Ginger Nuts of Horror
Haunted houses and dead ex-girlfriends really don’t mix
Chad Clark's latest novella Winward is released today from Shadow Work Publishing and to mark the launch of Winward we are having a Chad A. Clark day Ginger Nuts off Horror. With this review from Tony Jones for Yesterday, When We Died and my review for Winward which can be read by clicking
I have frequently hard Chad Clark mentioned in horror chat circles, but this was my introduction to his fiction, and if 2017’s “Yesterday When We Died” is anything to go by I’ll certainly look into his other work. This piece reads as a long novella, and the author notes in his afterword that an altered version previously appeared in an earlier 2014 short story collection.
Seen initially from the points of view of three best friends, Kyle, Grant and Shannon who are on a trip to visit an isolated cabin to chill, let their hair down and drink some beer. Kyle is initially the main driver of the story, but he has alternative motives in choosing this cabin for their holiday jaunt. Struggling to come to terms with the suicide of his ex-girlfriend Cheryl the previous year, he discovered she had visited the cabin in the period leading up to her death. He suspects it had something to do with instigating her downward spiral and eventual collapse. Why? He isn’t sure, except for an itch he has to scratch.
Grant and Shannon are initially pissed off their old friend has dragged them to this dump, which is a bit of a wreck, and doesn’t look like it has been inhabited for years. Equally so, they have become tired of Kyle moping around over a failed relationship and don’t believe he should feel guilty about anything. When he broke up with Cheryl their relationship was already dead and buried.
Before long the story spirals into familiar haunted house territory, but Chad Clark throws plenty of sneaky curve-balls to keep the reader on their toes. Firstly, the triple first person POV works exceptionally well in this story, as the house plays around with them and messes with their perspectives and senses supremely well, with the three men being affected in different ways.
Although Grant and Shannon are good friends, even they begin to struggle as Kyle continues to go off at the deep-end and they begin to turn on each other as they misread situations. Before long, someone or something trashes all the furniture, a weird guy appears in the distance and they begin to realise it’s perhaps safer to sleep outside than inside. But is this a house they will ever be able to leave? Once the big reveal comes you will not be disappointed.
I thought it had a particularly strong final 25% and the book bobbed and weaved into a direction which crossed pollinated rather coolly into another genre. Heading into the final few chapters is a bit of a mind-bender, but I loved the brutality of the ending which the author provides further details on in his endnotes. The title of the work and the eventual appearance of the dead Cheryl will perhaps give you a few clues on where the story is heading. That’s the beauty of novella length fiction, you can end it with much darker conclusions than you might do with a full-length novel without an editor bitching for some sunshine closure. On another day an editor may have pushed for something happier, but fair play to Chad Clark for keeping it real.
The Kindle version I read also had a short story called “To Expunge” which is not a sequel to the main work but is set in the same location and is a continuation of sorts as the house returns. It is also worth a look if you enjoyed “Yesterday When We Died” but don’t expect a happy ending!
BY JIM MCLEOD
Chad A Clark's latest novella Winward is unleashed on the world today and to mark this we have a review of both Winward and Yesterday, When We Died a previous novella from Chad. (click here to read Tony Jones' review of it).
There is something special about the USA, its vast size and diverse demographics make it perfect for the great outdoors, let's go on a vacation, horror story. The sense of isolation and otherworldliness that places like the US bring is hard to imagine in a smaller country. The vast tracks of land between towns lend a certain sense of dread to a novel set in the magnificent wilderness. This sense of isolation is something that Chad A Clark uses to great effect in this punchy fast-paced thriller.
When Wendy and Rubin decide to take a weekend trip to Winward Colorado to visit some old friends, they would never have imagined that they would be thrown headlong into a nightmare trip that will see them fighting for their very survival in a disturbing journey into the hellish dark heart of Colorado
Chad A. Clark's novella is a whirlwind tale that refuses to let up. Clark wastes no time in dropping Wendy, Rubin and the reader into the action, and your feet will barely touch the floor during the course of this taut tale of terror.
