Sunday, December 10, 2006


It will be the end of an era. On April the 2nd, 2007, smoking in public places will be banned in Wales; England will follow this example a month later. Die hard smokers are not happy, but it was inevitable.
It will, of course, hit the tobacco industry; but the cancer wards might be a little less overcrowded.
So what of the entertainment world? When we first meet James Bond in the novel Casino Royale, he gets back to his hotel room and lights up his 70th cigarette of the day, while in the film Dr No, Sean Connery introduces himself with that immortal line 'Bond - James Bond' while lighting up a fag. Since Connery, only Timothy Dalton has been seen playing Bond with a fag in his hand - and there were complaints about that; hence Pierce Brosnan punching out a smoking baddie with the line 'Filthy habit!' in the Tomorrow Never Dies pre-credit sequence (and getting slagged off for puffing on a cigar in a later film!).
And of course, there will be no more cigar-chomping fictional characters like Columbo, Rumpole of the Bailey, Hannibal of The A Team; no celebrities with trademark cigars like Groucho Marx, Terry Thomas, Lord Grade ... or Winston Churchill, for that matter.
On the positive side, it will help a lot of people to quit; the one's who earnestly want to pack in the weed, only to have their resolve crack when they enter the smokey atmosphere of a pub or club.

Helpfully, Smoking has become anti-social, where it was once considered cool. Watch a few episodes of a series made years ago, and you almost wince as you see people lighting up in restaurants.
In the late 80's I went to see a play with Keith Michell and Gerald Harper called The Royal Baccarat Scandal. In a crucial scene the cast were smoking cigars, and from where I was sitting (in the front row of the stalls) you could actually smell them. Now, of course, you will have situations (as in a Scottish theatre recently) where Mel Smith played Churchill and had to tote around an unlit cigar because of the smoking ban. This is a price that has to be paid, but in ten years time (I imagine) it will be hard to believe that we ever smoked in public places at all.
Will I miss the smokey atmosphere of a pub? Somehow, the fug of nicotine gave the place a certain ambience --- an unhealthy ambience, it's worth remembering. So will smoking die out altogether? It wouldn't be such a bad thing, but I doubt it; not for a while, anyway. One way and another, this has been a bold move on the part of the government (considering the revenue from the tobacco industry), but I think it will prove a good one.
So, come April the 1st, cigar smokers will have one last chance to bite down on a cigar and give vent to their finest George Peppard impersonation: I love it when a plan comes together.

