‘Creed’ by James Herbert

creed
new-5-stars
Creed

When freelance photographer Joe Creed sets out to capture a series of photos at the funeral of a famous actress, he gets the chance to take a few snaps of a strange old man at the graveside. But developing the pictures leads him into a mystery – one he can’t easily explain. Learning the name of his unwitting subject and what it could mean if turns out to be true, only adds inconceivable reasoning to an already unsettling tale. With the help of an attractive ally, Creed sets out to discover just what the hell is going on.

Sometimes the very thing that grabs a reader’s attention (in terms of an author’s style), is the same thing that can get a little annoying after a while – similar scenarios, use of language etc. And when that happens, sometimes it’s best to just leave that particular writer alone for a while and spread your readery wings further afield.

I first got into James Herbert’s books in the late Seventies, when horror novels were coming back into fashion. With books like ‘The Rats’, ‘The Fog’ and ‘The Dark’, I found stories that had just the right amount of blood, guts and scary stuff to keep me interested for several years. Nevertheless, as I grew (perhaps) a little too familiar with the plots, other authors caught my attention and I veered away from Britain’s most prolific horror writer. Now, with a suitable gap of twenty-odd years, I’m getting back to where my interest in the genre started.

Joe Creed is a fascinating and realistic character and his chaotic exploits kept me eagerly turning the pages as the plot developed arms, legs and devilish tails, but I did find the author’s inclination to comment on the story as it went along a little irritating. So while I’m more than happy to give the book five stars for its entertainment value alone, I don’t think this is James Herbert’s best work – it doesn’t quite capture the audacity and excitement of his early writing and the unexpected twists are less twisty and not so unexpected.

Nonetheless, this novel did renew my interest and those early books will, I’m sure, stand up to another look, so I’ll be returning to James Herbert again soon – The Rats are coming…

 
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Author Interview – Jacky Dahlhaus

Australian-born writer Jacky Dahlhaus is the author of the ‘Suckers’ series, starting with her first book, ‘Living Like a Vampire’.

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When did you first become interested in writing and publishing your own work?

I only began writing one-and-a-half years ago and never thought about publishing until I finished my first novel. It was completely new to me as I have a scientific background, not a literary one. There are also no writers in my family, my sisters don’t even read (novels), so I had no example or guidance.

‘Suckers – Book 1: Living Like a Vampire’ was your first novel – what prompted you to write about vampires?

living-like-a-vampireIt must sound cliché, but I dreamed about a girl running and bumping into a vampire she instantly fell in love with. Why it had to be a vampire, I don’t know. Could have been a werewolf, an alien, or any Dick, Tom, or Harry. I am a Twilight and Underworld fan though, but hadn’t read the books/watched the movies in years. As I’m a veterinarian, I guess I’m intrigued by the animal aspect of vampires. The fangs, the blood thirst, the passion; it all makes humans stand closer to nature.

Your hero, Kate, is a science teacher. Is she based on, or inspired by, your own experiences in teaching?

I didn’t teach for very long, so unfortunately I don’t have much experience to write about. I had written some scenes that described some of my own experiences, but I had to take them out when I revamped the story. I may bring them back in a prequel though.

Growing up in The Netherlands, how much do you think your early years influenced your writing?

Having spent my upbringing in The Netherlands gave me the advantage that English became a second language to me. We had a lot of UK, US, and AUS programs on television. They were subtitled, so we grew up hearing the English language. I do struggle with tenses though.

It may have been because of my pick of books for my exams, but I found Dutch writers rather boring compared to the English ones and I hope nobody will ever find my writing boring. I avoid long passages of descriptions as intros of chapters and like to keep the pace going throughout the story.

You’ve written several short stories – do you have any plans to publish these?

Yes, certainly! When I have twelve (or so) stories that I think are worthy of printing, I hope to put them in a bundle. Some of them are being filmed with the film club I started earlier this year. It gives an enormous boost to see your mind’s creation on screen.

Who is your favourite author and how have they impacted on your own writing?

Two of my favourite authors are Terry Pratchett (Disc World novels) and Anne McCaffrey (Dragonriders of Pern series). I love their easy style which is open to readers of all abilities. I didn’t realise it when I read her books, but I admire how modern McCaffrey’s thinking was at the time (1967). Pratchett’s insight into human nature is amazing and I love it how he makes you see the ridiculousness of some of it.

In the coming year I will be reading some movie scripts to learn how the author put the emotion seen on screen in words. I guess I should read books for that, but I’m a very slow reader and as I know ten movie titles for every book title I can think of, this seems the more logical way to me. If the movies are based on books I may read the passages I’m interested in.

raising-a-vampireDid you carry out any research before embarking on ‘Living Like a Vampire’, such as dressing up as a vampire, biting people etc?

