Tag Archives: books

Rave reviews for Nightscape!

Today I wanted to share with you some of the reviews coming in for my short story anthology, “Nightscape”, published by Parallel Universe Publications. It’s been a long haul, but people are saying how much they enjoy this book.

Here is the most recent review:

“A great collection of short stories ranging from horror to science fiction, surely not to disappoint fans of any genre. Psychotic animals, mystic horrors and Hollywood vampires are just some of the creatures to stalk its pages, I highly recommend it.”

Other readers have compared it to “The Twilight Zone”, with its blend of sci-fi and horror stories.

“Sure to be one of the greats some day!”

“A horror anthology well worth your attention.”

“Mr. Steele will not fail to delight.”

Here is a sample of the stories to be found within:

“Black Annis” – a troubled married couple inherits a cottage once owned by a legendary witch.

“The Groaner in the Glen” – a Roman legion encounters a supernatural menace deep in ancient Scotland. 

“Indian Summer” – a young woman paralyzed in a car accident hires a gardener with magical “green” fingers. But is he all he appears?

“Charlie” – a beloved pet develops disturbing new appetites when the family’s controlling patriarch dies.

And more!

You can read a FREE sample of “Nightscape” here: http://a-fwd.com/asin-uk=0957453523

Thanks for looking!

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My Year In Books 2018

Let me come clean. This is not a list of the best books of the year. Instead, this is the time of year when I look back over everything I’ve read in the past 12 months. This year I went for some classics and tried to read outside my comfort zone, which is of course science fiction and horror. The results were… interesting.

I also read a lot of short fiction, which is not included here, so bear that in mind. Anyway, here are the novels I read this year and what I thought about them. Maybe you agree. Maybe you think I’m wrong. If so, let me know why!


The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty  

Okay, so this is firmly in my comfort zone. But I had to read this horror classic. I have a confession to make, though – I never really thought the film was scary. Maybe this is because I never saw it until recently, and it has dated rather badly. I also thought the film was a little one note – Regan is possessed, end of story. However, the book was much better. It was subtle, with great characterisation as Regan’s mother has to accept that something supernatural has intruded into her world of fashion magazines and modern living. The priest Damien Karras is also three-dimensional and tragic. When the exorcist himself reappears late in the novel, we know things are about to get a lot worse. A lot of things that don’t make sense in the film make perfect sense in the novel. And when the audiobook is read by William Blatty himself, you know you’re in for a wild ride! Great stuff.

The Hunger by Charles Beaumont

Charles Beaumont was a huge influence on me thanks to Rod Serling’s original Twilight Zone series in the 1960s. Although he died tragically young, he left behind a substantial body of work. The Hunger is a collection of horror, sci-fi and dramatic short stories. Right from the start you know you’re in the hands of a master. His “The Crooked Man”, which describes a future where heterosexuality is illegal, is disturbing in its plausibility, and contains a sting that sticks around long after the story ends. The most memorable story for me was “The Hunger” itself, a tale of the soon-to-be victim of a serial killer. The ending is as unexpected as it is inevitable. Beaumont created stories of real depth but with a wicked twist in the tale. A tragedy he died so young.

Casino Royale and Live and Let Die by Ian Fleming

Having never read the original James Bond novels I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I got was nothing like the films. Casino Royale is closer to Daniel Craig than Roger Moore’s pulp superspy. I was surprised how low-key and believable these stories were, nothing at all like the blockbuster movies. Bond himself is little more than a cypher. However, the novels’ structure intrigued me. In Act One our hero plunges into the world of espionage, which is alternately glamorous and exciting (casinos or the Harlem underworld). In Act Two something horrible happens to either our hero or his friends, resulting in some kind of brutal torture or maiming (I was shocked to see long-time Bond ally Felix Lightner meet a grisly fate early on). In Act Three Bond enacts bloody revenge on the bad guy, only to find a bitter sweet ending at best in this murky, treacherous world of spying. Not at all the knowing wink-to-the-camera Hollywood endings we have come to expect. A refreshing new look at an old hero.

