Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Book Review: The Parts We Play by Stephen Volk

THE PARTS WE PLAY by Stephen Volk
COVER ART Pedro Marques
INTRODUCTION Nathan Ballingrud

Unsigned Jacketed Hardcover — ISBN  978-1-786360-20-5  [£20]
200 Slipcased JHC signed by Stephen Volk, and including the chapbook "Supporting Roles" featuring two additional stories — ISBN 978-1-786360-21-2  [£50]

Reviewed by David A. Riley

A satisfyingly varied and well-written collection of stories by screen- and short-story writer Stephen Volk.
Although I enjoyed reading all of the stories in this collection, these are some that made the biggest impact on me. The opening, Celebrity Frankenstein, is a satirical take on our obsession with reality TV and the cult of the celebrity, with a modern update of the Frankenstein myth. Bless, on the other hand, is a psychologically disturbing tale of a mother’s longing for a daughter and her inability to differentiate between what she wishes and what is actually happening. Where the story is ultimately heading is not exactly unexpected, but it is nonetheless heartrending for all of that. A confessional from a highly unreliable narrator who has lost contact with reality. I had already heard of The Arse-licker before reading it here and perhaps therefore was almost prepared for it – almost but not quite! I can easily understand how this story has gained the reputation it has. Gruesomely, even stomach-churningly nasty, it’s a story only a writer as accomplished as Stephen Volk could get away with – which he does with deceptive ease!  After this, it was almost a relief to embark on The Peter Lorre Fan Club, which starts off as a brilliantly knowledgeable dialogue about Peter Lorre between two old friends whose paths had diverged dramatically over the intervening years. It has the kind of Nazi horrors that used to be the hallmark of some of Charles Birkin’s darker tales, though he never succeeded in making you like the victim quite so much as here, nor whose fate is quite as excruciatingly drawn out and cruel. Another highlight was The Shug Monkey, a Professor Challenger story. I am not usually a big fan of pastiches like this, but The Shug Monkey works and has a deeply disturbing twist at the end which I am sure Conan Doyle would never have imagined. The Magician Kelso Dennett is a wonderfully narrated story of a magician’s dangerously crazy publicity stunt in a down-at-heel seaside town, filled with strands of undercurrents that head towards what you know is going to be a grim finale. As with all of the tales in this collection, Stephen Volk fills it with believable characters and a strong sense of place. Seagate may not be real, but I feel like I have been there before – I probably have! Although I have read a few disturbing tales set around Bonfire night, they never fail to excite a certain amount of trepidation, undoubtedly because, of all our annual celebrations, this is the only one involving fires and explosives and the burning of effigies, and, in reality, an awful lot of potential danger to life and limb. Newspaper Heart centres around a lonely boy who befriends the Guy he and his mother create out of old clothes, stuffed with newspapers rolled into balls, and a cheap plastic mask. But there is more than just loneliness behind the boy’s friendship, and the climax is a dark mixture of longing, horror, and family secrets. 
There are no poor stories in this collection. Consistently well-written and absorbing, it is one of the best single-author collections I have read in recent years. Stephen Volk is one of the best practitioners of the horror story active today. A true master of the genre!

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Fantastic review for Ezeiyoke Chukwunonso's collection Haunted Grave and Other Stories

David Dubrow gave a fantastic review of Ezeiyoke Chukwunonso's collection Haunted Grave and Other Stories on The Slaughtered Bird:
"Some books just tell you what they’re all about from the title, like Haunted Grave and Other Stories: Eight Tales of Horror, Fantasy and Science Fiction from the African Continent by Ezeiyoke Chukwunonso. With a name like that, you’d think you would know what you’re going to get when you first crack the book, but you’d be wrong. There’s some strange, original stuff in here, between the thematic elements and the style of writing: Chukwunonso combines Western story structure with vivid descriptions of the raw, aching difficulties of life in Africa in his own inimitable fashion."
To read the full review follow this link

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Mike Chinn's collection Radix Omnium Malum out in paperback

Mike Chinn's collection Radix Omnium Malum is now available from amazon in paperback.

amazon.co.uk  £9.99
amazon.com  $12.99

Mike Chinn lives in Birmingham, UK, with his wife Caroline and their tribe of guinea pigs. In 2012 he took early retirement so he can spend more time writing (and not housework). Over the years he has published over sixty short stories, as well as editing three volumes of THE ALCHEMY PRESS BOOK OF PULP HEROES, and SWORDS AGAINST THE MILLENNIUM, also for The Alchemy Press. His own contribution to the Pulp Adventure genre, THE PALADIN MANDATES garnered two nominations for the British Fantasy Award in 1999. A second Damian Paladin book, WALKERS IN SHADOW, is to be published by Pro Se Productions; as is a Western: REVENGE IS A COLD PISTOL. In 2015, his Sherlock Holmes steampunk mash-up, VALLIS TIMORIS (Fringeworks), sent the famous detective to the Moon.

