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Daniel I Russell - Writer of Horror Fiction

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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

I Know I Promised You a Story by Gary McMahon

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Welcome to the first intimate look of the contents of Primogen: The Origin of Monsters. As outlined in the last Primogen post, I aim to read each story in turn and create an addendum, if you will: a piece of flash fiction to provide you, dear reader, with a flavour of the story contained within. And of course, should these posts over the next few weeks get the juices flowing, feel free to click on the cover above and take a look at the book on Amazon.

First up is Gary McMahon, with I Know I Promised You a Story.

In his short and atmospheric opener, Gary dabbles with the vampire mythos, but rather than gloomy castles and misty graveyards, he sets his gritty piece on a council estate in 1978. I imagine many of us horror writers raised in the 70s and 80s can relate to the young protagonist. I know I certainly did.

I thought about the circumstances of the boy and some of the things vampires have represented over time, or the events that have been attributed to their nefarious actions. To me, vampires are a metaphor for evil and torment, and human suffering the blood they crave. But this relationship can't be one-way...

The Invitation 
(Inspired by I Know I Promised You a Story by Gary McMahon)

They have it wrong about us, you know. Always have. Hanging cloves of garlic by your windows and nailing crucifixes over your beds. Romantic fiends descending the ancient brick of a Transylvanian castle, cape billowing in the moonlight. Stakes through the heart, and hissing at the creeping dawn.

Harbingers of disease? Better to blame the creatures of the night than the great unknown, yet to be unravelled by the scholars with their microscopes and developed cultures. By placing us in test tubes and distilling down to our cores, would they compare our existence to a virus? To avoid extinction, we reproduce: passing on our appetites like DNA and transforming the host. However, we are not so virally crude to invade, to weaken...to destroy. Symbiosis is a delicate relationship, ruled by numbers. Left unchecked, we would overrun, ensuring our own demise alongside those that currently sleep in their stacked houses, safe from the night and the dangers that stalk within.

We can slip into your bedroom and watch from the crevice of an open wardrobe, listen to your thoughts from under the bed, and curl up beside you in your safe, warm cocoons as you stare at the ceiling, weighing your fears and worries. All the while we lurk close by: drinking in your suffering and smiling. We don’t need to be invited in; we’re already here, waiting for you to turn off the television, climb the stairs, and enter your sanctuary. As you begin to undress for bed, you also shed the burdens of the day, eager for sleep, for a few hours of sweet respite. You sigh, and we gather like hungry dogs, sniffing at their master’s feet come dinner.

We’ve watched you, young man, as you’ve watched us. You surround yourself with talismans of protection, more effective than any crucifix or vial of holy water. Any psychiatrist worth his fee would recognise a defence mechanism, a coping strategy, a place to divert one’s thoughts away from the trials and hardships of life. The darkness surrounds you like a bubbling sea, eager for you to dip your toe in the water. The vampires observe from their eyes on the flickering black and white screen, from the pages of your books. You construct models in our imagined image, totems of worship, yet further idols of protection. We assess you through these plastic and painted eyes surrounding your bed. We siphon off the errant scraps. With that first taste, we know.

This boy has risen above the cattle. He can host.

We can enter your homes as we wish, but the legends have a couple of things right. We must feed from you, but you must also feed from us. A willing exchange as you decide to taste the darkness we offer. Spread the misery. Feed.

This is the invitation which we place before you. Can we come in?

Posted by Daniel I. Russell :: 9:31 pm :: 0 comments

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Monday, June 25, 2018

Review: Broken on the Inside by Phil Sloman

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Imagine it's a normal day. You're on the bus heading to work, in a cafe slurping on a coffee, or even sat in the dentist's. You look around at the other five people on the bus, or in the cafe, or in the waiting room. Five people; all very different in age, sex, weight, how they present themselves. On one side, a trim older man, immaculately groomed and dressed, while on the other, a slightly over-weight girl in her early twenties, wearing the uniform of a fast food restaurant. 

I recall my favourite contemporary psychoanalyst (what, you don't have one?) Darrien Leader in a presentation, telling the tale of a young clinician who was required to assess a well-dressed, affluent lady. She doesn't look like someone undergoing a psychosis, the trainee had said.

