Spare Parts by Stuart Young
Mario Guslandi

John B. Ford’s Rainfall  Books  imprint is  fast  becoming more  and  more of a showcase for young British authors pursuing fame as horror writers. I don’t know if I have the knack of pinpointing the thoroughbreds in Ford’s stable: to do this I should get a complete outline of Rainfall books by perusing all of them. Maybe I’ll be able to do that some time in the future.So, what about Stuart Young? To tell you the truth I’m a bit confused : here there are six short stories which could easily have been written by six different authors. I realize that this could be taken either as a compliment ("Young? Very versatile...") or as a criticism ("“Young? Still looking for his own style...") but that’s the way I feel.In the first tale, 'Boxes', a wondrous pill meant to tremendously strengthen the memory exerts devastating effects on a man affected by arachnophobia and on his pal, still longing for a girlfriend who has deserted him. A nice story, well written, even though not a real standout. 'Face at the Window' is a very short but effective piece, where memory (or the lack of it) and loneliness produce a deep sense of grief and desolation such as only great writers are capable of evoking. Remarkable, more mainstream than horror.'Midnight in a perfect world' describes the properties of a magic clock that a woman employs to manipulate time and reverse any difficulties with her lover, only to induce a final disaster. Slightly predictable, but the story manages to work due to the writer’s skill in blending feelings such as frustration at our inability to alter the passing of time and our sense of powerlessness that we cannot change the flow of events in our life. So far so good. But the next story 'Swamp 'Gator Blues', a tale of voodoo and death, really dampened my enthusiasm for Young. I find the narration muddled, the plot unlikely and the whole thing rather tedious. An example of when the suspension of disbelief just doesn’t work. And the following tale 'Spare Parts', which is basically a story of vengeance, did little to revive my interest.But then, fortunately, the last story 'Spirits of Darkness and Light' reveals yet another side of Stuart Young. Here’s a classy author able to grip the reader’s attention with a precise, elegant writing style , turning a very simple plot – the ghost of a First World War pilot asking a comrade to bring an unfinished task to an end - into an amazing fictional item that it will be hard to forget.After finishing this variegate collection I remain at a loss to spot Young’s real nature as a writer. His next book may help to give us a firmer idea, and the quality of his best stories makes me feel optimistic.
Black Altars by Mark Samuels
Reviewer unknown

The Lichen is a science fiction tale that  owes more  to the  spirit of Quatermass than The X Files. The horror is subtly introduced, and Samuels allows his Daemons to creep up on you, rather than throwing them straight in your face. The old ingredients are in place (a ‘Strangers on a Train’ encounter with a wide-eyed madman, a tremendous thunderstorm), and if it’s not the most startlingly original offering in the collection, it’s still a compelling opener.
Nephilim is the story of a man’s mental and physical disintegration. The effect is like sitting in a tub of water which is getting colder and colder by the minute. The nightmarish quality of this tale keeps the reader on edge, as it slowly spins away from the real world and into the realms of fevered delusion. Nothing is what it seems, and this tale is anything but predictable.
In Patient 704, a man becomes an inmate in an asylum he is investigating. Once again, perceptions are changed and each successive twist drags you deeper into the nightmare. Set in an asylum, it is easy to interpret the whole scenario as the product of a deluded mind; but once again, nothing is that simple.
Mysteries of the Abyss is powerful, grim, and a tremendously accomplished piece of writing. Gin Joe is a down and out on the streets of London, abused and humiliated by the world at large. Then one Christmas, after downing bottles of wine and whiskey, his past flashes before him. It’s a fascinating revelation and the powerful writing places you right among the lowlifes on the freezing streets and stinking back alleys of nighttime London.
Poe is clearly an influence, and The Ailuromorph certainly has what The Master would describe as a ‘Germanic’ atmosphere; dark streets, an insomniac night prowler; and a sinister gothic house to which he is fatally drawn. Grey and sombre, the ending stays with the reader for quite a while after the reading.
The final story, Dedicated to the Weird, is a homage to the works of HP Lovecraft. A mediocre writer heads off for an unnamed location in search of inspiration. Fans of Lovecraft will recognize it as Innsmouth, and nobody comes away from there unscathed. Presented as a series of e-mails, Samuels captures the protagonists growing paranoia to great effect until, chillingly, the final e-mail descends into gibberish as the narrator loses it completely.  It’s derivative of Lovecraft, of course, and Samuels is best when writing in his own, distinct voice; but it’s still an effective way to bring down the curtain on a really classy collection (to which Mark, himself, contributed all of the excellent artwork).
If you’re into the works of James, Lovecraft and their ilk, this is the perfect collection to settle down before the fire, glass of wine in hand, to enjoy. Atmospheric gothic horror is back in fashion, and Black Altars is a collection to savour; Especially with the winter nights drawing in.
Terror Tales #2 edited by John B. Ford & Paul Kane
Mario Guslandi

