Friday, 29 August 2014

A stranger stalks the night with evil intent

Here, for your delectation, is an exclusive first peek at the cover for the next Heck novel, DEAD MAN WALKING, which is published on November 20 this year.

In a nutshell, after the tumultuous events of the previous novel, THE KILLING CLUB, Detective Sergeant Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg is living in a kind of self-imposed exile in the quiet Lake District village of Cragwood Keld. He’s still a cop, he still investigates crime, now in the company of spirited sidekick PC Mary-Ellen O’Rourke. But life moves at a slower pace up here. Heck spends more time rounding up stray sheep than he does feeling the collars of violent criminals.

And then something terrible happens. One misty autumn night, two female hikers go missing on the nearby fells.

Not only that, they go missing in frightening and peculiar circumstances … circumstances that remind Heck discomfortingly of a serial murder case from many years ago, when a nameless, faceless phantom known as ‘the Stranger’ preyed on courting couples late at night, leaving a trail of 13 brutalised corpses.

But the Stranger is dead. Heck is sure about this. He even contacts Detective Superintendent Gemma Piper down at the Serial Crimes Unit at Scotland Yard, and she confirms it. The Stranger died over 10 years ago. Someone else must be responsible for this mysterious double-crime.  

Heck can’t help wondering, though ...

After all, they never actually found the Stranger’s body.

Suddenly Cragwood Keld and other high Lakeland villages feel very isolated and remote. And right on cue, the thickest, coldest fog in living memory descends on the Cumbrian mountains and valleys, bringing life to a standstill. DSU Piper, sufficiently concerned by Heck’s report that she makes the trip north, is one of the last people to arrive in the region before everything grinds to an abrupt halt.

And still this case won’t break. And increasingly, despite all logic to the contrary, Heck becomes convinced that the Stranger is back.

*

Okay, that’s the nitty-gritty of it. Here, for your further delectation, is an excerpt from the novel:


With such fears in the forefront of his mind, it was probably not the ideal time for him to spot the writing on the far wall of the boathouse interior. This only happened slowly, as his eyes adjusted to the deep gloom, but once the piece of crude graffiti had swum properly into view, he jumped to his feet.
     Now that he was fully out of the water, it was bitterly cold. Ice felt as if it was forming inside his clothes, but fleetingly Heck was too distracted to notice that. He limped around the interior to the far pier, so he could examine it up close.

REMEMBER ME?

     There was no question about who’d written it or what it meant, though had Heck not been so cold already it would still have been numbing to see it in front of his face like this. In the dimness he was colour-blind, so though he didn’t immediately realise the sentence had been inscribed in blood, the idea struck him hard when he dabbed at it with a fingertip, and felt it both slimy and congealed …


Hopefully that will whet a few whistles. In case it didn’t, and completely gratuitously, let’s finish off now with the actual blurb from the back of the book:


Beware the stranger in the night…

Consigned to a remote valley in the Lake District, DS Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg is getting used to a quieter life – a far cry from the bloodbath of his former division, the Serial Crimes Unit. But wherever Heck goes, trouble is never far behind.

Unknown to Heck, ‘the Stranger’ has returned. Last seen on Dartmoor ten years earlier, this prolific serial killer has found a new home. As a dense, frozen mist descends on the Lakes, the Stranger returns to his old ways, starting with two young women lost high on the hills. Only one girl is ever found – barely alive – but able to confirm Heck’s worst fears.

As the Stranger lays siege to the remote community, Heck helplessly watches as the killer plays his cruel game, letting off his trademark call before viciously picking off his victims.

And with no way to get word out of the valley, Heck has no choice but to play ball…

Lock your doors and bar your windows. This is a thrilling, spine-chilling, nail-shredding book that will leave you scared to turn the lights out. Because when the mist descends, you never know who’s watching you …

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Yorkshire blood and Green Men - all here!

I'm very pleased to announce the imminent arrival of the next volume in our TERROR TALES anthology series. This, as you can see from the image, is TERROR TALES OF YORKSHIRE. Okay, those among you with Lancastrian origins, like me, won't need reminding about that nightmarish land on t'uther side 'ut Pennines, but mysteriously not everyone will share that view, so I have now taken the responsibility on myself to show the rest of the country in no uncertain terms what we in the real God's country already know.

And what a joy it's been, as always ... working with some amazing writers, with the amazing artist, NEIL WILLIAMS, and the amazing publisher/author GARY FRY at GRAY FRIAR PRESS.

