Tuesday, 4 August 2020

HOLMES IS WHERE THE HEART IS

Many years ago there was an independent bookshop in Birmingham by the name of Hudsons. During its declining years they introduced a bargain basement (no doubt to get rid of odd items of stock) where all sorts of goodies could be found. One time I came across a thin coffee table edition entitled THE SHERLOCK HOLMES SCRAPBOOK (dated 1973), edited by none other than Peter Haining, with a foreword by the one and only Peter Cushing.


It was a fascinating book, filled with articles, artwork, ads – in fact any kind of Sherlockian ephemera you can imagine. And it also mentioned new Holmes fiction had continued to be published after Conan Doyle’s death in 1930. That made me sad because I quite fancied the idea of writing a Holmes pastiche, but imagined the day for such things was gone (and I wouldn’t have known where to find a possible market at the time, anyway).

Fast forward to the 21st century, and that daydream finally came true. Not only did I end up writing that Holmes pastiche, I somehow managed a mash-up novel (VALLIS TIMORIS, Fringeworks, 2015), and a couple of shorts for David Marcum’s MX series of anthologies besides (“The Adventure of the Vanishing Man”, “The Adventure of the Haunted Room”) with a third – “The Adventure of the Singular Worm” – due out later in 2020. I even sold a Professor Moriarty story, “A Function of Probability” to Maxim Jakubowski’s THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF THE ADVENTURES OF PROFESSOR MORIARTY (Skyhorse, 2016). And did I stop there? Oh no. The latest to see print is in Belanger Press’s second volume of SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE OCCULT DETECTIVES anthologies, edited by John Linwood Grant: “The Direction of Sunbeams”. Once again proving, it’s never too late.


And if I’d told that impressionable younger person as he bought that original Haining book, I wonder if he’d consider the idea “Incredible!” or “Elementary!”.

Thursday, 27 February 2020

IT'S PHANTASTIC


It’s all happening as 2020 kicks off. No sooner is Stephen Jones’ THE LOVECRAFT SQUAD: RISING published, but Trevor Kennedy’s PHANTASMAGORIA magazine is running a special (#2, if we’re counting) based around the book and Lovecraft. Among its many delights will be a brief life and times of one Damian Paladin – which means I get to share cover billing with some quite delightful people. Probably be the one and only time, so I’d best make the most of it (and since it’s alphabetical, I get to be on top).


PHANTASMAGORIA #14 will also include my short story “Chasing the Dragon” (originally published in Emby Press’s SUPERHERO MONSTER HUNTER: THE GOOD FIGHT), and elsewhere in that issue there may even be some of my artwork. So don’t say you haven’t been warned.

Both mags will be available later in March, with an official launch at StokerCon, Scarborough, in April.

Also launching at StokerCon is THE ALCHEMY PRESS BOOK OF HORRORS 2: STRANGE STORIES AND WEIRD TALES. Damian Paladin – along with Leigh Oswin, Andy Raven, and Leo Saint-Germain – crop up, the proverbial bad pennies, in “Digging in the Dirt”: an indirect sequel to the “Hastur La Vista, Baby” crossover with Adrian Cole’s Nick Nightmare published in THE LOVECRAFT SQUAD: RISING. Almost as if it was planned (and if you believe that, you give me way too much credit).


Saturday, 28 December 2019

2019: THE YEAR THAT WAS

This year’s annual round-up is pretty brief. One of those outwardly calm years when nothing much seems to be happening.

It started with a short SF piece seeing publication in KZINE #23 in January – “A World in Aspic”. Set in the Derry & Toms roof garden, in an alternate 1920s/30s, with the sort of clunking robots that graced the old movie serials I’d catch the odd episode of at the Jacey cinema in Birmingham during rare childhood Saturday afternoon visits.

I also worked on a couple of novellas I’d promised people in moments of weakness. One was for Fringeworks: a steampunk Sherlock Holmes sequel to my VALLIS TIMORIS mash-up; the second for Dion Winton-Polak’s TWISTED EARTH shared world. All that interspersed with editing a couple of novels for a friend.

During the latter half I teamed up once again with old mate Adrian Cole to co-write another Damian Paladin/Nick Nightmare team-up for Stephen Jones’ THE LOVECRAFT SQUAD: RISING. Entitled “Hastur La Vista, Baby”, we somehow kept things going over two separate timelines that eventually merged; and I took the chance to shake things up a little in the Paladin-Oswin universe.

