Sunday, 1 January 2017

The Best and Worst of 2016

Well, it's that time of the year when everyone is doing their 'best and worst of' lists, so here is mine. I'm going to list the books and movies I read/watched in 2016 and then pick my favourites. This isn't restricted to what was new in 2016, but what I actually watched and read - some of these items might be very old indeed.

Books:

I read the following in 2016:

Paul Auster – Mr Vertigo
Ira Levin – Sliver
Matthew De Abaitua – The Destructives
Italo Calvino – Mr Palomar
Christopher Priest – The Extremes
Georges Simenon – The Mahe Circle
Joel Lane – Where Furnaces Burn
Skein and Bone – V H Leslie
Joel Lane – Trouble In The Heartland
Conrad Williams – Use Once, Then Destroy
Yoko Ogawa – Hotel Iris
Salvador Dali - Oui
Liv Spencer – Taylor Swift: The Platinum Edition
E.M. Forster – Where Angels Fear To Tread
Yoshihiro Tatsumi – A Drifting Life
Michael Chabon – The Yiddish Policeman’s Union
Jaime Hernandez – The Love Bunglers
Phillippe Soupault – Last Nights of Paris
Chester Himes – If He Hollers Let Him Go
Nathanael West – The Day of the Locust
Nicolas Dickner – Nikolski
Chris Beckett – The Peacock Cloak
Alan Stillitoe – The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
Christopher Priest – The Space Machine
Vladimir Nabokov – The Real Life Of Sebastian Knight
Sarah Pinborough – The Death House
Shirley Jackson – The Haunting of Hill House
Peter Coleburn and Pauline E Dungate (editors) – Something Remains
Cate Gardner – The Bureau of Them
Ray Cluley – Within The Wind Beneath The Snow
Gary Fry – Scourge
Mark Morris – Albion Fay
Richard Brautigan – A Confederate General From Big Sur
Conrad A Williams – Decay Inevitable
Brett Savory – A Perfect Machine
Paul M Feeney – The Last Bus
Andrew Hook – Human Maps
Richard Brautigan – Dreaming of Babylon
Richard Brautigan – The Hawkline Monster
Jeff Noon – A Man Of Shadows
Doug Jones – London and Norfolk Poems
Nick Jackson – The Secret Life Of The Panda
Anna Kavan – Sleep Has His House

That's worked out at 43 books this year, a few more than last year but average overall (although I'm still reading the Doug Jones, which is poetry that I'm dipping in and out of). Definitely amongst the worst of the bunch were Paul Auster's "Mr Vertigo" (and I love Auster, but this was a meandering mess), Ira Levin's "Sliver" which was just ridiculous, and Christopher Priest's "The Space Machine" which just didn't work for me (interestingly, both Auster and Priest made my top three last year). The absolute worst book I read this year, however, was the carnage which was Michael Chabon's "The Yiddish Policeman's Union": a total dirge and dreadfully written. Thankfully these books were eclipsed by some great reads. Special mentions to "The Death House" by Sarah Pinborough (a simple tale which - goddammit - made me cry), "The Secret Life Of The Panda" by Nick Jackson (a great collection of short stories), "The Haunting Of Hill House" by Shirley Jackson, and "Nikolski" by Nikolas Dickner. If I were to choose a best anthology it would be "Something Remains", stories inspired by the notes of Joel Lane, which was uniformly brilliant. And special mention to Richard Brautigan, whose writings I discovered this year via Rhys Hughes, and whose "The Hawkline Monster" almost made my top three.

Before the final reveal I also want to mention three books I proofread this year for Angry Robot. I usually don't include 'work' books in my listing (in some instances it would be unprofessional to do so), but "The Destructives" by Matthew de Abaitua was a great SF book, and being published next year are the inventive "A Perfect Machine" by Brett Savory and the brilliant "A Man Of Shadows" by Jeff Noon (a book I wish I'd written). All well-worth seeking out.