The second volume in the reborn ‘Terror Tales’ series is  the latest product by the prolific duo John B Ford & Paul Kane, whose unflattering portrait appears as a two-headed monster on the book cover . Experienced editors as they are, Ford and Kane have managed to assemble a rather impressive line-up of contemporary horror writers in the attempt to maintain the quality or their previous work. The blurb on the back cover “…an enjoyable book featuring many good stories by a bunch of fine writers”taken from my own review of ‘Terror Tales # 1’ for The Alien Online, aptly describes in a few words the first volume. But, alas, never take anything for granted. To ask a group of renowned writers to send in their contributions doesn’t necessarily mean you produce an outstanding anthology. Let me say quite frankly that some of the authors included have betrayed the editors’ trust by submitting material which is not up to their fame. For instance neither Paul Finch (‘The Other One’) nor Peggy Jo Shumate a.k.a. Brutal Dreamer (‘Time To Scare Gramma’) are at their best and David Price (‘The Spirit of Rock and Roll’) can certainly do better. Even the story by Michael Marshall Smith, one of my favourite writers, turns out to be a bit disappointing. ‘Victoria’s Secret’ is a semi-humorous tale with a kafkian touch about a girl who wakes up to find a familiar body - quite dead - in her own bed. Despite Smith’s notorious writing ability, the tale remains somehow unconvincing and can hardly be listed among his most memorable productions. Tim Meads and Marie O’Regan’s contributions are so short to defy a proper judgement. So much for the wrong notes. Fortunately, there is good fiction in this volume and here it comes. Sarah Crabtree’s ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’ is a nasty short tale describing quite effectively the pros and cons of being a beautiful woman. With ‘Blue Skin,’ Lisa Negus provides an odd mix of horror, mystery and science fiction. To tell you the truth I’m not sure I got the plot all clearly, so I won’t try to explain the content in detail. It’s a like one of those detective movies which in the end leaves you wondering what exactly has happened and why, but manages to keep you pleasantly entertained while you’re watching it. In ‘Sent Down’ by Gemma Files, foreign gods are not merciful to the Roman legions deployed at the outskirts of the Empire. Files’ writing style is nervous and vivid, gripping the reader’s attention throughout the story. ‘Sermon,’ a co-operative work by F. Paul Wilson and John B Ford, is a moving tale concerning an autistic child and his strange relationship with the animal world. A strong, compelling tale, told in a subdued but effective fashion. In Jeffrey Thomas’ ‘The Tripod,’ a photographer working for the police and facing day after day of gruesome crime scenes, becomes capable of scanning reality more in depth than the detectives themselves. This atmospheric, dark tale, which seems to be taken from a film noir of the black-and-white era, results in a stunning performance by an author who appears ready to express all his enormous potential. The final praise is for ‘Comparative anatomy’ by Stephen Gallagher, by far the best piece of fiction in TT #2. The story- which is worth alone the price of the book - is certainly one of the greatest tales published in the English language during the year. Two lovers on a trip abroad end up being the only passengers on a mysterious ferry-boat bound to…where? A truly terrific and chilling story, conveying an increasing sense of dread as the narration goes on. Gallagher provides convincing evidence of how horrifying a good story can be without resorting to the usual paraphernalia (freaks, gore, gallons of blood) of certain cheap horror fiction. As in the first volume, to make the dish more meaty, the Editors have included an interesting non-fiction section, mostly compiled by Paul Kane, featuring an article about zombies, interviews, film and book reviews. One more reason for continuing to collect the ‘Terror Tales’ series.
Spare Parts by Stuart Young
Peter Tennant

