Reflections on 2010

Posted in Hell, Horror on January 3rd, 2011 by Craig

2010 was a busy year for me. I was fortunate to have two shorts published in the Black Books of Horror edited by Charles Black: ‘Spanish Suite’ in ‘The Sixth Black Book of Horror’ and ‘New Teacher’ in ‘The Seventh Black Book of Horror’ and another ‘The Waiting Game’ Edited by John Mains in ‘Back from the Dead’. The first chapter of my novel ‘The Death Tableaux’ began serialization in Filthy Creations magazine edited by Rog Pile.

One of the highlights of the year was indubitably the World Horror Conference where I met for the first time the editors Mr. Black and Mr. Mains – both of whom have done much to revitalize my interest in writing -and many of the authors of the original Pan Horror series and the Black Books. An absolute treat.

A surprising bonus came when my story The Heaven Maker was used to inspire an internet game called Helldivers.

I also managed to complete three other unpublished stories and have neared the end of the sequel to School: The Seventh Silence.

Perhaps best of all I also got into the habit of writing. A massive help has been the presence of fellow authors and fans on Demonik’s now famed Vault of Evil. A Chat dungeon which I would recommend to anyone interested in the genre.

In 2011 I hope to complete the sequel and quite a few more shorts. Who knows what will happen next but I hope we all have a great year.

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The Seventh Black Book of Horror: Charles Black

Posted in Hell, Horror, reviews on October 16th, 2010 by Craig

Following with pygmy feet in the giant footsteps of D.F. Lewis here is a real time review of ‘The Seventh Black Book of Horror’.

I had no idea that Thana Niveau was a writer having briefly met her not far from Brighton Pier in the company of the renowned master of horror John Llewellyn Probert. My naivety in this respect has now sunk beneath the memories of waves on Brighton’s shore. Memories which are now lent a certain grim chill by ‘The Pier’, a tale which seems to have been written by a consummate veteran of horror. Easy to see why Charles picked this one as an opener. A series of disturbing memorial plaques leads the protagonists and the reader along the burnt out remains of the old pier. Fascinating concept, skillfully told with a grim ending that opens the hotel doors of the black book with all the panache of an elegant vampyric host.

MINOS OR RHADAMANTHUS by Reggie Oliver – echoes of ghosts, ancient language, bleak public schools with their green pleasant lands and incensed cloisters overshadowed by sadistic masters and woe begone pupils; injustice and deadly revenge. This story, with a faint bow to M.R. James but it’s own unique voice, contains everything I like about the Horror genre.

Paul Mudie

Paul Mudie


My first introduction to Joel Lane was to find one of his characters unwittingly standing on an eye. Difficult to forget that image. I doubt I’ll be eating chips out of newspapers after this MORNING’S ECHO, a tale of teen gangland wickedness. This short piece by Joel Lane is not instantly powerful but like a bats radar, leaves interesting repercussions in the psyche.

I believe John Llewellyn Probert is Consultant Urological Surgeon in his spare time. My general experience of surgeons is a confrontation with a competent and dignified man who often makes light of the terrible thing that is about to happen to your body with a humorous anecdote or two and a genial manner. This is my vast problem with John Llewellyn Probert’s horror: I vastly enjoy the anecdotes, the quirky humour and the stylish approach but when he stops being funny I get ridiculously scared. IT BEGINS AT HOME offers us some surgery but perhaps not with the precision we might expect and, because of our expectations, we suffer a lot more. It’s a tale with an unexpected twist that leaves the poor reader with a very genuine but grim aftertaste. Don’t visit this without emotional anesthetic.

In FLITCHING’S REVENGE by Gary Power a close knit English village has it’s own informal method of extracting justice but the price of judicial error is somewhat high. There are different forms of justice of course, social and judicial come to mind, but Gary Power finds an interesting twist in a tale where spiritual justice bows out.

David Williamson is a Pan Horror author par excellence having stories in Number 28 and 30 respectively. Like me he must get somewhat tired of hearing how awful the last Pan Books were as they descended into gratuitous violence and cheap laughs. The problem with this viewpoint, which may well be valid, is that I suspect that few people who endorse it have ever read the final volumes. In REST IN PIECES I hope Williamson answers the critics: it’s a well conceived tale, suitably macabre, jocular and containing all the Pan elements that made the series a winner. At times the male/female relationships are like something from a Blackpool postcard but isn’t that what you want deep down? The horror is horrific and the bad guy gets his comeuppance in a rather neat finale.

In WALK TO THE SEA by Rog Pile a lady is attracted by something down on the beach. Is it a memory of something awful, is it a ghost, is she a memory or is she a phantom treading a hypnotic and well worn path? In common with many of Rog Pile’s stories there is an amorphous, insubstantial quality, an atmosphere tinged with pathos and regret. As always he offers a well crafted tale, which like waves on a lonely beach, leave a vague hush in the mind. Enjoyed the walk.

I’m a huge fan of the classic Zombie film. I like my zombies shuffling and slow and I like it when there are lots of them and only one of you. Zombie stories on the other hand can often fail to deliver. In ROMERO’S CHILDREN by David A. Riley the Zombies are slightly faster than I like on film but they are indubitably very scary. This story shines out among a star cast. It’s simple: Zombies everywhere on the hunt. Scattered humanity fighting back but Jack is a loner carving out an existence in the deserted town. There is a whiff of John Wyndham – Post apocalyptic, a solid identification with the central character, a good advance on the zombie concept and a really awful ending that’s already made a few people cry. The only fault I could find? It’s not a novel.