TERROR TALES OF YORKSHIRE (which can't be pre-ordered just yet, hence there's no link - but watch this space constantly), is the seventh in the TERROR TALES series to date. I find that incredible given we only started this ball rolling in 2011, and it's being brought out, as you'll probably realise, to coincide with this year's FANTASYCON, which is being held in York on September 5,6 and 7.

Anyway, enough of my gibberish for the moment. The front-cover image is above, while the full wrap is posted a few paragraphs down. So from here on, why don't I let the actual blurb do the talking:

Yorkshire – a rolling landscape of verdant dales and quaint country towns. But where industrial fires left hideous scars, forlorn ruins echo the shrieks of forgotten wars, and depraved killers evoke nightmare tales of ogres, trolls and wild moorland boggarts...

 The stalking devil of Boroughbridge
The murder machine at Halifax
The hooded horror of Pontefract
The bloody meadow at Towton
The black tunnel of Renfield
The evil trickster of Spaldington
The shadow forms at Silverwood
  
And many more chilling tales by Alison Littlewood, Mark Morris, Stephen Laws, Simon Clark, Mark Chadbourn, and other award-winning masters and mistresses of the macabre.

If that doesn't whet your appetites sufficiently, hopefully the following Table of Contents will (as usual, the smaller non-fictional items are interspersed between the actual stories):

In October We Buried The Monsters by Simon Avery; The Decapitation Device; The Coat Off His Back by Keris McDonald; Haunting Memories of the Past; They Walk As Men by Mark Morris; The Yorkshire Witches; On Ilkley Moor by Alison Littlewood; The Black Monk of Pontefract; The Crawl by Stephen Laws; The Woman in the Rain; Ragged by Gary McMahon; The Hobman; A True Yorkshireman by Christopher Harman; The Town Where Darkness Was Born; All Things Considered, I’d Rather Be In Hell by Mark Chadbourn; A Feast For Crows; The Demon of Flowers by Chico Kidd; City of the Dead; The Summer of Bradbury by Stephen Bacon; Radiant Beings; Random Flight by Rosalie Parker; Death in the Harrying; The Rhubarb Festival by Simon Clark; The Alien; The Crack by Gary Fry; The Boggart of Bunting Nook; A Story From When We Had Nothing by Jason Gould.

As mentioned at the beginning of this piece, you can't yet order TERROR TALES OF YORKSHIRE (all retail outlets, online and otherwise, will be posted everywhere, as soon as you can). It's still in production as we speak, but we're very hopeful that it will be available at the Fantasy Convention in York, probably from the PENDRAGON PRESS table in the book room, along with other titles, such as our last one in the series TERROR TALES OF WALES.

On the subject of Yorkshire, and York in particular, I was recently very impressed to hear the superbly rendered audio version of my International Horror Guild Award-winning short story of 2007, THE OLD NORTH ROAD, as read by Jonathan Keeble of The Archers fame, published by WHOLE STORY AUDIO.

This story, first published in Alone on the Darkside in 2006 (for which, as I said earlier, it won the International Horror Guild Award for Best Medium Length Story in 2007), and republished in One Monster Is Not Enough in 2010, is hopefully the first of quite a few of mine to get the glossy WHOLE STORY AUDIO treatment, but it's very timely, as York - or more specifically, York Minster - is the location that originally inspired it.

THE OLD NORTH ROAD, which is about 10,000 words long and comes to roughly an hour's listening time, is a horror story describing a quest to find the origins of the mystical Green Man. Prior to my first visit to York Minster, the Green Man was no more to me than a background character I'd grown up with but had never really noticed: a figure on pub signs, or a clown at country fairs. What I certainly hadn't realised was just how much he figures in the architecture of our old and venerable religious buildings, York Minster being a classic example. And that's a curious thing given so many of us assume the Green Man to be a pagan icon - a fertility symbol or the representation of an ancient, long forgotten god.

But the fact is, he isn't ... at least, not according to the researches I made following my last trip to York. The real origins of the Green Man, are far stranger, and lie in ...

Well, perhaps that would be telling. Maybe it's better if you guys download the audio version, or buy the CD, and find out for yourself. (Sorry to be so mercenary ... but I've got to make a living, you know).