Radix Omnium Malum and Other Incursions includes the following stories:
“Radix Omnium Malum” originally published in THE GRIMORIUM VERUM ©2015
“Two Weeks Saturday” originally published in DARK HORIZONS 23 ©2004
“Kittens” originally published in READ RAW ©2009
“Blood of Eden” originally published in THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF DRACULA ©1997
“Suffer a Witch” originally published in SALVO 7 ©2003
“Cheechee’s Out” originally published in SECOND CITY SCARES ©2013
“The Owl that Calls” originally published on WikiWorm ©2013
“The Pygmalion Conjuration” originally published in THE TENTH BLACK BOOK OF HORROR ©2013
“To Die For” originally published in BFS JOURNAL 10 ©2014
“Sons of the Dragon” originally published in kZINE 1 ©2011
“Only the Lonely” originally published in DARK VALENTINE 4 ©2011
“Rescheduled” originally published in FINAL SHADOWS ©1991
“Considering the Dead” originally published in DARK MUSES, SPOKEN SILENCES ©2013 “Wednesday Morning at Five O’Clock” originally published in PHOBOPHOBIAS ©2014
“The Streets of Crazy Cities” and “The Mercy Seat” are original to this collection. ©2017

 Author photo ©Peter Coleborn

Monday, 13 February 2017

Shades: Dark Tales of Supernatural Horror reviewed on The Haunted Reading Room

Shades: Dark Tales of Supernatural Horror, published by Parallel Universe Publications, received a great five-out-of-five review on The Haunted Reading Room website.
" An exceptional short story collection, SHADES showcases author Joseph Rubas' strong literary talent and extensive imagination. For me, it also served as an introduction to Mr. Rubas' writing, and an invitation to extend my interest in his work. I was impressed by the consistency of the high quality of this collection.

The collection is subtitled "Dark Tales of Supernatural Horror" and well demonstrates its truth. All are frightening; some are terrifying. Starting with the initial offering, each story impacted me even while I reveled in the writing, plots, and characters [who too often give up common sense and suffer accordingly]. am unashamed to admit that after several of the stories I had to pause and take deep breaths and wait for the impact of the story to settle. I predict nightmares, and tales that will take root in the imagination and linger long-term."

Thursday, 9 February 2017

FantasyCon 2017 - Peterborough

We have now booked for this year's Fantasycon, which will be held at the Bull Inn, Peterborough between the 29th September and the 1st October.

We'll be arriving the night before the convention starts so we can get our Parallel Universe Publications table set up in good time for when guests arrive.

This is me showing off our full-page advert in the programme book at last year's convention in Scarborough. We intend to book another full-page ad in this year's programme.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Parallel Universe Publications celebrates "Women in Horror Month"

To celebrate "Women in Horror Month" Parallel Universe Publications is making this special offer for the whole of February: buy either Kate Farrell's And Nobody Lived Happily Ever After or Jessica Palmer's Other Visions of Heaven and Hell directly from us and you can choose one of the following bumper anthologies free: Things That Go Bump in the Night, Classic Weird, or ClassicWeird 2.

