Author and Scriptwriter

'Among the most important writers of contemporary British horror.' -Ramsey Campbell

Monday, 23 March 2015

In Order Of Disappearance

I've got a new film review up over at This Is Horror, of Hans Petter Moland's In Order Of Disappearance, starring the ever-reliable Stellan Skarsgard.

You can read it here.

Friday, 20 March 2015

The BFS on Black Mountain

No, I don't mean that the folk who run the British Fantasy Society have been dragged to Mynydd Du and are currently being eaten,/torn limb from limb/driven murderously insane there. Although I'm sure that would make a good short story some time.

Nope - what I mean is that there are not one, but two pieces of news today that relate to both the BFS and Black Mountain. And they go something like this.

David Brzeski has reviewed my little serial novel on the BFS website. The full review is here, but the upshot is basically this bit:

'If anything, the quieter parts—where everything is inexplicably going to hell, and the protagonists have no idea why, beyond blaming each other—are scarier than the gory part, where people get ripped to shreds...  Simon Bestwick does a great job of varying the writing style throughout to suit that of the various narrators in their various periods—assuming, that is, that he did write it, rather than just transcribe them from the originals.'

Well, about that last point, I'll never tell. ;)

The second point regards awards eligibility. Being novel-length but in instalments - each one a self-contained narrative - I wasn't sure which category Black Mountain fell in (always assuming, of course, that any of you guys feel like voting for it!) So I emailed the BFS Awards Admin (thank you Steve Theaker!) and this was his reply;

'If the whole novel appeared over the course of 2014, in whatever format, then I'd say it's eligible as a novel in the current awards. The individual instalments would also be eligible as short stories.'

So there you go - you can nominate the whole thing for Best Novel if you wish, and/or your favourite individual instalment (if you have one) for Best Short Story (all the individual instalments are under 15,000 words, which makes them short stories rather than novellas from the BFS's viewpoint.)

Or, of course, you can vote for something else entirely, as you wish. :)

Thanks for your time, folks, and have a great weekend.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Tales To Terrify: The Children Of Moloch

The brilliant Tales To Terrify podcast is out again, this time featuring my story 'The Children Of Moloch'.

Tales To Terrify was originally presented by Lawrence Santoro, who sadly passed away last year. I never had the pleasure of meeting Larry, but I know he was highly rated as a writer and a host - and most of all, as  a person. I'm very proud to be on the show, which is now presented by Stephen Kilpatrick.

'The Children Of Moloch,' given a superb reading here by J.K. Shepler, was originally published in Death Rattles, an anthology from Gray Friar Press, alongside stories by John Llewellyn Probert, Thana Niveau, Paul Finch, Gary McMahon and editor Gary Fry. It made Ellen Datlow's recommended reading list.

It's a story I'm very proud of, but be warned: it's not a story for the easily upset. It is set in a children's home during the 1980s where many of the children are abused by members of the staff, and is, all told, pretty damned grim.

You can listen to it here, free of charge; if you wish, you can make a donation to help keep Tales To Terrify going.

You can read more about Death Rattles here, and buy it here if you so wish.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Tales Of Redman's Hill. And Gratuitous Cute Hedgehogs.

'Wot no Redman's Hill?'
As you all know by now, my new novel Redman's Hill comes out from Solaris in December 2016.

I know you must all be sobbing your hearts out in disappointment (oi, I told you yesterday about giggling at the back) so in the meantime here's some bullshit here are some wafflings here are some thoughts and musings on how the book came about, over on the Solaris Books website.

Also, here are some wholly unnecessary pictures of cute hedgehogs. Why? Because I'm awesome like that. Because there isn't any cover art yet with which to liven this post up. And because, really, when you come down to it, there's no such thing as an unnecessary cute hedgehog pic.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Redman's Hill

Me upon hearing the news.
So, the first post of 2015...

Bloody hell: March already. The time whizzes by fast. But I haven't posted because I've had nothing to say, only because I haven't been able to say it...

Well, as you may remember, back last year I intimated I had some big book-related news to break. I've had to bite my tongue while release dates and whatnot were sorted out, but now at last I can say it:


*bounces around the house squeeing like a mofo*


Me unable to share the news.
The novel will be coming out through those lovely people at Solaris Books (you know, those nice folks who brought you The Faceless) and edited by the steady hand of Jonathan Oliver (who you can blame for both The Faceless AND Tide Of Souls.)

