First published in Gscene July 2020
For last years World AIDS Day I put together a public project of work joining other people living with an HIV+ diagnoses at Jubilee library.For last years World AIDS Day I put together a public project of work joining other people living with an HIV+ diagnoses at Jubilee library.
For the project I spoke openly about my journey having being Read more
More to Me Than HIV is a project that aims to breakdown the stigma that has historically been attached to this virus.
When I saw my piece in last months Gscene to promote the More to Me Than HIV project, I was extremely proud, but a small part of me was filled with anxiety; but why should I feel this way? I have been on effective antiretroviral therapy since the Read more
For last years World AIDS Day I put together a public project of work joining other people living with an HIV+ diagnoses at Jubilee library.
For the project I spoke openly about my journey having being diagnosed HIV+ 32 years previous. Back then there was no treatment and a lot of fear and misinformation concerning how HIV was transmitted. As such stigma was rife, Read more
I’ve always loved horror stories. Skeletons have been at the forefront. I had a full size paper, glow in the dark skeleton and then a bit later the poster on the opposite side of my bed was of a skeleton on a motorbike, which I thought was great! I think i got it after seeing th esketon riding a motoabike in the Hammer Horror, Doctor, Terrors, House of Horrors, an all time favourite of my sister and mine.
I liked the skeletons that grew out of the monsters teeth in Jason and the Argonauts and seemed to always find those plastic skeletons either on a key ring or the like while on seaside holidays.
My sister had some great gothic children’s books, one was a collection of the original Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tales, with great illustrations. My favourite was the Sea Witch from the little mermaid, she was the stuff of nightmares! The other book my sister had was about dwarfs and giants. The one story I liked my sister to read to me was about a group of dwarfs who kidnap a princess. The scene that will never leave my brain is when the princess complains that the carriage seat is too hard, the dwarf jumps out of the carriage, plucks out his eye, throws it in the air and sees a filed of wheat…poor princess!
From their I discovered the Pan Books of Horror. I loved the covers and the blurb on the back as much as I liked the stories themselves.
The very first horror story I wrote was at school and leant the first rule of horror is you need to build the tension, let the feeling of dread creep in. Of course once you have mastered this then you can experiment every which way.
A couple more years passed and I was looking for a project to learn something new when my husband Keir spotted a creative writing class at Brighton City College. My tutors, Ruth and Maria said, for your first project we don’t want you to write we would like you to draw a rough plan of the street you grew up in, followed by us naming who lived in each house. From there grew my collection of short horror stories called Blanche Street.
Blanche Street, where all the neighbours are a nightmare. My friend Andrew Nimmo Helped me upload my e-book onto Amazon, while my friend Linus created a brilliant webpage advertising the type of synopsise of my ten tales in the style of the ones I admire from PBH.
My late mother-in-law, Hazel Bottrill created some brilliant art work for the stories, The Fall of Derrick Houser, Dead Famous, and the book cover. My other talented friends also contributed some brilliant images to go with the Blanche Street Tales, Angus Stewart: Filth, and publicity photo for back cover, Davey Sutherland: Frank, Sarah Prades and Kristan Akerman and three new pieces from Darren Menezes: Sugar Almonds, The Nightmare and Some Mother’s Son.
Finally, I found online a great editor, Jenny Prince, who through fresh eyes and is at present getting the book in shape for its (self publishing) into paperback.
More information to follow.
The taste of blood slid across Howard’s tongue as the Norwich to Ipswich train rattled along the track. For the last half hour he had nervously bitten his nails, all in the pursuit of the latest high. Howard’s best mate, Kes, (everyone called him Kes, because he was always high as a kite) had raved about the mind blowing time he’d had the other night at the Caribbean Club. Some bloke had offered Kes a new kind of high at the club toilet and he said he was off his head all night, “It’s called Trish. Think ecstasy, crossed with a trip and dib-dab of speed.”
Even before Kes had finished yabbering, Howard was hooked. Kes had said he was going to meet up with a guy called Chef and get some Trish for the weekend. That had been a couple of days ago. With no job worries, Kes will still be off his face on Trish, thought Howard.
As the train pulled into Ipswich’s train station, Howard pulled out the crumpled piece of paper from his jeans pocket on which Kes had scrawled.
9 Blanche Street, Ipswich. Ask for Chef. Say, “I love Trish.”
When the train finally pulled in to Ipswich, the seasoned travellers rushed from the platform and grabbed the waiting taxies. With no sign of a bus, Howard began walking towards what he hoped was the town centre. Half way he bumped into a young couple and asked if they knew where Blanche Street was. The woman shrugged her shoulders, as the bloke said, “You sure you want that part of town mate?”
