Take one

(Note: I actually wrote the post below about a year ago and never published it, or even actually launched the website. That’s how organised I am when it comes to this sort of thing. Reading it back now, most of it still holds true, so I’ve decided not to amend it. I still don’t really know what I’ll use this space for, but while a lot of the stuff I was working on back then hasn’t happened — more horror stories — there are definitely a few imminent announcements in the pipeline, and I guess I need somewhere handy to post about them, right? So fuck it, publish.)

Very possibly this is too little, too late, but after years of vague threats and promises, I’ve finally got it together to gather up the various bits of internet detritus related to me and put it all in one place. (For the few that might care.)

I’m still undecided what to use this space for. Obviously if any of the various things I’m currently working on come to the boil, it would be remiss of me not to shamelessly pimp them here a la Harvey Keitel in Taxi Driver (“You can do anything you want with her…”). I’m thinking I might also jot down a few notes on various film-related experiences (good and bad…but often bad, for those rubberneckers who relish real-life horror stories) in the hope that they might be of some use to anyone who stumbles across them…a sort of ‘Here be monsters’ map to indie filmmaking. (They might also serve to absolve me of creative responsibility for some of the stuff bearing my name, which would be a definite bonus.) That’s slightly dependent on free time and whether anyone actually gives a damn…but maybe.

Or perhaps this site will just be something I can point to when certain friends nag me about not doing enough to self-publicise online, something I can dust off occasionally and yell “SEE?”, all the while continuing to try and avoid the wider horrors of social media…

I guess I’ll just have to improvise (words to strike horror into any director). So for now, slate one, take one…action.


Time for Two More Stories

I’ve been absent from here for too long — partly because of being deep into writing a book, partly because there wasn’t all that much to say during a long, bleak winter lockdown — but now there is stuff! About me! (Surprise.)

A few years ago, I don’t think I would have ever envisaged myself writing fiction regularly, but I told God my future plans and he duly laughed hysterically and so now it seems to be A Thing, for as long as people will have me.

One of those people, I’m very pleased to say, is Brian Showers, the publisher of the most excellent Swan River Press. Swan River have been publishing a series of anthologies called Uncertainties for some years now, featuring original weird/peculiar fiction by some of the best names the genre field has to offer. So it was a real honour when Brian invited me to contribute to this year’s edition, not least because I ended up being included alongside other writers I grew up reading and admiring, people like Ramsey Campbell and Alan Moore. (Not worthy, etc etc.)

Anyway, Uncertainties Vol. 5, featuring my story “To See the Sea”, is now available to pre-order here: http://www.swanriverpress.ie/title_uncertainties5.html?fbclid=IwAR33ijSjhJR8puO5fpRJzQVIEKPZ1jpWOEklx4ABlEgKcQIWDo8Z3gCtKBU

(The book is on the pricier side, I realise, but if you’re not familiar with Swan River’s books, they are exquisitely put together and well worth the cost.)

Also, Brian’s erudite foreword to the book is also available to read here: https://swanriverpress.wordpress.com/2021/04/07/that-didnt-scare-me-thoughts-on-horror-fiction/?fbclid=IwAR0JkagVidtY4yUdPg7fykHwKwd75Wz59xxshwoFRX76S6GG8wybVE5XWbI

But wait, there’s more! I sold three short stories last year, and the second of them was to the Flame Tree Press anthology Terrifying Ghosts. (The third is still TBA.) This one was a nice surprise, as I simply sent a story in via open submission without any particular expectations, only to have it accepted. The story is a Christmas ghost story called “My True Love Gave to Me”, and Terrfying Ghosts can be ordered via Flame Tree’s website or via the usual online vendors.


And before I disappear again, I should also mention that I’ve been continuing to dabble in the world of Blu-ray extras. It’s been my great pleasure to team up with Kim Newman for a number of audio commentary tracks, the first few of which have now been released.

The first was Roger Corman’s classic adaptation of Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death, available from StudioCanal in a gloriously restored version: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Masque-Red-Death-Blu-ray/dp/B08GM9VXKZ/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1QJ2J4MAMO4LI&dchild=1&keywords=masque+red+death+blu+ray&qid=1617894022&sprefix=masque+red%2Caps%2C182&sr=8-1

Sticking with Roger Corman, we then discussed the somewhat less classy but nevertheless highly entertaining Humanoids from the Deep, available from 88 Films: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Humanoids-Deep-Blu-ray-Doug-McClure/dp/B08MW9XWCP/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=humanoids+deep+blu+ray&qid=1617894277&sr=8-1

And leaving Corman behind, we also found a few things to say about drive-in sleaze classic Truck Stop Women, once more available from 88 Films: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Truck-Stop-Women-Blu-ray-Lester/dp/B08X2CP6VX/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3V6KXXFJEL8L4&dchild=1&keywords=truck+stop+women+blu+ray&qid=1617894409&sprefix=truck+stop++blu+ray%2Caps%2C169&sr=8-1

There’s more to come from me and Kim, so watch this space for details. However, Mr Newman, being a man of far more refined tastes, was not able to participate in my other recent commentary track. So instead, I teamed up with FrightFest’s Paul McEvoy to ponder the matter of 80’s oddity Spookies, coming soon in an extras-packed edition from 101 Films: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Spookies-Limited-Blu-ray-Felix-Ward/dp/B08XZGLCLF/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=spookies+blu+ray&qid=1617894914&sr=8-1

And that, I think, is that.

