I met Mark Cassell at HorrorCon 2015 in Rotherham, and caught him again at Em-Con, in Nottingham. A lovely guy, totally committed to the mythologies he creates, oh… And ask him about the severed digits on his trade stand…
Mark is our next victim for interviews. Mark is a nice guy and very creative. If you love horror you will love Mark! If you haven’t read anything by him then you are truly missing out! Go check him out! I’m happy to introduce you to Mark Cassell….. How old were you when you […]
Check out this Roadie Notes interview with the Matt Hickman. I had the privilege of meeting Matt at Em-Con, and he’s a funny, committed, generous, really down to earth bloke. A real gent. Read this interview and get to know him a little better.
I have had the privilege of getting to know some of the best authors around and Matt is definitely in this group. His recent first novel Jeremy is superb! If you haven’t read it then go buy it immediately!! Getting to know Matt has been loads of fun from his funny pictures and witty sense […]
When I started this small business, I had no idea how quickly it would take off, how much I would have to learn and how quickly I would have to learn it all. The administration requirements of running even a small press are huge, and very quickly the management of submission calls and submissions became too much for me to manage on my own.
A book of two halves and a boy of two sides
You know I always like to disclose any connections I have to the author of the books I review, and to remind you that when I read something other than in the capacity of an editor, I read and review in the capacity of a customer, who either enjoys it or doesn’t. My writer friends know this, and I expect honesty from them and they can expect it from me. Matt Hickman and I have become friends via Facebook and are set to meet in person around Em-Con 2016. Matt has placed stories with my publishing house Dark Chapter Press, including Brazen and the Kids anthology.
Still here?… then let’s begin.
Jeremy is the story of a young lad picked on at school, who sticks close to his little group of pals who mostly live in fear of a school bully who adores tormenting them. He learns to stand up for himself, but in turn suffers a horrific injury, and emerges very different to the shrunken, frightened creature he was before.
This is quite a short novella, Hickman’s first, I believe. I don’t want to blow the plot by dwelling on it too long, but the premise and characters are great.
Matt Hickman conjures up such a realistic portrayal of the loneliness of latch-key kid Jeremy, who is comfortable and wants for nothing save the attention of his too-busy parents. The shortness of the story does not leave it without its twists and a couple of angles took me by surprise.
Something annoyed me though. I would have been much happier with more. The book feels a bit like two episodes of something, or a novel where the second act is missing. We skip time at one point, and I have a feeling the time that is skipped could have been very interesting, if not focussing on Jeremy, perhaps those around him. In saying that, I know that many people might disagree with me – and they’re right to in a way, because this story structure is the one we got, the one Hickman wanted us to read, and who knows, maybe there isn’t enough story to fill that bridging piece I described. Perhaps the two distinct halves of the story we get increase the story’s strength. We’ll never know, but I don’t think it’s ever a bad thing to want more of the story, and more of the writer’s style. I was right into the tale, and I don’t know, it just seemed to skip and the changes seemed sudden.
The odd thing is I’d read a story by Matt Hickman before I actually read this, his first release, so I already know how fast the writer is honing his craft. It was nice to see where he started too, with this great little book. I’m excited to see what Hickman will do next and if Jeremy stands to be your introduction to the writer, I’m confident you’ll find plenty to enjoy here and what’s even better news is, from this writer, you’ll find the best is yet to come.
So, can I tempt you to pick up Jeremy? Click here and grab your copy today.
That Batman Earth One Vol 1 ranked #1 Best-selling series in the New York Times is no surprise. That was a fantastic book and like all fantastic things, the difficulty is following it up with a companion worthy of the predecessor.
Geoff Johns takes us further into his reimagined Gotham mythos with a second volume of hard-boiled Bat that once more puts an interesting twist on established characters.
I’ve been a Batman fan for coming up thirty years. I have a young son who plays with Batman Imaginext figures, and he learns about the characters from me, his old man, and go-to guy for all things comic book.
The truth is, I disengaged from comic book Batman a long time ago, as in the standard run of things. I tended to stick to buying collected editions of landmark storylines anyway, or picked up particularly excellent books such as The Long Halloween. When I saw the Batman R.I.P storyline and what span off from that – the battle for the cape and cowl, I was immediately taken back to the big storyline of my childhood: Knightfall.
I guess these things are circular and, with that in mind I decided I would admire the character from afar, through different mediums. If the books and I were parting company, I always had Christopher Nolan’s vision to cling to, and the amazing Arkham games, to get my fix.
