Tag Archives: johnny mains

My favourite books of 2012

sv4I have just sat in my thinking-dome and come up with my picks of books published in 2012 (in addition to THE LAST BALCONY and THE FIRST BOOK OF CLASSICAL HORROR STORIES and BUSY BLOOD!):

The Wind Through The Keyhole by Stephen King

Dadaoism – an anthology from Chômu Press

This Hermetic Legislature (an anthology from Ex Occidente Press)

The Ten Dictates of Alfred Tesseller by D.P. Watt

The Truth Spinner – Rhys Hughes

Celebrant – by Michael Cisco

Peel Back The Sky – Stephen Bacon

The Lighthouse – Alison Moore

Motherless Child – Glen Hirshberg

At Dusk – Mark Valentine

Numbered as Sand or the Stars – John Howard

Eyepennies – a novella by Mike O’Driscoll

The Aesthete Hagiographer – Derek John

The Screaming Book of Horror

PS: Two more in comment below.


Watch out for JANE by PF Jeffery in 2013 – that, as part of the ‘Warriors of Love’ series of twelve discrete novels, I predict will, sooner or later, become a best-seller of the highest objective quality, with definite cinematic potential.


Filed under Uncategorized

The Haunted Bookshelf

Photo of my own haunted bookshelf

The Ash Tree Press Yahoogroups ‘All Hallows’ has been going many years with much discussion activity on ghost stories and things horror genre, of which group I have been a member. Yesterday, Christopher Roden announced another Yahoogroups entitled ‘The Haunted Bookshelf’ specifically at first to discuss systematically the stories in Ann and Jeff VanderMeer’s massive and massively acclaimed THE WEIRD. You may apply for membership here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Haunted_Bookshelf
Their Facebook page for immediate updates etc: https://www.facebook.com/TheHauntedBookshelf

During November 2011, I conducted a detailed systematic real-time review of THE WEIRD here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/df-lewiss-real-time-review-of-the-vandermeers-massive-the-weird/ and I have since received a lot of good feedback about it — including from one of its editors in a public statement and, yesterday, out of the blue, Johnny Mains started a new thread on his Facebook page with a link to my review and stating that it was: “The greatest review of any book in the history of reviews.”

I don’t intend to re-post any of that review to The Haunted Bookshelf discussion group or, at this stage, to re-read the book. But I hope members of the group, if they think fit, will read my review about each story ‘in media res’. I shall be interested to see what the others think of the stories and I shall no doubt make input regarding any new thoughts of my own during the discussion.

Weird: A Compendium of Dark and Strange Stories


Filed under Uncategorized

The Lighthouse – Alison Moore

The second of my post-real-time reviews (following the recent completion of all my previous real-time reviews ).

THE LIGHTHOUSE – a novel by Alison Moore (2012)

Salt Publishing – Cromer

The Guardian video — Why The Lighthouse should win the 2012 Booker Prize – is a brilliant summation of this (I expect) memorable novel … and so why add my own review? Well, it’s a story about a perfume container, various smells, a road movie (for one person, not two) except it’s a hike not a car journey (other than the sporadic flat tyres) and involves other points of view in Germany, other points of time. A laid-back, disarming panoply of relationships that uses language sparely to tell of itself, with richly felt undercurrents as we travel from deceptively, craftily, emotionally low-key foray to foray … with a disarming brutality, too, that comes home to roost in a shuffle-toed, almost dead-pan narrative that includes baths, childhoods, cinematic sarabandes — and Proustian perfumes as leitmotifs towards a haunting gestalt.

Well, why my own review, I ask? I was originally trying to relate it to my own identification of something I called ‘Pronoun Horror’ in this very author’s short story in ‘The Screaming Book of Horror’ that I very recently reviewed here. I, me, you, she, he, us, them: as wafting parfumeries, like a morse code of Proustian selves from phare to phare, ferry to ferry…

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Terror Tales of East Anglia

I’m due to start below another of my gradual real-time reviews, turning leitmotifs into a gestalt.

