AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Stephen Volk

And now, for a little bit of fun…

Meghan: Hey Stephen! Welcome… back? Hahaha. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Stephen: 1) My grandsons having fun!

2) The movies!……. It is the one day of the year when TV puts out horror movies or shows about horror movies. And it is the one night of the year when people who don’t like scary things like to be scared, And – see – that’s when we GET them! Heh heh heh!

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Stephen: Telling ghost stories by candle light. Except nobody does it any more. Our campfire tales are usually told in front of the latest wide screen plasma screen. And told by cinematographic storytellers. But there is nothing quite like the old tradition of HEARING a ghost story to truly chill the blood. The images you conjure up in your head are far worse than any CGI can deliver!

Meghan: If Halloween is your favorite holiday (or even second favorite holiday), why?

Stephen: I like ANY holiday because it means the phone won’t ring and I can get on with writing without being disturbed!

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Stephen: I’m not superstitious in the conventional sense, but I have a desk full of talismanic objects… A statuette of Peter Cushing, Poe and Alfred Hitchcock, skull money boxes, monster toys etc…

But generally I believe in “paying back” – so if I get paid for a screenplay, I like to spend money on a work of art. Be it a small print of £50 or a bigger piece of artwork I have fallen in love with – or indeed an expensive or lavish book. I love the visual arts – painting, etching, etc – lots of my friends are artists and you can pick up an original work of art rather than a mass produced print and feel you are supporting the artist. I like that! I also like to share all sorts of weird images on my twitter feed or Facebook timeline – they are great inspiration for stories!

Meghan: What/who is your favorite horror monster or villain?

Stephen: It would have to be Frankenstein’s creature. It isn’t just frightening it has a lot of tragedy and pathos – it was rejected by its father, so it wasn’t born bad, it was made bad by being treated badly. I love that as a metaphor for life. Maybe there is a story to be written where Viktor Frankenstein was a good daddy? That would be interesting.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Stephen: The Jack the Ripper murders of Whitechapel in 1888, of course. I don’t think we will ever get to the bottom of the mystery. Not anymore, so long after the primary evidence has decayed and the witnesses and investigators are all dead. All the theories overlap and the territory is too muddy. My own theory is that “London” or specifically the East End was the murderer. There was no single killer of the canonical five. And the person who wrote the “Dear Boss” letter was an enterprising reporter called Tom Bulling. In fact, I wrote a TV script about him, and the creation of the first tabloid true crime story. Bulling “created” the myth of Jack the Ripper, I think. (I was always fascinated that Inspector Abberline was alive long enough to have watched Hitchcock’s “Ripper” film The Lodger in a movie house!)

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Stephen: The phantom hitchhiker, probably. It’s very easy to hallucinate a figure at the side of the road but it turns out it’s only a signpost or tree, but the idea of a hitchhiker being a ghost sitting next to you is terrifying. We’re terribly vulnerable in our cars at night. I tried to dramatise this is a script I wrote called Octane (called Pulse in the USA) starring Madeline Stowe and Norman Reedus. It was about vampires who prey on people in car crashes at night. It was a cool idea but the movie didn’t quite work.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Stephen: I don’t find serial killers interesting or charismatic. In real life they are boring, odious non-entities. I think we have to grow up and face the fact that they aren’t comic book monsters let alone “heroes” – they are human beings who have gone badly wrong. And we can’t spot them in a crowd because they look like you and me. In my stories about people who do terrible things I always want there to be shadings of gray. Maybe a terrible person does something for a good reason, or a good person is forced to do something awful. That is much more interesting to me than a Freddy or a Jason.

Meghan: How old were you when you saw your first horror movie? How old were you when you read your first horror book?

Stephen: First horror movie was on TV and it was a black and white one called The City of the Dead. It was a British film, I think, but set in the USA, full of men in monks’ cowls and streets swathed in fog – it was terrific! There is one particular image that stayed with me ever since, and that was a man staggering through the fog holding a life sized cross from the graveyard to ward off the evil ones – who I think burst into flames! That, to me, was almost the equal of the iconic scene in Hammer’s Dracula where Van Helsing leaps up and pulls down the curtains letting in the sunlight that shrivels Dracula to a crisp – then holds the two candle sticks in the form of a crucifix to finish him off! Wonderful stuff!

First horror book was a magazine – FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND magazine! I used to save up my pocket money and go to the local newsagent and buy it. The photographs were like nothing I’d ever seen. And of course long before I was old enough to see any of the movies themselves – which were “X” certificate in Britain – ADULTS ONLY! That’s how I got to know Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, way before I saw the films.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Stephen: Possibly Dracula at a young age – it sort of felt real because it was in diary form. Like the equivalent of a “found footage” movie today. You plunge into the immersive world and it doesn’t let go. When you are young you don’t understand the graphically sexual imagery – it is just the force of predatory evil and strangeness that is all-consuming.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Stephen: Without doubt, Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie. It’s my number one film of all time because when the ending happened (I was sitting in a movie house all alone on a wet Wednesday afternoon) I thought I’d lost my mind. I thought the reels must have been switched. I didn’t get it, then it all made sense. Then there was that marvellous montage of all the hints that had told you what was going on all along. It’s a true cinematic masterpiece, and I will watch it over and over till the day I die. Purely from the craft point of view there is so much to learn from the storytelling and the depth of character.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Stephen: I have a skinhead skullcap with a massive rubber Mohawk sticking up. I like it because my dad wore it one time and it looked hilarious so it reminds me of him. And, since I’m bald, it is kind of perverse to wear a bald skull cap on top of a bald head! But hey, that’s how I roll!

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Stephen: Gotta be “The Monster Mash”. I can’t think of any other. And now I’ve got it playing in my head, damn you!

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween candy or treat? What is your most disappointing?

Stephen: Nothing. I’ll eat anything. If you were a chocolate bar, I’d eat you.

Meghan: Stephen, thanks again for joining us today. Not for one interview, but TWO. Before you go, what are your favorite Halloween movies?

Stephen:

#1 Halloween – the original and the best!!

#2 Ghostwatch (I wrote it – so, sorry!)

