Recommended reading – James Herbert’s DOMAIN

Domain-James-HerbertWhen I’m asked to name books which have influenced me, I regularly mention DOMAIN by James Herbert. In fact, when I’m talking about books which have influenced my writing career, DOMAIN is the book.

For those who don’t know, DOMAIN is the third and final book in Herbert’s RATS trilogy (beginning with RATS in 1974, then LAIR in 1979). Set in the immediate aftermath of a nuclear attack on London, it remains a visceral and relentless read. To this day it’s still the only book I’ve ever finished reading, only to turn back to the beginning and immediately start again. Following the author’s untimely passing back in March, I thought I’d dig out my old yellowed paperback edition (now signed by the man himself – see this link to find out how) to see if the book still resonated with this forty-something bloke as it had when I was in my teens.

Short answer: not quite, but it was still a bloody good read.

Here’s the back cover blurb. Click the link below for my thoughts.

The long-dreaded nuclear conflict. The city torn apart, shattered, its people destroyed or mutilated beyond hope. For just a few, survival is possible only beneath the wrecked streets – if there is time to avoid the slow-descending poisonous ashes. But below, the rats, demonic offspring of their irradiated forebears, are waiting. They know that Man is weakened, become frail. Has become their prey…

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Paul Kane’s Sleeper(s)

SleepersCover2I’m sure many of you know of Paul Kane. Paul and I go back a fair few years now – I think we first spoke around the release of HATER in early 2009. Our paths crossed more recently when Paul and his other half Marie edited THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF BODY HORROR which contained my story, ALMOST FOREVER (and that’s an anthology well worth checking out – click here to remind yourself).

Paul’s back with a new novella – SLEEPER(S). It’s a great book with a real Quatermass-like vibe to it, and I was honoured to be asked to write the introduction. Here’s the blurb:

The sleepy English locality of Middletown is about to get even sleepier, as a strange malady starts to affect the population. It spreads quickly, causing the authorities to quarantine this small city, and seek out the only person who might be able to help: Doctor Andrew Strauss. However, Strauss has a secret, one that has linked him to this place all his life, one that has linked him to a particular person there, though he doesn’t yet know who. But he’s not the only one hiding things – and as he ventures into Middletown to collect samples with an army escort, a mixture of UK and US troops, cracks soon begin to appear in the operation. Especially when his team come up against the most terrifying threat humankind has ever known…

SLEEPER(S), from Crystal Lake Publishing, is available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

World War Z and the Hater movie

I wanted to talk about WORLD WAR Z for a couple of reasons. A discussion of the film follows (stick around for a half hour video review from Mr Simmons and I) but, before that, I have a more personal reason to be interested.

world-war-z-movie-posterFor a long time I’ve thought that the immediate future of the zombie sub-genre would, to a large extent, hinge on the success or failure of the WWZ movie. It’s fair to say that after all the well-documented issues with budgets and scripts and reshoots etc., I don’t think anyone expected the success the film has had, nor for a sequel to have been greenlit so rapidly. That has to be a good thing, I think, and I’m hopeful that, as a result, Hollywood will have a renewed interest in large budget, zombie-style movies. I would say that… the HATER movie rights have just been re-optioned.

As an enjoyable, effects-laden, dumb old zombie flick, WWZ certainly delivered. As an adaptation of Max Brook’s novel, however, it failed on just about every level. But does that really matter? Looking at things from my perspective, with a film adaptation of Hater on the horizon, I can see two sides. Sure I’d like a fairly literal interpretation of my original story to be filmed, but I’d also like the publicity and sales that a more commercial movie would hopefully generate. I have to accept that such publicity and sales might come at the expense of the integrity of my story. As wrong as it might sound, at this stage in my career with mouths to feed and bills to pay and many projects in the pipeline but few under contract, if I’m honest I’d have to say I’d rather take the cash. With Guillermo del Toro still attached to Hater I’m happy to take that chance of course, and regardless of how any movie turned out, my original book would still be available. It’s not like it would disappear or be replaced. Despite his understandable frustrations with the filmmakers, I’m sure Max Brooks is more than happy with the thousands and thousands of people who’ve picked up his book because of the film…

Right, back to WWZ. Rather than write a long blog post, I’ll let Wayne and I do the talking.

If you’ve not yet read the book, I’d definitely recommend it. If you have and you’ve seen the film, what were your thoughts on the movie adaptation, and what are your hopes/fears for a Hater adaptation? I’d be really interested to hear them. Let me know in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter etc.

Punishment Park

Punishment Park posterAt this point in time, when news about my books is thin on the ground (I am busy writing, honest!), I’d like to try and keep your interest by making regular book and film recommendations. So here’s another submission to my ‘Post-Apocalyptic Movie Club’ (click the link for previous films), and it’s one that’s a little more obscure than some of the others I’ve posted about.

Peter Watkins is a fascinating, controversial and, in my opinion, unfairly overlooked film-maker. Click here to be reminded of my thoughts on one of his earliest films – THE WAR GAME – a 1965, Oscar-winning BBC film which portrayed the effects of a nuclear attack on Kent and which, due to it’s unflinching treatment of the subject matter, remained largely unseen for over twenty years. Today I’d like to introduce you to another of his films, PUNISHMENT PARK. A movie made in 1971 which, at the time, was effectively buried and given only the most cursory of releases.

Here’s the trailer. Click the link below to find out more.

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BEFORE DAWN – Dominic Brunt interview

Last week I promised you a quick interview with Dominic Brunt – writer, director and star of the brilliant BEFORE DAWN – and here it is.

