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HIVE MONKEY By Gareth L. Powell ................................................................................................................................................ 2 MONSTERS IN THE HEART By Stephen Volk ................................................................................................................................ 2   STATE OF HORROR: ILLINOIS ....................................................................................................................................................... 3   The Function Room: The Kollection and The Horror Fields By Matt Leyshon .................................................................................. 3   SIGNAL TO NOISE By Silvia Moreno-Garcia ................................................................................................................................... 6   RED MENACE By Jenny Ashford ...................................................................................................................................................... 6   THE RABBIT BACK LITERATURE SOCIETY By Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen .................................................................................. 6   David Moody Interview ........................................................................................................................................................................ 8   HATERZ By James Goss ................................................................................................................................................................... 16   PLAGUE OF THE UNDEAD By Joe McKinney .............................................................................................................................. 16   DARIO ARGENTO’S DRACULA .................................................................................................................................................... 16   Ramblings of a Tattooed Head By Simon Marshall-Jones ................................................................................................................. 20   CANNONBRIDGE By Jonathan Barnes ........................................................................................................................................... 21   FOR A FEW SOULS MORE By Guy Adams ................................................................................................................................... 23   TUSK .................................................................................................................................................................................................. 23   STRANGERS By David Moody ........................................................................................................................................................ 25   THE JAMES LOVEGROVE COLLECTION – VOLUME ONE By James Lovegrove .................................................................. 25   HORNS ............................................................................................................................................................................................... 27   ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE ......................................................................................................................................................... 27   DOCTOR SLEEP By Stephen King................................................................................................................................................... 29   TREES VOL 1 By Warren Ellis and Jason Howard .......................................................................................................................... 30   [REC] 4: APOCALYPSE ................................................................................................................................................................... 30   From the Catacombs: New knowledge and Pretty Pictures By Jim Lesniak ..................................................................................... 33  

Edited By Stanley Riiks. Written By Adrian Brady, Jim Lesniak, Matt Leyshon, Simon Marshall-Jones, Stanley Riiks, C.M. Saunders, Brett Taylor. Proof-read By Sheri White. © Morpheus Tales April 2015. Morpheus Tales Back Issues and Special Issues are available exclusively through For more information, free previews and free magazines visit our website: Morpheus Tales Review Supplement, April 2015. COPYRIGHT April 2015 Morpheus Tales Publishing, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Review can be used, in full or in part, for publicity purposes as long as Morpheus Tales Magazine is quoted as the source.

HIVE MONKEY By Gareth L. Powell   This review will likely start off like every review of Powell’s work I’ve written, saying how impressed I was with his first collection from the awesome and now hibernating/demised Elastic Press. It was filled to the brim with great stories and amazing ideas, and it was riveting. The books that followed sadly fell a little flat. That was until Powell hit his stride with the first monkey book, Ack-Ack Macaque. Although I don’t remember it in great detail, I remember it being an exciting steampunk thriller and I actually bought this second book in the series because it was so good. I rarely, if ever, buy books, as I get plenty for review, so that’s a pretty big recommendation. This second book works perfectly well as a stand-alone novel, as although it carries on from the first and there is some history, it works well as backstory to this one. The skyliner that is home to the monkey who escaped from a game, and a brain damaged captain and her holographic ex-husband, comes under threat when a man from a parallel universe is murdered. The investigation into the murder brings the skyliner crew into conflict with a hivemind cult intent on take over the world. Can Ack-Ack, Victoria, Paul and K8 save the world again? The plot doesn’t really capture the essence of the book, you miss out on the style and the characters that really raise this above your average SF steampunk thriller. Powell has created a really unique cigar-chomping spitfire pilot of a macaque who really brings the story to life, the other characters are mere background cast, this isn’t really an ensemble piece, despite Powell’s efforts. And the world that Powell has created is filled with interesting ideas: a United Kingdom of France, Norway, UK and Northern Ireland; zeppelins; parallel universes; laser guns; Neanderthals assassins, and a whole lot more.

Great world, great character, great style, all put together with decent plot and some nice background characters. I will be back for more with the third book in the series soon, and recommend this for any fan of monkey fan, and anyone who likes a bit of fun. Great SF has never been so hairy. By Stanley Riiks MONSTERS IN THE HEART By Stephen Volk Monsters in the Heart is a collection of fifteen varied short stories written by the talented Stephen Volk (author of the novella Whitstable and the television series Afterlife, to name a few of his achievements) and published by Gray Friar Press. As you might expect, this is a nuanced and subtle collection, not a scare’em, bleed’em, and leave’em romp. Volk’s lyrical prose explores a variety of monsters, both human and non, including those who wear their monstrosity superficially and those in whom it is deeply embedded in the depths of the heart. The collection opens with the filmreferenced and surprisingly moving story, “After The Ape.” which picks up the narrative after the death of King Kong and takes a left-field look at the real monsters in the story, not the gentlemanly ape hounded to his death on top of the Empire State Building. This is followed by a cinematically futuristic tale, “Who Dies Best.” which opens with the memorable line, “I watched my mother die again today,” and deals with horrifically plausible state-sponsored snuff movies. The monsters in this collection come in all shapes and sizes. In other stories there are zombie transformations in North London, ghostly estate agents, terrifying human-dragon hybrids, predatory humans, moon-headed anomalies, children struggling with the act of growing up, suburban crucifixions, sex 2

and violent death in the London Underground, and a gruesome Japanese folk tale where the greatest fear makes monsters of us all. What links these stories, apart from Volk’s smooth prose, is ambiguity. As Volk himself says in the Afterword to the collection, “Monsters are ambivalent. Ambiguous. Shape shifters. No question. Our closest friends and neighbours (like Fred and Rose West, Peter Sutcliffe, Ted Bundy) can be monsters, and paradoxically monsters (like Dracula, Frankenstein, and the stop-motion creatures of Ray Harryhausen) can sometimes feel like our dearest and oldest friends.” This ambivalence haunts these stories hand-in-hand with a very human need for love: for parents, for children, for siblings, lovers, and partners. Not perhaps an obvious subject for horror stories, but a striking one nevertheless and one wellsuited to the thought-provoking nature of many of these tales. As I said at the beginning of this review, this isn’t a book to read if you are looking for quick, instantaneous thrills. If, however, you are seeking a well-written, thought-provoking set of stories to be considered and savoured, then go out and read this book. It’s good. By J.S.Watts STATE OF HORROR: ILLINOIS

research to extreme levels, and Stuart Conover’s contribution, ‘Chicago Blues,’ which is easily one of the most shocking and exhilarating slabs of fiction I’ve read in years. As the introduction claims, ‘In some ways Illinois has always been a symbol of leaving on a great adventure.’ And so it proves if you pick up this book. Looking forward to reading other volumes. There are worse ways of being shown around the USA. By C.M. Saunders The Function Room: The Kollection and The Horror Fields By Matt Leyshon Adam has asked me to write a short article about my Morpheus Tales publications; The Function Room: The Kollection and The Horror Fields, an anthology of rural horror. He asked me to say a bit about my inspirations, where the two books are similar, and how they differ.

This anthology edited by Jerry E Benns is the first in a proposed series. Rather than have a set theme, each book contains stories set in, or connected to, a particular US state. In this case, that state is Illinois. Being British, the flavour and nuances of individual US states are largely wasted on me, but I can appreciate a good yarn when I come across one, and the book gets off to a great start with Claire C. Riley’s take on the zombie genre ‘Out Come the Wolves.’ Other stand-outs are ‘Ritter House’ by A. Lopez, Jr, about a writer who takes

To begin, both titles do have a clear relationship beyond my involvement. In each title the action takes place largely in rural environments and close attention is 3

paid to nature’s details. But in other ways they are very different, perhaps most obviously by the relative absence of blood and gore in The Horror Fields. It is true that both books were reactionary in some way. The Function Room is a series of stories that were intended to stand in direct opposition to the current trend at the time for quiet horror. I find contemporary quiet horror to be largely uninteresting; stories that are low on invention and high on characters that are only so believable because they’re so realistically dull. In The Function Room you won’t find characters that are likely to be living next door or sat next to you at work; Gormo Gloom and Annie could only exist in The Function Room. And you will encounter ideas that even stretch the theory of anything being possible within an infinite universe. You’ll also find a complete disregard to the horror writer’s bible, On Writing by Stephen King, which also gets the two fingers from Justin Aryiku in The Horror Fields. The Horror Fields was a response to my feeling that the countryside was neglected in contemporary horror writing except as a backdrop to tropes about standing stones or The Wicker Man-esque pagan rituals (there is a standing stone story in The Horror Fields, but of all those I encountered reading the submissions, it was the best).

