The Mask And Other Stories by Herbert van Thal

Reviewed by Colin Leslie at The Black Abyss

Johnny Mains is well known for his work in unearthing the history of the horror genre and in particular the Pan Book of Horror Stories and it’s long standing editor, Herbert Van Thal. It was during some research for Back From The Dead that Mains uncovered a little known collection of stories authored by Van Thal himself, Child Performer. This collection restores those treasures to there rightful place in the bookshelf but was Van Thal’s writing as good as his editing…?

First story, The Mask tells of a young girl who cares for an old woman in a grand old house. The old woman, a former star, is now sustained by a mask but the girl feels trapped in the decaying house. It’s a beautifully written tale full of somber poetic writing and emotional impact as the girl seeks freedom from her burdens.

The next two stories are Variations on a Theme and feature the character of Hugh Brandon-Weber a man emotionally traumatised by his wife leaving him, having first accused him of being boring. It’s clear that he still loves her and is very much the victim in both these stories but they both expose weaknesses of character which soon cause the reader to lose sympathy.

In Child Performer he seeks solace in the theatre where he can escape his troubles. It’s at one of these shows that he first sees Baby Helen and this is where things get complicated and decidedly odd. He becomes infatuated with the child, imagining her as a substitute for the child he and his wife never had, but there is no getting away from the fact that his infatuation threatens to cross a very dangerous line.

Another line is firmly crossed in Summer Idyll where the same character meets a beautiful young country girl who, again, he sees as a substitute for his wife. What starts as an innocent bit of fun soon turns nasty and the phrases “he regretted he had spoiled her” and ” the girl was left crumpled and disordered and gently crying” leave the reader in little doubt about what happens. Of course, Van Thal punishes his character for both indiscretions but they still make for uncomfortable reading as the beautiful descriptive writing contrasts with the dark underbelly of the main character.

Relief is at hand in the form of The Old Lady Makes A Cup of Tea a farcical comedy which sees Captain Reginald Parker trying to escape the city and his so called “friends” by buying a country house and not telling anyone. His friends turn the table though, in what is an unexpectedly funny story.

Finally the essay Recipe For Reading was written by Van Thal to his godsons as an intended reading list. It’s interesting and illuminating to read Van Thal’s views on literature and helps lovers of his editorial work understand his own tastes. What is perhaps most surprising is his avoidance of most horror. Only Sheridan Le Fanu gets a mention but whether this is more to do with the intended audience or a genuine reflection of Van Thal’s tastes is not clear.

This is a collection which has worth as an historical document but that’s not to dismiss the quality of the writing. Certainly The Mask is an excellent story, touching, sentimental with rich textured prose. That same quality of prose does come through in the other stories but is offset, as I said, by the unsettling subject matter. The horror equivalent of finding a lost Beatle album, this is an important and interesting collection and once more the horror community owes a debt of gratitude to Johnny Mains for bringing it to our attention.

4/5 stars

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Charlie Higson's top 10 horror books

From Jim Thompson to Daphne du Maurier, the author and comedian singles out stories that live up to their genre and genuinely do give readers sleepless night

Reviewed in The Guardian

6. Pan Books Of Horror
If any horror collections can be described as seminal it is these. When I was a teenager they were everywhere. Passed around from hand to hand, they had a forbidden, naughty allure, like video nasties. With their classy but trashy covers the stories they contained were gory, nasty, sometimes sexy, often badly written, sometimes brilliant. The collections were a mix of old classics and more modern material, increasingly the latter as the supply of classics ran dry. You'd find Stephen King alongside Algernon Blackwood and some blood-soaked fillers from writers you'd never heard of before and never hear would again. A superfan is currently working with Pan to get the series relaunched, starting with a facsimile reprint of volume one later in the year. Look out for it. And check out his website.

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Back From The Dead

Reviewed by Evie Reads

The Pan Book of Horror Stories was an iconic and long-running literary institution in Britain for some decades from the 1960s through to the 1980s; to such an extent that I had actually heard of it despite having been born in Australia in 1986! Publishing short horror stories by little-known writers in yearly volumes, it tingled the spines and inspired the nightmares of thousands in its heyday. Back From The Dead is anthologist Johnny Mains’ love letter to the series. He has devotedly selected and compiled these stories along with author anecdotes, a look into the influence of the series and a biography of Herbert Van Thal, the Pan Horrors’ infamous editor.

The stories contained in Back From The Dead are sometimes tame, sometimes gruesome, but all have the haunting quality of eeriness for which the Pan Book of Horror gained its infamy. They are written by authors featured, at some point or other, in the Pan Horror series - sixteen of them are new, previously unpublished tales, and five are classics. The nostalgic format – each story starting off with an author’s anecdote about their experience with the series and with Van Thal, was a real pleasure to read.

Not being much of a genre-reader I have never really delved into horror before and it was an interesting experience. Sometimes I was actually delighted by the types of things that really scared me; such as birds, or children, or deserted islands, or very subtle implications of the macabre. Quiet omens. My favourite stories and the ones which left the biggest impact on me were ones that asked more questions than they answered. Camera Obscura, about a greedy money-lender who visits one of his debtors (an old man who lives in a mysteriously large house on a hill) and peers into his strange, homemade ‘camera obscura’ only to leave the house into a world that isn’t the same one he came from, was one of my favourites. I also loved Mr Smyth, which tells of a policeman investigating the murder of a beautiful young girl who seemed, by all witness accounts, to have been fawning all over a decrepit and penniless old man. But every story selected by Johnny Mains is worth its salt as a soul-chilling, goosebump-inducing tale and if you like a good creep-out then this volume is a decent dose!

I found the 'anthology' format fascinating because the selection of content gives you a little peek into the personality of the anthologist –which is also why the story of Herbert “Bertie” Van Thal contained within is so interesting and deeply explored in Back From The Dead. In this case the selection is devlishly mischievous, somewhat sentimental and just the right balance between gory and charming. In my opinion this dark homage is a love letter, sealed with a scream, to Van Thal and the Pan Horror Series - and couldn’t have been, ahem, executed better.

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Back From The Dead

Reviewed at Tales From The Black Abyss

It’s now over fifty years since the first Pan Book of Horror Stories changed the course of the horror genre. Strong words you may say, how could a series of ropey old paperbacks, gory covers and all, have such an impact? Yet ask just about any UK writer operating in the genre today and they will recall the Pan books as one of their first encounters with the genre. For many they were the inspiration to write, for others they were the proving grounds on the way to further glories and for the millions who read them, they were sheer entertainment.