 

A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of Four and The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

Sherlock Homes is a character most people are very familiar with thanks to the movies and TV shows. But, as with James Bond, the original novels are very different. Whether your Sherlock Homes is Hollywood legend Basil Rathbone with his deerstalker and pipe, or Guy Ritchie’s  action hero, the real Sherlock Homes is a different breed altogether. Introduced as a “consulting detective” in the first novel, A Study in Scarlet, we learn that Homes has spent years perfecting methods of criminal detection. These methods are a combination of the chemical, procedural, or the use of deductive reasoning. It is surprising to see that they are totally grounded in reality. Seeing Homes crawling across the floor studying footprints or taking hours to think about how a house could have been entered is a far cry from the superhuman crimebuster we know from films. It was a joy to see his methods being explained by Conan Doyle. The real Sherlock Homes is a refreshingly different from his cinematic counterparts as the real James Bond is from any of his onscreen incarnations. Well worth reading these for yourself and getting acquainted with the real Mr Homes!

Time and Again by Jack Finney

How could I not read this? The book that inspired one of my favourite stories, “Somewhere in Time” by Richard Matheson. This fantasy novel by the writer of “Invasion of the Bodysnatchers” concerns our hero Si Morley, a man’s man of the 1950s, who is recruited by the government to be part of a top secret project – one that aims to perfect time travel by self-hypnosis. As he travels back to 1882 in New York, we are treated to an incredible display of world-building, as Finney recreates the details of life there in astonishing detail. One can imagine Finney himself went back in time to bring us this story, which of course has a bittersweet ending as most time travel stories do, because while he’s back in 1882, Si Morley falls in love…

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

I’d never read this classic piece of Americana. While sometimes the heavy accents got in the way, I thoroughly enjoyed this tale of the adventures of a boy in a small American town in the mid-19th century. Twain gives us a true insight into childhood, making his hero Tom a convincing protagonist. Adults could learn a lot about child psychology by reading this book. Twain tells the story with humour without ever being condescending toward his cast. And he spins a rattling good yarn!

The Elementals by Michael McDowell

McDowell was a popular horror author in the 1970s before Stephen King. It’s easy to see how influential he was on King himself, especially in his tale of small American towns or isolated communities under threat from a supernatural menace. The Elementals begins with a startling visual image – three houses on a secluded beach in the Deep South. One is empty; no-one ever goes inside for a reason. At the rear of this house a massive sand dune has built up that threatens to engulf the building. The houses belong to a rich, Southern family. But when a cynical New York cousin and his young daughter come to stay, the daughter ignores the warnings and climbs the sand dune, breaking a window pane in the house and letting the evil  escape. A highly original premise with some genuinely creepy moments. My first exposure to McDowell, and certainly not the last.

The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum

I’d read the reviews on this one, where readers said it was the most disturbing novel they’d ever read, that they hadn’t wanted to finish it but had forced themselves to read to the end. Gauntlet thrown. What I wasn’t prepared for was Ketchum’s stark, journalistic style. This is the story of a young girl and her even younger sister who are orphaned and sent to live with the woman who lives next door to the protagonist, a teenage boy. The woman is normal enough, even if she does lets the narrator and her own two sons drink beer and treats them like adults. But when the girls arrive, things turn nasty. The woman’s jealousy of the girls turns to hatred. She and her sons tie the girl up and subject her to physical and sexual abuse that just gets worse and worse. Allegedly based on a true story, the story is so grim that I had to stop reading for a while before going back to finish it. By the end, I felt like I had achieved… something. The narrator certainly does not take pleasure in the torture and becomes the instrument of vengeance in the third act. But I came away from this uncertain what to think. Part of me felt this was an important story, one that shows how a sadistic monster lurks in normal people, and how conformism lets these monsters escape. But part of me wondered if we needed to read about such graphic torture, and whether the novel went too far in trying to shock.  Whatever it was, it was certainly a challenging read.

Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse

Not satisfied with that grim tale, I embarked upon what people have called a modern classic. Herman Hesse’s tale of a man who believes he was once a wolf intrigued me. The audiobook was read by Peter Weller, star of Robocop, whose soporific tones put me to seep more than once! The book begins with the son of a landlady telling how he met this peculiar character, the Stepppenwolf, whose name (Henry Haller) is a play on the author’s. Haller is unable to socialize properly, and leaves behind a journal. We then read the journal. At this point, the pretence the novel makes of being a story breaks down – Haller reads a book about himself that he finds, and reality breaks down completely with no explanation in Act Three. There were lots of great ideas – such as the idea that we are complex individuals containing many different personalities that change radically over time. But it read more like Hesse’s own philosophical tract than a story. That’s the problem with postmodernism for me. A story should be a story in my opinion. It’s better to teach by showing than by telling. I did enjoy the book. But it was way too clever for its own good. The story could have been told in half the time and said just as much.

Vittorio the Vampire by Anne Rice

This year I went to New Orleans for a few days. So what could I do but take a long a copy of one of Anne Rice’s vampire novels? My tour included the author’s old house in the Garden District. Having read her earlier book set there, The Witching Hour, it was a thrill to see the places in the novel for real. Vittorio was a different experience. I love vampire novels, and Anne Rice can write beautifully about them. This book also contains some beautiful prose. The story is simple – in Medieval Italy a young nobleman’s castle is raided by undead who kill his family. He falls in love with one of them who then turns him into a vampire. Then things get weird… He is obsessed with a painting of angels, and we see that in his confused state of mind the angels become real. They lead Vittorio through his adventures. The end. I wasn’t sure what to make of this. It felt like Rice was indulging her Catholicism rather than telling a real story. The point seemed to be that angels were real. But Vittorio could have been a much more interesting tale. It seemed a shame to waste all that research telling a story that was half-formed at best.

Chocky by John Wyndham

Confession number two: I have never read Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham’s most famous book. However, I have read a couple of his others (The Chrysalids, The Kraken Wakes) so I knew what to expect. Wyndham writes cosy disasters – some world-changing event happens in leafy middle England to middle class protagonists. In this, I was not to be disappointed. Chocky deals with an alien presence that possesses the narrator’s son. At first, it is dismissed as an imaginary friend, until the effect on the boy can no longer be ignored. Chocky is neither helpful nor harmful – it merely is. Wyndham takes a very simple idea and spins out a clever plot full of intriguing moments and exciting twists. It’s terrific to see something truly alien intrude into Middle England. This was made into a successful TV series in the 1980s. I will be rooting it out and watching it. Great fun!

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

I always like to read a Dickens book around December. It gets me in the festive mood. In this novel, we are in the French Revolution, and aristocrats are being sent to the guillotine by peasants who have seized control of France. Amid this turmoil, one innocent aristocrat, Charles Darnay, is imprisoned in the Bastille after coming back to France to help a friend in need. Enter Sidney Carton, a dissolute English lawyer whose life has been spent in drink and profligacy, and who happens to be an absolute double of Darnay. Like most, I knew the story, but Dickens’s superb storytelling made the Revolution a living thing. His characters are vivid and unique. Although a melodrama, Dickens’s style is never better than here. The final chapters are quite moving – especially the scene where a Frenchwoman who  is a major revolutionary turns up at Darnay’s wife’s house, ready with a pistol to have her imprisoned, only to find her way blocked by the English maid Miss Pross, who valiantly defends her mistress. By turns comic, dark and very emotional, this is one of the best Dickens books I’ve read. A masterpiece of literature by one of the greatest novelists who ever lived.

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner

With Christmas fast approaching, I thought I would listen to the audiobook of a children’s story that has been widely praised. The Weirdstone is set in Alderly Edge in Cheshire, England – a place associated with legends of King Arthur and the wizard Merlin. Garner takes this legend and weaves round it an original myth of his own involving the titular stone and two children who spend the vacation there. Cue adventures with goblins, shapeshifters, dwarves and wizards who all want the Weirdstone. But where is it? Rip-roaring adventure stuff that is never dull for a moment, this is a great kids’ story. I was reminded of both Tolkien and CS Lewis, although the story lacks the depth of these two and it ends rather abruptly. Thankfully, there are a plethora of sequels!

So there you have it! My year in books. A year of ups and downs, but never a dull one.  There were some great classics here as well as some unexpected gems. Maybe some of them will find their way onto your reading list next year. If so, tell me about it!

 

Experiment Nine has all the fun of the fair!

Today, I thought I’d share with you a picture of one of the actual locations used in “Experiment Nine”, the Kansas City fair.

