely refreshing to me.
As you would expect from Fanthorpe – a regular Fortean Times contributor and presenter of the Channel 4 (UK) 1990s series Fortean TV, not to mention real-life paranormal investigator, cleric and exorcist – and his wife, the tales cover many myths and legends, uniquely combined with recorded history, theology, philosophy and pseudo-science. There are werebeasts, vampires, ghosts, shapeshifters, sea monsters, abominable snowmen, demons, witches, warlocks, ancient Egyptian gods, parallel dimensions, and much more within. Merlin the wizard and the Witchfinder General himself, Matthew Hopkins, even make appearances!
Some of my favourite stories included would have to be the following: ‘The Conqueror of Evil’, featuring vampires going up against ancient Egyptian gods; ‘The Lamp of Power’, a bizarrely fun genie fantasy story; ‘The Terror Below the Sea’, where a couple of Italian thugs get way more than they bargained for in this marine-based yarn; and ‘Meh-Teh in the Mountains’ – I mean, how can anyone not take to a family of lovable Yetis?!
Practically all of the tales are written in a very likeable, “everything including the kitchen sink thrown in” manner, with the best of the lot saved for the final two, ‘Below the Coffin Lid’, a zombie story, and ‘On Silent Wings’, another take on the vampire legend, this one with the feel of a contemporary-set Dracula.
If I had to sum up New Supernatural Stories in a single phrase then it would have to be “enjoyable, feel-good escapism”, and, as referenced above, in today’s world especially, that is something that should always be welcomed with wide opened arms.
New Supernatural Stories is published by PS Publishing and is available to purchase from their website and other outlets. For more details click the link button . . .
Presented by David A. Riley and Jim Pitts
NOW IN ITS fourth volume, David A. Riley and Jim Pitts’ Swords & Sorceries high fantasy series returns with eleven new tales of faraway mystical lands, swash-buckling heroes, blood-soaked battles, powerful wizards and sorcerers, pissed off gods (aren’t they all?!) and strange creatures.
Although more suited to aficionados of this genre, with the stories all unconnected and with no overall arc, any reader can jump on at any point with any of the volumes, or indeed stories, with the excellent illustrations of stalwart Pitts throughout livening up proceedings further once again.
All of the offerings within this latest anthology from Parallel Universe Publications are at very least solid and worthy of inclusion, varied and differing, some even of almost novella length, though all still very much belonging to the general theme and genre.
Dev Agarwal’s opener, ‘In the Iron Woods’, sets things up well with a hero named Simeon tasked with ferrying Princess Irene to safety.
Of the other stories included, the following really stood out for me:
‘At Sea’ by Geoff Hart, a fun pirate-based romp which sees a couple of strange woman board a sea vessel.
Frank Sawielijew gives us ‘The Flesh of Man’, and it’s another very enjoyable yarn involving a barbarian warrior, flesh-eating harpies, giant lizards and pterodactyls!
Adrian Cole’s ‘City at the Mouth of Chaos’ is great, although this is no surprise either as I have yet to be disappointed with the author’s work and I always look forward to reading his tales when I see his name pop up in an anthology’s list of contributors. This particular story is one of his Voidal works set in the “omniverse” and is as fast-paced and imaginative as you would expect from the author.
My absolute favourite of the entire volume, though, would have to be the delightfully titled ‘My People Were Fair and Wore Stars in Their Hair’ by Andrew Darlington. It’s a relatively short piece but a very memorable one at the same time and features reanimation/reincarnation of the dead through dark magic and time travel (of sorts), fascinatingly and vividly rendered by Darlington.
Riley and Pitts have selected well for this fourth entry in their popular series and with them now averaging around two volumes per year, I would expect that numbers 5 and 6 are already in the works. Long may their series continue!
Swords & Sorceries: Tales of Heroic Fantasy Volume 4 is published by Parallel Universe Publications and is available to purchase from Amazon and other outlets. For more details click the link button . . .
IN HIS FOREWORD to Mark Howard Jones’ Star-Spawned: Lovecraftian Horrors & Strange Stories, the renowned Lovecraftian historian S.T. Joshi describes the author as having a “reputation as a writer whose every tale is worth seeking out by those who find delight in literary terror and strangeness”. Jones’ work is often described as “weird fiction” in the classic sense of the phrase, but I would go even further and describe it as “nightmare fiction”. Just like his apparent greatest influence, Howard Phillips Lovecraft, his stories have a certain dream-like quality, both directly and indirectly, conjuring up nightmarish images on the page and within the reader’s mind. ‘Red Walls’ – included in the collection –is a fine example of this.
Jones’ influences don’t stop at Lovecraft. There’s some Arthur Machen in there, along with Poe, with a dashing of M.R. James, amongst others. Music, too, features regularly; alongside religions – old, new and fictional.
This new collection of twenty tales really shows us the length and breadth of his talent in bringing to life the dark and the weird; influenced by many of the masters, but with his own voice and often contemporary-set take on what came before.
‘Beneath Black Spires’: A trilogy of obscurely connected Mythos dark fantasies, surrealistic and packed with haunting imagery. In the stories thereafter, we take a journey through odd vistas and visions of various living hells.
‘Put on the Mask’: An entertainer with a dark past finds it catching up with him in a stage show with a difference.
