Archive for the Books Category

Abolisher of Roses: book trailer video

Posted in Books, News with tags , , , , , , on March 18, 2011 by simonmarshalljones

In my ever expanding quest to get the word on Spectral Press out there to all and sundry, may I present to you the debut of the very first book trailer video, spotlighting Gary Fry’s chapbook, due to be published May 2nd 2011… enjoy!

Gratitude must be extended to Mark West for putting this together for me over the last couple of days – an absolutely sterling effort! For more details of how to purchase this chapbook, please go to spectralpress.wordpress.com.

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Top Reads 2010 (part the second)

Posted in Books, Writing and words with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 28, 2010 by simonmarshalljones

Finally, here we are, the second part of my top reads this year… and we have some real goodies.

First, what is probably one of my favourite novellas of the past couple of years, Tim Lebbon’s The Thief of Broken Toys (ChiZine Publications). Tim also featured in the first part of this little literary rundown, with his Last Exit for the Lost collection. His tale of loss and regret, of relationships irretrievably broken down, is powerful in its simplicity, needling its way into the emotional centres of the reader with the ease and accuracy of a laser beam. Beautifully written and observed, this is a fine example of Tim’s keenly crafted handling of words to maximum effect.

It’s quite hard to remain detached from something for which one has read nothing but raise, as is the case with the next book on my list – The Silent Land by Graham Joyce (Gollancz). However, the universality of recommendations from friends about the book is also an indication of just how good this book is. A tale of a couple on a skiing holiday being overtaken by an avalanche and then finding themselves in a eerie half-life after managing to dig themselves out, it’s a storyof finding the strength and determination to work out what’s going on.. Elements of quiet horror, suspense, sadness and small triumphs, closely observed and recounted, combine to make an incredible story of memory and its place in our lives, regrets for the past and inklings of future possibilities. This is one of the best and most moving novels I’ve read this year.

Next up is a delightful book that took me by surprise when I first read it – Anna Richardson’s Little Gods (Picador). The story of a much maligned girl, who just happens to be something of a statuesque giant, towering as she does above everyone she knows, this novel is a startling and inventive look at how, through the very teeth of adversity and misfortune, even those considered outside the norm (and shunned because of their difference) can grab a slice of life with both hands and live it to its fullest. It’s very different from the usual genre fare, the language is both poetic and acrobatic (which sometimes gets in the way), but underneath it’s a heartwarming story that many will identify with.

My final selections are all from the same publisher – Nicholas Royle’s Nightjar Press. I wanted to give them a special mention simply because they’re the direct inspiration for my own publishing imprint, Spectral Press. So far, they’ve produced six titles – What Happens When you Wake Up in the Night by Michael Marshall Smith, The Safe Children by Tom Fletcher, When the Door Closed, it was Dark by Alison Moore, The Black Country by Joel Lane, A Revelation of Cormorants by Mark Valentine and (probably my favourite so far of the ones I’ve read) The Beautiful Room by RB Russell. They’re all fine examples of compact storytelling, distillations of quiet, unsettling fear, that only emphasise why I like the short form so much. Great value for money, they’re only £3 each (except the first two, which have sold out), and for me point the way forward in one particular niche of the publishing market.

Well, that’s it for this year – so looking forward to what 2011 will bring in terms of bookish delights. If this year was anything to go by, then I think we’re all in for a treat!

SPECTRAL PRESS I: What They Hear in the Dark by Gary McMahon

Posted in Books, News with tags , , , , , on December 15, 2010 by simonmarshalljones

An absence is more terrifying than a presence…

Rob and Becky bought the old place after the death of their son, to repair and renovate – to patch things up and make the building habitable.

They both knew that they were trying to fix more than the house, but the cracks in their marriage could not be papered over.

Then they found the Quiet Room.”

“Gary McMahon’s horror is heartfelt…” –Tim Lebbon

22pg A5 print booklet with card covers, signed and numbered, 100 only – published January 2011.