Spare Parts, like all the publications I’ve seen from Rainfall Books, is an impressive piece of kit, a slim and elegant volume that would grace the shelves of any Horror aficionado, with a striking cover image, a Janus plus one figure, the third visage that of a grinning skull. Inside we get six illustrations, three each from talented artists Bob Covington and Dave Bezzina, that in imagination and attention to the fine detail compliment perfectly the written contents. In addition there’s an introduction by Tim Lebbon, albeit for anyone familiar with the Small Press scene the work of Stuart Young surely needs no introduction and this volume showcases six of his finest stories. “Boxes” is the longest of these, and also the most satisfying, the tale of a man whose great love has just come to an unhappy end and who takes an illicit drug that enhances memory. Gratified at first by the way in which it helps him get through a rough patch, he sees his friend fall victim to the hallucinations that accompany the pharmaceutical and is soon himself in a similar condition. Bottom line with this story is that it’s The Man With the X-Ray Eyes, only with memory in place of enhanced vision, but Young makes it special by the depth of characterisation he brings to the piece, making his hero a genuinely sympathetic guy, the quintessential loser in love who we can all identify with at one time or another in our lives, and giving us a series of events that seem perfectly ordinary, banal even, until the horror takes hold, culminating in a series of vivid and disturbing hallucinations that undermine him completely. This is a moving and powerful piece of writing. Shortest story, “Face at the Window”, is equally adept at playing with the reader’s emotion, giving us the case of an old lady who is haunted by a zombie standing outside her house, but as the story progresses it is revealed that she is a victim of Alzheimer’s, the contrast between the make-believe terrors of Horror fiction and the very real horrors attendant upon mortality giving the story depth and an emotional kick. Young’s descriptions of senile dementia bears the stamp of authenticity, with such touches as the dress put on backwards, forgetfulness and general lack of personal care sending a shiver up the spine. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the story though is the way in which Mary has been simply abandoned by those trusted with her care, presenting the reader with a savage and pertinent indictment of the way society treats its most vulnerable. “Midnight in a Perfect World” brings to mind the film Groundhog Day, with a woman using a supernaturally charged clock to preserve the perfection of a love affair, only to have her self-contained reality break down as the clock itself falters, a story that wins the reader over with wonderful touches of character and a genuine feel for how relationships between people work, the doubts and uncertainties that beset us all, the process of getting to know each other, so that the fantastic elements of the story are built upon a solid foundation. “Swamp ‘Gator Blues” is perhaps the story that has the most to offer by way of pure entertainment, with no subtext or ‘message’ to convey, just a fast paced  and hugely entertaining tale of a father, his son and best friend, wandering into the bayous and finding a whole lot more trouble than anyone has the right to expect. The plot doesn’t ease its grip on the reader for a second, with more overt terrors than in the other stories and a truly downbeat ending. The feeling that exists between the three characters (to call it male bonding would be to trivialise) is conveyed with real skill, making it all the harder when the shit hits the fan, and combined with the obvious gusto Young brings to the telling it enables us to overlook the slightly silly modus operandi driving all these events. The last two stories are perhaps the least of what Young has to offer, though still excellent. The title piece, “Spare Parts”, is a relatively straightforward tale of revenge, with an ambitious newspaper reporter having her life dismantled by the son of the woman she done wrong. It’s eminently readable and Young doesn’t put a foot wrong as the events unfold, while the ending is as unexpected as it is gratifying, but I could have done with a bit more focus on the idea that reporters are morally culpable for their actions, always lurking in the background but never taking centre stage. Finally “Spirits of Dark and Light” is a Boy’s Own Ghost story set against the backdrop of WWI, with a fearless fighter ace goaded into action by the vengeful spirit of a fellow pilot. Young makes a sterling effort at getting the atmosphere right, with all those little touches of detail that add verisimilitude, and yet readable as the story undoubtedly is I couldn’t really identify with the characters; they were frozen in one particular moment of time rather than possessed of a universality of experience to which I could relate. The horrors of war seemed somehow distant, detached even, while the final twist in the plot had about it a whiff of the anticlimactic. Young’s writing is never less than rewarding, while at his best he is thought provoking and capable of genuinely moving the reader. This is a strong first collection, demonstrating versatility, a real feel for the material and an enviable maturity of outlook. Recommended. 
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Strange Tales by Mark West
Peter Tennant