Then came Earth One. With The Long Halloween and Frank Miller’s Year One, who needs another book about Bruce Wayne starting out as Batman, right?
Wrong. The freedom Geoff Johns has in Earth One allows him to warp what you know into something else… something different, but altogether recognisable.
Spoilers of Vol 1 follow so it might be time to jump out of this review…
So here we are in Gotham after the demise of Mayor Cobblepot. His crooked regime has continued without him, however, as several figureheads continue a corrupt network of officials, meaning little has changed.
Street scum skulk in the shadows, afraid of the mythical vigilante who stalks them. And that mythical vigilante is still learning the ropes. This is what I love about this particular version of Batman, he screws up, a lot. Alfred is tougher than him in these stories.
Torn between the seemingly futile mission he has tasked himself with, and Alfred’s insistence that it’s time to take a few scalps to make the bad guys stay in cover, Batman must decide what he is, and who he is.
Unfortunately, a terrorist has appeared in the city and he has a lot of questions to ask… and he wants to know who Batman is, too. His other questions tend to be ones which, when answered incorrectly, result in bombs being detonated.
In this volume we see a great many more aspects of Batman’s universe slot into place, many of them sit close to the Nolan-verse as I’ve noticed it is nicknamed, and some of which are an amalgam of Arkham and the traditional established continuum.
I’m saying nothing more, but if you love your Batman, you’ll love this!
I always like to get the formalities out of the way first. Stuart is one of my editing team at Dark Chapter Press. I struck up a friendship with him as a fellow horror writer while social networking. I’d imagine over time we’re going to sink plenty of beers together. We’ve appeared in a couple of anthologies together too. But that’s me as a writer, and me as a friend. This review is written by me as a reader, a consumer of something that I purchased. The review is my honest opinion, nothing more, nothing less.
Cine takes place in the town of Lake Whisper, a place of Stuart’s own creation, that he features in several of his stories. This is actually the first Lake Whisper story I’ve read.
The book certainly contains more of the extreme end of Stuart’s range, and extreme horror fiction isn’t always my bag. I knew to expect that going in, though and the gore is balanced with a plot. The story focuses on a group of teenagers in Whispers, some of them good and some of them just plain evil. I occasionally found myself floundering a little between who was the sister of whom and who was the boyfriend of which one, as we cut between the good kids, the bad kids, and then some other kids of about the same age who work at the cinema. I just sort of relaxed into it and let the story take us all along and as, inevitably, the numbers thinned, the cast became more focused and I could get into them a bit more.
Stuart must have worked in a cinema as a teenager, by the way. There’s a lot of insight into the inner workings of a multiplex here that I can only imagine come from being a disgruntled teenager, who thought working in a cinema would be the best job ever… only to find that it’s actually a bit shit.
There is another little ‘career choice’ in here that really piqued my interest. A protection racket posing as a ‘secret shopper’ organisation. When you see how this works in the story… well, I just thought it was fantastic. I do have a fondness for gangster movies and documentaries, so this wedge of the story really entertained me.
The brutality in the book grows to an incredible crescendo – a montage of violence and depravity that has been creeping ever closer as the bad guys lined up every piece across the narrative. When it plays out, you’re prepared for it to a certain extent – you know something like this is coming – and then Stuart changes gear, bombarding your mind’s eye with destruction and terror so hideous, you’d be forgiven for wincing at some of it. There was one particular death in this sequence that actually made me consider putting the story down, it struck such a nerve with me. But like the cinema-goers of Whispers Cinema, I couldn’t turn away, I had to see what would happen next.
As usual, we’re treated to Stuart’s confident, unwavering writing style. That he is an excellent writer is beyond doubt, but I have to admit to enjoying the content of stories such as Charlotte and The Customer Is Always… more than I enjoyed Cine. But that’s perhaps the point, isn’t it, to put you beyond comfort? And it certainly reinforces Stuart’s ability as a writer – he aims to make you feel something… well, mission accomplished. This type of story is written very much without everyone in mind. You can either enjoy this, or not, but he will excite feelings in you as you read and you will either be repulsed, and come away with perhaps a negative view, or it’ll hit all the right notes for you and you’ll be shouting about Cine from the rooftops, or perhaps like me, you’ll dissect the story into it components and find balance in what you enjoyed and didn’t enjoy.
So, if you’re not into extreme horror, definitely avoid this one, but if you do enjoy a really brutal piece of fiction, you’re gonna love this!
4 outta 5 – Not my favourite Stuart Keane story. Well written, very effective – shocking and brutal.