The idea for an anthology of rural horror had been with me for some time, and even now, following the publication of The Horror Fields, it still lingers. It lingers because it can surely be bettered; but some of the stories in The Horror Fields would most definitely feature in my perfect anthology of rural horror. I very much wish I had written “Where the Marshes Meet the Sea” by Edward Pearce, for example; it is one of the best short stories that I read in the whole of 2014 and is worth the cover price on its own. I was also pleased to include “Across the Water” by James Everington for its political message, a bold subtext of the type that many horror writers seem to deliberately avoid. But more importantly for me, what both publications have in common is a disregard for the perceived reader. These are stories by writers who I felt wrote for themselves. As a result, neither book is afraid to offend, and neither book attempts to make horror easy. And real horror shouldn’t be easy, it shouldn’t be quiet, and it shouldn’t be pure escapism. Real horror for me should be political, philosophical, progressive, and confrontational. Whether I have succeeded in that over these two books for Morpheus Tales is a matter for you, the reader, to decide. But fortunately, with an objective to dwell on the unpalatable, it means that if you don’t like them, I might still consider them to have been a success. 4


SIGNAL TO NOISE By Silvia MorenoGarcia

follows the increasin gly panicked Paige as she struggles to make sense of the maelstro m she has unwittin gly walked into. Well written, fresh, and exciting, Ashford spins a beguiling little tale with more than a passing nod to the old masters. Ultimately, it is a bone-chilling story of witchcraft and revenge which, as we all know, is a dish best served cold. Great stuff. By C.M. Saunders

This fantastical musical treat of a novel is set in Mexico City. The twin threads of the plot follow Meche, in 1988 where Meche and her friends surround themselves in music and discover a way of harnessing its power to use as magic. And 2009, where Meche’s father’s death brings back memories and friends from the past, reigniting history… Magic realism, Young Adult, this book can be described as many things, but categorising it merely limits the amount of readers who will enjoy it. Intelligent and captivating characters, a brilliantly realised world developed with a unique perceptive, it’s difficult to find anything to criticise. A brilliantly realised Mexico City, a marvellously entertaining story, with great characters. You can’t expect anything more. By Adrian Brady RED MENACE By Jenny Ashford


When newlyweds Daniel and Paige Stanford move into Daniel’s childhood home, they have barely begun to unpack when a diseased half-blind old woman turns up on their doorstep. Just what you need, right? Things get worse when it transpires that the woman is a blast from Daniel’s distant past, and has a strange hold over him. She claims to be the old housekeeper employed by his family to keep the property in shape, fallen on hard times, and Daniel is keen to help her out. Big mistake. She has an agenda, the details of which are slowly divulged as this creepy, atmospheric tale unfolds. What is the connection between the newlyweds, the old hag, and a series of brutal murders? And why are the upper levels of their home one big homage to Poe’s Masque of the Red Death? The main arc of Red Menace

A book virus. A strange literary society, whose leader disappears during a snow storm, and a small town in Finland… This is a very strange book, part mystery-thriller, part SF, part fantasy, utterly riveting. The book virus which changes the content and plots of books is a fascinating backdrop, and Ella, our heroine, is richly portrayed. The Finnish town of Rabbit Back is well developed, and imbues the book with a strange coldness. The author offers us a unique and intelligent perspective that draws the reader in. Magic realism/urban fantasy at its very best. Delightfully addictive and fascinatingly unique. By Adrian Brady 6


David Moody Interview

your own interests. In Strangers a family from the Midlands is uprooted and find themselves living in a small and isolated Scottish town. They’re immediately regarded with distrust, particularly as their arrival coincides with a spate of violent, sexually-motivated murders. Everybody points fingers at everyone else, and the divisions between folks come to the fore. And all the time, the bodies are continuing to stack up... I chose to release the book through Infected Books because it felt like an appropriate choice at the time. It’s proved to be a divisive novel – people love it or hate it – and I never considered it as a mainstream release. I’m a hybrid author with books published both traditionally and independently, and there are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. For a ‘dark and dirty horror novel,’ (as I’ve described Strangers) the pulp/ indie route seemed to fit perfectly.

What inspired you to start writing? I’ve always described myself as a frustrated film-maker. When I left school at 18, all I wanted to do was make films. It was more difficult back then – cameras were expensive and low quality, editing was nigh on impossible without specialist kit, and so on... I had a number of stories I was keen to tell, so writing seemed the logical next step. And once I started writing seriously, I couldn’t stop. It’s incredibly liberating, even after more than two decades. Your new book Strangers is being published by your own publishing company Infected Books. Tell us about the book and why you are choosing to publish it yourself. I’m fascinated by people and the way we act and interact (or don’t) with each other. We surround ourselves with rules and regulations and layers of expected behaviour, to the point where the ‘real us’ often gets buried and lost. In most of my previous books I exploited this by writing about apocalyptic situations where all the trappings of society are stripped away, leaving people vulnerable and, for once, surprisingly honest. Strangers was an attempt to turn that on its head: to look at how we use our position in society and our relationships to present what’s often a false image of ourselves. It’s easy to be dishonest to yourself on occasion, and to deceive people around you, either intentionally or unintentionally, to protect

What other writers have influenced you? My first answer to this question is always John Wyndham. The Day of the Triffids remains my all-time favourite book, and has had a profound effect on my writing. I was blown away by the way Wyndham made such an outwardly ridiculous proposition as seven-feet-tall carnivorous walking plants feel incredibly plausible and real. HG Wells was another early influence, and I would have loved to have experienced first-hand the effect that novels such as War of the Worlds must have had on late nineteenth-century audiences. As a writer, however, the late 8

James Herbert perhaps had the biggest impact on me of all. Reading Domain in my late teens really set me on the path to writing: I’d never read anything so relentlessly grim and horrific before, and I devoured every word. It’s the only book I’ve ever finished reading then gone straight back to page one and started again! I was fortunate enough to meet Jim on a couple of occasions when I hosted launch events for his last novel. He was incredibly frank and honest, and I learnt more about the business of writing professionally in the few hours I spent with him than anywhere else.

such appalling behaviours and such incredible achievements, that watching a half-hour news bulletin is usually enough to set my mind racing! A lot of my work focuses on our fear of ‘the other’ and that’s a theme which is really prevalent right now. It used to be that our enemy (for want of a better word) had a face and was clearly identifiable. Not anymore. I keep a document open at all times on my phone, tablet, and computer, and I use it to store ideas. Novels often form through a combination of these ideas and themes. I often start at the end of a story and gradually work my way backwards until the complete outline forms.

What are your other influences? As I said earlier, I always wanted to get into film-making, and so there are a number of directors who influence me heavily. John Carpenter and David Cronenberg immediately spring to mind, and I’ll happily watch any movie from their seventies and eighties output again and again. They truly were pioneers of the horror genre. I should give a mention to George Romero too, because his original ‘Dead’ trilogy had a massive impact on me and kickstarted my love of zombies. Watching Night of the Living Dead as a kid in the middle of a huge thunderstorm proved to be a seminal moment. Where do you get your inspiration? Wherever I can! As a self-confessed ‘people-watcher,’ all I have to do is look outside or switch on the TV for inspiration. The human race is capable of


Do you have any rituals or routines when you write? Not as such, though I do have a few basic rules I follow: • I work to targets, and will write a minimum of XXX words or XXX pages per day – I find it’s easier psychologically to break large projects down into smaller sections like this. • I won’t reread or edit anything until a draft is complete. I might make notes as I go along, but if I don’t get to the end there’s a dangerous temptation to stop and start again. Novels don’t usually make complete sense until the first draft is complete, and I often jettison much of what I write first time around. I write in chunks of time – usually 45 minutes. I have a program on my computer which I use to switch

off the Internet so I can focus. I find that 45 minutes is optimum: anything longer and I start to flag. So a full writing day is often a repeated series of 45 minutes work, 15 minutes break/ emails/ admin sessions.

If you could go back in time to when you started writing and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be? Have faith! Self-doubt can be a writer’s worst enemy. When you get a bad review, for example, it can cut deep and make you want to throw in the towel, particularly when you’re new to writing. Whether you realise it or not, you’re always putting something of yourself on the page, and that can make you feel vulnerable and unsure. I’d show my younger self what I achieved and tell myself to have the courage of my convictions. I’d also suggest I think carefully about selling the Autumn movie rights, because film adaptations don’t always turn out as you’d hoped (have you seen the Autumn movie?!).

How do you put a book together? Do you just sit down and write, or do you plan chapter-by-chapter? I’m a compulsive planner. I start with a very basic germ of an idea, then spend anything up to several years going over that idea in my head and gradually forming it into something resembling a cohesive story. I then write an outline which I expand into a chapter-by-chapter breakdown. I’ll then write a first draft, throw much of that out (as I said in my previous answer), then keep revising until I’m happy. I’m often asked about planning, because many other authors I know just pick up the pen or sit at the computer and write. I’d argue that we’re all trying to do the same thing: to get from that initial idea to a completed manuscript. I think we ultimately all do the same amount of planning, just at different stages of the process. You have to find what works for you. There’s no right or wrong way of doing it.