Howard nodded while trying to ignore his growling stomach, all he wanted was to grab his stash of Trish and get back to his bedsit in Norwich.
Recognising the nervousness pouring out of Howard’s body, the man shrugged his shudders and said, “It’s no more than ten minutes away, just off Cemetery Road.”
Having followed the man’s directions, Howard turned into Blanche Street and instantly understood what the man had meant. The street was a row of pre-war dilapidated terraced houses. As he walked down the street, Howard’s stomach tightened; with most of the street lights broken it was difficult to make out the door numbers.
As he crept past one house he heard a man shout, “Madeline, Madeleine!” which caused Howard to quicken his step. Each house he passed seemed to be more decrepit than the last: that was until he reached number seven. The bottom half of the door had been boarded up. Bare wires hung where the doorbell had once been and the upstairs windows were smashed.
Again Howard felt his gut jolt, but there was no way he was going back home empty handed. Taking a deep breath he raised his hand to knock on the door, only for it to suddenly fly open. A dark silhouette of a very, very big man filled the door frame.
“Y,y,y,you Chef? Said Howard?
With no ready response, Howard tried to steady his voice without much success and said, “I,I,I,I,I love Trish.”
The man stepped back and nodded for Howard to enter the gloomy lit front room.
The first thing to hit him was the overwhelming stench of stale cigarette smoke, greasy takeaway food and something else, something rotten. While trying to manoeuvre passed the minefield of beer cans and overflowing ashtrays, Howard knocked a half-eaten takeaway box off the oversized leather armchair: spilling its contents onto the threadbare carpet. Dropping to his hands and knees, Howard went to clear up the partly chewed, greasy chicken bones only for Chef to yell, “Fucking leave it, get your arse in the back.”
Howard jumped to his feet, brushed the grease from his hands on to his jeans and then followed the man through the middle room, into the kitchen.
Hanging from the centre of the kitchen celling was a bare light bulb highlighting the cobwebs that strung from every corner, the floor felt sticky beneath his feet. Howard glanced round the near barren kitchen. The only other furniture was a tatty pine wooden table, either side sat two mismatched chairs and a bar stool. Chef nodded at Howard and grunted, “Sit.”
Like a well trained mongrel, Howard quickly obeyed, pulled out the chair and sat himself down.
Chef flung open the fridge door and said, “Beer?”
Howard stared at the man’s huge hands that gripped the rusting fridge door, his fingernails caked with black grime. A trickle of bile shot from Howard’s empty stomach into his throat causing him to nod as he tried his best to swallow his sick.
Grabbing two cans from the fridge, Chef slammed one can down in front of Howard, cracked open his own and drained the contents before Howard had even opened his.
“Get that down yah, it will stop you from being so fucking jumpy.”
Howard tried his best to stop his hands from shaking as he opened his can, only for the contents to spray all over his face.
Howard slurped at the frothing can as Chef laughed while he grabbed another two beers from the fridge. As he sat down at the table he said, “So, how’d you hear about me, was it London Tony?”
Trace the journey of a ten pound note through the lives of five owners. What was exchanged during the transactions? How much (or how little) did the transaction mean to each of the people involved?
Saturday night at the hole in the wall and Jerry takes out an extra tenner, put it in the back of his wallet telling himself that no matter what else he spends tonight the tenner will be marked as taxi money only. There was no way he is going to end up dazed and soiled with his flatmate’s one night stand stepping over him the next day, taking an incriminating shot before leaving the flat and posting it on Facebook.
Pissed and hardly able to say his name, mainly because he had forgotten it, Jerry staggers into the kebab shop and screams as he shields his eyes to the bright fluorescent light. Although he can’t remember his name, he can remember to ask for extra chilli sauce of his shish kebab. Jerry knows that all he needs is some food inside him and then he’ll feel much better. It is only when he reaches for his wallet and finds it gone does he’s world start to tumble down. With no food to fuel his brain, Jerry loses all memories completely, from what club he’d been to, to where he lives. Jerry promises himself (again) that he’ll never, ever drink this much ever, ever, ever.
Meanwhile, outside The Ritzy…
Linda has had a horrible night. First she had a steaming row with her best mate, Gazza over a bloke who looked okay, but as soon as the cold air had hit it quickly transpired he was too pissed to remember his own name, let alone where he lived and had staggered off towards the local kebab shop, not realising that Linda had stayed back. Meanwhile Linda was hanging outside The Ritzy, hoping Gazza would come out too so they could go home and make up over a curry pot-noodle.