But for Halloween night, I’d always recommend these superlative cinematic treats:

#3 The Innocents
#4 The Haunting (black and white version)
#5 The Woman in Black (British TV version)
#6 Herzog‘s Nosferatu
#7 Dreyer‘s Vampyr
#8 Haxan
#9 Viy
#10 The Devil’s Backbone

Thanks for the interview. To sign off here is George, my grandson, carving pumpkins and looking super chilled:

Boo-graphy:
STEPHEN VOLK is best known as the writer of the BBC’s notorious “Halloween hoax” Ghostwatch and the award-winning ITV drama series Afterlife. His other film and television screenplays include The Awakening (2011), starring Rebecca Hall, and Gothic, starring the late Natasha Richardson as Mary Shelley. He is a BAFTA Award winner, Shirley Jackson Award finalist, and the author of three collections: Dark Corners, Monsters in the Heart (which won the British Fantasy Award), and The Parts We Play. The Dark Masters Trilogy comprises of three stories (Whitstable, Leytonstone, and “Netherwood”) using Peter Cushing, Alfred Hitchcock, and Dennis Wheatley as fictional characters, with a guest appearance by the occultist Aleister Crowley. His provocative non-fiction is collected in Coffinmaker’s Blues: Collected Writings on Terror (PS Publishing, 2019) and his most recent book, also from PS Publishing, is Under a Raven’s Wing – grotesque and baffling mysteries investigated by Sherlock Holmes and Edgar Allan Poe’s master detective Dupin in 1870s Paris.

Under a Raven’s Wing
The Apprenticeship of Sherlock Holmes

In 1870s Paris, long before meeting his Dr Watson, the young man who will one day become the world’s greatest detective finds himself plunged into a mystery that will change his life forever.

A brilliant man—C. Auguste Dupin—steps from the shadows. Destined to become his mentor. Soon to introduce him to a world of ghastly crime and seemingly inexplicable horrors.

The spectral tormentor that is being called, in hushed tones, The Phantom of the Opera . . .
The sinister old man who visits corpses in the Paris morgue . . .
An incarcerated lunatic who insists she is visited by creatures from the Moon . . .
A hunchback discovered in the bell tower of Notre Dame . . .
And—perhaps most shocking of all—the awful secret Dupin himself hides from the world.
Tales of Mystery, Imagination, and Terror

Investigated in the company of the darkest master of all.

The Dark Master’s Trilogy
Whitstable – 1971.
Peter Cushing, grief-stricken over the loss of his wife and soul-mate, is walking along a beach near his home. A little boy approaches him, taking him to be the famous vampire-hunter Van Helsing from the Hammer films, begs for his expert help…

Leytonstone – 1906.
Young Alfred Hitchcock is taken by his father to visit the local police station. There he suddenly finds himself, inexplicably, locked up for a crime he knows nothing about – the catalyst for a series of events that will scar, and create, the world’s leading Master of Terror…

Netherwood – 1947.
Best-selling black magic novelist Dennis Wheatley finds himself summoned mysteriously to the aid of Aleister Crowley – mystic, reprobate, The Great Beast 666, and dubbed by the press ‘The Wickedest Man in the World’ – to help combat a force of genuine evil…

The Little Gift
The nocturnal scampering invariably signals death. I try to shut it out. The cat might be chasing a scrap of paper or a ball of silver foil across the bare floorboards downstairs, say a discarded chocolate wrapper courtesy of my wife, who likes providing it with impromptu playthings. I tell myself it isn’t necessarily toying with something living, but my stomach tightens.

What time is it?

Coffinmaker’s Blues: Collected Writings on Terror

The Parts We Play
An illusionist preparing his latest, most audacious trick… A movie fan hiding from a totalitarian regime… A pop singer created with the perfect ingredients for stardom… A folklorist determined to catch a supernatural entity on tape… A dead child appearing to her mother in the middle of a supermarket aisle… A man who breaks the ultimate taboo—but does that make him a monster?

In this rich and varied collection of Stephen Volk’s best fiction to date, characters seek to be the people they need to be, jostled by hope, fears, responsibility, fate, and their own inner demons—and desires. These tales of the lies and lives we live and the pasts we can’t forget include the British Fantasy Award-winning novella, Newspaper Heart.

(SERIOUS) AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Stephen Volk

When Stephen and I discussed what he wanted to do in this year’s Halloween Extravaganza, he told me that he was impressed with an interview I had done of a fellow author, a serious one. How can I deny someone who is impressed by one of my interviews, right? After some back and forth, and my suggestion of doing both, he agreed. So here, first, is the serious interview. Ladies and gentlemen, Stephen Volk.

Meghan: Hey, Stephen. Welcome to Meghan’s House of Books. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Stephen: My name is Stephen Volk. In spite of a name that sounds German, I’m Welsh. I’m a BAFTA winning screenwriter best known for writing the so-called “Halloween hoax” Ghostwatch which was transmitted by the BBC on Halloween night 1992. Astonished that thirty years later people still talk about it! I’ve also been creator and lead writer of two TV shows (Afterlife and Midwinter of the Spirit), have written lots of other screenplays and television scripts, as well as dozens of short stories and novellas, and a few stage plays. Mostly, but not all, in the horror genre.

Meghan: What are five things most people don’t know about you?

Stephen: I have a cat named Asbo. I was once at a party with Jack Nicholson. I grew up in the same town as Tom Jones. My house was built in 1692. I hate jazz.

Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?

Stephen: A large illustrated book of The Pied Piper, when I was about four. I don’t remember if it was the poem or just the basic tale. The illustrations were magnificently terrifying, complementing the innate horror of the story. Its impact sank deep. I later wrote a story related to The Pied Piper, called “Best in the Business”. I’d also one day like to tell it in a film, set post-US Civil War, in the style of Clint Eastwood’s High Plains Drifter.

Meghan: What are you reading now?

Stephen: I’m reading My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell. (A new spin on Lolita in the age of #metoo.) It’s a spellbinding and gripping read. Before that I read The Dangers of Smoking in Bed, the new story collection by the incredible Mariana Enriquez.

Meghan: What’s a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn’t expect you to have liked?

Stephen: The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue. It’s a novel about nurses working during the flu epidemic in Dublin in 1918. It has no genre element whatsoever, but I will read anything by the author of the brilliant Room. She is such a great writer.

Meghan: What made you decide you want to write? When did you begin writing?

Stephen: I started drawing before I started writing. My granddad, who ran a pub, used to give me shiny squares of paper and I would hide under the table and draw on them – continuous images, as if each square was a comic book panel. I think I started writing proper in my early teens. My cousin and I were both mad keen on books and films, so for our fifteenth birthdays our mutual grandmother bought us each a typewriter. It was the best birthday present I’ve ever had. It was like receiving a travel ticket to anywhere you can imagine.

Meghan: Do you have a special place you like to write?

Stephen: I write at home, in my study, at my desk – smallest room in my house. I didn’t get a lap top until recently so if I wasn’t there, I wouldn’t be working (unless I took a notebook with me). It’s not a monk’s cell exactly, but most of my stuff is produced in that room, with a window over the garden and the cat whining in the background.

Meghan: Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Stephen: No, I have no superstitions. I know all the smart advice about getting started: get writing as soon as your ass hits the chair, etc. I can give them, but I rarely obey them. As far as process goes, I have to know roughly what I’m going to do before I start. Ramsey Campbell says, always start knowing the sentence you will write. That’s pretty good advice. In general, I plan a lot. Obviously in screenplays it’s a requirement, but even in short stories, for me, there will be several pages of scribbles figuring out whether the thing is worth doing, and sometimes that goes in a drawer till it is. I don’t know if it’s a quirk, but I love the feeling of typing THE END or FADE OUT. That moment is what you live for – the story exists! But always, about half an hour later or even ten seconds later you wonder if it’s complete shit.