Speaking of Paladin and Leigh, they continue to fight the good fight in “Digging in the Dirt” for THE ALCHEMY PRESS BOOK OF HORRORS 2 (out early 2020), and their decidedly VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA-inspired adventure “Cradle of the Deep” is due to appear imminently in STARTLING STORIES #1.


I also kept the Sherlock Holmes banner flying with the decidedly non-canon “The Direction of Sunbeams” for the self-explanatory SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE OCCULT DETECTIVES anthology coming from Belanger Books.

And in late 2020 I’ll be making another appearance in a Stephen Jones edited anthology, THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF FOLK HORROR, with “All I Ever See”.

The year ended with one of those coincidences that crop up infrequently: two interview requests, each coming hard upon the other. One was for Trevor Kennedy’s PHANTASMAGORIA #13, the Christmas special, and the second for an article by Stephen Jewell on DC Thomson’s STARBLAZER digest comic of blessed memory, commissioned by the JUDGE DREDD MEGAZINE. Both issues emerged just in time for Christmas.


As for 2020 itself? Who can say. I continue to fly by the seat of my pants, with little to no planning – but at least I’m keeping boredom at bay. And life still, on occasion, surprises me.

And so may I take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy New Year, and continuing good fortune in these trying days. 

Monday, 12 August 2019

ALL I EVER SEE

Really happy to announce my short story "All I Ever See" has been accepted for Stephen Jones' forthcoming anthology The Mammoth Book of Folk Horror. And chuffed to find I'm also going to be sharing it with such luminaries as David A Sutton, Alison Littlewood, and Jan Edwards.
The title's a line from an old Status Quo single. That and the above image are all the clues you're going to get.

Saturday, 22 December 2018

2018 AND ALL THAT

As the year grinds inevitably towards its end we come, with equal inevitability, to the annual round-up and hopeful glances towards the future. Not a very long post, you’ll be glad to hear since 2018 has been fairly quiet with regard to publications.

In June I achieved a lifelong ambition, and had a Jerry Cornelius story published on the Further Adventures of Jerry Cornelius website. Titled "Pierrot in Bombazine" I had fun playing with steampunk tropes, among other things.

July saw a story of mine appear in PICKMAN’S GALLERY from Ulthar Press: an anthology of Lovecraftian fiction that took its cue from the original HPL story, “Pickman’s Model”. My own contribution, “Eigenspace X”, was an askance look at the modern art world, and what happens when sculpture meets multi-dimensional mathematics.

The Western I’d always wanted to have a go at was published by Pro Se Publications in August: REVENGE IS A COLD PISTOL. I was surprised (and delighted) to discover that not only were there paperback and Kindle editions, but also a hardback. To my mind, the publishers should have scrapped the paperback and just gone with hardback (while maybe reducing the price a little): the whole product looks so much sharper, the cover art more vibrant.

WEIRDBOOK #40 included my “And the Living Is Easy”: a short story which started life as a one-act play, believe it or not. Concerning two sun gods hiding away from a poisoned or dying sun, it probably works best as short fiction (a good man always knows his limitations).

And my final appearance of the year was in THE ALCHEMY PRESS BOOK OF HORRORS. Unable to resist diving back below the deep blue briny and mixing up a Kate Bush track with a Japanese monster, I came up with “Her Favourite Place”. 
* * *
And for 2019? It’s often difficult to be precise, because publishing is rarely an exact science, but I can say that Graeme Hurry’s KZINE #23 is out in January and includes a short SF story of mine: “A World in Aspic” (which you might describe as valvepunk, if we’re throwing labels around).

Damian Paladin will be returning in “Cradle of the Deep” in the first issue of the relaunched STARTLING STORIES (you guessed it: more underwater frolics), and a revised and expanded edition of THE PALADIN MANDATES (includes two previously unpublished adventures for Leigh Oswin and Paladin) should be heading your way. And elsewhere, if the stars are right, another team-up with Adrian Cole’s Nick Nightmare. Those two do get around.

Finally, there is another short novel ready to be unleashed on the unsuspecting world: involving an updated masked avenger which, no one will be surprised to hear, involves quite a lot of flying. And hand to hand fighting. And gunplay. Details as and when. 
* * *
And that’s it. Just remains for me to wish everyone a Happy and Prosperous 2019. Be good to each other.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

WHAT'S THAT WEIRD BOOK...?

Weirdbook has existed, in a variety of iterations, since the late 1960s, coming into its own in the mid-1970s. It was a quality small press magazine long before the term Small Press was coined, and I discovered it in the early 70s. I'd joined the British Fantasy Society and was rapidly becoming aware of a hitherto unknown world of authors, books and magazines. The society's annual convention, FantasyCon, gave these publications flesh and I gladly offered up all my hard-earned cash to get my hands on them.