As usual, I'm going to base my top three from my Goodreads review. This is very straightforward for 2016 as only three books received 5/5 and putting them in order feels quite natural. So, without further ado, here they are:

In reverse order:

"Sleep Has His House" by Anna Kavan



Kavan must be one of my favourite female writers and her work is always challenging and often difficult with flashes of brilliance. She nearly made my top three last year with "A Scarcity Of Love", but has cracked it with this book which tells a tale of a woman withdrawing from daylight existence and living only at night. These states are metaphorical, however, and semi-autobiographical chapter introductions are then fully-fleshed as surrealist counterparts within each chapter as a whole. It's an inventive, intriguing, and engaging synthesis of memoir and experimentation.


"Where Furnaces Burn" by Joel Lane



I love Joel's writing and this (World Fantasy Award winning) collection of supernatural police stories is simply superb. Incisive dialogue, intelligent phrasing, weirdly believable scenarios, these all make for a dark, troublesome, realistic read and because the same protagonist features throughout the cumulative continuity of his journey really adds to the overall experience.

And the winner is:

"The Mahé Circle" by Georges Simenon




I really love Simenon's pared down style and am generally finding his non-Maigret novels even more exciting. This short novel is a brilliantly told tale of obsession leading to destruction, and easily makes for my best read of 2016.


Movies:

I watched the following in 2016:


Goodbye To Language
Henry and June
Crash
The Holy Mountain
Wake Wood
Ace In The Hole
The Hateful Eight
Niagara
The American
The Box
Robot and Frank
End Of The Century: The Story Of The Ramones
High Fidelity
Memoirs of a Geisha
Lost Highway
The Misfits
Le Mepris
Bus Stop
Funny Games
Last Year In Marienbad
Bande A Part
The Conformist
Magic In The Moonlight
Anna Karenina
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
Sisters
They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?
Altered States
Ratcatcher
Wild At Heart
The Lobster
D.O.A.
Ponyo
Elles
Body Heat
King of the Zombies
Gone Girl
Bad Lieutenant
Videodrome
Quicksand
Alps
We Are Still Here
2046
The Book Thief
Triangle
Coherence
Fading Gigolo
Birdman
The Borderlands
The Wind Rises
Catch Me Daddy
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Playback
East of Eden
The Collector
Magnolia
Bullet Ballet
The Exterminating Angel
Frank
The Exterminating Angel
Seconds
The Babadook
Blue Ruin
Don’t Come Knocking
In Darkness
Stalag 17
Vanilla Sky
Gone Baby Gone
There Will Be Blood
Three Colours: Blue
Three Colours: White
Suspiria
The Club
White Dog
Scanners
Three Colours: Red
Betty Blue
The Man Who Knew Too Much
The Wicker Man
The Last Detail
The Battleship Potemkin
The Graduate
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
The Diaboliques
The Talented Mr Ripley
Eastern Promises
The Avengers: Age of Ultron
The Boys From Brazil
Séance On A Wet Afternoon
Grand Piano
Scoop
A History Of Violence
Mudhoney
Obsession
Cast A Dark Shadow
The Wages Of Fear
Black Narcissus
Pretty Persuasion
These Three
I Know Where I’m Going!
Come And See
Phenomena
The Exterminating Angel
Welcome To New York
Schultze Gets The Blues
Johnny Guitar
The Passionate Friends
Heat
The Blue Room
Farewell My Lovely
Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?
Kwaidan
The King Of Marvin Gardens
Dodsworth
Switchblade Sisters
The Lady Vanishes
Onibaba
Mr and Mrs Smith
Lupe Under The Sun
Samaritan Girl
Where The Sidewalk Ends
Wuthering Heights
Ajami
Days of Heaven
Little Foxes
Natural Born Killers
Marnie
All Night Long
Beat Girl
The Nun
Tokyo Fist
Election
Saturday Night Sunday Morning
Build My Gallows High
Turtles Can Fly
Secrets
48 HRS.
Single White Female
The Station Agent
A Taste Of Honey
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
Artificial Paradises
Barfly
JLG/JLG - Self-Portrait In December

That's 144 movies this year, an increase from 116 in 2015 and 47 in 2014 (movie watching increases as child care decreases!) Of course, this makes the list much more difficult to narrow down to my top three, and unlike books I don't have a site equivalent to Goodreads with which to guide my memory.

