Tag Archives: horror

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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TOP 9 FILMS THAT DESERVED A SEQUEL

There are many film franchises that seem to go on forever. Many of which we could well do without.  However, once in a while a movie comes along that deserves  a sequel but for one reason or other never had another instalment made. So without further ado, here is my top pick of the best movies that deserved a sequel but never got one…

 

Magnificent poster… sort of pretty good film.

DOC SAVAGE (1975)

Old was new again in the 1970s. If Star Wars channelled the Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon serials of the 1930s, then Doc Savage channelled, well, Doc Savage! The mightiest of pulp heroes was reborn with former TV Tarzan Ron Ely stepping into the jodphurs. Also known as The Man of Bronze (he likes bronze things) we catch up with Doc meditating in the Arctic beside his own private igloo-come-secret-headquarters before he gets a message that the world is in peril. Doc assembles his team of – ahem – experts, including national stereotypes from around the world (the Brit carries an umbrella, the Irishman has red hair and carries a pig etc etc) to stop an evil cult unleashing animated green snakes on the population while they search for El Dorado. Yes, it’s that kind of a plot.

What makes Doc Savage so good, however, is the hokey sense of humour. We see Doc pull a bullet out of a wall with such force that his bulging bicep tears his own shirt apart. And the finale which features Doc employing dozens of different kinds of martial art, each with its own subtitle, will make the kid in you chortle for more.

At the end of this rip-roaring adventure, we are told Doc Savage will return in Doc Savage and The Arch Enemy of the World. Unfortunately, the producers lied. There were indeed plans for a sequel, but despite being directed by the great George Pal (War of the Worlds) the film suffered from negative reviews and a sequel was abandoned.

Will it ever be made?

Probably not. Since 1975, several attempts to make a new Doc Savage film have failed. Notably, Frank Darabont and Sam Raimi have all tried to resurrect the project, but so far none have succeeded. At the age of 80, Ron Ely is probably not a contender to reprise his earlier role. However, we do already have a “Doc Savage remake” in the form of none other than Indiana Jones. The titular hero of several films is undoubtedly closely based on Doc Savage and other pulp heroes of the time!

 

FLASH GORDON (1980)

“Flash! Flash, I Love you, but we only have 14 hours to save the Earth!”

So says Dale Arden (Melody Anderson) in what is to date the best live action version of the iconic pulp fiction character Flash Gordon. The movie sees Flash (Sam J Jones) and his compatriots Dale and Zarkov (Topol) land on the Planet Mongo to try and stop the evil alien dictator Ming the Merciless (Max von Sydow). The film sees Flash go from hero to zero to hero as he is killed (!) then resurrected, only to unite the tribes of Mongo and overthrow Ming’s rule. But Ming is not quite dead. As the closing credits roll, we see Ming re-emerge offscreen from his “magic” ring and start to cackle with evil laughter. “The End?” asks the title card.

Sadly, yes it was. Although a terrific, fun movie with a legendary Queen soundtrack, Flash Gordon was not a huge success compared to its large budget. Added to this was a reported falling out between star Jones and the producers. Hence a sequel was never made. Since then we’ve had a lacklustre TV series and a superb animated version. But so far we have yet to learn what happened when Ming returned.

Will it ever be made?

Well, the hugely successful gross-out comedy Ted (2012) saw Jones once again donning the lightning-bolt in a dream sequence where he rides his skycycle with Mark Wahlberg on the back. Jones retuned again as himself in Ted 2 (2015). But with an ageing cast who have since become successful in their own right, it seems unlikely that we’ll ever get to hear Prince Vultan’s imperious voice belting out “Gordon’s alive?” again any time soon. We’re more likely to settle for a CGI-heavy reboot.

 

I literally cannot believe that I never mentioned Hawk the Slayer before.

HAWK THE SLAYER (1980)

The early 1980s were a strange time. Take this British fantasy film starring the mighty Jack Palance as the evil Zoltan (Hmm, that name seems familiar) who murders the beloved of straight-laced Hawk, who promptly puts his eye out with a torch. Zoltan, quite understandably peeved at this, raises an army to go around and pillage stuff in the service of an evil sorcerer/demon/ the Devil (?). Our hero Hawk responds by raising a rag-tag band of mercenaries (was there ever any other kind?) including the last elf, a giant (well, a very big man anyway), a dwarf, a one-armed bloke with some kind of wicked semi-automatic crossbow-thingy, and a witch who likes letting off party streamers. Cue Armageddon.

