Sorry if my posts have been a little scarce recently. The reason, however, can now be revealed…
We’re making a horror movie!
Yes, that’s right. I’ve gone from the ceaseless self-torture of writing movies to the even worse self-torture of writing and directing movies!
The film will be the first made by our brand new production company, Vamoose Film Productions Ltd. This is a UK-based production company, making films in Britain!
Our first film started out as a “small” project and quickly exploded into a full-on feature film as everyone I told the story to wanted to hear more. “But there is no more” I would say. “Well, then go and write some more!” they said. So I did. The result is… well, I’ll save the exact title for later for now. 😉
Best of all, this will be a new British horror film. And it’s on a subject very close to my heart. To say any more would be telling, but those who know me well should be able to guess by now!
We have all been working like demons to get the shots done on time, and it’s not been without its trials and tribulations. But we’re about 85% of the film done now. It’s involved special effects makeup and even wild animals. But we’ve saved some of the most ambitious elements for last.
Meanwhile here’s a behind-the-scenes shot from the set to whet your appetite! But who is that handsome guy in the glasses?
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.
You can read a FREE sample of “Nightscape” here: http://a-fwd.com/asin-uk=0957453523
Thanks for looking!
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!
Today I’d like to share with you an excerpt from my latest horror novel, “Experiment Nine”.
“Experiment Nine” is a vampire novel with a twist. You won’t find any horror tropes like bats and black capes here. nor will you find any sparkly vampires like the ones in “Twilight”. Instead, be prepared for a jolting, blood-soaked ride into dark science, as lab-bred, genetically-engineered vampires escape into rural Iowa. The novel deals with the cataclysmic fallout from this event and its impact on several people who are unfortunate enough to come across the vampires and survive.
The story of how “Experiment Nine” came to get published is enough to fill another blog post, so I’ll let the pages speak for themselves.
In this except we meet Dr. Fenzig and his subordinate, Reinhardt, who are monitoring the latest batch of test subjects…
You can read more of “Experiment Nine” on Amazon here.
The bat flapped its way toward the moon until it was no more than an angled crack in that bone white disc. Beneath it stood a field of pale corn. The corn was pallid because it had never been fed. The stalks wavered toward a single edifice – the Tower.
An octagonal bolt of metal that anchored earth to seventy-five feet of Iowa sky, stood in the center of the field of withered vegetation. Around its base lay a carpet of dead moths, drawn there by some slight, imperceptible vibration.
Small arrow-slits dotted the building’s outer face at precise intervals. Solid steel grates covered every aperture.
At the top of the Tower, a cupola rose to greet the sky, a single, round window at its zenith. The office window overlooked the corn.
Behind the window sat a man at a desk. Fenzig lay down his pen. A single scream had penetrated the quiet. He glanced up at the red light over the door. It remained unlit. He relaxed.
Fenzig rose to the window. He was restless tonight. Nothing unusual in itself but things were progressing.
He decided to take a tour.
He stepped outside his office. A single elevator door was the only feature in this otherwise featureless chamber. He entered the lift, pressed his palm to the biometric scanner. The doors closed.
The moans of the once-human things far below grew in volume, as if they knew he was coming. He saw them in his imagination, heaps of rags shuffling about the dorms in the Tower’s sub-basements, raising their distorted, leathery faces to the fluorescent lights.
He wished Gabriel would let him dispose of them. They could serve no purpose. He was aware of the ironic fact that as much as the tower was their prison, it was also his. He could not leave due to the nature of his tenure to Gabriel’s department. Nor could he ever hold an academic or a practical post again. Not after what had been imprinted upon his résumé and his mind. Perhaps that too had been part of Gabriel’s gambit.
The elevator descended, floor by floor until the doors swished open to reveal another featureless corridor that ended in a steel security door.
Again, he extended his wizened hand to the biometric scanner. A beam of red light stroked his palm, turned green.
The door opened with a pressurized hiss. It kept on opening for three minutes. The door was five feet of solid steel. Still, they could not be sure that it would keep them inside. As for the lead lining, that had initially made a difference, but now and then, stray thoughts leaked through . He caught them sometimes when he passed on the lower levels. Strange, animalistic images.