As Joni Mitchell pointed out, often you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone but this is more than mere nostalgia. Enter biblio-archaeologist Johnny Mains, like some mad Doctor Frankenstein scouring the archives, collecting the best new parts and old fragments before stitching them all together to create this beast of a book. He has hacked his way through all thirty volumes, tracked down many of the original contributors and decided that this is a legacy worth recording.

Back From The Dead is an extensive and important book, part analysis, part history but mainly, through a selection of new tales in the style of the Pan books along with a garnish of several of the most memorable original highlights, a return to the principles that made the Pan books great, fine writing, entertainment and shocks.

In order to give the collection the space it deserves I have decided to do a serialised review. Each week for the next six weeks, leading up to the books launch at the World Horror Convention, I will review a selection of the stories and articles as they appear so join me as we explore the past present and possible future of the Pan books in Back From The Dead.

Introduction by Shaun Hutson

Shaun Hutson never featured in the author list of the original Pan books but he is a clear example of how the books inspired a young boy to pick up a pen and go on to huge success. He points out that a short story needs to be “tight, tense and powerful” and gives some examples of the stories which had the most profound effect on him, an effect that led to him becoming one of the best known horror writers of our time.

The Influence of Pan by David A. Sutton

David Sutton gives us a forensic examination of the history of the Pan books, the “Grandaddy of horror anthologies” but he also goes on to describe its progeny. The many offshoots and recent pretenders to the throne are described in detail as is the gradual decline and eventual demise of the series. It’s fascinating stuff and clearly a work of passion and considerable effort.

Locked by Christopher Fowler

The first of the new stories by Christopher Fowler one of the original contributors. Each story is preceded by a short yet illuminating piece by the author on what the Pan books meant to them and for Christopher Fowler they were literally the first step to an acclaimed career in books, TV and film. Locked is the story of Tam, who we meet as she moves into her new flat. She soon begins to find clues that point to an interesting history but is also in the throes of a relationship crisis, things soon take a sinister turn. This tale starts us off in fine style with a thoroughly modern character study with more than a hint of traditional ghost story... oh and lemons.

Mr Smyth by Tony Richards

Tony Richards produces an excellent tale in which a policeman investigates a tawdry old man who seems to be able to pick up beautiful girls at will. When the girls start dying though it is clear his talents may not be entirely natural, another excellent and inventive tale which despite the modern setting has a timeless feel.

So, a strong start but a long way to go, though the list of upcoming authors is tantalising to say the least.

Acute Rehab by John Burke

John Burke was a regular contributor to the original series and it’s easy to see why with this short story. This dreamlike tale of a confused man following an accident is quite short but very powerful.

Camera Obscura by Basil Copper

Basil Copper’s story Camera Obscura was published in 1965 in the 6th Pan Book Of Horror Stories and for many is one of the classics of the series. We meet Mr. Sharsted an uncaring moneylender on the way to Mr. Gringold’s house to recover a debt. The conversation is diverted though as Gringold shows Sharsted his pride and joy, a camera obscura, however, Sharsted sees more than he wants to. Reading this story again after a number of years its remarkable how it has stood the test of time. The prose is rich and descriptive, the plot clever and imaginative and the pacing excellent. In short it’s a classic horror story.

The True Spirit by David A. Riley

A story of witchcraft, murder and ancient history transported to a cosy suburban couple. David A. Riley’s story is a bit of a slow burner, the first part is all pretty mundane but it’s necessary to set the agenda for the second half. Things soon perk up though and reach an incendiary conclusion.

Angel by Jack Wainer

Jack Wainer’s story is, essentially, a love story. When a young girl meets an angel she forms an immediate attachment which over the years deepens into love. It’s a gentle fantasy with a distinctly romantic feel (after some unsettling initial moments) and enjoyable enough even if it doesn’t have the edge or bite of the other stories read so far.

Four more stories then and all enjoyable but it has to be said that the bar set by Basil Copper’s story was particularly high. It really whets the appetite for the forthcoming hefty anthology of his work being put together by PS Publishing (here). The stories are all very different and as such will appeal to different tastes but I found The True Spirit a bit slow for my tastes, although the end did make up for the slow start, and whilst Angel was not really my cup of tea, it’s well enough written.

A Good Offence by Myc Harrison

The spectre of child abuse raises its ugly head in this powerful short story by Myc Harrison. A fine little tale of revenge and payback.

Gallybagger by Roger Clarke

Roger Clarke’s story is set in the paranoia of post war Britain. An engineer travels to the Isle of Wight but his project soon runs into problems with local superstition and occult forces. It’s a great adventure reminiscent of a cross between John Buchan and the Wicker man.

Spinalonga by John Ware

John Ware’s Spinalonga was written whilst he was seriously ill on Crete and it has an otherworldly feeling. It’s a classic ghost story in which a group of tourists stop off on the deserted Leper island, Spinalonga. Needless to say a lack of respect leads to serious consequences for one of the party. Although the plot is fairly standard the story maintains a dark aura which raises it above the norm.

The Forgotten Island by Jonathan Cruise

Jonathan Cruise takes us to Solitude Island midway between the very bottom of South America and Antartica. A survey expedition comes across the logbook of missing sailor Jon Vosper. The diary tells of Vosper’s increasing difficulty surviving on the island. It’s a great story with many deliciously gory moments, recommended for everyone except cat lovers.

Spinalonga is a classic tale and rightly so but both The Forgotten Island and Gallybagger are also excellent. All three share similar themes of mysterious islands but in quite different ways. There are no weak stories in this batch. We are now nearly half way through the collection and the overall quality is extremely high. So far this is a fitting tribute to all that was great about the Pan Book Of Horror Stories.

Dreaming The Dark by J.P. Dixon

One of the longer stories in the book. We meet horror writer Ross who partly bases his material on crimes shown to him by a police contact. When he starts to come across inexplicable deaths it leads him deep into an underworld of ancient terrors. This dark urban tale does feature vampires but manages to avoid falling into the generic urban fantasy trap. Ross’s nihilistic world view is refreshingly bleak as indeed is the whole story.

The Little Girl Eater by Septimus Dale

The Little Girl Eater is the very definition of a Pan Horror story, short, sharp and shocking. Although first published in 1963 it still holds up today, even if the dialogue feels slightly dated, the ending is as powerful as ever. It’s a perfect example of how something can be stylistically very simple yet be powerful enough to leave a lasting impression, as Stephen King once described it like recieving “a mortal icepick blow”.

