Tag Archives: speculative

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!



“Shades of Santa” and “Snow Woman”!

First of all, Happy New Year to you all. Whoever you are, whatever you’re doing, have a great 2018, because it won’t come again!

My first post of the year. Ah, smell the freshness! But whether you’re a die-hard Christmas fan (no pun intended) or it’s just a case of surviving the festive period for you, here’s something everyone will enjoy: a charity anthology of Christmas-themed horror stories!

SHADES OF SANTA is edited by Steve Dillon of Things In The well publications . Here’s the cover blurb:

A Xmas- themed anthology of short, scary stories using six themes. All the profits will be donated to Charity: Water. The themes are: Sleigh Bells, All is Calm, The Naughty List, Is That Really an Elf? Carols Choirs and Vocal Chords, and Snow People. Authors were given just a couple of weeks to write a story for one of the themes, using a maximum 666 words for each story.

Sounds good? Well, even better, it has a story in it by yours truly! It’s a little tale called “SNOW WOMAN”. But be warned, Raymond Briggs it isn’t!

Shades of Santa is available from Amazon here as well as direct from Things In the Well’s homepage. 

So get your Christmas horror on and buy a copy. All profits go toward a worthy cause!

Buy a copy or read a FREE sample here: https://www.amazon.com/Shades-Santa-Tales-Bloody-North-ebook/dp/B078J7QNTT/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1515175964&sr=8-1&keywords=shades+of+santa



Author interview – Chukwunonso Ezeiyoke

Today it’s my proud privilege to introduce author Chukwunonso Ezeiyoke. A Nigerian-born writer, he is one of a wave of Afrofuturist writers who have recently been taking the world by storm. Afrofuturism has been defined as “a cultural, aesthetic, philosophy of science and philosophy and history that…  addresses themes and concerns of the African diaspora”.  Writers of these stories typically use magic realism, fantasy, supernatural and science fiction to achieve their aims, and share a highly distinctive prose style that is both fresh and engagingly non-Western. 

Chukwunonso’s first story collection, “The Haunted Grave”  is in print from Parallel Universe Publications and contains eight stories with themes such as the real origins of the AIDS virus, a man who is possessed by himself,  and a particularly nasty family curse passed on through sexual activity. The stories are original and totally believable, told with a matter-of-factness that makes them all the more chilling.  Even stranger is that Chukwunonso is such a very nice guy to meet, with a highly infectious laugh. Not the kind of person you would immediately think capable of writing such grisly fiction!


ES: First of all, please tell our readers a little about yourself and what you write.

CE: I am Peter Chukwunonso Ezeiyoke. Although I only write with Chukwunonso and then my surname Ezeiyoke. From day one, I tended to avoid using my name Peter in my writing. I see my writing coming from an intimate place and Peter for an unknown reason failed to capture this essence. Perhaps because Peter is for officialdom.  The name used in school, at work and other serious places. Nonso, an abbreviated version of Chukwunonso was the in-house name left for close friends and family. In a way, the name Peter got alienated from this intimate fondness I associated with writing. I write all sorts of things: fiction and non-fiction. In non-fiction, I love literary criticism especially if approached from the angle of the Philosophy of Literature. I fell in love with literary theories after reading Language and Habit of Thought by A. Akwanya. The book blew me off my feet. I also enjoyed Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Poetics. And then Kant and then Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy. ES: And what are your preferred genres as a writer?

CE: Horror and fantasy. Science fictions as long as it doesn’t focus so much in the science but rather on the emotions of the characters. I really love writing horror.  I love a slow burner. The beginning of my stories often sound realistic/literary until the demon comes to party.

ES: What is your favourite childhood book?

CE: I can’t really say one book, but I think that The Palm-Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola was fascinating, mythical and hilarious. The Bottled Leopard by Chukwuemeka Ike stayed with me long after I finished reading it. Then Cyprian Ekwensi’s An African Night’s Entertainment.  Chike and River by Chinua Achebe was our childhood national anthem so was Eze Goes to School by Onuora Nzekwu. I bet that everybody that grew up in Nigeria around the time I was born must have read them.

ES: How long were you a part-time writer before your became a full-time one?

