Thanks to Mikael and the team at RELISH COFFEE in Whitley Bay for sending me a stash of HATER-inspired coffee. Excellent use of the GOLLANCZ Hater cover art, and damn fine tasting coffee. Love it!
Hello everyone. Well, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted. It’s actually only a few weeks, but it feels like a lifetime. In my 20+ years of writing apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, I never believed we’d ever collectively experience anything like Covid-19. Before you stop reading, don’t worry – this isn’t me using this nightmare situation to try and sell a few books.
Couldn’t resist sharing that video, though. My old pal Iain McKinnon and some of his colleagues made a series of short HATER promo videos back when DOG BLOOD was about to be released, only for us to be unable to use them because it looked like the movie was about to happen.
Anyway, back to the point.
It’s surreal and frightening to be sitting here in lockdown like this. If I’m honest, it does feel like something out of one of my books, and plenty of folks have been quick to point that out. I wrote THE COST OF LIVING when my family and I moved into our current house and set it on our development; now we’re genuinely isolated in our home from a viral pandemic. The AUTUMN series, of course, is all about a world ravaged by a virulent disease, and with the toilet roll panic buying hysteria in the supermarkets, I’ve seen things on the TV news which definitely remind me of HATER (chapter 20 in particular). But for all these similarities, I DON’T THINK THIS IS THE APOCALYPSE.
Terrifying though, isn’t it?
The books I write have always focused on the worst case scenario. You can bet the folks you meet in the first chapter will have been through absolute hell by the time they get to the last page (if they get that far). The infections they’re dealing with are just a MacGuffin designed to cause maximum chaos for my characters to sort out. We are not those characters, and though the disease we’re fighting today is an absolute fucker, I’m hopeful it will be beaten. Things feel so oppressive and grim right now that it’s easy to believe we’re all trapped without hope in a grim Moody dystopia, but we’re not. We can and we will get through this!
Stay safe, stay positive, stay sensible and stay healthy. My sincere best wishes to you and your families. I’m going to make a conscious effort to post here regularly in the coming weeks. I have some freebies and other things of interest I want to share with you (although my stories might be the absolute last thing you want to read right now!).
A couple of audio treats for you today. First off, I was really pleased to sit down and talk with my friends from This is Horror a couple of times recently. Available now is episode 313 of the This is Horror podcast, in which Chad Lutzke and I talk about independent publishing (and many, many, many other things).
And if your ears can take more after such an aural battering, I wanted to remind you that the audiobook edition of CHOKEHOLD is now available from Macmillan Audio. It’s narrated by Gerard Doyle who, for his sins, has now voiced all six HATER audiobooks. His narration throughout has been superb, and I’m hoping to be able to ask him a few questions about his work on the two trilogies in the coming weeks. But don’t take my biased word for it, help yourself to a sample:
Well the new book has been out a few days and, as I expected, it’s polarising opinion (as have the other books in the series, to be fair). Some folks hated CHOKEHOLD (sorry, Starburst), while others really, really liked it – many thanks to Max at Geeks of Doom for his great review.
CHOKEHOLD is just as the name suggests: a story that viciously grabs ahold of you and will not let go, no matter how much you struggle. It is cutthroat, relentless, and — trust me when I say this — shockingly inspiring.
I had the pleasure of chatting to Jason Henderson at the Castle of Horror about the novel yesterday, and you can hear our conversation here:
All joking apart, the reason for the title of this post is quite straightforward. I don’t write the prettiest of books, and I don’t shirk away from taking my stories down grim pathways if they need it. In the case of CHOKEHOLD, much of it is necessarily bleak. I hope that readers will find some positives from the conclusion of Matt Dunne’s story. I think this final chapter is surprisingly uplifting and it sets the tone nicely for THEM OR US.
What do you think? Have you had chance to read CHOKEHOLD yet? I’d love to know what you think.
A series of nuclear strikes has left huge swathes of the country uninhabitable. It’s a level playing field now: both Hater and Unchanged alike have to fight to stay alive. Both have retreated to their camps to regroup, less than twenty miles away from each other.
It’s here that the last major battle of the final war will inevitably be fought, but neither side has any idea what’s waiting for them just around the corner.
Both armies are ready to fight to the death, each of their leaders hell-bent on victory. Their tactics are uniformly simple: strike first, get the enemy in a chokehold, then strangle the life out of them.
It’s very bleak, very bloody, and I hope you enjoy it!
Just one week to go until CHOKEHOLD hits the shelves. Here’s the first chapter for you…
Fifteen Miles East of Cambridge
The first few enemy figures appear on the horizon, and the fighters lying in wait for them are desperate to engage, starved of conflict. It’s been too long. These fuckers have had it coming. These fuckers will be shown no mercy.