Ten minutes later…
After arguing with the bouncer that she was in fact not that drunk and promised she would not end up causing another scene in the club, Linda gave up and decided to go home alone. it was then she saw a wallet on the ground and picked it up to see it belonged to the drunk who had staggered off to the kebab shop. The good part of Linda thought about trying to find him, but when she saw the tenner folded neatly in the back of the wallet, she thought, Oh fuck it, took the tenner, dropped the wallet in the nearest bin and made her way to the taxi rank.
Outside the taxi rank…
Underneath the blanket was huddled Jamie and his dog, Wordsworth. Unbeknown to the ignoring crowds above, Jamie had a lot of interesting tales to tell, but no one had time to stop and listen. If he was lucky, he would get the occasional coin thrown, but what he really needed was a lucky break to get enough money for and his dog Wordsworth to get the train back home to his mum and dads, but Lady Luck, The Good-fairy Godmother and his Guardian Angel had all been on an extnded holiday for what felt like years. However! Tonight Jamie’s luck changes when he watches a ten pound note fall to the ground as a pissed passer by precariously past him and plonks herself into a cab.
Then the drug dealer appeared…
Growing up, Jamie had been an avid fan of the kids TV show, Jamie and the Magic Torch and had eventually convinced himself he was the real life, Jamie. At first his parents had humoured him when he came home with a dog and said its name was Wordsworth, they even ignored his late night sessions spent under his bed shining his torch at the floor, but when it became apparent he had a serious problem with drugs, so they had kicked him out. Life on the streets was no picnic for Jamie, but his drug dealer was always popping past and doing cheeky deals with Jamie.
Jamie was delighted to have the tenner, but it was far too little for a train ticket home, so Jamie was greatly relived to see the drug dealer who who had the powder that enabled Jamie to travel once agin (Unfortunately without his magic torch as he’d pawned that a long while back) ’d pawned a long time ago) to better, kinder worlds beyond this realm.
With the deal done…
The drug dealer slipped off into the shadows and broke the one cardinal rule of drug dealing, don’t take the stuff yourself. With his newly acquired tenner, the drug dealer got out his bag of the latest street drug, Trish, rolled the tenner up and took a hearty snort of the powder and promptly collapsed. Gradually his fingers unraveled as Trish took hold and pulled him into a nightmare not that dissimilar to a short story called, I love Trish in a book, called, Blanche Street, you dear reader can downloaded from amazon.co.uk.
A gush of wind took the tenner out of the dealer’s hand and something very unusual happened in one of Glenn’s story, a happy ending! You see, the wind caught the tenner, took the rolled tube high into the air and as it unraveled, it floated down, landing in front of Jerry.
Having finished all the bottles and with Trisha Steers nowhere to be seen, the group left the dining room in search of more booze. Unaware of the horror that was going on around them, Dan, Rose and Cherry found the kitchen and searched the cupboards only to find them all completely bare of any food.
“Old Mother Hubbard.” said Dan absentmindedly.
Rose then called the others to a large dustbin by the backdoor, “Look at this lot.” Cherry and Dan went to see what she was looking at to find the bin full of empty take-away cartons.
“So what?” said Dan
Cherry looked at one of the lids, “Oh, Jamie Heston’s deluxe take away service, we’ve used him before”.
Rose looked at the others and said, “Yes, I know who it is, but don’t you think it strange that there’s no more food in this place?”
Cherry glanced at Dan, then said, “Well maybe Trisha Steers has another delivery in the morning, it’s not like we’ll be going for a jog in the morning is it?”
Rose was about to speak, when all the lights went out, causing all three of the x-classmates to scream, with Dan making the highest pitched noise out of the three.
“Oh my god” quivered Dan, “What’s going on?”
“Nothing!” snapped Rose, “it’s just a power cut, get a grip Dan.”
Rose then turned to Cherry and said, “I don’t suppose you know where the fusebox would be do you?”
Cherry let out a nervous laugh, “I’m guessing it’s in the basement, or maybe on the top floor?”
“Okay Cherry, you and Dan have a look in the basement, i’ll see if there’s anything fuse boxed shaped upstairs.”
Dan looked like he was about to burst into tears, when Rose punched his arm, “Christ sake Dan, you may dress all macho, but you’re nothing but a bloody wimp: man-up!”
As Dan and Cherry made there way down into the cellar, Rose tried the lift but found it out of order so took to the stairs. As she got closer to the top floor she could here someone one singing, “Orange and lemons said the bells of St Clements, you owe me five farthings send the bells of St Martins”
“Hello,” Said Rose, “Bella? May? Is that you?
