The Cutting Room – Dark Reflections of the Silver Screen edited by Ellen Datlow

The editor Ellen Datlow has long been an indicator that the anthology you are about to read is going to be a good one. She has been editing in the speculative fiction industry for many years. The Cutting Room is a great example of why she is so good at her job.
Not only does this book contain a great array of stories, it’s the way the stories fit together that also complements the overall reading experience. I’m one of those readers who prefer to start at the beginning with an anthology or a collection and work my way through from front to back. I do this because I think there is usually some thought about which stories go in which order and I want to take advantage of the editor’s thought process behind this.
The theme of The Cutting Room is film. It’s a rather tenuous theme, but that’s to the advantage of the book, as it means there’s a variety to the stories that prevents them being too similar. This anthology contains some of my favourite writers – Dennis Etchison, Peter Straub, David Morrell, Gemma Files, Nicholas Royle, Joel Lane, Gary McMahon – so it was not likely to disappoint.
It’s fair to say that there are some great tales included (not all of them horror). This is one I could recommended without a second’s hesitation.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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The Girls by Emma Cline

Emma Cline’s The Girls is a fascinating coming of age story set in Los Angeles of the late 1960’s. It details the almost-obsessional relationship between a young girl, Evie, and a group of girls whose paths cross one fateful day.

It’s not a spoiler to say that this novel is a fictitious account surrounding a very real and infamous event – the Charles Manson killings.

Cline’s description of the ranch is artfully done, and Evie’s spiral of descent into darkness is heartbreaking and believable. You can almost feel the LA sun on your face as you read it.

I’ve long-been fascinated by this true crime case – mainly by the overpowering influence that Manson managed to exert upon his followers – so for me the novel worked on both a fictional sense as well as an example of social reportage. Recommended.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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Thin Air by Michelle Paver

Michelle Paver wrote a superb ghost story in Dark Matter, an incredibly creepy novel set in the Arctic in the 1930s.
This novel, Thin Air, strikes a similar tone, only this time it details a fateful  Himalayan expedition.
Paver beautifully invests the novel with an unsettling sense of isolation. The real strength of the writing – and the way it most succeeds as a ghost story – is the subtle and understated manner of the prose. The disturbing moments benefit from Paver’s lack of melodrama. The writing is incredibly effective and there are scenes that chill the blood, even if read during the day. It isn’t particularly bloody or violent, and, again, this works in the novel’s favour.
If you are looking for a decent period ghost story, offering something very  different, you’d do well to pick this up. Highly recommended.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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It’s been a while since I’ve had chance to update my blog (due to my personal life taking a priority for the past year or so) but I jut wanted to update things to reflect that my second short story collection, MURMURED IN DREAMS, was published in 2019 by the lovely people at Luna Press Publishing, based in Edinburgh.

This book collects together 17 of my stories published over the last few years, together with two original tales. Priya Sharma, one of my favourite writers (and a very good friend) was kind enough to provide an introduction, and the wonderful cover art was created by the incredibly talented Ben Baldwin.

You can purchase it from the Luna Press website here.

Cuckoo Spit (originally published in Black Static 27 edited by Andy Cox)

None So Blind (originally published in Shadows & Tall Trees 3 edited by Michael Kelly)

Apports (Black Static 36 edited by Andy Cox, reprinted in Best Horror of the Year 6 edited by Ellen Datlow)

Lord of the Sand (The 11th Black Book of Horror edited by Charles Black, reprinted in Best Horror of the Year 8)

Somewhere On Sebastian Street (Horror For Good edited by Mark C Scioneaux, RJ Cavender and Robert S Wilson)

Bandersnatch (Black Static 48 edited by Andy Cox)

Fear of the Music (Something Remains: A Tribute to Joel Lane edited by Peter Coleborn and Pauline Dungate)

The Summer of Bradbury (Terror Tales of Yorkshire edited by Paul Finch)

The Devil’s Only Friend (Horror Uncut edited by Joel Lane and Tom Johnstone)  

Pennyroyal (original)   

Husks (Murmurations An Anthology of Uncanny Stories About Birds edited by Nicholas Royle)

The Children of Medea (original)

What Grief Can Do (Crimewave edited by Andy Cox)

The Ivory Teat (The First Book of Classical Horror Stories edited by D F Lewis)

Double Helix (Ill at Ease 2 edited by Mark West)

Happy Sands (Postscripts edited by Nick Gevers)  

Rapid Eye Movement (Fear the Reaper edited by Joe Mynhardt)

The Cambion (Cemetery Dance 72 edited by Richard Chizmar)       

It Came From the Ground (Darkest Minds edited by Ross Warren and Anthony Watson)

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Review section added to the site

Just a quick update to say that I have introduced a review section, which links to my Goodreads reviews for books that I have read and reviewed. Occasionally some of these are provided by NetGalley, although I tend in general to post reviews of books that I’ve actually purchased.

I hope you see something that you might want to read yourself.

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The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak

An incredibly entertaining slice of retro fun, this novel is essentially a coming of age story that blends many pop-culture references from my childhood.
It’s a strange book – in that it’s difficult to predict what will happen – but it befits the story and adds an exciting overview to events.
It’s quite a fast-paced book and one I’d recommend, especially to readers who remember what life was like in 1987 (moreso if one was a teenager then)

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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The Summer of Impossible Things by Rowan Coleman

This is a very intriguing novel with mystery elements blended skilfully with the concept of time travel.
The science part (ie the time travel) is casually done – there’s no hard scientic theory included – but that’s not really important, as it’s a plot device rather than a concept that needs fully explaining in terms of the narrative.
The era is beautifully created (New York City during the late 1970s) and I really liked the characters, some of whom are not exactly as they first appear.
It’s quite a gentle read, and I mean that as a compliment. If you’re looking for an intriguing page-turner for a beach holiday or a flight, this book is a decent read.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner

I read this when I was a child (and really enjoyed it) so I was wary of a reread now, as so often things change over time (essentially a gap of 40 years), moreso with this being a children’s book.
However I was plesantly surprised by how enjoyable it was to once again journey with Colin and Susan and their quest to return the titular stone to its rightful place.
The pace is superb, and the novel is action-packed, albeit lacking slightly in characterisation. But the Cheshire locations are wonderfully evoked and there’s a superb atmosphere to be had. I particularly enjoyed the Britishness of the myths and legends woven into the plot. A couple of the scenes – when the children were trying to escape through the labyrinthine mine tunnels, some of which were flooded – that were actually frightening and claustrophobic.
This is a great novel, one than can be enjoyed by all readers in search of a decent fantasy story.

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

NORTHERN LIGHTS by Philip Pullman

 I confess to feeling a little underwhelmed by this. Not sure I will bother with the others in the series. It’s competently written, but not groundbreaking in the way I was expecting. Perhaps I had a false impression of the novel, and it’s maybe unfair to judge it by something beyond its control. I realise I’m probably not its target audience either. Not a disaster but not one I could recommend to everyone.

Rating: 3 out of 5.
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APPORTS is published in Nightmare magazine

My short story APPORTS, which was originally published in Black Static and was later reprinted in Best Horror of the Year 6, is now available to read online in Nightmare magazine, edited by John Joseph Adams. The entire issue (66 from March 2018) is available to purchase for just $2.99 – or an annual subscription costs $23.88, and also features fiction from A Merc Rustad, Lilliam Rivera, and M Rickert, and non-fiction from John Joseph Adams, Adam-Troy Castro, Charles Payseur and Sandra Odell.

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