It’s often  said that you  can’t judge a book by its cover and certainly  that  seems to  be the case with Strange Tales, the tasteful image of an attractive young lady, the author’s wife, hinting the stories it contains will be svelte, elegant and sophisticated, but in reality the collection is much more in your face than the photograph would suggest. Of the eleven stories on offer many are short and bloody, possibly the prompt for a cover blurb comparison with Clive Barker that, sadly, the contents don’t justify.
“Infantophobia” gets the collection off to a promising start, the tale of a serial killer who performs abortions on pregnant women. The dark psychology behind his actions, grounded in a childhood misunderstanding, is credible enough and the actual scenes in which he operates on his victims are appropriately gut churning, culminating in a truly savage and memorable final twist. Gut churning also describes most of the action in the longer and lesser “Having a Bad Day”, in which a woman comes home after a hard day at the office to find her husband has committed suicide and, for the most specious of reasons, instead of calling the police takes it upon herself to dispose of the body. Cue garishly described scenes in which the corpse is signed, sealed and delivered (euphemism). As black comedies on the theme of how to get rid of a dead body go, this isn’t especially funny, and the corny punch line only accentuates the daftness of it all. The irony is that, when dealing with the mental states of the protagonists before the gore kicks in, West hints at a more rewarding story to be told, one grounded in the insecurities and emotional crises of his characters, but sacrifices this opportunity for the far less interesting schlocker option.
“Empty Souls, Drowning” is the best of what’s on offer, a sign of what West is capable of when he stops wanting to show that Richard Laymon a thing or two and instead deals with the material on its own terms, with two lost souls interacting in a rundown seaside town at the fag end of the season, a story full of subtle emotional nuances and a genuine feel for the suffering of the characters, all made that more effective by a strong evocation of place. The bleak landscape, so chillingly described, seems to mirror the inner turmoil of the people who loiter in the seafront arcades and cheap B&Bs trying to make sense of the traumatic events in their past. And then we’re back in the land of a thousand knives with “Dead Skin” and Rebecca, whose one aim in life is to get it on with a dead guy and she won’t rest until her dreams come true, only the stiff won’t get stiff if you know what I mean. There’s an attempt here to get under the skin of the character and explore what makes necrophiliacs tick, and that’s a commendable aim, but it’s overshadowed by the macabre elements of the story so that ultimately all we have is just another shock set piece. “Speckles” is one of the better stories, a tale of obsession slightly reminiscent of Poe on a bad day, no mean feat as Poe’s bad days were better than most writers’ good ones. The protagonist’s zeal to stay clean drives him to ridiculous and ultimately horrific lengths. The foundations of his condition are laid out with authority and some insight into such aberrant mental states, while the chilling final line of dialogue is perhaps the most effective pay off in the book, or would have been if the author had let it go at that instead of making what happens concrete with an unnecessary last paragraph. “Up for Anything” also has a truly nasty twist in the tail, as our heroine, an S&M devotee who thinks safe words are for wimps, takes her preference for ‘head’ to a logical conclusion. Not so much a story as a grotesque show and tell.
So far true invention has been at a premium and now it seems to excuse itself completely. “Together Forever” has one of the oldest clichés in the book, any book, the dead lover who won’t let go, and does nothing interesting with it. Most Horror fans will know exactly what to expect after the first page or so, and those who don’t are probably too young to be reading this stuff anyway. Ditto for “The Darkest Hour”, in which a man and woman link up at a nightclub and the only real question in the reader’s mind is which one of them is going to turn out to be the homicidal maniac. Full of heavy handed hints, this story is nothing more than a tiresome going through the motions.
After this sudden rash of banality it’s a treat to stumble upon “The City in the Rain”, which has the most original premise in the collection, as the metropolis itself falls victim to some fatal malaise and tries to heal itself by preying on the unruly bipeds who stalk its streets. It’s an intriguing concept and one that might usefully have been developed at greater length, perhaps even provide the seed for a novel, and in its current form provides a striking and dramatic image to fester in the mind. For the last two stories we’re back to business as usual, with “Dreaming of a Black Christmas” a simple cuckolded husband takes bloody revenge piece, recommended only to those who find divorce an unacceptable alternative, and “Beaches” which falls back on the familiar concept of the man who haunts himself. To damn with faint praise, these are competently written but that’s all that can usefully be said of them.
Rounding out the collection are some notes in which West explains how these stories came into being, which are interesting not only in their own right but for the picture they give us, which I personally found thoroughly endearing, of a young writer devoted to his craft and in love with the Horror genre. And that perhaps is the key fact about this collection; West has had a fair number of stories published in the Small Press but he is still relatively young and feeling his way. He shows real potential in the four better stories, but the remainder are at best unremarkable. If his talent is to truly grow then he needs to develop his plots more instead of always taking the easy option and rein in the tendency to end every other story with the most graphic and bloody scene his imagination can conjure up. There are times when the gore works (e.g. “Infantophobia”) and enhances the impact of the story, and there are other times when it seems to be an end in itself, a way of papering over the fact that the author has nothing interesting to tell us.
Terror Tales #1 edited by John B. Ford & Paul Kane
Mario Guslandi