As she climbed the stairs she heard more clearly what they were singing
“When will you pay me said the bells of Old Bailey, when I grow rich, said the bells of Shoreditch.”
Rose paused on the stair, “Who’s there?” Ignoring Rose’s request, singing continued, “When will that be said the bells of Stepney. Rose became agitated, “Bella, stop being an idiot,” but also a little frightened and wished she had gabbed herself a weapon, if only to freak Bella out. She then turned on to the top stair and on to the landing and saw a glow of a candle at the very end of the hall, but couldn’t quite make out who it was holding it. She was about to call out again when the lights all came back on.
Down in the basement, Cherry and Dan let out a cry of delight, but Rose screamed out loud as she saw that the figure was neither Bella or May, but a nun, with a skull for a face, holding up a huge axe.
Terrified, Rose began to walk backwards as the nun continued to stride towards her, finishing off the rest of the rhyme, “Here comes the candle to light you to bed, here comes the chopper to chop off your head.”
As they made there way back to the ground floor, Cherry and Dan called out to Rose, but got no reply.
They were about to call out again when they heard a muffled cry coming from inside a cupboard. Cherry pulled the door and were shocked to see Trisha Steers, gagged with her hands tied behind her back come tumbling out.
Dan and Cherry quickly untied Trisha who seemed in a terrible state.
“Who did this to you?” cried Cherry.
As Trisha pulled herself up, she pulled the gag from her mouth and said, “I have no idea, I thought it was you or one of your friends playing a joke on me.”
Dan ran off and came back with a large carving knife. Cherry and Trisha both looked on with alarm and said in unison, “What are you doing?”
Dan, who had a crazed look in his eyes said, I know who exactly did this, Johnny Bloody Flynn.”
All memories of that fateful day came flooding back into Cherry’s head as she called out for Dan to come back, but he had already taken to the stairs, two at a time.
Cherry helped Trisha into the lounge and said, “Do you have any brandy?”
Trisha smiled weakly, “Thank you my dear, but I don’t drink, never have, never will.”
Cherry shook her head, “You may not, but I really need a stiff drink, right now.”
Trisha nodded, searched inside her dress pocket and pulled out a small silver key and nodded to a cabinet in the corner of the room.
Taking the key, Cherry’s hand trembled as she slipped the key in the lock and opened the cabinet door. Inside was a single decanter and a single crystal cut glass.
Cherry sniffed the decanter, “Good, brandy, just what I need”.
She then poured herself a large measure and took three hearty swigs as she tried to get rid of the image of Johnny’s Flynn’s frighted face looking back at her in her minds eye.
As she took a fourth swig her lip tasted a bitterness which she chose to ignore, putting it down to her own anxiety as she drained the glasses contents.
Searching every room, floor by floor, Dan found each room empty. By the time he reached the top floor, he’s heart was beating fast with fury. He had hated Johnny Flynn as a child and so much more as an adult. Over the years he had played the moment when he had finally got rid of that snotty nosed kid, the one his parents had complained so much about that he had hoped if he could get rid of Johnny, then maybe his parents would notice him and give him the love he had craved. Of course his parents never changed, which only made Dan all the more convinced that Johnny Flynn had survived. Even though both his parents had since died in a mysterious cars crash, now was Dan’s turn to get rid of Johnny Flynn once and for all.
Although Cherry didn’t feel quite right, she put it down to the horror of her memories crashing in over and over her mind with Johnny Flynn’s petrified face looming ever closer and so she took a direct swig from the bottle and enjoyed the burning sensation as the brandy coated her insides.
She then noticed that Trisha seemed to have recovered from her ordeal quite quickly and was changing from her maids outfit into a long black gown. Cherry asked what she was doing, to which Trisha replied, “Just preparing myself for the climax of this very special reunion my dear”.
Cherry was about to ask what Trisha meant, when the brandy bottle slipped from her hand and crashed to the floor, next she felt her legs buckle beneath her as she fell back on a chair behind her.
Trisha turned and continued to fix the nun’s habit in place.