Mr Golden’s Haunt by Christina Kiplinger

An incredibly black tale about Mr Golden, retired and “all used up” his life appears to be meaningless. This is an interesting tale as it deals with something we may all have to face in later life.

The Stare by John Burke

Harry Gourlay finds himself attracting the attentions of a stranger but when the stranger seems to follow him everywhere it becomes clear that there is more to this than meets the eye. The second story in this collection by John Burke and it’s another powerful psychological terror story.

Another four excellent stories and again all very different but focusing this time on more pyschological terror. This book so far has been a delight to read, a seemingly endless stream of ideas from some very talented writers who have perfected the art of making a story readable yet powerful at the same time.

The Children by Nicholas Royle

Nicholas Royle’s story reads like a holiday diary and not even a very exciting one. There is, however, a reasoning behind this slow pace as the author recreates the timeless feelings of a relaxing holiday. Couple this with an unsettling strangeness throughout, a dark aura if you like, and the story creates a strange dream like feeling in the reader.

The Moment Of Death by Ken Alden

The moment of death is a fascinating historical tale as a professor explores the world of death and executions. Full of gory tales of premature burials it’s an excellent story which neatly blurs the boundaries between fact and fiction.

A Caribbean Incident by Jane Louie

Arrogant young British naval officer, Barry Kingston finds himself adrift on the seas around Tobago Bay. Eventually he is washed up on an island inhabited by strange locals but soon finds there is more to the island than meets the eye. Jane Louie’s tale is richly descriptive and owes more than a passing nod to the H. Rider Haggard style of adventure tale.

The Waiting Game by Craig Herbertson

Craig Herbertson tells us he was unaware he had been published in the Pan Books until eleven years after the event. Luckily, despite almost giving up writing at one point he kept going and stories like The Waiting Game are the result. This is an excellent story. Eduardo and Maria are in love but when a richer older woman, Catherine, enters their lives Eduardo spots an opportunity to make some money. An opportunity that doesn’t go quite as planned. With a very strong premise and sharp writing, this story is one of the highlights of the collection so far for me.

The four stories on display this month show one of the major strengths of this collection, its wide variety of styles and subject matter. From Caribbean islands to package holidays, from public executions to private torture they are all here and all realised in fine style.

School Crossing by Francis King.

Originally published in the 20th Pan Book of Horror Stories in 1979, Francis King takes us into the dark and bitter world of a former teacher. He seems to have a strong dislike for everyone but especially the school where he used to work. He is also suffering from hallucinations…or is he? Another strong story with a powerful ending that still works 31 years later.

Sounds Familiar by Harry E. Turner

Without a doubt one of the most bizarre stories in the whole collection. Involving Owl nipples, servants and death, I won’t even try to describe the plot. It’s dark, humorous and very, very strange.

An Outing With H by Conrad Hill

The final story in the collection is another full of black humour, wide boys and city life as we meet ‘H’. It’s only later though that we see that there is much more to H than previously told.

‘Lest You Should Suffer Nightmares’ Herbert van Thal: A biography by Johnny Mains

The book concludes with an incisive, illuminating and very entertaining look at the man who will always be associated with the Pan books, long time editor, Herbert van Thal. Johnny Mains speaks to former colleagues and authors to track down the remarkable details of van Thal’s life and his seemingly never ending inventiveness which saw the Pan Books rise to stratospheric popularity. It’s clearly been put together by a passionate fan but he doesn’t spare any details in outlining some of the ’sharp’ practices that helped to make the series a success.

And there you have it: A full history, a biography and a remarkable selection of classic and new stories in the Pan tradition. The most powerful thing that comes across throughout this anthology is the love and passion that all the writers and editors had and still have, for the Pan books. It’s perhaps fitting therefore that this anthology also exudes passion.

At over 520 pages this is a big book in more senses than one. Big is physical size, big in passion and big in importance. Regardless of the future of the Pan Book Of Horror Stories, this anthology stands on its own merits as an important book, both as a tribute but also as a damned fine collection of stories in its own right.

Of course numerous horror anthologies still exist and The Black Book of Horror is doing a fine job at maintaining the Pan tradition in all but name but this book demonstrates that the name was and may still be important. Here’s hoping the spark lit by this anthology will catch and grow in the future.

Finally, we should communally doff our hats to Johnny Mains who has put together this remarkable collection and he has done so not for money or kudos (although he will hopefully get both) but because this is a legacy that deserves it. All horror fans should be grateful for that kind of commitment.

As you may already have guessed, I heartily recommend Back from The Dead: The Legacy of The Pan Book of Horror Stories, both as a fine collection but also as a historical document and tribute to an important part of the horror genre.

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Back From The Dead

Reviewed by 'Weirdmonger'

I’m starting below another of my gradual real-time reviews. This time I shall be reviewing the fiction in the anthology entitled ‘Back From The Dead’ - The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories as selected by Johnny Mains (Noose & Gibbet Publishing 2010).

CAVEAT: Spoilers are not intended but there may be inadvertent ones. You may wish (i) to take that risk and read my review before or during your own reading of the stories, or (ii) to wait until you have finished reading them. In either case, I hope it gives a useful or interesting perspective.

Locked by Christopher Fowler

"Lewis played with the silver crucifix at his throat while he struggled with the concept of rejection."

An intriguing haunted flat story told in an effective Dickensian-slipstream-of-events-and-characters and involving our modern interactions as real people together with communication systems like texts and blogs - all subsumed by a sense of insecurity that many of us today would recognise, both figuratively and literally. The paranoiac need for electronic firewalls on Facebook as well as fool-proof mortice locks in your door. The ending I did not predict at all and I loved it! Funny as well as creepy. No mean feat.

"He was pushing a battered chicken leg into his mouth and actually crunching the bones."

Mr Smyth by Tony Richards

"There was a plate with a bare fishbone on it sitting on the dining table."

A clearly-described workmanlike story of the calling up of dark hidden forces to assist towards one's own good, but a story with its own hidden powers, one of which powers is serendipitously drawn from contrasting with the previous story. Not firewalls or locks here but a similar seedy flat with only "grimy curtains", indeed ones that are hardly ever pulled together (it seems!). And a (traditionally unPan-like, politically correct?) black police detective who suspects foul play when girls die (presumably of natural causes) soon after consorting with the flat's equally seedy tenant. How could such attractive girls be thus attracted by such seediness in place and person? A tale of seeming Defiance. An ending with shuddery resonances to those like me who grow old.

Acute Rehab by John Burke

"At first it was funny."