Monday, October 02, 2006

It's that time of the year again, The FantasyCon, and this year it was held in Nottingham. Direction's to Britannia Hotel - one mile from station, hotel a few minutes walk from Nottingham Castle. Easy enough, I thought; leave train station, look for the castle and walk towards it. So left station, looked for the castle, couldn't see it, hopped in a taxi.
"Something wrong with the cab in front, mate?"
This was a taxi rank, and it seemed etiquette dictated that I jump into the lead vehicle. I would have put this matter right, but a woman jumped into the lead vehicle even as the driver was pointing this out to me; so he drove me to the hotel ... where I nevertheless gave the grumpy old sod a tip.
I booked in, and as I was waiting for the receptionist to clear payment on my room from my debit card, the dulcet tones of Chris Teague shattered the silence.
I turned around and there was Chris, accompanied by Gary Greenwood, who I hadn't seen at a convention in years. Having dumped my travel bag in my room, I joined them in the bar. We were soon joined by Steve Saville and Simon Clark, and we chatted for a while before I set off in search of some dinner. I'd missed the hotel lunch, so I hit the street and was scandalously over-charged for a cheese and ham toastie in a nearby deli.
The weather wasn't too clever, so we didn't wander too far from the hotel that night; and thereby hung a tale, for the barstaff were obviously unused to having a hoard of thirsty convention goers descending on the bar. Two barstaff and not enough beer to go round, hmph! Mutiny was in the air. Still, we were sure they'd get their act together the following day, when the convention would begin in earnest.
Slowly, the usual suspects began to arrive; Paul Kane and Marie 0'Regan, Stuart Young and Katy, Ramsay Campbell, the editors, writers and publishers ... one or two of the barstaff nearly fainted. Anyway, the night went well, with everyone indulging in the usual boozing and 'bullshitting' that precedes such an event. In the evening I joined John Tarvis, Tony Richards, Gary's Fry and McMahon, Stuart Young and his girlfriend Katy in the traditional hunt for a curry house, a quest that ended up in an all-you-can-eat-for-a-tenner joint called The Taj Mahal; a venue we happily directed Chris Teague to as we made our way back to the hotel.
The next day, the weather had cleared up a treat, so I set out to explore Nottingham. There was a Robin Hood Museum next to the hotel, and young ladies dressed as Maid Marian tried to lure the punters in; however, there was an £8 entrance fee, and as I'd been assured it wasn't worth it, I decided to visit the castle instead (which was a lot cheaper to get into, and a lot more interesting to see).
When I got to there, I found a group of convention-goers (led by Ramsay Campbell) waiting to go in. I followed them as far as the museum, then drifted away. A few hours later I knew quite a bit more about the city of Nottingham that I ever had (courtesy of a twenty-minute film show ... which never once mentioned Robin Hood!)
As I left the castle, I was approached by a woman looking for a pub that was, apparantly, built into the castle walls. I knew nothing about it, of course, but following the castle wall was a simple enough matter, and I soon came across Ye Olde Trippe To Jerusalem , 'The Oldest Pub In Britain'.
Now this is a very atmospheric little place, consisting of about half a dozen very small rooms. The back wall is the side of a mountain, and I couldn't resist partaking of the local brew, 'Cursed Galleon Ale'. This 'haunted' pub was quite a find, and I told everyone about it. Soon, it became 'the' place to visit (helped, no doubt, by the still struggling barstaff ...)
(Mind you, I did make the mistake of saying that I came across it while walking off the previous night's drinking session, which brough about the response "You were walking off last night's beer and you called into a pub for a pint? Somewhat defeats the object of the exercise!" Gary Greenwood doesn't miss a thing:-)
At this point, Mark West turned up and most of us went to the convention room for the interview with guest of honour, Clive Barker; who has lived for many years in The States, but still retains a wonderfully British sense of humour (a particularly salty joke cracked interviewer Paul Kane up so much, he couldn't ask the next question!).
After this it was into the dealer's room to purchase a few books, and once again, I bought more than intended, so will no doubt have plenty to read up until Christmas.
Then Alison Davies arrived with boyfriend Scott, there to promote her new book, 'Shrouded By Darkness', which is raising money for a charity called DebRA. Now Scott is a plain-speaking Scotsman, who responded to my 'How're you doing?' with 'Ahm bloody pissed, mate!' which pretty much set the scene for the evening.
Supper that night was taken in Ye Olde Trippe To Jerusalem, in the company of Alison and Scott, Chris Teague, David Howe and his wife, Gary Greenwood and a few others; and Mark West, who was somewhat perturbed at missing out on a curry, but quite enjoyed a burger while Scott held forth on the subject of ... Marmite. I never realized that a pot of goo could produce such a heated debate. 'Ah hate the fookin' stuff!' Scott said, and was promptly told off by a barmaid for swearing. It was put to a vote (which I abstained from, as I have no recollection whatsoever of actually eating the stuff) and it was agreed by a majority decision(including the barmaid, who described it as 'minging') that it was putridity in a pot. So now you know.
Food eaten, David Howe announced that it was time to get back for the raffle, so we dutifully trudged back to the hotel, Mark West announcing that he would be making tracks once said raffle was over. He obviously didn't know how long these things went on for!
And yes, it did go on, almost to The Witching Hour with Alison Davies waiting to tell her tales. It was the raffle where everyone won ... except me, although that was nothing to do with bad luck. All prizes are donated, and like most people who donate, I tend to use this event as a dumping ground for all my unwanted tat; books I'll never read again, DVD's that looked good but turned out to be a load of rubbish when I bought them; The FCon raffle got the lot. So, by the simple expedient of not shouting 'here' when my number was called, or holding up my hand when the cry of "anyone not won a prize yet?" preceded the handing out of yet more books, I managed not to walk off with anyone else's tat. (Needless to say, for the rest of the convention, unwanted books and video's could be found in various corners and crevices of the hotel, making it either a dream place for people with a passion for films with titles like 'Frankenstein and the Little Green Men From Mars', or a big headache for the cleaning ladies!)
Still, it finally came to an end, and we were all set for Alison's stories. Last year she enjoyed quite a big audience, but this time it was a more intimate affair; and she was as impressive as ever, reciting two of her stories from memory.
Then a most bizarre thing happened. An elderly lady, who we hadn't seen entering the room, approached the table in full Victorian dress (and, in fact, looking a little like Queen Victoria Herself) and, placing a plastic skull on the table, started telling her own story.
There were, of course, a few stifled giggles, but we had to admit she was pretty good; and like Alison, she did the whole thing from memory and delivered the entire recitation in a suitable dramatic style. Yes, she certainly had our attention, even if she had slightly delayed our presence at the bar. Still, being a Saturday night, that bar was open for the duration, so I didn't get to bed until 3'0'clock in the morning. (Pleased to report that the barstaff were finally starting to get that beer flowing by that time :-)
Sunday, and the build-up to the great FantasyCon climax; The FantasyCon Awards; and Stuart Young had actually got a nomination for his novella, The Mask Behind the Face. However, with people like Joe Hill up for the award, he didn't stand much of a chance, and he knew it; but it was, he said, nice to get a mention.
And sure enough ...
"And the winner for best novella is ... Stuart Young, for The Mask Behind the Face."
Now stuart is a master of words, as he amply displayed with his acceptance speech;
"Bu ... Burb ... bur ... th ... thanks."
And later in the corridor.
"Fucking Hell! I mean ... FUCKING HELL!!"
Back in the bar he ordered a bottle of champagne, and we toasted his most deserved success. He wasn't coming down from the clouds any time soon, and why should he? This was his big day, and I was glad I was there to share it with him.
Well, a celebration meal was in order, and where best to take it but at Ye Olde Trippe to Jerusalem; so off we went with Mark Samuels and his wife Adriana (clutching some Doctor Who stuff she'd won in the raffle) and a rather distinctive-looking chap called Gwilym Games, a fellow Welshman with a penchant for gothic clothes and the ghost stories of Arthur Machen. We ate, visited the pub's so-called haunted room, and had a few more jars of 'Cursed Galleon Ale'. Then we bid farewell to Mark and Adriana before making our way back to the hotel.
And that was it, the perfect end to a thoroughly enjoyable convention. It seems that The Britannia will be used again in '07, and this is a good thing. Not only is the food excellent, but the hotel is very convention-friendly; on 'Floor R' is the bar, restaurant, and two main halls that can serve as a dealers room, and the panel room; so instead of going from floor to floor chasing up events (which has been a bit of a bugbear at past conventions), we have no need to leave that particular area. And as I've now developed a taste for 'Cursed Galleon Ale', here's to my next Trippe to Jerusalem.
(For more information on my fellow convention-goers, see below)