Of course, you don't have to go to all that trouble if you happen to be paying a visit to FANTASYCON in York in September. If so, just pop across to the Minster and check it all out for yourself. I'll be doing that for sure. It's now ten years since I was last there, and the mysteries of the Green Man, among many others, are calling ever louder.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Cold sweat and stomach-churning terror

It seems like an age since I last blogged. In fact, it's only been a month or so, but an awful lot of water has passed under the career bridge since then. And it's been far from easy: as one job after another is delivered, more seem to come in, and always, it appears, the deadline is as tight as a gnat's chuff (as they say in Wigan). I've even had to turn work down, and interesting stuff too - something that always pains me.

However, there are no complaints here. Lots of work is way better than no work at all (trust me, I've been there too).

Without a doubt, the highlight of the last month was easily the THEAKSTON'S CRIME-WRITING FESTIVAL in Harrogate. Not only did I use those lively four day to hook up with my agents and publishers, but with a host of old writing mates too: COL BURY (pictured below with yours truly), NICK QUANTRILL, DAVID MARK, TOM WOOD, HOWARD LINSKEY, LUCA VESTE, GRAHAM SMITH, STEVE MOSBY, SARAH PINBOROUGH, NEIL WHITE, ASH CAMERON, PETE SORTWELL, to name but a few.

The event was a little more testing this year, as I sat on my first ever crime writing panel, addressing the high faluting subject of New Wave Forensics. I freely admit that I broke into a sweat beforehand. Not only was it a very hot day - it was literally like a steam-bath outside - but I was in seriously august company. Check out the image below. Left to right, my fellow panelists are organised crime expert and best-selling true crime author, TONY THOMPSON, world renowned forensics expert Professor DAVID BARCLAY, police intelligence analyst and best-selling author, ELIZABETH HAYNES, and Chair of the panel and top international author in his own right, DAVID HEWSON. All I can say is that it was a fabulous experience. We had a great chat, which the 600 plus audience seemed to lap up. Some excellent anecdotes got shared by everyone - a few of them rather stomach-churning, I must admit - plus I signed a raft of books afterwards too, which was a nice bonus.


I owe all this to my Heck novels - a series of crime-thrillers from Avon Books (HarperCollins), following the investigations of Detective Sergeant Mark Heckenburg, the most recent example of which, THE KILLING CLUB, has now been on the bookshelves since the end of May, and seems to be doing very nicely indeed. On the same subject, I'm now able - more or less - to confirm the next three books in the Heck series.

DEAD MAN WALKING will arrive next November, this one taking our battered and bruised hero up to the English Lake District in the depths of a foggy autumn to pursue a killer supposedly long dead. Following that, HUNTED, the fifth in the series, will be published in May 2015, and on this occasion we head south, Heck exploring the leafy lanes of rural Surrey as he enquires into a series of bizarre and unlikely accidents. Last of all thus far - and this is the real exclusive in today's post - RIGHTEOUS FIRE (at this stage that's a working title only) will provide the sixth outing, probably sometime in late 2015, and will see Heck return to his roots, on the trail of a fire-wielding maniac terrorising the run-down, post-industrial Lancashire town where he grew up.

That latter title is still far in the future, of course. Much sooner than that - in fact, hopefully in time for Fantasycon 2014 in York - will be TERROR TALES OF YORKSHIRE, which will feature such ghostly outings as the stalking devil of Boroughbridge, the murder machine at Halifax and the black tunnel at Renfield.

TERROR TALES OF YORKSHIRE will constitute the seventh title in a series very close to my heart. Despite my novels focussing on the world of crime, the Terror Tales anthology series I edit is fast becoming one of the great pleasures of my professional life. It is several years now since I first hatched the concept of a round-Britain (and who knows, maybe beyond that?) horror anthology series with strong emphasis on local folklore, history, mythology, geography, etc. I can only say that, at this stage, with six titles now in the bag and more to follow, I am truly delighted with the way it's turning out. Thanks enormously to all the writers and artists who have made this possible, and to GARY FRY and GRAY FRIAR PRESS, without whose publishing expertise, there is absolutely no chance this series would have happened.So I'm well chuffed ... but as always, it's onward and upwards. Watch this space for further info.