Your first book, Straight to You, was published without huge success, but your second book Autumn, which you decided to give away to build a readership, was a huge success. Tell us about those books and why you decided to give your book away. Straight to You was my debut novel, and when I signed that publishing contract I truly thought fame and fortune were just around the corner. How wrong I was! Having the book traditionally published, though, taught me a huge amount about the publishing industry and it was an invaluable experience. When I wrote the first version of Autumn back in the late nineties, zombies were nowhere near the 10

mainstream phenomenon they’ve since become, and I didn’t hold out much hope of finding a publisher. I’d just gone online for the first time, and that set me thinking about things in a different way. For the first time, writers had a quick and efficient way of communicating directly with the people they wanted to read their books. Building a readership was my priority, and so I made Autumn available as a free download from my site. These were preKindle days, and the ebook industry was microscopic. At the outset I was literally emailing Word and pdf files to interested folks! The experiment worked, though, because I think I hit the market at the right time: very few people were giving books away for free (compared to the what feels like millions of free novels available these days), ebooks began to gain traction, and zombies started to rear their decaying heads and shamble into the public awareness. Within a couple of years I’d managed to get Autumn out to more than half a million readers, and things just grew from there.

better my chances of being able to write full-time. I wrote Hater and released it through Infected Books to great response. It was something very different at the time: a brutal novel, with a stark blood-spattered cover (I later found that some people were buying the book just for the cover... they were getting odd reactions on the tube!). It was selling well, and I received an email from a production company in Los Angeles asking if the film rights were available. To cut a long story short, I ended up selling the rights to Mark Johnson (who went on to produce Breaking Bad) and Guillermo del Toro. A deal with Thomas Dunne Books in New York followed, and they picked up both the Hater and Autumn series. Hater in particular sold really well and has now been published in 14 countries. Many of your books are part of series. Is that just where the story takes you, or is it a more conscious commercial decision? Both. Dealing with the commercial side of things first, if you write a series and people connect with the characters and premise, it’s easier to generate decent sales. Each new book helps promote the others, and the audience tends to grow over time. From a storytelling point of view, I do think writing a series can help. The Hater series is a prime example of this. Though some people thought the ending was a little abrupt, to me it seemed like a logical place to stop. The books deal with the end

Hater brought you back to mainstream publishing. Tell us how that came about. After the success of the first Autumn novel, I wrote a series of sequels. I founded Infected Books to publish the books professionally in print and as ebooks. Before long, I was earning a decent income from my writing, and my logic said the more books I released, the 11

of the world through the eyes of one man, and each novel in the series deals with a specific part of the overall story: book one looked at the collapse of individuals, book two at the collapse of society, and book three at the end of the rest of the world. Sometimes, sequels don’t suggest themselves until the first book is being written or, even, until after release. There will be a sequel to Strangers, for example, and though I’d always envisaged the book I’m currently writing to be standalone, just this week it occurred to me how the story might be continued (if people want to read it, that is!).

Right now I’m inundated with books to blurb for other authors, so most of the books I’ve read recently haven’t yet been released. The last book I finished reading was The Last Plague, by debut author Rich Hawkins. I thoroughly enjoyed it. A grim, bloody, and well-written post-apocalyptic novel. What is your proudest moment as a writer? It’s difficult to pick one. Selling my first book was incredible. Selling the film rights to Hater was exciting beyond words. Walking into bookstores around the world and finding my books on the shelves is always a thrill... it’s just the greatest job. One thing that always means a huge amount, though, is when I’m at an event and someone will walk past and recognise my name or one of my books. The excitement (on both sides) when they tell you how much they enjoyed your book is infectious, the feeling priceless.

Do you read reviews of your work? How do you deal with criticism? You can’t not read reviews. And sometimes it’s hard. I think it’s important to remember that a review is one person’s opinion, and that we all have different likes and dislikes. The world would be a horrendously dull and monotone place if we didn’t! That said, I will read every review, because every viewpoint is equally valid. I used to work in training, and we were taught that there’s no such thing as negative feedback. It’s all important. There’s no denying that a bad review stings, though. I console myself with the thought that if I’ve had a bad review, it’s at least generated a response from the reader. That’s got to be better than not generating a response at all.

Are you disappointed with any of your work when you look back on it? That’s inevitable, I think. As you grow as a writer, you can’t help but be critical of your earlier work. I took the George Lucas approach to this, and re-wrote and rereleased a couple of my less-successful novels: Trust and Straight to You. I thought the stories were great, but the writing was incredibly naïve, not least because I’ve grown as a person since I first

What book are you reading now? 12

wrote them. When Straight to You was written, for example, I was single and living with my parents with very little responsibility. Fast-forward twenty years, though, and I’m married with kids and a mortgage, and I’ve been through a lot of stuff in my personal life... I think that all contributes to make my characters more realistic, and that’s the key to a successful novel.

through in the books. I’m fortunate to have found an audience with the same weird tastes as me! What do you like to do when you’re not writing? I love live music and comedy, and I’m a massive film watcher/collector. I still want to get into movie-making, so will take every opportunity I can to see films. Fortunately I live in walking distance from a multiplex, so am there regularly! My other non-writing passion is distance running. As well as keeping me fit, it helps keep me sane. When you’re running, in many ways you’re completely alone. It’s the only time I don’t get interrupted. I do some of my best work when I’m pounding the streets. I’ve come up with some great ideas and plot twists while I’ve been dragging myself around Birmingham!

What’s the best piece of feedback that you’ve had from your audience? That’s a difficult one to answer! I guess when people come back year after year and buy my books because they’ve enjoyed the previous ones – I get a real buzz from that. I’ve also had a number of emails from folks who said they didn’t really read (or write) before picking up one of my books, but now they’re addicted. That’s incredible. Rich Hawkins, for example, who I mentioned in an earlier answer, first got in touch after reading my books. It’s quite incredible to think that your writing might have such an impact on someone as to make them want to write themselves.

What parts of being a writer do you like best? And least? I love the freedom – you’re in complete control of the worlds you create. I love the reactions when people enjoy your books. I love and hate the fact I can’t switch off from writing. The job is full of contrasts. I like the isolation, but it can also be a dangerous thing. I’ve taken up a non-writing job to keep me balanced and sane. Previously I was spending too much time alone. I was so focused on my books, I was losing sight of what was important in the real world. That might sound pretentious, but it happens to be true!

What is the most important thing when becoming a writer? Keep writing. Don’t ever stop. Ever. Do you write for a particular audience, for yourself? For myself. If I wasn’t interested in the themes I’m writing about, that would come 13

You have sold rights to a couple of your books. Tell us about that experience. How involved have you been? Exhilarating and frustrating in equal measure! I sold film rights to Autumn and Hater within a few weeks of each other. Autumn was filmed by a small independent outfit in Canada, and Hater hasn’t yet hit the screen (though I may have some news on that in the near future). I deliberately signed both deals because they were at opposite ends of the business: a huge, well-known producer at one end, an indie at the other. The indie film, though I can’t help but be proud of parts of it, didn’t turn out that great. It starred David Carradine and Dexter Fletcher, but didn’t have the production values necessary. It’s difficult to be unbiased, because I try to write as if I’m watching a film, but in my head I have the perfect cast, unlimited budget, thousands of extras, idea locations, etc... I was told at the outset, though, that it’s better to have a bad film made of your book, than no film at all. I visited the set and made a cameo appearance in Autumn, but that was the extent of my involvement. Had Hater gone into production with Guillermo del Toro at the helm, I don’t think I’d have been consulted at all. I’m keen to be as hands-on as I can, but you have to accept that when you sell the rights, it becomes someone else’s baby.

That’s an impossible question to answer! I can’t think of any one person, I’m afraid. Am I allowed to pass on this one? That said, I’d love to shake the hand and chat to any of the authors and film-makers I’ve mentioned in my earlier answers. Which do you prefer writing/reading, short stories or novels? I have no preference. I think the important thing is to focus on the story, not the format. A great example of this is a novella I released last year called The Cost of Living. I’d struggled with the story for a long time, initially writing it as a short, then as a 750-word flash fiction. I didn’t think the premise was enough to sustain a full-length novel, so I just decided to write and see what happened. It came out at about 38,000 words, and has been really successful. That experience taught me a lot about style and format. If anyone’s interested, all the versions of the story are available as an ebook and in print as Last of the Living along with another 50,000 words worth of zombie novellas and short stories. What are you working on now? I’m writing a middle-grade novel called Kai. Think ET meets Godzilla and you’re halfway there! Next up is The Spaces Between – a four-book horror, sciencefiction series which I’m describing as Breaking Bad meets Quatermass.

Do you get writer’s block? How do you cope with it? I don’t, and I think that’s because I plan. It’s daunting when you’re about to start a new project, or when you’re trying to decide what your next project will be, but once you get going, the pressure’s released. By putting in place a relatively rigid structure through planning, I reduce the risk of sitting down at my computer and not knowing where I’m going with a story. As I said earlier, though, that’s just what works for me.

Do you have any advice for other writers? I’ve already answered this one, I think. Write, and keep writing, and have a little (but not too much) self-belief. What scares you? The real world. What makes a good story? A believable premise, a complete lack of clichés, and characters you can identify with.