While the characters of Wendy and Rubin, may not be the most thoroughly rounded and developed of characters, Clark imbues them with enough solidity and believability to carry the story. This results in the reader not so much feeling for the characters. Instead, the reader in a way becomes the characters; you end up with a very empathic reading experience, you almost slip under their skin and feel the pain, trauma and sense of desperation from a sort of first-person experience. It adds an extra layer of tension that drives you and the narrative forward with unstoppable momentum.
However, the real star of this novel is Sheriff Daniels, I dare you to read Winward and not picture Clancy Brown in the lead role. Sheriff Daniels is a masterful piece of characterisations and delivery. More akin to a force of nature than a human being. Some characters live and breath on the page, he rips free of the page and haunts your living world.
Clark uses the setting of Winward effectively and for once actually, addresses the use of mobile and landline telephones logically and believable manner, adding the brilliant claustrophobic nature of the narrative.
Winward is a brutal tale, but Clark never pushes it so far that the narrative becomes over the top or unbelievable, with a spectacular final set piece Clark ensures that Winward is an unyielding thriller that packs one hell of a hell of a punch.
Taught, Thrilling and disturbing Winward does for Colorado what Deliverance did for Georgia.
Some stories become etched into the psyche of a horror fan, forming a pantheon of horror that stands as a list for all other stories to be held up against. Clive Barker's The Hellbound heart is one such story, the novella that spawned the who Hellraiser franchise and formed the basis of the first film, this classic tale of pleasure and pain has a gravitas attached to it the likes of which hasn't been seen in far too long.
However, with that gravitas. There is also a danger that its impact and power can become lessened and forgotten as a result of countless spin-offs and sequels. Sadly this has been the case with The Hellbound Heart; its importance in the history of horror has become sullied by a series of never-ending sequels and spin-offs, some of which were reportedly written by Barker himself, (I still maintain he had very little to with the Scarlet Gospels). So much so that many new fans to the genre are not aware of this classic and fundamental piece of horror literature.
When it was first announced that Bafflegab Productions were doing a new audio drama version of the novella adapted by Paul Kane, I must admit I was somewhat wary about the idea. Not that I felt Bafflegab Productions weren't so much up to the task, they have a great history of audio dramas. From The Bakers End series of comic tales, The Scarifyers series of adventures is a must listen to the excellent Hammer Chillers collection of short stories, they can indeed produce first-class audio dramas. Nor was I worried by Paul Kane's involvement, he is an excellent writer and more importantly a massive fan of the Hellraiser franchise. My fears came from the fact that after Hellraiser: The Toll, Hellraiser: Judgement and The Scarlet Gospels, it felt that it was time to lay the franchise to bed and let it die a dignified death. Anything less than an almost perfect adaptation would be a devastating disappointment.
After listening to this audio drama, I can safely say that this is the best thing across all entertainment mediums to exist in the Hellraiser universe. This is as close to perfection as you can get.
Obviously, with this being an audio drama, there is a lot of Barker's beautiful and elegant prose is missing, gone are the descriptive passages, leaving us with just the dialogue. While this may sound off-putting, and akin to the story losing some of its power, the experience of listing to this is not diminished in any way. This is mostly in part to the compelling and genuinely creepy musical score from Edwin Sykes and on point sound effects and design from Simon Robinson. These work seamlessly together to create a disturbing base layer of dread from which the actors can build on.
Simon Barnard, the producer and director, has assembled a cast manages to do the unthinkable and makes you forget about the film adaptation. Sean Chapman and Claire Higgens performances as Frank and Julia are branded into our brains, as an on-screen "couple" they were perfect together. It's a performance that would almost seem impossible to surpass, and yet Tom Meeten and Neve McIntosh's performance of Frank and Julia is sublime, within minutes you forget everything that has gone before, they aren't just playing the roles they become the roles. Frank is as nasty and driven as ever, and Julia is as cold and alluring as she could ever be.