As usual, however, I'm discounting movies I've previously seen. Luis Bunuel's "The Exterminating Angel" appears three times in my list because I watched it for research for a book I've written about the film which will be published in 2017 by Rooster Republic Press. It also knocks out gems such as "Close Encounters of The Third Kind" (equally as powerful as when I first saw it almost thirty years ago), the "Three Colours" trilogy (the ending of the third movie utterly destroys me cinematically), "The Wicker Man" (just as terrifying), "Come and See" (emotionally devastating), "Videodrome" (perfect Cronenberg), and Godard's "Le Mepris" which we were lucky to see on the big screen this year and is one of my favourite films of all time.

Those movies which were just awful are easy to chronicle, and this unfortunately includes Tarantino's "The Hateful Eight" which was dross from (almost) start to finish, "The Lobster" (which I really wanted to love but just hit all the wrong notes for me), "Grand Piano" (one of the most ridiculous films I've ever seen), and "Natural Born Killers" (tedious, indulgent, unnecessary).

This leaves us with some great movies. I thoroughly enjoyed both "Stalag 17" and "A Taste of Honey", both of which mixed brilliant characterisation with pathos and humour, "Days of Heaven" (a subtle, moving movie), "Blue Ruin" (compelling modern noir), and "A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night" (perfectly pitched Iranian horror). Very special mentions must go to "The American" (very surprised by this George Clooney flick which I thought almost perfectly understated), "Funny Games" (which came so close to my top three - the brief section where the scene plays out in reverse was utterly brilliant), "Triangle" (flawless horror with perfectly sustained logic), "The Holy Mountain" (genius Jodorowsky with some wonderful imagery/ideas, which fails only for being overlong in parts), "Build My Gallows High" (unbeatable noir) and British horror "The Borderlands" (the ending of which continues to unsettle me and play on my mind).

I get the feeling that another day might produce marginally different results, but - today - here are my top three movies I saw for the first time in 2016.
Again, in reverse order:


"Coherence" (2013) - James Ward Byrkit



From a seemingly slow start where all the puzzle pieces are overlaid this SF movie slowly unravels both its own plot and viewer expectations. Essentially, an alternate reality movie where for a brief period all realities are infinitely accessible, it thankfully never becomes too clever for its own good and maintains its inner logic for perfect satisfaction. The ending - perhaps - could be different. But then maybe there were different endings in other realities.


"There Will Be Blood" (2007) - Paul Thomas Anderson 



On the face of it a simple tale about an oil man's quest for wealth over and above all other considerations, this lengthy movie never drags and is gripping throughout right through to the inevitable - almost farcical - conclusion.


And the winner is...

"Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?" (1966) - William Klein



I almost didn't watch this movie when it appeared on Mubi because neither the film's title nor the plot satirizing the fashion world particularly appealed, however I'm glad that I did. Proving the maxim that 'it ain't what you do but the way that you do it' from the very first scene, I was utterly delighted by the sheer inventiveness, charm, French New Wave vibe, and off-kilter sensations that the movie has in spades. It's fair to say I found myself frequently gasping, rolling in ecstasy, and smiling throughout this film. It's a little known gem which deserves a loving audience.
So that's it. Looking forward to reading and watching more in 2017!

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

My Writing Year 2016

As has become annual I thought I'd do a quick blog post as to my literary achievements during 2016.

I've had three books published this year. First was the long awaited (changed publishers so many times!) collection of short stories I co-wrote with Allen Ashley, Slow Motion Wars, from theEXAGGERATEDpress. Des Lewis reviewed it extensively and favourably, here (NB: all typos mentioned in the review have subsequently been fixed). Next up, my SF/F/H novella, The Greens, from Snowbooks (another change of publisher). Author, Kaaron Warren, was kind enough to blurb it as a vivid exploration of how the past affects the present. Andrew Hook provides an evocative, emotional read, with a final scene that will stay with you for a long time. And finally my fifth short story collection, Human Maps, was published at the end of the year by the wonderful Eibonvale Press. This collection brings together twenty-one previously published stories and I'm looking forward to feedback and reviews.