At first, he could see nothing. Darkness cloaked walls, ceiling and floor. Come into my parlor. Darkness was always present inside the Tower; the shadows were too thick to be natural. He knew it was all in his mind but that didn’t help dismiss the feeling that the darkness was somehow watching him.
The door sealed shut behind him.
Another small corridor led off before him. Beams of light scanned him up and down through a rising mist of decontaminants. The system bleeped affirmatively. A second hermetically sealed door opened. He stepped through into his own nightmare.
Two guards in Hazmat suits stood to attention (they always stood to attention) as he entered. He wondered if they had any minds left at all. They bore automatic weapons, but that didn’t stop each man from stiffening in fear as the omnipresent, automated voice confirmed the identity of the person approaching through the airlock.
“Fenzig, Doctor. Project supervisor. Level one security clearance. Admitted.”
Fenzig walked up to a pair of transparent plastic swing doors at the far end of the corridor without acknowledging the guards. He could feel their eyes upon him, feel their loathing at his hunched back, his dwarfish stature, could also feel his own hate for them radiating outwards. He knew how he looked: gnomish, with pince-nez spectacles perched on the end of his long nose.
He touched another biometric reader. The doors opened. As he stepped through, he saw the guards relax out of the corner of his vision. The doors silently powered shut behind him.
Fenzig’s eyes adjusted to the sudden gloom. The walls of this circular chamber were hidden behind a thick plastic bubble. Beyond that lay the bars of an iron cage, its inhabitants cloaked in darkness. Red overhead fluorescents provided the only illumination.
A man sat in a chair in the middle of the room. Banks of computers littered the desks in front of him. Coils of wiring snaked out of various complex machines and into specially adapted ports in the plastic bubble.
The man’s eyes were glued to a monitor.
He gently touched the man’s shoulder. Reinhaldt jerked out of his trance. The muscles of his shoulder had been hard as tensile steel.
“Is it time to go?” the man asked.
“What about the others?”
“There is no-one else,” Fenzig replied. “Gabriel says you and I are the only ones he can trust to see things through.”
Reinhaldt rubbed his eyes. “So you’re going to use me until my brain fries?”
Reinhaldt’s blonde hair glowed silver in the fluorescents. His handsome, Aryan looks had deteriorated, Fenzig noted with a small measure of satisfaction which he could not hide from himself. His brow was slick with sweat. His cheeks were gaunt with worry. Reinhaldt’s duties were taking their toll.
Fenzig noticed how the man’s fingers twitched nervously in his lap, wriggling like frantic eels. Reinhaldt was slipping, perhaps had already slipped.
He had suspected, of course, but he had told Gabriel nothing of their ability to infiltrate the mind. Alone in his office, he was beyond their reach. Reinhaldt, however, was closer to them.
“We only need to observe them a while longer. I know they can be… disconcerting.”
“How much longer?”
“A week? Two?” he offered.
Reinhaldt sighed. “Then can I go?”
Fenzig nodded. Lying had become second nature to him.
“I hear them sometimes,” Reinhaldt said. “I swear they’re in my mind.”
“That’s ridiculous,” he told the scientist. “You’re tired, that’s all. You’ll be fine.”
He patted Reinhaldt’s shoulder but he already heard their whispering, like an irritating itch at the base of his cerebellum.
– You must be lonely here.
– Cold and lonely.
– Gabriel wants to visit.
– See how his latest batch went.
– Does it trouble you?
– Are you tired?
– We could make you sleep.
– Just let us go.
Fenzig felt his own thoughts leap from his body. They were sucked out of his mind before he could catch them.
– Does he want to kill us?
No, Fenzig thought.
– Then why does he come?
– Because he wants you to kill us?
I would never do that. No, I would never do that.
– How can we be sure?
– You’re not strong enough on your own. You’re weak.
– Shut it down.
– Save the project.
– Save us.
The alien thoughts were like surgical knives slicing into his scalp. Fenzig yanked off his pince-nez, tugged at the bridge of his nose.
“You hear them?” Reinhaldt asked.
“It’s nothing,” Fenzig replied. “Don’t worry, Doctor. Soon, this will all be over.”
Reinhaldt said nothing. His Adam’s apple bobbed, his facial muscles clenched, but he simply stared at what lay beyond the plastic bubble.