It sounds like I’m poking fun at this film, and I am. But I still love it dearly. The score is a fantastic mixture of electronic synth-pop craziness that is more than a little like Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds, and the last elf in the world is a great character. There are also some terrific British character actors such as Patrick Magee and Roy Kinnear who ham it up to the max. And we get to see Palance at his scenery-chewing finest.

We end with Zoltan’s mentor/demon/whatever recovering his body and promising he will live again. But will he?

Will it ever happen?

Believe it or not, it almost has. As late as 2015 a sequel called Hawk the Hunter was rumoured to be in development with a budget of $5 million. However the Kickstarter campaign failed and so far attempts to make the sequel have gone quiet. But with Rebellion, the game company that owns British comic 200AD planning to release a game based on the property and a potential TV series in the works, anything is possible!

 

You may be cool, but you’ll never be Peter Strauss and Molly Ringwald on an alien desert planet cool.

SPACEHUNTER: ADVENTURES IN THE FORBIDDEN ZONE! (1983)

Ah, the Eighties. Among other things, it gave us two Hollywood icons: king of the TV movie Peter Strauss and princess of coming-of-age movies Molly Ringwald. So it was inevitable that at some point they would appear in the same sci-fi movie together!

The movie is an enjoyable-as-hell Mad Max clone set in outer space. Strauss plays an interstellar bounty-hunter (Wolff, with two “f”s ) who lands on an irradiated planet full of mutants and Road Warrior leftovers looking for three shipwrecked (or is that space-wrecked?) rich girls. Along the way he picks up Ringwald, who does her typical dishevelled-waif-who-later-turns-into-fanciable-princess thing. Add a rabid Michael Ironside into the mix as warlord Overdog (was there ever a better bad guy name?) and you have the awesomeness that is Spacehunter! Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, it was filmed in 3D!!

Will it ever be made?

No.

I love this movie. It is cheesy, but the practical effects mean that it has dated pretty well. There are a lot of very derivative ideas, but so what? It’s a hugely entertaining movie that is basically wish fulfilment. It’s also the kind of film I wish they made more of nowadays. An adventure yarn and nothing more with no pretensions of grandeur. I would love the hell out of a sequel starring Mr. Strauss, but I doubt very much whether he would pick up that mantle again, especially as he is now a successful citrus-farmer and former horse ranch owner. Animated series, anybody?

 

BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (1986)

Okay, at this point if I have to tell you very much about Big Trouble in Little China, the John Carpenter movie with Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall and James Hong, we are in big trouble ourselves. Briefly, the plot is an insane mash-up of martial-arts movie, 1970s exploitation film, action film, comedy and supernatural horror featuring a truck driver (Russell) who goes up against centuries-old supernatural bad guy Lo Pan to recover the girlfriend of his Chinese-American friend (Dennis Dunn) and her reporter friend (Cattrall in her best film role), along with bus-driver and warlock Egg Shen. Got it? Good.

The film ends with Russell famously leaving Cattrall (what a dope!) and heading off in his trusty rig, the Pork Chop Express, driving into the night and issuing a salutary warning to other CB radio users that there is more in heaven and earth than is dreamt of in anybody’s philosophy. Cue an oriental demon that crawls up the back of his truck, hungry for revenge!

Will it happen?

Very possibly!

Although there has been a graphic novel follow-up, Dwayne Johnson (yes, that one) was reportedly attached to develop a remake. Carpenter responded by saying he was “ambivalent” about the project.  Phew. However, as late as 2018 Seven Bucks Productions confirmed they are developing a sequel, no less, with Russell in the lead! Let’s hope it happens, as nobody can replace Russell as hard-boiled but inept actin hero Jack Burton.

 

The Goonies, making overweight kids everywhere feel terrible about their bodies.

THE GOONIES (1985)

Another film that should hopefully need no explanation, this movie about a bunch of high school losers following a treasure map was one of the best adventure films of the 1980s. With a memorable soundtrack and feel-good performances the film was a bone-fide sensation.

Will it happen?

There have been as many rumours about a Goonies sequel as there are clues to One-Eyed Willie’s treasure. Director Richard Donner and the film’s stars have said yes and no several times. Why on earth no sequel was made nearer the time is a mystery. Several of the cast such as Josh Brolin and Sean Astin have gone on to bigger and bigger roles, making a reunion unlikely. But… you never know. As recently as 2017 former stars were saying a remake would happen, although original writer Chris Columbus played down such rumours. But with a slimmed down Chunk and Brolin currently playing Thanos… well, I’m not going to say one way or the other.