Welcome back, Terror Tales!  The  glorious horror  magazine  returns  in  paperback  format, courtesy of Rainfall Books and thanks to the joint efforts of John B. Ford and Paul Kane. The first volume of this anthology series contains, in addition to horror fiction, non-fictional stuff such as book and film reviews, interviews etc.First, I must warn the potential buyer that the author list reported on the back cover is potentially a little misleading. It mentions Stephen Gallagher, Tim Lebbon and Paul Finch, but although they do all contribute to the 'Dark Debate' section of the book, there’s no actual fiction from those writers. [We're reliably informed that both Gallagher and Finch do have fiction contributions in the next volume. - ed.]The bulk of the fiction included in the present volume is constituted by the horror tales which won the first positions in the Supreme Terror Scribe contest launched in 2002 by the Terror Tales Online website. It’s not for me to dispute the popular vote, although I would have ranked the various stories differently, but I will mention them without specifying the actual position attained in the competition. With one exception, the top winner, deservedly, was 'Images of Angels' by Sue Phillips; a former winner of another Supreme Terror Scribe competition with her superb 'The Dark Mirror'. Phillips, whose fictional work is, unfortunately, still too scarce, depicts the final days of a man who has to suddenly face the terrible diagnosis of incurable cancer. A dreadful angel, ugly and beautiful at the same time, constantly staying at the man’s back , will represent the loving legacy he will leave to his affectionate wife. The emotional drama is described by Phillips with uncommon restraint and deep human sympathy, with never a moment of surrender to the temptations of sentimentalism. Just perfect.In Michael Pendragon‘s 'Forests of the Night', a boy’s life, shaken by the mother’s death, turns into a nightmare leading to a tragic, horrific ending. The tale, extremely well written, fills the reader’s mind with anguish and pity. As for 'The Insect Assembly' by John Paul Catton, it is enough to say that if you already hate bugs you’d better skip this terrifying piece of fiction. But, on the other hand, even if you don’t mind insects you’ll end up with a feeling of revulsion the next time you’ll set your eyes upon one of them.'Sound Bites?' by Derek M. Fox is an unusual example of 'technological' horror, where sound becomes a terrible tool of torture and destruction. In Stanley C. Sargent’s 'Dark Family Values', an abused little boy finally discovers the truth about his deceased parents, only to succumb to their unwholesome appetites. Very creepy!.Sarah Crabtree, with her nice 'In the Flesh', relates family stories from a past long gone, when vaccinations were still a matter for scientific debate and for groundless fears by the layman. EM Angerhuber’s 'The Skull' will delight the readers fond of the 'dark menace' genre whereas 'The House of Solemn Children' by Michael Cisco is a bizarre, hazy tale where dreams and reality mix up in a ghostly patchwork. On the other hand Scott Thomas, with 'Under Mock Orange', adds new blood (no pun intended) to the traditional serial killer theme .If you are still so naive to believe that children are innocent creatures you will change your mind after reading 'Seen But Not Heard' by Joe Rattigan, and if you insist that books are precious objects to handle with care you’ll be horrified by Mark Samuels’ 'Quayle the Bibliophile'.So much for Supreme Terror Scribe winners. To complete the book the editors have added particularly gruesome story by Neal Asher about the hidden horrors of a peculiar factory ('Plastipak Ltd'), an excellent tale by Christopher Fowler ('Where They Went Wrong') about a couple of outcasts whose greatest fear is LIFE, and a semi-humorous piece by Simon Clark ('Me, my Bike and the Inevitable'). I’ll refrain from mentioning the remaining title to avoid embarrassing its author, but the meaning of sentences like "Because this house of filth sits on the street of pain and sleeping beasts will never rise and rage in hungers again." is anybody’s guess.All in all Terror Tales # 1 is an enjoyable book, featuring many good stories by a bunch of fine writers. Having used up all the tales from the Terror contest, Ford and Kane now have the problem of find equally good material for the next issue. I’m sure they will prove once again to be not only two fine writers but also two highly capable editors.
Ghosts Far From Subtle by Joe Rattigan
Reviewer unknown

If you read enough horror you begin to notice some very clear differences between American and British writers. Whereas American writers such as Dean Koontz, Stephen King, and Joe Lansdale jump right into the plot, British writers tend to take their time establishing atmosphere. Tanith Lee will paint a scene rather than describe it. Ramsey Campbell books feel like acid trips. Brian Herbert surrounds the reader with sensory overload. Forgive the generalization but British writers like to draw the reader into a paradise of imagery, atmosphere and style before lowering the boom. Joe Rattigan is no exception.
The six stories in this collection aren’t terribly original but they all lay on the atmosphere. There’s the killer tree story. There’s the story about being lost in the woods. There are at least two about being stalked by ghosts. Placing “In The Deep Dark Woods” and “The Dark Side of the Woods” next to each other was rather unfortunate given the titles create a false expectation for the second story. Most of the time you don’t care because what makes these stories work is the style. While there aren’t any quintessential moments of great description, the overall picture he presents is much richer than your average horror writer. Dragging the reader into the tale, Rattigan liberally uses adjectives to maximum effect. I have not been more impressed with stylistic brilliance since Poppy Z. Brite’s Swamp Foetus -- renamed Wormwood When the character is lost in the woods you feel like you’re in the woods with him. When the character is outside a haunted asylum it doesn’t feel like a cop out to have that character run away. There’s enough atmosphere involved in these stories to keep things going.
Unfortunately the substance is still lagging behind the style of these stories. Quite a few lack that essential spark. “When She Calls” and “Wrong Side of the Tracks” are “stalked by a ghost” tales where there’s not nearly enough invested in the protagonists to care. “In the Deep Dark Woods” is the second in three evil tree stories. British writers take their evil trees much more seriously. You aren’t going to have a tree-on-girl rape scene ala Evil Dead in a British movie. One does begin to miss the humor that other horror writers use – sometimes badly – to lighten the mood.
Overall this is an excellent gift book. Joe Rattigan is a young talent and one only hopes to see better material in the future. When he’s off there are too many tree descriptions, yet his capacity to play it a little too close to the bone offers up great material when he’s on and he’s on enough times.
The  Waldorf Street Paradox by Sue Phillips
Reviewer Unknown