Fenzig caught only a glimpse of them as he left. He knew better than to look at them full on – to do that would be to lose himself. He saw outlines, a head that raised itself inquisitively, an arm that hung languidly from a chair. No more.
There was nothing else to say. He had only visited Reinhaldt to satisfy his own curiosity. He re-entered the decontamination chamber, leaving Reinhaldt alone. The steel security door slid shut behind him with a re-pressurized hiss, and the guards relaxed once more.
Reinhaldt remained frozen in his seat. A solitary trickle of sweat wove its course down his temple. He wanted to wipe it away, but could not. They held him.
Unlike Fenzig, Reinhaldt had long ago given up trying to watch them from the corners of his vision. Now their eyes burned into his soul. Even though there was no scientific reason why their eyes should have that effect, or why he should believe he had a soul for that matter. He only knew what he felt.
The lesser, weaker minds had flinched. Three observers had gone insane in so many weeks. Only he had held out so far.
The other staff busied themselves with endless rounds of caring for their mistakes. But the failures did not matter. What really mattered lay beyond that plastic bubble.
He had personally dissected the last six test subjects and had learned immeasurable amounts from the bodies. Nobody knew what caused this final six to survive. Apparently, the virus had done its job too well, allowing the others to simply will their own death. These six were more or less fortunate, depending on your point of view. This time the virus had done what it was designed to do.
But they had underestimated the strength of will of their subjects. They had resisted all attempts at conditioning. As soldiers, they were useless but as something more…
They probed his mind but instead of shrinking from them, he embraced them. They had promised him great things, and he had no reason to doubt their intentions. They were noble, pure. Magnificent in their terrible beauty.
He wondered if they could reach out to other, nonhuman things – a bird, a mouse, a bat. What must that be like?
He scribbled his musings down in his notebook, wondering if they were actually his thoughts at all.
One image had been growing in his mind for some time now: a key turning in a lock.
They had been imprisoned for too long.
Fenzig’s mind had revealed that a visit from Gabriel was imminent (which probably meant closure for the project and the termination of its latest test subjects). Reinhaldt knew the time to act was upon him. They commanded it. He rose robotically, walked to a control keypad that hung from the low ceiling, pressed the first of three red buttons.
Lights flared. A klaxon sounded.
The guards came running but he had already thought of that. The plastic doors to this chamber were locked – the pneumatic servos jammed by hand. A desk full of computer equipment barred further entry. He did not remember putting it there, but he was glad he had.
“Sir!” The guards yelled through their intercoms. “Mr. Reinhaldt! Stop what you’re doing, sir!”
He pressed the second button. The room began to depressurize. The plastic bubble rippled, then lifted.
A stale, zoo-like smell filled the room.
The guards fired their weapons to gain access. It did them no good. Their bullets lost momentum on contact with the double layers of superdurable Perspex, fracturing impotently against the outer surface. The doors had been designed to prevent any break-out. They served equally well to prevent a break-in.
Reinhaldt hesitated. A computer voice told him that the cell was no longer sealed. In unhurried tones, it warned him that there was a high risk of contamination.
His fingers halted over the last button. Some small, rational part of him wanted to stop. His fingers clawed at the console, waging an internal war.
Then he saw their eyes, their wondrous eyes, and he pressed the third button.
The iron cage rose. Its bars clanged into the ceiling. The Guards yelled out to Jesus, God, and Mercy.
They emerged into the light, glorious butterflies from a plastic chrysalis. Mankind’s greatest achievement. Science and distorted nature, fused into a strange, unhappy poetry.
He marveled at them.
I did what you asked. Now will you reward me?
– Of course.
– We bring you a gift.
– The greatest gift.
– We bring you peace.
It hit him like a dark brick, their hate. Hatred for anyone connected with the project. They had deceived him, betrayed him. He was their servant, their weapon. They were gods, but they were vicious cannibal gods, and not to be trusted.
His screams were cut off before they began. Blood and several pieces of his offal splattered the monitors. His notebook fell to the floor, opened at a random page.
The page bore one word repeated over and over…
* * *
You can read more of the book and buy a copy for Kindle on Amazon by following this link: http://a-fwd.com/asin-uk=B07F6S2YSZ
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
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?
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!