Experiment Nine is about genetically created vampires who escape from a secret government project into America’s backwoods, only to find themselves hunted by an obsessed detective as well as by their former captors. 

The book is available on Amazon here: http://a-fwd.com/asin-uk=B07F6S2YSZ

Meanwhile, here’s an excerpt, exclusive just to those reading this blog post!
 

The Fair

Just outside the city, a fairground burned brightly at the foot of darkened hills – an enormous glowing cartwheel of people, toys, rides, music, and noise.

“Jason!” prey called to him.

The girl ran up to him. Her high heeled boots made heavy weather of the damp ground. Twilight danced on her golden earrings. He admired her long, brown hair, fashioned in a style copied from a celebrity magazine. She caught up to him, grabbed him, swung him around, breathless from exertion.

“Why didn’t you wait for me?”

“I like to see you run,” he said.

“Are we going down there?”

Jason caught her young, porcelain face in gloved fingers. He squeezed, just hard enough to tease. Prey liked that. The wind tossed her long hair, the elements laughing at this child, but she didn’t hear them.

“Soon enough. Why, you scared of being alone?”

“Not while I’m with you.”

Her body was firm but pliant. She had a small tattoo above her left wrist. It looked like a heart. It shouldn’t have bothered him, but it did.

She did not see his hunger. They never did. They mistook it for a sexual appetite. They wanted a fantasy, someone who would whisk them away from their humdrum lives for a few hours.

“You feel safe?”

“Why not? I got you to protect me.”

“You’ll need more than that, honey.”

Mona reached out from nowhere, grabbed the girl’s neck, and snapped it savagely.

It didn’t take much effort, but the resultant sickening snap was more stomach-churning than even she had imagined. She saw the girl’s long, immaculately brushed hair on the ground, her feet now lying at odd angles, one high heel snapped, her woolen tights torn, and she felt pity. She surprised herself that she could feel anything at all

“You better drink it before it’s cold,” he told her.

But she turned her head aside. “I lost my appetite.”

 

 

I hope you will agree that these aren’t ordinary vampires. 

Here’s what others are saying about Experiment Nine:

“Author Eric Ian Steele has again accomplished what he does so well: merging old legend and myth with a new and modern creation story to develop believable monsters that you find yourself cheering for!”

You can read more of Experiment Nine here: http://a-fwd.com/asin-uk=B07F6S2YSZ

It’s here… EXPERIMENT NINE!

It’s alive!

This weekend marks the launch of the vampire novel, EXPERIMENT NINE. This serious, ground-breaking horror story is a very personal novel for me. You might say the story behind how it came to be published is a book in itself! But here is a taste of what you can find in its pages…

 

EXPERIMENT NINE is about lab-bred vampires who escape into the Iowa countryside. It’s a novel with its fair share of action and romance, but it’s also a serious novel. Think “Watchmen” for vampires! Here is a synopsis taken from the book…

Science meets superstition in a gripping, original horror story.

The Tower, a secret government installation hidden deep in the Iowa cornfields. Within its walls a clandestine experiment to change the course of human evolution goes terribly wrong.

Luke, a young man searching for an escape from small town hell and his own mortality finds it with Lynne, a mysterious drifter. In a moment of passion she promises him eternal life, but the price is an addiction to human blood.

It turns out that Lynne and her friends escaped from the Tower. Now they roam America’s backwoods in their nightly quest for victims whose blood they must drink to survive. And Luke has become one of them, infected with the same genetically-modifying virus that means he will never grow old… provided he feeds.

But this is no romantic existence. It is a world of spiraling violence, where Luke must commit grisly murder each night… for eternity. As the authorities close in, led by a traumatized detective who will stop at nothing to hunt them down, Luke finds his humanity slipping away with each new kill, and slowly his newfound world starts to collapse…

Sound intriguing? You can read an entire section of the book absolutely FREE by clicking on the Amazon links below. Let me know if you enjoy it!

Amazon link: http://a-fwd.com/asin-uk=B07F6S2YSZ

 

Coming soon!

Well, I have some exciting news coming your way soon. My next novel is almost due to be launched. More details will be forthcoming. For now, let me just share the following picture with you. As always, it will be horror. More than that, I cannot say. But I do promise you it will be a book like no other. And if you like Stephen King, Anne Rice, or Michael Crichton, this will be the book for you. How’s that for a mix?