"What distinguishes Kate Farrell’s work is the extraordinary accuracy and vividness with which she sets up her situations. She has an eye for detail and an outstanding ear for the way people think and speak. It is far from fanciful to see this at least partly as the product of her experience as an actress. In the theatre, a natural faculty for observing one’s fellow human beings is trained and honed. Listen to the narrator of “Waiting”. If you don’t know someone like that personally, you will have certainly heard her talking just behind you on a bus at some time. The intonation, the accent, the understanding, and the lack of it, are all so true to life. But the people Farrell evokes are not all from one social stratum, or one nation. Here is an ancient and corrupt Irish Priest (“The Way the Truth and the Life”), here is the wife of a notorious Argentinean dictator (“Las Cosas Que Hacemos por el Amor”), or the two Spanish schoolchildren in “The Efficient Use of Reason”, and they are all done with the same conviction, the same ruthless accuracy. Farrell’s eye is not heartless, but it is unclouded by any kind of sentimental affectation; her horrors emerge from what we sometimes call the commonplace. Very occasionally she touches on the supernatural, but when she does she does it superbly as in one of my favourites among her stories “A Murder of Crows” which shows that she can do an uncanny rural atmosphere with grim poetry as well as anyone. It is the gift of every worthwhile writer in this genre to make us realise that just beneath the surface of the banal and ordinary, there yawn great abysses of wonder and terror. I don’t know quite why this realisation, in the hands of a writer like Farrell, should be so thrilling, enjoyable even, but it is. There is not a dull page, not a dull sentence in And Nobody Lived Happily Ever After." From Reggie Oliver 's introduction to And Nobody Lived Happily Ever After

Contents are:
Introduction by Reggie Oliver
Mea Culpa
Helping Mummy
A Murder of Crows
No Junk Mail
All in a Row
Dad Dancing
The Way and the Truth and the Life
My Name is Mary Sutherland
The Efficient Use of Reason
How I Got Here
His Family
The Sands are Magic
Once Upon a Time
A. Reeves Tale
Las Cosas Que Hacemos por El Amor
Peacock Blue Dress
Alma Mater

Mea Culpa was first published in The Eighth Black Book of Horror, 2011
His Family was first published in The Ninth Black Book of Horror, 2012
Dad Dancing was first published in The Tenth Black Book of Horror, 2013
Helping Mummy was first published in The Screaming Book of Horror, 2012
The Sands are magic was first published in Terror Tales of the Seaside, 2013
Waiting was first published in Kitchen Sink Gothic, 2015
Alma Mater was first published in The Eleventh Black Book of Horror, 2015

Jessica Palmer has had 28 books published, both fiction and nonfiction. Her novels – horror, fantasy and science fiction – were released by Pocket Books in the United States and Scholastic in the United Kingdom. She has written two textbooks about Native American history, which were published by McFarland, and an encyclopedia of natural history released by Harper Collins’ label Element Books and later by Thorson in the UK.
Palmer has also written ten science-and-technology manuals on the topics of explosives and radiation. These were distributed globally. It was this work that brought her to Great Britain in 1988.
The daughter of a professional clown, Palmer refers to her switch to writing fiction as an exercise in damage limitation. She taught classes and conducted workshops on creative writing and publishing at North Shropshire College in Whitchurch, Stanmore College and the Islington Arts Factory in London.
As a journalist, Palmer won awards in New Mexico and Texas for writing features, public service and breaking news – the most recent in 2013. Palmer has also written satirical columns for newspapers, including “A Slice of Life” and “How to Make Love to your Personal Computer.”
Her two loves are writing and animals. She started a nonprofit in Kansas for wildlife rescue and has held a wildlife rehabilitation permit since 2002.
Other Visions of Heaven and Hell are a series of sometimes inter-related stories about our ideas of Heaven and Hell, sometimes hilarious - sometimes horrific - but always entertaining.

Contents are:
Devil's Due
The Faithful
And now, a Word from our Sponsor
Heavenly Bodies
On the Wings of a Prayer
Fallen Angel
A Stitch in Time
No Good Turn
Leap of Faith
Divine Comedy
Force of Habit
The Gates of Hell
Hell on Wheels
Cinderella Revisited
Last Laugh
A Cold Day in Hell
Cheap Shots
What the Dickens
When Hell Freezes Over
Bad Medicine
Wrong Number
A Snowball's Chance
Devil Woman
To Be or Not
The King's Plate
An Afterthought
About the Author

"Last Laugh" was first published in Weirdbook #28, Autumn 1993, edited by W. Paul Ganley
"Cinderella Revisited" was first published in Weirdbook #29, Autumn 1995, edited by W. Paul Ganley
"What the Dickens" was first published in Substance Sept 1995