A book I purchased from the publisher:

TERROR TALES OF EAST ANGLIA – edited by Paul Finch

Gray Friar Press 2012

There is no guarantee how long it will take to complete this review, whether days or years.

CAVEAT: Spoilers are not intended but there may be inadvertent ones. You may wish (i) to take that risk and read my review before or during your own reading of the book, or (ii) to wait until you have finished reading it. In either case, I hope it gives a useful or interesting perspective.

All my other real-time reviews since 2008 are linked from here: http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/

My previous reviews of Gray Friar Press books: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/gray-friar-press-my-real-time-reviews/

As ever, I shall only be reviewing the fiction stories.

Authors included: Paul Meloy, Gary Greenwood, Christopher Harman, Roger Johnson, Simon Bestwick, Steve Duffy, Mark Valentine, Gary Fry, Paul Finch, James Doig, Johnny Mains, Alison Littlewood, Edawrd Pearce, Reggie Oliver. (14 Oct 12 – 2 pm bst)


Loose – Paul Meloy & Gary Greenwood
“I bring Dan the green beens he ask for.”
The best scene in the story that bit. Hilarious play on beans and beens with green rubbish bins. The rest, for me, is disappointing. A run of the mill story, one about East European immigrants in awkward interface with the English natives’ ‘lazy racism’ as they work in a Suffolk hotel. Some feral curse concerning a ‘wolf strap’ – and  easy swear words that seem tacked on rather than intrinsic. Thinly characterised, but with odd  moments of deft horror passages. Not much point, I feel, in looking for deeper meanings, as is my usual wont, nor in recounting more of the plot. [The print is too small for comfortable reading and, also, I hope I shall not need to continue this service of typo spotting as I read the rest of the book: i.e.  ‘sou chef’ should be ‘sous chef’ on p2; wrong hard return after ‘year-‘ on p4; ‘his slid his legs’ on the same page; who on earth is ‘Steve’ on p6?; and should it be ‘Sprite and ice cubes’ on p7 rather than ‘Spite and ice cubes’?] (14 Oct 12 – 2.55 pm bst)

Deep Water – Christopher Harman
Pages 21 – 31
“‘Towards’ was the operative word.
I am about halfway through this substantive story, and already I am as much elated by this work as I was disappointed by the previous one in this anthology. This promises to be a landmark reading experience for me, and not only because I am long familiar with Dunwich, Sizewell, Woodbridge and Hambling’s sculpture on the beach at Aldeburgh, and not only because this is, at least partially, a superb classical music story (please see my Classical Horror anthology book I recently published), but also because the prose style, the characterisation etc. are wonderful — please see the police character as an example, and the protagonist himself who first reminds me of that in Reggie Oliver’s great senile dementia story ‘Flowers of the Sea’, here with the circumstances of his Celia going missing amid a whole wonderful Davy Jones’ Locker claustrophobia/ exquisition ambiance (my words, not the story’s necessarily) ….. But not completely like that Reggie Oliver character, because this Harman one has arguably betrayed his wife with another woman? Absolutely wonderful, so far, including the Takemitsu, Britten, Vaughan Williams, Malcolm Arnold references….. [Also, so far, no typos to report, so hopefully those in the previous story were examples of a one-off aberration.] (14 Oct 12 – 6.25 pm)
Pages 31 – 42
“…as if he were one of the lost souls who gravitated towards seaside resorts.”
The first half’s promise, for me, has been fulfilled. This is quite a tour de force, with prose tendrils so outlandish they seem the sea itself. The ‘policeman’ – called Trench – we know now why his legs were earlier described finnish, and the ‘green beens’ from the previous story at least link here with the greenness of ‘Celia’ in the swimming pool.  This is a story with which every reader needs to make his or her own bespoke rapprochement – no review can prepare you for it.   There are so many examples of turns-of-phrase or turns-of-plot that I could give you but they would still only give very little idea of what sort of experience this story is.  It is Reggie Oliver’s ‘Flowers of the Sea’ taken perhaps to new depths… where the slippery shape of the missing one vanishes and reappears and vanishes again round the corner of aquarium or street or beach, till you wonder if the missing one is you yourself not someone else. A symbol for sea as the growing communal dementia? A ‘mad wife’ as seen by her husband is only mad because she deemed him mad first (thus his perceptions of her were as they were). “Vivaldi was dry, rational until slow pizzicato strings described hard claws tiptoeing across a striated sandy floor. Bach’s contrapuntal lines entwined in his head like smooth tubular growths.” [Meanwhile, I myself attended, as it happens, a live public concert in Clacton-on-Sea last night where my own wife was singing alto in a chorus performing, inter alia, Vivaldi’s ‘Gloria’ after months of rehearsal]. (14 Oct 12 – 8.10 pm bst)