Pictured above are the six titles so far in print, while one of the contributing authors, STEPHEN VOLK, shows off the most current volume in the series, TERROR TALES OF WALES, and well he might as I can honestly say that his contribution to that book, Matilda of the Night, is one of the scariest and yet most moving horror stories I have ever read.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

How it began: Heck vs the weirdest killers

Anyone following this blog will know that my new Heck novel, THE KILLING CLUB, was published at the end of last month, and that a blog tour accompanied it. What that basically meant was that I was that, at the kind invitation of a number of webmasters/crime thriller fans, I wrote a number of guest posts to appear on various crime-writing blogs. 

In case anyone didn't get a chance to see them at the time, it was always part of my plan to repost these blogs on this site as well. So without further ado, we'll kick off now. 

Here's the interview I gave to CRIME BOOK CLUB, which appeared on June 14 (along with a 5-star review - sorry, had to drop that in). Thanks very much to them for their interest in the new Heck novel.  

Welcome to Crime Book Club Paul and thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions.

No problem. Thank you for having me. I’m delighted.

Congratulations on the publication of ‘The Killing Club’ last week, can you tell our readers a little about it?

Thanks very much. The Killing Club is the third outing for my fictional detective hero, DS Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg, of the Serial Crimes Unit at Scotland Yard. The Serial Crimes Unit, or SCU, has a remit to investigate serial murder cases, serial rapes, assaults etc, taking place across all the police force areas of England and Wales. And Heck is one of its lead investigators. By the nature of this beast, he can show up anywhere, from Cornwall to the Lake District, from London to Manchester. He is not office-bound, and rarely works with the same bunch of colleagues, though his overall boss is Detective Superintendent Gemma Piper, his former girlfriend (when they were both DCs), so as you can imagine, this leads to occasional complications.

Though The Killing Club is the third in the series, it’s a direct follow-up to Stalkers, the first, which concerned the activities of a brutal rape and kidnap gang called The Nice Guys Club. I won’t give away too much details because it’s possible some folk haven’t yet read Stalkers, but I will say this: while the second in the series, Sacrifice, was a free-standing story, The Killing Club is, in some ways, Stalkers part 2. So you could read Sacrifice before you read either of the other two books, and it would make no difference, but if you want to read The Killing Club, it’s much better if you read Stalkers first. As usual, the book takes us up and down the country – a real trademark where Heck is concerned – and is loaded with action. Though I’m an ex-policeman, I don’t really do police procedurals, at least not under the Heck banner. These are hard thrillers with what I hope is a grimy, authentic feel and urban mayhem by the bucket-load. In The Killing Club in particular, we see a Nice Guys gang hell-bent on massacring their opponents. These aren’t the sort of hoodlums you can sort out with harsh language alone. Heck has no option but to get stuck in … but that’s all I’m going to say about it at present. Don’t want to give any spoilers away.

When you spend so much time writing about someone like Mark Heckenburg do feel you know him inside out or does he surprise you each time?

I’m sure most authors would agree there’s nothing more pleasing than a character who’s so well-developed in your mind that he or she take on a life of their own, and can literally produce their own lines of dialogue. I’ve certainly reached this stage with Heck, though I doubt the development process has run its course yet.

Heck is not an unusual character for me. The lonely, vulnerable hero who makes up for his social flaws with courage, intellect and incisiveness isn’t exactly a revolutionary concept. But I like to think we’ve done all that and a bit more with Heck. On his creation, I produced a notebook full of back-story for him – to the extent where I could actually picture him in my mind’s eye. But the real reason he’s been so familiar from the get-go is because I’ve based him on people I’ve known very well, not just friends and fellow workers, but family members as well.

He has blue-collar origins, and hails from a post-industrial town in South Lancashire called Bradburn, a very thinly disguised Wigan, the town of my birth. But he doesn’t have hang-ups about this. In this respect, there is a lot of my late-father in Heck. He was a dogged, bluff northerner from a typical coal-mining family, but he was never a class warrior – he firmly believed that everyone had issues they needed to overcome in life. He was also self-educated to a high level, which showed great spirit and ambition, and yet this was an ambition to be as good as he could be at what he did, not an ambition to rule and dominate. This is another key aspect of Heck. He isn’t interested in getting promoted. He’s an out-and-out detective; as he says in his own words, he’s “an investigator, not an administrator”.

But he’s also a tricky customer, who can pull a fast one whenever he needs to – like so many of the real-life police detectives I knew – sometimes at the expense of fellow officers as well as criminals. On top of that, thanks to his background, he isn’t averse to strong-arm tactics if they’re absolutely necessary, but he prefers the affable, even-handed approach. And yet he’s a chancer too. In the rugby league parlance so favoured by my dad, if he has the ball and he sees even the slightest opportunity, he’ll go for the line.