Friday, September 29, 2006

Just got back from a very enjoyable convention in Nottingham. I'll be putting my own spin on events soon, but for now, here's what Chris Teague , and Stuart Young had to say. Also good to meet a few new faces; Midnight Street editor Trevor Denyer making his first visit, and Mark Samuels bringing along a fellow Welshman called Gwilym Games, who are both leading members of 'The Friends of Arthur Machen' .As you will see from the first two blogs, I'll have much to discuss:-)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Popping to the shop the other day, I was held up by a film crew. They were shooting an episode of a series called Torchwood (the Dr Who spin off), and were using my old school (Radyr Primary) as a location. According to the notices, it's an episode about Fairy's at the bottom of a garden, and it's to be screened on December the 5th. They had to film one scene; a man driving a car out of the car park. I had to wait nearly an hour as he drove out, reversed back in, drove out ... three times in all, though for the life of me, I couldn't see what was wrong with the first take. Did the car fluff it's lines? Did a member of the crew fart? It it takes that long to film a car driving up a road, God knows how long it takes them to get the more technical stuff right! Still, I'll watch the episode with interest.

And now, I am in the 21st century. For the price of £29.99 I purchased a digi-box, and I now have more than 20 channels to chose from ... and there's still bugger all to watch! No change there, then.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