A very brief piece, complete in itself. Incredibly, however, it does, to my mind, also act as a neat expository coda to the previous story, whereby the previous story's shadow in the corner now asks a question, echoing those who, in hospitals, are always asking for your date of birth, even though those asking know it already!

Camera Obscura by Basil Copper

"There was a sprawl of unfamilar alleys at the foot of the steep overhang of the building, as far as he could make out through the grimy panes."

I first read this substantial classic horror story in the late 1960s and I don't think anyone needs reminding of its plot ... telling of the moneylender and his 'client' - and the latter's two 'camera obscuras', the second of which is more visionary than May Sinclair or Dr Who. Suffice to say, further light is possibly shed on this story by its new context here, for example the modern-Dickensian quality of the first story adumbrating here even greater Dickensianisms and the so-called security of any house that has its firewalls breached (passively or actively) - be they thus compromised by the internet or by more ancient contrivances of perhaps even greater power via meticulously positioned 'grimy panes'...

A big shiver as that sinks in.

The True Spirit by David A. Riley

"It was on occasions like this that Alice wished their dividing walls were higher..."

A long workmanlike story that successfully developed beyond the expectations of its stock witchcrafty and catty beginning. I was drawn in. References to TV entertainments like 'On The Buses', 'Bargain Hunt' and (obliquely) 'Randall & Hopkirk' - plus a sense of growing menace and a bloodthirsty ending. Also an intriguing concept of 'Pretend Vandalism' and the wonderfully named place of Grudge End in a downtrodden English Satanic Mill township and allotments. Above all, it seemed to filter from and back into the book's prior context very effectively, even though the author wouldn't claim credit for that, I'm sure. Unless, of course, he, too, can tap into this book's hidden tomely powers as well as into the dark urban myths of real life? A fine story, as it turns out, in aftertaste.

"There was the fact that Mr Gaskin's back door was open - an unlikely thing in their experience of their neighbour who was a deadlock and bolts kind of man..."

Angel by Jack Wainer

"She learned that he could caress as gently with his feet as with his hands."

I had thought, for a while, that Peter Hopkirk, in the previous story, was an Angel. Maybe this story throws light on that or maybe that story throws light on this one. But otherwise, 'Angel' sits with strange and perhaps menacing yet impermeable charm in this book subtitled 'The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories'!

No other context or subtext than itself. But extrapolating against that impression, I'd say it tells of a young girl in regular episodes of maturing Natal Epoch encountering a supposed Angel in strict ratios of time distortion - with an implied deadlock security system of remaining (even to the extent of lowering her guard for tactical reasons with mortal (non-Angelic) men) 'virgo intacta' against a hellish text-virus disguised as a heavenly one, i.e. against dire infiltration from the rest of this book....?

As a stand-alone story, it's perfect. Written by Jack Wainer: the pseudonym, I believe, of the publisher of 'Peeping Tom', a long-running and influential Horror small press magazine of the 1990s, in which my own fiction appeared quite regularly.

A Good Offence by Myc Harrison

"Whispering was a way of life when you lived in a small town..."

Boyhood sexuality is an open goal, perhaps, for some. Cruelly conceived, but arguably justified, this is Charles-Birkinite revenge horror. An ice for an ice. Tightly written, succinct, to the point. Meanwhile, taking a punt, quite irrelevantly perhaps, I mention that Hockey-sticks do jolly well look like giant keys....

Gallybagger by Roger Clarke

"Only in the ground for a year and then treated like old bedsteads and baths."

In some ways, I'm a literary snob. In other ways, I'm the complete opposite. Against all my initial expectations, this impressive anthology is continuing to satisfy both these aspects of my 'reading' character. And often satisfying both simultaneously! This story, following the complicatedly embedded thing in the previous story, tells of the prising out (unlocking) of another complicatedly embedded thing: a pipeline in the Isle of Wight and its literal entanglement with wartime remains in the ground and, more figuratively, with some Wightian mythos of the Gooseberry Wife and scarecrows... This is the stuff of dream, where, cleverly, any surrealism is made real by being tangibly embedded in tangible things with implicit ley-lines veining real honest-to-goodness earth under the feet of man (wight). And is it any coincidence that the protagonist is named Coates (the composer of 'The Dambuster's March')? I think not. See what you think.

Spinalonga by John Ware

"The graves were no longer than three feet, so that the joints of the corpses had to be broken and the skeletons bent double to get them in."

Another island, more grounded embeddings, an ikon and other disinterred matter reminding me of the keepsake and 'earthkill' in the previous story.... This book's stories (independently written and unnconnected other than by this book) continue to seem - whether by intention or accident - to flow in and out of each other like mutual filters. Tourists on a Greek Leper Colony Island (the I-protagonist and his wife Angela) - and a 'priest' who reminded me of the Angel in 'Angel' or Peter Hopkirk in 'The True Spirit' .... while 'Spinalonga' itself is how I remember the Pan Book of Horror Stories, Britishly charming as well as insidious with an ending that we, in our early days, thought to be so refreshingly nasty. But, sadly, today, nothing's nasty any more because all is nasty.

The Forgotten Island by Jonathan Cruise

"I have levered from its bed of moss and peat, the great iron boiler used a century ago for the rendering of fat of elephant seal and king penguin."

Another island - and a journal of 'Swiss Family Robinson'-like narration mixed with Jules Verne and 'The Lord of the Flies" ... but not flies, as such. If you're a cat-lover... No, if I say what I want to say, it will have the potential readership of this book halved! "Cats are 'The True Spirit'", I'd say instead!

A wonderful tale of a shipwrecked yachtsman on an Antarctic island called Solitude (not forgotten at all!), with his loved one Ailsa. And it is as if the pipe from 'Gallybagger' squeals inside with feline terror...

You'll have to read it to find the tale's moral. And which creatures finally win out, be they human or animal.

Dreaming the Dark by J P Dixon

"If you're a shapeshifter why stop at forms that already exist. What you are is limited only by your own imagination."

An important novelette, I suggest, in the history of Horror Literature. No connections with the rest of this book for me to adumbrate this time, because this work is the island, the hub or heart, from which all "chameleons" and "baroque monstrosities" of "language-from-imagination-into-truth" do spread. Serendipitously, throughout the whole of this reading experience that was 'Dreaming the Dark', I was listening to Bach Cello Suites - serendipitous because the language, too, was as easy, free-flowing, going down like the darkest, smoothest syrup - while, in contrast, its consonants and edges ripped reading-muscles with their high graphic descriptions. This is Horror. No pretension to anything else. It just is. And it was almost as if I, the erstwhile horror writer, glimpsed something I've never glimpsed before - I have my own drawer in my brain I dare not pull out and look in, for fear of becoming what the words actually say (phonetically, graphologically, semantically and syntactically).