In & Out Job

A very quick post, mostly just to say that England’s Screaming was recently named as one of the five best SFF books of the year in the Financial Times. (Which is very much appreciated, although I’ll never quite be able to get my head around the fact that this book keeps getting positive write-ups in the FT.) This is what they had to say:

“Hogan brilliantly unites dozens of British horror movies from the past 50 years under a single narrative, as if each was always intended to form part of a sprawling mosaic storyline. His novel also shows how the nation found a cinematic valve for venting its troubled, grubby postwar id.”

Beyond that, there isn’t too much to report right now. I’ve managed to sell a few short stories this year, but nothing I can announce just yet. I’m also hawking around a novel at the moment, but it remains to be seen whether anyone will be interested.

But seeing as I have already mentioned it on social media, it seems an opportune moment to officially say here that I’m currently working on the follow-up to England’s Screaming, which will move across the Atlantic for a look at US genre cinema. (However, for anyone wanting to know what happens after the end of England’s Screaming, it does pick up some of the dangling story threads of the first book…)

A Fallow Field

A long overdue update is in order! I’ve been busy with a novel and a game script and have neglected this site for far too long…

England’s Screaming is out in the world and seems to be standing on its own two feet. I’ve been very gratified by the responses so far — people seem to be not only enjoying the book, but also getting exactly where it’s coming from, which is about as much as I can ask for. Even The Financial Times liked it! (This amused me no end, given that the politics of the book run somewhat contrary to the sort of values you’ll generally find espoused in the FT.) You need to be registered with the site to read the review, so I’ll excerpt the body of it here:

“In ENGLAND’S SCREAMING, Sean Hogan sets out to forge links between the plots of several dozen British horror movies from the 1960s to the present day. In a series of vignettes, each expanding on a single film’s storyline, Hogan creates family ties where none existed before and adds connective tissue wholly of his own invention.

Some of his chosen movies are classics, some are feted by cognoscenti, and some are downright obscure. The narrative builds to an apocalyptic climax involving, among others, the Antichrist Damien Thorn from the Omen series, the sadomasochistic demons of Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, and John Morlar, the misanthrope with an appetite for psychokinetic destruction played by Richard Burton in 1978 chiller The Medusa Touch.

Not only does Hogan make a decent stab at what one might call a Grand Unified Theory of Postwar British Horror Cinema, in the process he shows how these films lanced a boil in the prim flesh of the nation, allowing all manner of repressed sleaziness and perversion to ooze out. The novel’s appeal may be somewhat niche, but it’s written with skill and a zealous intensity.”

(Review by James Lovegrove)

Total Film also reviewed the book, giving it four stars out of five and calling it a “smart meta-twist on UK horror”.

In his extremely enthusiastic write-up, Diabolique Magazine‘s Andrew Graves called it a “beautiful experiment, full of surprises”. (Full review here). Andrew also conducted an in-depth interview with me about England’s Screaming and its followup Three Mothers, One Father both.

Kendall Reviews named England’s Screaming their book of the month, calling it a “masterpiece”. They also invited me to curate a selection of some of my favourite literary horrors — both the book review and my picks can be found here.

I’ve done quite a few podcast chats with Britflicks’ Stuart Wright over the years, and he once again obliged by having me along as a guest to discuss the new books. Interview here.

And I think that’s about it, as far as the books are concerned. Except to say that while I’m obviously extremely grateful for the praise and attention England’s Screaming has received, I would like to take a moment to again mention its semi-sequel, Three Mothers, One Father, which sometimes seems to get overlooked in the focus on its weightier sibling. If you enjoyed England’s Screaming, I think it’s highly likely you’d appreciate Three Mothers too; both books follow the same format, share a few points of narrative connection, and are part of a larger continuity (as is my earlier book on Gary Sherman’s Death Line) which may yet be expanded by further volumes in the series…

So, just a quick reminder that England’s Screaming is available via PS Publishing, while Three Mothers, One Father can be purchased from Black Shuck Books. (Both books are also available via Amazon.)

But that’s not all! While I have your attention (or not, as the case may be), I’ll briefly mention a couple of other things I’ve been up to of late…

I had the pleasure of taking part in a video interview with Natasha Marburger, one of her regular series of film-related chats. We mainly spoke about screenwriting and directing (while touching on the books too), and given the topics of conversation, I think I managed not to swear too much or slander anyone by name. Our discussion can be found here.

And finally, a quick plug regarding the fact that I’ve also been dipping my toes into the world of blu-ray extras recently. 101 Films are the kind people who have been paying me for my deathless cinematic insights (the poor fools!), and so far I’ve contributed a video interview for their release of Phase IV (a film I love), an audio commentary (with Jasper Sharp) for The New Kids (a film I don’t), and a booklet essay for Brain Dead (the 1990 one, not the Peter Jackson splatterfest). All are available from their own store and via the usual outlets.

(I’m also aware that I attempted to start a regular series of capsule film reviews that I spectacularly failed to continue. I may yet go back to it, but in the meantime I just wanted to mention a few things I’ve enjoyed of late: Shudder’s The Beach House, an insinuatingly creepy slice of cosmic horror that, for my money, does a lot more with relatively little than The Colour Out of Space managed with Nicholas Cage and a much bigger budget. Somewhat unexpectedly, I also liked Netflix’s JU-ON: Origins miniseries, which mostly eschews standard J-horror stylistics and interestingly mixes extreme kitchen-sink bleakness with some Lynchian-style horror. And I was one of many who were very impressed with The Vast of Night, a retro-SF slice of weirdo Americana, available via Amazon Prime.)

