Thursday, 27 February 2020


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


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


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


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


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


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 clichés. 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.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018


"Anyone who wants to spend time with the uncanny and horrific will find this volume contains gems"

Pauline Morgan has reviewed RADIX OMNIUM MALUM & OTHER INCURSIONS for both the SFCrowsnest website and the Birmingham SF Group's newsletter. With Pauline's permission, I happily repost the review.

Anyone who has heard of Mike Chinn will probably be familiar with either his steampunk versions of Sherlock Holmes or his Damian Paladin stories. Since the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are now out of copyright, there have been a number of stories and novels (of varying degrees of competence) using this character. Mike Chinn’s rank in the higher echelons of the sub-genre but there is a danger of them being lost. Damian Paladin has, so far, two collections devoted to his exploits which are well worth hunting down. Mike, though, has written and had published a wide range of other stories, some of which are included in this new volume. From a man who keeps guinea pigs they are often surprisingly dark.

Devising ways to end the world, or at least human domination of it, is a favourite pastime of horror writers. ‘Radix Omnium Malus’ (loosely translates as ‘The Root of Evil’) is reminiscent of Brian Lumley’s ‘Fruiting Bodies’ but here the malicious growth has been magically invoked and is out of hand and is consuming everything. In ‘Blood of Eden’ instead of an indestructible plant it is Dracula threatening world domination using corporate means. ‘Cheechee’s Out’ is the start of an alien invasion, with Cthulhu-type creatures taking over men in high positions. Inevitably, there will be collateral damage.

Monsters of several varieties occur within a number of these stories. The trick is doing something new with them. In ‘Sons of the Dragon’ the road builders in Romania encounter vampire worms and ‘Considering the Dead’ relates the history of Cthulhu, but the biggest monsters are human. ‘Kittens’ begins as an urban myth, this time the story of kittens being dumped in a glass recycling bin and morphs into serial killer nastiness.  In ‘Only the Lonely’ the monster is a female sexual predator. Instead of being a warning for young girls it is the middle-aged man that needs to beware.

One of the causes of people believing they have had supernatural encounters is anxiety. ‘Two Weeks From Saturday’ is one of those stories that anyone who has been reluctantly included in an event will understand. For Cliff it is the impossibility of writing a decent story for the writers’ meeting run by his boss’s son that creates nightmares. Grief, too, is an emotion that can affect the mind. ‘The Streets Of Crazy Cities’ demonstrates an extreme reaction that Martyn has after the death of wife, child and several other people that he knows. It is a story that initially misleads and shows the skill of the author in its construction.

These and the others stories in this volume challenge the reader. They meld folklore and myth into, mostly, modern settings. There is one historical story there, ‘Suffer A Witch’ which demonstrates petty human jealousy and the danger of drawing conclusions. Like the characters it is unwise to assume that you have all the knowledge needed to understand the situation. In ‘The Pygmalion Conjuration’ both Dennis, who finds a conjuration to bring to life photographs of desirable women for sex, and Miss Grant, the librarian who pointed him towards the relevant book, find to their cost that they have missing information.

Folklore doesn’t have to have an ancient pedigree. The urban myth behind ‘The Owl That Calls’ has a more recent genesis, but even these may have some reality behind them as Tomas Ullerden discovers when expecting to debunk the sighting of a Mothman on Bodmin Moor. While many myths have their roots in a pagan or superstitious past, the coming of the steam age has imbued trains with a degree of mysticism, often involving death. Two train stories are included here. ‘Rescheduled’ sees Graeme having to go home to fetch the office keys and having distinct problems with trains, while in ‘The Mercy Seat’ Jim catches up with two friends from his youth. The memories revolve around the railway bridge by the station and the trains that run over it

Some of the stories in this volume need to be read more than once to find the subtleties in the story telling, but for anyone who wants to spend time with the uncanny and horrific they will find this volume contains gems.


It’s all happening as 2020 kicks off. No sooner is Stephen Jones’ THE LOVECRAFT SQUAD: RISING published, but Trevor Kennedy’s PHANTASMAGO...