I wrote twelve short stories this year: "White Matter", "Blanche", "The Girl With The Horizontal Walk", "A Pageant Of Clouds", "The Smell Of Petroleum", "The Marble Orchard", "The Jayne Mansfield Nuclear Project", "Tokyo In Rain", "Fantôme", "The Six Cloud Thousand", "The Easy Flirtations", and "Sarcoline".

I sold twelve short stories: "The Al Pacino Appreciation Society" to Crimewave, "Somntuta" to Lighthouse, "White Matter" to Ghost Highway, "A Life In Plastic" (reprint) to Dark In The Day, "The Marble Orchard" to Ten Tall Tales, "Blanche" to Something Remains, "Beyond Each Blue Horizon" (reprint) to Do Something, "Making Friends With Fold-Out Flaps" to an anthology I am unable to name at present, "Clusterfuck" to Ambit, and the following three stories to Great Jones Street: ("Sarcoline", "Blood For Your Mother" and "Vole Mountain" - the latter two being reprints).

The following ten stories were published this year: "Somntuta" in Lighthouse, "The Day My Heart Stood Still" in Postscripts #36/37, "Beyond Each Blue Horizon" in Do Something, "A Life In Plastic" in Dark In The Day, "White Matter" in Ghost Highway, "Blanche" in Something Remains, "The Marble Orchard" in Ten Tall Tales, and "Sarcoline", "Blood For Your Mother" and "Vole Mountain" all over at Great Jones Street.

I also had an article, "Writing The Short Story: Character, Scene, Conflict", appear in the BSFA magazine, Focus. And I wrote and sold a non-fiction book, "Bunuel's The Exterminating Angel: a personal analysis", to Rooster Republic Press for publication in 2017. My sixth collection of short stories, "Frequencies Of Existence", should also appear from a publisher I'm not yet allowed to name for publication in 2018. And I have edited "Elasticity", an Elastic Press retrospective, which should appear from NewCon Press sometime in 2017.

Also this year I continued assisting my partner in her publishing venture Salò Press, where we published the anthology, A Galaxy Of Starfish edited by Sophie Essex, and a poetry collection, The Plural Space by Matthew Mahaney.

I have a handful of stories awaiting publication that were originally accepted in 2014(!)/2015/2016, and my next main project is a collection of themed stories, tentatively titled "Candescent Blooms", of which four stories out of a probable twelve have been written. A few novels are also under consideration by various agents/publishers, although I'm not writing a novel at this moment in time.

I guess that's not a bad year!

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Sarcoline

My short story, "Sarcoline", has just been published over at Great Jones Street and as usual I'm blogging a few words about how the story came into being for those who might be interested. Beware, there might be spoilers.

A few words first about Great Jones Street. This is an App which describes itself as the Netflix of fiction and serves as a depository specifically for short stories. It is a great paying market, so not only are they passionate about the short story from the reader's perspective, but also from the writers. And the App itself is free, so pop along to their site and download it. "Sarcoline" is an original piece of fiction, however you will also find a couple of reprints from myself there too: "Blood For Your Mother" and "Vole Mountain".

Onto the story itself. "Sarcoline" is one of a series of stories I'm writing at the moment which I hope will form part of a new collection regarding Hollywood celebrity deaths of the 1920s through to the 1980s. These stories are told from the viewpoints of the celebrity at the exact moment of their (usually) tragic deaths - the results being kind of alternate autobiographies, fragments of memory, death assimilations, where fact and fiction intertwine as their souls vacate their bodies. In this instance, the story is based on the life and death of the actress, Grace Kelly. The word sarcoline means flesh-coloured, and I felt it resonated with Grace in a way which I could use.




Here's an excerpt:

In her room at the Barbizon Hotel for Women she lays diagonally across the bed. The tape recorder squeaks on rewind. She simultaneously presses record and play. Speaks: fairytales tell imaginary stories. Me, I'm a living person. I exist. On the bed beside her lies the script for Strindberg's The Father. She reaches for a pencil and taps it against her teeth. Her legs extend upwards, crossed at the ankle. Within a coffee cup, dregs congeal. This scene is lit by the non-Technicolor glow of her bedside lamp, its shade muted yellow as the beam.