Our Mad Parade

England’s Screaming, my fictional history of UK horror cinema, is now available to order as a beautifully-produced hardback from PS Publishing.


And its Eurohorror followup, Three Mothers, One Father, is also available from Black Shuck Books, both as a paperback and E-book.


(For more details on the whys and wherefores of writing them, see my earlier post here.)

As I’ve said before, they are a linked pair but you don’t have to have read one to appreciate the other. But if you do feel like treating yourself to both, please don’t let me stop you…

Also, for anyone who’s still wondering what the hell the books actually are, I wrote a new sample vignette (not included in either volume) to help give people the general idea. Hopefully it serves to illustrate something of the overall approach and the sort of playful intertextuality (drawing on films both well-known and obscure) that is such a large part of the books.

(And for anyone who does buy England’s Screaming, you’ll find some overlap with one of the characters featured there.)

So, without any further ado, let me introduce…’Harry’.


Martine Beswick in The Penthouse, 1967
based on the play by C. Scott Forbes
adapted & directed by Peter Collinson

SHE FOUND the two men in one of Whitechapel’s less salubrious drinking establishments; the sort of pub that gave the impression of having crawled into the shadows to die. The atmosphere inside was thick with smoke, flatulence and bad breath, but to her it smelt like home. She supposed that one sign of modern-day progress was that such stink had at least been shifted indoors; in her time the streets and alleys of Whitechapel had been indelibly permeated with it, like the corpse-smell in a mortician’s clothing.

Still, she welcomed the stench. To her it suggested humanity, which in turn suggested life. And where there was life, there was always the unspoken promise of death…

Upon entering, she threw open the door with a loud bang, showering the dark interior with a spray of sunlight. The drinkers sat nearest the doorway recoiled from the sudden glare, insects scuttling back to the underside of their rock. She relished the theatrical manner of her entrance, and the disquiet it caused amongst the pub’s patrons. They stared at her openly; first in annoyance, then in sheer disbelief. Women who looked like her simply did not drink in places like this.

Their eyes followed her all the way to the bar. She knew exactly what they were thinking: about what her body might look like under that coat, and the uses it could be put to. Well, let them look. She recalled looking at herself in the mirror for the first time, all those long decades before. At first, her mouth had gaped wide with horror, but within seconds, she’d begun to see herself as she truly was; beautiful, perfect. Her expression of terror had quickly turned to one of fascination, then outright joy. She remembered pulling open her robe, caressing the soft curves of her newly-formed breasts, where only a short time before there had merely been the undeveloped pectoral muscles of a bookish scientist.

Arriving at the bar, she ordered a double whisky, then sat down to wait in the far corner. She did not have to wait long. Two men emerged from the nicotine haze of the interior, looming over her table like false idols. She supposed they meant to intimidate, to scare her, and her mind flashed back to all those fallen women cowering beneath her blade on those fog-wreathed Whitechapel nights a century ago.

She smiled. Hello boys, she said.

They placed their hands on her table, taking ownership of the space. Strutting males, marking their territory. I’m Tom, the first one said.

And I’m Dick, his companion added, with a leer.

Well, I suppose that makes me Harry, the woman replied.

Funny name for a bird, Dick said.

You’d be surprised. They used to call me Henry, back in the day.

Huh, said Tom. I prefer Harry. He leaned in close, his clammy lips brushing her earlobe. I’m just wild about her, in fact.

And I’m certain she’ll be just wild about you, the woman purred. Now, why don’t you two boys get us all another drink and we’ll have ourselves a nice little chat?

The two men exchanged glances. A chat? About what exactly?

Games, the woman replied, simply.


Back when she’d gone by the name Edwina Hyde, the woman had had little time for games, engaged as she was in a fierce battle for ascendancy and control. The fool Henry Jekyll had given life to Edwina, and then, horrified by what she represented – his repressed, innermost urges, his own loathsome femininity – had almost immediately tried to abort her. How like a man, to try to dominate a woman’s body, heedless of her own wishes! She’d fought him all the way, knowing that she was the stronger-willed of the two. And when a fatal fall appeared to have killed them both, it was in fact only Jekyll that was sent to his grave; poor Jekyll, whose sole abiding obsession had been to cheat death.

With him vanquished, Edwina had finally managed to extricate herself from the hated masculine flesh imprisoning her. It had taken her a full two days to assume her own form, leaving Henry Jekyll’s body a wizened husk in the coffin behind her, but when she eventually emerged from the tomb that bright Sunday morning, naked and new-born, she was at last, truly emancipated.

Without Jekyll’s super-ego holding her in check, she was now free to do precisely as she wished. As a creature of untramelled id, Jekyll had considered Edwina to be nothing but pure evil, but what else could you expect from a so-called Victorian gentleman? Now, all these years later, when the shameless hypocrisy of the age that had birthed her was far better understood, Edwina had no use for such simplistic Manichean dichotomies. As she saw it, she wished only to take pleasure in life, and however sinful Jekyll and his ilk would have once considered a woman’s pleasure to be, he had nevertheless unwittingly bequeathed her the biological means to outlive such strictures.

Nowadays, she took full advantage of the many freedoms Swinging London offered her; she was a devoted patron of the arts, savoring film, theatre, literature and music in equal measure (it was alleged that she had also savored several renowned practitioners of those fields, including such notables of the Sixties demimonde as Warren Beatty and Terence Stamp; some even said that she had been a guest of the Rolling Stones on the night the police raided Keith Richards’ Redlands estate); she kept up with the latest fashions, occasionally modelling herself from time to time; frequented London’s many excellent restaurants, where she cultivated a reputation as something of a gourmande; and was not averse to involving herself in the radical politics of the era, marching in support of the Abortion Act and against the Vietnam War (although those who knew her best said that in actuality she cared little for politics; what she truly craved was violence and civil unrest).