It’s taken weeks to get to this point. Every meter of mud has been fought for; every reclaimed centimeter of concrete and tarmac has been won at a cost. They’re not going to give it up now, not after all those sacrifices, all those lives lost. There’s no going back. It’s them or us.
Word of the approaching attackers spreads quickly along the front line, accompanied by a nervous tension that borders on excitement. Some of these men and women dare to dream that the bulk of the bloodshed is behind them now, that this is the last push of the final war. There’s an unspoken belief that each new bloom of violence will bring them closer to restoring some semblance of normality to what’s left of their lives.
The service station is accessed by a single road that splinters off what used to be one of the major routes into Cambridge. The main road had been midway through a massive, years-long rebuild-and-regeneration program when the war began, and here, alongside the services, lies the abandoned remains of a construction base the size of a small town. The fighters used the roadworks equipment to strengthen and fortify their position while secreting their armored vehicles and heavy weapons among the highway maintenance vans and flatbeds. Diggers were used to carve deep trenches at a distance from the main buildings, and the ballast, soil, and scree they excavated now protects the service station itself—great drifts of the stuff used to block access, strengthen walls, and camouflage metal and glass from view. Inside the building, the familiar plastic façades of long-gone restaurant chains and fast-food outlets remain, reminding people what they’ve lost. But the rawness of their pain is eased knowing that what they have here is more than almost everyone else.
Remember these little beauties? If you’ve been following my work since the early days, you might remember these bloody HATER t-shirts which were popular when the novel was originally released in 2009. Now, because lots of you have been asking, they’re back. Click here or on the image below for more details.
By the way, today marks two weeks until the release of CHOKEHOLD – the absolute final HATER novel. It’ll be published on 19 November by Thomas Dunne Books and will be available from all the usual bookstores and online outlets. You can also pre-order signed copies here.
As regular readers will know, author CRAIG DILOUIE and I go back a long way. A glance through the archives of this site will show that I’m not just a friend of his I’m also a fan, and I was thrilled when he sent me a copy of his latest novel, OUR WAR.
Since finding huge success with zombie and apocalyptic novels like TOOTH AND NAIL and THE INFECTION, DiLouie’s also found an audience for his meticulously researched war novels, the CRASH DIVE series. In case you’d forgotten, DiLouie, Tim Long and I also co-wrote THE FRONT series, a World War II zombie mash-up which a lot of folks seemed to enjoy.
But DiLouie also writes books with far more personal themes. Of particular note is SUFFER THE CHILDREN, which looks at the lengths parents will go to in order to protect a child. His latest novel, OUR WAR, is set in the near future and, for me, it’s the most successful collision yet of the two strands of his fiction. OUR WAR is a prescient book, and a hard one to read, but it’s one I’d very much like to recommend you pick up.
When the president of the United States is impeached, but refuses to leave office, the country erupts into civil war.
10-year-old Hannah Miller, an orphan living in besieged Indianapolis, has joined a citizen’s militia. She had nowhere else to go. And after seeing the firsthand horrors of war, she’s determined to fight with the Free Women militia.
Hannah’s older brother, Alex, is a soldier too. But he’s loyal to the other side. After being separated from Hannah, he finds a home in a group calling themselves The Liberty Tree militia.
When a UNICEF worker and a reporter discover that both sides are using child soldiers, they set out to shine a light on something they thought could never happen in the United States. But it may be too late because even the most gentle children can find that they’re capable of horrific acts.
In many ways we live in an increasingly polarised society, with what can feel like irreparable divisions springing up between friends, families and communities. As you know, that’s a central theme of my HATER series, and having spent more than a decade studying and writing about intolerance, I’m worried that more than ever we’re spiralling towards the point of no return. You’ve only to look at the first line of the OUR WAR blurb to see how close to reality this piece of speculative fiction really is.
CHOKEHOLD – the final HATER novel – is released on 19 November. Print, eBook and audiobook versions will be available. As is customary, you can pre-order a signed copy directly from me. Click here or on the image below to find out more.
Pre-orders will be shipped as soon as possible (normally a few days before the official release date). The book is also available from all the usual outlets.
Huge thanks to everyone who has been helping spread the word about CHOKEHOLD. As promised in my last post, I’ll be sending out advance copies to a few randomly picked folks. I’m actually going to send more copies than I originally planned, so well done and thank you to Kerry, Bernie, Jess, Susan, Éric, Erika, Amanda and Suzanne – your books will be on the way shortly.
This is a very weird novel to promote, because although it’s the final book in THE FINAL WAR series, it also serves as a sequel to both DOG BLOOD and ALL ROADS END HERE, as well as a prequel to THEM OR US. For maximum effect, I recommend re-reading DOG BLOOD and ALL ROADS, then immediately re-reading THEM OR US when you’ve finished CHOKEHOLD.
Confused? I’m not surprised. Here’s a handy infographic I produced to show how all the HATER books fit together chronologically.