Archive for johnny mains

Japan Earthquake Aid Auction

Posted in Events, News with tags , , , on March 17, 2011 by simonmarshalljones

We’ve all seen the footage of the recent magnitude 9.0 earthquake of the northeastern coast of Japan, and the ruin and utter devastation that it caused to both human and animal life. At times like these one is forcefully reminded that, despite being the so-called ‘dominant’ species on this ol’ blue planet of ours, with all our sophisticated technology and science, we humans are still nothing compared to the might of Mother Nature. We often feel helpless in the face of such overwhelming catastrophes.

However, some people, just like Johnny Mains for instance, decide to do whatever they can to help the affected people of Japan, in however small a way. So, Mr Mains has set up an auction with some choice goodies you can bid on, the money going to charity to help with the efforts being made to get Japan back on its feet. EVERY penny that can be sent Japan’s way is a penny more than they had, and will bring recovery about just that little bit sooner.

There are eleven lots, including:

One of the last remaining copies of Back from the Dead, published by Noose and Gibbet Publishing, and signed by 8 of the contributors

A letter from Herbert Van Thal, the editor of the Pan Book of Horror Stories back in the day, to one of the authors appearing in one of the anthologies. These are very scarce items – so bid now to get your hands on a piece of publishing history.

A rare Italian film poster for Peeping Tom, signed by Columba Powell, son of the director Michael Powell and who also played the young Mark Lewis in the film. That would look good on any wall.

A signed rare NEL hardback copy of James Herbert’s The Spear, a book which apparently landed him in court – a case which he lost.

A first Pan Books paperback edition of The Executioners by John D. MacDonald that has been signed by director Martin Scorcese (who directed Cape Fear, based on the book).

Also, a signed hardback copy of Spectral author Gary McMahon’s Rain Dogs, which was published by Humdrumming Press.

There are plenty more desirable items – just go over to Johnny’s Occasionally Horrific blog to find out what they are, their starting prices and how to go about bidding. Let’s see just how much can be raised!!

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.

REVIEW ESSAY: With Deepest Sympathy by Johnny Mains

Posted in Book Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on November 13, 2010 by simonmarshalljones

Cover image is © Johnny Mains - used with permission

(Note: I feel it only fair to point out that the book I am writing about in this review-essay [With Deepest Sympathy] I actually read and commented upon before publication. This is principally why I have chosen to post this here rather than anywhere else – it might [and will] be seen as a conflict of interest in some respects. However, in this case, I genuinely feel that Johnny Mains’ work should be talked about, on two levels – first, he deserves recognition for his gargantuan efforts to republish The Pan Books of Horror and also Mary Danby’s stories, and secondly, I want to talk about how his involvement with those older tales has influenced his work, and also brought about a revival, perhaps, of appreciation for them.)


Now, I like a bit of gore in my stories as much as the next horror aficionado, but there are times when I think that certain stories disguise their lack of literary merit with bucketfuls of the red stuff, or that it’s nothing more than an excuse to either try and gross the reader out or just to see how inventive and sickening a writer can make the torture/murder scene. Some stories I’ve read concentrated solely on the visceral to the exclusion of just about any other consideration, leaving me slightly nauseous but ultimate dissatisfied and I walked away from it thinking “I’ve just wasted valuable time reading that…”

So, increasingly I find myself being drawn to the older horror/supernatural/ghostly stories, the kind that leave you to fill in the gaps and envision the action with something called your imagination. That’s not to say, of course, that there aren’t horror writers out there now who are following in the footsteps of those who have gone before. One such writer is Johnny Mains, a one-man champion of the crusade to bring back an older style of horror and ghost story. Within the past year or so he has published Back from the Dead, an anthology of new tales from some of the surviving writers whose work featured in the original Pan Horror books, along with a reprint or two. Then, he succeeded in persuading Pan-Macmillan to reissue the original 1959 first volume of the Pan Book of Horror Stories itself in facsimile (originally edited by Herbert Van Thal), along with a new introduction that charts the history of the series over the course of its more than thirty annual editions. Next year sees the publication of a collection of the stories of Mary Danby, who edited and contributed to more than a few volumes of both the Armada Book of Ghost Stories and the Fontana Book of Great Horror Stories.

Being so heavily immersed in such tales, it isn’t any wonder then that the flavour of all those old stories has thoroughly seeped into the ones included in his debut collection With Deepest Sympathy (published by Obverse Books). Fourteen tales are showcased here, many of which are based around his fictional town of Effingham-on-the-Stour: some of the stories work and others don’t. Mains has dutifully taken his cues from the time when stories suggested more than they actually described, and on that level they work considerably better than if he’d poured in some gratuitous gore just for the sake of it. The discomfort we feel from reading the title tale, With Deepest Sympathy, isn’t so much to do with what actually happens but arises from the sheer nastiness of Mrs. Primrose Hildebrand and the obvious pleasure she derives from upsetting and controlling people the way she does. The horror in The Bag Lady (the best story in the collection I think), isn’t just about a woman feeding children to a voracious sentient handbag, it’s the terror incipient in any parent’s heart when their child goes missing and also the horror when the woman in question appears to be going against natural instinct – women are meant to nurture and protect, not betray the trust of children. Life Through a Lens is also a terrific read: a prominent surgeon exacts his hideous revenge on a hospital photographer for not being professional enough when being presented with the aftermath of a car accident (which, ironically, happened to the surgeon himself). In this one, we really feel the building up of a subtle pressure, inevitably meaning something untoward is about to happen. And when it does, the reader really feels it.

It’s not all serious, however; Mains is also possessed of a blackly humorous streak as well. Losing the Plot, where an avid allotment holder has an encounter with a busybody council official which ends rather bloodily, is one example. Another instance is The Spoon, starring everyone’s favourite ‘psychic’ spoon-bender, Uri Geller – I have to admit that the ending had me wishing that it would happen in real life.

However, in the interests of balance, I should point out that not all the stories worked for me – the major one being The Family Business, which consists of nothing more than a description of how a funeral director/embalmer prepares a body, albeit the processes are being showed by the said embalmer to his young son who will one day inherit the business. Bloody Conventions has a nice idea at its core (author travels to convention, slowly losing his identity along the way) but it somehow missed the mark for me. The same can be said for Gun Money, a tale of a particularly nasty individual who not only contrives to leave hotels without paying but also steals money from the base of a memorial – the denouement, in one form or another, was obvious from the start. I also felt the end was rushed somewhat.

Overall, however, I can say that this collection is hugely enjoyable, atmospheric and delightfully spooky in places (check out Reconvened: The Judge’s House to see what I mean). Certainly for a first collection it shows potential and a lot of promise for the future. One other reviewer mentioned that Johnny shouldn’t rush to get to the end of his stories and to a certain extent whoever said that was right – some of the stories seemed to accelerate too quickly towards the end. However that may be, the fact remains that Mains is a writer at the start of his career and as such has the ability to take things in his own direction. In which case, I suggest you invest in a copy of With Deepest Sympathy right now and follow how Johnny Mains’ writing develops from here on in….


Reviewed by Simon Marshall-Jones

Publisher: Obverse Books

Publication date: October 2010

ISBN: 978-0-9565605-2-0