These were all part of my original concept. But yes, to answer the second part of this question, he still surprises me. It was always the plan that he’d work hard, putting in long hours by choice, but it’s become increasingly clear to me that it isn’t really by choice. Heck is an obsessive, constantly at war with personal demons stemming from tragedy in his early life, and his stubbornness and unwillingness to give up is a symptom of this, which, Gemma, for one, thinks is very unhealthy. On the subject of Gemma, I never really know where Heck’s hot and cold relationship with her will finish up.

When I first hatched this idea that his senior supervisor was his former girlfriend, I was worried it might turn out to be stock and that they’d basically end up getting it on at every opportunity. But again, as the stories have unfolded, they’ve evolved away from that a little bit. There’s no denying that Heck and Gemma have a strong if unspoken bond of affection, but there are massive differences in their personalities. Gemma is a straight bat and a real spitfire, whereas Heck’s Machiavellian ways, not to mention his high risk-taking, give her endless headaches. It’s become progressively harder for these two to become romantically re-entwined, and yet the possibility always lurks in background. This is something I never planned for, but am enjoying immensely. I know it’s torturing some readers, who tell me they love the sexual chemistry between Heck and Gemma, but ask when is it going to happen? The simple answer is that I don’t know. Because these two are battling ferocious opponents, regularly in danger themselves, they often have bigger fish to fry – but then again, the sheer stress of their daily work will sometimes throw them together in unguarded moments when they genuinely need the solace of each other’s company, so you never, ever know.

Do you have one guilty pleasure that not many people know about?

I wouldn’t call it a guilty pleasure, but I put every minute of my spare and ‘hobby’ time into the editorship of my Terror Tales series. This is a series of all-new horror anthologies (featuring fiction and non-fiction, with a strong folkloric feel), which I edit for an independent label, Gray Friar Press. It’s a world away from Heck, but I love ghost stories and I love mythology, and it’s great fun combining them in this way. It also gives me the opportunity to work with some great writers and artists. To date we’ve done five: Terror Tales of the Lake District, Terror Tales of East Anglia, Terror Tales of London, Terror Tales of the Cotswolds and Terror Tales of the Seaside, with more to follow.

Is your approach to writing different when it comes to a novel compared to your screen writing?

In both cases, I tend to devise my character notes and write my dialogue first, so initially it’s a similar process. In fact, I’ve been told several times that my prose has a very filmic style in that it’s broken up into scenes and is very visual in its content. A flattering review of The Killing Club said the action sequences were “cinematic, so vivid that it is almost as if the reader is there, experiencing it alongside the characters”. I don’t know whether that’s true or not, but if so, it may be that my screenplays and novels have influenced each other more than I realise. But, though there may be superficial similarities between them and the initial approach to the writing may be the same, the two processes ultimately diverge.

For example, writing a film or television drama is very much a process by committee. The more drafts you produce, the more people seem to get involved, each with a different opinion you must take into account. The plot may suddenly make an illogical right-hand turn depending on a phone-call you’ve just received, and then may turn back again with the next phone-call. In the midst of all that, it’s easy for the original artistic vision to be lost. It can become very stressful trying to please everyone and at the same time tell the story you started out with. It may even be, at some stage, that another writer is brought in – it’s frustrating, but that’s just the way it happens. As such, I tend to take a much harder, more objective view of screenplay writing, whereas, with a novel, it’s very different. With a novel, it’s yours from beginning to end, and usually you tend only to heed the words of your commissioning editor. This means you can love it more and consider something entirely yours. Of course, writing a novel can be more physically exhausting than writing a screenplay. It tends, on average, to be about five times longer in terms of word-count, so I usually give myself several months rather than several weeks and stock up a lot more on elbow grease.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to the same thing. Some of the disciplines required are different, but not too many. You need to pace your screenplay, but you need to pace your novel too. In a movie you’ve no time for introspection, for navel-gazing etc, though a novel will quickly bog down too if you start waffling.
In both cases, you have to tell a story as clearly, excitingly, entertainingly, and concisely as you can. The basic skill-sets apply to both forms.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t spend too much time writing short stories. I love short stories, and they are a great training ground for new and young writers, but on their own they are not commercial enough to give you the writing career you seek. Pen them now and then for sure, but concentrate more on novels and screenplays. Once you’re established, you’ll have lots of time to pick up the short form again.