Take a host of short stories and tie them loosely around a place and time. Add a little divine intervention, a dark, mysterious mirror, a leeching spirit locked away in a mobile phone, a bus driver who has his own idea of time (don’t they all?). Throw in a giant spider and the demonic representation of terminal illness, a tiddlywinks championship and a twist-in-the-tale spiritualists’ meeting, and you probably still won’t come up with something similar to The Waldorf Street Paradox.
You won’t, because Waldorf Street is more than the sum of its parts. Sue Phillips, with her easy, unimposing writing style, has created a collection of stories that are a delight to read.
The scene is set with a short prologue that tells of divine shenanigans during ‘the time before time’, and is itself a direct lead-in to the first story – the award winning tale The Dark Mirror. Set amongst a curiosity shop in an altogether gentler age, the lustful Mr Breme gets more than he bargained for in his pursuit of spinster Mrs Hunmanby. Without wishing to add too many spoilers, the breaking of the mirror at the end of the tale is responsible for much of the fractured reality in the tales that follow.
And the reality most definitely is fractured. There’s the bus driver, for one, who finds an almost timeless paradise in the old bus depot in Waldorf Street. But, of course, he and his elderly passenger soon learn there’s a dark side to all such places, and the tale twists and turns in its three parts often in the strangest of fashion. And there’s the odd tale Website, of giant spiders and pasts that come back to haunt, or to linger. Superb, imaginative stuff.
The only criticism I have of this work is in its length, and then only for positive reasons in that having enjoyed the stories so much I wanted more. At 125 pages it wasn’t difficult to finish at one sitting, something I personally don’t like to do as I always feel part of the experiencing of a good book is the wait to return to it, if you see what I mean.
Because by its very nature the work is fragmented, Phillips provides a short epilogue to tie up loose ends, particularly in the cases where the Waldorf link is tenuous. And together with the prologue, this epilogue works well, bringing the work together into a (almost!) coherent whole.
All in all, a most enjoyable read.
Assembly Of Rogues edited by Martin Roberts & John B. Ford
Sandy Auden