DOMINIC-BRUNTDom’s a huge fan of the horror genre, and that definitely shows. But as I mentioned in my piece last week, there’s far more to BEFORE DAWN than a by-the-numbers zombie story. It has a real depth to it. I asked Dom if he’d always had a burning desire to make a zombie movie, or whether the project came about as a result of finding a story he wanted to tell. He told me nothing was planned initially, and that it began as “a purely hypothetical argument between myself and my wife about what was wrong in her view with the zombie genre. I love a big, loud, shallow crowd pleaser of a zombie flick while Jo likes to delve a bit deeper into a situation and is a huge fan of European and specifically French cinema. It bothered her that there was no one she could relate to and that British zombie/horror films were still trying to copy American cinema styles. The idea was then built around a couple with similar problems and differences to our own and we tried to portray a very realistic world but with a sense of drama and intrigue at its core. We then built on this adding to the tension and tightening the screw before introducing the twist and indeed the undead with all the resulting blood, gore and violence.”

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BEFORE DAWN

L_Mtd414Dominic Brunt is a name more familiar to UK readers as a long-running cast member of the even longer-running ITV soap, Emmerdale. But there’s another side to Dom – he’s an obsessive horror fan. As well as being one of the organisers of the annual Leeds Zombie Film Festival (click here for information on the 2013 event), he’s also the director, co-writer (along with his wife, Joanne Mitchell) and star (also with Joanne) of an excellent zombie movie, BEFORE DAWN. Here’s the trailer. Watch the clip, then click the link to read why I think Before Dawn is, for me, one of the best zombie movies to come along in a long time.

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The Impossible

Most of the film recommendations I share here are post-apocalyptic movies, but today I’m making an exception. Kind of.

Back in 2008, just after Guillermo del Toro’s involvement in the planned Hater movie had been announced, other names soon became attached to the project. Glen Mazzara (late of AMC’s The Walking Dead) wrote a script and Juan Antonio Bayona was lined up to direct. I immediately got hold of a copy of Bayona’s debut feature – The Orphanage – and was very, very impressed by the film. If you haven’t yet seen it, I suggest you check it out. Bayona was also kind enough to blurb Hater, saying ‘Be careful with Hater; chapter by chapter it will make its way into your soul ‘til it finds the seed of evil which lurks within.

The Impossible

For one reason or another (and I still don’t know exactly why), the Hater movie didn’t happen. And just for the record, because I seem to get asked several times every day, I don’t know what the current status of the project is.

Fast-forward to now, and J A Bayona’s second feature – The Impossible – has recently been released. I’m sure you’ve already heard plenty about it. The film is based on the true story of a Spanish family of five who, despite being split up and scattered by the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004, all managed to survive and were later reunited. The sheer improbability of their story gives rise to the title of the movie.

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Day of the Dead

I have a huge list of post-apocalyptic films I want to write about here, but I don’t seem to ever get time to do it. It was early September when my ‘post-apocalyptic movie club’ last got a mention… there’s always something else needs doing first. But when someone else asks you to write about one of your favourite PA movies, the impetus is very different. A short while ago Wayne Simmons asked me to pick a  zombie film and write about it as part on an ongoing series on his site celebrating the US release of FLU and FEVER.

I chose one of my all-time favourite horror films: George A Romero’s DAY OF THE DEAD. Click here to visit Wayne’s site to read more.

You can catch Wayne and I on our last signing date of 2012 this coming weekend. We’ll be at Waterstones Swindon on 8th December.

Recommended reading – PORTLANDTOWN

Another book I was asked to blurb was released recently, and I thought some of you might be interested in it. It’s fair to say, Rob DeBorde’s PORTLANDTOWN is a unique zombie novel. Here’s the back cover spiel:

Joseph Wylde isn’t afraid of the past, but he knows some truths are better left unspoken. When his father-in-law’s grave-digging awakens more than just ghosts, Joseph invites him into their home hoping that a booming metropolis and two curious grandtwins will be enough to keep the former marshal out of trouble. Unfortunately, the old man’s past soon follows, unleashing a terrible storm on a city already knee deep in floodwaters. As the dead mysteriously begin to rise, the Wyldes must find the truth before an unspeakable evil can spread across the West and beyond.

And I couldn’t resist reproducing this fantastic artwork I spied over at Rob’s site.

I said the book is “a unique and fascinating horror novel. Cowboys, the supernatural, steampunk, and zombies . . . Portlandtown has enough to keep even the most demanding genre fan satisfied” and I stand by those comments. Enjoy!

Recommended Reading – REEL TERROR

About a year ago, I received an email from Nicole, my editor’s assistant at Thomas Dunne Books, asking me to blurb a new title they’d acquired – REEL TERROR by David Konow. Those of you who’ve had the misfortune of waiting for me to blurb something will know that it usually takes me somewhere between a long time and forever. Not on this occasion: I picked the book up early on a Friday evening and was done by the next day.

REEL TERROR is a lovingly written history of horror cinema, covering everything from The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, right up to Paranormal Activity. It’s a fascinating read which looks at why some movies hit the mark and others don’t. Replete with huge numbers of anecdotes and interviews with some of the most important people in the genre, you’ll lap it up if you’re a horror fan like me. Here’s my blurb:

“REEL TERROR is a love letter to a much-maligned genre… thoroughly recommended to anyone with even a passing interest in the history of horror movie scares. Written with passion and deep respect, it’ll broaden your understanding of how horror developed from the black-and-white Universal classics to the mainstream smashes of the last decades. A fascinating look at the history of horror, filled with stories, details, and memories that remind you why you fell in love with the genre in the first place. Superb.

Well worth picking up! REEL TERROR is out today.