Meghan: Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Stephen: Yes, most of writing is challenging! I would definitely say getting notes, be it from an editor, script editor or producer. You can’t reject them all and usually you can’t address them all, so there is a give and take. Negotiating that in order to make this nebulous thing called “the story” better is really complex and only comes from experience. I still find it enormously difficult, but everything needs work, and you are a fool if you don’t listen to feedback.

Meghan: What’s the most satisfying thing you’ve written so far?

Stephen: I’m not ducking the question, but it’s literally the last thing I finished. Both generally and specifically. I think you almost have to feel that. Yesterday I finished a kind of monster story/mythic fantasy short story that has been bugging me for ages – possibly all my life. I had ideas but I didn’t know what to do with them. Only by getting them on paper did I arrive at what I wanted to say, or rather, what I wanted to explore. And the story did that. The story throws back at you what it needs to be. I’m really glad that happened, so I’m on a little bit of a high that I pulled it off.

Meghan: What books have most inspired you? Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Stephen: Oh, too many to mention! Sometimes it is very clear. My recent book Under a Raven’s Wing, in which a young Sherlock Holmes is educated in his art by Poe’s master detective C. Auguste Dupin, is very obviously inspired by my love of Poe and Conan Doyle. It might sound funny, but sometimes I get the voice of a story by imagining it written by someone else – when I wrote my story “Sicko” I wondered how Joyce Carol Oates would write it. For “White Butterflies” it was Cormac McCarthy. “The Airport Gorilla” needed to be a bit more loose and poetic, so I channelled the wordplay of Dylan Thomas a little bit. Another story came alive when I thought of it being told by Alan Bennett. Sometimes you unlock how to do it that way.

Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?

Stephen: Honesty. Telling it from the heart. Making opposites clash, or making the story the opposite of what it seems: I often say my “horror” stories are about love. Nail the theme – what it is about underneath – but don’t be dictatorial. Let the reader fill in the gaps. The wonderful director Billy Wilder said if you give the audience two plus two and they make five, they will love you forever.

Meghan: What does it take for you to love a character? How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Stephen: Truthfulness. I hate the boring Hollywood note that a character isn’t “likeable”. It usually means they don’t feel real. And the whole process of making them lovable makes them more boring. Make them interesting in the way real people you know are interesting and complex and compelling and unknowable and contradictory. Mine your own life for detail and authenticity. Observe. Be curious. Above all, give them a flaw. The flaw, the wound is everything. The wound is where the light gets in.

Meghan: Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Stephen: Dr Robert Bridge, possibly, the psychology lecturer character played by Andrew Lincoln in my TV series Afterlife. He is a rational man and thinks logically, it is his job to think things out, put them in their place (like a writer) but he is faced with a person – Alison Mundy, a spirit medium who is entirely instinct – and he fears that, fears letting himself go to emotional upheaval.

Meghan: Are you turned off by a bad cover? To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Stephen: Oh, listen, I trained as a graphic designer before I became an advertising copywriter. I am a design junkie. I love book design, illustration, typography, just as much as what is inside the covers, and it literally makes me squirm when I have to buy a book with a terrible cover because I love the author. I almost will not do it. I’d rather buy a book with a terrific cover that I never read. It’s not my place to be involved in designing book covers for my own books – though I feel I could, at a push, but they wouldn’t be really excellent. One of the reasons I love doing the meticulous small-run books that PS Publishing create is that I know Pedro Marques will design mine, and he is an absolute genius. Opening the box when I receive then is always mind- blowingly thrilling.

Meghan: What have you learned throughout the process of creating your books?

Stephen: After working for thirty years writing for film and TV, that I have learned a few things about storytelling. Most of all, that I like to be in the position, now, where I get input, but at the end of the day, what I say goes. The book is mine and nobody else’s, for good or ill. I’m tired of taking the flak for other people’s mistakes in my career.

Meghan: What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Stephen: I don’t find scenes that are emotional or that cut deep difficult, even death scenes – death scenes are very gratifying, actually, because you get to be with someone dying but nobody actually dies – you can rehearse it, over and over, in the way that horror is perhaps rehearsing death over and over in a way, or what it feels to be hurt, or to lose your identity. All these things aren’t hard – they are exciting. You just have to be honest with yourself and go there till you get it. The hard scenes are where you get stupid notes to address and you can’t solve the problem, or something isn’t working – those are the killer. And sometimes later on you go: “Oh course, that’s how you do it – what’s the problem?” But at the time you felt like killing yourself or handing the money back. “Here! Take it! I’m not a writer anymore! Leave me alone!”

Meghan: What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Stephen: Speaking for books and scripts and plays all together? I have no idea. Maybe they’re not in “the genre” in terms of mainstream at all. PS is a very select and exclusive edition type publisher and I’m fine with that. They don’t turn around and ask for a shark on the cover, or a bleeding skull. If I started to wonder where I sat in the genre I think I’d go mad. I have tried to figure out what the genre means to me over many years. I wrote think pieces in Andy Cox’s Black Static magazine which were compiled in Coffinmaker’s Blues: Collected Writings on Terror. So that’s the nearest you’ll get to me analysing myself or my writing.

Meghan: How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Stephen: There’s sometimes a clever story about a title and sometimes there isn’t. It often just pops out of the air – as Under a Raven’s Wing did, the idea of mentoring and Poe in one neat phrase. I tried it out on my wife and she said: “Yeah. Obvious.” (Ha! I wish “obvious” ideas came that easily more often!) Many times, with me, the title of a story comes at the early stages – it is sort of part of the overall package of the idea that is what turns me on. That’s why when someone wants to change the title (as they always do, in films, without fail) my heart plummets. I wrote a screenplay called The Interpretation of Ghosts (which I loved) but they changed it to The Awakening. Don’t ask me why!

Meghan: What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Stephen: I have only written a novel or two (the Gothic film novelisation of Netherwood; and a couple of unpublished ones), but I will answer in terms of writing a short piece as opposed to a big piece such as a film screenplay. Basically, I think a short story has immediate gratification – you can write it in weeks, if not days, sometimes, and there it is: done. A screenplay or novel will takes months at best and sometimes several years. So the two are very different beasts to handle in terms of control, focus and stamina. Your love for a novel or screenplay will have peaks and troughs, depending on collaborators. With a short story you may have no collaborators at all. You are left to your own instinct and skill, and that can be a huge liberatio. At the moment I am into short stories and novellas, but that might be a passing preference, depending what comes up next as the pandemic lifts.

