Supernatural Fiction

Book Review – 5/5 stars to LAST CALL by Tim Powers

Last Call (Fault Lines, #1)Last Call by Tim Powers

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My first read of 2017 straddled the old and new year, which is pretty apt for a tale of the death of an old king and the ascension of a new one.

LAST CALL is a dazzling jewel of a book. Powers pulls out all of his vast array of literary tricks, and not for the first time drags his Jungian archetypes to center stage to show off for him.

In this one we get Fisher Kings, blasted lands, fools and knaves, queens and one eyed jacks, all vying for control of the Kingdom and the power that comes with the role of the new King in a plot centered around the casinos of Las Vegas and the surrounding area.

So there’s that, but there’s also an almost noir feel to the book, like Raymond Chandler filtered through the eyes of a burned out poker player ready to cash in his chips for the last time.

As ever with Powers there’s wonderful characterization, tremendous set pieces, wild flights of fancy, and lyrical flourishes of brilliance.

This one won the World Fantasy Award in 1993 and fully deserves every plaudit thrown at it. It hasn’t dated either – you can still feel the desperation and despair in those Vegas casinos, and still see the lost and fractured people chasing their places in the Kingdom.

The old King wants to be reborn in a new body at the start of a new cycle, and will stop at nothing to avoid slipping away into the waiting dark. But the throne comes at a price, one that many others are also willing to pay. There’s a game being played, a high stakes one, and Powers makes sure the tension is ratcheted up all the way to the final hand.

It’s a great, great novel, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone with a taste for dark tinged, modern Arthurian Fantasy.

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Book Review – 4/5 stars to DROOD by Dan Simmons

DroodDrood by Dan Simmons

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I suspect DROOD is the Marmite of novels set in the Victorian era. Like all Simmons’ recent work, it is meticulously researched, but there also lies the problem, for he cannot stop himself from showing us that research on the page – not only the bits that are pertinent to the story, but too many of the bits that are merely interesting, but flow-stopping. As in another Simmons exploration of a literary figure, that of Henry James, in THE FIFTH HEART, we get details of dinner parties, lists of famous literary guests, and explanations of public buildings works that do nothing to further the story.

That said, I enjoyed the book enough to give it four stars, for as a writer, it is a fascinating glimpse into how we tell stories, both to ourselves and our audiences, and also how such stories take shape and form – and a certain degree of reality.

It also touches on something a lot of writers know but don’t talk about – the almost crippling at times green wave of envy and self loathing that comes when one of your friends has wild success. They’re still a friend, you still love them, but there’s that little voice, deep down, willing to commit murder in the face of their happiness… or maybe that’s just me. 🙂

Simmons’ control of point of view and the mechanics of the writing itself are as masterful as ever. The narrator is a fully realized character, although I doubt the real Wilkie Collins was quite so unreliable as portrayed here, for the prodigious quantities of opiates consumed would surely have left a man quite unable to write such great works as The Moonstone and The Woman in White.

His friendship with Dickens, and the way it affects Collins and his work, are nicely depicted, and there are some glorious set pieces, in a train crash, in the sewers under London, and in the descriptions of Dickens’ live performances.

You don’t need to have read either Collins’ or Dickens’ work to appreciate this book, but it does help to have done so, to provide context for a lot of the conversations between the writers, and also the final mystery of Drood himself.

I did like it, and it might have got five stars, if it had been two or three hundred pages shorter and tighter.

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Book Review – 5/5 stars to DECLARE by Tim Powers

DeclareDeclare by Tim Powers

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

DECLARE is Tim Powers’ take on a British, Le Carre style spy novel, with his own added supernatural twists. And as such, it’s a resounding success. What starts in murky waters in the British spy services quickly spirals out into the history and final culmination of a decades long investigation into what might or might not inhabit the high peaks of Mount Ararat, the reasons why the Russians are so interested, and the motives, ulterior mostly, of one of the most famous spies of all.

Powers’ decision to weave this tale in and around the known facts of Kim Philby’s life in the secret services is a brave one, but having facts and actual events involved serves to anchor the story in reality and allows the flights of fancy and supernatural to feel more rooted. As ever, Powers’ narrative is a fractured one, but the aforementioned Philby life story serves as a backbone that holds the whole thing together, even the more outlandish sections.

Powers’ way with a sentence is much in evidence, and there are the trademark lyrical flourishes that, in this story even more than some of his others, reminded me much of some of the work of Roger Zelazny.

It’s a largish book, near 600 pages in the edition that I read, but I breezed through it , for despite the sometimes dense exposition which shows the depth of research that was undertaken, at its simplest, this is a love story, and what with that, and the added thrill of the Le Carre like machinations, I loved it, and read it in two sittings over two days.

Highly recommended.