Remember when the video recorder was a modern day miracle?. I think I watched one programme a dozen times during the first week I actually got hold of one. Well, I collected quite a database of video's over the years; so much so that they were stuffed into cupboards, drawers, even a corner of the living room.
The first time I actually bought a tape, back in 1983, it cost £19.95 for two 4-hour tapes; these days, you can get three for a fiver, and a free box thrown in on a 'buy one get one free' basis. Me, I've just cleared up a load of space. The DVD is in, and I recently acquired a DVD/Video recorder; for the last few months I have been transferring all of those programmes and films I taped over the years onto blank DVD's; the old video's have gone into black plastic bags, and taken away by the binmen (over 60 so far, which is probably a good few hundred quid, If I cared to think about it)
Now the space taken up by those video's is free, and all the programmes I kept are in a neat box of 25 DVD's. Of course, I only kept half of those programmes; some video's were so badly degraded that I could only get white static when I played them back; other programmes I sat through and wondered why I'd wanted to keep them in the first place; tastes change, I suppose; but then, so does technology. Video reigned for a quarter of a century, but DVD's (as they are now) are already halfway obsolete. I'm told I might have to transfer again in the very near future; oh well, move with the times.
It's been a fascinating trip down memory lane, though, just watching old television commercials; The late Ronnie Barker advertising cigars; Leo McKern in a bank advert; a 1987 commercial for alcohol-free lager which sent up the big hit film of that year, 'The Untouchables', with a Kevin Costner look-a-like proclaiming 'Alcohol free ... who're they kidding' before ordering all of the bottles destroyed.
Prehaps the most memorable one is for Levi Jeans, in which a huge pair are constructed and then pulled down over the Twin Towers of The World Trade Centre. The final shot is of the jeans dominating the New York skyline, and it's quite a poignant image when seen today.
Still, I have the latest King Kong DVD in my possession, and the quality is superb; good as the old video's were, I don't think I'll miss them.
But I have noticed a new expression creeping into the English language. Take an old film, or an episode of a series that was made a few decades ago, and all of a sudden it is very much of its day. In the Radio Times recently, a reviewer said of a 1951 sci-fi film, 'the sfx are very much of their day. This was also said of a box-set for a 1970's tv series. Very much of it's day? What's wrong with saying that something's looking a bit dated these days? Guy's, stop being so pretentious! If something is a load of old tat, just say so.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

In Cardiff today, I was passing the St David's Hall when I noticed a poster of Gene Pitney. For a moment I wondered why it was still there. Then I took a closer look and saw that it was an invitation to sign a condolence book. Hours before he died, he brought down the house, and the audience gave him a standing ovation. He did what he always did, and performed like there was no tomorrow. He must have been on a high that night, which may be some comfort to his family, friends and fans. It is a sad loss, he was a great singer and performer. But if you have to go, that's the way to do it. I'm glad the citizens of Cardiff made his last night a great one.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

So, after the elation of last years Grand Slam, comes the inevitable comedown; one from the bottom of The 6 Nations table; just ahead of Italy, just behind England. It could have been worse, but we should be used to seeing the Welsh team tumbling from the top of the pile by now. Of course, defeat is never gracefully accepted. Scott Johnson is likely to quit as the Welsh coach, melodramatically claiming that backstabbers have left him feeling 'as bloodied as Braveheart'. England coach Andy Robinson looks set to fall on his sword in similar fashion. Whatever happened the expression, 'It's only a game.' ? Last year was fantastic, but it could never last. The 70's, a time when the Welsh squad really were unbeatable, are long gone. We were spoilt, and we may never see an era like that again; so lets enjoy the game and take the rough with the smooth. (Yeah, as if!)
Still, a bit of patriotic spirit never goes amiss, and if this wasn't our year ... well, maybe our time will come again. Here's to 2007.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Ten Years.

My involvement in the Independent Press started over a game of pool. It was 1995, and I had dreams of being a writer. I'd penned a few short stories, but had no idea where to get them published. The subject of writing came up. My fellow player was a man called Tommy Sutton, a keen writer himself. He told me to call by his house a little later on. When I did, he handed me a shopping bag full of magazines (including an early issue of Peeping Tom, dating back to 1992, which I rather wish I'd kept). It also contained a copy of what was, at the time, the small press writers almanac; Zene. All of a sudden, I had a possible outlet for my writing.
A few weeks later, I had my first couple of acceptances. Finally, a magazine dropped through my letterbox. It was the third issue of a magazine called R.Q.C, edited by a chap called Gavin Wilson. I'll never forget the date; February the 28th, 1996, and nothing has quite matched the excitement of seeing my work in print for the first time. It even had a full-page illustration, which I was really excited about. At last, I was a writer.
Ten years, it's hard to believe. One thing's for sure, a lot has changed in that time. I'll discuss this in greater detail, but for now, a good way to look back is by reprinting an interview that came out five years ago.
Another writer making an early appearance in that issue was John B. Ford, and a couple of years later he was hosting a website caled Terror tales on-line. A collection of my stories, Evil Eye, was due for release and it was a great way to mark five years as a writer. TT On-line no longer exists, so I'll reproduce the interview here. As you'll see, we looked ahead to this moment in time, and I'm pleased to say, we are still here.