Classic Weird contains:
The Monster-Maker by W. C. Morrow
The Man Who Went Too Far by E. F. Benson
The Interval by Vincent O'Sullivan
The Doll's Ghost by F. Marion Crawford
The Dead Smile by F. Marion Crawford
The Ghost-Ship by Richard Middleton
The New Catacomb by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Lost Stradivarius by John Meade Falkner
The House of the Dead Hand by Edith Wharton
A Wicked Voice by Vernon Lee
Phantas by Oliver Onions
This 298-page volume contains weird tales by some of the classic authors of the genre, including: 
J. Sheridan Le Fanu (An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street)
E. F. Benson (The Judgement Books) 
Vernon Lee (Oke of Okehurst)
Vincent O'Sullivan (When I was Dead)
Edith Wharton (The Eyes)
W. C. Morrow (A Story Told by the Sea)
Irvin S. Cobb (The Unbroken Chain)
Edith Nesbit (From the Dead)
Robert Murray Gilchrist (Witch In-Grain)
Amyas Northcote (The Downs)
J. H. Riddell (The Uninhabited House)
Things That Go Bump in the Night edited by Douglas Draa and David A. Riley is now available in trade paperback from Parallel Universe Publications. 365 pages long, this bumper volume contains 19 classic weird stories by Sir Hugh Clifford, Edward Lucas White, William Hope Hodgson, George Allan England, F. Marion Crawford, Frederick Marryat, E. F. Benson, W. C. Morrow, Amyas Northcote, M. P. Shiel, Lord Dunsany, Perceval Landon, Robert E. Howard, G. G. Pendarves, Henry Brereton Marriott Watson, Irvin S. Cobb, Huan Mee, Abraham Merritt, Nictzin Dyalhis, and Edith Wharton.

The Ghoul Sir Hugh Clifford
The House of the Nightmare Edward Lucas White
The Voice in the Night William Hope Hodgson
The Thing from Outside George Allan England
For the Blood is the Life F. Marion Crawford
The White Wolf of the Hartz Mountains Frederick Marryat
The Room in the Tower E. F. Benson
His Unconquered Enemy W. C. Morrow
The Late Mrs. Fowke Amyas Northcote
Xélucha M. P. Shiel
A Narrow Escape Lord Dunsany
Thurnley Abbey Perceval Landon
The Black Stone Robert E, Howard
Werewolf of the Sahara G. G. Pendarves
The Devil of the Marsh Henry Brereton Marriott Watson
Fishhead Irvin S. Cobb
The Black Statue Huan Mee
The Pool of the Stone God Abraham Merritt
The Sea-Witch Nictzin Dyalhis
The Lady’s Maid’s Bell Edith Wharton

Monday, 30 January 2017

Radix Omnium Malum & Other Incursions by Mike Chinn

Just got David Sutton's Introduction to Mike Chinn's collection RADIX OMNIUM MALUM, which will be published by Parallel Universe Publications in February. This is a small extract from it: "For Radix Omnium Malum & Other Incursions Mike has assembled a very different collection to his previous two volumes. Sixteen dark and different yarns, showcasing his penchant for horror fiction...Quite a horror show. So have yourself a roller-coaster read with this new collection from the able pen of Mike Chinn. You’ll not be disappointed!"

These are the stories that are included in this collection:
“Radix Omnium Malum” originally published in THE GRIMORIUM VERUM ©2015
“Two Weeks Saturday” originally published in DARK HORIZONS 23 ©2004
“Kittens” originally published in READ RAW ©2009

“Blood of Eden” originally published in THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF DRACULA ©1997

“Suffer a Witch” originally published in SALVO 7 ©2003

“Cheechee’s Out” originally published in SECOND CITY SCARES ©2013

“The Owl that Calls” originally published on WikiWorm ©2013

“The Pygmalion Conjuration” originally published in THE TENTH BLACK BOOK OF HORROR ©2013

“To Die For” originally published in BFS JOURNAL 10 ©2014

“Sons of the Dragon” originally published in kZINE 1 ©2011

“Only the Lonely” originally published in DARK VALENTINE 4 ©2011

“Rescheduled” originally published in FINAL SHADOWS ©1991
“Considering the Dead” originally published in DARK MUSES, SPOKEN SILENCES ©2013

“Wednesday Morning at Five O’Clock” originally published in PHOBOPHOBIAS ©2014

“The Streets of Crazy Cities” and “The Mercy Seat” are original to this collection. ©2017

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Their Cramped Dark World and Other Tales now available with its Luke Spooner cover