The Watchman – Roger Johnson
“…somehow the glaziers didn’t quite manage to reproduce the colours. I don’t know: there’s something about mediaeval glass…”
There something paradoxically warm and comfortable about fictionally exploring a country church (here a Suffolk one) despite horrors emerging regarding legends underlying its history. This is a very effective version of such a tale in traditional garb, telling of watchmen, robbers, gargoyles and come-uppance, believably accreted by references and quoted passages. Warm and comfortable maybe, but I did feel a frisson of terror at a simple phrase and what I imagined underlying it in the context. No mean feat of writing. That phrase: “…and began to do certain things.” (15 Oct 12 – 11.10 am bst)



1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Screaming Book of Horror

I’m due to start below another of my gradual real-time reviews, turning leitmotifs into a gestalt.

A hardback book I purchased from the publisher:

THE SCREAMING BOOK OF HORROR – edited by Johnny Mains

Screaming Dreams 2012

There is no guarantee how long it will take to complete this review, whether days or years.

CAVEAT: Spoilers are not intended but there may be inadvertent ones. You may wish (i) to take that risk and read my review before or during your own reading of the book, or (ii) to wait until you have finished reading it. In either case, I hope it gives a useful or interesting perspective.

All my other real-time reviews from 2008 are linked from here: http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/

Authors included: John Llewellyn Probert, John Brunner, Alison Littlewood, Robin Ince, Bernard Taylor, Anna Taborska, Paul Finch, Rhys Hughes, Kate Farrell, Alex Miles, Craig Herbertson, Alison Moore, Claire Massey, Reginald Oliver, David A. Riley, Steve Rasnic Tem, John Burke, Christopher Fowler, Janine-Langley Wood, Johnny Mains, Charles Higson. (8 Oct 12 – Noon bst)


Christenings Can Be Dangerous – John Llewellyn Probert
“Well, a graveyard wasn’t such a bad place to be scared in,…”
This is an interesting case study to start this book with. Babies often scream even when they’re not scared, you see, but Horror concerning innocent babies can be shocking, and this one, for me, is! That, despite a humorous tone with a slight tongue in a slight cheek. Gratuitously horrific (unless one accepts these strange outcomes of the protagonist’s retributory madness regarding his ex)… and iconoclastic in terms of today’s  mœurs. Yet I wondered, would I have thought it was so shocking had I experienced this in the 1960s or 1970s within the Pan Books of Horror that I read at that time?  Rhetorical question. As a story in itself, at the beginning, it seems artificially to withdraw authorial omniscience regarding the protagonist’s thought processes, then meting these processes out to us regarding the circumstances of the christening church’s yew tree etc before Hell breaks loose (the latter scene very effective, TOO effective!) (8 Oct 12 – 3.05 pm)

[As is common with all my RTRs, I shall avoid other reviews and the book’s own introduction until after I have read and publicly reviewed the whole book.] (8 Oct 12 – 4.30 pm bst)

Larva – John Brunner
“‘Larva’, she amplified, ‘is a Latin word that originally meant both spectre and mask.'”
One’s whole body as the mask for self? This is another shockingly cross-grain story, one that revels in iconoclasm and PUS. It tells of uncouth muggers who prey on ‘poofters’ and ‘nignogs’, with, here, another baby victim (what chances that any anthology could start with consecutive stories that both themselves start with nipples being bitten!) – a baby who takes revenge not only for what happens in this story but what happened in the previous story! Meanwhile, I take suck or succour from this work not for its run-of-the-mill  morality tale of the protagonist’s eventual meted-out come-uppance but for its brilliant metaphysical larva conceit. And its  accomplishedly conveyed PUS AND VOMIT. [I thought John Brunner wrote SF and died some years ago, unless this is a different John Brunner or an uncharacteristic long-lost horror story discovered by Mr Mains?] (8 Oct 12 – 7.30 pm bst)