David Price interviewed by John B. Ford; Terror Tales on-line, 2001;

JBF: Well your first book, The Evil Eye, is about to be published, and it seems a very long time ago since we appeared in RQC magazine together at the start of our careers. We both arrived on the small press scene back in early 1996, and in those days everything was absolutely buzzing. How do you think the current UK market compares with that period, and is there more or less of an oppertunity for new authors to make a name for themselves?

DP: Looking back, it seemed that for every magazine that folded, three would spring up to take it's place. These days, every magazine that folds leaves a gap in the market. There are plenty of webzines, and they look good; but they are ephemeral, and tend to go off-line before you get a chance to read all the stories. Every week a link comes up inviting you to check out this or that webzine; but there are so many you rarely get a chance to check out more that the odd story here and there. In short, up and coming writers have as much chance of getting published, but probably less chance of getting established.

JBF: Over the years we've attended many Terror Scribes gatherings together and always had one hell of a good time, drinking venues dry and making new friends along the way. How important do you think it is for new authors to go out and meet like-minded people, and what do you think is the art of becoming the perfect terror scribe?

DP: Meeting up with fellow small press writers and becoming firm friends with people I'd never have known otherwise, has been one of my greatest pleasures. I remember the first one I attended; it was a wet Saturday afternoon in November, back in 1997; I'd never met any of you, so when you talked about putting this 'do' together, I decided to travel up. You were the first person I approached at the station. I was then introduced to Paul Finch, Derek M. Fox, Pete Attaway, Ritchie Bennett, Kim Padgett Clarke, Rob Gill, Paul Bradshaw, and Gary Greenwood. Then we went to the pub where the time passed just too damn quickly. When I got on the train back to Cardiff, I remember thinking,'what a great bunch, I hope that's not the last I see of them'. Thankfully, it wasn't. Important? I think so, as it gives small press writers a chance to chat about their writing. I don't know about you, but where I live there is absolutely no one who shares my interest. (Note; Tommy Sutton had long since moved house by the time if this interview - Dave) The art of becoming a perfect terror scribe? Just get your butts over to a venue and join us for a drink.

JBF: You've a wide variety of styles and subjects at your disposal. One thing I've always meant to ask you about is your influences, and favourite authors. Which writers were responsible for David Price picking up the pen himself, and which books have you enjoyed reading over the years?

DP: In the early years, Alistair Maclean and Jack Higgins, who wrote great adventure stories. Then, of course, there were the Pan and Fontana books of horror, which led me to horror fiction, and I started reading Edgar Allan Poe. Unfortunately, horror gained a bad name due to a proliferation of artless slasher-shockers, and I cooled to it a little. Then someone gave me a copy of James Herbert's 'The Magic Cottage'. It's considered one of his weaker books but I loved it, and I've been a fan ever since.

Other good writers are Clive Cussler and Wilbur Smith. H.G. Wells 'The Time Machine' is a real classic; the wonderful prose really drags you into the adventure. But as to horror, I tend to favour period pieces; the writing is more attractive and the times darker. Horror at sea works well because it's an alien environment with no escape. That is why Hope Hodgson's stories are still gripping today. But if this preference for period horror stems from anything, it is from watching Hammer and Universal horror films. Back in the 70's and 80's, BBC 2 used to screen horror film double bills on a Saturday night, and in the days before I was old enough to go down the pub (and in the late 70's, you couldn't go in if you were under 18) I used to really look forward to them. There were some modern horror flicks, but I always preferred the period ones.

Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories also gripped me from an early age.

Anyway, some more great books; 'The Sound of Thunder' by Wilbur Smith, 'HMS Ulysses' by Alistair Maclean, 'Strangers' by Dean Koontz, 'The Eagle has Landed' by Jack Higgins, 'Shrine' by James Herbert, 'By The Rivers of Babylon' by Nelson DeMille. I'm also a keen reader of the marvellous Dick Francis.

JBF: In the past couple of years we've been swept off our feet by the rapid expansion of the Internet and all the webzines that are devoted to horror fiction. I know from one of your editorials in 'Tales of the Grotesque & Arabesque' that you were vehemently opposed to new technology. Have your views changed at all since that time?