The Little Girl Eater by Septimus Dale

"It was dark and silent beneath the pier. Thin banks of concrete criss-crossed the sand, the upright girders were built solidly into these banks."

More embeddings - and a man trapped (or literally locked) by the rising tide under the pier and afraid of drowning to the extent of considering cutting his throat with a rusty tin lid nearby. Apt for me, because I obtained this very book I'm reading in sight of a seaside pier. I now live too by a different seaside pier. I was born near yet another seaside pier. This is archetypal Pan Horror from my own memory of it in the early Sixties. It now reminds me of British black and white films from that era, like "The Taste of Honey", or perhaps more aptly again, "Whistle Down The Wind" - where a more (to use that word again) archetypal Angel meets its own imagined version of Peter Hopkirk (extrapolating from earlier stories in this book)? And, incredibly, they sing together!

Mr. Golden's Haunt by Christina Kiplinger

"Mr. Golden swerved his car to miss hitting a tan and white cat that ran out into the street. Hearing a loud 'meow', the driver put his foot farther down on the gas."

A poignant tale of a man growing old, put out to grass by his life-career of an employer, now to spend all his time with his wife... A couple similar to that 'in "The True Spirit". Mr. Golden has a mortality-malaise even to the extent of seeking out Death itself so as to get to know it better ahead of its due time of arrival. Mr. Golden's own Angel? Or his Null Immortalis? I should know.

The Stare by John Burke

"...absurdly afraid of that head moving at last, turning to stare at him..."

Another brief piece by this author, one that pushes all my fear buttons at once: staying in hospital overnight with goodness knows who else in the same ward. Done it, been there, got the T shirt. Yet here the fear is possibly even greater by dint of the implicitly or explicitly pervasive onlookers in such stories as 'Mr Smyth', 'Acute Rehab', 'The True Spirit', 'Mr Golden's Haunt' ... as if they are all now, forever, in dark synergy within the camera obscura of a single stare...

The Children by Nicholas Royle

"There was no thunder or lightning, but the fat summer rain fell like a torrent of ball bearings."

Having just empathised - from my own experience - with a stay in hospital, I now empathise - through literary osmosis - with a holiday abroad: sun-loungers, cocktail bars, kids' rooms, swimming pools, hearty men high-fiving after a game of volleyball, rules and regulations packaged for increased 'enjoyment' and so on. It is even more frightful than the hospital stay! A Horror story simply from describing something people do for pleasure.

There is an element of Robert Aickman fiction here, too, and there can be no greater compliment if I say it matches up with some of his best stories. And I do. But it is also original with lumpiness set in contrast with sharp ambient electricity. Things about crows and parents with surrogate adoptees. An inscrutable ending that makes you believe you know exactly what has happened that only nightmares usually make you believe till you wake up. If you wake up.

There's a 'Spinalonga' about this story, too. And a swordfish that is perhaps the key to pick the lock of inscrutability? Beautifully written, including one remarkable long sentence about sparrows whose acrobatic display is like the language used to describe it.

The Moment of Death by Ken Alden

"Fegree took an envelope out of his case. 'I know a couple who want children and they are prepared to adopt yours,' he said as he held the envelope in front of Lanover."

In dialogue and dialogue's reported dialogue, this story seems to be something I didn't think I had missed so far in my reading life until I knew I had missed it by dint of this striking treatment upon the trigger of death (its interconnecting tumblers falling one by one by one by one at a precise immeasurable moment) and upon the threat of premature burial, geared to the guillotine of testamentary evidence. Not back from the dead so much as still alive...possibly like Mr. Golden greeting Death a split second before saying goodbye to it.

Perhaps, on reflection, what Null Immortalis has always been about before knowing its potentiality to be about anything at all!

Caribbean Incident by Jane Louie

"From this, he determined the island was a shape of a bowl with the valley in the centre surrounded on all sides by high, pointed rocks."

A quiet, almost nondescript story, but, subtly, with many busy implications of historic slavery caught in the fly-trap of the present, the act of God-making, a skeleton as icon of eternal renewal and faith: with another 'moment of death' crystallised as both promise of continued existence and threat of Man's subjection to his own Null Immortalis. Man not locked by those beach-girders under the pier, but by his own bones.

On the surface, another island, another shipwreck story like 'The Forgotten Island', flocks of birds as in 'The Children'...

"It was a natural cleft no wider than a cupboard and all three of them had to move crablike sideways to pass along it."

The Waiting Game by Craig Herbertson

"Lots of skeletons in our cupboards and room for another few."

I sense this is archetypal Pan Horror - in a vengeful Birkinite vein? Deadly Sins in varying measures, in varying people, leading to two of those people (a man and woman) being cruelly 'locked' together ... waiting motionlessly in great suspense ... with potentially excruciating results. I, too, dare not move for fear of again ripping the reading-muscles .... while there emerges a theme that has been personally dogging me in the last few days, where someone makes a show of writing a substantive work partly in self-delusion and partly in deluding others. I hasten to add this story itself was written, in part, about such a theme and is not an example of implementing that theme in real life! Enjoyed this story for what it was.

"He saw Catherine's face again, dangling the key, spitting at him as she laughed."

School Crossing by Francis King

"He had dropped the car keys and he had felt uncomfortably top-heavy as he had searched over the asphalt of the yard for them, the tips of his fingers grazing themselves..."

This is a very powerful story to drive. As a relatively aging man myself, I've got into it, turned (unlocked) its ignition (foreshadowing enormous thrust) and have been beset with visions of Nicholas Royle's "children", in an earlier story, now, here, as I drive towards a school crossing...

This is a truly memorable story of a mental breakdown within a family man via the vicissitudes of trying to be a good father, husband and (as his job) schoolmaster.

[Synchronously, another running theme in this story concerning the vicissitudes of cleaning one's glasses seems to carry some of my memories of 'Camera Obscura'.]

Sounds Familiar by Harry E. Turner

"...handed him a bunch of keys. 'Here,' he said, 'take the car and drive like the wind...' "

This is a darkly absurd gem that combines a brilliantly worded cornucopia of rare and off-the-wall foodstuffs ... plus a dice with Death - implicitly, perhaps, conveying all Death's earlier foreshadowings in this book.

The ending clicks into place with the same degree of neat surprise that archetypal Pan Horrors often provide - a surprise that you hadn't predicted although, afterwards, you think you should have done. Not a dénouement so much as a dénastiment.