 

Spooky but fun: Loose Women – I mean, Hocus Pocus.

HOCUS POCUS (1993)

This massively enjoyable film has become a Halloween favourite. A live-action Disney picture like the ones they used to make, it stars the irreplaceable Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and rubber-faced Kathy Najimy as three witch sisters who get a second chance at life one Halloween, provided they sacrifice a sweet little girl. Her brother, however has other ideas, as does a reanimated cat. The witches cause mayhem in the modern American town, but it’s all good, clean spooky fun along with some killer songs from Midler and Parker. The film ends with the witches ending up as toast while the family gets a much-deserved happy ever after, even the cat.

Will it be made?

It seems everyone wants a sequel except the studio. Stars Midler and Parker have both said they would return to reprise their roles. The film suffered from negative reviews on release but has a strong fan base on home video that has made it a family favourite. There has even been a novelisation set 25 years later. As of 2017 screenwriter Mick Garris said he was working on a sequel, but this turned out later to be a remake, which has yet to materialize. But if it’s one thing we have learned, thanks to the success of Twin Peaks and Tron Legacy, it’s that long-delayed sequels can work. Let’s hope Disney sees sense and gives us another helping of the Sanderson sisters rather than a sloppy remake.

 

    Tron Legacy. Like Tron, only more so.

TRON LEGACY (2010)

For some reason, this film is often underrated or overlooked. Yet it stands as one of the most visually stunning sci-fi films of recent years and has a phenomenal soundtrack from Daft Punk that has become the background to many a car advert.

The film is a direct sequel to ground-breaking 1982 Disney film Tron about a computer programmer, Flynn (Jeff Bridges) who is zapped into his own machine and forced to play video games for his life. The sequel follows Flynn’s son (Garett Hedlund) who is similarly zapped while searching for his dad, who has been missing for over 20 years. Turns out dad was trapped in the video world after one of his creations (also played by Jeff Bridges but digitally de-aged) seized control of the computer domain.

The film is full of stunning SFX and set-pieces, such as the all-new light-cycles, while new discovery Olivia Wilde sets the screen alight as kick-ass pixie dream girl Quora. Shot in 3D, the films used some experimental FX which perhaps do not stand up well to repeated viewings, but as a sci-fi film with a real heart and soul, which takes the original further, it is a highly satisfying and entertaining ride.

Will it happen?

Who knows? There has already been an animated cartoon series. For several years Disney has been on and off about the project. Its stars and director joseph Kosinski have repeatedly said it is or is not happening. The latest status for the project is that it is in “cryogenic freeze”. But just like Tron himself, here’s hoping that you can’t keep a good program down forever.

 

Gremlins (1984). Cuter than their CGI cousins.

GREMLINS II (1990)

The original Gremlins (1984) was a breakout summer hit that was, sadly, classified as a 15 in the UK, meaning I didn’t get to watch it in the cinema. However, this loveable tale of homicidal mutant creatures on the rampage in a small town one Christmas has become a holiday favourite. It spawned a sequel in 1990 that was, shall we say, not up to par. Despite the presence of Christopher Lee, the second tale set in a biotechnology lab lacked the charm of the original, with its ho-hum premise and its constant riffing off other Hollywood films – notably the Rambo trilogy.  It seemed like we had heard the last of the friendly little Mogwai and his rather more disturbing alter-egos.

Will it be made?

Probably.

For the past few years, Gremlins 3 has been gaining more and more traction. Its star Zach Galligan has been actively campaigning for a practical effects-based sequel. Ideas such as Gremlins in Vegas and Gremlins in the White House (God, please no) have been mooted.  Writer Chris Columbus has suggested the story go into some very dark places indeed.  It seems we may get a Gremlins sequel, but not the one we imagined. That little Mogwai is always full of surprises…

So there ends my top 9 films that deserved a sequel. Do you agree with this list? Have I left anything out? Let me know, and I may just have to write a sequel!

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

“Experiment Nine”, an excerpt.

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.

Enjoy.

 

 

Chapter Two

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.

“Reinhaldt?”

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.

“Not yet.”

“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?”

Fenzig sighed.

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…

Darkness.

*  *  *

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

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?