Yes, Edwina (let us call her that for simplicity’s sake, although she never went by that name any longer, preferring to adopt and discard identities as the situation and her whims demanded) lived a rich and full life. Still, whenever she could find the time, she had other, more private, hobbies she was fond of pursuing; or, as she put it, little games she liked to play. Which were all meant in good fun, you understand, and if someone got hurt every now and then – well, the same thing happens whenever children play too rough, and one of life’s early lessons is that everyone simply needs to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and get on with it.

It was precisely these games that she wished to discuss with Tom and Dick now. After all, what use was a game without playmates? They listened intently as she spoke, their carnal excitement mounting as she spoke to them of dark, forbidden things; the same things Henry Jekyll had once tried to deny in himself, and her. Men were such malleable creatures, she thought to herself; their endless capacity for lust could so easily be twisted towards violence.

When Edwina finished speaking, the two men were silent for a moment. Finally, Dick looked at her plaintively, a pitbull straining on a leash. I don’t understand, he said. What exactly do you want us to do?

Perhaps it’s better if I just show you, she said.

That evening she took them both to a revival of Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party. A legendary flop upon its first production, the play was now acclaimed as the writer’s first masterpiece; a seminal demonstration of the ‘comedy of menace’. Tom and Dick sat beside her in a private box, rapt. They had never realised that intimidation and bullying could, in the right hands, be art.

When the curtain fell at the end of the third act, she turned to them and asked, Now do you see?

You want us to do that? They looked quietly awed at the prospect.

Precisely, she said.

They were eager students, relishing the plum roles they had been assigned. The trio undertook a period of intensive rehearsal, with Edwina playing the part of victim. The scenario was always the same; Tom and Dick would pose as meter men looking to take a reading. All they needed to do was gain access to their chosen household; once they were safely inside, the games could begin in earnest. Edwina encouraged them to improvise freely; any useful bits of business or dialogue would be noted down for future use.

Only when Tom or Dick got too carried away would Edwina ever break character; during the first couple of rehearsals they each tried to strip and assault her, but were promptly dissuaded from that course of action when she produced a switchblade and cut them. But we were only acting! Dick complained, nursing his bleeding wound.

For his part, Tom got so involved with the whole process that he even wrote himself a monologue: a long digression on alligators being flushed into sewers. Edwina thought it a little on the nose, but she was happy to encourage her boys’ burgeoning creativity. She took Tom’s scrawled notes home that night and polished them up for him. Presenting him with the finished speech the next morning, she said, I think you’ll find that more playable.

Privately, Edwina saw herself as something of a frustrated artiste. She had always relished the performative aspects of her unusual existence, and in her more fanciful moments, had often toyed with the notion of writing her autobiography (entitled, of course, He Said, She Said). Therefore this new project served as something of a useful creative outlet, although she would refrain from getting too involved at first; she was happy to let the boys play while she observed from the wings, ready to step in and prompt if necessary. That way, if they ever went too far off-book, she would not be caught up in any messy recriminations.

Tom had a somewhat murky background in the estate agent trade; from what Edwina understood, he’d worked for a notoriously crooked lettings agency, until that particular avenue of employment had been cut short after his boss absconded to Spain with the company’s ill-gotten profits. But he still knew some people from the old days — more specifically, the sort of people who weren’t averse to accepting an occasional back-hander in exchange for useful information.

Such as the fact that one of their colleagues was using a property on the agency’s books to conduct an extra-marital affair.

The residence in question was a penthouse flat in a high-rise development designed by the architect Anthony Royal. Royal had long insisted that high-rises were the homes of the future, and was known to be hatching grand designs in that direction; entirely self-contained tower blocks where the inhabitants could live, work and play without ever setting foot outside their home’s four walls.

The particular development Tom, Dick, and the woman they knew only as Harry found themselves standing outside that night was not quite so ambitious in its schematics, but Royal was always better with the bigger picture than the finer details, and as the group were soon to discover, it still suffered from many of the niggling faults that would come to plague the architect’s future projects.

Such as the lack of a working lift.

When they realised they would have to climb twenty floors to the top, Tom and Dick were all for putting it off until another morning and retiring to the nearest pub instead, but Edwina would have none of it. This was their premiere, their big debut. They’d all worked so hard to get to this point; now, they’d finally have the receptive public they deserved.

In the end, Tom and Dick grudgingly assented – they never could refuse her. (Whether that was due to lust or fear, who could say?) Edwina would wait patiently for them below, lest her watchful presence induce stage fright. So the pair slowly struggled to the uppermost floor, wheezing and groaning like old furniture. Awaiting them in the penthouse were Bruce and Barbara; furtive adulterers and unwitting audience both.

Everything went just as they’d rehearsed. Tom gained access to the flat under pretence of reading the meter, and once inside, swiftly asserted his dominance of the battleground. The couple were just out of bed, still only half-awake, and once Tom let Dick into the penthouse, the hapless Bruce was quickly cowed into submission. They tied him up and proceeded to have their fun with Barbara, getting her drunk on scotch and taking turns with her in the bedroom (each of them secretly fantasising it was Harry they were ravishing). Tom even got to deliver his big monologue; he was word-perfect, his timing impeccable, and his only regret was that Harry wasn’t present to see it.