What was the last book you read that you would consider a must read?

Whenever anyone asks me this, I give the same answer, and yet it’s not a novel that is widely available any more, nor is it within any of the genres where I normally work.

It’s The Saxon Tapestry by Sile Rice, published in 1991. This is a historical fantasy concerning the life and death of Hereward the Wake, the great freedom fighter who gave everything he had, including his life eventually, to liberate England from the Normans. It’s an epic tome, concerning major events in history and involving multiple real-life characters, but with mythological elements interwoven as well. It’s also beautifully and poetically written, though that only serves to enhance the incredible battle scenes, of which there are many, and to underline the increasing heartbreak, as a way of a life, a rich culture, and ultimately a unique people and their society, are systematically and cruelly destroyed. Very few books have ever brought genuine tears to my eyes, but this one did. Whatever your field of literary interest, if you’re looking for a genuine must-read, I unreservedly recommend The Saxon Tapestry. Don’t be put off if you don’t like history, because this is first and foremost about humanity (or a disturbing lack of it).

We know that you have more planned for Detective Sergeant Mark Heckenburg but can you tell us about Heck’s future?

It’s difficult to say a lot about this without giving away any essential spoilers. I think I’ve already mentioned that Heck has no desire to rise through the ranks, plus he’s trodden on so many toes in the past that this would be unlikely anyway, even with Gemma as a benign (if abrasive) driving force behind him. So basically you can expect more of the same as he hunts down the worst elements in our society, disturbing and complex investigations galore as killers and maniacs cross and re-cross the police force boundaries of England and Wales.

It’s early days yet and maybe I’m already saying too much, but I have detailed outlines planned for investigations in Cornwall during an English summer heatwave, in South and East London at the very heart of England’s organised crime culture, and in the leafy lanes of Surrey, the kind of place you’d least expect to find violent offenders, though this one has the potential, I think/hope, to be more hair-raising than most.

Can you tell us what are you working on at the moment?

I’m currently working on three live projects. First of all, the fourth Heck novel, the working title for which (though I suspect we’ll stick with it), will be Dead Man Walking. This will be published in November, and will take Heck up to the Lake District in the depths of a dank and foggy autumn. No more spoilers about that one just yet. The fifth Heck novel – the working title for which is Hunted – is also being knocked into shape. You may wonder why we’re working so far ahead of ourselves. Well the truth is that Hunted was originally going to be Heck 3, but readership demand to see the Nice Guys again caused us to fast-track The Killing Club forward into third, pushing Hunted a little bit further back down the line.

The third project is completely unrelated to Heck and is a movie script entitled War Wolf. This is a medieval horror/fantasy set during the Hundred Years War, and is filled with knights, battles, beautiful women and terrifying monsters. It was commissioned from an outline I sent to Amber Entertainment, a major film company with offices in London and Los Angeles, and things are now moving on apace. I’m not sure whether I’m allowed to say all this, but casting is underway and we’re hoping to shoot in Europe in September, though anything can happen in the movie world. We’ll have to see how that one goes.

The characters you create can be very dark and intense, where do you get your inspiration from?

I think I can safely say that dark characters are my stock-in-trade. I met many killers, gangsters, robbers and rapists when I was a police officer, and they were, without exception, scary guys. It’s not something to be taken lightly either. I mean, behind every one of these creatures there is a human horror story: abuse, poverty, violence, endless trips to prison, where they only thing they were taught was how to ensure they’d end up there again not long after they’d been released. But you know, we all love impressive villains. It’s important in every genre; even in romance and in family fiction, there are bad guys as well as good guys. On that basis, I think it’s very important to give the audience what they expect, though with Heck I like to go a little bit farther if I can.