The Autumn Man

It’s always nice when you find another great review of the Autumn Man on Goodreads.com.

For those of you who want to know a little more about the plot, read on…

THE AUTUMN MAN is the story of two immortal werewolves who have battled down the centuries searching for the mythical Cure for their condition. They finally find it in the most unlikely of places – a small industrial town in northern England called Milton.

But while one of these cursed individuals is a calculating, cold-blooded manipulator, the other is a ravenous beast, a killing machine that is about to be unleashed on Milton’s inhabitants.

Megan Vervain, a schoolteacher, knows nothing of this. She only knows that there is something strangely attractive about her new lodger, that his eyes are filled with the sadness of centuries of longing, and that she is slowly falling in love with him. But as the residents of Milton are afflicted with the curse of lycanthropy, Megan begins to wonder just which side she is on.

THE AUTUMN MAN is a contemporary gothic horror story. Fans of Stephen King, Anne Rice and Clive Barker will lap it up. Here’s the recent review of the book on Goodreads.com to whet your appetite…

“The Autumn Man is that very rare find – a contemporary Gothic horror, replete with complex characters and a series of terrifying twists. Fans of Dickens and Hugo will appreciate Steele’s depth of language and atmospheric writing. Even the characters you think are the heroes of the tale are psychological puzzleboxes, but Steele’s work shines most in the harrowing moments of transformation, murder, and flight that take place across centuries of storytelling. A book that will have you tossing and turning in the night long after you have finished it.”

You can buy THE AUTUMN MAN at a reduced rate of 99 cents, or .99p in the UK, for a limited time here:

Amazon.com link: https://amzn.to/2sTv7BX

Amazon.co.uk link: https://amzn.to/2JB7KaH

Don’t wait until the next full moon to get your copy!

A Danse Macabre horror novels reading list

If you like horror and you were reading in the 1980s, chances are you came across “Danse Macabre”, Stephen King’s meditation on horror. Part instruction manual, part rambling series of opinions on horror books, film and TV, it never fails to entertain. It also has an invaluable breakdown of the different types of horror story.

It also included in two Appendices –  a list of Mr King’s favourite (sorry, the most important) horror books and films.

For the past 30 years I’ve been working my way through these lists. I’ve seen almost all of the horror movies except for a few hard-to-find gems like Oliver Stone’s first effort, “Seizure” or the wonderfully B-movie-ish “The H-Man” by Inoshiro Honda.  But reproduced here below are the novels.

I won’t bore you with which ones I’ve read. However, I will say that some of my favourites have been Suzy McKee Charnas’s “The Vampire Tapetsry”  about a very urbane vampire indeed, Peter Straub’s lesser known ghost story “If You Could See Me Now”, and Charles L Grant’s homage to Val Lewton, “The Hour of the Oxrun Dead”.

So if you fancy reading some classic 20th century horror stories, the below should give you some inspiration. Happy collecting!