‘The Turn of the Tide’: A “Machenian” tale of nature gone horribly wrong. Has Humanity finally gone too far? Is Creation getting its own back? Unsettling, vivid imagery ensues.
‘The Last Ones’: A remote, apparently abandoned, seaside town with a dark history anchored to a mysterious saint and old stones. M.R. James meets H.P. Lovecraft.
‘By a Scarlet Thread’: The dark discovery of a sect of monks in an old hotel. (A story which regular readers of Phantasmagoria may very well be familiar with.)
‘Side 1, Track 3’: Remember when certain religious types would tell us that playing heavy metal records backwards could very well be akin to Satan worship? Well, maybe not Satan in this case, more an ancient Lovecraftian deity. A fun one that music fans of a certain age, like myself, will enjoy.
Jones knows what works in terms of the unsettling terrors of the mind and the places it can go. His imaginative flourishes are certainly recommended to those of us who like our “weird” and “nightmare” fiction served disorientating, bizarre and unpleasant.
Star-Spawned: Lovecraftian Horrors & Strange Stories is published by Macabre Ink and is available to purchase from Amazon and other outlets.
by Tim Lucas - with Music by Dorothy Moskowitz
TIM LUCAS IS an American author, and leading authority on horror and fantastic cinema. He is the editor and co-publisher of the magazine Video Watchdog. Lucas has appeared in many respected magazines such as Sight & Sound and Fangoria as a critic, columnist and contributor. His written works include Throat Sprockets and The Book of Renfield: A Gospel of Dracula. He has received many awards including for the Saturn Award-winning critical biography Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark as well as twenty Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards, and the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards' Monster Kid Hall of Fame. Lucas has also compiled an impressive range of short stories, reviews, screenplays, poetry, and music. The Secret Life of Love Songs is published by PS Publishing.
This novella can only be described as heartbreakingly beautiful. The scene opens with a lecturer depicted in a hand-me-down outfit, a strange creature whose appearance is described by the writer as a refugee, one perhaps from a lost manuscript of Flannery O’Connor. He holds a Manila folder in one hand and a cigarette in the other, facing an audience curious for his attention. His offering is the Love Song.
This novella delves into the complex structure of love songs and how one interprets these emotions through the creative process. From reciprocated love to unrequited affections, there are songs that capture the insatiable ache. The artist and his muse serve an infinite purpose, even at the cost of the artist’s rationality. This man abandoning his lectern, if only briefly, submerges himself in passionate verse as he bares his soul to famished hearts.
Lucas gives awe-inspiring examples through musical portions, lyrical heart- strings tethered in that space between aspiration and art. The writer rationalizes his Achilles’ heel toward sullen brunettes and explores the psychology behind this long-suffering compulsion. Lucas makes the reader yearn for each tragic note as he blends both story and song into tragic euphoria.
The Lecturer describes his marriage and their deep relationship that goes beyond the superficial. Lucas has a mesmerizing ability to strike deep chords within one’s own thought process. He captures that internal struggle between creation and equilibrium.
The character within the novella talks about his album, The Atlas of What Lives and Breathes, his first recorded work in ten years. Invention is often a taste of immortality until that perception of eternity becomes obsolete. In order to create one must constantly drink from the fountain of inspiration, even in the form of forbidden fruits. The Lecturer has found his muse in the form of a fellow swimmer at the nearby health facility. He refers to this siren as the “Westside Girl”. She becomes his current obsession, his gateway into untapped songs.
Lucas is brilliant at describing the recklessness of passion through artistic expression. The songs throughout both depict the sorrow and ecstasy that is love. How it consumes one’s thoughts, much like creation until one is chasing that ever brief high of invention. She serves her purpose and the love songs live on to inspire others. Inspiration can take many forms, in the case of the Lecturer it is forms of love itself.
The Secret Life of Love Songs is more than just compositions enfolded between pages of captivating words. It is about existence beyond mere survival, opening artistic veins and discovering what it means to be terribly human.
The book also comes with an accompanying music album created by Lucas himself along with well established names like Dorothy Moskowitz (lead singer of the experimental rock band the United States of America), Mike Fornatale and Gary Lucas. The songs, all connected to the story of the book, are a well-produced selection with favourites including ‘Trust in Love’ and ‘Under the Nine’.
—Jessica Stevens and Trevor Kennedy
The Secret Life of Love Songs is published by PS Publishing and is available to purchase from their website and other outlets. For more details click the link button . . .
Renowned throughout the writing community as one of Britain’s most respected horror authors, Ramsey Campbell has received many awards for his work including the Grand Master Award of the World Horror Convention, the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Horror Writers Association, and the Living Legend of the International Horror Guild.
The Village Killings and Other Novellas, written by Ramsey Campbell, is published by PS Publishing. Cover and interior artwork are provided by Ilan Sheady.
‘Needing Ghosts’ throws the reader into a complicated web of paranoia. We are introduced to John Motterhead, an author whose mind appears to be deteriorating much like the dwelling in which he inhabits. Campbell thrusts uncertainty into the awareness of the reader, as Motterhead tries to validate his identity through a series of twists and turns. This story unravels in the form of a psychological razorblade, one that cuts every vein of reality. A brilliant depiction of man’s internal struggle, along with the exposure of the creative mind and the monsters within. Campbell is truly a master of anticipation. ‘Needing Ghosts’ is one of those stories that will take the reader into a darkened room and leave them there to bleed.