From the beginning, I wanted to make the Heck novels frightening as well as exciting. That’s probably a hangover from my horror-writing days, but I want my readers on edge all the time. Don’t ask me why … maybe I’m just a sadist. But if that means taking them into mysterious rural enclaves where unseen evil is lurking, or exposing them to ghastly urban nightmares where almost no-one gets out alive, so be it. It certainly means they’re going to be meeting the baddest of the bad, and I make no apologies for that.
Where do I get these guys from? Well, I’ve already mentioned my real-life experiences, but I also watch the news, and current affairs programmes, and documentaries, and I’m very fond of history. There are lots of prototype villains and madmen out there in the real world. You don’t have to look too hard to find them.
I suppose the dark and intense thing could also apply to some of my good guys. Heck in particular. Well, I guess that’s the hardboiled cop thing. It’s the other part of the equation. Having created heavyweight villains to terrorise the innocent, I don’t believe in going easy on them. It’s absolutely essential that we have a hero you genuinely believe can go round for round with these crazies. Again, I make no apologies for this – these were always intended to be taut, brooding thrillers, filled with darkness and realistic urban violence, but in which the good guys win, though not without suffering significantly in the process.

Lastly, do you have much planned for the rest of 2014?

Well … the three current projects I’ve already mentioned will be my priority, but all need to be finished well before the end of this year, so hopefully, all being well, we’ll be closing out 2014 by going on holiday somewhere. Seriously. There’s been a lot of intense writing in the last few years. It would be nice to take a break and recharge the batteries, though that feels a long way off at present.

Thank you again for your time and we look forward to the next instalment from Heck!


Saturday, 31 May 2014

Here at last: TERROR TALES OF WALES

In the midst of the ongoing HECK saga, and with WAR WOLF now looking as if it's going to be a major project for me in 2014, I still consider it vital that the TERROR TALES series - the collection of regional British horror anthologies I'm continuing to edit for GRAY FRIAR - continues to roll off the press.

And here, I'm so chuffed to be able to tell you, is the latest installment. It's a wee bit later than planned, but we're all of us having a hellishly busy year. So I hope you can forgive us that.

May I present TERROR TALES OF WALES - now available to be ordered from GRAY FRIAR PRESS, or from Amazon. As usual, the cover hits the spot exactly, this time courtesy of artist NEIL WILLIAMS, while the book itself contains a load of original fiction by some of the horror genre's current finest writers, including STEPHEN VOLK, SIMON CLARK, JOHN LLEWELLYN PROBERT, BRYN FORTEY, PRIYA SHARMA, REGGIE OLIVER and TIM LEBBON.

After our brief tour of the whole British seaside in the last edition, today's launch sees us revert to the normal format of a specific geographic locale, though on this occasion, of course, it's a country in its own right - Wales, which we investigate thoroughly through mythology, history and folklore, but only in their most dark and menacing forms.

Perhaps I'd better shut my gob from this point on, and let the official back-cover blurb do the talking.

Wales – ‘Land of my Fathers’, cradle of poetry, song and mythic rural splendour. But also a scene of oppression and tragedy, where angry spirits stalk castle and coal mine alike, death-knells sound amid fogbound peaks, and dragons stir in bottomless pools …
  
The headless spectre of Kidwelly
The sea terror off Anglesey
The soul stealer of Porthcawl
The blood rites at Abergavenny
The fatal fruit of Criccieth
The dark serpent of Bodalog
The Christmas slaughter at Llanfabon
  
And many more chilling tales by Stephen Volk, Tim Lebbon, Simon Clark, Priya Sharma, John Llewellyn Probert and other award-winning masters and mistresses of the macabre. 

With luck that will whet your whistles for more. But in case it doesn't, here's the full table of contents, which I'm sure you'll agree gives it added umph (the italicised items are the 'true' tales with which I always like to intersperse the fictional ones):

Under the Windings of the Sea by Ray Cluley; Legions of Ghosts; Old as the Hills by Steve Duffy; The Beast of Bodalog; The Druid’s Rest by Reggie Oliver; Night of the Bloody Ape; Swallowing a Dirty Seed by Simon Clark; The Devil Made Him Do It; The Face by Thana Niveau; Hoof-beats in the Mist; Don’t Leave Me Down Here by Steve Lockley; The Werewolf of Clwyd; Matilda of the Night by Stephen Volk; The Goblin Stone; The Sound of the Sea by Paul Lewis; A Quick Pint and a Slow Hanging; The Flow by Tim Lebbon; Doppelganger; The Offspring by Steve Jordan; Prophecy of Fire; Dialled by Bryn Fortey; The Dark Heart of Magnificence; The Rising Tide by Priya Sharma; The Hag Lands; Apple of their Eyes by Gary Fry; Beneath the Sea of Wrecks; Learning the Language by John Llewellyn Probert.