Purple Rage  Productions and  Rainfall  Books  have  joined forces to release  a   DVD  doc-umentary about the UK Horror genre, accompanied by an anthology with stories from the stars of the documentary. We caught up with Martin Roberts - Director, Cameraman, Editor and Producer for Assembly of Rogues - to quiz him about the new project. "Assembly of Rogues focuses on the UK Horror genre through the eyes of practising authors," said Roberts. "It also allows the viewer to meet the person behind the words and to hear what they have to say about the current state of the Horror genre in the UK and America. "With the help of John B Ford at Rainfall Books, I have co-edited the anthology that accompanies Rogues, which features an example of work from many of the writers involved with the film. As a collector of limited editions, I own several books that have been packed with CD soundtracks inspired by the authors work. I've always wanted to purchase/produce something of a similar nature and I can now say that I have achieved this and more. " Why did he decide to put it together? "It was produced to prove that there are more of talented UK writers out there than just Clive Barker and James Herbert, connected to the horror genre. Whenever I walked into a local branch of any of the major bookstores I always came across the same authors on the horror shelves, but I knew from my own reading experiences that what the stock represented on the shelves was only the tip of the iceberg. "Horror was undergoing a resurrection of sorts in America, particularly due to the speciality press - from established publishers like Cemetery Dance, Subterranean and Gauntlet to more recent outfits like Delirium and Bloodletting Press. The US mainstream was represented by Leisure Books, who were publishing UK authors in easily affordable paperbacks, on a monthly basis, alongside American writers. I wanted to explore why this was happening in the US and not here in the author's country of origin. "The second major reason behind the project was that I needed to make a second film as I had just received a BBC Award nomination for my graduate short 'Paint' and I wanted to continue making films due to this success. "I still found that I couldn't obtain the funds required to finance a short film, so I thought about the skills I had gained, whilst working in the local community (documenting events and concerts etc) and decided to apply these skills to something I have a personal interest in. I originally thought the production would be easier to produce than a drama; this was not to be case, of course, as I was soon to find out." The project has its fair share of ups and downs then?. "Indeed, but there are numerous highlights," said Roberts. "The first would have to be that I have made some really good friends along the way and would particularly like to thank Paul Kane for trusting me with a short film script that we will see produced one day, even if it kills me. "Watching a rough cut of the documentary at a Terror Scribes convention in Birmingham was also a high point, although I was a nervous wreck and tripped over a cable as I was about to introduce the film. I was amazed at the positive response from the audience, especially since it was shown in its most primal form." "On the downside, there were numerous moments throughout the production that were difficult, for example: trying to find the venue for a pre-BFS awards gathering in London with a camera and tripod strapped to my back or trying to cast the right combination of people to take on the roles for the dramatic moments; and a whole host of technical difficulties, once again down to not having a budget, the main reason why the project has taken over two years of my life. "I would have to say that the worst experience I had during the production was three weeks prior to the Birmingham screening, I lost the entire project, moments before I was going to take a digital master. At this stage, the rough cut lasted an amazing two and a half hours and the hard drive it was stored on crashed and burned for no apparent reason, not quite the tragedies that plagued The Exorcist, but bad enough for me. Put it this way, I was not a happy bunny and I hardly spoke for at least three days. It was the Birmingham event mentioned above that kicked me up the arse and I re-cut a new, more streamlined version, which was shown to great success. "The craziest experience, though, has got to be the drive to Caerleon, in South Wales, for inserts of the pub that Tim Lebbon shares a common interest in, with one of his literary heroes. A 15-hour plus round trip, for less than 20 seconds worth of footage for the documentary. These things have to be done or someone will point it out whilst reviewing the film - they could have done this or that. The bottom line is: we tried, as simple as that." The pub inserts are just one of the many post production features added to the finished DVD. "Talking heads alone do not make great viewing material," said Roberts. "So my next goal was to find visual references that would relate to the subject matter being discussed and to recreate any story being told on screen. I was lucky in a few cases and was able to film locations that fit the story before hand e.g. Derek Fox had written a story based on a local legend and fortunately the graveyard was still accessible. "In other cases I had to recreate the scenes, which led to the need for actors. This was a problem, due to the fact that I had no budget. I solved this by eventually persuading friends and their friends to perform in front of the camera and was lucky that I required no dialogue to be spoken. Of course there are numerous pictures throughout the film due to books, films and authors being mentioned who are sadly, no longer around. "I have also added a music/atmospheric soundtrack to the dramatic moments in the film, having met Steve Lines (Rainfall Records and Books) whilst filming the interviews. He sent a CD compilation of atmospherics taken from the Strange Aeons project to use. "I was also exceptionally lucky to have met James Newman via the Internet. James, it seemed, not only writes novels but he was creating music for the audio books he had done for Lone Wolf Publications and Endeavour Press in the US. He was gracious enough to send me four or five tracks of his music that are now featured in the documentary. This is why he's the only American author to have a story featured in the accompanying anthology." So you'll not only be getting the DVD for your money but an anthology and an CD.
Terror Tales #2 edited by John B. Ford & Paul Kane
Mario Guslandi

The second volume in the reborn ‘Terror Tales’ series is the latest product by the prolific duo John B Ford & Paul Kane, whose unflattering portrait appears as a two-headed monster on the book cover . Experienced editors as they are, Ford and Kane have managed to assemble a rather impressive line-up of contemporary horror writers in the attempt to maintain the quality or their previous work.
The blurb on the back cover “…an enjoyable book featuring many good stories by a bunch of fine writers”taken from my own review of ‘TerrorTales # 1’ for The Alien Online, aptly describes in a few words the first volume. But, alas, never take anything for granted. To ask a group of renowned writers to send in their contributions doesn’t necessarily mean you produce an outstanding anthology. Let me say quite frankly that some of the authors included have betrayed the editors’ trust by submitting material which is not up to their fame. For instance neither Paul Finch (‘The Other One’) nor Peggy Jo Shumate a.k.a. Brutal Dreamer (‘Time To Scare Gramma’) are at their best and David Price (‘The Spirit of Rock and Roll’) can certainly do better.
Even the story by Michael Marshall Smith, one of my favourite writers, turns out to be a bit disappointing. ‘Victoria’s Secret’ is a semi-humorous tale with a kafkian touch about a girl who wakes up to find a familiar body - quite dead - in her own bed. Despite Smith’s notorious writing ability, the tale remains somehow unconvincing and can hardly be listed among his most memorable productions.
Tim Meads and Marie O’Regan’s contributions are so short to defy a proper judgement. So much for the wrong notes. Fortunately, there is good fiction in this volume and here it comes. Sarah Crabtree’s ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’ is a nasty short tale describing quite effectively the pros and cons of being a beautiful woman. With ‘Blue Skin,’ Lisa Negus provides an odd mix of horror, mystery and science fiction. To tell you the truth I’m not sure I got the plot all clearly, so I won’t try to explain the content in detail. It’s a like one of those detective movies which in the end leaves you wondering what exactly has happened and why, but manages to keep you pleasantly entertained while you’re watching it.
In ‘Sent Down’ by Gemma Files, foreign gods are not merciful to the Roman legions deployed at the outskirts of the Empire. Files’ writing style is nervous and vivid, gripping the reader’s attention throughout the story.
‘Sermon,’ a co-operative work by F. Paul Wilson and John B Ford, is a moving tale concerning an autistic child and his strange relationship with the animal world. A strong, compelling tale, told in a subdued but effective fashion.
In Jeffrey Thomas’ ‘The Tripod,’ a photographer working for the police and facing day after day of gruesome crime scenes, becomes capable of scanning reality more in depth than the detectives themselves. This atmospheric, dark tale, which seems to be taken from a film noir of the black-and-white era, results in a stunning performance by an author who appears ready to express all his enormous potential.
The final praise is for ‘Comparative anatomy’ by Stephen Gallagher, by far the best piece of fiction in TT #2. The story- which is worth alone the price of the book - is certainly one of the greatest tales published in the English language during the year. Two lovers on a trip abroad end up being the only passengers on a mysterious ferry-boat bound to…where? A truly terrific and chilling story, conveying an increasing sense of dread as the narration goes on. Gallagher provides convincing evidence of how horrifying a good story can be without resorting to the usual paraphernalia (freaks, gore, gallons of blood) of certain cheap horror fiction.
As in the first volume, to make the dish more meaty, the Editors have included an interesting non-fiction section, mostly compiled by Paul Kane, featuring an article about zombies, interviews, film and book reviews. One more reason for continuing to collect the ‘Terror Tales’ series