CE: I can’t call myself a full time writer even now. Writing is yet to pay my bills. But I often see myself as a committed writer in the sense that I take it seriously and tend to create time for it. I haven’t been that committed to writing like the way I am now. It is something I began newly. I started to write when I was like eleven or twelve, but then I had a yearning stronger than writing: to become a catholic priest. This consumed my life until I was like 21 when I started having a vocational crisis because of some existential questions. Then writing became my only solace to escape reality. Finally, in 2014, I made up my mind that I wouldn’t become a priest after about 15 years in the seminary. It was at this point that I became a committed writer because I realised that there was nothing else in life that fascinates me like writing. I started being a serious writer by doing my MA in Creative Writing.

ES: That’s fascinating, and I suppose it shows just how important writing can be to people. Thank you for sharing that story. What has been your hardest scene to write to date?

CE: A rape scene that I wrote as part of my MA in radio drama.

ES: And what was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

CE: Hahaha… I went to a bar with a friend. Then we ate fresh fish pepper soup with some chilled drink.

ES: Good answer! I like to include animals in my own stories from time to time. As a writer, what animal would you choose to be your spirit animal?

CE: A tiger

ES: Very cool! And now what are your writing habits? Any good ones?

CE: I am good at breaking any habit I formed.

ES: And how many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

CE: I think I end up with one every month.

ES: Wow. It sounds like you are very prolific. That is very inspiring. When you have had a work published, do you read your reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

CE: I read them. I like feedback, no matter what. It tells me that at least people read what I write. Obscurity I think is the worst thing to happen to a writer rather than neglect reviews.

ES: That is a very philosophical attitude to take. I wish I could be like that!  Well, thank you very much for taking part in this interview, and I for one really look forward to reading your next book!


If you haven’t read it yet, Chukwunonso’s collection of stories “The Haunted Grave” is available on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle. I thoroughly recommend it as a superb work of fiction. If you want an introduction to the wonderful world of Afrofuturism, or if you just want a really good collection of modern horror stories, I suggest you pick up a copy, as he is certainly an author to watch! 

Author Interview with Cyn Ley

Yours truly had a busy old time of it this week, what with Fantasycon 2017 in Peterborough, UK. More on that later, but for now, I’d like to share this interview with bestselling author Cyn Ley. Cyn has published books in the horror, paranormal and humour fields! So without further ado, here’s Cyn…

ES: Welcome to the blog, Cyn. First of all, can you tell our readers a little about yourself? 

CL: Yes.. I’m both a bestselling author and a top-ranked editor, and have been with Solstice Publishing since 2014. They gave me my start and I love working with them. I write short stories mainly, although I recently branched out into novellas. Short stories fascinate me because they have to be so carefully crafted. Always up for a challenge! It’s where I do my best writing, I think. I write rather eclectically—paranormal, social satire, humor, horror. Basically whatever pops into my head and turns itself into a story… There’s not much I’m not interested in.

ES: Paranormal and social satire! Sounds fascinating. What was your last book about?

CL: My last book was THE OSSUARY PLAYGROUND AND OTHER UNEXPECTED TALES. It is a collection of three paranormal stories plus one that’s a bit of a surprise. It’s received excellent reviews so far. My latest short story, “Plot Twist”, will be appearing in Solstice’s annual October fright fest anthology, NOW I LAY ME DOWN TO SLEEP (October 2017).

ES: Cool. So are your books standalone stories or are they part of a bigger overall plan?

CL: They’re standalone collections. I currently have two books on the market: THE OSSUARY PLAYGROUND, and ENCOUNTERS: TALES RECOUNTED AND REBORN. ENCOUNTERS is a collection of stories previously published between 2014 -2016. A number of these early tales have been revamped, but just as many stand in their original form

ES: As a writer myself, I’m always keen to know authors’ writing habits. What is your own approach to writing, and how many hours a day do you write?

CL: Tough question. I’m an intuitive writer, so most of the time stories just unfold for me. I’ll sketch out quick little notes and use them as touch point, but I’m not religious about it. What seems like a good idea initially may not be when you get to the actual writing. Some days I don’t write at all. Other days—or nights, I should say—the Muse wakes me up at 3am and orders me to write.

ES: Okay, now that we know about your writing and your working day, why don’t we dig a little deeper? What is your favourite book from your childhood, and why?

CL: The unabridged Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. It has everything—action, humor, thrills, romance, and is just plain fun.

ES: I love Dumas. His works appeal on so many levels. It’s interesting that you went for historical fiction, though. Do you undertake a lot of research for stories yourself?