The problem with being a fantastic author I suspect is that everyone anticipates your brilliance. If anyone else wrote the THE GREEN BATH I would commend it as a very good story, well paced, economically written with a finely balanced erotically charged plot. However, it offers a complex but somehow fragmented concept with a somewhat idiosyncratic ending as though Paul Finch deliberately retreated from cliche – which of course he did but in the process I found myself searching for the overt horror. Still classy though.

TELLING, a thoroughly enjoyable short from Steve Rasnic Tem. An artist needs a certain atmosphere to paint and she needs to get it from a certain house. Perhaps the atmosphere was looking for her.

SWELL HEAD by Stephen Volk went to the top of the shelf and got the teddy bear. Very like Stephen King at his best. I felt as though I was halfway through a later Pan edition and this was the American contribution and a fine contribution too with echoes of the Elephant Man. What happens if your brother’s head starts to get bigger? Volk will tell you and make you very sad as he does.

WALKING THE DYKE by Alex Langley is a nasty piece of work. Unlike many, I am never too comfortable with in-genre stories. It always feels a little incestuous. However, this was well told with enough offense against political correctness to amuse me.

Anna Taborska is a gentle careful writer whose work always looks rounded and immaculately professional but sometimes gives the feeling that Horror is not her natural genre. Nevertheless THE CREAKING is a well crafted tale about the villages and a good ‘witch’. The poor witch should perhaps have teamed up with the wicked witch of Oz. Handing out potions and being helpful is generally the passport to doom in any small village and when you hear a suspicious creaking better not hang around.

I had to warn my mum not to read BERNARD BOUGHT THE FARM by James Stanger, which the editor seems to have inserted to create maximum controversy: ‘Page upon page of unflinching cruelty, bestiality, sodomy and eye-watering torture … Proper horror gone completely nuts.‘ to quote demonik from the renowned Vault of Evil proboard. I should imagine opinions will be wildly different on this gruesome offering. For me, almost because it was written in a conventional manner with an accomplished and soundly crafted style, the impact of its atrocities was all the more distasteful.

TED’S COLLECTION by Claude Lalumière is simply a superb story of isolation, fetish and eccentricity taken to terrible extremes. There were moments during the reading of it where I whimpered ‘no, don’t got there’ in a scared squeak. Terrifying.

‘What seems, at first, like a slight story, is redeemed by its powerful Roald Dahl-like twist’, Mark Samuel’s comment on NEW TEACHER by yours truly. The new teacher’s having difficulty with his class while his indifferent colleagues reflect on old times.

THE IN-BETWEENERS by Tony Richards asks the question ‘Who are these amorphous teenagers hanging around the street corners?’ But do you really, really want to know? It’s a splendid finish to the best Black Book I have read.

Polished off with my favourite Black Book cover by Paul Mudie I must make a final remark on the hidden author, Charles Black. I believe this to be the best Black Book not because the stories were better than others – far from the case. I think this was a kind of coming of age celebration for Charles Black where he really achieved a perfect balance as an editor. I found it hard to put the anthology down and more or less read it from cover to cover with interest, excitement, sorrow, distaste, laughs and most of all pure horror.

Big thumbs up

The Seventh Black Book of Horror:
THE PIER – Thana Niveau

MINOS OR RHADAMANTHUS – Reggie Oliver

MORNING’S ECHO – Joel Lane

IT BEGINS AT HOME – John Llewellyn Probert

FLITCHING’S REVENGE – Gary Power

REST IN PIECES – David Williamson

WALK TO THE SEA – Rog Pile

ROMERO’S CHILDREN – David A. Riley

THE GREEN BATH – Paul Finch

TELLING – Steve Rasnic Tem

SWELL HEAD – Stephen Volk

WALKING THE DYKE – Alex Langley

THE CREAKING – Anna Taborska

BERNARD BOUGHT THE FARM – James Stanger

TED’S COLLECTION – Claude Lalumière

NEW TEACHER – Craig Herbertson

THE IN-BETWEENERS – Tony Richards

Available from the usual online sources and click on the link below

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The Seventh Black Book of Horror: Editor Charles Black

Posted in Hell, Horror on September 8th, 2010 by Craig

Charles Black, consummate dungeon master of Hell’s naughty minions, has announced the contents of The Seventh Black Book of Horror. What an honour to be there amongst some of the foremost Horror writers. And look at this for a cover by Paul Mudie


Details forthcoming about where to get a hold of this piece of publishing History forthcoming but I would think starting with Mortbury Press would be a good idea. Link is on the blogroll

THE PIER
Thana Niveau

MINOS OR RHADAMANTHUS
Reggie Oliver

MORNING’S ECHO
Joel Lane

IT BEGINS AT HOME
John Llewellyn Probert

FLITCHING’S REVENGE
Gary Power

REST IN PIECES
David Williamson

WALK TO THE SEA
Rog Pile

ROMERO’S CHILDREN
David A. Riley

THE GREEN BATH
Paul Finch

TELLING
Steve Rasnic Tem

SWELL HEAD
Stephen Volk

WALKING THE DYKE
Alex Langley

THE CREAKING
Anna Taborska

BERNARD BOUGHT THE FARM
James Stanger

TED’S COLLECTION
Claude Lalumière

NEW TEACHER
Craig Herbertson

THE IN-BETWEENERS
Tony Richards

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