Meghan: Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Stephen: I’ll shift a little and talk about my next short story collection, coming out in March 2022 from PS Publishing, which will be called Lies of Tenderness. What I’d like readers to get from this wide range of tales in many different settings is that we are all given choices between empathy and selfishness at various points in our lives, and how we react to that situation and those pressures is what forms us. I’ve spelled it out in a way I would never want to, really. But that’s what I want “horror stories” to achieve – to take you to a place you think one thing will happen, and it’s actually another. You were perhaps expecting a sharp shock like the genre habitually delivers, and it’s not. It’s something else.

Meghan: Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Stephen: Again thinking of Lies of Tenderness, I left out one story – which was actually fully on-theme – but was a period piece that didn’t fit the flow of the book. I’m sure it will find its way into a future book, though. In the latest story I’ve written, three characters enter the story halfway through, they rapidly get killed, and I just cut those four pages out – it made a huge difference. I always say crossing out is just as important as word count!

Meghan: What is in your “trunk”?

Stephen: I have several things are are half-baked because they are not ready – it is best to put them aside and come back to them when the penny has dropped. Of course sometimes the penny never drops! But that is part of the game. I have numerous film projects that have never comes to fruition which makes me sad, because some of them are far more interesting than movies I have had produced. For one we had Michael Caine, Danny DeVito, and Kristin Scott Thomas all signed up, but still couldn’t get the finance. It’s quite baffling. Which is why you have to get the pleasure from the actual writing, if you can. I also have a massive novel written in archaic language which nobody will touch. I don’t know about bottom drawers, I think I have a whole warehouse full of these things!

Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?

Stephen: Lies of Tenderness will be out n March 2022. I have a couple of TV series in development, and a couple of feature films with producers. Very excited about all of them, but I really can’t give specific details as the business is fickle at the best of times and what seems like a slam-dunk can turn into a dead duck. As ever I will split between screen work and books. I actually want a stretch of clear blue water in front of me to see what will happen.

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Stephen: Twitter ** Facebook ** Website

Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say?

Stephen: Thank you for reading this far and thank you for reading or watching my work. By the way, if you read something (or watch something), try to reach out and let the writer know about it. Don’t imagine they will be too busy to hear some words of praise. Some people might be, but most of us all have dark nights of the soul and your words could mean a lot to that person at that point. It is a tough old business, writing for a living, and in some cases, those moments of contact and support are all that keeps us going! Thank you!


Boo-graphy:
STEPHEN VOLK is best known as the writer of the BBC’s notorious “Halloween hoax” Ghostwatch and the award-winning ITV drama series Afterlife. His other film and television screenplays include The Awakening (2011), starring Rebecca Hall, and Gothic, starring the late Natasha Richardson as Mary Shelley. He is a BAFTA Award winner, Shirley Jackson Award finalist, and the author of three collections: Dark Corners, Monsters in the Heart (which won the British Fantasy Award), and The Parts We Play. The Dark Masters Trilogy comprises of three stories (Whitstable, Leytonstone, and “Netherwood”) using Peter Cushing, Alfred Hitchcock, and Dennis Wheatley as fictional characters, with a guest appearance by the occultist Aleister Crowley. His provocative non-fiction is collected in Coffinmaker’s Blues: Collected Writings on Terror (PS Publishing, 2019) and his most recent book, also from PS Publishing, is Under a Raven’s Wing – grotesque and baffling mysteries investigated by Sherlock Holmes and Edgar Allan Poe’s master detective Dupin in 1870s Paris.

Under a Raven’s Wing
The Apprenticeship of Sherlock Holmes

In 1870s Paris, long before meeting his Dr Watson, the young man who will one day become the world’s greatest detective finds himself plunged into a mystery that will change his life forever.

A brilliant man—C. Auguste Dupin—steps from the shadows. Destined to become his mentor. Soon to introduce him to a world of ghastly crime and seemingly inexplicable horrors.

The spectral tormentor that is being called, in hushed tones, The Phantom of the Opera . . .
The sinister old man who visits corpses in the Paris morgue . . .
An incarcerated lunatic who insists she is visited by creatures from the Moon . . .
A hunchback discovered in the bell tower of Notre Dame . . .
And—perhaps most shocking of all—the awful secret Dupin himself hides from the world.
Tales of Mystery, Imagination, and Terror

Investigated in the company of the darkest master of all.

The Dark Master’s Trilogy
Whitstable – 1971.
Peter Cushing, grief-stricken over the loss of his wife and soul-mate, is walking along a beach near his home. A little boy approaches him, taking him to be the famous vampire-hunter Van Helsing from the Hammer films, begs for his expert help…

Leytonstone – 1906.
Young Alfred Hitchcock is taken by his father to visit the local police station. There he suddenly finds himself, inexplicably, locked up for a crime he knows nothing about – the catalyst for a series of events that will scar, and create, the world’s leading Master of Terror…

Netherwood – 1947.
Best-selling black magic novelist Dennis Wheatley finds himself summoned mysteriously to the aid of Aleister Crowley – mystic, reprobate, The Great Beast 666, and dubbed by the press ‘The Wickedest Man in the World’ – to help combat a force of genuine evil…

The Little Gift
The nocturnal scampering invariably signals death. I try to shut it out. The cat might be chasing a scrap of paper or a ball of silver foil across the bare floorboards downstairs, say a discarded chocolate wrapper courtesy of my wife, who likes providing it with impromptu playthings. I tell myself it isn’t necessarily toying with something living, but my stomach tightens.

What time is it?

Coffinmaker’s Blues: Collected Writings on Terror

The Parts We Play
An illusionist preparing his latest, most audacious trick… A movie fan hiding from a totalitarian regime… A pop singer created with the perfect ingredients for stardom… A folklorist determined to catch a supernatural entity on tape… A dead child appearing to her mother in the middle of a supermarket aisle… A man who breaks the ultimate taboo—but does that make him a monster?

In this rich and varied collection of Stephen Volk’s best fiction to date, characters seek to be the people they need to be, jostled by hope, fears, responsibility, fate, and their own inner demons—and desires. These tales of the lies and lives we live and the pasts we can’t forget include the British Fantasy Award-winning novella, Newspaper Heart.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Ricky Fleet

For those of y’all who don’t know, me and Ricky have… history (haha). I met him at a Scares That Care event a few years ago… and it was an experience… such a great experience that I have made sure to invite him back to the blog every year since so that everyone else can experience the amazing Ricky Fleet… though, if you ever get the chance to experience him in person, I tell you it is SO much better. Super talented. Read all of his books. I know what you’re going to tell me – they’re zombies – but don’t hold that against him. They are GOOD.


Meghan: Hey, Ricky! Welcome back. It’s always a pleasure to have you on the blog. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Ricky: My favourite part about Halloween is the knowledge that at no other time of year are the two realms, the living and those passed on, any closer. As someone who has lost family members, I like to think of them visiting us to see how we’re doing. Not to mention the vampires, werewolves, mummies, mermen, and assorted other monsters who come out to play.