‘The Booking’ takes a different approach and is set within a bookstore titled Books Are Life. Mr Brookes, the proprietor, certainly steals the show with his spine-chilling demeanour. He has hired a man named Kiefer, an individual desperate to keep his job despite the owner’s eccentricities. Kiefer only has to create an Internet presence for what appears to be a dust-riddled house of deterioration. Though Mr Brookes, despite these wishes, is sickened by modern technology, and angered at the very mention of improvement. Kiefer, sucked into this man’s world of wires and rot, finds himself scanning the shelves for books he knows to be sold. The reader will find themselves enthralled with Mr Brookes, a complex character, created by a brilliant mind. Campbell taps into the pulse of technological power and the fragility of the mind in the face of suggestion.
The title story ‘The Village Killings’ begins with a group of mystery writers discussing their methods while a nationwide blizzard rages outside. At dinner, Lauren Hallahan is asked how she has acquired so much success in the selling of her books. Though they are all disappointed by her answer being something as ordinary as research. She then proclaims that one among them is not who the others believe they are, thus setting up the scene for a classic mystery. The atmosphere quickly grows dark and spirals into what can only turn into inevitable murder. The creatives are left to cancel their weekend and return home before the storm becomes worse. However, when you kill a writer, some refuse to remain silent beyond the grave. Investigations lead to each character expressing their own justifications for what inspires them to dwell on such grisly topics. The reader is taken on a complex analysis worthy of Agatha Christie, as one follows a determined sleuth in her search to untangle the truth.
Ramsey Campbell is an absolute genius with the written word. His mind a labyrinth of literary networks. The Village Killings and Other Novellasis the perfect read by firelight while imagination weaves its dark threads into the night.
The Village Killings and Other Novellas is published by PS Publishing and is available to purchase from their website, Amazon and other outlets. For more details click the link button . . .
ALL GOOD THINGS must come to an end. Such is life, and now sadly also with Stephen Jones’ Best New Horror series, the longest running horror anthology ever, spanning over thirty years and technically five separate decades, from 1989 to the present day.
Quite the achievement, it goes without saying, the full praise of this deservedly due to Jones for his painstaking and tireless work over the last roughly third of a century as he has presented to us, the readers, the annual crème de la crème of new genre fiction, penned by the true leaders of the field alongside the discovering of fresh new, genuine talent. (Special mention to Ramsey Campbell who co-edited early volumes with Jones and whose fiction has been a mainstay of the series throughout.)
From the outset, I can’t help but feel that a mere review of this final volume of Best New Horror will never do proper justice to the series as a whole – and the sheer magnitude of enviable work that has gone into it over the years – so perhaps the following will maybe serve as a mere request, as such, for a more appropriate commendation in the near future.
As you would expect from any entry in the Best New Horror canon, number 31 does not disappoint, high quality running throughout, in terms of stories and names attached. Things are also once again bookended with Jones’ meticulously researched Introduction, ‘Horror in 2019’, and the Necrology section with Kim Newman (and ‘Useful Addresses’), alongside another gloriously pulpy front cover artwork (by Lee Elias).
The stories open with Scott Bradfield’s humorous take on the zombie sub-genre, ‘Zombie-ish’, followed by a strange wake in an Irish pub in Maura McHugh’s ‘Wake the Dead’ and Caitlín R. Kiernan’s rather unique take on the vampire legend, ‘Mercy Brown’.
Jonathan Carroll’s ‘Mama Bruise’ is a crazily entertaining tale of reincarnation and an intelligent dog, while Alison Littlewood’s ‘The Same As the Air’ is a very haunting work concerning a missing family.
The always reliable Ramsey Campbell presents us with ‘Getting Through’, the story of a young autistic man and parallel dimensions, and Stephen Bacon’s ‘The Children of Medea’ is a Mediterranean folk horror with shades of The Wicker Man and the aforementioned Campbell.
There’s something trippy and Lovecraftian pouring from the water taps in ‘The Water of Dhu’l Nun’ by Don Webb, and Ron Weighell’s ‘Under the Frenzy of the Fourteenth Moon’ is a mesmerising tale concerning the discovery of lost papers by W.B. Yeats relating to the Sidhe faerie folk, with ‘The Promise of Saints’ by Angela Slatter delivering another darkly enjoyable fairytale.
‘Crawlspace Oracle’ is a disturbing one from Richard Gavin about an unusual psychic, while Michael Chislett’s ‘Downriver’ is an eerie vampire-esque story set in Woolwich and the River Thames.
H.P. Lovecraft takes centre stage as a main character that is bothered by a very unpleasant fan in Mark Samuels’ enjoyable ‘Death in All Its Ripeness’, which is followed by Richard Christian Matheson’s short and disturbing piece on the horrors of war, ‘Shrapnel’.
‘Precipice’ by Dale Bailey is a brilliantly told story about a heart attack survivor with a strange compulsion to jump from the balcony of a holiday apartment complex where he is staying with his wife, and Simon Strantzas’ ‘Antripuu’ is an out-and-out horror that deals with a group of hiking friends being stalked in the woods by an ancient tree-dwelling monster.
