More to Me Than HIV Read more

More to Me Than HIV

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: GScene post Aug 2020

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

More to Me Than HIV: 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 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

The Raven

Creating Derrick (The Fall of Derrick Houser) Blanche Street Tale

7I 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 Fall of Derrick Houser

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.

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Gothic Literature: A Snap Shot

The 18th Century saw the birth of novel. There was already a readership for autobiographies, journals and memoirs; however, the novel brought a new style to the emerging middle classes. Daniel Defoe is credited as the founder of the English novel, with Robinson Crusoe (1719) and Moll Flanders (1722). Both novels were written with a sense of realism and human dilemma which proved extremely popular to his readership.

By the middle of the 18th Century, Horace Walpole: English art historian, man of letters, antiquarian and Whig politician was also keen fanatic of all things Gothic, and is acknowledged as the person who invented the Gothic novel, with his tomb, The Castle of Otranto (1764). In the first edition Walpole claimed the story was a translation based on a found manuscript dated from 1529. Once the Novel was received positively, Walpole would confess that the work was from his own imagination.

For the 21st Century reader,Walpole’s story lends themselves more to an episode of Scooby-doo, with his over the top characters and cliché plot devices. These include the family curse, a haunted castle, and of course, a maiden in distress. What is interesting to note are that many of the elements that Walpole created are reimagined in many modern-day Gothic novels. For example Stephen King’s The Shinning (1977) replaces the haunted house on the hill with an out of season hotel. The main protagonist, Jack Torrance, becomes possessed by the hotel’s curse, while his wife becomes a Twenty-First Century maiden in distress.

Although common now, it would take a few more years before the Gothic genre would truly be embraced by the reading public. In fact it would be another thirty years before the next celebrated Gothic tale would make any impact. This time the tale was penned by celebrated writer Ann Radcliffe and her equally over the top Gothic offering, The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794). Once again a young woman is holed up in a cumbering castle, this time her tormentor is her evil aunt and the aunt’s lover. Radcliffe already had a large female following among the upper-classes and the newly emerging middle-classes. It was these readers that would champion the gothic style, embracing the high (camp) drama, knowing that by the final page the hero and heroine would both live happily every after.

Two year later, Matthew Lewis would release his own Gothic tale, titled The Monk (1796). In comparison to what had come before, Lewis’ novel was more explicit in its subject matter, but as with all good Gothic tales, it made its mark. At the time, literary giant Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote that Lewis was, “the offspring of no common genius”

            Around this period a selection of artist abandoned the traditional landscapes and portraits for something darker. One of the most iconic paintings to embrace the Gothic elements came from Henry Fuseli and his 1782 painting, The Nightmare. The painting depicts a young woman draped provocatively on a bed. Sitting upon her stomach sits a ‘Mara’, an evil spirit that brings nightmares to those it visits.

These images of sexuality and horror are key to many Gothic tales, particularly in Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula, were ‘the other’ contaminates the innocent Mina and her friend Lucy. Interestingly, the character of Mina is less submissive, but it is the gallant male protagonists who once again save the day.

In the 21st Century the Gothic tradition is as popular as ever, with contemporary writers like Stephen King, Clive Barker and Anne Rice showing the dark side of the modern world, where the monsters no longer live far away in castles, but may just be in the house next-door.

Posted on by Glenn Stevens in Fiction & Books, film, Flash Blogs, Gothic horror, Leisure, Literature Leave a comment

Edgar Allan Poe, The Man, The Madness, The Movie.

When it comes to great literature, gothic horror is usually classified at the bottom of the pile. This genre is often seen as little more than pulp fiction to amuse teenage boys, where they can delve into a place filled with crumbling castles and damsels in distress.  This is particularly true when discussing the works of Edgar Allan Poe, whose short stories and poems hang heavy with bleakness and dread, where the reader can be pretty sure there will be no happy ever after, but there is sop much more to his work than the usual clichés

To dismiss the work of Poe’s as little more than a throw away read would be doing this man a great disservice as his work has gone on to influence some of our greatest writers and helped bring dark stirrings into some of the best-loved literature. It was Poe who invented the detective genre, with his shocking short story, ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue, (1841) which in turn led Arthur Conan Doyle to stand up and say that Poe was a major influence on his own tales in detective fiction. One doesn’t have to look too far to see how Poe has influenced other writers, including Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre where the pages are littered with gothic images, from the imposing building of Thornfield Hall, to the terrible secret locked away in the attic. (no spoilers, just pick up a copy and find out just how dark celebrated romantic Bronte was).

To understand Poe’s work, one only has to look into his life, filled with great tragedies and heart ache. Edgar Poe was born on 19 January 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts, to parents Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins and David Poe. Before he reached the age of three his father had abandoned him and his siblings; further gloom fell upon when their mother died after a short illness. Soon after Poe would find himself separated from his brother William Henry Leonard Poe and younger sister Rosalie, and would be brought up by a wealthy merchant John Allan and his wife, moving to Richmond, Virginia. Although Poe done well with his studies, he would later become estranged from his adopted family after accumulating huge gambling debts.

Unable to pay his college fees or debts, Poe enlisted in the United States Army, although he had been writing for some time it was at this stage he started to take his role as writer seriously and paid for his first set of poetry, called Tamerlane and Other Poems (1831), published. Later that same year he published a second book of poetry called Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane with growing success. Around the same time he left the army and moved to Baltimore to live with his aunt Maria Clemm, and her daughter Virginia Eliza Clemm. Poe’s brother Henry was also living at the house but died shortly after from tuberculosis.

When Virginia turned thirteen, Poe proposed and married his cousin; back then neither her age or relationship to Poe were considered out of the ordinary. However, for Poe, his marriage to Virginia and her subsequence period of ill-health would prove to have a massive influence on his work. For many months Poe would have to watch the woman he loved slip onto the brink of death. Poe would sit by her bedside and watch helplessly waiting for the love of his life to leave him forever, only for her to make a near partial recovery giving him hope that Virginia would be back in his life again. Time and time again Poe was put through these agonies, as Virginia fell dreadfully ill and again Poe would watch on in horror as death waited patiently on the other side of the bed. The experience would lead Poe to revisit these horrors in some of his most celebrated work, including, the poem, Lenore, (1831) and his brilliant short stories Ligeia, (1838) and brilliant short story, The Fall of the House of Usher (1839) where within these dark tales the heroine would come back from the dead to haunt the living.

Although Poe wrote prolifically throughout his life, he never had copywrite to his own work. So although he was celebrated during his own life time, he would struggle financially throughout. Alcohol would also play a large part in Poe downfall.

Throughout the early 1970’s Poe’s tales became the bread and butter for the films directed by Roger Corman   where their main star Vincent Price reveled in bringing Poe’s creations to life with such classics as The Fall of the House of Usher, (1960), The Pit and the Pendulum (1961) Tales of Terror  (1962), The Raven (1963), The Masque of the Red Death  (1964), and The tomb of Ligeia (1965).

As camp and fun as these films are, nothing compares to Poe’s words. In a rather tragic, although very Poe way, Edgar Allen Poe died in mysterious circumstances, with no one really sure how he met his demise. A film released next Friday called The Raven (2012), directed by directed by James (V for Vendetta)  McTeigue, where some of Poe’s best known stories are brought to life. For those who have never read a word of Poe, get yourself a copy of his tales and see what you’re missing, for as much as he’s work is considered pulp, the world he has conjured will stay in your mind long after you have put down the book, now that is a true master of literature.

Posted on by Glenn Stevens in Fiction & Books, film, Gothic horror, Leisure, Literature 4 Comments