And, of course, the innocent mischief of the makeup; sharing the night with ghouls and goblins, fairies and princesses.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Ricky: We’ve never really had the money to go all out on the decorations, but there will always be a few creepily carved pumpkins on our doorstep, inviting the unwary to knock on our door. My kids are all grown up now, but I’ll never forget the joy of walking them from street to street, taking in the displays from the more creative neighbours. We even had Anubis jump out on us one Halloween, nearly earning the wearer a right hook from a surprised dad.

Meghan: If Halloween is your favorite holiday (or even second favorite holiday), why?

Ricky: It would be my second favourite, simply because NOTHING beats Christmas. The nights are finally cold, and you get to wrap up warm and have the fires blazing. You can glut yourself on all manner of sweet treats without the calories counting (I’m sure that’s been scientifically proven). The kids are filled with a healthy dose of excitement and nerves, wondering what really lurks in the night.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Ricky:
I salute lone magpies.
I don’t walk under ladders.
I try not to step on cracks in paving.
If I spill salt, I toss some over my shoulder.
I don’t open umbrellas in the house.
I’m cautious on Friday the 13th. Always.

However, I don’t mind black cats crossing my path and I don’t believe in the luck of a rabbit’s foot. They should be left attached the owner of said foot.

Meghan: What/who is your favorite horror monster or villain?

Ricky: Anyone who knows me knows the answer: Zombies! I freaking love the crumbly, rotting little horrors. They have to be, of course, the Romero type. They just fill me with a primal dread. Remorseless. Ever hungry. Never tiring. Runners are fun and all, but they just don’t stir the same passion. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Dawn remake, and, although they’re technically just infected, 28 Days Later. But nothing, simply nothing, compares to the feeling I had when I first saw the shambling zombies in the original Night of the Living Dead.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Ricky: Not so much a murder, as a disappearance that I believe is a murder. It’s a horrible one, but it’s Madeleine McCann. There’s so much wrong with the case, not least the fact that they left their children unattended to go out for dinner and drinks. It would never enter my mind to do what they did. Yes, they’ll pay for that mistake for the rest of their lives, but do you know who I care more about? Maddie!

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Ricky: We’ve not really got any urban legends in our area. One mystery/myth that has always fascinated and scared me was the Bermuda Triangle. Knowing that people have been merrily bobbing along, and then suddenly, BAM, they’re gone without a trace. Where did they go? Did a whirlpool open, sucking them into the darkness? Did something unknown emerge from the unknown depths of the ocean to feed? I’d love to know. Or would I?

I tie these kinds of disappearances into my Infernal series.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Ricky: I think about what these types of people did and I’m of the opinion they should be questioned, studied, then put to death. If I lost a loved one to their barbarity, it’s the least I’d demand.

So, when it comes to my favourite, I look to films and books because the suffering is always pretend. Acting. And no two individuals sum up the pervasive evil of a soulless killer better than Norman Bates and Hannibal Lecter. The first because he is an awkward, shy individual and the truth of his transformation and murders shocked a generation. There are few musical scores that can instantly transfer someone to a scene than the discordant strings of Hermann as the knife fell. The second is the polar opposite of Norman: educated, cultured, refined. The cannibalistic depravity hiding behind the suave face of Dr Lecter is absolutely terrifying to me.

Meghan: How old were you when you saw your first horror movie? How old were you when you read your first horror book?

Ricky: There are two that stick in my memory. One was a film when I was very young, but I have no idea of the plot or story. All I can remember was that I was scared to death, and someone had a massive bell drop on them. That’s it. The second was Return of the Living Dead. I was a year or two older, six or seven. I made it to the bit where they started to cut up the first zombie after burying a pickaxe in its skull before I bowed out. Now I look back and laugh as I LOVE the movie and its sequels, but at the time I had nightmares for weeks.

My first horror read was Salem’s Lot that I “borrowed” from my mum’s dresser. Barlow was in stark relief on the front cover, the vampirized townsfolk stretching off into the distance. I’ll never forget the words in those pages. A love for reading horror was born that day.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Ricky: I’ve never really felt “scared” while reading. Maybe I just haven’t found the right books. I can honestly say that two authors who can make my stomach churn are Matt Shaw and Aron Beauregard. Masters of extreme, graphic horror.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Ricky: There are two notable movies that have left a lasting impression on me. The first is Drag Me to Hell. As a comedy horror, it worked really well. I was laughing along with the best of them. But that final scene… damn. That has never gone away. There you have the boyfriend who never really bought into the whole doomed soul story, watch as the minions of Hell literally drag his girlfriend to an eternity of suffering. I mean, how do you come back from that? I’d be crazy in five minutes flat. Justin Long’s face captures that emotion perfectly as he leans over the side of the platform. Knowing that my lover was forever out of reach, being tortured over and over again without respite. A padded room would swiftly follow.

Number two is Event Horizon. (You’ll notice Hell is a key feature of both films). The rescue shuttle gets stranded and the gate to another dimension opens. Except the other dimension is not another part of our universe, but Hell itself. The sense of isolation and the steadily increasing terror thrilled me. Once again, I asked myself, what could you do? In other films like Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, etc, they were in peril but there was always a slim chance they could get away. Where could the team who found the Event Horizon go? Pop the airlock and run out into space. Nope. They were trapped from the moment they set foot aboard the vessel, and that stuck with me too.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Ricky: I’ve never been a fancy-dress kind of guy. I did go as Hannibal Lecter to one party. Meg as the Slutty Cat in Family Guy was pretty good. I think I’d have rocked that costume.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Ricky: It’s gotta be Michael Jackson’s Thriller, no contest. Closely followed by the Monster Mash.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween candy or treat? What is your most disappointing?

Ricky: I’m not a massive sweet eater, but if I had to choose, it would either be lemon bonbons, or Lemonheads. Oh, or Maoam Sours. Anything fruity like that with a bit of kick.

Meghan: Before we go: Top Halloween movies and/or books.

Ricky: I’ve not really read any “Halloween” books that spring to mind, so I hopped over to Goodreads. They state that Sleepy Hollow and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark are two that make the list, so I’ll pick those.

As for Halloween films, the entire Halloween franchise, even the crap ones. I really enjoyed the recent remake and look forward to Halloween Kills later this year. The Craft. The Nightmare Before Christmas. Sleepy Hollow with Mr Depp. Night of the Demons (original and remake) Monster House the animated film. The Monster Squad (is that set on Halloween?). And lastly, one of the best films ever, The Crow.