If you could meet anyone, fictional or real, dead or alive, who would it be? 14


HATERZ By James Goss

town walled itself up to keep out the undead hordes and became self-sufficient. Whole lives were lived in this little contained community, which over time developed its own archaic rules and regulations designed to keep things harmonious. However, for many, especially those with distant memories of what the world was like before, there was always an itch to see what had become of the outside world in their absence. Little by little, they make inroads into the surrounding areas and eventually decide on a fully-fledged exhibition. It doesn’t take them long to realize that the undead have changed, and even more worryingly, other pockets of civilization have not only survived but prospered, and evolved much more than they have. There’s only so much you can do with zombies, so credit has to go to the author for at least trying to stretch the boundaries a little and do something a bit different. This is a pretty lengthy tome; the paperback version is padded out with a selection of short stories set in the same universe, which not only gives great value for money, but also gives the whole project added depth. In summary, you don’t have to be a zombie buff to enjoy McKinney’s work, but it definitely helps. By C.M. Saunders

This most modern novel could only be written in our time. Dave is fed up. He’s sick of the trolls and perverts and other people who make the internet such a dark place. He’s determined to clean it up. When he kills his best friend’s girlfriend he opens up a whole new world of opportunity… What follows is a riotous satire on modern living and social media with a crime thriller backdrop. Intelligent, telling, and funny as anything, this is a book that has a deep and dark insight into our obsession with living through the internet. Remarkable debut novel from a talented writer. By Adrian Brady PLAGUE OF THE UNDEAD By Joe McKinney Best known for his acclaimed Deadworld series, Bram Stoker Award-winner McKinney practically wrote the book (excuse the pun) on the zombie revival (excuse that pun, too). Taking place thirty years after the zombie uprising, Plague of the Undead launches the start of a new series of books, under the umbrella name The Deadland s. In the wake of the zombie attacks, a small

DARIO ARGENTO’S DRACULA 2012, IFC Films Oh my, where to begin. The mere title Dario Argento’s Dracula 3-D, which is what this movie was originally called, moved the Internet wags to laughter before the movie even makes it to America. Indeed, this movie has taken a beating. At least one review pointed to the line “I never eat…in the evening” as a nonsensical parody of Lugosi’s famous “I never drink…wine,” when in fact it is simply a loose translation, English to Italian and back again, of Dracula’s line in the novel, “I do not sup”. With a list of familiar names, 16

familiar in Europe anyway, it’s obvious this is nobody’s best work. Luciano Tovoli did famous work on Antonioni’s The Passenger many years ago, as well as being Argento’s standard dp. Working in a digital medium with a low budget and a brisk shooting schedule, Tavoli was not going to reach his previous heights. He does manage some nice lighting, mostly during the interiors, though nothing elaborate. Argento’s daughter Asia has already been in a sexier and more unique vampire movie, Les morsures de l’aube aka Love Bites. Italy’s top makeup pro Sergio Stivaletti has come back as supervisor, though it’s hard to say what he actually supervised as most everything on display is digital, as it is everywhere nowadays. It’s going to be tough for an unrepentant fan of director Argento to defend this latest version of Bram Stoker’s vampire novel. But I was in the minority in liking Argento’s Mother of Tears, so I will take a shot at it. In order to enjoy these twilight Argento works, you must adjust your expectations. You know it’s not going to approach the director’s best horror films. The last time he came close to a horror classic was Phenomena, way back in ’85. So just accept that it’s going to be a cheap Dracula movie and you might find yourself enjoying it. I’d rather watch this than the recent no budget adaptation Terror of Dracula or the expensive non-adaptation Dracula Untold. There have been so many bad Draculas, the Coppola version being my least favourite, that Argento’s version is passably entertaining, from my forgiving point of view at least. Not that the film doesn’t have its share of silliness. The digital effects would have been laughed at twenty years ago. The closing credits are accompanied by an Evanescence-like Eurorock ballad, “Kiss Me Dracula.” And camp fans are sure to relish the lines, uttered by an Orthodox priest, “You do not know what he is capable of! He is evil, Van Helsing!

Eevill!” Then there’s Van Helsing’s summation, “Thank God I had enough garlic for one bullet.” But the big laugh out loud moment is what us destined to be remembered as the Praying Mantis scene. That’s right, for the first time ever, Dracula transforms into a huge praying mantis and creeps up the stairs to annihilate one of the more likable characters with a bloody punch through the chest. It’s the funniest ten seconds of unintentional humour you’ll see all year. With his long hair falling out of a ponytail, a round face and nervy mannerisms, from slapping coins in a coachman’s palm and patting a departing Andalusian horse on the rear to simply nonstop hand wringing, Unaxe Ugalde is amusing as hero Jonathan Harker, and also un-English and therefore totally inappropriate to be playing any kind of Victorian businessman. But that’s beside the point, because the main story has been moved from London to the village of Passborg, because it’s near the Borgo Pass I guess, owing to the fact that the cheap locations, where Clydesdales romp along cobblestone streets as underpaid extras mill about and speak in dubbed voices, is so obviously East European. Thus the Westernas have been renamed the Kisslingers. And speaking of them brings us to another ridiculous bit of casting there’s forty year-old Asia as Lucy, a young unmarried debutante. Asia is still attractive but obviously middle aged. In the late nineteenth century twenty-five would have been an old maid. Forty would have been a grandmother. Since Asia is clearly no ingénue, it is all the more embarrassing that Dario should make her take her clothes off for the camera, just as he was having her do when she was a teenager way back in the Trauma days. It is no surprise that Asia, often looking pale and wan, occasionally becomes obviously ill-tempered and frustrated onscreen. Looking a bit like Louis Jourdan, the BBC Dracula, Thomas Kretschmann acquits himself rather well, though like 17

Jack Palance and Christopher Lee he has little of the supernatural about him, none of the exotic presence of Bela Lugosi. This count is a serious fellow, but with, you guessed it, a romantic side. Memorable villains were never a major goal for Argento, who rarely let characters get in the way of a memorable setpiece, so it’s also no surprise that this film boasts one of the least memorable Renfields. Rutger Hauer resists the temptation to overplay the role of Van Helsing and thus does not turn the part into a campy embarrassment, as Anthony Hopkins and Laurence Olivier did, though judging from his craggy appearance this may be due to weariness as much as any artistic choice. Their is also a bit of irony here, in that Rutger has been a Hollywood actor for so long that his accent has long since disappeared. Here we finally get an authentically Dutch actor in the role of the Dutch Dr. Abraham, and he doesn’t even play him as Dutch! Of course, the distinction would have been lost in this decidedly nonEnglish adaptation anyway. It seems to be an unwritten rule that every Dracula adaptation veers wildly from its source and yet still includes one heretofore ignored aspect of the novel. In this case Argento finds room for the Count’s lycanthropic tendencies, though I doubt Stoker had a bad morphing effect in mind. Argento has always been fond of animals and insects, even when they are purely metaphoric, as in his early film titles, so he uses the werewolf inclinations of Stoker’s Dracula as a cue for all kinds of animal transformation. A mere wolf is not enough for him, so he finds room for a mini-pack of smiling wolves and for Dracula to transform into a digital owl that looks like something left over from The Guardians of Ga’hoole. As for insects, Renfield’s bug-eating tendencies are just the beginning. Dario doesn’t just throw in a cockroach or two, oh no. He also throws in a swarm of flies, á la Phenomena, but these are just warm-ups for the big digital showstopper, the giant praying mantis. As

for that ridiculous scene, it no doubt played a lot better in Argento’s imagination. In the old days, when digital effects were just a rumor and Stivaletti was making creatures of varying believability for movies like The Church, they might have sort of pulled it off. Humour has never been Argento’s strong suit, and as usual he directs as though oblivious to the more absurd aspects of the script. He may be the only one taking the film seriously. Claudio Simonetti, on the other hand, composes a score that is nothing less than out and out parody, sending up horror movie cliché with outrageously ridiculous Theremin and later a little gypsy violin. Elsewhere Simonetti’s lush bombastic Romantic arrangements seem to be sending up Hammer Films, Max Steiner, and Schubert all at once. When Simonetti reverts to the operatic vocals of Phenomena it makes sense as an in-joke due to the shared insect themes. In his glory days as Italy’s most popular filmmaker, Argento would probably not have picked this project. Sony no doubt financed this movie as a response to the popularity of the Twilight films. In comparison to the director’s best work, it’s never going to measure up. But as far as Dracula adaptations go, it’s better than many. If you like the Dracula story and don’t mind the idea of one more loose adaptation, it’s pretty diverting. It plays better in the original Italian version, where the melodramatic acting style at least seems suited to the material. By Brett Taylor



Ramblings of a Tattooed Head By Simon Marshall-Jones

on Facebook. Some send submissions to publishers on spec, or submit their work to anthologies or magazines. I would say the vast majority of these hopefuls quietly plug away, receiving rejection after rejection but keeping at it until they make that breakthrough. Of late, I’ve been aware of a worrying trend emerging: the writer who lacks any kind of self-awareness. I’ve been seeing and hearing about these kinds of people, and quite frankly their antics defy common sense. Sure, it’s marvellous that you’re so enthusiastic about what you do – that’s one thing which is essential in this game. Having said that, however, that particular virtue must be tempered with a great deal of patience and circumspection, humility even. Plus, it’s very much a waiting game – remember, editors and publishers are very busy people, with lives of their own. So, what type of people am I talking about? Those are believe their work is beyond reproach, or those who take any opportunity to advertise their wares even in the most inappropriate of situations, or those who send emails that border on the stupid. Yes, it may be that you’re attempting to drum up some more sales (selling books is a good thing), but be careful where you do so. If someone on social media asks what you consider to be the best anthology of last year, then don’t proceed to enumerate one which you’ve edited and published yourself. Or, as happened to a writer friend recently, wish someone happy birthday and then say “I can help you sell more so buy my book which tells you how to!” That’s just the epitome of crassness. Or, yet again, if someone is asking advice on which is the best Print on Demand company, don’t give that advice in the form of “I used so-sandso for my book – buy my book and then you can see the quality of the product.” That, too, is the height of ineptitude and crassness. Another example, which I find quite indicative of those who lack that