Kristi DeMeester’s story, ‘A Crown of Leaves’, is a neat chiller about two young women whose mother was believed to be a witch, and series regular Steve Rasnic Tem appears again with ‘A Stay at the Shores’, a beautifully atmospheric work concerning loneliness, a mysterious town and a boat trip. Reggie Oliver’s ‘The Old Man of the Woods’ is a polished ghost story set in rural France.
A recently discovered story by Tanith Lee is up next, ‘Iron City’, chronicling a dystopian, nightmarish hell, is an absolutely sublime piece – dark stuff and poetically beautiful at the same. What a talent Lee was!
When Gabby goes to catch up with her old college friend Julian in Glen Hirshberg’s ‘Slough’, something rather unsettling is awaiting her at a beach, while D.P. Watt’s ‘A Species of the Dead’ sees a bereaved and drug-addled artist develop a morbid fascination with death.
Best New Horror #31 – and the series as a whole –appropriately bows out with an absolutely superb and profoundly emotional ghost story by Michael Marshall Smith, ‘The Burning Woods’, a modern classic, in my opinion. I’ve said it before and I’m more than happy to say it again – Marshall Smith is a class act!
Best New Horror will, of course, be greatly missed by its legion of readers and fans, and also, it must be said, the genre as a whole. I highly doubt the gap will be filled, but what we should certainly be is grateful for the last 30-plus years and for Jones’ service to, not just this long-running series, but the field overall, a service that still continues unabated thankfully, just in slightly differing forms.
Best New Horror #31 is published by PS Publishing and is available to purchase from their website, Amazon and other outlets. For more details click the link button . . .
JOHNNY MAINS, WELL-RENOWNED horror writer and editor, presents a chilling book titled A Man at War, published by TK Pulp, and told in three segments. A story of Russell Stickles, an English World War II veteran who is haunted by the ghosts of violence past. In life there are all manner of cruelties, but nothing stings quite like the sadism of time. Russell, man or monster, knows that in the end only our rot remains. And this is where A Man at Warbegins.
In the segment titled ‘The Cut (1957-1959)’, the reader is quickly pulled into a rhythm consisting of past and present reflections. Both the principal character and the world around him are a credit to Mains’s ability to immerse his audience in an atmosphere riddled with war, words, and intimate wounds. ‘The Cut’ reads just as that, a purging of sorts in which Russell, an ageing writer, feeds both page and lover to flames.
In ‘Choke (1986)’, Russell Stickles knows his way around torture. Tools that are meant to mend can also be used to break. Robert, one of many, doesn’t know that Russell is a problem solver, and his patience is running thin. Mains depicts a man who not only challenges his demons, but invites them to dance. ‘Choke’ is an in-depth look at coming to terms with the fact that age isn’t the only thing that catches up with a man in the end. When the game is killing, one must always hold the upper hand.
‘A Man at War (1941-1942)’ is the final segment and main title of Mains’s outstanding piece. Life is filled with thresholds, all manners of breaks, and sometimes it only takes one last turn to detonate everything. The reader by now has come to know Russell Stickles quite intimately, his thoughts and deeds offered upon an altar that continues to bleed. Bettina, a spy, soon discovers that no secret is safe from a man whose creativity knows no bounds.
Mains’ gift is a powerful portrayal of a character that will certainly stand the test of time. Each fragment not only unique, but a compelling story guaranteed to thrust a reader forward through wit coated in carnage. Mains truly at his best.
A Man at War is published by TK Pulp, available from Amazon, other outlets, and our Online Store. For more details click the link button . . .
LILIAN CHESTERFIELD WORKS for a property development company and her latest project is to turn the now abandoned Jacobean St. Philomena’s military hospital building in Surrey into a block of luxury apartments. Problems begin to arise, however, when two quantity surveyors employed by her – Alex and Charlie – fall victim to inexplicable ailments when out inspecting the former hospital. Alex can’t stop screaming in apparent extreme pain, despite not having been injured in any way, while Charlie falls into a mysterious coma. Other odd occurrences are also happening in the building – ghostly figures seen standing at windows, possible poltergeist activity in the kitchen, and the discovery of a partial human skeleton on the grounds.
Along with the help of her assistant David, a former military medic, Moses, doctors at the nearby hospital, and eventually the police, the cynical, career-focused Lilian soon finds herself embroiled in the mystery of St. Philomena’s, one that is connected to former servicemen who were injured in Afghanistan, ancient south-central Asian legends, spontaneous human explosion, and an enigmatic gardener who still tends to the grounds of the hospital.
As with his recent The House of a Hundred Whispers, this brand new title by Graham Masterton, sees the author put yet another unique spin on the “haunted house” (or in this case a haunted hospital) trope. The concept of “Spirits of Pain”/the dead being punished to suffer eternal pain is a fascinating one and a neat take on the various forms of religious Hell, as is the Afghanistan-based folklore which is used to great effect here in what is, at its very core, an anti-war novel – what gives us the right to go poking our noses into other people’s cultures, even if we do abhor them? – taken from the point-of-view of both the young British soldiers on the front line (“cannon fodder”/“lions led by lambs”) and the beliefs of old of the people of Afghanistan. Indeed, this certainly ain’t no regular haunted house tale!