With all the rooms on the top floor empty, Dan turned to the small stair case leading to the attic room. “Your mine now Johnny Flynn,” growled Dan as his hand tightly gripped the knife and he slowly made his may to the top of the stairs. Turning the doorknob, Dan threw the door opened and yelled out, “Ha!” only to find the room empty, bar a mattress in the corner and a desk in the middle of the room. As he walked to the centre of the room he lit the candle on the side of the desk and saw a scrap book set out on the middle of the desk. Turning the first page he saw a headline from the Coalville Times: “LOCAL BOY MISSING.” Below that was a picture of Johnny Flynn. Dan turned the next page and saw the next headline: “LOCAL COALVILLE BOY STILL MISSING, FEARED DEAD”. Below this was a later news clipping in smaller letters: Missing Coalville Boy Suspected of Running Away, Search Suspended.
Dan couldn’t help but let out a chuckle, but then he turned to the next page and let out a gasp as the face of Trisha Steers stared back at him, dressed as a nun with the headline: NUN SO LUCKY! Sister Theresa: Jackpot winner!
Dan looked at the picture, then the headline, then back at the picture again, “Oh my God, it’s an anagram! Trisha Steers is Sister Theresa!”
Way back in early 2012, QueenSpark books put a call out for writers to submit ideas for stories based on Brighton’s diverse history. The stories in turn were to be to a local artist to bring the stories alive. My original story was based on the Infamous Brighton Trunk Murders. Although this story won me a place in the project, during later meetings the group was asked who would like to write a story based on Brighton’s LGBT scene; I put my hand up and wrote a completely different script but reworked my trunk murder story: Dead Famous.
While writing Dead Famous I had the idea for the Blanche Street tale, Filth and began to write the two stories to complement each other and reveal the truth of what was attacking Netty in her tale and also connect this Brighton tale with my Blanche Street Tales.
I began to get the threads of my story together by first reading up on some of the grim deaths and murders of Brighton: there have been a fair few which has kept those men and women dressed up in Victorian clobber busy as they take people around Brighton and reveal the darker side of Brighton.
For me personally it was Brighton Trunk Murders that stayed with me as being the most shocking and soI decided to write an updated version of these tales while linking it to the past.
While writing the two tales, Filth and Dead Famous I played around with names for my protagonist, again I tried a few but it was when I introduced the other main characters, Janice and Nic that the Name Bryan popped into my head. I needed a device to give the reader an idea of age difference and so I had Janice do the work for me.
“Bryan with a Y”, replied Janice, “like Bryan Ferry. I guess you’re too young to remember him.”
I wanted to make further differences between these three characters, this was achieved through the use of costume; While Bryan wears an ill fitting overcoat, Janice and Nic are much more smartly dressed which intrigues and disturbs Bryan and hopefully the readers too.
Bryan dived round the corner and straight into the path of a woman in a full length mink fur coat.
This story is worth reading more then once as the reader gets to understand some of the more sinister moments that first time round seem quite innocent. A good example come in the scene when Janice cajoles Bryan to go to the pub for a drink.
Before he had a chance to answer, Janice linked her arm into Bryan’s and led him through the narrows lanes, until they came outside the Cricketers. Bryan tried to protest by saying he’d forgotten to bring his wallet, but Janice just laughed and pulled him into the warmth of the pub.
“Sit yourself down Bryan, I’m just going to powder my nose, while Nick gets us all a drink. What you having, lager?”
Poor Bryan genuinely thinks he has made some new friends when in fact the pair are putting the next part of their evil plan into action. For those who know the ending of the brilliant film, The Vanishing, will recognise the weapon Janice uses against Bryan.
The ending of the film, The Vanishing is one of the most deliciously disturbing films of that style of horror genre, non-gory but equally horrifying.
I wanted the ending of my story, Dead Famous to have a similar impact. Want to read it? then follow the link below to Inkitt and download it to read for free, in return please sign up to Inkitt (you won’t get bombard with spam) and rate my story.
In the beginning the first few drafts of Happy birthday to me were a much longer as i tried to get an idea of who my main characters were. I had a good few paragraphs exploring the parents relationship which was on patchy ground but eventually all that was cut. This story was also being written as part of my dissertation for my MA, at that stage I had all the stories happening in one house over a period of years and the travelling trunk which pops up as a main character in, Filth and Dead Famous was to be a thread within all these stories. After my MA I dismantled all the tales back to my original concept of the tales being in different houses in the infamous Blanche Street.
I became fascinated by the amount of deaths that happen because people dig holes in the sand and then get buried alive and because of the nature of sand there is no evidence of where the hole was which was truely frightening. It was around this time I was told about two brothers and one had buried his brother up to his neck which ended in tragedy, it was this story that I wanted to explore further and give it my own twist.