Boo-graphy:
Ricky Fleet has been a lifelong horror fan. One dark night, many years ago, he ‘borrowed’ a copy of Salem’s Lot from his mum’s bedside table. Sneaking it into his room, the terrifying visage of Barlow gazed out from the cover. Doomed townsfolk stretched into the distance, and in bold, silver font was a name – Stephen King. The story contained within those pages spawned an appetite for horror that has yet to be sated. Masterton, Lumley, Koontz, Laws, Herbert, Hutson, Laymon, Barker, and many more have influenced both his life and his writing.

His career took him into the plumbing and heating sector, keeping Britain’s homes warm and watered.

Born and raised in the UK, cups of tea are a non-negotiable staple of the English life and serve as brain fuel for his first love – writing.

With the Hellspawn series being enjoyed across the world, the growing saga has a dark edge that begins to explore the true horror of a world without rules. A nod to the master, George A. Romero. The only thing running on his zombies are the fluids of decay. What they lack in velocity, they more than make up for with utter remorselessness and insatiable hunger.

Infernal: Emergence is the first in his new demon series. A tale of conspiracy, untapped powers and the vast armies of Hell who yearn to tear our world apart. Only one man stands in their way; he just doesn’t know it yet.

His latest series – Devoured World – takes a new and terrifying look at the question ‘Are we alone in the universe.’ It appeared to be a gift; it was, in fact, a terrible curse. Nuclear Armageddon. A dead world. Billions of mutants roaming the darkened wasteland. These are the least of the survivor’s problems. The aliens are coming, and then the true war will begin.

Devoured World: Volume 1
A gift from the stars crashes to Earth, ushering a golden age of human cooperation. The genetic secrets in the pods eradicate Cancer, HIV, even the common cold with a single pill. The jubilation is short lived when the horrific truth reveals itself. The cellular changes wrought by the treatment continue, and degenerate. Global efforts to halt the rapidly mutating victims fail. Breaking free, the creatures spread their contagion with teeth and claws; tearing, ravaging, devouring. Nuclear Armageddon is mankind’s only hope to hold the infected back. Decades later, the radioactive dust has settled, and the survivors leave their bunkers. Woken from an endless sleep, Andrew Burton must choose his destiny within the Sovereign Guard army. Using advanced weapons and technology, they’re humanity’s last line of defence. Billions of monsters lurk in the wastelands of a dead world, but they’re not the only threat. Across the vastness of space, the aliens are coming, and with them, the real war will begin.

Devoured World: Volume 2
Following the devastating mutant attack on the mining facilities, humanity’s continued existence hangs in the balance like never before. Lacking the essential elements to power their advanced weaponry, it’s only a matter of time until the infected legions overrun the weakened defences of the fortress cities.

Empress Verena, ruler of the Divinity Alliance, is faced with a stark choice; trust G with full access to their most sensitive systems, or accept the extinction of every remaining human on Planet Earth. What secrets lie behind his sarcastic, cheeky façade? Will the newly created AI be a saviour, or only hasten their doom?

Appraised of the dire situation, Hardie is tasked with bringing an offer of cooperation to the band of Scavs. Taking Andy and the new recruits out into the wastelands, things aren’t what they seem. What they discover will shatter everything they thought they knew of their dead world.

Devoured World: Volume 3
The die is cast; G has been fully integrated into the Divinity systems. With the snarky AI in full control over every aspect of the Alliance territory, Verena can only pray she made the right decision. Will G’s cheery mask slip? Will the unknowable motives harboured by the newly created intelligence be their end?

Rocco arrives at Tempest City for Devastator training, but doubts begin to surface about his choice. A fleeting glimpse of something that could not possibly be sends him down a rabbit hole of danger and discovery.

To the north, Hendrick’s cowardly act sees Hardie and the team put in peril like never before. Facing the hordes of infected is one thing. What waits to greet them beyond the rotting totems is far, far worse. Secrets long buried will begin to surface, shattering the soldier’s belief in the system they fought and died for.

Meanwhile, out in the cold wastes of a barren world, something long dead begins to awaken.

Devoured World: Volume 4
The countdown begins for the critical attack on the corrupted mutant bastion of Fort Hope. With the trust of Verena, G works with the hardened battle commanders to minimise the casualties of his adopted people. Will the plan of attack be enough to turn the tide in mankind’s favour?
Out in the bleak wastelands of the old world, Rocco and Hyde race against time to discover the fate of their missing friends. Their search will lead them into the rocky Appalachian mountains and discoveries beyond their wildest nightmares.

In Toronto, maniacal troops search frantically amidst the abandoned streets of the ruined city. Andy moves like a ghost, hunting the hunters, working ever closer to his imprisoned team. A chance meeting will alter the course of his mission with catastrophic consequences for everyone.

The arena awaits. If they thought the infected were bad, they have nothing on what the dark minds of humanity can create.

SHORT STORY: A Different Kind of Soldier by John Linwood Grant

I learned of the amazing John Linwood Grant when I read the book A Study in Grey. I instantly fell in love with Major Redvers Blake and have been wishing and hoping I could read more about him. Well, Virginia, dreams really do come true…

A Different Kind of Soldier

Autumn bleeds in tawny shades, a suspicion of winter hiding under sodden foliage. And if I have an ‘autumnal’ character in my tales, it can only be Lieutenant, later Captain and then Major, Redvers Blake. His khaki uniform is shorn of the reds and vivid yellows of autumn, though – it is a dull reminder of death, which is always on his horizon. All Hallows Eve is, for him, just another day of troubled and departed souls.

Blake’s time in South Africa during the Boer Wars left him with a permanent stammer and a dead father; his mother, driven insane, left him with the burden of being a physical sensitive. He can feel, can listen to the world around him if he touches it – which means he remains gloved whenever possible. Bloody-minded and occasionally insubordinate as he is, his masters eventually place him in Military Intelligence, and try to have as little to do with him as possible. From there he deals with those strange ‘incidents’ which others dismiss or cannot grasp, either working on his own, with Special Branch or with the regular army (one or two readers might spot the source of the Royal North Surreys, the regiment to which he is attached at various stages in his career).

I have tracked him from the Second Boer War, through the Edwardian era, through ab-natural threats, espionage, a Balkan crisis or two, into World War One, and beyond. He has saved some, shot or had hanged many more, and done his duty to a dead Queen; he has worked with the great minds of the period, even with a reluctant Mr Sherlock Holmes:

Holmes stared at him. “You are no John Watson, Captain Blake.”

“Indeed not. He was courageous, steadfast and m-m-many other noble things. I have no d-d-delusions about my own character. I lie, p-p-perjure myself, and deceive d-d-decent folk. In the last week alone I’ve killed a man with the revolver you saw, and p-p-probably sent at least one other to the gallows.”

There was a sudden tiredness about the detective’s face.

“It seems that I was correct to retire,” he said. “This is not my world.”

Two new Redvers Blake tales came out this year. The first is a story of insanity and art in turn of the century Paris, ‘In Service to a Distant Throne’, included in the Stygian Press anthology Y. Blake is sent to track down a British agent embedded in the feverish artists’ circles of Montmartre, a man whose communications have become delusional, incomprehensible.