Fans of Masterton’s work can also expect plenty of the author’s regular visceral gore and violence – characters literally explode in graphic detail at times, although in the context of the story at hand it makes complete sense – while his dual-career (along with horror) as a crime author also serves well in the realisation of the police procedural investigation side of the story.
The House at Phantom Park is a compelling read overall – slick, stylish, well-paced and characterised with a particular gut-punch of an ending for the main character – and one that just goes to prove that with someone like the prolific Masterton in charge, horror can indeed still explore and address very real-life and hard-hitting topics.
The House at Phantom Park is published by Head of Zeus and is available to purchase from Amazon and many other outlets and bookstores. For more details click the link button . . .
I’VE NEVER MET Peter Atkins in person, however I’d like to one day. He comes across as a really fun and cool guy to be around, and this is also very much apparent in his writing, too.
All Our Hearts are Ghosts & Other Stories is Atkins’ poetically-titled new collection, but don’t let that fool you. The author’s literary style is indeed rhythmic and lyrical (perhaps due to his background as a musician as well as screenwriter [1997’s Wishmaster, the first few Hellraiser sequels] and various other forms of the written word), but there’s still plenty of good old-fashioned, pulp-style, fast-paced action, gore and humour in there at the same time. It’s a great – and unique – mix of styles.
The stories collected here never really leave the reader with a chance to catch their breath, very much in the manner that many of us – myself included – enjoy their fiction. Readers such as us can very much tell when writers like Atkins are having a ball in the creation of their tales – here, Atkins’ enthusiasm leaks onto the page, backed up by an obvious depth of intellect and natural storytelling skills, resulting in a wonderful combination.
The main stories are bookended by two Lovecraftian tales that originally appeared in the Stephen Jones-helmed anthology series, The Lovecraft Squad – ‘The Stuff that Dreams are Made of’ and ‘The Thing About Cats’ – while the Jones connection doesn’t end there with two more entries – ‘Z.O.A’ and ‘You Are What You Eat’ – having also been published in the editor’s related Zombie Apocalypse series. All four of these are pleasurable takes on their respective sub-genres.
The title story is a profound, thought-provoking one concerning an ageing television stuntman/bit-part actor in Hollywood who must settle an old score with a former rival – all our hearts our ghosts indeed, perhaps always trapped in, and haunted by, our pasts.
Of the others printed here, and while each certainly have their own merits, my personal favourites would have to be ‘Eternal Delight’, an early novella by Atkins, set in his native Liverpool and featuring a young man whose body is invaded by a parasite and which goes to some really bonkers and darkly humorous places (the finale set in a council estate social club is insanely good!), and ‘The Return of Boy Justice’, about a former small-time TV star who finally gets the opportunity to relive the adventures of his fictional alter-ego, and one that also ends on a rather heart-warming, life-affirming note.
There’s no shortage of bonus material included either, with a comic book script featured alongside background stories for the three characters who were transformed into Cenobites in the Atkins-penned Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992), so definitely worth looking into for fans of the Hellraiser universe and Atkins overall.
If books are reflective of the personality of those who have written them, then this one is most definitely a rather cool and fun one to behold (including that retro 1980s-esque cover!), just like its author. Why not buy it and find out for yourselves?
All Our Hearts are Ghosts & Other Stories is published by Shadowridge Press and is available to purchase from Amazon and other outlets. For more details click the link button . . .
Edited by Johnny Mains
EDITED BY JOHNNY Mains for The British Library, Celtic Weird is an impressive anthology that brings together tales of folklore, legends and hauntings from the historical regions of its title – Scotland, Ireland, Brittany, Isle of Man, Wales, Cornwall and Gaelic respectively.
Impressive, not just because of many of the stories included, but also due to the editor’s skills as a researcher and “horror historian” coming to the forefront once more – painstaking perhaps, in his continuing efforts to seek out old, obscure and long-forgotten about genre-related works from across the British Isles and beyond. Celtic Weird is very possibly Mains’ finest work in this regard, or at least of those I have read anyway.
Of the writers included that I was already familiar with, some of the highlights would have to be Nigel “Quatermass” Kneale’s humorous ‘The Tarroo-Ushtey’, about a local Manx conman who claims to have “second sight” and knowledge of the sea monster of the title, Arthur Machen’s ‘The Gift of Tongues’, featuring a Welsh Christmas Day church service with a difference, while Robert Aickman’s ‘The Fetch’ is a sheer masterclass in atmosphere, tension and deeply unsettling, briefly glimpsed at imagery, and one that lingers for long afterwards.
My pick of the others included would probably go to ‘The Cure’ by Dorothy K. Haynes, a darkly realised cracker of a coming-of-age tale, Jasper John’s ‘The Seeker of Souls’, an atmospheric one concerning a haunted Irish castle, ‘Kerfol’ by Edith Wharton, involving ghost dogs in Brittany, and the Wales-set ‘Mermaid Beach’ by Leslie Vardre.
‘The Other Side: A Breton Legend’ by Count Eric Stanislaus Stenbock and the closing two entries – Eachann MacPhaidein’s ‘The Butterfly’s Wedding’ and ‘The Loch at the Back of the World’ by Reverend Lauchlan MacLean Watt – are additional stand-outs and hauntingly dark fairy tales, a category that the opener – ‘The Milk-White Doo’ by Elizabeth W. Grierson would also fall into, incidentally.