Now, I know you're desperate to know what my new book's about (stop laughing at the back), so here's a bit of a blurb:

The suburb of Crawbeck stands on a hill outside Manchester, overlooking the woodlands of Browton Vale. Alice Collier was happy here, once; now her life’s fallen apart and she’s come
Me, now able to share the news.

Standing on the hilltop, 378 Collarmill Road looks like an ordinary semi-detached house. But sometimes, the world outside the windows isn’t the one you expect to see. And sometimes you’ll turn around and find you’re not alone.

John Revell, an old flame of Alice’s, reluctantly comes to her aid. Together they begin to uncover the secrets and legends of the past – the legends of the Beast of Crawbeck and the mysterious Red Man, and the secrets of the shadowy and ruthless Arodias Thorne.

Alice’s house stands at a gateway between worlds, a gateway she and John must learn to open. Because something ancient has been disturbed, and something dark is coming.

Redman's Hill will be released in December 2016. You can read Solaris' press release here.

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

So, 2014....

It's been an eventful year, both good and bad.

2014 was the year that I moved from Swinton to Liverpool to be with the woman I love. A big decision, but one I'm still very happy about.

2014 was also the year in which we lost a lot of good people. I can't count the actors and musicians and writers that were taken from us, among them Graham Joyce, one of our best novelists. The first anniversary of Joel Lane's passing came and went, and I tried and failed to find something to say. And, this month, it hit closer still to home, when Cate's mum passed away.

I published a few stories, together with a serial that might possibly count as a new novel - and I still have that Very Good News to deliver (but that will have to wait until the New Year.)

I want to take the opportunity to thank the many people whose kindness and support have meant so much of late. My family, my friends - and the reviewers and fans too. A good online review, or a personal message on how much you enjoyed a story or what it meant to you, means one hell of a lot, and it's one of the kindest gifts you can give a writer.

Just a quick round-up, then, of my credits this year:

As White As Bone, published in Matter #13 (May 2014, allegedly. I'm still yet to receive either payment or a contributor copy.)
The Lowland Hundred, published in Dead Water, ed. Len Maynard and Mick Sims. (June 2014)
The Battering Stone, published in Horror Uncut, ed. Tom Johnstone and Joel Lane (October 2014)
Night Templar, published in Blasck Static #43, ed. Andy Cox. (November 2014)

It may or may not count as a novel - although it will be coming out as a single volume print edition in the future - but if it does, there was Black Mountain. The first episode went up on the Spectral Press website last Christmas as a free taster, before being published as an ebook in early 2014. Thanks to the eagle-eyed James Everington and Anthony Watson and to all kind souls on Amazon for noticing it and reviewing it. And to Simon Marshall-Jones for commissioning it, Graeme Reynolds for the proofing and formatting, and Neil Williams for that stellar artwork.

It was still a tough year professionally, with many crises of confidence. But I'm still here. And the work goes on.

Here's to a better 2015 for us all. Have a good - and safe - New Year, folks.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Caroline Trayler: Getting Away With Murder

In his introduction to Night Shift, Stephen King talks about writers having a brain filter. It’s like, he says, the grille over a drain; depending on size, some stuff falls through and is washed away, while some sticks, and stays. In the case of a writer, the stuff that sticks and stays becomes what you write about.

Some stuff sticks and some doesn’t, and what gets caught in the filter sometimes seems to be without rhyme or reason. In my case, it tends to be the weird and the odd, peculiar little ‘what-ifs?’ or ‘what-happened-nexts?’ Sometimes it’s stuff out of history (and that can be a ballache, given the need to research, although the internet makes it a lot easier – to the point that you can get happily lost in the highways and byways of it, forever clicking just one more hyperlink on Wikipedia to learn about this or that.)

Disasters often catch my attention, though not always the obvious ones: the Titanic fell through my personal brain filter whole, but the R.101 airship stuck, resulting in a book I can’t seem to sell and an ability to put people into a light coma by telling them stuff about airships that they never knew and never particularly wanted to.

Big things, little things, without rhyme or reason. The latest among them is a young woman who died thirty-one years before I was born. Her name was Caroline Trayler.

You’ll read about Caroline Ellen Trayler, nee Stapleton, in a number of true crime books. One or two of them may even have a picture of her. But – at least in Britain – you’ll be hard-pressed to find one on the internet. There's one here - which I was unable to copy - but it won't show up on Google Image searches. I'll have more to say about that shortly.