In my story I made the brothers twins as I wanted to play on all the families grief and the surviving child’s desperation to make things right. As I continued to craft the story I asked the favourite writers question, “What if”. From here I asked, What if the twin that had died was the parents favourite, from here the story began to get very twisted as the mother, unable to cope with her favourite twin’s death leave the family home to convalesce at her parent home. This alone is quiet horrifying, the thought of a mother turning her back on her son, but made all the worse by the father who also favoured his dead son continues to make mistakes.
“Come on kiddo let’s get you home; we can order a take-away, sweet and sour pork’s your favourite, right?”
Chris has not spoken more than two words since the accident, but now he wants to scream. Take-aways have always been a treat, but now they are the norm. What is worse is that sweet and sour pork has always been Craig’s’ favourite dish, not his!
As well as this horror I wanted to create a nightmare for Chris as he starts to see things that may be coming from his fragile imagination or really are supernatural occurrences drummed up from his brothers untimely death.
With sleep pulling him ever deeper, he once again hears water rushing in under the bedroom door. The salty smell of the sea fills his nostrils as he prays for the water to stop. In no time the water beings to seep into the mattress. Unable to move, unable to scream, Chris holds his breath as the water surges over him.
The story ends with Chris praying to make things right. The ending is purposely ambiguous: has Chris given up his body for the ghost of his brother to take over, was the whole thing a nightmare from a single child? Did the doctor give him something to alter his state of mind? or has Chris simply given up his personality in place of his grief. Of course with all stories of this kind, it is up to the reader to decide.
I Love Trish.
I love Trish, it is one of my favourite tales from the Blanche Street Tales. This story was originally written as a trilogy, paying homage to those 1970’s style horror tales: Doctor Terrors house of Horrors, Tales from the Crypt and the Karen Black classic, Trilogy of Terror. When I was putting this collection of Blanche Street Tales together I revisited this story which was about a group of friends taking a new street drug and each experiencing some mind bending horrors. As I began to rewrite the tale I decided for all the horrors to happen to one person, Howard.
From the very start I wanted to create an environment that would alienate my protagonist, and so I have Howard on a train journey from Norwich to Ipswich and then of course on to Blanche Street where he meets the main villain of the piece, Chef. In the same way that horror films have the audience shouting to the victim “Don’t go into the wood/attic/cellar” I want my readers to be shouting the same to Howard as he gets in ever deeper all in his pursuit of Trish.
I wanted to create a new street drug and chose Trish in the same way other street drugs are given moniker, like Charlie for cocaine. The drug I made up takes the user into another realm altogether, dependant on what’s on their mind.
(spoiler alert) Unfortunately for Howard he keeps thinking and seeing an animal that will lead to his horrible demise by the end of the tale.
Howard went to clear up the partly chewed, greasy chicken bones only for Chef to yell, “Fucking leave it, get your arse in the back.” (I Love Trish).
I remember reading an article around the same time about an 80’s pop star talking about his drug addiction to heroin. He felt that because he was snorting the drug his drug use wasn’t as hardcore as those who injected; for me this was an interesting paradox that I wanted to include in my story. So I have Howard continuing to get in an ever deeper situation with the reader looking on as a concerned bystander, hopeful urging him to just get on the train back home.
He then reached back into the sports bag and produced a sterile wrapped syringe. For Howard, the whole situation suddenly got turned on its head. “I, I, I, wasn’t thinking of injecting it, I, I, I, mean I’ve never done that before Kes never mentioned needles.” (I Love Trish).
Most of the Blanche Street tales interact with each other, giving some extra information to the reader. (Spoiler alert) In the previous story, The Fall of Derrick Houser, Derrick’s home is flooded by the Chefs rubbish which has a distinctive smell of rotting flesh. My hope is that this will get the reader to think that the last scene in I love Trish is not only a horrible hallucination, but that the Chef is in fact chopping his victims up for his dinner. Howard also hears the painful cries of Derrick calling out for his long dead sister, Madeline, as he passes number seven.
With his last ounce of energy, Howard threw his head to one side and stopped dead. The sound of a large kitchen knife being sharpened behind him became his soundtrack. (I Love Trish)
A filthy sheen from next door’s rubbish glistens on top of the water, filling the kitchen with a familiar stench. (The Fall of Derrick Houser)
From the point of Howard taking Trish, things get very strange, A strong influence comes from the hallucination scene in Trainspotting. A key scene in the film is when Renton has his nightmare as he goes cold turkey. I can still conjure up that scene very clearly now and wanted to have a go at creating a scene that the reader wouldn’t forget in a hurry. With feedback from fans of the book, I believe I achieved what I set out to do. *Throughout this story I wanted to pull the reader into a deeper, disturbing world which gets grimmer and grimmer as Howard spirals into his drug induced hallucination. For some reason at this stage I was reminded of Charlotte Bronte when in her novel Jane Eyer she address the reader directly: “Reader, I married him”, (Chapter 38) and it felt like a great device to use in this tale.
all he could manage was a flutter of his wings as he waited for his neck to be snapped. “If only dear reader, if only.” I Love Trish.