For over twelve hours they terrorised the two lovers, brandishing knives and sadistically insinuating that Bruce and Barbara would never leave the flat alive. In truth, Tom and Dick had little stomach for real violence – the sort that ended with the twin odours of blood and shit mingling in the air. (Although they did not know it, that was more Edwina’s métier.) No, they were simply bullies, opportunists. In time, Edwina thought she might coax them further down that particular road, but was content to let them stumble along at their own pace for now.


So, when they eventually grew tired of their own cruelty, they scuttled back down the many flights of stairs to fetch ‘Harry’ – the closing act on the bill. She swept into the penthouse posing as Tom and Dick’s probation officer, gleefully manipulating the traumatised lovers all over again until her two charges returned to the stage and the charade stood revealed. Edwina delighted in tearing down the couple’s middle-class deceits and obfuscations; ever since Jekyll had treated her as his dirty, shameful secret, she’d loathed the polite hypocrisies of English society and made it her life’s work to trample upon them wherever possible, grinding her country’s genteel pretensions into the dirt with aggressive relish.

Accordingly, although Bruce and Barbara both survived their ordeal that night, Edwina knew they had nevertheless been marked irrevocably by it; their hidden, shameful selves dragged kicking and screaming into the light, much as she herself had once been. And she would be content with that much, for now.

Fully satisfied with their debut performance, the trio retired to plan what they might do for an encore. One night shortly afterwards, Tom had drinks with another estate agent of his acquaintance: the self-styled A.J. Stoker. Tom understood the man to be a casually unscrupulous sort, and after a few ales and a couple of crisp twenties had loosened Stoker’s tongue, the agent duly informed his drinking companion of one particular property on his books: a Shepperton mansion house currently being let to the horror writer Charles Hillyer.

The man’s obviously highly strung, Stoker said. A touch of loose wiring, if you ask me. Well, you’d need to be to write that sort of stuff, wouldn’t you?

Stoker went on to report that, while he certainly wasn’t one to gossip, he believed Hillyer’s wife – a glamorous, younger woman named Alice – was having an illicit affair. He’d spotted another man skulking around the grounds (while the agent just happened to be passing by, of course). Perhaps Tom might be able to put this information to some good use? After all, Stoker hated to think of his properties being used for immoral purposes.

Tom thought he could. He returned to London to tell the fellow members of his troupe the news. Edwina in particular was delighted. Charles Hillyer! she said. I love his books. All those wonderful murders. Perhaps you boys could get him to sign one for me.

But who should we tell him to make it out to, Harry? Tom asked.

She smiled and said nothing.

The following week they all piled into the van and set out for Shepperton. Tom and Dick were like small excitable children, bouncing around in their seats and eagerly anticipating the fun ahead. Edwina watched them giggle and bicker with a fond indulgence that bordered on the maternal. Secretly, she hoped that the game would progress somewhat further this time around – she found that she still had a yen for blood, after all these years.

She was to have her wish granted, but not quite in the manner she’d hoped. Just as before, she stayed behind in the van with a good book (she’d picked out one of Hillyer’s especially for the occasion) while Tom and Dick got the initial introductions out of the way. She was anticipating a long wait, but had only been sitting there for about fifteen minutes when an anguished cry sounded from within the house.

It sounded like Dick, screaming in pain.

Edwina exited the van and strode towards the house, keeping an even, unhurried pace – her long life had instilled in her an unwillingness to rush, irrespective of the circumstances. Drawing the switchblade she carried at all times, she tried the front door, finding it locked. So instead, she quietly made her way round the back of the building, ears pricked for any further cries of distress, but hearing nothing.

Arriving at the patio at the rear of the house, she slowly approached the French windows and peered inside. Lying beyond was a book-lined study, obviously a writer’s den – a typewriter and manuscript were placed on the desk sitting at the centre of the room. A man – not Hillyer, she’d been sure to check the author photo in the back of her book – reclined behind the desk, sipping ruminatively at a glass of scotch. He was darkly handsome and dressed entirely in black, like some pulp hack’s idea of a murderer.

For a murderer he was, that much was apparent. Three lifeless bodies lay sprawled at his feet: a woman – Hillyer’s wife, Edwina assumed – plus Tom and Dick. Her poor boys.

She tried the French windows and found them unlocked. Knife at the ready, she opened them and slipped inside. The man looked up, momentarily startled. But upon seeing Edwina, he began to grin. His eyes were black empty pits, like two freshly-dug graves. For an instant, she saw herself reflected in them.

Whoever this man was, he was just like her. A shadow of the mind; a character that had taken over its author.

The man got to his feet and politely extended a hand. I’m Dominick, he said.


She accepted the handshake. You can call me Edwina, she replied, instinctively offering her original nom de guerre.

Can I offer you a drink, Edwina?

She nodded. As he poured her a scotch, she gazed down at her two murdered playmates. There was a sulky, disappointed look about them. Alas, their fun was over for good, before it had ever properly begun.

Were they with you? Dominick asked, presenting Edwina with her drink.

I’m afraid so, she said.

He gestured helplessly. They intruded at a rather…delicate moment.

So I see. Why did you kill her?

Oh, no reason, really. It’s just the way I’m written.

Edwina thought she understood. She and Dominick were both nothing but dark impulses made flesh, unmindful of anything but their own malign gratification. Encountering another being so like herself sent an electric charge crackling through her body; she felt poised and alert, on the brink of something ineffable.

She studied her counterpart for a moment and wondered: did his hunger extend to anything beyond killing? So, what happens now? she asked.