Being a publisher can be quite exciting at times, especially when it comes to perks such as reading a manuscript that hasn’t yet been published, getting blown away by a piece of cover artwork, even discovering a promising new author, or meeting a favourite writer. One thrill which I absolutely love is publishing stories by writers whose work I read many years ago, people like Ramsey Campbell, for instance. Later on this year I’ll be talking about another venture which will really up the profile of Spectral Press, in which I will be publishing something of a “dream ticket” for a publisher, but you’ll just have to wait. Yes, like I say it can be exciting; however, there are downfalls, one of which I will be discussing this issue – the behaviour of certain types of writers, especially new ones just breaking into the scene. It’s great that you’ve sat down and had the patience and stamina to write a whole novel – many start but give up some way through, and many never reach the finish line at all. So hats off to all those who have stayed the distance – believe me, it’s quite an achievement. And, of course, with such services and platforms as Print on Demand, CreateSpace, and Amazon, as well as the eBook readers available, it’s easier than ever to release your work into the wild. Self-publishing has always been with us, even within the parameters of the ”traditional” publishing industry, just not on the scale we see now. Access and distribution are easier, and your potential readership numbers in the millions. Of course, it’s not quite as easy as that vignette portrays – the technology is there to make your book a reality, but marketing it is an entirely different matter. After all, if you pop onto Amazon Kindle Store there are hundreds of thousands of others doing the same thing. Most new writers join forums or create author pages 20

essential quality of self-awareness, is the one where another good friend, a quite well-known reviewer, received a request from a writer to have his book reviewed. In itself, there’s nothing wrong with that, as reviews are an essential part of the whole process. Where it stepped over the line was where the author included a link to the book with the expectation of the reviewer buying the book. This is a no-no. If anyone receives something like this, it’ll receive instant deletion. By reviewing your work, a reviewer is doing you a service – the least you can do by way of thanks is to send a copy to them gratis. The one I heard today, though, beats them all. Quite honestly it defies belief. A ”writer” sends a publisher/author an email saying they have a great idea for a book and then asks without a trace of irony whether they would expand it into a novel for them. The “writer” may think they’re being enterprising (some even offer a cut of sales!) but they inevitably come off as being cheeky and inept. If it’s such a great idea, then why not write it yourself? Don’t have time? Hard luck! Can’t write? Then learn. One further thing: if a publisher rejects your latest “genius” manuscript, or a reviewer gives you a bad write-up, don’t go ballistic over it. That is one sure-fire way of alienating the very people who can help you. And, furthermore, don’t bewail getting a bad review by making the excuse that they “don’t understand my work”. Here’s news for you – yes we do understand: we’ve done this long enough to have gained knowledge about how stories work, as well as what makes a good story and what doesn’t. Additionally, we can tell the difference between the two. We are quite open to helping and advising those who wish to learn and improve – in return those we offer that help and advice to must be open as well. After all, writing is a craft, just like wood-carving. A skilled wood-carver can look at a piece of raw material and say, “That’s going to be a horse, or a young woman with her arms

stretched upwards.” It may seem instinctive, but that instinct has been honed through years of experience and getting to know their materials. Talent is a necessary prerequisite, but learning from someone more experienced is the way to draw that talent out. The same applies to writing. If you are a new writer and want to win friends and allies, show a little tact and awareness. Remember, if you’re a difficult customer, the internet will let people know of it very quickly. CANNONBRIDGE By Jonathan Barnes The eponymous character is a 19th Century writer of various disciplines, the great writer of the period, a man who rubbed shoulders with Byron and Shelley, who is about to be celebrated for the 200th anniversary and the publication of his most famous work. Meanwhile, in the present day, Dr Toby Judd is an expert on Cannonbridge and follows his life, and believes the writer is a hoax. But as Judd investigates further he finds that things are not always what they seem… This is really a novel of two halves, which eventually come together for an interesting dénouement. The Cannonbridge sections have a kind of gothic style, while the modern sections have a contemporary style. Despite the slight clashes this does work for the most part, imbuing each part of the story with a unique voice. Interesting and different to most genre books, this is fascinating reading. By Adrian Brady




school, but Smith though it was funny enough to have his equally stoned listeners vote on whether he should make a movie of it. I wouldn’t put the blame on the majority of listeners, who voted yes. In their defense, they probably assumed Smith was planning to make something funny out of it. They didn’t realize that Smith was well into the “career suicide” stage of his life. It seems every filmmaker has one in-joke movie in his filmography, one idiosyncratic or even inexplicable movie made for the amusement of himself, his friends, and a few of his most loyal devotees. Sometimes it works. The African Queen had its followers, although Humphrey Bogart wasn’t one of them. Louis Malle’s Black Moon was interesting, certainly visually interesting, and Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye was a joke on the detective movie genre that spawned a mini-genre that includes The Big Lebowski and Inherent Vice, and it was one of Altman’s most acclaimed films. Pretty soon it seemed like every movie Altman made was just as likely to attract a mainstream audience, for about fifteen years. The others… well, there’s Soderbergh’s Schizopolis, Southland Tales from the guy that made Donnie Darko… Tusk has it both ways. It wants us to laugh at Smith’s usual white boy humor. But it wants us to think that the kind of guy who makes these jokes is deserving a horrible fate, or at least more deserving that everybody else. The main character is a shock jock type, a podcast host who thinks it’s funny to call his show The NotSee Party. Smith’s odd Catholic moralism turns up yet again in the midst of his latest supposedly irreverent comedy, as he is at pains to demonstrate that the lead is an adulterer and a jerk, so we won’t feel too sorry for him when his life is ruined by a gruesome fate. This leads to a boring scene in which his girlfriend cries about how mistreated she is, done seriously enough that you can’t tell if it’s a vicious male parody of a Lifetime movie or an actual

There is a lot going on here, and if you haven’t read the first two books in the trilogy you will need to catch up fast. After the war in Heaven, Paradise has fallen and become the forty-third state of America. Angels and demons must now co-exist with humans on Earth, and that’s going to lead to all sorts of problems… A kind of strange cowboy story, but with cars and demons and angels, this is a novel that needs to be read as part of a trilogy. It doesn’t really stand alone as the short book doesn’t provide any back-story, so there is no context. Mildly enjoyable, but not recommended to those who have not read the first two books in the series first. By Adrian Brady TUSK 2014, Lions Gate I was intrigued when I learned the nearest arthouse theater was playing Tusk. Could it be that Alejandro Jodorowky’s most obscure film was finally to be released in America? After all, the surrrealist director was experiencing a late revival due to a documentary about his unmade Dune movie, which indeed played this very arthouse. The truth was just as weird, but more disappointing. Kevin Smith has made a horror comedy, and the fact that it shares its title with an odd movie by Mexico’s reigning cinematic madman is just a coincidence. This Tusk is apparently the result of a smodcast, which I guess it a podcast for people who think they’re too smart for podcasts. During this particular smodcast Smith was goofing off with his cohost and they came up with the idea of a horror movie parody in which an unfortunate victim would be transformed into a walrus. This is the sort of conversation pothead boys have in high 23

attempt to win over any females whose boyfriends might have roped them into watching a Kevin Smith movie. The lead actor is Justin Long, who basically disappears into a costume halfway through the movie and never returns again. The movie almost seems to be turning serious as serial killer/mad scientist Michael Parks lures obnoxious podcast host Justin Long into his confidence with the amazing stories of his life, including one about sharing booze with Hemingway on a battleship galley at the Battle of Normandy. Why an insulting shock jock, who makes his living insulting people and saying superficial things, would believe these stories and be won over by them, is impossible to say. The movie turns into a Misery imitation when Long awakens from being drugged to realize Parks has imprisoned him and amputated his leg. But any chance that Smith might make a mixture of the absurdly comic and the disturbingly horrific á la Polanski or Tobe Hooper is quickly lost when the movie reveals its big joke-revelation: a shot of Long in a walrus suit. Yes, he’s been turned into a walrus. It all really is a joke after all, an overlong comedy skit. At this point there are two possible reactions. The more hardy Smith fans and more easily amused young male druggies will laugh and go, “Whoa, man! This is some fucked up funny shit! They must have been on drugs when they made this, just like me!” The other viewers will say, “This is stupid,” and turn the movie off, returning it to the Red Box with a grumble about wasting their $1.62. I imagine this will be the reaction in the redneck small town, where the horror movies are always checked out and where people don’t appreciate hipster irony. Because Tusk seems to be moving in a serious direction half the time, they won’t get it and will feel tricked if they do. Just as Smith builds his movie up to a halfway serious tone and then destroys it, so he gives Parks long, creepy monologues in the Red State manner only

