Archive for madness

SOUL MASQUE By Terry Grimwood – Reviewed

Posted in Morpheus Tales Magazine, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 12, 2013 by stanleyriiks

Printed with the kind permissions of Morpheus Tales Publishing.

Confused. Having read this it’s clear this is an ambitious story, but I learnt almost as much about what was happening from the back cover description as I did from the contents of this limited-edition chapbook. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it; Grimwood writes in a way that makes you want to read more, he makes you want to know more, about the characters and the strange world he creates. But I think he needs more space to work, a story double the length may have made a lot more sense.

Soul Masque is about the battle of good against evil, that age- old tale, but looked at through a brief period in the lives of four flawed and failing characters, when things all come to a head: a woman with cancer held in check by her allegiance to religion, a preacher addicted to drugs, a dominatrix with an angel as a client, a man who must kill to survive…

The more I think about the story the more layers I think I find. The struggle for faith, the struggle to live, dealing with death in its many forms, the very concept of good and evil; there’s a hell of a lot going on here in these 30 pages.

This is a very different book from the Spectral Chapbooks published before this, and yet it sits right at home within them as well. It’s challenging, intelligent, and wholly original. Although it’s not as creepy as Gary McMahon’s effort, or as gory and bloodthirsty as Paul Finch’s, this is horror at its most morally ambiguous.

It is a sad tale of brutality, of abuse, of disease, slaughter, madness, and faith. It is as frustrating as it is enjoyable, leaving the readers with a slightly bitter taste in their mouths like they’ve just had arsenic. A lingering sense of unease and discomfort remains after putting the story down. Grimwood achieves his desired effect of making us think far beyond the story he’s put down on paper. This is a very very clever little book.

Spectral Press again shows why they are at the top of the UK’s small presses.


THE OFFICE OF LOST AND FOUND By Vincent Holland-Keen – Reviewed

Posted in Morpheus Tales Magazine, Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 6, 2011 by stanleyriiks

Published with the permission of Morpheus Tales. Soon to be featured in the MT Supplement.

It’s not often you pick up a book and think to yourself the writer is either insane or a genius within the first five pages. You see, this book is strange. I like strange, strange for me is pretty normal. I’ve been reading fantasy, sf and horror for twenty-odd years. Strange is my bread and butter. And yet, this novel is very, very strange.

It’s not often a book comes along that completely throws me, and to a certain extent that’s a good thing. The first bizarro fiction I read (Jeremy Shipp) made me think I’d been reading with my eyes closed; it made normal fantasy look meek and mild. It turned reality on its head, it messed with how you think and what you think. It’s disturbing in its lack of reality. And that’s what this book does too.

Within the first few pages we’re introduced to Locke, who’s in charge of the finding part of the Office of Lost and Found, and Veronica, who has killed her husband and needs to find him. When Locke refuses to help, Veronica shoots him in the head. Only then does Locke decide he’ll help Veronica find her dead husband.

This starts the first chapter, and things just get weirder and stranger as the book continues.

The first few chapters read like interwoven short stories, and Holland-Keen admits at the back of the book that the first chapter was written as such. This makes for an interesting experiment in novel writing. On some levels it works: the first chapter is immediate, quick, self-contained, but in others it doesn’t. It feels independent, there’s no continued theme or tension, the links between the stories are too slight to give it the impact or immersion of a novel.

The fact that one of the main characters dies and comes back to life with no explanation, and that there are so many things going on that are unexplained (you can understand Veronica’s frustration as Locke tells her once again that it “just is”), can sometimes make you want to throttle the writer. And sometimes what is explained doesn’t make any sense, but you have to go with the flow. The craziness is part of the attraction.

And the book does improve the further into it you get. The first two or three chapters have this short story feel to them as Locke, Veronica and Lafarge (in charge of the losing part of the Office) go around discovering all the lost things. All nice and fairly easy, despite the reality-warping of it all. Offices that move, doors that open to other realities, monsters that are real, nightmares that come alive… You may think you do, but you really have no idea. I read the book, and I’m still not sure I do!

The first part of the book takes up the majority of the nearly seven hundred pages, and it’s epic. End of the world scenarios, taking elements from all the previous stories, and beautifully weaving them into a madness of unending proportions. I doubt you have ever read anything like it, or will again. It’s a spectacular insanity, a brilliant non-sense, but perfectly in keeping with the rest of the book.

The failures of this book are clearly outweighed by the demented genius of Holland-Keen’s world. Be patient, be careful, and go with it. Let the madness flow over you and be absorbed by it, and you’ll enjoy your strange visit to the Office of Lost and Found.

The Morpheus Tales Supplement is available completely free of charge from their website:


STAIRWAY TO HELL By Charlie Williams – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 23, 2009 by stanleyriiks

I approach all new authors (new to me anyway) with a mixture of trepidation and excitement, wondering whether this new bloke is likely to be added to my list of authors to collect, or to go in the pile for the charity shop.

Charlie Williams is neither, but not through any fault of his own.

Let me explain…

Stairway To Hell is told by our erm… hero (which he truly is, although unconventional) Rik Suntan, a mustachioed singer and winner of the Pub Idol contest two years in a row. Rik delights his fans with his renditions of Cliff Richard classics at the Blue Cairo in the small town of Warchester, whilst waiting to hit the big time.

But one terrible night Rik gets hit with a bottle thrown at him while he’s performing on stage, he gets the sack and his girlfriend dumps him. To top if off he’s attacked by a midget.

As if things couldn’t get any worse, Rik finds out that his body is in fact, home to the stolen soul of David Bowie, and he joins a group of other interred souls to try to get back into their proper bodies, by any means necessary. Even if that does involve murder, robbery, and black magic.

Stairway To Hell is in some ways perfectly modern, but in some ways completely retro. It has the feel of returning to a British seaside town you used to visit when you were young, it’s familiar, it’s fun, and it feels comfortable. It harkens back to a yesteryear that never really existed except in your own rose-tinted memories.

The book draws you in completely, Rik’s narrative is warm and funny, you can’t help laughing with him as well as at him. A difficult trick for Williams to pull off.

This is what the BBC call “Light Entertainment”, a kind of Dad’s Army or Last of the Summer Wine, but with young people, and music, and madness, and black magic! It’s also got a bit of mystery going on to help things along.

This is not top of the heap comedy, it’s not going to compete with Stephen Fry or Ben Elton but who possibly can. But it is certainly funny, it’ll make you smile a lot, and even a few chuckles and a lol!

This would make a perfect British Comedy film, and perhaps someone should send a copy to Richard Curtis, the maker of many a perfect British Comedy.

Williams should sit beside Tony Parsons and Nick Hornby, he’s not really as insightful as either of them, but he’s funnier than both. In Rik Suntan he has created a legend in his own lunchtime, a character so realistic, so pathetic, so empathetic, and in the end so heroic, that you can’t help but laugh at him and see a bit of yourself in him at the same time, as sad as it is to admit that.

Stairway To Hell is the perfect book for the man in your life who has everything, and everyone has one of those. Unique, funny, and in its own small way, brilliant.