DP: Ah yes, that creative plague known as the Internet! I have changed my views; but I still hate the way it has decimated the market. When I started 'Tales of the Grotesque & Arabesque' back in '97, webzines were virtually unheard of. But in the last year or so we've all hooked up, and the Net is a good medium. I still say that you can't beat a good magazine, and I took a pride in designing my own; even if it was a pretty basic affair. But the Net is providing a market for fiction, so I have to grudgingly approve of it in that respect. But magazines have always been the medium, right back to the days of Edgar Allan Poe, and if it hadn't been for publicactions like 'The Strand', we'd never have heard of Sherlock Holmes. However, the last time I made a statement like that - on the 'Masters of Terror' website - I kicked off quite a debate. At the end of the day, we all have out own opinions and we can only go round and round in circles debating the matter. But I have to say that I really enjoy keeping in touch with the other terror scribes on a regular basis. The message boards are a great invention.

JBF: The American small press seems much more healthy than our own, with numerous magazines and small book publishers for authors to aim their work at. What do you think has gone wong in the UK? Do you think it is because printing prices are so much cheaper in the US, or maybe the Americans are just so much more enthusiastic than potential UK publishers?

DP: The American market can certainly boast a larger base of subscribers. In Britain - with the exception of publications like 'The Third Alternative' and 'Interzone' - a magazine can hope to shift, at best, around 300 copies. American editors can think in terms of thousands. As to why the UK small press is dying on its feet, who knows? Maybe prospective editors are seeing all these print magazines dying and thinking, why bother? It may not be terminal, but writers coming onto the scene have fewer markets to aim at than we did five years ago. Sadly, I'd have to conclude that the small press hey-day has gone.

JBF: As I've said, you write in quite a variety of styles very successfully, your fiction stretching from Victorian influence to a much more cutting edge, modern horror. Where do you get your ideas for such a wide variety of stories, and how much time do you spend outlining your work beforehand?

DP: Blimey John, that's quite a question; it tends to vary from story to story. The best I can do is give you a few examples. For instance, I am interested in history, and quite a few ideas have come from the history books. SplatterJack ('Hallowzine, 1996 & Enigmatic Tales, 1998), was set during the Napoleonic wars. The supernatural tale was fiction, but the conspiracy taking place in the background was real enough. I wrote 'The Transportee (Terror Tales, 1998) after flipping through a history book of Australia. A full chapter was given over to the penal colonies, and this gave me all the background I needed to tell a story about a transported criminal.

A few stories had to be planned and researched; one called 'Guardians of the Future (Zest, 1997) was set in the 1890's, and required a good working knowledge of London at the time, so I bought a book called 'Jack the Ripper - The Final Solution' , by Stephen Knight. It had maps, all the period descriptions I needed, and it was a subject that interested me. Better still, it was to inspire one of my more successful stories (Amphytrion, but more about that later), so I certainly got my monies worth out of that purchase.

Another example; I was in town one hot summers day, and I called into a Cardiff pub called 'The Old Orleans. I sat at a table with a cold lager, somebody was smoking a cigar, bluesy jazz music was playing in the background. I was mellowed, and thought it would make a great opening for a story. It led to 'Deathbed Confessor'. I didn't have a story when I started writing, but halfway through I had a great idea for a set piece. Suddenly, the plot came to me. The story was published in the American magazine 'Not One Of Us' in '98, giving me my first American credit. I was really glad I called into the pub that day.

I could go on quite a bit, but I'll just give you one more example; the title story of my collection, 'Evil Eye'. During the miners strike, a mate suggested I do a little spying down the Cardiff Docks with him; that is, note the names of the firms that were collecting imported coal. It sounded like a lark, but it was two hours of boredom. Later that night we went to a pub, prevented several barrels of lager from going sour, then drunkenly vowed to set fire to some of the lorries. We didn't, of course - even drunk we had more sense than that!- but I could still imagine the consequences, and ... well, you'll just have to read the story.

I hasten to add that this was back in 1984, and I've mellowed a lot since then!

As for setting out a story, I always write it out in long hand forst. Then I type it up, and spend a couple of weeks (sometimes months!) revising it. Most editors take a story from a disk, and I found that if I didn't clean up the spelling, punctuation and typos, They sure as hell wouldn't. It may be laborious, but it's worth it in the long run.

JBF: Since 2001 brings you to the grand old age of 40, perhaps it's time to take stock. What has been the highlight of your writing career so far, and do you think you'll still be active in the horror genre in five years time?