*want to know what that scene was? Just download the book to find out: www.amazon.co.uk/product-reviews/B00OWFK1SA.
I was asked the other day which writers inspire my writing, along with Stephen King, Christopher Folwer and Clive Barker, Edgar Allan Poe is right up there. In his time Poe created soem of the most influential horror stories and poems including, The Tell Tale Heart, The Raven and The Fall of the House of Usher. It was this tale of a man trapped in his own mansion by a sudden downpour and the secrets of his home coming out of the basement to haunt him. It was this particular tale that inspired me to have my own stab at a Poe-esque tale with my reimagining of his tale with mine called, The Fall of Derrick Houser. (Derrick Houser is an anagram of Poe’s protagonist, Roderick Usher)
The very first image I had was of Derrick’s breakfast table, with the jars of jam, butter and marmalade all laid out in military fashion, suggesting how Derrick likes order in his life, something that increasingly stops happening as the story progresses.
Art work is also an important tool to bring my stories to life, My friend Sarah Prades created the ‘chapter doors’. For this story (along with the cover and the painting for Dead Famous), Hazel Bottrill created this brilliant piece of art. I particularly like the bread bin giving off its own subliminal message!
As I began to write this Blanche Street Tale, I kept hearing Derrick’s mum’s voice butting in, (my characters have a habit of doing that) and realised that even though Derrick mum was dead, I could still use her voice to give the reader a backstory of Derrick’s past evil deed.
“Mummy won’t be angry Derrick, just tell me what you have done.”
Originally I also used the lyrics from different songs playing on the radio to reflect what was happening to derrick and his surroundings , until I researched into whether this was allowed; it’s not. Unlike academic work were you can cite, a passage and reference it at the back, lyrics need the permission from the musician and then a heavy fee to use said lyrics, song titles on the other hand can be used and so I went down that road instead to set the scene before the big storm.
“Next up we have the Beatles with, Here Comes the Sun.”
As in Poe’s story I wanted to create an atmosphere of claustrophobia by trapping my protagonist in his own home and so I used the same device as poem and introduced a frightening thunder storm. This also allowed me to introduce another layer from the next tale, I Love Trish.
A filthy sheen from next door’s rubbish glistens on top of the water, filling the kitchen with a familiar stench.
More about the link to, I love Trish, in the next post.
With the storm brewing in my story, I was able to trap Derrick and just as his mother interjects snippets from the past, the house throws up its own memories.
The room had been decorated many times yet there they are, clear as day, faded bar marks of Madeline’s cot stretched along the wall.
As the storm clouds gather, the ghost of Madeline continues to make herself present. Again I wanted to have a nod to the works of Poe, this time from his brilliant Poem, The Raven
‘I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door.’
Edgar Allan Poe: The Raven
“Straining his neck he tries to look out of the kitchen window, but the dark clouds and heavy rain make it impossible to see what is tap, tap, tapping against the back kitchen door.”
Another literary influence for this particular tale takes Freud, Oedipus’s complex (where the son wishes to kill off his father and marry his mother!) to the very extreme, but also Derrick’s mother is just as complicit and just as evil in her desire to have her son all to herself. But as in most of the Blanche Street Tales, this gruesome twosome evils deeds come back to haunt them both.
a Paperback version of Blanche Street will be published later this year.
I love Urban Myths/Urban Legends, those oh so familiar tales that are said to be based on true stories, but always happened to a friend of friend; from the fried rat found mixed in with the bucket of fried chicken and fries, to the cautionary tale of the young lovers, car broke down in the middle of no where then they hear on the radio of a mad man with a hook for a hand on the loose near to where they are parked. So when I head a story about candy-floss (to find out why candy-floss should be so horrifying, you’ll have to read the short story, Sugar Almonds) I knew I had a great story waiting to be written, but this one IS TRUE!
taking the template of young lovers out on a night out, I invented Robert and Juliette, (hey to call him Romeo would have been too much right?) and set the couple off on a romantic night that get’s a little bit drak when a gypsy tells Juliette,
“Alas my dear before the night is finished you’ll experience a horror like never before.”