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Coming up from me in 2017


Got a busy year next year for publications after being relatively quiet this year…

Coming up in 2017…

Longer works

– Songs of Dreaming Gods (novel) (HC / TPB / ebook) / DarkFuse
– The Boathouse (novel) (HC / TPB / ebook) / DarkFuse
– Sherlock Holmes: The Dreaming Man (short novel) (HC / TPB / ebook ) / Dark Renaissance

Short stories

– Blacktop / I Am The Abyss / Dark Regions Press
– A Gentlemanly Wager / Sherlock Holmes and the School for Detection / Little Brown
– Transplanted / Ask You, Ask Me / Xiaoduo Media (China)
– Nocturnes and Lacunae / Transmissions From Punktown / Dark Regions Press
– The Lakeside Cottages / The Children of Gla’aki / Dark Regions Press
– The Longdock Air / Shadows Over Main Street 2 / Cuttingblock Press
– The Call of the Deep / The Return of the Old Ones / Dark Regions Press
– The Last Quest / Through a Mythos Darkly / PS Publishing
– The Needs of the Many / The Stars at Our Door / April Moon
– The Mouth of the Ness / Cryptid Clash / 18th Wall Productions
– Leader of the Pack / In Dog We Trust / KnightWatch
– Carnacki: The Hound / Gaslight Ghouls / Chaosium (hopefully)
– The Color From The Deep / Summer of Lovecraft / Chaosium (hopefully)
– The Pied Piper of Providence / Once Upon An Apocalypse 2 / Crystal Lake
– Occult Legion: The Nest / Occult Detective Quarterly #1
– Got my Mojo Working (with David Wilbanks) / Occult Detective Quarterly #1

There’s other stuff too including novellas, short stories and foreign language editions that I can’t talk about as it’s either secret or hasn’t been announced yet but it’s going to keep me on my toes as I rush toward my 60th birthday in Jan 2018…

FUNGOID – apocalyptic horror, launches today.


When the end came, it wasn’t zombies, asteroids, global warming or nuclear winter. It was something that escaped from a lab. Something small, and very hungry.

In this one you’ll find a chunk of Newfoundland, a fireman, some nasty rain, a bit of real science, a lot of unreal science, some Canadians, many cigarettes, some trucks, boats and planes, and plenty of spores, mushrooms and rot.

For fans of John Wyndham, William Hope Hodgson and H P Lovecraft, here’s a wee homage to a lot of the things I’ve loved since childhood.

Out now in paperback and ebook


When the end came, it wasn’t zombies, asteroids, global warming or nuclear winter. It was something that escaped from a lab. Something small, and very hungry.

A band of survivors on the Eastern coast of Canada watch as their world falls and crumbles to ruin. The infection seems relentless. More than that, it seems to be learning, adapting and evolving faster than they can fight it. Worse still—it is infecting not just their bodies, but is creeping into their minds, dancing in their dreams.

Can they stop it before it takes them?

Or must they all join in the final dance of death?

Do you like campy horror? Immersively weird apocalyptic scenarios? Star-crossed lovers in impossibly disgusting situations? Then this book is for you. – Bookshot at Litreactor

Above all else in my love of the horror genre, I cherish implacability. Prolific and accomplished author William Meikle masterfully delivers this element; in fact, I consider it one of his trademarks. In FUNGOID, a story determined to keep you wide-eyed awake, he brings together a seemingly natural process, adds the suspicion of human meddling, and a frisson of supernaturalism. Together, I raced through the pages as fast as my Kindle could handle – The Haunted Reading Room

Fungoid is a definite, must-read for fans of the horror genre, especially if you’re looking for a new way of approaching the end of the world.
– The Ghastly Grimoire

These types of plague/invasion novels are usually fun but Meikle has made his story an especially neat treat of science fiction suspense and horror. – The Novel Pursuit

If you’re looking for a compelling end of the world read or have even the slightest interest in sci-fi and horror, then this satisfying read is a must.
– The Most Sublime

Fungoid is a quick, breezy, expertly paced, and well-crafted story. Couple this with an intriguing doomsday premise and you’ve got yourself a brisk read. – Michael Patrick Hicks

I find myself loving a book that can take a premise that I’ve read 20 different things about and do it in a new and intriguing way. – Brian’s Book Blog

Merry Christmas

A very merry Christmas to all my readers from a snowy east of Newfoundland.

I’ve got a little list… of 25 favorite short stories

Another day, another list… 25 of my favorite short stories in no particular order…
1. Sticks – Karl Edward Wagner
2. Smoke Ghost – Fritz Leiber
3. Macintosh Willy – Ramsey Campbell
4. A Rose for Ecclesiastes – Roger Zelazny
5. The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas – Ursula Le Guin
6. The Color out of Space – H. P. Lovecraft
7. The Streets of Ashkelon – Harry Harrison
8. Repent, Harlequin said the Tick-Tock Man – Harlan Ellison
9. The Lottery – Shirley Jackson
10. The Willows – Algernon Blackwood
11. The Gorgon – Tanith Lee
12. Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones – Samuel Delaney
13. The Events at Poroth Farm – T. E. D. Klein
14. The Veldt – Ray Bradbury
15. The Signal Man – Charles Dickens
16. The Yellow Wallpaper – Charlotte Perkins Gilman
17. Caterpillars – E. F. Benson
18. Pigeons from Hell – Robert E. Howard
19. In the Hills, the Cities – Clive Barker
20. Don’t Look Now – Daphne du Maurier
21. Born of Man and Woman – Richard Matheson
22. The Juniper Tree – Peter Straub
23. Sredni Vashtar – Saki
24. Casting the Runes – M. R. James
25. The Seance – Isaac Bashevis Singer

The Veil Knights series continues: Book 3 out now.


