Recommended Reading – On Writing

onwriting2Stephen King’s ON WRITING: A MEMOIR OF THE CRAFT was first published in 2000. Part-biography, part-toolbox and instructional manual, and part-something else entirely, it’s a unique read. But I’m guessing you already know that. I’m assuming many of you may have already read it. A lot of fellow horror/ suspense/ thriller writers visit here, and of those of you who are more interested in reading than writing, I’m sure a large proportion are die-hard King fans. So why am I recommending it now?

When I signed my first major publishing contract back in early 2008 (I’d worked almost exclusively by myself until that point, and the contract I signed for the first version of STRAIGHT TO YOU definitely was not major), I began to mix with a large number of fellow authors from many different walks of publishing life. A number of them suggested I should read ON WRITING, and I duly followed their advice. I ordered a copy and devoured it quickly. I took on board a lot of King’s sagely advice, and thoroughly enjoyed the read. And then I put the book on my over-crowded shelf and left it there.

A few months ago, though, while looking for summer holiday reads in advance of getting on a plane and doing bugger-all in the sun around a pool for a week, I picked it up again. I read it voraciously in a single day, and it was revelatory.

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Stake Land

stake_landI guess we all have films we fully intend to watch on release but then, for one reason or another, we end up missing. I don’t know about you, but I have a ‘to watch’ pile that’s as big as my ‘to read’ pile. Today’s movie recommendation, Jim Mickle’s 2010 STAKE LAND, is one such film which I’d been planning to watch for years but only just got around to. STAKE LAND popped back up on my radar recently when it was announced that a sequel – THE STAKELANDER – has been filmed in secret. In these days of set reports and teaser images and trailers for trailers, it’s so refreshing to hear about a movie project for the first time once it’s in the can.

You’ve probably already seen STAKE LAND by now. In any event, here’s a synopsis and trailer. Click the link below for my brief thoughts.

America is a lost nation. When an epidemic of vampirism strikes and his family is slaughtered, young Martin (Connor Paolo) is taken under the wing of a grizzled, wayward hunter (Nick Damici) whose new prey are the undead. Simply known as Mister, the vampire stalker takes Martin on a journey through the locked-down towns of America’s heartland, searching for a better place to call home while taking down any bloodsuckers that cross their path.

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The Rover

My first film recommendation of 2016 and wow, what a belter I have for you today. David Michôd‘s THE ROVER is a bleak and surprising dystopian tale which features a superb performance from the ever-reliable Guy Pearce. Watch the trailer and click the link below for my thoughts.

10 years after a global economic collapse, a hardened loner pursues the men who stole his only possession, his car. Along the way, he captures one of the thieves’ brother, and the duo form an uneasy bond during the dangerous journey.

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The Unkindness of Ravens (and Lord of Tears)

I owe an apology to director Lawrie Brewster and writer Sarah Daly. After watching (and loving) their 2013 feature, LORD OF TEARS, I asked Sarah to answer a few questions for an article on this site. Events have since conspired against me, and I hadn’t been able to post the piece until now. Why now? Because their new movie THE UNKINDNESS OF RAVENS is currently in its last few days of Kickstarter funding, and it’s tantalisingly close to hitting its target. I urge you to watch the video below and get involved. If LORD OF TEARS is anything to judge the new movie by, your investment will be worth every penny.


I wanted to take this opportunity to talk a little about LORD OF TEARS, not least because one of the RAVENS’ Kickstarter perks is this incredible limited edition action figure of LoT’s iconic and nightmarish Owlman.

11046792_768172523310574_9088566045047970235_nLORD OF TEARS is a unique, beautifully filmed and paced, haunting movie which is truly worth your time. It tells the story of schoolteacher James who, haunted by horrific nightmares, returns to his childhood home in the Scottish Highlands. There he meets a mysterious woman whilst being plagued by visions of the terrifying Owlman. Once you’ve checked out the Kickstarter for RAVENS, click the link below to read more about LORD OF TEARS.