Artwork by Luke Spooner
I can now confirm that the new (or, more correctly, reinstated Hazardous Press cover) by Luke Spooner is now available as a trade paperback and an ebook. After leaving Hazardous Press and republishing Their Cramped Dark World under the Parallel Universe imprint, a new cover (based on a Goya painting) was substituted for the one by Luke Spooner. I was never wholly happy with this, if only because, on reconsideration, the Goya painting was a bit too overly familiar. Now, though, the original cover, specially designed for this collection by Luke Spooner, is back again.
The stories in Their Cramped Dark World range from 1972 to 2012 and have all been published before by publishers such as Sphere Books, Corgi Books, Peeping Tom and Mortbury Press. 

Table of Contents: 
Hoody (first published in When Graveyards Yawn, Crowswing Books, 2006)
A Bottle of Spirits (first published in New Writings in Horror & the Supernatural 2, 1972)
No Sense in Being Hungry, She Thought (first published in Peeping Tom #20, 1996)
Now and Forever More (first published in The Second Black Book of Horror, 2008)
Romero's Children (first published in The Seventh Black Book of Horror, 2010)
Swan Song (first published in the Ninth Black Book of Horror, 2012)
The Farmhouse (first published in New Writings in Horror & the Supernatural 1, 1971)
The Last Coach Trip (first published in The Eighth Black Book of Horror, 2011)
The Satyr's Head (first published in The Satyr's Head & Other Tales of Terror, 1975)
Their Cramped Dark World (first published in The Sixth Black Book of Horror, 2010)

trade paperback: 
Amazon.co.uk  (£9.99)
Amazon.com  ($12.99)

Amazon.co.uk  (£2.99)
Amazon.com  ($3.99)

The discarded cover

Saturday, 14 January 2017

New cover for Their Cramped Dark World by Luke Spooner

In 2015 my third collection of short stories, Their Cramped Dark World and Other Tales, was published by Hazardous Press, with a brilliant cover by British artist Luke Spooner. Unfortunately, Hazardous Press and I fell out shortly after and both this and its predecessor collection, His Own Mad Demons, were withdrawn from publication. Having not long before revived my own small press imprint, Parallel Universe Publications, I decided to reprint both collections myself with brand new covers, though I was never wholly satisfied with the replacement for Luke Spooner's. I recently got in touch with Luke and I am pleased to reveal that he immediately sent me an updated version of the original cover which I can substitute for the one I used. The new paperback will be available to order within the next couple of weeks. Below is what the new cover looks like.

Cover Art: Luke Spooner
The old cover

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Shades: Dark Tales of Supernatural Horror by Joseph Rubas now available on kindle

Joseph Rubas began writing in 2002 after reading Stephen King’s The Stand. His earliest efforts reflected his deep love of that novel; he tried again and again to write a rip-off, but finally gave up around 2006 and resigned himself to writing original fiction. His first short story was published in May 2010 on the now defunct Horror Bound Online website. His second story was published in September 2010 in a Pushcart Prize nominated literary magazine for new and beginning writers called The Storyteller. Since then, his work has appeared in a number of magazines and anthologies. His first collection, the now out of print Pocketful of Fear, was released by a small publisher in 2012. His second collection, After Midnight, appeared in 2014. His short fiction has appeared in: Nameless Digest; The Horror Zine; Eschatology Journal; Thuglit; Manor House; All Due Respect, and others. He has self-published three longer works: The Rocking Dead: Seasons 1-3 (a parody of the AMC series The Walking Dead); The Rocking Dead: Season 4; The Shapeshifter; and Dracula 1912, the latter a novel.
In addition to writing, he has also edited two anthologies: A Thorn of Death (2012) and The 3rd Spectral Book of Horror Stories (2016).
He currently resides in Albany, New York.

This Collection includes:
Passing the Buck
Deja Vu
The Ghostly Hitchhiker
Just a Mask
Meeting Ray Bradbury
5051 Bartley Square
The Witching Hour
Potter's Field
The Warlock
The Thing in the Woods
The Lake House
The Traveling Show of 2016
A Perfect Life
Night of the Dog

trade paperback:
amazon.co.uk £9.99
amazon.com $12.99

amazon.co.uk £2.99
amazon.com $3.67

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Three great reviews for Parallel Universe books just posted on the British Fantasy Society website

Three PUP books were reviewed on the BFS website yesterday: Adrian Cole's Tough Guys, Richard (Mark Samuels) Staines' England 'B': Ninety Minutes of Hell, and Johnny Mains' A Little Light Screaming.