The Swarm – Alison Littlewood
“As jellyfish thrive they feed upon fish eggs and larvae,…”
…and thus the cycle goes on, here a calmer cosmic osmosis as it turns out stemming from the crueller, laddish threads set up by the two previous stories. Here the cruelty of the swarm – skilfully imbued with the tang of the sea – somehow becomes a spiritual culmination of the earth soul that may have been seeded from literature like that of John Cowper Powys (whom I serendipitously happen already to be reading). But there is an added frisson when we read in the Littlewood that each participant in the gestalt-‘creature’-from-leitmotifs (represented by a line of glowing lights) has 24 seemingly brain-disconnected eyes and then compare this to the creature with a ‘myriad of tiny pink eyes’ in the Probert. The fact that Littlewood’s  protagonist, at story’s end, is still narrating post-culmination (on the precise point of becoming beyond consciousness) did not seem to matter. This throws a retrospective light on Probert’s earlier gradual going up the gears of narrative omniscience… (9 Oct 12 – 3.05 pm bst)

[It hadn’t quite dawned on me fully how Littlewood’s jellyfish gestalt is arguably an allegory of my earlier stated reference on this page to my real-time reviewing technique of accreting leitmotifs (light motifs) to form a gestalt – nor how the overall title of this anthology is something that my edited ‘The Horror Anthology of Horror Anthologies’ anthology book (horror stories about actual Horror anthology books) would have loved to contain a story about a Screaming Book of Horror! In fact, thinking about it, was there one? I shall have to re-read it!] (9 Oct 12 – 6.15 pm bst)

Natural Selection – Robin Ince
“…not a bad structure really for the accident-prone system of evolution by natural selection and its adaptation of previous fish parts along the way.”
…and so the cycle continues from story to story. Here, a gem of a Horror Story, truncated to prose perfection, except it’s about the problem of what exactly to truncate in order to travel “along the timeline” (the book’s audit trail toward its gestalt?) so as to provide that perfect potential of a baby, screamer or not. Here, ostensibly a feminist tract, where, like in the Probert, the protagonist (this time female) seeks to truncate  her next ex and his baby but, here, by creating a new baby, a better one!  Gratuitousness  with a moral, like the Brunner. The image of cutting off  a human ear is wonderfully done. [As an aside, without ears, one cannot hear screams, only see them, like the one in Munch’s scream.] “…when was he going to stop screaming?” (9 Oct 12 – 7.05 pm bst)

[Further to my comment above about ‘The Horror Anthology of Horror Anthologies’, I have found in it a quote (i.e. from the Rhys Hughes story): “Wasting no more time on nostalgia, he cut out the entire Appendix and cast it aside. It was bloated and disgusting. The book screamed during the operation, but it was over in seconds.” (I note there is a Rhys Hughes story I’ve yet to read in ‘The Screaming Book of Horror’). Also, the story in the HA of HA entitled ‘Common Myths and Misconceptions Regarding Rita Kendall’ by AJ Kirby is predominantly about a scream: in fact the most famous audible scream in the world!] (9 Oct 12 – 7.35 pm bst)




Filed under Uncategorized

Glory & Splendour – Alex Miles

Shortly, I’m due to start below another of my gradual real-time reviews, moulding leitmotifs into a gestalt. An ebook I recently purchased via Amazon for my iPad.

Glory & Splendour: Tales of the Weird

by Alex Miles


Karōshi Books 2012

Introduction by Johnny Mains; Foreword by Michel Parry

There is no guarantee how long it will take to complete this review, whether days or years.

CAVEAT: Spoilers are not intended but there may be inadvertent ones. You may wish (i) to take that risk and read my review before or during your own reading of the book, or (ii) to wait until you have finished reading it. In either case, I hope it gives a useful or interesting perspective.