Please note – if you’re trying to track LORD OF TEARS down, a repackaged and retitled version of the film – OWL MAN – is coming in 2016.

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Maggie

When I heard that Arnold Schwarzenegger was starring in a zombie movie, I wasn’t interested. For me, the best zombie stories are about the surviving characters and how they deal with the dead, and by deal with the dead, I mean how they fight to stay safe and alive, not how many corpses they can kill and how big the guns and bombs they use are.

I’ve never been the biggest Schwarzenegger fan. Sure, I’ll happily watch the first two (maybe three) Terminator movies again and again, Total Recall is superb, and the first Predator movie is an eighties classic, but Arnie’s never been a personal favourite, and the thought of the ageing all-action, ex-bodybuilding, ex-politician rampaging through hordes of the living dead just didn’t appeal. When I heard more about the project – MAGGIE – I became more interested. And when I got around to watching the movie, I realised my preconceptions were misplaced. MAGGIE’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a damn good little movie (yes, little movie), and Schwarzenegger is a revelation.

As a viral pandemic spreads across America, Wade Vogel (Arnold Schwarzenegger) searches for his runaway daughter Maggie (Abigail Breslin) and finds her in the quarantine wing of a hospital. Wade brings his daughter back home to his family for the short time before the teenager begins a painful metamorphosis.

Determined to hold onto his precious daughter as long as he can and refusing to hand her over to the local police Wade edges ever closer to a time where he will have to take matters into his own hands.

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What We Do in the Shadows

final1.inddIt’s been a while since I’ve recommended a movie, and what better day to put that right than today. I don’t know what it’s like elsewhere but, here in the UK, Halloween is increasingly over-commercialised and family friendly. It’s about sweets and toys and parties now, with the true horror of the season and its dark origins long-forgotten.

Today I present for you a no-holds-barred, warts-and-all documentary about that most revered and reviled of monsters, the vampire. WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS is a chilling and revealing peek into the dark, depraved and sordid lives of the undead. Actually it’s not. WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS is, in fact, that rare movie beast: a horror comedy that works. It’s bloody hilarious, actually, and I don’t hesitate to recommend it for your Halloween evening viewing pleasure.

Follow the lives of Viago (Taika Waititi), Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), and Vladislav (Jemaine Clement) – three flatmates who are just trying to get by and overcome life’s obstacles – like being immortal vampires who must feast on human blood. Hundreds of years old, the vampires are finding that beyond sunlight catastrophes, hitting the main artery, and not being able to get a sense of their wardrobe without a reflection – modern society has them struggling with the mundane like paying rent, keeping up with the chore wheel, trying to get into nightclubs, and overcoming flatmate conflicts.

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The 5th Wave – London Under Attack

5th WaveHave you heard of THE 5TH WAVE? It’s a wildly successful apocalyptic YA book series by Rick Yancey. The novel first caught my eye thanks to a pretty spectacular trailer which accompanied its release back in 2013, and a big-budget movie adaptation (starring Chloë Grace Moretz and Liev Schreiberhits the screens early next year. When WATTPAD and SONY PICTURES asked me to write a UK-based short story about the first wave, I leapt at the chance.

You know, I think I’m generally pretty hard on my characters (and let’s face it, most of them deserve it), but I have nothing on Yancey. The 5th Wave deals with an alien invasion where the invaders inflict the titular apocalyptic waves on the planet in quick succession. The first wave – lights out – is an electromagnetic pulse which knocks out all electricity around the globe. That’s swiftly followed by literal waves as a series of tsunamis are triggered. As if that’s not enough, a devastating pandemic is then unleashed. The fourth wave is more subtle but no less deadly as the aliens appear among us, disguising themselves by taking human form. And the fifth wave…? Who knows. All will soon be revealed. The final book in the series is due out next year.TooYoung

The first two parts of my story (called TOO YOUNG TO BE OLD) are available to read right now at Wattpad. Please head over and check them out or use the widget I’ve embedded below. The final two parts will follow later this year. It would make me very happy if you’d read, vote, comment and share the story.