Cover Art: Jim Pitts
TOUGH GUYS by Adrian Cole. Parallel Universe Publications, Lancashire, UK. £8.99 (UK), 194 page paperback. ISBN: 978-0-9935742-2-1
Reviewed by Pauline Morgan

Often, when an author produces a collection of stories, the majority of them have been published elsewhere either in magazines or anthologies alongside those of other authors. Tough Guys is unusual in two respects. First, the four pieces here – three novellas and one short story – are all previously unpublished; second, they are as different from each other as one might expect in an accumulation of unseen stories. The second is unusual as Cole’s previous collection was Nick Nightmare Investigates (Alchemy Press), where all the stories revolved around the same character and the world he inhabited. As a collection it worked extremely well as Cole won the BFS Award for the book.
Although called Tough Guys, there are some tough women here, too. The first story ‘Wait For The Ricochet’ is another about Nick Nightmare. Here we get an insight into some of his background. He gets a message to visit his old mentor, urgently. Zeff is a lifer in Sing Sing, a place where Nick did three years. Zeff is dying but he needs Nick to carry the information about the hiding place of a powerful artefact to the new keeper of the knowledge. Nick cannot refuse. The task might seem simple but there are others who want the information. One of them, Lucien de Sangreville, is aware that it will be easier the extract what he wants from Nick rather than the person it is intended for. The complication is that the person de Sangreville kidnaps to put pressure on Nick, is the one the information is intended for. Thus, Nick has to rescue him before he can complete his mission. He is aided by Ariadne Caradine, a wealthy woman who readers will recognise form previous Nick Nightmare stories. She elegant, charming and deadly, an ideal partner in this caper. The other important and familiar character is Oil-Gun Eddie. It is him, they need to rescue.
‘If You Don’t Eat Your Meat’ is science fiction blended with horror. At some time in the past the Virus decimated the population. In the countryside, winters are harsh and farmers and their families try to survive anyway they can. The rules the city people live by are often set aside. The narrator, Ryan Blackstone is a teenager in one such family on the edge of the moors. The Blackstones have had a feud with the Tregathick for many years, so when one of the cows goes missing, they are the first to be suspected. Ryan and Wayne, the youngest of his brothers are sent to check. Ryan sees the Tregathicks butchering the cow but is spotted. Chased through the snow drifts and desperate, Ryan kills Jed Tregathick. Since the Tregathicks are eating their cow, the Blackstones eat Jed. The feud escalates from there until Ryan flees to the city. This is not a pleasant story and even though there is some sympathy for Ryan, he does his best to alienate the reader.
Another character you can end up not liking is the narrator of ‘A Smell Of Burning’. The narrator wakes up immobilised in hospital. He cannot remember what happened, or why he is there. He discovers that he can leave his body and his astral projection is able to wander the hospital. Then he realises that he can tune into the thoughts of the other patients. For a while, this is enjoyable. Then he realises that there is a scary dark cloud also inhabiting the plane. He plucks up the courage to find the patient it is emanating from and tunes into the history of a very unpleasant pyromaniac.
The final story goes back to a Nick Nightmare kind of territory. ‘Not If You Want To Live’ also has the narrator waking up in an unexpected place when he thought he was dead. He is, but has been recruited as a Redeemer. As Razorjack his job is to return the soul to the body of a person who has just died so they can continue a productive life. He doesn’t know why these people are chosen – that’s another department. After initial training and a number of field missions, Razorjack is given a more complex task. A member of a group called the Adversaries are upsetting the balance. Razorjack has to trap one of them. He is sent back to live in the real world and await a call. A wealthy man, Silvio Fellini, will ask him to Redeem his wife who died from an overdose. Although Razorjack’s memories of his life up until his original death have been deeply buried, circumstances cause them begin to surface.
Adrian Cole is a skilled writer and all four of these pieces are excellently written.  I would have liked the first to be longer, but the length is well judged for the other three. This is a book I can highly recommend.