Many have tried to compile a list of the best science fiction movies of the 21st century… all have failed. Until now… maybe.
In a brave attempt to distil from a ton of good movies the best 10 of the new millennium, here are my Top 10. Take it or leave it, but I’ve tried to avoid the more bogus entries. So you won’t find Oscar-bait here like District 9 (2009) – a movie that has virtually no sci-fi in it – or even the wonderful Korean hit movie The Host (2006) – as this is actually a horror movie. Nor will you find movies that are “technically” sci-fi in name only, such as the great Brit flic “28 Days Late” (2002) as this is actually a zombie movie.
Nor will you find much of the bloated, brainless CGI action-fests that fill so many of our multiplexes nowadays. The movies below have earned the right to be here. So without further ado and in no particular order…
Battle Royale (2000)
This movie explodes onto your screen with such daring and style it’s impossible to resist. In a near future Japan the government has found a rather unique way of tackling juvenile delinquency. You and your classmates are chosen at random, stuck on an island with a variety of lethal weaponry, and must kill each other before your explosive neck collars take your head off. Kinji Fukasaku’s adaptation of the banned Japanese cult novel by Koshun Takami is a rollicking good roller coaster of a movie, as sweet schoolgirls and naïve schoolboys turn on another to escape their no-win situation. Filmed with sadistic glee, the movie has a serious message about individualism in a society that favours conformity.
The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
What’s that? Groans? But hear me out… when Keanu returned in triumph in The Matrix (1999) it heralded a new era of science fiction… one where everyone wore long overcoats and performed gravity-defying somersaults while shooting hand weapons (Equilibrium, anyone?) . But stylish as that was, The Matrix Reloaded did what all good sequels should do. It went one step further. Now the bad guys are even more stylish, the coats even longer, the gun battles go on for hours, and the superhuman avatars chase each other in one of the best freeway stunt sequences ever filmed. Does he CGI hold up today? Not as well as it should, but when this was shown in cinemas audiences were breathless with the possibility of what could be done with computers. Maybe we’re all still living in the Matrix now. Just don’t mention the third film…
Shot on a miniscule budget, this is THE head-scratching time travel movie you’ve been waiting for. With a plot so complicated it’s impossible to follow, this would set the blueprint for many of the “mind-bending” Hollywood movies in the years ahead. The concept is simple, some friends invent time travel. But the combination of mind-blurring science and labyrinthine plot twists make this one of the most interesting and original movies of the 21st century.
This Spanish low budget sci-fi movie is one of those films that’s excruciating to watch, because you can kind of guess what’s coming next… only you can’t. It’s also been quite influential… and that’s putting it nicely. Check out Triangle (2009) if you don’t believe me. Timecrimes is a rarity nowadays… a sci-fi comedy thriller that shows what happens when time travel intrudes upon the life of an ordinary slob. Cue a hilarious and toe-curling mixture of coincidences, bad luck and stupid errors that put its unlikely hero in more and more peril. Can he make everything right again at the end? Where even is the end? An extremely entertaining and clever movie with a wicked streak of black comedy.
Tron Legacy (2010)
I honestly don’t know why there’s not more love for Joseph Kosinski’s sequel to the 1982 Disney movie Tron. With technology and VR having moved on, it seemed timely if somewhat bizarre to do a sequel 28 years later. But this time Disney got it right: a killer soundtrack, the most beautiful people imaginable, and an updated look that is not so much ’80s video games as a sleek iPhone, all make this a superslick movie that is beautifully shot and a wonder to behold. Unlike the original movie, there’s also an emotional subplot involving our hero, who finds himself zapped into a video game world, and his father, who created said video game world and got trapped in it 25 years earlier. Again, this is a sequel that extends the original universe. So where we had light cycles, we now have light planes. Add in a standout cameo by Michael Sheen as a David Bowie impersonating bartender, and you have a hit. What’s not to like?
Under the Skin (2013)
Do you like watching Scarlet Johansen seduce Scottish men and eat them? Then you’ll love this arthouse sci-fi horror movie. Apparently the film’s ultra-realistic pickup scenes were shot by having Johansen go undercover in Glasgow in a bad wig chatting to various random strangers. What puzzles me is how anyone could not recognize Scarlet Johansen. But the result is a movie that resembles that great 70s cult film The Man Who Fell To Earth, depicting a grounded take on what fist contact between humans and a stranded alien might look like. There are some bold visual set pieces here also as Johansen lures the men… well, inside her. A very dark and unusual film.