The second is a bleak episode early in his career, ‘At Vrysfontein, Where the Earthwolf Prowls’, where Blake faces the horrors of the Boer War concentration camps. That one is the final story in my latest collection, Where All is Night, and Starless:

Blake stares at the huddle of displaced women and children in the wagon. The woman whose son was screaming has a baby in her arms, a small thing which is too quiet, as if to compensate for the sounds its older brother has been making. She has a flat, dirty face, and her eyes are full of red-rimmed anger at the English officer on his fine horse. The officer who watched as his troops burned the family’s farmhouse and took the cattle.

“Are you content?” she asks in Afrikaans. “They will be quiet, maybe, until I bury them.”

“I did not want this duty, mevrou.” His horse moves restlessly, and he comforts it with one gloved hand. He has no such comfort for the woman, or for himself…

Here, though, is a vignette I wrote for the talented writer Doungjai Gam Bepko, something which I posted briefly for her on Facebook. It references one of Blake’s few journeys to the East for his Military Intelligence masters, and hasn’t been in print or on any website, until now.

RATTAN

Siam, 190-

The clearing by the river smells of damp soil, sweat, and dying empires; cinnamon bitterns rise from the reeds, a brief clamour of alarm…

Blake smiles. It helps with the pain, and it confuses the French officer, who fingers the leather flap of the holster, uncertain.

“You are not in Burma now, Captain Blake” says the sous-lieutenant. “Go back to Rangoon and drink quietly, for your own sake. The Chao Phraya valley is neutral, not territoire Britannique. Your Lord Salisbury said this, on behalf of your own government, and you should listen to him.”

Behind the Frenchman, rattan sways. Yellow silk whispers between the slender canes.

“Can’t d-d-do that, old chap.” Blake’s smile does not fade. “My Lord Salisbury is dead, his ulcerated b-b-body crammed into a wooden b-b-box. He says very little, these d-d-days.”

“Capitaine…” The sous-lieutenant draws out his revolver, a decision made. On either side of him, soldiers of the Third Republic begin to load their rifles. Pride and shame make them eager to end this, eager to leave an Englishman in a foreign grave.

Blake’s left hand grips the carving he found in the ruins of the village – the wooden figures of a squat bird, the beak broken away by a heavy, careless boot. He looks down at it; there is blood on his fingers, though not as much as wells from his wounded shoulder.

“This speaks to me, though,” he says, mastering his habitual stutter for a moment. “It tells me that three nights ago, your men came down from hill patrol – where they should not have been – and took their pleasures by the Chao Phraya.”

The sous-lieutenant trembles. He is twenty two years old, and has a girl in Chanthaburi who he loves almost as much as he loves his Normandy wife. Ordering the death of another European, an officer, is not easy, but…

Yellow silk slips past the spines of the rattan, yellow silk, then brown. Sturdy material, not the finery of court. Four sisters were not in the small fishing village when the French came to call – Blake met the women later, whilst he was closing lifeless eyes, sparing the sky such terrible stares. Despite an initial misunderstanding, they believed him when he said he could find the French. They believed him when he asked them to follow his path, and to wait for their moment.

He lets the carving slip to the forest floor. The signal…

Four sisters; six soldiers. Doungjai Song breaks from the rattan and the trees, her curved knives held low; Doungjai Sam is behind her, a fishing spear held high. Doungjai Nueng, the oldest, has a Siamese Mauser rifle, and Doungjai Si, almost a child, waits with a knotted cord in her hands, ready to tend to those who fall.

Louis Abras, with semen still crusted on his trouser leg, dies first, the serrated spear-head in his gut. The sous-lieutenant, who was not present on that shameful night in the village, who might have lowered his gun and waited for judgement, chooses badly and fights back. He falls last, a Mauser bullet in his heart, spared the twist of Doungjai Si’s cord around his neck. He will not see Chanthaburi – or Normandy – again.

One of the sisters murmurs something to the others, and they begin to drag the bodies to the Chao Phraya, which – Blake has been told – has many, many catfish of a remarkable size and an even more remarkable appetite. Doungjai Song has a bullet wound in her arm, but otherwise…

Doungjai Nueng – all the name she ever offered Blake – kicks one of the corpses. The lines on her dark skin are deep, her expression deeper.

“Where will you go?” she asks in her own tongue, and he understands well enough.

His smile has left him, because it is no longer of value. He was sent here for intelligence on the French, but does not care for what he has learned. Not that he is greatly surprised. He rarely is.

He bows to her, because sometimes you just do. “Why, b-b-back to Rangoon, of course. To d-d-drink quietly.”

She nods, and turns away. Silk flows between trees and creepers, flows smoothly like the great river, and Blake is alone.

As usual.


Redvers Blake is also featured in various other anthologies, such as The Chromatic Court (18thWall) and A Winter’s Tale (Pavane Press). Where All is Night, and Starless (Trepidatio, July 2021) is available in paperback on Amazon, with eformats available directly from the publisher.

“A far-reaching collection, imbued with beautifully deft prose, where dark humour, melancholy and ghoulishness effortlessly share the same space as though in cosmic alignment with the fates.”

US Paperback
UK Paperback
US & UK Eformats


John Linwood Grant is a professional writer/editor from Yorkshire, UK, with some seventy short stories and novelettes published during the last five years in venues such as Lackington’s Magazine, Vastarien, and Weirdbook, and in several award-winning anthologies. He writes dark contemporary fiction and period supernatural tales. His novel The Assassin’s Coin (IFD), features the feared Edwardian assassin Mr Dry, from the collection A Persistence of Geraniums, and the related novel 13 Miller’s Court (with Alan M Clark) won the 2019 Ripperology Books award. He is also the editor of Occult Detective Magazine and various anthologies. His second collection of weird fiction, Where All is Night, and Starless, is out now from Trepidatio. He is ageing, sarcastic, and has his own beard. He can be found regularly on Facebook, and at his eclectic website GreyDogTales.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Carver Pike

Carver and I have known each other for a long time, way before he became known as Carver, and it’s a huge pleasure to have him back on the blog.

Meghan: Hey Carver. Welcome (back) to the blog. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Carver: The overall atmosphere. It’s the time of year for horror authors to shine. I love walking the aisles of stores and seeing all the fall colors, grinning jack-o-lanterns, and creepy costumes. Of course, I love the vast amount of horror movies on offer by all the different channels. Back in the day, this was the only time of year you could watch ALL the Halloween films back-to-back on cable TV.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Carver: I’m pretty basic, to be honest. I always make sure to watch Halloween (my favorites are the first one, Halloween 4, and H20). The 2018 Halloween was pretty cool too. Can’t wait for the next one.

Meghan: If Halloween is your favorite holiday (or even second favorite holiday), why?