All my other real-time reviews are linked from here: http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/


Glory and Splendour

“He showed the Master the city through a shard of glass and everything appeared as normal.”

By means of a relatively simple prose of crystalline quality (with boils and other such infestation within), we are taken into the complexities of Fable by insulated levels of narrative.  A Hellishly apocalyptic vision made more (or less) than it actually is: with Blakean undercurrents and transformational transcendence through the generations. Skilfully filling the reader with both hope and despair at once, particularly by means of the very effective ending that it would be a spoiler to impart here.  ‘Page-turning’ suspense, too, through immanence, rather than imminence: a knocking on some gate to Hell or to Heaven? In or out?  Me or you? A genuine future-haunted memory of literature for at least one reader (me) filtered through ‘the synchronised shards of random truth and fiction’ (this time, for once, literally!). It is sure to be re-anthologised in a printed book one day. If not already. I’m not sure if this book is solely electronic?  Yet, the screen through which I read it actually adds to the plot!  So, perhaps not. Perhaps never. [Meanwhile, I am astonished by the mutual synchronicity with the first two stories I earlier real-time reviewed (here) this very day. I would also like to indulge myself by drawing attention to my own ancient, perhaps clumsy  brief story (‘The Tallest King‘) in oblique resonance with ‘Glory and Splendour’. I also confirm that, in common with all my previous real-time reviews, I am not reading anything about this book nor reading its Foreword until I have read and publicly reviewed all its fiction.] (24 Apr 12 – 9.30 pm bst)

The Judge

“…tiny transparent insects had stealthily crawled onto me.”

[Listening to Vivaldi’s GLORIA as I read this story: and it is music certainly with Glory & Splendour: but I then thought of these words not being  synonymous: i.e. with, say, ‘glory-hole’ as a symbolic conduit: a filter: an extra-human veil through which physical or mental activities can be eked. Good or evil. Love or lust.] — This fascinatingly dystopic story, ‘The Judge’, tells of a judicial or quasi-judicial system combining Kafka’s Harrow ‘In the Penal Colony’ (its earlier real-time review by me here), a Heath Robinson contraption, EM Forster’s ‘The Machine Stops’ (effectively a story about the internet from 1909!), and an ‘ethical’ MRI scanner or skein of such scanners.  With Orwellian and other Kafkaesque resonances-in-ethical-philosophy. And a touching human story of retribution, shame and blind faith among two different characters.   (The apocalyptic scatological/eschatological ‘two-way filter’ theme set up by the previous story is factored into this scenario, eg the factory smoke chemicalised to look pretty etc.) — [Already I am confident, having read the first two stories, that readers who enjoy this book will also enjoy the many books published by Ex Occidente Press and Chômu Press (those two links being to the index of all my real-time reviews for these publishers’ books.)] “His skin was reddened from a heat rash and had the texture of an orange.” (25 Apr 12 – 10.30 am bst)

Deep Stitches

He kept his eyes on some invisible nothing on the floor.”

Here, conveniently, those ‘transparent insects’ earlier quoted above from the previous story become ‘surveyors’ and ‘builders’ internally to re-harness the you I am. Or re-create mentally the virginity none of us retain physically. Difficult to comment on this: it’s like fly-fishing or bee-keeping within the soul’s hive by constructive infestation.  A conceptual Proustian Harrowing process by rival specialists creating anomalies as well as infractions: and only storytellers such as this one with tiny articulated graphics on the ‘page’ under the screen have the scope to plot, with  mind-imprisoned logic, such a beta syntax of New Ethics. Accompanied by prototype phonetics, especially with the ear being the infestation’s portal. Semantics? They’re just a by-product of this rambling inside my brain. Meanwhile, a brilliant sudden ending to this neat tale. (25 Apr 12 – 7.25 pm bst)

Hitting Targets

“…bumble-bee metamorphosis…”