CL:  I don’t start with the research, but I often research as I go. This can range from [finding out about] the environment (the settings of the story), to language (how people expressed themselves in different eras, subject-specific terminology, etc.). Let the story be your guide, and pay attention to the details. Would your character have cooked in a copper pan or cast iron one? The minutia can make all the difference.

ES: Very sound advice. In fact, I recently made the mistake of failing to research a certain aspect of police procedure in Los Angeles for one of my short stories. Fortunately, I have an editor with a very keen eye!  Okay, moving on to a more spiritual plane — and this is question I ask everyone — as a writer what would you choose to be your mascot or spirit animal? 

CL: I’m way too much of a critter person to pin that down! LOL My cat and dogs are lovely, of course, but so are the crows that like to hang out on the roof.

ES: So all of them! And if you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

CL: Be brave!!!

ES: Excellent. Okay, we’re almost done. One last question: could you tell us what are you working on at the moment? 

CL: I have a couple of multi-genre things in the works right now, but it’s too early to talk about them. They’re sketches, mostly

ES: Well, all the best with them. I’m sure they’ll be very entertaining! Thanks for participating in this interview. It’s been great having you on the blog. 

CL: Thank you for having me! It’s been a pleasure!

Cyn Ley’s books are available on Amazon here  and from Solstice Publishing

Or you can get in touch with her here: 

Blog: https://authorcjl.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CynthiaLey2@cynthialey2

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Cleyfiction4/



Interview with horror writer Richard Tabaka!

Time for a change of pace, today, as I’d like to start an irregular series of interviews with new and established authors!

My first guest is horror novelist Richard Tabaka. An active member of the Horror Writer’s Association Richard’s novels include the three-book series The Pride, supernatural thriller St Augustine’s Road, and the short story collection 3:33.


Hi, Richard, welcome to the site. Please tell our readers a little about yourself and what you write.

I was born and raised in central Wisconsin, USA in 1960.  I’ve been a fan of horror for as long as I can remember.  As a child, I would read comic books quite a bit.  Mostly Super Heroes like Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, Superman, Spider-Man (who I liked a great deal because I often caught spiders in jars and kept them for pets), and horror comics like Eerie and Creepy and Tales From The Crypt.  Every Friday night my sister and I would watch old horror movies on a local show called 7 Cemetery Road. It was mostly old Hammer Horror movies and some American ones as well.  I always looked forward to Halloween not just for the candy, but because I got to dress up as my favorite monsters. By age ten or eleven I was reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Edgar Allan Poe.  By the time I reached my twenties Stephen King was becoming known and I read his books as fast as he could write them. Dean R. Koontz soon followed as did Robert MacCamon and F. Paul Wilson.

Okay, cool. Some strong horror influences there. MacCammon is certainly a terrific writer who doesn’t get as much recognition as he deserves. What are your preferred genres as a writer?

I write horror with a dash of dark fantasy.  I really have no urge to write in any other genre. Nothing else stirs my heart like horror.

And what is your latest book about?

My newest novel, which I hope to publish by midwinter, is a take on the shapeshifter myth and will move ancient elements into modern times.  My last novel is about psychics and demons. All my books feature strong female characters.  I don’t like the “damsel in distress” preferring a girl that fights back.

What is your favourite book in the genre in which you write?

It would be hard to pick an all-time favorite. I like to read horror with a twist on an old theme.  Ghosts, Vampires, Werewolves are all good and sometimes horror from a different source like James Herbert’s The Rats or Stephen King’s Cell.  The new series Bane County by JR Rice is a great take on an old theme as is your own novel The Autumn Man.  I also greatly enjoyed a novella I read recently called Honger by Terry M. West and the novels of Ambrose Ibsen.

Thank you. And thanks for the suggestions for further reading. My shelves are already groaning under the weight of all the books I want to read, but I guess I can slip a few more in there! Anyway, back to your own writing. What are your writing habits? Any unusual ones?

I love to write on weekend mornings or vacation days, though I do write after work sometimes too. I like it best when I can immerse myself in the process for many hours. I typically write out a long synopsis first and flesh it out into a chapter by chapter outline and from that I add more meat until I have a story and then leave it cool while I start another synopsis. I’ll return after a few weeks and tidy it up, usually two or three times.  Then, I take the plunge and publish. I know too many people that might be great authors if they ever put themselves out there and took the plunge. Too often, we as writers are our own worst critics and for me my greatest sorrow would have been to leave the earth without trying. Now, having sold books on four continents and I know now that people around the world share my dark side.