Well, here it is. The dumb Hollywood blockbuster. It ticks all the boxes. Hot female star? Check. Hot male star? Check. Big space explosions? Check. Ludicrously expensive production budget? Check. A black comedy about uncaring corporations and the essential hopelessness of the human situation? Check… wait, what? This apparently boring tail of a person named Jim stranded alone on an interstellar cruise ship after being woken up too early from hypersleep is enlivened by terrific performances from Chris Pratt (fresh from his success in Guardians of the Galaxy ) and Jennifer Lawrence. Once again, Michael Sheen pops up as an AI bartender (is he making a career of this?) dispensing wonderful platitudes that fail to help the hero out of his situation. Jim decides he’s had enough of being alone and decides to wake up a fellow passenger, doming them both to total isolation for the rest of their life as the ship takes 90 years to reach its destination. There are the usual space shenanigans, explosions, and some wonderful gravity-defying SFX, but the movie has an emotional core and humanity that makes it a cut above most blockbusters. In short, it’s what a Hollywood movie should be.
Ex Machina (2014)
Alex Garland is responsible for such genre greats as 28 Days Later and the less spectacular Sunshine. But here he steps firmly into sci-fi territory with a movie that pretends to be a lot cleverer than it is. Oscar Isaacs is terrific as the unpredictable and slightly bullying head of a large IT corporation who invites a random employee to test out whether his latest invention, a fembot, is truly sentient. The results, predictably, do not end well. Superb acting and a lot of head-scratching enliven a film that perhaps contains too many shots of hills covered in clouds. And it features one particularly memorable dance sequence.
Ah, Inception. There are so many things wrong with this film, but then again, there are so many things right with it. On the one hand, Christopher Nolan’s cgi-fest looks so great. Its visuals have been highly influential – sumptuous Marvel snorefest Doctor Strange (2016) seems to have borrowed heavily from it. But when corporate saboteur Leonardo Di Caprio invades his target’s dreams he finds… nothing out of the ordinary really. Can it be that top-level businesspeople only dream about board meetings and big houses? Anyhoo… a clever twist involves the resurgence of DiCaprios dead, mad wife into his dreams, essentially putting a spanner in the works whenever he tries to go on a mission. Is it a manifestation of his subconsciousness? But the bravura sequence is the finale, in which there is a dream within a dream within a dream, until by the end of the movie we haven’t a clue whether we are awake or still dreaming. You have to admire a Hollywood movie that doesn’t tell you what’s going on. And so do audiences, apparently, as this was a monster hit as well as being critically acclaimed.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
This will be known as “The movie that bucked the trend”. In a time when superhero movies were getting increasingly “dark” (read dour and pompous) James Gunn’s rollicking ride back to the ’70s tells you it is going to do something rather different in the opening scene, where Starlord (Chris Pratt in a career-defining role), an intergalactic freebooter and modern-day Han Solo, picks up an alien lizard and uses it as a microphone to sing a few bars of Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love” while dancing to his Sony Walkman. A joyous film that puts the fun back into superhero movies, Guardians is the Star Wars of its generation. It’s shouty, loud, colourful and warm. With awesome visual effects and a lot of fun references to the early marvel universe and Jack Kirby’s myriad creations, by the end of it we are truly immersed in this brilliantly realized comic book sci-fi universe. Dance-off, anyone?
Well, here is a nice surprise. A review of my horror short story collection NIGHTSCAPE, no less!
The reader calls several of the stories “gems” and “fabulously suspenseful”!
You can check out the reviews along with synopses of the stories here:
Or you can just go ahead and find the entire book here:
There will be more news coming soon. Not to mention a special post on Fantasycon 2017.
Fantasycon is the annual convention run by the British Fantasy Society. This year it’s in Peterborough, near Cambridge, England. It takes place from September 29th – 1st October. I’ll be speaking on panels and giving an author reading along with some uber-talented individuals, many of whom are very well known in the fields of horror and fantasy writing. Come along and join the fun!