The first three books of the VEIL KNIGHTS series, The Circle Gathers, Hound of Night, and Cloak of Fury are now all available, with book 4, The Questing Beast coming in Jan 2017.

This is a bit of a sideways lurch for me into trying something different. I had an awful lot of fun doing my book, and I think it shows in the final product. The first two books both launched really well, we’ve sold thousands of copies already, have garnered great reviews, and are at the top of several of Amazon’s category listings. It all bodes pretty well for the future of the series from here on.


Amazon (COM)
Amazon (UK)


Amazon (COM)
Amazon (UK)


Amazon (COM)
Amazon (UK)

Here’s the gen.


Twelve New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon bestselling authors – including Lilith Saintcrow, CJ Lyons, Joseph Nassise, Steven Savile, and Annie Bellet – have come together to create a modern reimagining of the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table sure to please fans of urban fantasy and Arthurian legends alike!

Launching in November 2016, the Veil Knights urban fantasy series will be published under the pseudonym Rowan Casey and will feature a new volume detailing the exploits of one of the knights every month through summer 2017, when season one of the series comes to its stunning conclusion.

With more than ten million copies of their books in print around the world, the authors bringing this series to you include Lilith Saintcrow, CJ Lyons, Joseph Nassise, Steven Savile, Annie Bellet, Jon F. Merz, Pippa DaCosta, Robert Greenberger, William Meikle, Steve Lockley, Hank Schwaeble, and Nathan Meyer. Cover art by Lou Harper.




And no, we’re not saying who wrote which one. Not yet anyway 🙂

Book Review: The Dreaming Jewels by Theodore Sturgeon

The Dreaming JewelsThe Dreaming Jewels by Theodore Sturgeon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“They caught the kid doing something disgusting out under the bleachers at the high school stadium and he was sent home from the grammar school across the street. He was eight years old then. He’d been doing it for years.”

Come with me back to 1971. I know it’s a scarily long time ago, and many of you weren’t even born, but picture a wee Scots lad, 13 years old, and a science fiction geek in love with Asimov, Clarke, Wells and Wyndham. That’s me that is. I’d also read a few of Dennis Wheatley’s books by then, and I’d been thrilled by the horror / satanic aspects of the old bigot’s work, but his upper-crust characters were so far removed from my Scottish council estate life that I couldn’t identify with them at all.

One day that summer I was in the local library looking for something new as I’d burned my way through my aforementioned favorite authors. A name caught my eye – Sturgeon, which I knew was a kind of fish, and thought was a strange name for a person. But it said it was science fiction on the front, so I took it home.

I quickly found out it wasn’t really science fiction at all – but I was hooked after the very first paragraph anyway, so that didn’t matter any more. The Dreaming Jewels isn’t really science fiction. But it’s not really fantasy either, or horror. It’s what gets called Dark Fantasy these days. I imagine back when it was first published in 1950 they had a bit of trouble classifying it, containing as it does child abuse, sex changes, murder, infidelity and some close to the bone innuendo. It also has magic, carnivals, puppets, scenery chewing bad guys, extraterrestrial lifeforms, acts of selfless heroism, and a lovely twist ending that fits just right.

And there is definite horror along the way, including the aforementioned child abuse, and one of the best descriptions of what it means to be a frightened child I’ve ever come across. It’s all quite Bradburyesque in some ways, but with a harder edge – less misty sentimentality for a bygone era, more down and dirty.

As for the plot – on simple reading, it too is Bradburyesque. An 8-year-old boy named Horton “Horty” Bluett, runs away from his abusive family and takes refuge among the “strange people” in a traveling circus. Carrying only a smashed jack-in-the-box named Junky, Horty is hidden away, and disguised as a girl. The owner of the carnival, Pierre Monetre has discovered intelligent extraterrestrial life in the form of crystal-like jewels and is attempting to use them to get magical powers. As it turns out, Horty is the key to Monetre’s plans, and will be the only one powerful enough to stop him.

Now, that reads very pulpy, and in some respects it is, but Sturgeon knew how to put flesh on simple bones. You believe in all the characters in this book, some grotesque, some plain evil, others full of love and hate and despair all at the same time.

That first read opened my eyes to what was possible in genre fiction outside the names I mentioned earlier. It led me almost directly to Bradbury, and to Lovecraft a few months later. A couple of years after that some chap named King came along and changed everything again, but I’ve never forgotten the impact The Dreaming Jewels had on me.

It stands up well to rereading too. I read it again today before writing this and was drawn in all over again. It’s a lovely, lovely book, and I recommend it to all horror fans.

This review first appeared in THE BOOK THAT MADE ME section of the GINGER NUTS OF HORROR site in JAn 2014 (… )

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