Previous books in the series can still be purchased, of course.They can be found at all good online retailers, such as Amazon, or at their point of origin, the GRAY FRIAR PRESS website. For those interested, they are: TERROR TALES OF THE LAKE DISTRICTTERROR TALES OF THE COTSWOLDSTERROR TALES OF EAST ANGLIA, TERROR TALES OF LONDON and TERROR TALES OF THE SEASIDE.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Killing Club imminent, blog tour hits road

As part of what is a pretty big week for me - THE KILLING CLUB is published tomorrow - I today embark on my first ever official blog tour.

What this means is that various bloggers and web-masters have very kindly invited me to write guest blogs for them designed to coincide with the launch of the new novel, at the same time giving a bit of background detail, character notes and so forth.

First of all, I'm hugely flattered to be asked to participate in this. So thanks to all those involved. I couldn't be more grateful. Secondly, it's been amazingly enjoyable. Quite honestly, there is nothing more exhilarating for an author - I'm sure I can speak for others on this - than to be asked to share the thought processes and creative urges that have combined to see your ideas and dreams hit the printed page.

 As authors, we are nothing without our readership. We don't write for ourselves; what would be the point in that? We write to enthuse, excite and delight that great mysterious mass of often unseen folk who provide our audience. And though the modern era and the social networks in particular allow readers to provide instant feedback - which is hugely gratifying, I assure you - we are a self-effacing enough bunch, I think, to never be absolutely sure we are hitting the right spot.

In that respect, how deeply affecting is it to be asked to sit down and chat about it? Could there be a more gentlemanly way to inform an author that he or she is starting to produce the kind of imaginings that many, many others are buying into?

So thanks again to all those who invited me to participate in this tour. I feel hugely honoured. And so, without further ado, here are the tour-dates, so to speak:

Wednesday, May 21 - WRITING.IE

Thursday, May 22 - KILLING TIME

Friday, May 23 - CRIME THRILLER GIRL

Sunday, May 25 - THE BOOK CORNER

Monday, May 26 - CRIME BOOK CLUB

Tuesday, May 27 - RAVEN CRIME READS

Wednesday, May 28 - LOVE OF A GOOD BOOK

To round off today, I've dressed up this column with some more shots from various underground railway stations in Germany, where the German translations of my Heck novels are being aided and abetted by this very eye-catching poster campaign.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Waxing lyrical on mayhem and murder

We kick off this week with the full interview I did about a month ago with Lars Schafft and Silke Wronkowski, the two charming hosts of KRIMI-COUCH-TV, a massive German website with a strong focus on crime and thriller fiction.

Lars and Silke came all the way over to the UK to have a chat with me in anticipation of the publication of my Heck novels in Germany through prestigious German publisher, PIPER VERLAG


STALKERS, or MADCHENJAGER (as it is known in German), was published in Germany this month. The second in the series, SACRIFICE over here in the UK, RATTENFANGER in Germany, will follow in the autumn. We're all reasonably hopeful that THE KILLING CLUB, due for publication in the UK on May 22 this year, will also be making an appearance in Germany in the near future.

Anyway, the interview is posted above. I always enjoy the opportunity to philosophise about my work (promote it, in other words), and think this occasion went pretty well.

Still on the subject of the Heck novels, THE KILLING CLUB is part of a new HarperCollins promotion, and you can acquire it early in three parts. The first piece, which comprises chapters 1 - 6, comes free HERE, but the second pieces, chapters 7 - 18, is available for 99p HERE.

If you're wondering whether Detective Sergeant Mark 'Heck' Heckenburg - a young Scotland Yard cop who goes exclusively after the maddest and the baddest - is worth your time, a nice review of SACRIFICE appeared today on the BOOK ADDICT SHAUN crime blog.

Now, on a completely different matter, a horror story of mine, THE OLD TRADITIONS ARE BEST, first published in SHADES OF DARKNESS and later in MAMMOTH BOOK OF BEST NEW HORROR #20 was featured today in a spoken-word version on the excellent podcast site, PSEUDOPOD, as read by top actor ANT BACON (who can be reached on Twitter at @antbacon). It comes in at around half an hour, if I remember rightly, so give yourself a little time on this one. It should be of particular interest to Cornwall lovers, and to those interested in our monstrous myths and fables, especially those centred around the mysteries of the Padstow Hobby Horse, a fun and frolicsome spirit to some, a vengeful demon to others.

Thanks to HARBOUR VIEW, PADSTOW for the picture.