I was thinking that myself, said the man. You appear to have me at something of a disadvantage. You have a weapon, while I prefer to use my hands.

They gazed at each other for an instant, then Edwina calmly folded up her knife and slipped it into her purse. Can you use your hands for anything else? she enquired slyly.

They went upstairs to the master bedroom. Dominick was a hesitant lover – a virgin of sorts, she supposed – but proved an ardent pupil, his strong, restless fingers caressing and exploring every inch of her body. She could sense him holding back, struggling to resist the implacable urge to fasten his hands around her neck and squeeze. The slowly-building heat of his murderous rage only served to heighten her own pleasure.

So, when he finally climaxed, and, carried away on an irresistible tide of his own pleasure, eagerly surrendered to what Charles Hillyer had made of him, Edwina was ready for it. As his fingers coiled around her neck, she looked up, met his cold gaze, and laughed soundlessly.

Then, pulling him close, she took him into her.

Gasping with a transcendent pleasure, she absorbed his seed, his blood, his flesh, bone, and sinew. The process took only seconds, giving her doomed lover no opportunity to resist or struggle. As he began to dissipate, Dominick stared at her in brief, almost ecstatic wonder, until his eyes shrivelled away in their sockets like unpicked fruit on a vine.

Moments later, there was only a mere scattering of dust and hair where her murderous inamorato had once lain.

Edwina could feel Dominick deep inside her, his black psyche nestling tightly against her own. It had been a long time since she had been so intimate with a man. All of a sudden, she felt replenished, made whole again; the icy absence that had gnawed inside her ever since Jekyll’s death was finally replete.

She got out of bed and slowly dressed, luxuriating in the sensation of the dawn’s warm rays bathing her skin. Still, it would not be a good idea to linger here too long, in case Hillyer’s wife was missed. Not only that, but there was something else she sensed in the house; a feeling of overwhelming enmity even greater than her own, as though the very building itself was watching her like a concealed predator, waiting for its killing moment.

Leaving Tom and Dick where they lay, she exited the house and made her way to the van. As she drove back to London, Edwina began to reconsider her present circumstances. There was nothing tangible to connect her to her two erstwhile cohorts, but perhaps spending some time away from London would be in order all the same. The next day she booked herself a first-class plane ticket to Canada. Killing time at the airport before her flight, she picked up something to read during the journey. A new horror novel by another of her favourites, Edmund Blackstone.

She turned to the back flap and scrutinised Blackstone’s photograph. The man looked frail, haunted; as though his face were a flimsy mask barely holding back the flood of nightmares spewing up from within.

Her eyes moved to the author information printed below, which apprised her that the author lived in Quebec, Canada.

Edwina considered the import of this new coincidence. Perhaps the game need not be over yet. With her particular charms, it would not take long to find another couple of willing playmates. Maybe a more theatrical-looking pair this time, less scruffily quotidian in appearance…

A giant, and a…dwarf? Would that be too outré?


She giggled girlishly at the thought of it. And…what if they all dressed up in costumes? It would make the game even more fun.

This impromptu change of scenery was sounding like a better and better idea all the time. After all, Edwina mused, a change is as good as a rest.

And who could know that better than she?

Book ’em

So I have these two books coming out…


The first, England’s Screaming, is an idea I’ve been toying with for some years now, and arose directly out of the monograph I wrote on Gary Sherman’s great Death Line. Half of that book was comprised of a fictional response to and continuation of the film’s narrative, using Donald Pleasence’s Inspector Calhoun character as a means to examine the movie from the inside out. In that sense, it was very much influenced by David Thomson’s Suspects, a book I’ve always admired, and which does a similar thing with a number of famous characters from film noir.

Now, the idea of doing something analagous with horror cinema had forever been lingering in the back of my mind, but every time I got as far as jotting down a few notes on it, I inevitably became too daunted to properly evaluate the prospect. Where would I even start? The idea was too huge, had too many possibilities, too many damn films to consider. Not to mention that I was only a screenwriter anyway, not a proper writer like Thomson; the sort of writer you’d need to be to attempt something like this. It was just an amusing fantasy, nothing more.

Then, for some reason best known only to himself, Neil Snowdon, the editor of the Electric Dreamhouse series of film books put out by PS Publishing, asked me if I’d be interested in writing a monograph for him. I immediately accepted — I was flattered to be asked, and had never really thought that I’d ever write an actual book. So I figured it would be one to cross off the bucket list.

For unavoidable personal reasons, the writing of the monograph ended up being delayed for several months, and during that time doubts started to creep in. I found that I didn’t want to embark on the sort of critical study that might be expected from a book like this. I liked to read such things, but I discovered that I didn’t actually want to write one. There are other people far better equipped than I to do that. So what on earth could I do?

Then I remembered Suspects, and the notion that fiction could itself be the best response to a piece of art. I’d always relished Pleasence’s character and performance in Death Line, and that finally became the way in for me. I attempted to mimic his (very particular) voice and tell his own personal story, and thus look at the events of the film through Calhoun’s eyes. The book was a joy to write after that.

When I finally delivered this weird little volume to Neil, he remarkably didn’t tell me not to darken his inbox again. He was actually very enthused by what I’d done, and when he came across a passing mention I’d made of my fantasy about writing a horror version of Suspects, he told me that if I ever did write such a thing, he’d gladly publish it. The fool!