LOL! Although I love to dress-up during Halloween, I’ve never walked around like a vampire in broad daylight until my first book fair last week (and the filming of my short ‘Busted!’ in which I was the vampire). I like alien stories as much as werewolf ones, etc. I did do some research into the virus that caused the pandemic in my book as people who read my first version commented that they wanted more information on it. With the help of the internet I could give them a plausible explanation.

Where do your characters and stories come from – for example, are they inspired by real people or events?

Kate, the protagonist in my book, has two sisters. I have two sisters. The names of the sisters start with an M and a J. My sisters’ names start with an M and a J. But that’s where the similarities end. The other characters vary. Some characters have names of people I know, but the characters themselves are completely different. Some are based on movie characters, some are completely made up. Sometimes they are a mix of character traits of multiple people. The events are mostly made up. I’ve had a string of boyfriends before meeting my husband, so I do have some experience in that department, but there are no particular personal events described in my books. I’ve never bumped into a vampire for example.

Did you specifically choose to go down the route of becoming an indie author, or have you pursued traditional methods too?

To be honest, at first I didn’t know there were two different routes to publish. Only when I had written my first novel and everybody told me to publish it did I found out about Amazon KDP. I did try to get a publisher at first, but I’m not very good at promoting myself (apart from the fact that my first edition wasn’t very good!)

With book 2 in your ‘Suckers’ series out now, are we going to see a third book?

Yes, I have decided it’s going to be a trilogy. I have the third book in my head already and only need to sit down and write it. Before that happens I need to work on the revamp of book two though, which I hope I will finish within the next three months.

Knowing what you now know about self-publishing, what has been the greatest challenge, or difficulty, in publishing your own books?

The greatest obstacle for me at the moment is time. I don’t know if that is more a promotion thing and not publishing though. I didn’t realise that promoting takes such a lot of time. I still haven’t got the hang of it. The actual publishing, getting your book on Amazon, I found relatively easy, especially if you stick to eBooks.

How do you approach cover design?

I love Photoshop, but I realised that I’m not as good with it as I thought I was. And to do something really well takes time. So I had the cover for my second edition designed by a cover artist. He did a magnificent job. I found it very hard to hand over though, but he was very patient and didn’t run away screaming ;-). The next book/series I will design myself again though. I just need to take more time for it.

Should we expect to see a wider variety of writing from you in future, or d’you intend sticking with the paranormal/vampire genre?

I do have some stories waiting in a notebook to get written. Most of them involve otherworldly creatures/planets, but there are some ‘normal’ ones too. As yet no more vampires though…

You can grab Jacky’s books here: Living Like a Vampire and Raising a Vampire.

 
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‘Gary’s Guide to Life’ by Michael Nabavian and Phil Wall

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Gary’s Guide to Life
new-5-stars

Wanna-be self-help guru Gary Speedwell is going to be a success. At least, that’s the plan, and by following his own set of motivational strategies (inspired by personal-development authority Marshall Brewster), there’s no stopping him. Or at least, there won’t be if he can get things sorted out with ex-wife Kim and his soon-to-be ex-girlfriend Sandra. All he needs is to hook up with a powerful business-minded woman like Louise, and everything’ll be hunky dory.

With its subtitle: ‘How I Am Going to Achieve Phenomenal Success, and How You Can Do the Same’, this is a wonderfully witty and at times utterly hilarious take on all those worthy self-help guides that clog the relationships, counselling and psychology-themed shelves of our bookstores.

‘Gary’s Guide to Life’ is a very readable book, dishing up advice and strategies for improving everything from business meetings to getting to first base with your hoped-for love interest. Each strategy comes with examples from Gary’s own life, tinged, as many of them are, with naivety, enthusiasm and occasionally, moronic self-belief.

Michael Nabavian and Phil Wall are what we Brits like to call ‘Comedy Gold’ and if the pair don’t get their own sitcom in the near future, I’ll be highly surprised. If you like a laugh and a good story into the bargain, this one’ll fit bill very nicely.

 
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Author Interview – John Ukah

John Ukah is a Nigerian author whose career has taken him into the world of banking and finance. However, his first novel, ‘Murder at Midnight’, is a far cry from his everyday life.john-ukah

Q. Coming from a background in banking, how did you get interested in writing crime novels?

A. The books I grew up reading influenced my writing habits.

Q. ‘Murder at Midnight’ is your first book – do you plan to follow this up with a sequel?

A. Yes, there will be a sequel. The characters in “Murder At Midnight” are like old friends and I would like to pay them another visit.
murder-at-midnight
Q. Your hero, Alex Simpson, is an ex-police officer. Is he based on, or inspired by, anyone in real life?

A. He is an entirely fictitious character.

Q. Growing up in Nigeria, how much do you think your early years influenced your writing?

A. I grew up in a house full of books. This significantly influenced my reading and writing habits. Literature broadens the mind.