Finally, I wrote the entirety of "Sarcoline" whilst listening to the song, "Sweeter Than You", by Dr John Cooper Clarke and Hugh Cornwell on repeat.


Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Human Maps

My fifth short story collection, "Human Maps", has just been published by Eibonvale Press and is now available for purchase in both hardback and paperback. The link to do so is here.

"Human Maps" collates twenty-one stories that cover a wide range of genres (in other words, slipstream). These pieces were originally published between 2010 and 2015 in magazines such as Black Static, Interzone, and Shadows & Tall Trees, as well as in anthologies from Eibonvale Press itself, NewCon Press, and others. As a taster, one of the pieces, "Old Factory Memories", can be read online here. What I find fascinating when re-reading these in one volume are the subconscious inter-story connections which create an overall gestalt that even I - who wrote them, after all - was not aware of. This isn't limited to my usual themes of identity, memory, and the nature of reality, but also subtle connections simply through the placement of each story within the book's running order. For example, my Japanese love doll story, "Monster Girl" is followed by my Mexican story, "Beyond The Island Of The Dolls", which features dolls of a different kind. Title story, "The Human Map", obliquely examines the effects of an alien race traipsing through our memories to unravel secrets, and this is followed by "Blue Sky World" where the human race itself are keeping aliens secret. Whereas it might sound as though these connections are intentional - and perhaps, clumsy - the reverse is actually the case. An intuitive placing of stories in a certain order not only emphasises my preoccupations and methodology, yet also has created something greater than the original works themselves. Because of this, the book feels fresh to me, and I'm thoroughly enjoying re-reading it now that it's in print. I hope my readers will likewise enjoy the experience.




Thursday, 27 October 2016

A Life In Plastic (reprise)


My short story, "A Life In Plastic", which was originally published in Strange Tales V from Tartarus Press, has now been reprinted in the anthology of the weird, "Dark In The Day", edited by Storm Constantine. It seems opportune to resurrect my previous blog post about the gestation of the story for those who might be interested. Be aware there may be spoilers if you haven't read it.

This was one of the few occasions where the title was changed after I wrote the story. The original title, "The Plasticity of Identity", was taken from a review of another of my stories, "Drowning In Air", which appeared in Strange Tales IV. The reviewer being Peter Tennant of Black Static. As soon as I read the phrase I realised I wanted to write something with that title, but when Strange Tales originally accepted the story for publication they suggested I change it as it seemed a little clumsy. As it happens, "A Life In Plastic" is probably a clearer representation of what the story is about.

This piece is one of a series of Japanese stories I've been writing over the past few years. I've found Japan to offer a wealth of ideas, and in this case part of the story is based on the island of Okunoshima, an island where Japan produced poison gas in the second world war which has since become a haven for rabbits.

The plastic in the title is two-fold. Firstly, as a metaphor for the disconnect the main character has with emotion, particularly with regards to his estranged young daughter, but also with a preoccupation he finds with a window-dresser who resembles how he considers his daughter might look when she grows up. There is a gradual transformation of himself into a mannequin as the story progresses, as he decides to distance himself from his daughter after holidaying with her on Okunoshima.




To give a flavour of the story, here is an extract:

...some people were interested in speculating what might happen should a mannequin come alive, but for Oki the reverse were true. He wondered what it would be like to be the mannequin. he couldn't imagine his emotions being any more distanced than they already were, yet would like to try.

Des Lewis reviewed the story in its previous incarnation: "It is a wonderful and eventually disturbing description of unrequited fatherly love for a daughter who is somewhat estranged from him by his marital unfruition, then his taking her, when given access, as a small child on holiday to an island where the only entertainments are a golf course and a Poison Gas Museum, and later his visualising her as an older girl or woman in the form of a window-dresser in a shop window whom he obsessively watches dressing mannequins..."

Finally, I wrote "A Life In Plastic" whilst listening to "Cyber Trance" by the Japanese female singer Ayumi Hamasaki on repeat.