So you’re definitely a planner, or at least a plantser. Interesting. What kind of characters do you primarily write about most often? Are your protagonists mainly children, teenagers, young adults or adults?

Almost all of my books and stories deal with adults and adult themes, though I wrote a short story that borrowed heavily from my early teen years.  That story, Fat Man, has roots in real life and writing it was a very powerful experience for me.


What is the most difficult part of the artistic process for you?

The most difficult part of the writing process for me is making time for it.  I still work a “day job”, often 50 to 70 hrs a week.  It is a challenge to juggle writing with work, family and other hobbies and friends. Sometimes I have to force myself to write a half hour here or fifteen minutes there, but that is the only way to keep moving forward.  I know someone who once told me she wanted to write a romance novel. Twenty years later she has yet to finish it. I had the same problem until I took a calendar and marked in red ink on every Friday, seven more pages. I forced myself to stick to that schedule and in nine months I had a novel written. It would take another five years before I just made up my mind to publish it myself. I never regretted that decision.

That’s definitely a commitment to writing. Does your family support your writing career?

My wife supports me and likes to read my books, as do my mother-in-law and father-in-law.  I am also grateful to my friends and co-workers who can’t wait to see what I come up with next.

A lot of authors dream of making it big like JK Rowling or Stephen King. What does literary success look like to you?

Success means different things to different people.  For me, I’d like to see someone make one of my books into a movie. That said, I told my wife once that if I could sell enough books to make a house payment, I’d consider myself a success. By that measure I am a success many times over. I was also thrilled to be accepted as a full Member of The Horror Writer’s Association and I would love to earn a Bram Stoker Award someday. I have yet to be nominated, but I’ve had the honor of placing my votes for a few other writers. It is always good to have a dream.

And finally, as you know, my stories often feature animals in some way. After writing The Autumn Man I think I can safely say that my favourite animal is man’s best friend, the dog. What would you choose as your own mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

My personal spirit animal, and I do believe I have one, is the Bear. The Bear is a survivor and a resourceful creature and I’d like to think I am too. Like the Bear, I have a grumpy side and love a good snooze, and never miss a good meal. I think we all have a spirit animal and we should set it free from time to time and let it be our guide.

Excellent. Well, thank you Richard for giving this interview and for all your insights into the writing process. It’s been a great pleasure, and I hope you enjoy your well-deserved success!  

Richard Tabaka’s novels are available on Amazon at the links below. I hope you will check them out for a taste of classic and modern horror fiction:

The Pride www.amazon.com/Pride-richard-tabaka-ebook/dp/B00N1Z1P3C

Blood Pride www.amazon.com/Blood-Pride-Book-2-ebook/dp/B018SZ9KXQ

Pride Fight www.amazon.com/PRIDE-FIGHT-Final-Chapter-Book-ebook/dp/B01MTJG4L5

Saint Augustine’s Road www.amazon.com/Saint-Augustines-Road-Richard-Tabaka-ebook/dp/B06XHQXGKJ

Richard Tabaka website www.tabakahorror.com

Richard Tabaka Facebook Page www.facebook.com/TabakaHorror

Amazon Author’s Page  www.amazon.com/richard-tabaka/e/B00N2YSK6M



Nightscape reviews & Fantasycon 2017!

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!


Today I’m very proud to announce that my latest collection of horror short stories, NIGHTSCAPE, has been released by Parallel Universe Press in this glorious hardback edition!

In this collection of nine unsettling stories you will read about…

A  man who returns to his childhood home to find that there’s something very wrong with the family pet…

A woman with schizophrenia who becomes enamoured with an abandoned children’s toy…

A Roman legion which marches into first century Scotland only to come face to face with terrifying creatures from ancient myth…

Three outcasts who are waiting to be sacrificed to a monstrous creature after a nuclear war has wiped out civilization…

A widower who turns to black magic to bring back the lover he lost in a horrific car crash…

A troubled married couple who inherit a cottage once owned by a legendary Leicestershire witch…

And more!

So if you love horror short stories in the vein of Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, and Clive Barker, you’ll enjoy NIGHTSCAPE. And who knows, maybe it will enjoy you!

Currently available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and direct from Parallel Universe Publications.