An Outing With H by Conrad Hill

" 'The usual shit, old Alex,' I reply as he low fives me."

In interesting contrast, this is a blow-hard extravaganza where the powerful vehicle of this story becomes a wheelchair and its driver H. It is another insulated 'island' in itself (like 'Dreaming the Dark') but, positioned here at the end, it has more of a coda than a costa.

It drips with relentless narrative techniques like: "To my right, a horn sounds, deep and bloated like a rich man's fart." It again flows like one of those Bach Cello Suites - with cutting blades instead of feathers or flags on its crotchets or quavers.

This is credit crunch prose supreme. Sends me away with a smirk and a cruel snicker. H is anorther Miltonic Lucifer figure. Meanwhile, "I often suspect that I'm the only normal person left in this warped town."


This book is evenly spread with oddities.

Every equation ends incorrect. No theorem can unlock them.

The stories blend and unblend even as you strain your muscles to keep watch on their even lines of eye-print. At one moment Pan-traditional with dénastiments, the next avant-garde with bad manners. This book reminds me of human existence facing out its own cruelties just as existentialists once faced out their sense of absurdity. I hope I have conveyed my enjoyment of this anthology with some degree of correctness within the marginal tolerances of an ever constricting societal intolerance for what us rogue medians can actually write about...or read.

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Back From The Dead

Reviewed by SFX

Picture of the SFX review headerEvery British horror fan over the age of 30 will remember the Pan Book Of Horror Stories series – and probably quite younger ones will know it too, given how many second-hand copies are around. Only five of the tales in Back From The Dead (subtitle: The Legacy Of The Pan Book Of Horror Stories) are reprints. The others are all new, by writers who contributed to the original series. Christopher Fowler is probably the best known of these; Shaun Hutson provides the foreword rather than a story. Using these previously published writers is great for establishing continuity between the Pan series and this volume while delivering something new. The editor’s love of the original series is clear,’s completely true to its inspiration.

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Back From The Dead

Reviewed by Michel Parry

For me the most satisfying contributions to Johnny Mains’ anthology homage to the Pan Horror series are those which one can easily imagine appearing in Herbert Van Thal’s original selections.

Christopher Fowler’s ‘Locked’ is classic Pan Horror material: a deceptively jaunty setup, in which an inexperienced young woman moves into a rundown apartment building in London, leads inexorably to an unpleasant resolution (note the ominous detail of the four cheese-graters.) Tony Richards’ ‘Mr Smyth’ features another ill-fated dweller in a decaying London apartment building. The creepy Casanova of this dark tale of rampant sex magic is an entirely original creation, yet the demi-monde of sexual excess he inhabits has echoes of the one once explored by pseudonymous Pan regular Adobe James.

From time to time Van Thal would throw a story of ‘nature red in tooth and claw’ into his mix for variety (remember ‘Leningen Versus the Ants’ ?) Jonathan Cruise’s ‘The Forgotten Island’ is just such a story, as well as a riveting example of a ‘desert island tale’ where the island turns out to be not so deserted after all.

The basic grand guignol tale of ingenious revenge and torture was a mainstay of the Pan Horror series, as well as the series which inspired it – Christine Campbell Thomson’s ‘Not At Night’. ‘Waiting Game’ by Craig Herbertson, in the tradition of Poe by way, perhaps, of Oscar Cook, is as gruesome a little conte cruel as ever appeared in either series.

These new stories á la Pan may be more up to date in their details and allusions, yet the best of them are timeless in a way which would ensure their effectiveness whenever they were published. A 21st century revamping of an old favourite could be viewed as a form of literary grave-robbing, but this resurrection is one to be embraced.

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What a scream!

The Bookseller - Feb 2010

picture of bookseller articleKatie Allen charts a revival in pure horror

With news of Danny Boyle's forthcoming remake of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein for the National Theatre, it seems those in the know are turning away from vampire romance, with horror making something of a comeback.

King of horror, Stephen King, whose latest is Under The Dome (Hodder), was picked out by chief executive Tim Hely Hutchinson as one of the key contributors to Hatchette's biggest ever market share last year

Also coming up, due to be launched at Brighton's World Horror Convention in March, is Back from the Dead: The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories, from indie Noose & Gibbet. The title includes both classic horror tales and new works from authors who took part in the original anthologies. The series celebrated its 50th birthday in December 2009 - with a reprint of the very first book due in late 2010 from Pan Macmillan.

Orion also has a wealth of horror titles coming up, with Cliff McNish's spooky childrens' title Savannah Grey: A Horror Story, plus March's A Dark Matter by Peter Straub and October title The Farm by H T Kimmel about 'a darkness so great, it obliterates everything'. Thriller master Dean Koontx realeased a hardback of Breathless (HarperCollins) in January, with James Herbert's The Rats due in paperback in March (Pan).

Also coming up in March, Constable & Robinson has The Mammoth Book of Best of Best New Horror edited by Stephen Jones - a compilation representing one story for each year the annual shaowcase has been published since 1989.

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Short Sharp Shocks

SFX Magazine - Feb 2010

picture of sfx articleGoing back to the Pan Book Of Horror Stories

From 1959 until 1989, The Pan Book of Horror Stories was the first choice destination for anyone on the hunt for a scary short story. Now the series is rising from the grave in Back From The Dead, a new collection of 21 chillers that features a mix of new tales from the original Pan Book authors and five of the best stories from the series' 30 year run reprinted.

'For a lot of authors it's like they've just turned back time,' says Johnny Mains, the Pan Book of Horror Stories uber-fan who's editing the book. 'There are stories here which are everything the original series was all about - a little bit funny, a little bit nasty, not taking themselves too seriously, but brilliantly written. The reason I've mixed some of the old stories in so there's a little bit of continuity and you can see what made the original books so special in the first place - you had brilliant writers doing amazing things, writing concise, expressive and really terrifying stories.'

Mains had originally set out to write a history of the series, but after tracking down and speaking to some of the authors, he asked if they had any spare stories longing to see print. The idea of an anthology was born. Since then he's worked long hours on top of his supermarket job, lined up horror author Shaun Hutson to write a foreword and even formed his own publishing company, Noose and Gibbet, to put the book out.

'This is my passion,' explains Mains. 'I don't understand why the short horror story has lost popularity, because we're living in a time where we want everything very quickly, and short stories give you a quick dip in, dip out, unlike a novel where you have to invest a lot of time. I just think they need to be rediscovered.