Often, when enjoying fiction, one needs suspension of disbelief; here you need suspension of sanity! [Again I am astonished by the synergy and synchrony and serendipity between this real-time review and, quite fortuitously, the simultaneous real time review (here), particularly, today, between this story and Jon Ingold’s ‘Cracks’: especially with its intermittent haunting by a knight in armour!] — Here we have a highly satiric version of Ligotti’s ‘Corporate Horror’ theme, including an office where you can see through its glass partition.  Proustian, too, in its treatment of separate selves: a “future-Harvey” and the “Immoral former self on Friday“; even to the reference here (and in one of this book’s previous stories) to tea-drinking! A story of an Estate Agent. “Harvey was middle-aged before he was born.” He is hidebound by acronymic performance targets: i.e. needing to sell a difficult-to-sell large house to keep his job, a house occupied by a larger-than-life role-playing dungeons-and-dragoner, but not really role-playing, because many actual human deaths do ensue worthy of the Pan Book of Horrors.  It’s a huge hoot. A “King’s Glory” of an absurdist, almost Rhys-Hughesian, ironic-fantasy: with slapstick and grotesqueness. But nevertheless true, based on my own past experiences in a long business life. (And I even got scolded for having “decorated the place in a childish way” above.) (26 Apr 12 – 2.15 pm bst)

Life Beggar

I suppose we have time to make you some tea…”

The touching essence of Fable – as in ‘Glory & Splendour’ – where hope and despair are gifted to us as a package. An empathy kick. The puppet-strings you tug or those that tug you as you live the serial selves that become the final you. Like many of this book’s themes so far, ‘Life Beggar’ treats of ‘quick deal’, a deal by ‘magic fiction’, dealing with something very important, something of human susbtance in telling contrast to the lectronics (sic) wherein it is embodied on my iPad: a Justice Harrow, a crucial house sale, a retrocausal insect in the ear, the two-way filter of truth and fiction with which this book started, and here the simple fulfilment of a possibly inadvisable wish. Here we are faced – in genuinely disturbing yet ‘fabulous’ terms – with the implications of the timescale of our death. Of our life itself. Yet we come away from it uplifted. No mean feat. This brief story touched me. “Last chance for that tea, my friend…” (26 Apr 12 – 3.15 pm bst)

The Lotus Device

I have started reviewing this story several times. But then deleted what I had written.  Anything I say may spoil it for you.  At one stage, I even had to do a complete computer ‘restore’ to obviate any ‘cache’. Genuinely and seriously, this story is, to my mind and knowledge, an original masterpiece of fiction. The perfect culmination of a stunning book.  I am  pleased personally this last story (more than just a coda) serves to accrete my earlier findings of:  Proustian ‘past selves’, ‘quick deals’ (here the most mephistophelean-like of them all), retrocausality, motive-disguise, the earlier Estate Agent now possibly finding his solution to work tedium should he read this story.  Now become tellingly work in an abattoir, to which state of butcher’s rubble the Estate Agent’s clients actually descended in real life. A contraption like the Justice Harrow but smaller and oilier.  I will now delete the whole review and start again.  Before I become one of those “feeble insects in suits” that I once became.

As is common with all my real-time reviews, I will now read this book’s Foreword for the first time and, also in common with my reviewing practice, I will not return to review it in public. Declaration: I happened to attend school in the 1950s/1960s and the Foreword’s author was one of my fellow pupils. I had no idea he had written the Foreword until I bought the ebook and looked ‘inside’. I am sure his Foreword will give me valuable food for thought. (26 Apr 12 – 4.15 pm bst)

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized


Doctor Who’s new story this weekend on BBC: Night Terrors by Mark Gatiss. Definitely Ligottian.  And George’s Dad was the spitting image of the new editor of the Pan Book of Horror Stories….
Throwing all childhood terrors into the mix plus the kitchen sink — and the high-rise block lift. (The CGI effect sinking into the carpet was a bit unconvincing.)
I think it was meant to be a culmination of night-terror cliches (cliches to us Horror Genreators) – but the ‘dolls’ / ‘dummies’ etc. were effectively Ligottian. And I suspect there were a lot of scared children going to bed last night…

Yours, df lewis (birth place: Aickman Road, Colchester)


Filed under Uncategorized