Black Altars  by Mark Samuels
Sue Phillips

Mark Samuels is a writer of horror fiction whose reputation is growing. Black Altars is a collection of dark tales that seem to cross the boundaries of traditional and modern fiction with an ease that belies the author’s skill. His stories are mostly written in the first person and the predominant skin tone of other players is grey and mouldering. Six tales reside between the covers and each will have you lying sleepless at night between your own covers.
Tell Me When It's Over
Bill Parry
From "Holding Together" issue 35 August 2006 :-

With the perspective of twenty years - can it really be that long? - our good friend Clive has put together this splendid conpendium of reviews, features and interviews of nine leading bands from that second wave of US psychedelia which so captivated us in the early to mid eighties. Crucially, he has invited nine writers to pen their thoughts today on the respective bands, which saves the book from being a mere compilation - though, having said that, the writing being complied is of a very high order, and must have persuaded many "Unhinged", "Bucketfull" and "BOB" readers to investigate the music at the time. In addition, the excellent Pat Thomas has contributed a Foreward, and the other esteemed scribblers include Nigel Cross, Jon Storey, Paul Ricketts and Jud Cost.

Naturally, definitions may differ on which bands actually comprised the "Paisley Underground", a phrase coined by Michael Quercio of the Three O'Clock, but this is Clive's book, and his judgment is the arbiter here. So those included are the Dream Syndicate, Three O'Clock, True West, the Long Ryders, Green On Red, Wednesday Week, 28th Day, the Rain Parade and the Clay Allison family of bands; excluded are the Bangles, Alternate Learning / Game Theory, the Eyes of Mind, the Things and everybody else - but that's okay. Pat even quotes the chorus of "Garden Party" in his intro by way of acceptance ...

As a reader who digested most of the original articles when they were first published, this reviewer is reminded of how the vibrancy of the prose captured his imagination and made him hungry to hear any music not yet in his collection. Indeed, the capacity of the best rock writing to inspire its readership to investigate the subject matter was the main spur behind both TAR and HT, so Steve and I are both indebted to these fine penmen in any number of ways. Particularly exciting were Pat and Nigel's urgent notes on the Syndicate, Colin Hill's dynamic essay on True West and Nigel's brilliant work in communicating the essence of the Rain Parade, but it's all terrific stuff which has - despite the reservations expressed in some of the updates - stood the test of time exceptionally well.

Amongst those specially commissioned pieces, Paul's overview of Wednesday Week is spectacularly good - a superb effort to really get to grips with both the mechanics and the emotional resonance of the music. As it happens, this band is one your scribe never truly cracked at the time - but Mr Ricketts' incredibly honest evaluation has made Eddie desperate to catch up. In fact, a forty pound box set would be a snip on the strength of the article, though the immediate chance of this would seem remote. Elsewhere, Clive has produced an atmospheric introduction to the highly underrated 28th Day, which is followed by an agonisingly naked letter (to Paul R) from Barbara Manning dated 1989. In fact, so visceral did it seem to her when she re-read it last year - presumably to authorise its republishing - that she insisted on an update to add the balm of hindsight. Riveting stuff.

Sadly, there isn't space to praise all the articles in the book, so we'll just conclude with the heartiest recommendations for the whole thing, which runs in total to 289 pages with eight full page b&w photos. The front cover is a delightful pastiche of the artwork for "Loaded", and there are more great bandshots on the reverse. Get your ticket now and ride that emergency third rail all over again!
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