Carver: I love taking the kids trick or treating in neighborhoods where homeowners really get into the holiday. I’ve heard there’s a guy down the street who stands in his window every year dressed as Jason and when kids come to his door, he chases them. That’s awesome! That, and it’s the only time of year where you’re sure to see horror-themed shit in all the stores.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Carver: I don’t mess around with Ouija boards. Fuck that. Too many scary movies start out that way. When I was a kid, I didn’t worry about it. I used them with friends all the time. I remember ripping one in half and using one of the pieces to hold up my bedroom window. I was probably 12 or 13 at the time. That probably wasn’t a great idea.

Meghan: What/who is your favorite horror monster or villain?

Carver: Definitely Michael Myers. For the longest time, I had nightmares about Michael. I had plenty of other bad dreams too, but the nightmares with Michael chasing me always scared the shit out of me.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Carver: Off the top of my head, I’d probably have to go with the Zodiac Killer, mostly just because he toyed with the police the way he did and got away with it. I mean how do we let that happen? Jack the Ripper is another one that I find fascinating, but his murders took place so long ago and detective work wasn’t quite what it is today. We should have been able to track down and take out the Zodiac.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Carver: Bloody Mary is a pretty freaky one. There was another one similar to Bloody Mary that I was always afraid to play. I can’t remember what it’s called but you stand in front of a mirror, with the light off, and say his name however many times and then you’d see this creature or demon far away inside the mirror. It would sprint toward you and if you didn’t turn the light on before it reached the mirror, it would dive through and attack you. I wouldn’t dare play that game.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Carver: What a morbid question, Meghan. It seems wrong to have a favorite serial killer. I think the one that fascinates me most is Dahmer. I mean he was into some sick shit. Drilling holes into some of his victims’ heads to try and create zombies. Of course, there was that whole thing about eating them too lol. See? Even adding that “lol” in there seems wrong. There’s really nothing funny about it. Edward Kemper was interesting too. Did you watch Mindhunter? Great show. A lot of people don’t know that Kemper’s voice was the one narrating a lot of the old audiobooks. He recorded Flowers in the Attic and even Star Wars.

Meghan: How old were you when you saw your first horror movie?

Carver: Oh, man. Probably like three or four. I think the first one I remember watching was Friday the 13th. I used to love watching Commander USA on the USA channel. You know, the guy who’d dress up as a super hero and spoke to the face he’d drawn on his hand with cigar ash. He’d always play awesome horror movies… I think on Saturdays. I remember seeing a double feature of Friday the 13th V and April Fool’s Day at the drive-in.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Carver: To this day, and I read it after picking it up from a Goodwill when I was about 12, the horror that unsettled me most is The Devil in Connecticut by Gerald Brittle. That’s the book The Conjuring 3 was based on. For a long time it was impossible to find. After the movie came out, they republished it with the movie cover, so I was able to buy a copy. I haven’t read it yet, but I can’t wait to see if it still unnerves me like it did back in the day. Unlike the movie, the book focuses more on David, the little boy who ended up being possessed. The movie skipped all that and went straight to the murder case that followed. The boy’s story was a lot scarier.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Carver: Probably The Exorcist. I was really young when I saw it and I remember my dad sneaking up behind me and scaring the shit out of me. Then he told me I needed to turn it off because I was too scared. Another movie that messed me up as a kid was Lamberto Bava’s Demons. That and the sequel are still two of my favorite horror movies.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Carver: I can’t think of a favorite, but I can tell you my least favorite. When I was a young teenager, maybe 15, I dressed as a car crash victim. So I basically just wound gauze around myself. Around my entire body. And I did it so tight that I could barely walk. I looked like a mummy. My friend drove us around to a couple of Halloween parties that night and it sucked so bad. Everyone else was having a great time and I could barely move.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Carver: Well, Michael Jackson’s Thriller is definitely one of them. This is Halloween from A Nightmare Before Christmas is another great one. Oh, and Little Red Riding Hood by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs. If we’re talking themes, I’d have to go with Halloween.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween candy or treat? What is your most disappointing?

Carver: Favorite: Butterfingers, Twizzlers, and candy corn. Most Disappointing: Apples or raisins (I like both but it’s a damn shame when people put them in kids’ candy bags)

Meghan: Before we go, what are your top 5 Halloween movies?

Carver: Trick ‘R Treat, Halloween 4, Night of the Demons, Hocus Pocus (if the kids are around), I’m a fan of the old made for TV movie The Midnight Hour (yes, the cheesy one starring Peter DeLuise and Levar Burton), and I’m going to cheat and add the 3 new Fear Street movies (1, 2, 3) as one. I don’t think they were necessarily Halloween movies, but they were fun and I think fit in well.


Boo-graphy:
My name is Carver Pike. Since as far back as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by everything horror. I’d sit cross-legged in front of the TV and watch The Texas Chainsaw Massacre while devouring a bowl of Kaboom cereal. I always wished the ghost at the end of each episode of Scooby-Doo wouldn’t be just another man behind the mask. I wanted real ghastly ghouls, dastardly demons, and malevolent monsters.

At some point, I knew I couldn’t sit back and keep watching this horror world from the stands. I wanted to be in the game. So, now I wield this virtual pen and sling ink onto the page from my home in West Virginia where the people are friendly, the scenery is gorgeous, and horror story inspiration is in every nook, cranny, and holler.

I want to create those worlds you visit, feed that fear that keeps you up at night, and entertain you in ways only the greatest storytellers can.

Be advised, most of my books are very graphic in nature. Most are packed with violence, gore, sex, and more. I’m tastefully twisted at telling tasteless tales.

That’s enough about me. This is about you, the reader, enjoying the ride. Hopefully, we’ll form a great author-reader relationship and you’ll come to trust that Carver Pike will always keep you entertained.

The Maddening: Diablo Snuff 3
You don’t go looking for Diablo Snuff. It comes looking for you.

You should have heeded the warning. You should have gotten the message. Evil isn’t coming. It’s already here, and it’s wiping the world out in phases.

Step 1: Seep into the sexual underbelly – Through hotels, hostels, nightclubs, and pornography, they will steal the seed needed to create the bastard maniacs of the future: children created to dominate and destroy life as we know it.

Step 2: Rip through the world in the written form – Through novels of all genres, use the written word to drive readers violently mad.

Step 3: Destroy the rest by digital means – Through an app created by Diablo Snuff, convince the world’s wolves to slaughter the sheep. Highest paycheck goes to the most creative kills.

Step 4: Kill EVERYONE left.

Sooner or later we all go mad.

The Maddening is the final book in the Diablo Snuff series. This is where it all ends… or does it?

Be advised, all the other books in the Diablo Snuff world (A Foreign Evil, The Grindhouse, Passion & Pain, and Slaughter Box) can be read in any order. The Maddening, however, should be read after all the others. Thank you for reading.