So which of these people are suffering an acute psychosis? Which of these five are in the grip of terror and confusion as delusions cause hallucinations and vice versa?

The cover of this book by Phil Sloman gives a slight hint.

I had no idea what I was getting into when I started this, as I rarely read blurbs and (sorry, Kendall Reviews!) reviews in-depth before starting a book. I don't want to know a thing. From the page count, I expected a novella, so was surprised when the first story ended and the next began. Following the second piece, I was onto the theme, and I was keen to see if Sloman could pursue this through to the end of the book without the idea going stale. I believe he does this with a cracking sense of characterisation, which is absolutely top notch, and by catering to different tastes with each tale.

Like horror stories of technology gone awry?
Like dark humour?
Like psychological horror?
How about some gross out body horror? That float your boat?
Finally, what about...more technology...that's gone awry? But completely different from the first one?

Something for everyone indeed. I have to disagree with Kendall Reviews (see, I did read it) and hang my #1 ribbon onto the last story. The previous four resolve incredibly well but the final piece steps out from the pack by remaining ambiguous right to the end. It keeps the reader guessing in the best possible way, and leaves you wanting more.

In summary, goddamn this Phil Sloman and his book. It's a perfect example of how strong the horror game can be, particularly on reaching levels of characterisation other authors may require chapters to reach. Goddamn him.

I give it 5/5 individuals suffering due to Government cuts to local mental health services.

Broken on the Inside should be available by clicking on the cover, if I've done my HTML right.

Posted by Daniel I. Russell :: 6:26 pm :: 0 comments

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Primogen: Origin of Monsters

Howdy, folks. Welcome to the slightly updated blog!

Last week saw the arrival of Primogen: Origin of Monsters arrive in the letter box. Sometimes you just know something special has come along when you open a good looking book. The names in the contents, the artwork (a full page illustration for every story by Greg Chapman, no less), and just the theme, of inventing an origin story for a host of classic monsters, comes together to create one hell of an anthology.

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But of course...I would say that, wouldn't I? It's not hard for an author to heap praise upon a book that he appears in! 

So I thought...what can I do differently? How can I get readers to part with their hard-earned cash on this book?

As I've been working on (and damn near obsessing about) my psychology thesis, my fiction suffered due to what I call 'screen sickness', as in, I got sick of staring at a screen! I needed to get the ol' creative juices flowing again. To write without having to intext reference.

The idea is to read each short story in turn and immediately write a short piece inspired by that story. Sometimes this can happen in the world of that story by looking at events from a different angle, or exist completely separate but share a theme.

Following granted permissions, watch this space for the first of the stories... It's already written and ready to go.

If this is something you'd be interested in reading, or if you have read the book yourself already, please leave a comment!

Posted by Daniel I. Russell :: 10:14 am :: 0 comments

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Sunday, June 10, 2018

Review: Mechanisms of Despair by Gary Buller

Looks like I'm resurrecting the blog to post reviews, seeing that Amazon won't let me leave reviews there yet (and these will be transferred once I apparently spend enough. So much for spending my hard earned $ at Book Depository and getting more book for my buck). Could do with giving it an overhaul anyway, been a long time...

Anyway, today's quick review: Mechanisms of Despair by Gary Buller.

A short collection of stories and I didn't really know what to expect being unfamiliar with the author's style. Let's just say that the title is fitting, with a bunch of stories with the salient theme of loss and suicide. This really should could come with a suicide hotline helpline. 'If you have been affected by any of the themes of this book, please call...'

The standout of this book is the almost Lynchian nightmare scenes of bizarre imagery and the saturation of dread, like each story has been drowned in dread and emerged soaking wet and dripping from the page. Claustrophobic grief and hauntings. Even the more traditional style stories, featuring the tropes of zombies or a masked killer, are handled extremely well. The zombie story in particular, which is a flash piece and if I'm being brutal, doesn't do anything tremendously unique with the genre, leaves a lasting impression because of the images the author paints: silhouettes in the early morning fog, a war torn sky. Fantastically written.

To readers, I can recommend this quick read. To the author, where's a novel? 

Buy from Amazon US here...sales go towards The Alzeimer's Foundation in the US and Sarcoma UK.

Posted by Daniel I. Russell :: 3:57 pm :: 1 comments

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