Available from the publishers – Spectral Press, 5 Serjeants Green, Neath Hill, Milton Keynes, Bucks, MK14 6HA, UK for £3 (plus 50p P+P) either through Paypal (spectralpress@gmail.com) or cheque (made payable to ‘Simon Marshall-Jones’) to the address above. Subscriptions for 2011 issues (3) available for £10 – payment details as above. US/RoW please email for prices to your countries…

Web: spectralpress.wordpress.com

Email: spectralpress@gmail.com

Subscribers, please note: this issue will be sent out in early January due to it being THAT time of year and the possible inclement weather that’s been forecast…. Spectral Volume I is currently at the printers and the signature sheets are in Gary’s hands… return expected any day now… =D

Press Release: WHITBY, by Scott V. Harrison & Johnny Mains

Posted in Books, News with tags , , , , , , , on December 15, 2010 by simonmarshalljones

Some news about an exciting new project from Johnny Mains and Scott V. Harrison:

—()—

Whitby, North Yorkshire. 1936.

It has been nearly 40 years since journalist Raymond Peakes wrote his original piece on the great storm and the arrival of the Russian schooner ‘Demeter’ to the small fishing village in the dead of night. And now, all Peakes wants to do is forget the past and move on. But the dead just won’t stay buried.

Once more, Raymond Peakes is forced to face the past; to recount his tale of strange happenings and blackest deeds

A tale that began with the arrival of the Demeter.

Believing the ship to be cursed, the superstitious locals want it burned, before it can be sailed back to Varna. But a mysterious group calling themselves the Low Hall Brethren have other plans, staking claim to several items found on board.

As illness and death stalk the sleepy little town, Peakes begins to investigate claims of the dead walking the streets at night, unaware of the monster that has been preying upon the community, in order to slake his thirst for blood.

Count Dracula.

Halted in his seduction of Lucy Westenra by her friend Mina Harker, Dracula has turned his attention upon the inhabitants of Whitby, infecting the town with the ancient curse of the undead.

As the community descends into hysteria, the church wants Whitby destroyed, purifying the evil with fire. The town’s only hope is for Peake to join forces with the shadowy Clerec Robueter, leader of the Low Hall Brethren, the only person who seems to know exactly what is going on and, more importantly, how this nightmare can be stopped.

Set amongst the action of the infamous Dracula, but only containing its eponymous character, Whitby is the story of a man who is willing to destroy himself in his quest to stop Dracula and his harbingers of un-death…

—()—

WHITBY is an exciting project to be involved in; it exploits a plot hole in the original novel and offers up a unique chance to tell the story of a town already blighted by superstition and what happens when a real supernatural force rips through the community. I’m really thrilled to be writing this with Scott Harrison, our writing styles match extremely well and it’s quite rather mental to be writing the secret history of Dracula without involving Van Helsing et al. A challenge indeed! – JOHNNY MAINS.

JOHNNY MAINS is the author of the collection With Deepest Sympathy (Obverse Books) and has edited Back from the Dead (Noose and Gibbet). He has written for SFX Magazine, contributes to The Paperback Fanatic and was project editor for The Pan Book of Horror Stories 2010 re-issue. His latest book Party Pieces: The Horor Fiction of Mary Danby will be published by Noose and Gibbet in February 2011.

Ever since I was a child I’ve been fascinated by both the town of Whitby and Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula. It’s always been an ambition of mine to explore and expand upon the wonderfully chilling and erotic tapestry that Stoker created over a century ago – a world that’s as vibrantly real and relevant to today’s society as it was to those living in the late Victorian era. To be able to work on something like this with Johnny Mains, a man whose name is already synonymous with great horror fiction, is an absolute joy. Particularly as we share many of the same literary passions. It’s a pleasure to put pen to paper – SCOTT HARRISON.