Q. You’ve mentioned elsewhere that one of your favourite authors is Agatha Christie. Was it a conscious decision to follow in her footsteps, or were there other reasons for choosing the genre of crime fiction?

A. My first book is in the crime fiction genre but there was no conscious decision to follow in her footsteps. My favourite books are detective thrillers, murder mysteries and horror stories. However, some of my next projects could be in a completely different genre.

EXCERPT: Events at the Lodge were getting more bizarre. I just could not sit still. We would know what was wrong with Wahimda when the police came back with a report from the hospital. But I had to investigate Maria’s murder on my own. She had come to me, for advice and I felt I owed it to her, to find out just who had killed her. She had been a very beautiful young woman. And I had liked her. We had shared a brief but intimate moment of passion. I decided to retire to my room where I could think well.

Q. Who is your favourite author and how have they impacted on your own writing?

A. Stephen King is my favourite author. I enjoy reading his horror novels. His books are gripping and highly imaginative. He is a master storyteller. He also has a book on the writing craft, “On Writing” which is an invaluable guide.

Q. Did you carry out any research before embarking on ‘Murder at Midnight’, and if so, what?

A. I did some research on drug addiction, the effects and treatment. I researched the setting of the novel. A writer needs to know well the world the characters inhabit. I also researched the occupations of the various characters.

Q. Where do your characters and stories come from – for example, are they inspired by real people or events?

A. My writing is inspired by conversations with others and personal experiences. A fertile imagination gives wings to such experiences or conversations.

Q. Your book is published by ‘The Fearless Storyteller House Emporium’. What prompted your decision to go with this company rather than taking the route of an indie author?

A. They say success occurs when opportunity meets preparation. I had a ready manuscript and the company was interested in my kind of work. We fit like a glove.

Q. What can readers expect from John Ukah in the coming years?

A. Readers can expect more exciting books. I am currently working on a detective thriller. It is a saga of love, pitiful criminalities, investigations, assumptions and deceits.

Murder at Midnight is available at a host of online stores, including Smashwords, Amazon UK and Amazon US.

‘Storyworks Monthly – #1’ by Stephen J Carter

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new-5-stars
Storyworks Monthly #1

In this varied collection of new work, Stephen J Carter has fashioned an interesting series. In the tradition of Dean Wesley Smith (Smith’s Monthly), he presents a handful of stories, a novella, a serial novel and a piece for writers on inciting incidents in movies.

Being a fan of Dickens, I liked the idea of a serial novel that leaves the reader panting for the next instalment, though I’m not sure modern readers will appreciate waiting until the next one comes out! Nevertheless, Mr Carter does put on a good show and I’d be interested to see how he follows up in the next 2 books.

The short stories, while being different in tone, style and setting, encompass parallel themes. All three depict moments in time that are not only beautifully described, but often quite moving, despite the outcomes. ‘Descent on Abuwesi’ is part one of a serial SF novel and revisits characters from the ‘Zero Point Light’ books, where a group of survivors face an impending invasion. The novella in this collection (Ship of Remnants), tells what initially appears to be a run-of-the mill story about a group of passengers on a container ship who suspect all may not be as it seems. The writing here lulled me into a false sense of security and reminded me a little of Somerset Maugham. The denouement, however, was not what I’d expected.

From my previous foray into Stephen J Carter’s work (Storm Ring), I knew he could tell a good tale, but I think in this volume, he demonstrates a talent for telling a wide variety of tales, and I have to say I was damned impressed.

 
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‘Fisher’s Fables’ by Robert Crouch

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Fisher’s Fables
new-5-stars

Environmental Health Manager, Kent Fisher, leads a disparate team of hopeful winners in this tale of hot-desking, agile working, unlikely acronyms and awkward assignations. A well-observed, if episodic, narrative thrusts the protagonist into a world of back-biting and brown-nosing, where keeping the proverbial head above water means negotiating the grinding and occasionally corrupt machinations of the local council. Add to that the arrival of the Chief Executive’s niece (and a bit of difficulty with a pair of boxer shorts), and there’s plenty of scope for fun, puns and unexpected dismissals.

In charting the vicissitudes of a typical bunch of office workers, the author has created what, on the surface, could so easily have been a straightforward and not-very-interesting account of day-to-day activities. However, Robert Crouch has brought a couple of things to this particular desk that shifts his creation from the ordinary to the intelligent. With a sharp eye for detail and an keen ear for dialogue, this is a witty and entertaining read with lots of potential for further adventures.

I read this book over a couple of days and thoroughly enjoyed it. Mr Crouch has a likeable writing style that’s easy to read and hard to put down. In fact, the only thing missing is a damn good murder, but apparently, that’s where Kent Fisher really gets his hands dirty in the follow-up: ‘No Accident’, the first book in Robert Crouch’s Kent Fisher Mysteries series. Sounds good to me.

 
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