To somewhat echo Mains in his Introduction, these types of Celtic myths are indeed ancient, very often beginning, and passed on, through word- of-mouth, but, sadly, also regularly falling out of popularity and being neglect- ed over the decades and centuries. However, with Celtic Weird, the editor and The British Library have done a great service in keeping these types of tales alive in the public consciousness of the current and future generations. For this fact alone, I salute them, and as a Gothic/historical anthology of horror and ghost stories in and of itself, it is certainly a very strong one into the bargain.
Celtic Weird: Tales of Wicked Folklore and Dark Mythology is published by The British Library and is available to purchase from Amazon, Waterstones and other outlets. For more details click the link button . . .
David A. Riley
IF HORROR STORIES of the zombie variety are your thing – and it’s pretty obvious that David A. Riley rather enjoys them, too – then I would imagine that you would quite like this neat little near-60-page chapbook from the author, containing reprints of four of his undead tales, each one a different take on the sub-genre, and each with their own merits, the illustrations contained by regular collaborator and friend of Riley’s, Jim Pitts.
The opening tale, ‘Dead Ronnie and I’, possibly my favourite of the four, sees two men attempt to escape the ensuing madness of the apocalypse in the UK by plane, but things naturally don’t go as planned.
‘His Pale Blue Eyes’ sees a young girl attempt to locate her parents and survive the wasteland, while ‘Right For You Now’ is a gritty one set in Britain and which also features Haitian voodoo practices.
The chapbook is wrapped up with ‘Romero’s Children’, an obvious allusion to zombie maestro George (and which is also reprinted in the pages of this current issue of Phantasmagoria, by the way). It’s an interesting one which sees the populace infected by the “OM” virus, as opposed to the traditional zombie fare.
The zombie sub-genre on film has seen something of a strong resurgence in the twenty-first century, from Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later through to several varying-in-quality Romero remakes, the Resident Evil series, and The Walking Dead, however in terms of literature I don’t believe it is a field that has ever really left us. David A. Riley is one of those authors who, it appears, is certainly attempting to ensure that it continues to stay around for a while to come.
A Handful of Zombies: Tales of the Restless Dead (Chapbook No. 1)is published by Parallel Universe Publications and is available to purchase from Amazon and other outlets. For more details click the link button . . .
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan.
Written by M. Night Shyamalan, Steve Desmond, Michael Sherman and Paul Tremblay (based on his novel The Cabin at the End of the World).
Starring Dave Bautista, Jonathan Groff, Rupert Grint, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Ben Aldridge, Abby Quinn and more.
Mild spoilers ahead . . .
IT’S THE END of the world as we know it in this latest M. Night Shyamalan supernatural thriller, this time based on a novel by Paul Tremblay.
Andrew and Eric are a gay couple who, along with their seven-year-old daughter Wen, are enjoying a relaxing break away in a remote cabin in the woods (even mild fans of horror/supernatural shenanigans will immediately know that this choice of locale never ends well!). When out collecting grasshoppers in the surrounding woods, Wen is approached by a hulking, intimidating, apparently conflicted man named Leonard with unknown intentions.
After Wen flees to the safety of the cabin, Leonard soon arrives at the front door with three companions – Redmond, Sabrina and Adriane – who demand to be let in as they have information of the utmost importance to relay to the family – so important, in fact, that it will be the difference between Armageddon either happening or not. When these Four Horsemen (and women) of the Apocalypse force their way into the holiday home, Andrew and Eric find themselves with an impossible decision to make.
To begin with, it was nice to see a film where the trailers have not revealed the best parts, as so many seem to sadly do these days, however, perhaps the ones that were released have been a little too sparse, not really enticing or selling it that well, therefore resulting in – again, for a modern day change – the final product actually being a lot better than what was expected.
Shyamalan has had his critics over the years, ever since his arrival proper in 1999 with the very well received The Sixth Sense, although many of us have also always had a soft spot for his generally enjoyable, Twilight Zone-esque brand of storytelling (as a side note, the writer/director would most surely have been a more ideal candidate to helm the recent reboot of the above classic series, as opposed to the one we did get with Jordan Peele). Knock at the Cabin also bears a few similarities to the Shyamalan-produced and written Devilfrom 2010.
From a technical point of view, Shyamalan is an accomplished film-maker who knows what he is doing when behind a camera, certainly in terms of building tension and pacing, but what really saves Knock at the Cabin (which at times can feel a little padded, predictable [no trademark Shyamalan twist this time sadly!], and lightweight and unoriginal as an overall concept) is the strong performances by the cast who really do sell the dilemma they find themselves in. Particularly impressive are Jonathan Groff and Ben Aldridge as the couple, and former wrestler-turned-actor Dave Bautista who conveys well the conflicted emotions of Leonard – a caring, good man at heart who is forced to commit terrible acts.
Despite some flaws, Knock at the Cabin is a pretty entertaining hour and forty minutes which results in quite an emotional ending, albeit one that hardly came as a shock. Worth recommending, for sure, but just don’t go into it expecting anything too daring or original.
—Trevor Kennedy and Leanne Azzabi
Developed for television by Jason Filardi and Peter Filardi, based on the short story ‘Jerusalem’s Lot’ by Stephen King.
Starring Adrien Brody, Emily Hampshire, Jennifer Ens, Sirena Gulamgaus, Ian Ho, Hugh Thompson and more.