And to get you in the mood and whet your appetite, here’s the trailer for the movie:

And here’s the story:

War Book

war_bookIf you’re a regular here you should be aware of the legend that is (birthday boy) Ryan Fleming. As well as being a key member of Moody’s Survivors, he’s also a film director (WELCOME TO ESSEX), an intrepid reporter and zombie-experience survivor, and was a featured corpse in AUTUMN: AFTERMATH.

Ryan’s also an avid collector and watcher of post-apocalyptic movies and has given me plenty of great suggestions over the years. He mentioned another movie recently – WAR BOOK – and I’m really pleased he did. It’s a gripping BBC movie which is small in focus (it takes place largely in one room with a cast of ten), but large in scope.

It was recently shown on the BBC – UK viewers, you can still catch the film on iPlayer until around 6 September.

The premise is deceptively simple: a group of civil servants are shut in a room to practice their response and decisions to a rapidly escalating international crisis, triggered when Mumbai is hit with a nuclear weapon.

Here’s the trailer. Click the link for my thoughts.

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Night of the Living Dead (1990)

NIGHT-OF-THE-LIVING-DEAD-1990-posterA couple of times recently I’ve talked about remakes of classic horror movies. Sometimes they work, and sometimes they don’t. I maintain that in order for a remake to be a critical success, it has to have a point. It might be that the original fell short in some way, or that film-making technology has advanced sufficiently to benefit the telling of a particular story. Or maybe a sociological, environmental or political change or similar has given the premise a new lease of life.

Unfortunately, the George Romero scripted, Tom Savini directed 1990 remake of Romero’s classic NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD has very little reason to exist. I caught the remake on it’s opening weekend twenty-five years ago (twenty-five years… how did that happen?) and I took the opportunity to watch it again recently. I really enjoyed it when I was twenty, and I wondered how it would hold up today. The short answer – it didn’t. Not particularly well, anyway.

It’s a new night for terror – and a new dawn in horror movie-making when special-effects genius Tom Savini (creator of the spectacularly gruesome make-up in FRIDAY THE 13TH and CREEPSHOW) brings modern technology to this colourful remake of George A. Romero‘s 1968 cult classic. Seven strangers are trapped in an isolated farmhouse while cannibalistic zombies – awakened from death by the return of a radioactive space probe – wage a relentless attack, killing (and eating) everyone in their path. The classic for the 90s: graphic, gruesome and more terrifying than ever!

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An American Werewolf in London (and my regular Scream Magazine plug)

olly-mossawilThere are some films you can watch over and over and never get bored of. They’re timeless classics – as close to perfection as you can get. They’re the kind of films that make you recoil in terror whenever anyone dares mention remakes, because there’s absolutely no point. AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON is one of those films.

I’m taking the opportunity to write about it now because a). it’s one of my absolute favourite movies and b). it’s heavily featured in the latest edition of SCREAM magazine. I’m sure you’ve already seen it (if not, why not?), but here’s a quick summary courtesy of IMDB and a trailer (which was produced for the bluray release a few years back, and which completely fails to capture the atmosphere of this most atmospheric film). Click the link below for my thoughts.

(By the way, check out the stunning Olly Moss poster I found online. It’s a thing of beauty.)

Two American college students are on a walking tour of Britain and are attacked by a werewolf. One is killed, the other is mauled. The werewolf is killed but reverts to its human form, and the local townspeople are unwilling to acknowledge its existence. The surviving student begins to have nightmares of hunting on four feet at first but then finds that his friend and other recent victims appear to him, demanding that he commit suicide to release them from their curse, being trapped between worlds because of their unnatural deaths.

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