Richard Adams. The Plague Dogs; Watership Down*
Robert Aickman. Cold Hand in Mine; Painted Devils
Marcel Ayme. The Walker through Walls
Beryl Bainbridge. Harriet Said
J. G. Ballard. Concrete Island*; High Rise
Charles Beaumont. Hunger*; The Magic Man
Robert Bloch. Pleasant Dreams*; Psycho*
Ray Bradbury. Dandelion Wine; Something Wicked This Way Comes*; The October Country
Joseph Payne Brennan. The Shapes of Midnight*
Frederic Brown. Nightmares and Geezenstacks*
Edward Bryant. Among the Dead
Janet Caird. The Loch
Ramsey Campbell. Demons By Daylight; The Doll Who Ate His Mother*; The Parasite*
Suzy McKee Charnas. The Vampire Tapestry
Julio Cortazar. The End of the Game and Other Stories
Harry Crews. A Feast of Snakes
Roald Dahl. Kiss Kiss*; Someone Like You*
Les Daniels. The Black Castle
Stephen R. Donaldson. The Thomas Covenant Trilogy (3 vols.)*
Daphne Du Maurier. Don’t Look Now
Harlan Ellison. Deathbird Stories*; Strange Wine*
John Farris. All Heads Turn When the Hunt Goes By
Charles G. Finney. The Ghosts of Manacle
Jack Finney. The Body Snatchers*; I Love Galesburg in the Springtime; The Third
Level*; Time and Again*
William Golding. Lord of the Flies*
Edward Gorey. Amphigorey; Amphigorey Too
Charles L. Grant. The Hour of the Oxrun Dead; The Sound of Midnight*
Davis Grubb. Twelve Tales of Horror*
William H. Hallahan. The Keeper of the Children; The Search for Joseph Tully
James Herbert. The Fog; The Spear*; The Survivor
William Hjortsberg. Falling Angel*
Shirley Jackson. The Haunting of Hill House*; The Lottery and Others*; The Sundial
Gerald Kersh. Men Without Bones*
Russell Kirk. The Princess of All Lands
Nigel Kneale. Tomato Caine
William Kotzwinkle. Dr. Rat*
Jerry Kozinski. The Painted Bird*
Fritz Leiber. Our Lady of Darkness*
Ursula LeGuin. The Lathe of Heaven*; Orsinian Tales
Ira Levin. Rosemary’s Baby*; The Stepford Wives
John D. MacDonald. The Girl, the Gold Watch, and Everything
Bernard Malamud. The Magic Barrel*; The Natural
Robert Marasco. Burnt Offerings*
Gabriel Maria Marquez. One Hundred Years of Solitude
Richard Matheson. Hell House; I Am Legend*; Shock II; The Shrinking Man*; A Stir of Echoes
Michael McDowell. The Amulet*; Cold Moon Over Babylon*
Ian McEwen. The Cement Garden
John Metcalf. The Feasting Dead
Iris Murdoch. The Unicorn
Joyce Carol Oates. Nightside*
Flannery O’Connor. A Good Man Is Hard to Find*
Mervyn Peake. The Gormenghast Trilogy (3 volumes)
Thomas Pynchon. V.*
Edogawa Rampo. Tales of Mystery and Imagination
Jean Ray. Ghouls in My Grave
Anne Rice. Interview with the Vampire
Philip Roth. The Breast
Ray Russell. Sardonicus*
Joan Samson. The Auctioneer*
William Sansom. The Collected Stories of William Sansom
Sarban. Ringstones; The Sound of His Horn*
Anne Rivers Siddons. The House Next Door*
Isaac Bashevis Singer. The Seance and Other Stories*
Martin Cruz Smith. Nightwing
Peter Straub. Ghost Story*; If You Could See Me Now; Julia; Shadowland*
Theodore Sturgeon. Caviar; The Dreaming jewels; Some of Your Blood*
Thomas Tessier. The Nightwalker
Paul Theroux. The Black House
Thomas Tryon. The Other*
Les Whitten. Progeny of the Adder*
Thomas Williams. Tsuga’s Children*
Gahan Wilson. I Paint What I See
T. M. Wright. Strange Seed*
John Wyndham. The Chrysalids; The Day of the Triffids*

(* = books Mr King felt were particularly important to the genre).

Some of these works you will probably be familiar with, such as (the as-then-little-known) Anne Rice book Interview with the Vampire. Others are staple authors such as Road Dahl, not perhaps thought of as horror writers but who have undoubtedly written about the horrific and macabre. Others have been lost to the passage of time, such as William Hjortberg’s Falling Angel (filmed with Mickey Rourke and Robert DeNiro as Angel Heart in the 80s) or the huge bestselling evil twin novel The Other by Thomas Tryon ( a doozy of a novel and one I fully recommend).

Others may be new to you, such as Frederick Brown’s Nightmares and Geezenstacks, flash fiction from the 1950s! or the excellent Hunger by Charles Beaumont, one of the main writers of the original Twilight Zone until a rare illness struck him down in his twenties. Still others may be familiar from the films, such as Richard Matheson’s post-apocalyptic vampire/zombie novel I Am Legend and Jack Finney’s The Bodysnatchers, filmed with varying success several times usually about once every decade as Invasion of the Bodysnatchers. The novels are still worth seeking out. And if you don’t know who the others are, then you better get reading!