This was obviously a huge compliment to receive, but I’m still not sure I ever seriously considered it at that stage. It was still too imposing a task, too big a commitment. But the idea stayed with me…

Skip forward a couple of years, when I suddenly found myself with some time on my hands. Not only that, but I was increasingly fed up with the state of my film career (such as it is). Too many chancers, too many blind alleys, too much bad faith. Suddenly, the idea of working on something I could control, that had an almost-guaranteed platform (assuming I didn’t fuck it up completely) appealed greatly. Without any grand overall plan, I sat down and wrote four sample vignettes from what would become England’s Screaming. Then I sent them to Neil. Are you still interested in this? I asked.

He replied in the affirmative.

And that was that. With only the vaguest notion of what I was doing, I sat down and started writing. When I write screenplays I generally plan fairly thoroughly, but I never did with this. I had a rough idea of where it might go, but as to what films I’d include or how they would connect or what the fucking point of it all was, I had not a clue. I started making lists of what I might include, watching the films in the mornings and writing in the afternoons and basically letting the movies guide me. At times I felt as though I was running a marathon, that my writing lungs might give out and I’d simply collapse — but I plowed on.

Eventually, the book began to show me what it was. I began to see unexpected connections between the stuff I was watching (so unexpected in places that I wondered if I could even get away with them). Not only that, but I realised I was writing about England, that the films were merely a vehicle to look at where we’d been as a country and where the fuck we might be going (a fairly pressing question in 2018/19). It was still a wearying slog at times, but now that I had a plan, I (eventually) got it done. I showed it to a couple of beta readers and they seemed to agree I hadn’t embarrassed myself too badly.

So I sent it to Neil, and I am pleased to say he was extremely enthused about publishing it (again, the fool!). That was about a year ago, and while there have been one or two bumps along the road since then, the book is now an actual physical object, on the verge of being released. (With a gorgeous cover from the legendary Graham Humphreys and an introduction that does me far too much credit by the esteemed Jonathan Rigby. My humble appreciation to both.)

So enough said about that entire process, really. All that’s left to say is that if you’re all at interested in the prospect of reading a slightly bonkers metafictional satirical pulp horror epic about UK horror films and what they may tell us about ourselves as a country, then this is undoubtedly the book for you.

(Form an orderly queue there.)

But that was not quite the end.

While the book was awaiting publication, I attended one of the regular UK Horror Writers’ Association meetups, and over dinner afterwards, my good friend Steve Shaw (of the excellent Black Shuck Books) mentioned that everyone at the table had either written or was writing for him. Except me, I tactfully pointed out.

Well, we could do something about that, he replied. What would you write?

Of course, I immediately said I would write the Eurohorror semi-sequel to a book that wasn’t even published yet. Now, Steve is a big guy, and could probably have done me quite a bit of mischief if he’d decided to simply hit me for my presumption…but he didn’t. Okay, he shrugged.

And that was how Three Mothers, One Father came into being. Now, this time I knew the territory, and went in with a nascent plan to write a MeToo-themed story about a conflict between Dario Argento’s Three Mothers (featured in Suspiria and Inferno — but NOT Mother of Tears, which I happily, gladly ignored) and the Devil. I still had to do a fair amount of legwork to decide exactly how I was going to go about this, but because it was always intended to be a smaller book (novella rather than novel length), the breadth of my focus was necessarily more restrictive, which made it a far simpler piece to write. And I had a lot of fun doing it. While it’s still dark in places, it’s perhaps not quite as grim as some of England’s Screaming, and possibly a bit more playful.

Anyway, that’s not really for me to judge. That’s for everyone else to decide, should they choose to. I do hope people like them — odd as they are, they were hugely enjoyable to work on, and hopefully the finished books reflect some of the love that went into them.

So if you’re at all interested, this is where they can be found…

England’s Screaming is published by the venerable PS Publishing. (The actual sales link will go live later this week and I’ll post it then.)

Three Mothers, One Father is available via Black Shuck Books. (The paperback can be pre-ordered, the E-book is available now for the ridiculous price of 99p.)

In conclusion, I should also say that while the books are somewhat linked, and should be read in the above order if you’re minded to read both, you can also read the second as a standalone. That way, if you prefer to spend less money upfront before committing to buying a fairly pricey hardback, you can always read Three Mothers, One Father first and see if you want to continue…

Bits and pieces

A couple of new things posted on the site…

– I’ve added a For Hire page, giving a few pertinent details about hiring me for script-related work. I’ve worked in so many different production situations over the years that it’s impossible to lay out a one-size-fits-all plan, but this should serve to give some idea of what I will and won’t do. Beyond that, I’m always happy to discuss various possibilities, so please do get in touch.

– I’ve also included my two most recent short films in the Videos section:

We Always Find Ourselves in the Sea, which was commissioned in 2017 to accompany the launch of my friend Kier-La Janisse’s book Yuletide Terror: Christmas Horror on Film and Television. I’d introduced Kier-La to the UK Christmas ghost story tradition some years earlier, and she’d been looking for an opportunity to produce a homage to the 70’s M.R. James adaptations we both loved. When she decided to publish Yuletide Terror, we finally had our excuse. We didn’t have the budget to adapt James ourselves and I didn’t want to do a pastiche, so the resulting film is its own weirdly melancholy animal; still, I was fairly happy with how it turned out. I’m very grateful that Shudder picked it up for the first couple of years of its existence, but now I’m finally making it available here.