IN THIS AGE of multi-platform streaming services and a seemingly never-ending barrage of horror, fantasy and science fiction content, you would think we would be spoilt for choice with our entertainment these days, but alas, what we are actually given instead, for the most part anyway it appears, is mere quantity over quality. There is some real quality out there, for sure, but we really do have to go searching for it. It therefore gives me great pleasure to report that the recent 10-part series Chapelwaiteis one of those quality shows that may very well have slipped under many people’s radars.
Based on the superb short by Stephen King, the story is set in 1850s Maine and sees widower and former whaler Charles Boone and his three children inherit the family home of the title from his cousin Stephen, believed dead in tragic circumstances along with his daughter, Marcella, and father, Phillip. When Charles and his family arrive in Chapelwaite they begin hearing what they believe to be rats in the walls of the house and they are soon shunned and abused by the residents of the nearby town, Preacher’s Corner, who despise the Boone family name and hold Stephen and Phillip responsible for a strange sickness that has swept through the area. Charles maintains his innocence and attempts to disassociate himself from his dead relatives by bringing work to Preacher’s Corner, but when people begin to go missing he finds himself questioning his own sanity and facing up to his family curse, a forbidden book, and a dark secret residing in the neighbouring town of Jerusalem’s Lot.
I have to be honest here and state that the first couple of episodes of Chapelwaite irritated me slightly – it’s a slow burn and contains some modern TV and film tropes which always bug me, such as people in historically-set dramas speaking like they’ve just time-travelled there from the twenty-first century. It’s not actually particularly “woke” though and, in reality, Charles’ half-Asian children would have probably received much worse racial abuse than they do here, but I just found myself struggling to become invested in it. However, once it gets into its stride and the Gothic horror starts to kick in properly, it really is of an extremely high standard and some of the best Lovecraftian/Poe-esque horror drama I have seen on screen for quite some time – dark, grim, foreboding and bloody excellent! Episode 9 is a particular stand-out with considerable pay-off and set-up for the finale, although the final episode does have its issues, in that everything seems to be resolved too quickly, it feels like more of an epilogue, and contains some pretty illogical factors, given what has come before. It is a very emotional ending, to be fair, and a rather bitter-sweet one for some of the main characters.
Chapelwaite is finely produced and written and aesthetically it captures a Gothic look and feel well, while the performances on display are generally very strong, especially from Adrien Brody in the lead who is surrounded by a quality supporting cast, particularly Gord Rand and Hugh Thompson as the tormented Minister Burroughs and Constable Dennison, respectively. The culmination of the Minister’s storyline is a hard-hitter and one of the overall highlights. I also quite enjoyed the commentaries on organised religion.
It’s not perfect, but Chapelwaite is most definitely a breath of fresh air in today’s entertainment climate and one in which I would personally give a strong recommendation to.
Presented by Reverend Lionel Fanthorpe
“Join Reverend Lionel Fanthorpe for a skate on that thin crust known as reality .”
WHENEVER FORTEAN TV was originally broadcast on Channel 4 (UK), back when it was still edgy and non-mainstream, from 1997 to ’98, it was during the height of a public love and fascination with all things “out there” and X-Files-related. Perfect timing, and more than likely no coincidence either, the writers of The X-Files reportedly also regularly poring over the pages of Fortean Times (itself inspired by the work of writer Charles Fort), of which Fortean TV was spawned from. Perhaps, then, Fortean TV could be best described as the “Real-life British X-Files”.
There are two things that really separate Fortean TV from the many other “factual supernatural phenomena” shows that we’ve seen over the years, however:
1. It never takes itself too seriously, its tongue firmly planted in its cheek, and is a huge amount of fun because of this.
2. It is presented by arguably one of the best presenters in British television history – the Reverend Lionel Fanthorpe, prolific author, weight- lifting and judo champion, preacher, biker, singer, paranormal investigator and so much more! Fanthorpe is extremely likeable, while at same time entertaining, knowledgeable, humorous and an eloquent, fascinating speaker – in short, a complete one-off! His comedy songs at the end of each episode of this new complete series boxed set issued by Network are worth the asking price alone!
The basic premise of each episode sees Father Fanthorpe touring Britain and various other parts of the world investigating strange anomalies and supernatural mysteries, such as reports of ghosts, sea monsters, aliens, vampires, the South American “chupacabra” goat-sucker, mummification, the Missing Link, the Holy Grail (with the rather controversial “Bishop” Seán Manchester – he of “Highgate Vampire” tall tales!), a lady who can speak “cat”, medical, animal and foodstuff freaks of nature, an “electric” woman, a haunted old Ford Cortina in Eastbourne, and a mysterious Asda shopping centre check-out till that causes the young women who work behind it to become pregnant!
It’s all as barmy and eccentric as it sounds and all the better for it – massively entertaining and a pure cult classic!
Television these days, for the most part, seems to consist mainly of increasingly ridiculous soap operas, moronic, cheap-to-make “reality” drivel, dull dramas, unfunny “comedies”, and deeply irritating, idiotic presenters like Ant and Dec and Michael McIntyre. However, I would genuinely rather sit down and watch the good Reverend Fanthorpe read from a telephone directory than have to suffer through any of that dross and would additionally also absolutely love for Fortean TVto make a return to our small screens, even for a one-off special!