Caroline was eighteen years old, with auburn hair. She was a very pretty, even beautiful, young woman; she’d just married Sergeant Edgar Trayler, of the Durham Light Infantry, who’d shortly after been posted to North Africa. Lonely and bored, she was a popular girl in the dance halls in Folkestone, rarely without a dancing partner. How much further it went than that is debatable, but on Sunday 13th June, 1943, when she left the Mechanics Arms pub on the arm of a soldier on leave, it went far enough. She was never seen alive again.

Caroline’s body was found four days later in an abandoned shop. She’d been raped and strangled, and her wedding and engagement rings taken. Gunner Dennis Edmund Leckey, originally from Manchester, now of the Royal Artillery, went AWOL the same day. He admitted leaving the pub with Caroline, but claimed she’d been alive when they parted. He’d run off because he was overcome with guilt at his infidelity and wanted to get home and tell his wife. The claim might have been more believable had Leckey not been in another woman’s bed two nights after Caroline Trayler’s death. A friend testified Leckey had shown him an engagement ring he claimed another woman had given him.

Leckey was convicted and sentenced to hang, but the sentence was quashed on appeal. The judge, in his summing-up, made much of the fact that when picked up, Leckey had refused to speak until his solicitor was there. A guilty man might well have more to fear from the truth than an innocent one, but – at least in those days – the law was clear that no inference of guilt could be drawn from a suspect exercising his perfectly legal right to silence.

In the films, of course, blatantly guilty men escape justice on some tiny technicality all the time. Just as all a psychopathic killer needs to do is hire a smart lawyer and the copper’s hands are tied, and there’s always a ticking clock, somewhere, that means we’ve just got to throw the Declaration of Human Rights out of the window and torture this suspect. That’s in the films. In real life, it almost never happens. Almost.

That one technicality – an inexplicable error in an experienced, well-respected judge’s summing-up – meant that Dennis Edmund Leckey walked free. No-one else was ever charged with Caroline Trayler’s murder, for the excellent reason that the killer had, almost certainly, been caught already... and then got away with it.

Caroline’s husband went AWOL too, rushing home when he heard of his wife’s murder. And Leckey? Well, a copy of The London Gazette dated 11th February 1944 declares thata Dennis Edmund Leckey – of Manchester, currently serving with thearmed forces – was changing his name to Haines. A question on agenealogy forum mentions a Dennis Edmund Leckey dying in 1997. (Interestingly, another Dennis Leckey, also from the Ashton-under-Lyne area where Gunner Leckey originated, was convicted of multiplecounts of child abuse in 1997.)

But there’s very little else. And if you type the names of either killer or victim into Google and search for images of them, you’ll find none. You will find a note at the bottom of the Google search page telling you that some results may have been removed under European data protection law. When you follow the link to learn more, you’ll see it refers to the right to be forgotten.

Given just how much a complete stranger can learn about you through those means, it’s no bad thing that you can effectively make your personal data invisible to web searches. It’s still out there, of course, but it’s a hell of a lot harder to find. And of course, if you have had something like a wrongful murder conviction hanging over you, you might well want to exercise that right.

Maybe Caroline’s family wanted her to be forgotten, rather than have her cruel and ugly death dragged out into public view. Or maybe it was to protect the man convicted of her murder. In which case – as her name would invariably come up in connection with his – Dennis Leckey, or those acting on his posthumous behalf, have largely erased Caroline Trayler. You could almost say that for the second time, he killed her and got away with it scot-free.

This is the kind of thing that sticks in my personal ‘filter’, anyway. It’ll probably become a story at some point.

The right to be forgotten is one thing; being condemned to it is something else. Caroline Trayler didn’t deserve to die that way, didn’t deserve to have her killer escape justice. No-one can do anything about that now – unless you believe in an afterlife – but she doesn’t deserve to be forgotten either. Whatever I write will be a tiny act of commemoration, like a candle lit in memory.

You might ask – quite reasonably – why I feel that way about one of the millions of the world’s dead – a woman I never knew, dead three decades before I even popped out into the world. But I can’t give you an answer to that. Any more than I can answer why her case, out of so many others in a true crime book, stuck in my memory. Why I wrote a novel about R.101 and not the Titanic. Why I write ghost stories instead of Westerns, crime stories instead of romances.

It’s just the way I’m built.

I can live with that.