The Thing: 27,000 Hours, which was commissioned for FrightFest 2011 as part of a series of short films riffing on John Carpenter movies. Carpenter was originally supposed to be the guest of honour that year but subsequently cancelled, meaning that the shorts ended up having no particular relevance to anything. As a result they were barely publicised, which led to some highly confused audience responses when they were screened before some of the main features. Arrow Video later came to the rescue and included it on their marvellous blu-ray of Carpenter’s The Thing, but it’s never really been available online before so I thought I’d give it a home here.

Viewing diary January 2020

I’ve been keeping a Letterboxd list of films I’ve watched for a while now, but thought it might be an idea to start putting it up here month by month, along with any stray thoughts that might occur to me — assuming any do. (That isn’t to say they’ll be of any worth to anyone.)

Angel Heart

I remember this always being somewhat critically derided, but that seems to be gradually changing now. (I’ve loved it ever since my first viewing.) Pauline Kael famously said of it that ‘Alan Parker has style to burn and that’s exactly what he should do with it’, but I think (aside from a few occasional excesses) it has a tactile, lived-in sense of noir. By transposing the second part of the story to New Orleans, I’d argue it also improves on the novel.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

I expected to love this, but found it a little so-so. Mostly I thought it was a tad obvious, exemplified by the closing shot (no spoilers), which stands as a perfect demonstration of why a well-chosen close-up can sometimes do a job of work all by itself; adding excessive actorly emoting to the mix is just putting a hat on a hat.

Dragged Across Concrete

I think this was my third time of viewing. And no, despite what certain friends of mine think, it still isn’t racist. The fate of a certain character and the underlying reasons for it are proof of that alone.

Endless Night

I read a review of this suggesting that it had an impossible-to-guess ending, but it didn’t seem all that surprising from where I was sitting. I’m quite partial to whodunnits, but aside from a few unsettling moments of quasi-supernatural weirdness, this did little for me.

Deconstructing Harry

I remembered this as one of the last Woody Allen films I’d really liked, but hadn’t watched it for nigh on twenty years. It’s still funny. And bracingly sour.

Motherless Brooklyn

I didn’t hate it, but it all felt rather pointless. The sort of noir homage that does strike me as empty pastiche (unlike Angel Heart).


This did nothing to persuade me that Sam Mendes hadn’t found his level directing Bond movies. The fact that it will probably triumph over several far better films at the Oscars is probably yet another harbinger of total societal collapse. I’m sure the Boris Johnsons of the world loved it.

Dark Waters

Could have been relatively by-the-numbers, but stands as an example of what a good director can bring to material that might have been soapy and obvious.

The Color Out of Space

I’d heard good things, wanted to like it…but no. It has its moments, but I can’t say I ever thought that Lovecraft’s brand of cosmic dread needed a dose of absurdist comedy to improve it. Nicholas Cage (as is frequently the case these days) seems to have wandered in from another film entirely. I suspect someone may have thought that it would be a performance akin to Nicholson in The Shining, but it just goes to prove what a finely-modulated piece of acting that is; Nicholson/Kubrick understand exactly where the line between black comedy and terror is, and walk it carefully. Cage mumbling about his alpacas is just pointlessly goofy.

Crooked House

Rewatched after it popped up on Prime. Not great, but fun. I discovered to my horror I may have subconsciously pilfered from it once, for which apologies.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

It’s fine. The plot mechanics are utter nonsense, but it’s rousing enough by the end. I can’t honestly bring myself to get too worked up about these films, unlike, say, 1917.

Evil Under the Sun

I’ll confess to being quite partial to Death on the Nile, and to Anthony Schaffer in general. He preferred this to Death, and I couldn’t remember having ever seen it. Well, you can’t always trust writers. A bunch of old hams sit around in the sun explaining to Poirot why they couldn’t possibly have dunnit…and that’s literally about it.


Again, I’d heard good things…and for the first half, I wasn’t sure it was going to go anywhere much. And then the slow burn pays off. Unrequited love, class resentment, generational trauma, sociopathy…not sure what else you’d want from a film.

The White Buffalo

A curio. It has a quotable, literate script, an interesting cast…but needed a director with skills beyond that of dependable hack J. Lee Thompson to bring it to life. Still, of interest. The sort of thing that could be remade well.

The Day of the Jackal

I love a procedural, and this is one of the best. (I think Roger Ebert compared it to a Swiss watch.) Not only that, but it has Cyril Cusack, who in his brief appearances in this and The Spy Who Came In from the Cold gives a masterclass in the art of polite cruelty.

The Grudge (2020)

The reviews were terrible, and yet…it isn’t good, but the clash between dirty, downbeat realism and rote Blumhouse-style horror is at least interesting. It’s a bizarre mishmash, but fascinating in its own way.

What Did Jack Do?

David Lynch talking to a monkey beats Clint Eastwood doing the same thing.


I’d never seen this, but it has something of a reputation as a solid B-film. The build-up is fine, and it has the always-dependable Kurt Russell and J.T. Walsh, but I wanted more from it in the end. A 1950s noir version probably would have tapped into some murkier undercurrents, and done without the Hollywood action movie nonsense at the end to boot.


New Indonesian horror. It has a great opening, and some impressive visuals, but the script is a clunky mess, alas.


A rewatch confirmed for me that it probably needed a David Lynch to truly tap into the inherent fucked-upness of the source material, but it’s still a creditable attempt. A lot of people hated it, which is often a sign of a horror movie attempting something a bit different — and this definitely does.


Robert Eggers’ pre-The Witch short, apparently made to show investors he could shoot something scary in the woods. It isn’t horror, and is a notch below what he went on to do (for me, he’s the real deal), but is nevertheless sparsely effective.