So, if you just so happen to enjoy the wackier side of life and missed Fortean TV during its original airing, then give this boxed set a whirl – and even if you did manage to catch it back in the late-’90s, it is most definitely worth revisiting! A brilliantly bizarre classic.
IN THIS BRAND new third edition of the annual The Alchemy Press Book of Dead series, renowned and respected genre editor and writer Stephen Jones once more pays tribute to those creatives – within multiple mediums – who contributed to the collective horror, science fiction and fantasy fields and who passed away in the year of the title.
Having reviewed the previous two volumes of the series on their respective releases, I will attempt here to avoid going over old ground on the importance and relevance of Jones and his publisher’s extensive work (Queen Elizabeth II is even credited here for her work on the James Bond and Paddingtonfilm series) on display – once again – in another finely-produced edition, sprinkled throughout with many related, rather exquisite (and oft rare) film posters and images.
Just as the books themselves span multiple fields and branches within many aspects of “fantastical” fiction, it could be argued that The Alchemy Press Book of the Dead series in and of itself envelopes several literary genres at the same time.
On one hand, they’re “coffee-table” books, to be lifted up and casually read when one takes the fancy to do so, while on another they also stand as reference guides, perhaps even as historical compendiums detailing multiple facets of our genre that would otherwise go unrecorded. In that respect, then surely what Jones is doing here is very similar to what other historians and record-keepers are doing within their own branches of expertise. As he says himself in his Introduction for this particular volume (and to paraphrase him), these are essentially books about real people’s lives, mini-bios included, many of whom were – and still are – household names, others relatively well-known, and many more who would be more obscure within the realm of the public eye.
Of those recorded within this latest 2022 edition, I am merely scratching the surface by mentioning some of them here now:
From the worlds of film and television, some of those featured include Kirstie Alley, John Bird, Peter Bowles, June Brown, James Caan, Veronica Carlson, Robbie Coltrane, Kevin Conroy, Bernard Cribbins, Barry Cryer, Ruggero Deodato, Louise Fletcher, Anne Heche, William Hurt, Angela Lansbury, Yvette Mimieux, Olivia Newton-John, Leslie Phillips, Sidney Poitier, Paul Sorvino, Joe Turkel, Gaspard Ulliel, David Warner and Dennis Waterman.
From the fields of art and literature, Neal Adams, Raymond Briggs, Oliver Frey, Peter Straub and Priscilla Tolkien are paid tribute to, while practically every other creative and technical outlet is covered as well, including the music industry through such names as Twin Peakscollaborators Angelo Badalamenti and Julee Cruise, rapper Coolio, rock legend Meat Loaf and Vangelis.
As detailed above, The Alchemy Press Book of the Dead series is an important one for various reasons, no more so than for our collective field itself. Additionally, I feel it is also important that the series continues on for further volumes, recording and commemorating those who have served our genre in their own unique and special ways.
The Alchemy Press Book of Dead 2022 will be published by The Alchemy Press on the 11th April. Copies can be ordered now from the following link:
Edited by Troy Anthony Schermer
SYMPHONY OF THE Damned is a catastrophic horror anthology compiled and edited by Troy Anthony Schermer. The contributing writers come from Britain, Berlin, Canada, California, and beyond. Amongst them is a Bram Stoker Awards judge, along with an archaeologist, an artist, a gamer, and a writer who overcame a crippling case of dyslexia, and the son of a one-legged mountain climber. The stories are no less varied than the lives of the people who wrote them and they all share an obvious move of the nightmarish with one another.
There are some established writers as well as a solid effort from emerging writers, too. The collection is a mixed bag and contains something for everyone, well everyone who is partial to the macabre and enjoys curling up in the dark with flesh-eating zombies or sharing a dark tank of water with slimy creatures that slither against your skin.
The pages of Symphony of the Damned are lined with acts of kindness that are everything but that. James Mascia leaves us haunted by his melancholic and tragic tale of poetic justice. Troy Anthony Schermer’s ‘The Friends’ is a tale in which a simple haircut creates a whole new look (it did give me a much-needed and unexpected laugh).
We all love a good ole “don’t-go-down-there” and R.M. Breslin carries ‘The Craving’ off with great skill, and of course, does send the guileless protagonist down there.
Childhood terrors of being awake during an operation are brought to life in ‘Heartache’ by Buck Hanno and the ‘Sensory Deprivation’ inflicted by Pat O’Neill has the power to induce one of those childhood nightmares we all loved to impose upon ourselves. In many ways, this collection does take me back to my childhood. A time when my imagination scared the hell out of me and I was terrified to look under the bed or turn the light off.
There are so many tales of ugly tragedy that even the most brave-hearted of readers will find something to make them uneasy, so I’ve included some tips for survival when reading this collection.
Don’t trust anyone, be that friends, family or attractive strangers.
Lock up well before dusk.
Keep the lights on — this includes the bathroom and the downstairs hall.
Check under the bed and close the wardrobe.
Don’t be a good guy, or you’ll end up dead.
Don’t be a bad guy, or you’ll end up dead.
Don’t answer the door.
And whatever you do . . . Do. Not. Turn. Around.
Thank you to everyone involved. I am still shuddering.
Symphony of the Damned is available to purchase from Amazon.