ENGLAND “B” NINETY MINUTES OF HELL by Richard Staines, Parallel Universe Publications, p/b
Reviewed by Sandra Scholes
Forget what you remember about football back in the 70s, Richard Staines puts the record straight about how the England B team scored their goals. It certainly wasn’t through the team’s rigorous training and fitness regime – it was through black magic.
Parallel Universe Publications are fond of putting out story anthologies they think readers will enjoy as they are original and, at times funny. This one, like many on their list have a well-rounded sense of humour right down to the cover art of England Coach Vince Grinstead, some footballs that act as chapter breaks and some quotes on the back cover that are hilarious for those who know who Dennis Wheatley, Genesis and Yes are. The stories form part of a collected works that seems to be of instances, moments that deal with what Staines sees as the real history behind the World Cup in 1970 and other major matches several years after.
What I liked about the stories was the fact they initially transported the reader back to the seventies with mentions of Double Diamond, Brut aftershave, fish & chips and, Satan help me, Pan Books of Horror – remember them? I do. Staines has been clever though, he has charted the journey Vince has gone on from glory to failure and back again by the only means necessary to get his B team to victory. In No Such Thing as a Friendly, Vince takes us through what really happened on the 14th June 1970 while the England “A” team were in Mexico during the World Cup. While the “A” team are living it up in civilized country, the “B” team are in Goboya, an island on the coast of South America with barely a cold pint in sight. A Game of Two Halves has Vince tell the true story of what happened on April 1974 in a match between the USSR Representative XI and their team. Just in case there was any problem winning, they decide to make sure the “B” team are up to the challenge. Here, Vince puts the black into magic. The Ref’s Decision is Final sees Vince down on his luck, his job lost and he is drowning his sorrows in The Smuggler’s Arms. Here, Sir James Bassingron-Smythe makes him an offer he can’t refuse – to take the “B” team back to glory against the Scots. Get Your Fritz Out For the Lads carries on from the previous story where the Scots had smashed the windows of their coach and roll up to a spooky old mansion, hoping to phone for help. It’s one of the best clichés in horror, and one which Richard handles very well.
With a series of comedy horror stories laced with black magic dabbling and fun japes, he has also added the pop culture references of the times. It is a must read for those who remember the good old times of football.

A LITTLE LIGHT SCREAMING by Johnny Mains, Parallel Universe Publications, p/b
Reviewed by Sandra Scholes
There is strange fiction, but rarely do we get to find a writer who challenges what we think about horror as a genre. Johnny Mains stories read like a list of people you wouldn’t want to meet in real life. The third collection of short horror stories, Johnny Mains has his supporters right at the back cover of the book who all pretty much think of him as likely to be sectioned at any moment, yet for him to get to this third collection means he has talent. Johnny has written with other authors, ‘Paintings’ with Simon Bestwick and ‘The Curse of the Monster’ with Bryn Fortey, ‘The Girl on Suicide Bridge’ was nominated for the Best Short Story category of the British Fantasy Awards 2015, and in Johnny’s ‘Author’s Mumbles – Part 3’, he shares with us how he gets his ideas and the writing process he went through that led to its being published. Not since reading musings from Neil Gaiman’s works have I noticed the sheer endurance writers need when their writing is either rejected or changed, or according to the writer, over edited until it doesn’t resemble what the writer intended.
Blossom is one of these stories that is short and starts out with a man who thinks he has the perfect life with his wife and children until a mystery illness shatters the illusion. Johnny intended the story to be a Robert Aickman tribute, but it turned out very different in the last draft. I felt it was one of the stronger ones where the antagonist gets his just desserts, and rightly so. ‘The Case of the Revenant’ is Johnny’s way of paying homage to Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, preferring to write about Holmes as Watson can be a little boring sometimes. Set in Austria, Holmes investigates an unsolved case where a family has been murdered. I got the impression Johnny had always wanted to write a Holmes story as so many writers have tried to pen at least one in their lives, though this ends in a much more sinister way than expected.
There are ten short stories here, so I can imagine another anthology coming out at some point soon. Unlike other writers, Johnny makes sure you see the monsters, their evil intent and malice at the very end, rather than a vague image or suggestion of them. Not all the characters have their monsters in their heads and not everyone in the stories are as nice as they appear. Admittedly, there are one or two stories that are deep enough to cause an emotional response (‘Blossom’, ‘A Forest of Lonely Deaths’ and ‘The Girl on Suicide Bridge’).