DP: The last five years have been pretty good. 'Tales of the Grotesque & Arabesque' was the highlight. It was never going to be one of the big boys, , but I was pleased with the reaction to it. It's been great meeting up with the terror scribes, and I hope to be around for some time.

What will I be doing in five years time? Dreading my 45th birthday (Er ... no, as it happens - Dave, 5 years on) enjoying meeting terror scribes old and new (I got that right) ,and still trying to write a decent story. It would be nice to think I'll be an established author by then, but I wouldn't bet a months wages on it. (Just as well :-(

JBF: Finally can you name your own favourite stories from 'The Evil Eye', telling us a little about them and why you've chosen them?

DP: Of the stories, 'Amphytrion' and 'The Tower of Wisdom' got very positive reactions I've mentioned before that I got the idea for Amphytrion from a book about Jack the Ripper. In 'The Final Solution', one of the suspects is an English painter called Walter sickert. One of his paintings (called, of course 'Amphytrion') depicted an old legend; that of the God Jupiter (aka Zeus) coming to earth in the guise of a mortal man and leaving his seed in a woman. It gave me an idea; what if the descendants of that woman were still walking the earth today?

'The Tower of wisdom' is set in a post-apocalyptic future where everyone has to live in an artificially created environment. It was written after I had read A.J.P. Taylor's excellent account of the first world war. Reading about the political arrogance that prolonged that terrible campaign, I could still get incensed about it - even after eighty years. Although the story is set in the future, it was the events of World war 1 that inspired it.

Other stories? Hopefully, people will drop by on my notice board and let me know what they think; good, bad or indifferent. Either way, this collection is a great way to mark five years of writing for the small press. There'll be good times ahead, and I'm looking forward to more get-togethers, more drinking sessions, and more conventions; hopefully, I'll make next years WorldCon in Chicago. It would be nice to get acquainted with more of our American counterparts. (I did make that convention in Chicago, and more recently, New York; and yes, those americans really know how to party!)

Anyway, I shall now conclude this interview in the only way I know how; with a bit of humour.

The other week a group of terror scribes went line-dancing, but it was a complete disaster; they kept tripping over the pegs;-)

(Oh well, there goes my street cred!)

All the best, John, and here's to the next Alcohol haze.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


It seems like only yesterday. We were all talking about the approach of a milestone; 2001, the official start of the new century/millennium, but also the most famous future date there was (thanks, largely, to Stanley Kubrick's 1968 epic).
First thought; 'Bloody Hell! Where have the last 5 years gone?'. Then I have to consider what this 'future' has been like. Pretty dull, if you take science fiction as a marker. We don't have a colony on the moon (as in Space 1999 ... although, thankfully, we do still have the moon). Wheel-shaped spaceships are not hovering around Jupiter, cars do not hover, people are not teleported from one place to the next. I don't know what a person transported from the mid-1970's to the present day would make of mobile 'phones or the internet, but I can imagine his general reaction; Is this it?
CD's and DVD's might seem pretty nifty (mind you, back then, a video recorder was unheard of) and e-mail would be a wonder.
What else?
Cars don't really look futuristic; we're still complaining about busses and trains running late; on TV there are far too many soap opera's (but with more channels, there are now far too many 'make over' and 'reality' shows to keep them company); the country is being run by an incompetent government and the monarchy is still a national joke (and speaking of jokes --- Sir Mick Jagger, Sir Cliff Richard, Sir Tom Jones, Sir Paul McCartney); we still have wars, we are not 'boldly going where no man has gone before', and people on a minimum wage are still living on the breadline. Millions are on the dole, in debt, or living in slum areas that should have gone out with the Victorian age. And if you want justice in the courts you have to be a lowlife criminal; honest and decent citizens get the book thrown at them for the least transgression, while hardened villains are paid thousands of pounds in compensation if they are not allowed to watch their favourite soap opera!
Well, I don't think our mythical 70's time traveller would be too dazzled by the new Millennium. Disappointed, maybe, as he'd hardly notice any difference. Still, Richard Branson is planning to take tourists into space, America still wants to send men to Mars (mind you, I have some picture cards - which came in packets of tea in the early 70's - which stated their plans to send a man there by 1981; so we can take that little claim with a pinch of salt!), so we'll have to wait and see just how futuristic the future is going to get.
But for now it's 2006, the 5th year of the 21st century, and very little has changed. Somehow, nostalgia seems a little redundant.