Back From The Dead will be published in March 2010. The first ever Pan Book of Horror Stories will be reissued in October.

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Remembering Pan Horror

Christopher Fowler writes...

'When I was a kid I collected the Pan Books of Horror and frightened myself witless with them. Years later, I ended up in them, with three stories (two in the original series and a third in the relaunched ‘Dark Voices’ version) and was thrilled to become part of the legacy. Now Johnny Mains has reassembled those of us who were in the books (and still living!) for a new anthology of horror. I’ve supplied a new story, and will be very interested to see what the whole thing is like. There are tales from John Burke, Basil Copper, Tony Richards and many others, with a biographical essay on Herbert Van Thal, the original editor, by the new one. Look out for it, Pan fans.'

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Fiends Re-united

Tony Richards writes...

'Way back at the very start of my writing career, one of the very earliest stories that I sold was a straight horror tale, set in Canada and called 'Child of Ice'. It was bought by an editor called Herbert van Thal for an anthology series called The Pan Books of Horror. The tale saw print after a while, and I was glad to see it out. But other than that, I merely took note that one of the other contributors was a certain Ian McEwan - impressive! - and then pocketed my £40 and went on my merry way. How was I to know that, years later, the series would come to be regarded as a classic with a huge cult following.

And now all that is being drawn together by man-about-horror Johnny Mains, who is bringing out a book on the subject, has compiled a massive website, and has several other projects on the go into the bargain. One of which is 'Back From The Dead: The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories'. It's an anthology which brings back together some of the best contributors to PBoH. They provide new stories where they can, and where they can't one of their old-time classics is included. There's to be a Foreword by Shaun Hutson, an introduction by David A. Sutton. Oh yes, and there's a brand-new tale of terror by yours truly on the contents list.

'Back From The Dead' will come out from Johnny's own publishing company, Noose & Gibbet, and will be released - you guessed it - just in time for World Horror in Brighton.'

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The Revenants

Black Static Magazine

Edited by Johnny Mains and released by Noose & Gibbet Publishing in time for the World Horror Convention next March, 'Back From The Dead: The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories' is a celebration of the genre's longest running and arguably most influential anthology series. It will contain 16 new stories and five reprints, all supplied by contributors who appeared in the original series.

Writers with a Black Static connection are Tony Richards, Christopher Fowler and Nicholas Royle. There'll also be an introducion by Shaun Hutson and a biography of celebrated editor Herbert van Thal who rode ramroad on the original. Check out the website at for more details.

In related news, there are rumours that Pan themselves hope to reprint the very first Pan Book Of Horror Stories in October 2010, just over 50 years after its 1959 debut.

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Enthusiast gives kiss of life to Pan Horror series


Twenty-one years after the publication of the final Pan Book of Horror Stories, a new anthology is on the launch pad thanks to the dedication and tenacity of a long-time enthusiast who is also at work on a history of the iconic series, which began in 1959 with a volume that included work by C S Forester, Joan Aiken and Muriel Spark.

Johnny Mains with Basil Copper'Back from the Dead: The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories' will be published in March, coinciding with the World Horror Convention taking place in Brighton, by Noose & Gibbet Publishing, founded by Johnny Mains (pictured right with Basil Copper) a life-long fan of the horror genre who hails from the Scottish Borders and now lives in Norwich, where, by day, he works in a supermarket.

"I've been a fan of Tthe Pan Book of Horror Stories since I was around 13 years old - my Dad bought me the thirteenth volume at a Blue Peter Bring- and-Buy sale for 10p," Mains told BookBrunch. "My Mother hated me reading horror books so I had to hide what few I had behind the bookcase, as she had already thrown Carrie by Stephen King in the bin." Despite thus losing a few along the way, Mains has now amassed two complete sets of the 30-book Pan series: "Even up to around six years ago you'd be able to find them in charity shops, but they've now all but vanished, unless you go searching the internet for them. I now have two sets - my signed set, and my reference set."

A couple of years back, while re-reading a favourite short story from the series, John Ware's "Spinalonga", Mains idly wondered what had inspired the writer and why no one had written a book on the series. "I sat down with my girlfriend, now my wife, and went over my idea with her and she seemed supportive enough, thinking it was something I would quickly get bored with," he continued.

Mains' long voyage of discovery began with a phone call to Pan Macmillan, who told him that they had no archival material on "The Pan Horrors" whatsoever - it had all been lost when they'd moved offices. His next call was to horror writer Stephen Jones, who edited Dark Voices: The Pan Book of Horror Stories, which followed the original series. With him, he discussed his idea for a history. Next, Mains googled all the authors who had contributed to the series, drawing blanks on many. "So I then went into the acknowledgment pages of all 30 books and started phoning literary agencies and asking them if they still represented those authors. If they didn't, they would kindly pass on what information they had. There were mistakes in the books also - people who had been writing under pseudonyms in some cases had their real names listed in the copyrights page, and that made them easier to track down."

Gradually, Mains uncovered all the living writers and cover artists and began to interview them. "For some authors I would go through pages upon pages of the phone book, literally phoning hundreds of addresses until I got the right person. I've had to mount a newspaper campaign to find another one, and have wasted many hours going through hundreds of pages in Google, following any link, no matter how obscure."

Those whom he reached were helpful, often giving Mains letters from the series editor, Herbert van Thal. "I hadn't really been interested in him before - he was just always the name that graced the cover of the book and no more. But now I became obsessed by him and set out to find as much about him as possible. There was nothing. On the internet there were many mentions about his involvement in The Pan Book of Horrors, but nothing about the man himself. I found his autobiography, The Tops of the Mulberry Trees, which revealed a little more of his erudite character, but he said nothing about his editing the Pan Horrors. So while still looking for authors, I started digging into van Thal's past, buying all of the other horror anthologies by him. Little by little he came to life. I got his death certificate, found out how much he left in his will." A photograph took 18 months to track down, and, just as the year turned, Mains tracked down his only known surviving relative, a stepdaughter who lives in America.

By now, Mains had amassed a wealth of information, but each discovery pointed him in the direction of new leads and trails. "I work full time in a supermarket and I just didn't get paid enough to continue with the rising cost of research and I was getting married, so I scaled it down to a bare minimum and the writing of the book was put to one side."