Edited by W Paul Ganley, Weirdbook looked the business. It had covers by Stephen Fabian, poems by Robert E Howard and Joseph Payne Brennan, fiction by the likes of H Warner Munn, Brian Lumley, Eddy Bertin, Adrian Cole, Darrell Schweitzer and L Sprague de Camp. It was as professional as it was possible to be on a tiny budget. It never occurred to me - fledgling writer that I was - that one day I'd by published within its pages.
Unlike its contemporaries, Weirdbook has managed to survive – now published by Wildside Press and edited by Douglas Draa, with W Paul Ganley as consulting editor - looking to the developing styles of weird fiction of the 21st century whilst unashamedly celebrating its roots. Once again, Darrell Schweitzer and Adrian Cole are regulars, along with plenty of fresh blood.

And I've made it too. Issue 40. Check it out.

Friday, 10 August 2018

HAVE PEN WILL SCRIBBLE


I’m of that generation where Westerns were everywhere: films, TV, books. I just about remember watching Richard Boone as Paladin (now where’ve I heard that name before?) in Have Gun, Will Travel, along with Sugarfoot, Rawhide, Wagon Train, and in later years Alias Smith & Jones and The High Chaparral.
But I did lose interest in the movies sometime in the mid-1960s. Back then the BBC would show a Saturday Western every week and, to be honest, most were poor quality, assembly-line films lacking in originality, budget, or decent actors. I reached a point where I just couldn’t bring myself to watch another Western movie. That is, until I was at polytechnic.

I was far too young to see A Fistful of Dollars when it first came out; though I do remember the fuss caused by its amorality and perceived sadism. Several years later, though, I was a student at Lanchester Polytechnic. On Wednesday afternoons a film club ran in a lecture theatre; one film I watched was For a Few Dollars More. It was like a slap around the face. That same year High Plains Drifter was released and I watched it at a Coventry flea-pit on a double bill with Two Mules for Sister Sara. In no time I was a fan of both Clint Eastwood and Italian Westerns.
I never read many Western novels – although paperbacks by British authors such as Terry Harknett (under a variety of pseudonyms) and JT Edson were everywhere throughout the 1970s. I did peruse the odd novelisation (such as the first two “Dollar” films and A Fistful of Dynamite) and Glendon Swarthout’s The Shootist (the film adaptation of which is still my favourite John Wayne film). I was – and still am – mainly into Horror, Fantasy and Science Fiction, and writing same.

Then, towards the end of the 70s, I hit a period of enforced idleness. I don’t know how many of you remember the smallpox outbreak at Birmingham University’s Medical School, but my department was caught up in the tragedy. We were sent home for an open-ended period while part of the building was decontaminated. I grew bored rapidly and, for reasons I no longer remember, started writing a Western. It was pretty bad: the central character, Quarrel, was an obvious Man With No Name knock-off, everyone else an assembly of clichĂ©s. I abandoned it when I returned to work.
But the odd thing was, I’d enjoyed it – purple prose and stupid plot notwithstanding. And it had swiftly become clear that, unless you were writing a strictly historical one, Westerns were as much Fantasy as anything from the pen of Michael Moorcock, Fritz Leiber or Robert E Howard (who did write Westerns, of course). And Quarrel never went away: lurking in the depths of my head, biding his time. Eventually, his time came.

A couple of years back, Pro Se Publications accepted a Damian Paladin book, Walkers in Shadow,  for publication, and I found myself wondering if there was something else I could try out on them. A Western? I thought. Pro Se is a New Pulp publisher, and Westerns are one of the oldest forms of pulp fiction.

With a new look and a first name – Arieh – Quarrel came a-knockin’. Shamelessly borrowing the plot of Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (well, adapting Samurai movies hadn’t done Sergio Leone or John Sturges any harm) and going for a slightly more Italian Western vibe, I pitched the idea at Tommy Hancock at Pro Se. “Write it,” he said. And thus was Revenge is a Cold Pistol born. I am now a published Western author – words I never thought I’d write.
Will Arieh Quarrel return? Well, I’m working on a storyline at the moment, and I’ll pitch it once it’s complete. Then we’ll see.

HOLMES IS WHERE THE HEART IS

Many years ago there was an independent bookshop in Birmingham by the name of Hudsons. During its declining years they introduced a bargain ...