SCOTT HARRISON is an author and playwright, whose stage plays have been performed both in the UK and the US. He has short stories appearing in forthcoming anthologies from Obverse Books and Dark Fiction, and has co-edited the collection Voices from the Past (H&H Books) with Lee Harris. He has written for HUB Magazine, contributes to Shiny Shelf, and held the post of writer-in-residence for The Dreaming Theatre Company for several years. He is also working on a solo Steampunk novel called Dark Engine.

Top Reads 2010 (part the first)

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , , on December 8, 2010 by simonmarshalljones

I’ve had a very busy year reviewing-wise (and with many other things, too!) and I have to say that I have read some absolutely brilliant books and collections over the course of the last 12 months. So I thought I’d write a little blog on the literature highlights of my 2010 – it’s been a nightmare choice, just because there have been some great books sent my way. This is just a personal choice, and in no way way reflects the quality of any of the books that I’ve missed out… anyway, here we go.

Light Boxes by Shane Jones (Hamish Hamilton) is a delightfully quirky little modern fairytale, a small book which contains more invention in its 167 pages than many a book ten times that length. It’s also been optioned by film director Spike Jonez (Where the Wild Things Are), so that could indeed be an absolutely amazing cinematic treat, if they ever get around to producing it.

A logical follow-on would be the equally quirky and just as delightful Strange Men in Pinstripe Suits and Other Curious Things collection by Cate Gardner, published by Strange Publications, appropriately enough. This features 24 bizzare, surreal and wonderfully child-like takes on the world, and all with a warm and fuzzy heart at their centre. An absolutely essential read, best read whilst sitting in front of a blazing log fire in your favourite wing-back armchair, with either hot chocolate or mulled wine for accompaniment.

As for horror, I like it several shades of dark and relentlessly oppressive, and verging on the apocalyptic. For that, I go straight to Gary McMahon, and his very first mass-market paperback, Pretty Little Dead Things (Angry Robot), hit the nail squarely on the head. His landcapes, characters and the events that often overwhelm the people involved are the bleakest of the bleak, and for sheer unadulterated shivers and hellishness, then this is the book for you. I predict great things for this man and you should go out FORTHWITH and purchase a copy.

In a similar vein, I also enjoyed Tim Lebbon’s massive collection Last Exit for the Lost (Cemetery Dance). And when I say massive, I mean massive – 150,000 words and a veritable breezeblock of a book in hardback, and all wrapped in a gorgeously atmospheric Les Edwards cover. Tim writes in a very lean, stripped-back style; no verbose extraneity, just the exact words needed to convey whole worlds, emotions and horror. A marvellous exposition of a skill that is actually quite hard to master – a very talented writer.

Finally, at least for this go round, are the two collection from Australia’s Angela Slatter – Sourdough and Other Stories (Tartarus Press – pictured above) and The Girl with no Hands (Ticonderoga Publications – below). Angela specialises in reinventing and realigning the traditional tropes of the fairytale, the kind of thing we all know from our childhoods – the ones that were collected and ‘rearranged’ (to suit a particular agenda) by Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm. Angela brings them right up-to-date, with vibrant reinterpretations that are more in line with current sensibilities. Additionally, both collections have been lushly produced by the respective presses, with perhaps the cover of The Girl with no Hands just winning out on the most beautiful cover award.

Hope you like my choices so far – another instalment soon!! =)

The reading blues…

Posted in Books, General Musings with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 3, 2010 by simonmarshalljones

A couple of times recently, I’ve noticed people (principally reviewers, I should note) saying that they’re suffering from the reading blues. Well, I’ve been going through exactly the same thing for the last month or two – apart from the books I’ve been asked to review I haven’t, until very recently, actually picked up a book just to read solely for pleasure. I’m still ploughing through a book of short stories by one of my favourite authors, HP Lovecraft – and I started reading it in mid-summer. This is very unlike me – I used to go through books at a frightening rate, reading a couple a week.