to ruin any chances Parks’ performance will be taken seriously by having him speak in a “funny” retarded guy voice. And, on the subject of career suicide, Johnny Depp, made up to look like Robert DeNiro, drops by and basically takes over the last third of the movie to do a French Canadian caricature, complete with beret. At first the casting seems promising because there’s some humor to be found in the way the jaded detective casually relates gruesome crimes he’s encountered without regard for the shocked reaction of the friends of potential victims. But the humor dissipates as we realize the character is going nowhere, except into more overly familiar anti-French humor. And if that’s not culturally offensive enough, how about dragging up every possible Canadian stereotype? They say “aboot,” you know! Not about, aboot! They eat weird fries, and something they call poutine! They’re unfailingly polite and kind of boring! Smith is obvious in his Canada jokes, he even brings back the old bird call intro from the Mckenzie Brothers skits from SCTV. On the commentary track Smith brags about shooting his latest dialogueheavy movie in long takes, making himself out to be a hero for the slow cinema movement in an age of fast-paced movies with lots of cutting. Very admirable, no doubt, but that doesn’t mean there’s any need to watch it. He also claims that what he always wanted was to be a horror film maker in the vein of Davids Lynch and Cronenberg, so why has he done nothing but Clerks comedy until now? Christ, he’s planning Clerks 3 as we speak! David Lynch my ass. It sounds like he’s throwing some pandering in the direction of the horror fanboy crowd, the only likely audience for this and his last effort, Red State. It’s hard to say what Smith is doing here. A parody of the last scene of Freaks? A parody of The Human Centipede? But why? He does succeed in one thing. This is one of those movies that ruins a song for 24

you, for a while at least. Rex Reed hated Blue Velvet most because it ruined a song from his youth, the title song. Maybe Smith thought the sneering hipsters would forever take this movie to heart as a way to show their contempt for Fleetwood Mac, the way they used The Big Lebowski as proof that The Eagles sucked. Granted, “Tusk” is not most people’s favorite Fleetwood Mac song, but I didn’t need the image of men in dumb walrus costumes to be attached to it in my mind. Thanks, Kevin. Keep tokin’ your career away, dude. By Brett Taylor

go quite far enough. The end of the book (the last fifty pages) is where the book finally kicks up a gear and you get a sense of what this book could have been, and perhaps what Moody’s other books are like. But for some reason I didn’t get it. The characters didn’t hold my interest, the story felt like a cross between Rose Madder (but not nearly so good as the worst Stephen King book I’ve ever read), and Under The Skin (a film so terrible it became the first film in living memory I’ve not watched all the way through). Not dark enough, not violent enough, not surprising enough. Too predictable, too familiar, too much buildup, too long. It had some good bits, and judging by the reviews on Amazon I’m obviously in the minority, but this wasn’t what I was expecting. Felt like a typical poor cash-in of the horror genre from the late eighties. By Stanley Riiks

STRANGERS By David Moody Hmmmm… I was expecting much from this, had high hopes for a book from the author of Hater and Autumn. I’ve not read Moody before, but a writer compared with Shaun Hutson and James Herbert certainly peaked my interest. The book kind of reminded me of Hutson’s early work like Slugs. Predictable, trying to shock with some gore, a bit of awkward sex, and general horror referencing. I wanted to like this book, I really did. But I seem to be on a rollercoaster of disappointment lately. The book follows a family from Redditch to the quiet Scottish seaside town of Thussock who aim to start a new life, but the small town is hit by a spate of mutilated bodies turning up, including one found by Scott (head of the family). And their new start turns into a nightmare as Scott becomes suspected of the rapidly increasing murders… It’s difficult to describe this book in any detail without giving away any spoilers, but the generally slow pace has an undercurrent of secrecy and violence which actually does work, although more could have been made of it. The quietness of Thussock gives a real sense of atmosphere and decay, but for me didn’t

THE JAMES LOVEGROVE COLLECTION – VOLUME ONE By James Lovegrove An omnibus edition of two of Lovegrove’s earlier works, presumably to alert his newer readers from his successful series of bestselling The Age Of series, that he was working away with words before The Age of Odin hit the New York bestseller list. The two award-nominated novels in this first volume are: Days, about a massive city-sized store, where you can buy everything at a price… and Untied Kingdom, where the UK falls apart and reverts to traditional values and structures… Both are entertaining books, and this is a nice volume. Readers of Lovegrove can finally get those more difficult to find earlier books. A must for any Lovegrove fan. By Adrian Brady



HORNS Director: Alexandre Aja

Frankly, Radcliffe looks ridiculous in a massive pair of prosthetic comedy horns, and he seems to be trying awfully hard to distance himself from the teen wizard that made him famous. There are worse movies around, but if this review was a report card it would read: SATISFACTORY. COULD DO BETTER. By C.M. Saunders ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE 2013, Sony Three decades after making his debut with Stranger than Paradise, Jarmusch, a native of Ohio, still identifies with the foreigner, the European foreigner that is. Even when making a paean to the dying, very American city of Detroit, the lead actors are English and the crew is mostly German. As best I could gather from the tangled multi-national credits, the production was lensed in Germany with exteriors in Michigan and Tangier. The hero, played by Tom Hiddleston, is a very European Renaissance man, a musician who plays multiple instruments but also understands and appreciates science and scientific theory, knows all about mushrooms, and is something of a mechanical genius as well. His longtime companion Eve is a casual world traveler who can read and no doubt fully appreciate a book in a matter of minutes, and not just a book in English either. This is a film that appreciates the special people. Adam is a pale depressive reclusive rock star hiding away from obsessive fans in a mansion in a decaying neighborhood. Jarmusch sees the progression from European Romanticism and the rock lifestyle as a continuum, encapsulated in a wall photo gallery of hip icons including Mark Twain, Poe, William Burroughs, and Buster Keaton. If Christopher Marlowe were alive today he’d be wearing shades and hanging out in the opium scene. There is no contradiction in a man who plays Paganini on the violin but still grooves to the relatively simple

Horns, based on the Joe Hill novel of the same name and starring Daniel Radcliffe in one of his first grown-up post Potter roles, was one of the most eagerly awaited theatrical releases of 2014. Shame it didn’t really live up to expectation. Ig Perrish (great name), a fading rock star roundly despised for allegedly murdering his girlfriend, wakes up one morning to find a pair of devil horns sticking out of his head. That would be enough to ruin anyone’s day, but poor Ig’s troubles are just starting, because along with the horns come some strange supernatural powers. Can he use his new-found gift to clear his name and unmask the real killer? Or is he the killer after all? There’s nothing really to dislike about the movie adaptation of Horns. Then again, there’s nothing to really like, either. It’s a decent enough stab at some fantasy horror, though a bit overblown in places (not exactly unexpected from the director who gave the world Piranha 3D), and a bit too keen to exploit the burgeoning public interest in YA paranormal romance. 27

rockabilly sounds of Charlie Feathers and Wanda Jackson. The enigmatic title pays belated tribute to Jarmusch’s film school instructor Nicholas Ray, who late in life planned to adapt an unrelated book of the same name. The director’s self-identification with the cool outsider, the European plonked down in urban America, has never been clearer, especially when a doctor quips, “Cat must be from Cleveland.” The word “hipster” has become a derogatory word, but Jarmusch, without ever actually using the word, returns it to its origins as a Kerouac-era signifier of cool culture. His heroine, played by a witty Tilda Swinton, resides in Tangier, once the permissive city favored by William Burroughs, Paul Bowles, and Tennessee Williams. Hiddleston’s Adam drops references to Chet Atkins, Silvertone guitars, and Eddie Cochran as if they were immediately recognizable names, as familiar as the Kardashians are to today’s Reality TV addicts. Featured extras flash their drink of choice, Pabst Blue Ribbon. After all, hipsters and vampires have a lot in common. They go out at night, they sleep all day, they avoid normal people and normal life whenever possible. The director’s interests are in tune with the hip professionals in America, coinciding with the recent resurgence of vinyl records. Speaking of music, Josef Van Wissem’s Arabic influenced score greatly enhances the film’s nighttime ambience, which is represented visually by Yorick Le Saux’s photography, which often takes on an amber glow that is attractive without being flashy. Jarmusch flatters himself by using his own compositions, which are performed by his experimental guitar band Sqürl and which sound like outtakes from Neil Young’s Dead Man score, to stand in for Adam’s legendary underground recordings. Sometimes two musical sources are combined to striking effect. Hiddleston’s depressive vampire plots to kill himself with a bullet made of