Alice Lowe continues to cement her reputation as one of the country's finest actors, with her turn as Kirsty. While Kirsty was probably the easiest of all the roles to take over, as the original performance was exactly the best, Lowe's depiction of Kirsty is nothing short of exceptional. Lowe performance allows the full range of Kirsty's character to shine through, the wide-eyed girl, the frightened girl, and the girl filled with grit and determination to escape the hell she is tricked into; all come across in an engrossing delivery.
However the ultimate high point has to be the portrayal of the Prince of Pain himself, stepping into the role of Pinhead, or cenobite One as it should be named must have been a daunting task, Doug Bradley, despite others playing the character will always be Pinhead. However, there has always been contention with Doug as Pinhead, as he doesn't quite fit the description of the character in the novella. When I first heard Evie Dawnay, deliver the first line of dialogue I was, for a minute somewhat confused, and when it sunk in a huge smile spread across my face. This is the lead Cenobite I have been waiting to hear for nearly thirty years. And boy does Evie deliver; this isn't just a marketing gimmick this is the leading cenobite as it should be, ethereal, angelic, and apathetic to the pleas of us mere mortals. Dawnay is exceptional, and if there are any further dramatisations of the franchise, it would be a crime not to have her reprise this role.
Having Nicholas Vince appear as cenobite four, and the businessman was a nice touch, serving to link this production to the history of the story, and Nicholas doesn't disappoint in either of his two roles.
Paul Kane's adaptation of the story is assured and hits the mark. His keen eye retains the essential elements that make the story work while updating some of the terms to make it more relevant to modern age such as the use of emails and mobiles phones. This must have been a daunting task, but Kane has more than stepped up to the plate.
The Hellbound Heart had a lot of history and baggage to deal with, but this production has done the impossible and surpassed the original adaptation. You may shout heresy, but the combination of first-class acting, more faithful respect to the source material and a perfect soundscape makes this a superior adaptation. You may think you know this story, but you haven't even heard the half of it until you have listened to this.
You can purchase a copy of The Hellbound Heart direct from Bafflegab Productions by clicking here, or from amazon by clicking the button below
Fans of the horror genre have been justifiably saddened by the disappearance of several small horror presses over the last couple of years. However, if you’re a horror fan or writer looking for a loving home for your next masterpiece then have a close look at Black Rose Writing. I have been aware of them for a while, but they recently caught my eye big-time after I read John Hunt’s superb supernatural horror novel “The Tracker”, and after a brief correspondence with Black Rose Writing founder Reagan Rothe, he sent me “The Fear” by Rae Louise to check out. What a recommendation! Raegan was spot on with a classy and clever haunted house novel set in the British suburbs. Backtracking, I returned to John Hunt and his debut “Doll House” (and on this occasion this reviewer paid for this one!) which kept me biting my nails until 99% on my Kindle. Short reviews of all three books are below my introduction.
Black Rose Writing will publish over 200 novels this year, not bad going, with between 10-20 in the horror genre. I read three of their horror novels in less than two weeks and have been mightily impressed, so although they publish in multiple genres they clearly have a great eye for identifying quality horror talent. I wonder why they haven’t got more of a reputation within the genre? Most likely their horror titles are swamped within their huge output. Neither do I see their titles reviewed much within the wider horror genre. If you’re an author and have a book without a home, send it to these guys to have a look, you never know, they might be interested.
Reagan Rothe, an author himself, told me he took his personal experience of working with many different publishing houses when he set up Black Rose Publishing in 2009. Since then the business has continued to grow yearly since then with healthy 60% (physical) to 40% (e-book) book sales. Reagan believes part of their success comes from the fact that they publish in genres that are of interest to all their staff. I would suggest that whoever their resident horror ‘expert’ is really knows their stuff, as the three reviews below will testify to. ‘The Tracker’ is brand new and the other two published in the last year or so.
The Tracker by John Hunt