I’ve been wondering why I felt a slight ennui when it comes to reading for pleasure recently. Perhaps it’s simply because, on some days at least, I have trouble keeping my eyes open after working a 12-hour day and I just can’t bear the prospect of doing anyting other than going to sleep. Or it crossed my mind that, being a reviewer, you sometimes suffer from ‘book-fatigue’, that having read something all day and making notes about it, the idea that you want to read even more just to wind down is somehow just too unappealing. A third possibility was that it was just me.

So, to read that others have the same problem is heartening, in a way. My dad bequeathed to me a love of books and the written-word that I have carried with me ever since I was able to read (over forty years now and counting), and the thought that I have somehow become tired of them is quite appalling in my book. There are far too few people who read books these days, or so we are led to believe – and I certainly don’t want to join their ranks.

I guess, to an extent, it’s something about the fact that when I review a book I am not only looking at it from the point of view of whether it’s a good story or not, but also from a ‘meta’ aspect as well, ie. analysing the deeper constituents of what the author’s trying to do. Use of language and words, rhythms, the believability of characters and plot, and how it all flows together come into play here. It’s only one step removed from what I did in school when I studied English Literature A-level all those years ago; the only difference, I feel, is that at least I (mostly) get to choose the books I review and they’re all in genres I enjoy reading. I find that sometimes, even when reading ro relax, I default to my literary critic persona almost automatically.

A similar thing happened after my university course – it included a film-studies module. In it, we were taught how to ‘deconstruct’ films, looking at context, subtext, use of imagery, how the camera (angles, movement) was used to help tell the story, use of lighting to accentuate things, etc., etc. I enjoyed it immensely as it allowed me to look at favourite films with new eyes. After a while, however, I found that, whenever I saw a film, either on TV or in the cinema, I just instantly switched into ‘celluloid deconstructionist’ mode – and often it would spoil my enjoyment of the film. There were times indeed when I simply wished that I could either completely forget what I’d learnt or at the very least be able to switch it all off.

I do the same with a book, any book, although I am consciously aware that I am doing it and then I actively try to remember that I am now reading for the hell of it, not reviewing. I just want to read it, not decode the damn thing. So, in some measure, I’ve been avoiding reading books  that I don’t need to review for that reason, even if subconsciously. I have it deeply ingrained into my psyche that books are for enjoyment, and if anything that is likely to spoil that quality looms I make sure that I swerve away from it. Hence the recent bout of ‘reading blues’….

Just the other night, however, I picked up a book, just to read for pleasure, for the first time in months – Tim Lebbon’s The Thief of Broken Toys. I’m still fighting against that urge to read it as if I were doing a review, an urge which is incredibly annoying. I am NOT going to review the book (and that isn’t meant as a slight to Tim, btw) – I just want to enjoy it for what it is, a beautifully-told story. You have my permission to slap me if you ever see an in-depth review of it by me posted anywhere. Hopefully, I’ll start to come out of feeling those blues very soon as a consequence – no reader likes to feel this way. =D

End of the Line book launch

Posted in Books, Events with tags , , , on November 16, 2010 by simonmarshalljones

Cover image © Solaris Books - used with permission

Foyle’s Bookshop, Charing Cross, London – 6:30pm 16th November 2010.

Tonight sees the official launch of this anthology of horror stories, published by Solaris Books, set in and around the London Underground, the Metro and other places beneath our feet. It’s a virtual who’s who of new horror writing, and includes stories from Paul Meloy, John L. Probert, Nicholas Royle, Rebecca Levene, Jasper Bark, Simon Bestwick, Al Ewing, Conrad Williams, Pat Cadigan, Adam LG Nevill, Mark Morris, Stephen Volk, Ramsey Campbell, Michael Marshall Smith, James Lovegrove, Gary McMahon, Natasha Rhodes, Joel Lane and Christopher Fowler.

I will also be reviewing the book very soon, so watch out for that, but I will also be reporting back on the night’s shenanigans in a blog post tomorrow – that’s if I’m up to it… =D

See you all tomorrow!!