cocobolo, rehearsing the act of shooting himself in the heart, the less messy and more romantic alternative to the more macho method of blowing your brains out. Other than Louis Malle’s The Fire Within I can’t remember a character committing suicide in this way, or practicing to do so. Adam is uptight enough to be annoyed by “Soul Dracula,” a camp number off seventies French TV, yet hip enough to appreciate the rockabilly sounds of Wanda Jackson and Charlie Feathers. Would a Restoration aristocrat who wrote an adagio for Schubert really grow to be an aficionado of Jack White, Motown Records, and Packard automobile? In the fantasy world of the hipster, he would. Jarmusch’s leads are centuries old, yet they are still able to go to a hip bar and appreciate the music of kids in their twenties. It’s the wish fulfillment of the aging hipster, the validation that you can be old and still be with it. Just as long as you keep rocking out on the guitar, keep staying up all night, and don’t have kids. This low budget movie undoubtedly got financing due to the Twilight craze for romantic vampires, but you couldn’t make a movie more destined to alienate and bore the teenage mainstream audience. Thematically this is the opposite of Twilight, a movie based not in youthful infatuation but in the long term tolerance that comes from living with someone for years. Jarmusch, white-haired since youth, is finally an old man in years, and this movie sets to prove that you could grow old and still be hipper, not to mention wiser than the trendy kids with their You Tube videos, represented here by a spirited Mia Wasikowska as Swinton’s younger sister. Jarmusch’s film draws inspiration not from mainstream vampire flicks but from independent movies of the pre-digital age like The Black Room and Abel Ferrara’s The Addiction, in which blood-drinking is a metaphor for heroin addiction. The one noticeable Hollywood influence is The Hunger, to which homage


is lightly paid via a club scene accented by flashing strobe lights. Even by Jarmusch’s standards this is a slow, minimalist movie, and Jarmusch is much dependent on the likeability of the two stars to keep the audience’s interest through the long stretches of low key ambience and dialogue that rarely rises too far above a late night whisper. The movie has quite a few amusing lines for those who aren’t bothered by the lack of blatant gags and “big” movie moments, which is just enough to gloss over the elitism of the main characters. The masses are contemptuously referred to as “zombies”, and even Shakespeare was a fraud, an “illiterate zombie philistine” who stole the works of his contemporary “Kit” Marlowe, who incidentally is still barely living in Tangier in the aged form of John Hurt. This is amusing enough in the film although somewhat gratuitous, but what annoys me is the fact that in real life Jarmusch endorses this particular bit of literary speculation. What annoys me about this particular school of historical revisionism is the way its adherents usually base their conclusions on the idea that no self-taught “philistine” could ever come up with great theatrical works, that art is the sole province of the well-heeled aristocrats. Marlowe, is also implied to be gay, owing no doubt to the longmisattributed line about tobacco and boys. All this is not to say Jarmusch is always necessarily endorsing the viewpoints of his main characters, who after all eventually fall off the wagon and lapse into the business of killing human beings to keep living, thought they generally prefer to avoid attention by drinking only donated medical blood from whisky flasks. But he certainly finds them more interesting than the multitudes of “zombies”, who are only allowed much personality in the forms of Anton Yelchin as a shady drug dealer type, though the joke is that his shady deals consist of selling not pills or heroin but 180 PolyGram records, and Jeffrey Wright in a

funny cameo or two as the jumpy doctor who keeps Hiddleston supplied with labquality-blood. And he certainly sympathizes with Adam’s distrust of the mainstream in favor of more esoteric interests like 45 records and Lebanese pop music. I’m overthinking things, of course. You shouldn’t take the film’s implications too seriously, anymore than you’d take vampires seriously. It’s a funny film for those with patience, best watched at 2AM on a weekend, probably while sipping on one of those hip PBR bottles, and no doubt slightly stoned. This is a movie where the tone is sometimes underwhelming and the effect is sometimes too slight for its own good, and yet there are enough high points, like Wright’s little offhand bit, to make the film memorable and worth returning to. The final shot is particularly memorable, perhaps because in a film of long takes it takes up maybe a half second, barely the length of a single guitar note. By Brett Taylor DOCTOR SLEEP By Stephen King Finally, the wait is over. X years after The Shining, the sequel is upon us. If you are a King aficionado, a Stanley Kubrick devotee, or a horror fan of any ilk, it’s unlikely you’ll need a recap on what the first book was about so I won’t waste your time. It’s thirty years later and little Danny Torrance is all grown up now. Without giving too much away, let’s just say he didn’t turn out so good. His heart’s in the right place (usually), but he’s a raging alcoholic who’s haunted by the past. And let’s face it, who wouldn’t be? On top of all that, he’s still struggling with what they call ‘the Shining,’ which by all accounts is a kind of double-edged sword. To say Doctor Sleep attracted some mixed reviews would be an understatement. Personally, I feel this is a result of some people harbouring some very elevated and unrealistic expectations. The Shining is probably one of the best 29

books of the 20th Century. It was always going to be a tough act to follow. Word is that when seeking advice on how to cast Danny as an adult, somebody close to the Master commented that for maximum effect, poor Danny should hit rock bottom. King certainly takes him there, relating the experiences of a hopeless drunk with just a bit too much insight. He certainly knows about the inner-workings of your average AA group. After hitting ‘rock bottom,’ grown-up Danny decides to kick the booze and takes a job in a hospice where, aided by a cat, he uses his Shining to help the residents find peace in the moments before death claims them, earning himself the nickname Doctor Sleep. Ultimately, the story is one of redemption, applied work ethic, and a sense of duty, all playing out in front of a Good v Evil scenario which is quite possibly all-too-familiar to King’s army of Constant Readers. The ‘evil’ in question is a band of modern-day SUV-bothering gypsies called the ‘True Knot’ who murder gifted children to devour their Shining. The only real criticism I have of Doctor Sleep is perhaps that it is a little overwritten. After a storming start, the middle sections sag a little and the ‘climax’ is drawn out to about 20% of the total word count. The whole thing could perhaps have benefited from a little tightening up. Depending on your stance, this is either King’s tour de force, or an unnecessary addition to a bookshelf already bowing under the weight. Its real position is probably somewhere in the middle. It will keep his devoted following ticking over, but is unlikely to win many new fans. By C.M. Saunders

surrounding them by the giant structures. Every now and then the trees spew waste, drown, killing innocent humans. Attempts at communicating or destroying the trees have failed. So the humans get on with their lives, ignoring the shadows cast by the alien structures. In China, the city of Shu is a social experiment, a young artist travels from his rural home to live and breathe the experimental lifestyles of this uninhibited city. In Italy, a young woman, part of a fascist gang becomes the protégé of an old man who knows more than he lets on. In Svalbard, a frozen wasteland, a research team discover that the trees dormant existence is not so dormant after all. There is a lot going on here, and Ellis is setting up conspiracies, exploring sexuality and societal structures, all against a background of politics, war, alien invasion. The character artwork relies on colour to differentiate the different stories, the female characters in particular all look far too similar, and the male one aren’t much better. Where Howard comes into his own is the action sequences, particularly towards the end where these are powerful and awe-inspiring. Ellis’ storytelling has a humanity and a subtlety that adds a great deal to the large scale story. His comic book writing has a smoother and more mature style than his quite brutal and in-your-face fiction, which is also excellent. This is a book which has a very unique perceptive, and brings together some very disparate themes. The story telling is excellent, the characterisation is good, and the plot is just getting started by the end of the book, leaving you begging for more. Intelligent and engrossing, this is a comic book for all ages. By Stanley Riiks

TREES VOL 1 By Warren Ellis and Jason Howard   The Earth has been invaded by alien Treelike structures. In the ten years since they arrived there has been no contact, no recognition of the human beings

[REC] 4: APOCALYPSE Director: Jaume Balaguero [REC] 4: Apocalypse is a direct sequel to 30

the second film, taking place in the immediate aftermath of its events. 2012’s [REC] 3: Genesis, about a wedding party going all kinds of wrong, was a mere divergence, the time line running parallel to the first two offerings. That makes it kind of redundant, which is fine by me as it is the weakest of the lot and offered nothing to the story arc we are all concerned with. On reflection it seems like it was just an excuse to make some bad wedding jokes, splatter some gore, and give director Paco Plaza, who co-directed the first two films with Jaume Balaguero, a chance to spread his wings. There’s no sign of Plaza this time around. Instead, Jaume Balaguero takes on directorial duties by himself for this, the fourth and final installment of the franchise.

with a bit of news reportage about the building being sealed off just to catch you up, then a bunch of heavily-armed military goons storming the premises. They aren’t counting on a few rogue zombies lying in wait. In the ensuing firefight they stumble across Angela, who seems unscathed. But of course, we know different. She’s just playing. They take her to a research facility (actually, it’s a ship) where they can run tests, which is where her true colours begin to show. She soon breaks free of her constraints and tries to flee, hooking up with one of the soldiers who rescued her on the way. It soon transpires that the vessel they are on is being used to experiment on animals with the virus in a last ditch bid to find a cure. You can probably guess the rest. In a break from tradition, [REC] 4 is not made in the now wearisome foundfootage format, and despite the title, there are no apocalyptic scenes of zombies storming through Barcelona. Disappointing, but according to Balaguero, the budget couldn’t stretch that far. Besides, these films probably play out best in a confined space. Another interesting point is that with the heroine being infected, you aren’t sure whether you are supposed to root for her or not. Bonus points are awarded for what is surely the best zombie monkey death scene in celluloid history. Or the only zombie monkey death scene in celluloid history. And what becomes of the zombie monkey post-death is even more stomach-churning. There’s also some pretty inventive use of an outboard motor later on. Released in Spain last Halloween, this movie was eventually unleashed on the rest of the world this January. If you don’t find the all-Spanish dialogue (don’t forget to turn on the sub-titles) off-putting at all, you could do a lot worse than watch one of the best horror franchises of recent times come to a suitably thrilling, and at times terrifying, conclusion. Great stuff. By C.M. Saunders

In case you’ve forgotten what happened in [REC] 2 (shame on you!), it ended with reporter Angela Vidal, played with some aplomb by Manuela Velasco, getting herself possessed by one of the demonic presences residing in a quarantined apartment block. She kills the last survivor, and the last time we see her she is grinning inanely into the camera, waiting to be rescued. The story continues 31


From the Catacombs: New knowledge and Pretty Pictures By Jim Lesniak

Midnight Marquee Press, Inc.