Time moved on and one of the authors he'd interviewed sent him a new short story. "Another idea popped into my head... I wrote to all of the authors I had in my contacts book asking them if they had, or would write, a short story for an anthology. Immediately they said yes - and others said they would let me reprint a story from the original Pan Horror series." In another year, Mains had amassed 16 new stories and five reprints. "I'm very proud to say that one of those reprints, "Spinalonga", by the late John Ware, features in the book. His son very generously allowed me to reprint it." A 15,000-word "mini-bio of van Thal concludes Back from the Dead. "I've set up a small imprint, Noose and Gibbet Publishing, to bring the book out - the only reason being is that even though I've had a great deal of interest in the book, this way I'm involved in every process - and if the book is a stinker it's nobody's fault but my own."

As a result of Mains' single-minded endeavours, there is now a Pan Horror tribute website, and Pan Macmillan has appointed him Project Editor for the re-issue of the very first Pan Book of Horror Stories, which appeared in 1959. Scheduled for October, it will feature an introduction by Mains, who is now thrilled to own the cover painting to Volume 3, along with contracts, letters, original manuscripts and advertising from various Pan Horrors. "I have Volumes 4 - 30 all signed by the authors I've been in contact with - including Stephen King, who kindly signed Pan Horror 30. I've also written an article for SFX magazine, which will appear at the end of January."

And the idea with which this all began - a Pan Horror history? "I'm hoping that Back from the Dead sells enough copies so I can plough a little bit of money into research - there are many things that need following up and then I'll take some time in the summer holidays to blast out some more of it. After that, who knows? It would be nice to edit another book, it's been a great process and one that I would love to repeat."

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Interview with Eerie Digest

Eerie Digest

Joseph J O'Donnell (Editor): We are talking today to UK Publisher Johnny Mains who heads one publishing house and two websites. Johnny, tell our readers about your company and how you started.

Johnny Mains: Hello Eerie! My company is called Noose and Gibbet Publishing and it is the result of a hard look at the small press industry and seeing an opening which I felt hadn't been exploited to its full potential.

Around three years ago I started a website called All Things Horror and I would go off and find authors, actors/actresses, artists and other luminaries in the horror genre to interview. Shortly after its launch, I began another a website dedicated to the infamous Pan Book of Horror Stories which saw thirty books published in thirty years and still stands as the world's longest running horror anthology series. Over the course of two and a half years I've interviewed over 40 authors involved in writing the original series and cheekily asked some of them if they would like to contribute a short story for a brand new anthology. Sixteen of the authors graciously provided me with a specially written story, and five of the authors (in one case the author's estate) have given permission to reprint a classic story from the series.

I'm in contact with the original publishers of the series, Pan Macmillan, and they were interested in the idea but couldn't commit to anything until the end of 2010. So after looking around at small presses I noticed that there simply wasn't anybody who was publishing authors whose stars burned brightest during the seventies and eighties. They deserve another bite at the cherry. They are still amazing writers. Sadly the whole horror landscape in the early nineties changed and overlong and overblown novels dominated the market, pushing out most of the anthologies. I drew a deep breath and started Noose & Gibbet. There seems to be a great deal of interest in what I'm doing. My first book as editor is 'Back From The Dead: The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories' (containing the Pan authors and stories I spoke of earlier) which will be released during the World Horror Convention in Brighton, England in March 2010.

JJO'D: We understand that you deal in the genres of horror, and like us, tales of things that 'go bump in the night'. Who are some of the writers that you represent?

JM: I have been blown away by the kindness of all of the authors that I work with; from Basil Copper who had two collections published by Arkham House and who also writes books about August Derleth's imfamous Solar Pons, to Christopher Fowler who could arguably be one of the greatest horror and urban unease writers that the UK has ever seen. I've also had the privilege of receiving two short stories by John Burke, an editor of the excellent Tales of Unease trilogy for Pan Books and a noted author in his own right, as well as superb original stories from Conrad Hill, Harry E Turner, Nicholas Royle and Tony Richards.

JJO'D: What form(s) do you publish your writer's work in?

JM: The book will predominantly be coming out as a paperback but there will also be a limited edition hardback. The search is still on for the best, most affordable method of printing independently!

JJO'D: Eerie Digest has just created a program targeting a number of Universities and High Schools here in the States, to see their work in print in our magazine. What encouragement can you offer today's young writing talent?

JM: I've been lucky enough to have a few short stories of my own published and I continue to submit my work to magazines, anthologies and online e-zines. I get rejections, but that is par for the course! You have to constantly send them out. Your talent will get you noticed eventually!

My main advice in regards to writing is to look at your first draft and read it aloud to yourself. When you say something that doesn't sound right - amend it till it does. After I finish a first draft I'll totally deconstruct it; take a nice fat marker, ring and tick the bits I like and put a cross next to the bits that need tidying up or even discarding. I do this on the first and second draft. If it still needs major re-working after the third draft then it's obviously not working as a whole and I let the story structure go into whatever bin is nearest, keeping the sections that work to incorporate ideas and themes into other short stories.

JJO'D: With paranormal and supernatural tales in the upswing, in both books and the cinema, what do you see of their future?

JM: I hate the current trend for vampire books such as Twilight, and have particular loathing for Jane Austen/Zombies and other assorted mash-ups. I'm currently wading through an advanced copy of a title called Queen Victoria – Demon Hunter and another knife gets plunged into my heart with every page I turn. If this is the upswing, I truly feel sad. But saying that, there are people and publishers who still bring out books here and there that give you hope. Even if that's only until the next romantic vampire saga comes out… As to the cinema, I've given up as far as horror is concerned. Saw Part 60? No thanks! I think what we should be looking at more is the small screen; series such as Lost, Carnivale and the ground breaking The Wire have pushed the boundaries of how we watch television and the horror genre could learn greatly from these and produce items of great beauty that is as far removed from Buffy as possible!

JJO'D: Are you actively looking for new writers and is there anything new on the horizon for you?

JM: I hope that in the future I'll be able to open up submissions for new authors, but at the moment I'm going with writers who I know will shift books! I would like this first anthology to do well. It'll pay for the next book - Mary Danby's complete collected works of both children's and adult's short horror fiction (she was the editor of the Fontana Book of Great Horror Stories and, interestingly, is Charles Dickens' great-great granddaughter). After this, I have a few ideas, but we'll have to wait and see.

JJO'D:How can people see your sites, and how can they contact you?

JM: The publishing site is at, the tribute site to the Pan Horrors is and the horror interview site is I am contactable at

JJO'D: Johnny, you run some fabulous organizations and you have your hand on the pulse of a very exciting market. Eerie Digest hopes to hear more from you, and wishes you much success on all your endeavors. Thank you for sharing work and success with all our readers!

JM: Thank you for interviewing me and here's to the great and fruitful future of Eerie Digest!

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