Monday 12 March 2012

Rough Music.

Rough Music is the latest chapbook from the consistently brilliant Spectral Press, another high quality offering from the workshops of Simon Marshall-Jones and is the creation of Simon Kurt Unsworth. Quiet Houses was one of my favourite books of last year so it was with a great deal of anticipation that I waited for this to drop through my letterbox.
The story involves Cornish, a man with a guilty secret, one which is threatening to destroy his marriage. His sleep is disturbed by the appearance, in the middle of the night, of a strange figure a wearing papier-mache mask and banging a pan with a spoon. (Creating the rough music of the title).
That's quite a surreal image but one which - in the hands of a brilliant writer like Simon Kurt Unsworth - manges to be entirely disturbing. As the story progresses, the figure is joined by others, similarly masked, who join in the "music" and then begin acting, and interacting, in increasingly bizarre and disturbing ways.
The figures are of course manifestations of the turmoil in Cornish's mind. Guilt is a terrible burden, it takes over every thought process, a constant presence that nags away in the background, influencing emotions and actions, destroying relationships and the author brilliantly captures the mental breakdown of the protagonist, the surreality of the nightly shows a metaphor for his inner turmoil. The demons in his head made flesh...
It's a marvellous character study, written in crisp, clear prose but it's also a deeply unsettling tale. The imagery created really is disturbing (the story references Frank Sidebottom and I have to admit this is the image I had in my head when I first read about Cornish's nocturnal visitors - I always found Frank a bit creepy, and this story mined those concerns).
I've spent a lot of time recently reading "psychological" horror stories in preparation for the Darker Minds anthology so it's a tribute to this story that I enjoyed it so much after so many stories sharing a similar theme.
Rough Music is a classy piece of writing and another fine contribution to the Spectral Press back catalogue, maintaining the high standards set by the previous publicatiions.

Friday 9 March 2012

Darker Minds - The Stories...

 I'm very happy to reveal the list of stories which have made it into Darker Minds, the second publication from Dark Minds Press. It is:
Reflections From a Broken Lamp - John Travis
Tale of the Abnormal Beauty Queen - Robert Essig
Waste Disposal - Ray Cluley
The Man Who Remembered - Stephen Bacon
Cinder Images - Gary McMahon
The Way of the World - Gary Fry
John Bane's Grave - Charles Muir
Rise, Dead Man - Joe Mynhardt
Looking at Me, Seeing You - Mark West
The Listening - Benedict J Jones
Seeing Things - Robert Mammone
Slip Inside This House - Daniel Kaysen
Houses in Motion - Stuart Young
Shutdown - Clayton Stealback
Laws of Aquisition - Simon Bestwick
It's a great collection of stories from some amazing writers. It's an honour to have them in the book and it's a massive compliment to Dark Minds Press that they took time to submit their work to us. The selection process wasn't always easy, there were many great pieces of work sent to us that didn't get in and it was a privilege to read them. It is a themed anthology though and we were strict about applying the guidelines with regard to acceptances.
I say "we". I have to give my co-editor Ross Warren all the credit here. I had cunningly arranged to undertake a massively stressful house-move right in the middle of the reading period so as a result Ross did all the real work, filtering the stories before sending the real contenders to myself. Cheers Ross, you did a great job - much appreciated - and that is definitely reflected in the quality of the stories that have been assembled.
And so the final editing begins (I have moved now and therefore have no excuses...) I'm genuinely excited about this and can't wait to see the final product. We're aiming for publication in April so watch this space, and boards scattered across the internet for details on how to order.