Every so often, the catacombs cry out for new knowledge – things interesting and not previously known. One can only read about items already known for so long before it all blurs together in a boring muddle. Art and film reference books can lead one down the rabbit hole, so to speak, to discover new, wild things. The Mondo Macabro book was an eye-opener in this regard, displaying the bizarre underbelly of world cinema beyond the critically acclaimed art cinema or Oscar nominees.

So Deadly… is the first volume of a planned two volume set covering giallo films and is in full color throughout. This is truly needed with the sometimes garish stills, screen captures, posters, and lobby cards of the genre. Beginning with an overview of the literary and filmic precursors of the giallo genre, Howarth defines his criteria for inclusion (and exclusion) of films. Also included is a “borderline” section containing films that, in his opinion, contain some of the characteristics of the giallo, are good films, yet do not warrant inclusion in the main body. The films themselves are organized chronologically, then alphabetically by its English title. Each receives a list of credits, a brief synopsis, and an analysis of its merit within the genre. Rounding it out is an index of all titles reviewed within the book. Although I am no expert in giallo, I found the book quite entertaining and an easy read. The giallo has been described as a precursor to the slasher film – that is just an overly simplistic comparison that gives short shift to a highly stylized genre of film. An expert may have more of a critique as to quality of reviews or films to include, but as a novice, So Deadly, So Perverse is a fine overview of an interesting genre and I look forward to Volume Two.

Zombi Mexicano By: Keith J Rainville From Parts Unknown Did you know there is a difference between Mexican zombies and mummies in film? You would if you sit down and read through this colorful overview of the Mexican Zombi film. Beginning with a travelogue of sorts, discussing the naturally forming mummies of Guanajuato and their place in folklore, we then segue into luchadors and their films… if that does not entice you, I don’t think we can be friends. Rainville then explores the best of the 1970’s mummy/zombie/luchador films that he has been able to track down, illustrated with copious, colorful imagery that is just crazy enough to make me want to watch unsubtitled craziness. This is not an exhaustive reference book; rather it is a fun overview of an interesting genre of Mexican film. The author/publisher has previously produced a magazine relating to luchador films and culture, so they have a solid background in this subset of the genre. Zombi Mexicano is a welcome addition to my film reference library.

Sex and Horror: The Emmanuelle Talietti By: Mark Alfrey Korero Press



Ye olde reviewer had never heard of, much less seen, the art of Emmanuelle Tallietti prior to this book landing in my curious hands. During the 1970’s and 1980’s, he was an incredibly prolific cover artist for Italian comic or illustrated

So Deadly, So Perverse (Volume 1 19631973) By: Troy Howarth 33

magazines. This eye-popping book is in full color throughout with all images taken from original paintings, with a few of the printed covers also shown as an example. Each magazine he worked on is alphabetically listed with publication dates, the number of issues, and a general synopsis of the magazine itself. All of the paintings are listed with its proper magazine. In addition, this book contains a short biography of the artist with images of his current art. It is amazing at the amount of feminine nudity present in these cover images – that’s from a 21st Century perspective! These would certainly turn heads at the newsstand in the 1970’s. Imagine if you will the “spicy” pulps of the 1930 are taken to their logical conclusion. Sex, violence, and horror abound in these incredible paintings that were executed with skill and style by an artist on par with Norman Saunders. This is well worth the cover price for anyone with an interest in pulp art. The background information, while brief, gives enough context to add to the enjoyment of the art, which is given the royal treatment. Sex and Horror is a highly recommended art book.

the magazine in this edition. The reproduction is lacking in some of the covers, especially the earliest. There is blur, occasional pixilation, and a run of covers that look washed out – almost as if they could not locate copies to photograph or scan at high resolution and they relied on old photo elements. Without comparing to original copies of the magazine, it is hard to determine if these are accurate representations of the covers or a failure in quality control. Overall, the cover images are clean and bright outside of perhaps two dozen. Fangoria: Cover to Cover is a nice collection of the cover images and displays how the magazine has evolved with the horror scene since 1979. Ultimately, this is for the hard core fan that already knows the history and desires a full cover gallery. For the casual fan of the magazine, this gives very little history or context of the magazine. This volume is an interesting, yet expensive, curio of the legendary magazine. Unknown Causes By: Frank Duffy Gallows Press The supernatural is always near and implied throughout this collection of short stories. The prime connecting thread in the variety of tales is the terror of memory – how the past haunts the present and the future and directs our path through life. The ghosts of the past are more frightening than any monster as we can create worse scenarios than someone or something can inflict upon us. Unknown Causes allows the ghost of memory to slowly creep into the psyche of its stories to terrorize its hapless protagonists. As a collection, this theme weaves its way through, whether or not it was intended by the author. Sometimes subtle, sometimes prominent, the tales of horror are driven by what was done in the past and cannot be changed. It is how the characters utilize their past, their guilt, in

Fangoria: Cover to Cover Ed: Anthony Timpone Cemetery Dance Contained herein are the first 330 covers, celebrating thirty-five years of Fangoria Magazine, all in full color and displayed one per page. There is a brief synopsis of each issue’s contents (one or two sentences each) before the cover gallery begins, but that is not the focus of this book. Interestingly enough, most of the covers, excluding only 1-28, have been designed by W.R. Mohally making this a tribute to his long tenure on the magazine. There are brief essays from various people involved with the magazine over the years; however there is not a detailed history of 34

moving forward through their present.

way, shape, or form. There is no reason that a collection of previously published books that sold out in pre-order in 2009 is not in my hands yet. Similarly, a title offered in 2007 as a deluxe edition and thus far only published in “regular” format in 2014? How about those “annual” book clubs that take two to three years to complete, if ever? We, the readers, are not a piggy bank giving interest free loans. The small press will implode if it cannot act professionally, and I say this as a proponent of the small, genre press. This is where the new voices are heard, but if the trust is lost, no one will bother to discover them. There are several, larger publishers I absolutely refuse to pre-order a single thing from any longer due to lack of communication and, occasionally, rudeness towards any inquiry of production schedule. Once you have taken money from your customers, you are beholden to us, not the other way around. I shall take the risk that a book I desire will sell out to wait until it is shipping rather than tie up funds for years in hopes and dreams. If the vinyl soundtrack companies can keep me in the loop, so can you. Lest I leave on a sour note, I implore you to keep bizarre, my friends. There is an embarrassment of riches out there in the underground if you take the time to seek it out. Presently, I am working my way through the FIVE disc reissue of Toe Tag’s The Redsin Tower deluxe edition, along with the three disc edition of The Beyond. Also just in (too late to review) is the Centipede Press Artist Series on Harry O. Morris with his disturbing art. Stay strange and have wonderful nightmares.

Space Riders #1 By: Alexis Ziritt, Fabian Rangel, Jr., and Ryan Ferrier Black Mask Comics I rarely review single issues of ANY series, preferring for the inevitable collection that the majority of series and mini-series receive these days. This debut issue, from a creative team I am not familiar with, is very much worth the search and the attention. Space Riders is a bizarre, psychedelic science fiction comic with horror undertones. Imagine a blended mix of Jack Kirby’s late material with Steve Ditko’s Dr. Strange, 1970’s underground comix, Mos Eisley, and the Astronomer series I have reviewed in the past. There is no origin story or introductory exposition herein; we jump right into the aftermath of a space battle and Capitan Peligro’s rescue. The introductory issue seems to be setting up an adventure of redemption for the Capitan after his one year suspension from duty, but we do not have time to dwell on this as he and his crew is immediately attacked by space bikers (!) on their journey prior to jumping into a mind bending hyperspace. The closest book I can compare this to would be Tom Scioli’s Myth of 8Opus series, and that was nowhere as outré as this debut issue. There is no wasted space in this tale; psychedelic madness and wild colors abound, yet not so crazy you cannot follow the story. Out there and inventive, I hope they can keep this pace up for future issues. Space Riders is well worth seeking out. Lately, I have been moving more and more back to graphic novels and reference books due to my dissatisfaction with small press genre publishers. Dissatisfaction? Anger. There are so many publishers that over promise and under produce that it is hard to trust many in any

Morpheus Tales Review Supplement, April 2015. COPYRIGHT April 2015 Morpheus Tales Publishing, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Review can be used, in full or in part, for publicity purposes as long as Morpheus Tales Magazine is quoted as the source.







Morpheus Tales April 2015 Reviews Supplement  

40 pages of genre non-fiction, including an interview with author David Moody! Jim Lesniak offers opinions From The Catacombs, Simon Marshal...

Morpheus Tales April 2015 Reviews Supplement  

40 pages of genre non-fiction, including an interview with author David Moody! Jim Lesniak offers opinions From The Catacombs, Simon Marshal...