Dark In The Day also includes stories by Martina Bellovičová, J. E. Bryant, Glynis Charlton, Danielle Collard, Storm Constantine, Louise Coquio, Elizabeth Counihan, Krishan Coupland, Elizabeth Davidson, Siân Davies, Jack Fabian, Paul Finch, Rosie Garland, Rhys Hughes, Kerry Fender, Andrew Hook, Paul Houghton, Tanith Lee, Lisa Mansell, Kate Moore, Tim Pratt, Nicholas Royle, Michael Marshall Smith, Paula Wakefield, Ian Whates and Liz Williams. It can be purchased here.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

The Marble Orchard

My short story, "The Marble Orchard", has recently been published in the anthology, "Ten Tall Tales", from NewCon Press and as usual I'm blogging about how the story came to be written for those who might be interested. Beware: there may be spoilers for those who haven't read it.

"Ten Tall Tales" is an anthology which marks part of the celebrations for the tenth year of publishing from NewCon Press. I've previously had several stories in NewCon anthologies, and they also published my 2009 novella, "And God Created Zombies", so it was with great pleasure to open an email from Ian Whates asking if I would be interested in contributing. The only guideline was that my story had to somehow include or revolve around the number ten and that also it needed to be no less than 5000 words.

If this sounds easy, then think again. The more I thought around the number ten, the harder the task became. Ideas were either too convoluted or too obvious. Ten is actually a difficult number to work with because it's so entrenched in our society; there are few quirks to be had with it. Initially I decided to write a piece based around Pythagoras who apparently considered ten to be a sacred number because ten equalled one plus two plus three plus four, with those numbers referring to existence, creation, life and the four elements of earth, air, fire and water. But whilst I found this an interesting starting point, I just couldn't wrestle sufficiently with the concept and the resultant story, "The Smell Of Petroleum", was so contrived and abysmally poor that I couldn't actually edit it because I found it too tiresome. A re-think was required!

Subsequently, I watched the 1941 b-movie "King of the Zombies", where one of the characters describes a graveyard as a marble orchard. I jotted the term down for a possible title and began to research graveyards, wondering whether I could work the number ten around it. I came across an article which mentioned an amendment to Section 74 of the London Local Authorities Act 2007 which (bear with me) empowered a burial authority to disturb human remains interred in a grave for the purpose of increasing the space for further interments where such a grave was over 100 years old. Essentially, due to a shortage of space, the law now meant that existing graves could be dug deeper to make space for new graves above them. Some of the articles mentioned the decimation of graves which - of course - means to reduce by the power of ten. Suddenly, I had my number. What if someone who managed a graveyard had to identify 10% of their graveyard plots to comply with the act? What kind of questions would that raise?

I try to shy away from the obvious in my fiction and this story could have developed in a number of formulaic ways, but hopefully I've done something a little different and - perhaps - surprising. Here's an excerpt:

He walked to the door, opened it. The sun had burnt through the cloud cover, dappling light across the vegetation; the evergreens almost visibly absorbing chlorophyll, with the deciduous trees yearning to push their buds through stiffened fingers. Nothing unusual was in sight. Ronson considered the light causing an optical illusion as it had refracted against the window, even as his legs took him down the steps and onto the pathway. He continued walking. His ears accumulating the sound of the breeze, the movement of the leaves, the birdsong, the faint echo of traffic. His movements were fluid, almost ethereal. After several minutes he reached the end of the pathway, which led in two directions around the older part of the cemetery, eventually meeting in a circle. He paused, listened. Nothing unusual. Why should there be? Ronson realised he still held his sandwich. He brought it to his mouth, bit.




As usual when writing short stories the entire thing was composed in one sitting whilst listening to music. In this case the Mercury Rev album, "The Light In You", played on repeat.

"Ten Tall Tales" also features stories by Paul Kane, Simon Clark, Lynda E Rucker, Maura HcHugh, Michael Marshall Smith, Edward Cox, James Barclay, Mark West and Sarah Pinborough, plus ten limericks by Ramsey Campbell and can be purchased here.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

The Greens

My novella, "The Greens", has recently been published by Snowbooks and as usual I'm blogging about how the story developed for those who might be interested. Beware: there may be spoilers for those who haven't read it.