As with most of the tales in Blanche Street, neighbours pop in and out of each others stories, with Jed from The Nightmare, literally staggering into Juliet and Robert’s story.
“Juliet squeezed Robert’s arm as a lanky drunk bloke came staggering towards them ”.
Although this story is written in a fairy tale way, just like a good fairy tale (and an urban myth) the pay off at the end of such cautionary tales are less gore and more down to the final image which will refuse to leave your mind for a long time. It was when I was told this story with the exact ending I have used in this story that I knew i had a great story for the Blanche Street collection. I don’t really feel there’s much need to go into the story any more without giving it all away, so why not troll over to amazon.co.uk and download the book: Blanche Street: where all the neighbours are a nightmare.
When I was a teenager I devoured the Pan Books of Horror series, loving the lurid covers as much as the stories inside. Back then I dreamed of writing my own horror stories, I had a couple of goes at school, but never really had the confidence to really go for it.
Fast forward to 2003 when I enrolled at Brighton City College and so begun my creative writing journey. the other day I dug out my work file and realised that it was then I wrote the first draft for my short story, Frank. My tutor, the brilliant Maria Ragusa set a task for us to create a character based on a part of the body; I was given a rotting tooth.Almost from the start, the character of Frank came to mind. His name was there from the start, a no nonsense man who believed his way was the only way and like the tooth he was rotten to the core.
This story is influenced by a whole host of books and films, including Pan Books of horror collection about a man who had died and gone to hell and was expecting an eternity of untold fear and punishment in the shape of fire and brimstone. Instead he was stuck in a windowless room, a bookshelf filled with outdated copies of Readers digest and a record-player,with one record playing several hours of Terry Wogan telling jokes, that was to be his hell. The Devil also appears as a really camp character who wipes his three prong folk with a silk hanky and calls the man “Ducky”, Christopher Fowler’s brilliant Faust based tale, Spanky which drove me on to write my own Faust type tale in which someone (usually a man), gives up his soul in exchange for his greatest desires and the segment from the Twilight Zone movie about a bigoted man who hates everything
With all these things in mind I created Frank, a bigoted skinhead who hates his wife kids, neighbours, Norwich football supporters and everybody else who steps into his path. The basic bones of the story wrote itself, with Frank being lured to a meeting place after reading a personal ad in the newspaper, by a man called Christopher.
“Are you a meathead? Tough-nut? Sadist?
Do you enjoy blood sports? Cruelty? Carnage?
Get in touch, let us make your favourite nightmares
Box number 19120114.”
The box numbers, 19,1,14,1,14 I put in to give a clue to who Christopher really was: 19 = S and so on. Throughout the tales in Blanche Street, other neighbours pop up in each other’s stories. In “Frank’ there’s a nod to Nettie, he’s nosey neighbour and also one of his magazines is written about Jed Savage, from the short story, The Nightmare.
“In the past he had been rewarded by obscure subscriptions to magazines such as, The Nightmare: Jed Savage, Alien Possession.
More about that story later.
I also wanted to play on Frank’s weaknesses, where as Frank wants the meeting place to be a war bunker, he is faced with something far more disturbing to him.
“ Instead of a castle or war bunker there stood a ridiculously pretty country cottage: complete with red roses around the door.”
As with all the tales in this book, there are some very disturbing horrors behind call the closed doors.
Also whereas Frank uses brawn and brawl to help him beat his victim, Christopher uses fancy words to disarm his victim.
“He then waved his hand at the cottage and said, “Don’t be put off by the quaint abode, it’s a short lease.”
From here I wanted to take the reader into Frank’s perverse world of celebrating all things Nazi. In the beginning Frank is thrilled to see objects from the Holocaust, but as the reality of the objects become more real, Frank begins to feel more and more uncomfortable, but because Frank is rotten to the core (the rotten tooth remember), he quickly pushes such thoughts to one side as if closing a book. And so it was important for the horror to be ranked up, which I won’t go into here as it will spoil the story. Some feedback has said this story made uncomfortble raeding dur to it’s subject matter, but that really is what horror is all about, to take the reader to dark places. At the time of writing this tale there was a cleraer voice about homosexual men who had been sent to the death camps, but for many years after the WW2 when being gay was still a criminal offence these victims voise was left unheard, somthing Christopher picks up on when he says to Frank,“This one is covered in many different stains. I always think it is nice to have the emblem intact, the pink ones are so often more faded.”
To find out Frank’s outcome pop on over to Amazon.co.uk
Blanche Street can be downloaded to your iphone, ipad and computer from Amazon for the great price of £3.08.