I believe "The Greens" has the longest gestation period of any of my fiction and some of the background has been lost in the mists of time. However there are three distinct story strands. The first is the twelfth century legend of the green children from Woolpit, Suffolk. The story goes that two young children - a boy and a girl - were discovered with green-coloured skin. They stated they came from underground, from St Martin's Land, which had it's own sun, and had become lost. Not long after their discovery the boy sickened and died, but the girl went on to marry a local landowner and her skin eventually lost its green tint. According to the legend, the girl bore no children. I remember hearing this legend and thinking: what if they did have children? What if there were descendants of the green girl living today?

Some time after this I watched a documentary regarding obsessive-compulsive behaviour. Previously I must admit I was a little ignorant as to the subject matter, other than that I knew sufferers might obsessively wash or needed to place items in specific orders. What I hadn't realised was that for some sufferers the need to do this was based on a genuine fear that harm would befall others - such as family members - if these rituals weren't adhered to. It was easy to understand how someone might feel trapped in this situation, because even if they understood the improbability there would still be the fear of ceasing the ritual. And then I wondered, what if this were true? What if the ritualistic behaviour of OCD sufferers actually was keeping evil at bay? And what if it turned out that all the descendants of the green girl suffered from OCD? What might they unconsciously be trying to contain?

The third strand was partially linked to the legend of the green children emerging from underground. I had long been interested in Hollow Earth theories. As a teenager I remember reading a book called "The Great UFO Breakthrough" which mentioned reports of an underground race called the Dero. These evil entities were 'detrimental robots' who originally appeared in a short story by Richard S Shaver in Amazing Stories, but who were subsequently believed to have a basis in truth. There's a fascinating article about them here. I had also subscribed to an email list for a company who were planning an - always aborted - trip to the Arctic to investigate Hollow Earth, and those emails provided me with useful information which I decided to work into the story.

So these were the three strands which became "The Greens". It was an ambitious book for me, as I usually work with more internalised dilemmas, and it took a while to structure it to my satisfaction. Without getting too technical I wrote the story from the perspectives of several different characters, but it was how I then ordered those accounts within the book which - I believe - became part of its strength.


Finding a publisher was also a long process. The seeds of the ideas came from 2005, I wrote the book in 2009/2010, and many of the publishers I submitted to either took an age to respond or accepted but were then unable to proceed with it. I began to wonder if the book was jinxed, but on a whim I submitted to Snowbooks and had an acceptance within hours! All the years of turmoil had worked as a channel to direct me to a serendipitous moment. My submission hit the spot at just the right time.

Here's an extract from the start of the book:


The fingers of her brother’s hand wriggled in her grip, but she had no intention of letting go. The noise came again, a distant tinkling of tiny bells reverberated the cool air. Their sheep were quiet, heads down, aware. She bent her knees and whispered in her brother’s ear. He nodded, but she knew he didn’t understand. Sometimes she felt she was the only one who understood anything.

Their sun was low in the sky, casting their faces in a sub-orange glow. The landscape here was barren, rocks pushed through the grass, stubbling the distant view. She tugged on her brother’s hand, but he was reluctant to move. If the sound of the bells entranced her, then they had hypnotised him. He didn’t waver.

She tried to release her fingers but whereas before she had reached for his hand, now it was him who held her tight. She shook her fist, hard, and almost knocked him to the floor. His eyes were a mixture of wonder and fear. The bells continued. When it came to the Unknown, neither of them had any experience. You couldn’t rely on rumour.


"The Greens" was published on the 23rd September and can be purchased here via amazon. So far there is one review, from respected horror writer Gary Fry: "Overall I enjoyed this offbeat adventure a great deal...it's very Andrew Hook and his capacity to take aspects of everyday life and make magic out of them. An intriguing, readable and satisfying piece." If you do read the novella, please take a moment to place a review on amazon or goodreads or comment here. Feedback is always appreciated.