Ginger Nuts of Horror
In the first of a semi regular new feature Ginger Nuts of Horror takes a look at some of the authors who have sadly passed from the collective consciousness of the horror genre. These Forgotten Sons ( and Daughters) of the genre are writers who hold a special place in the hearts and minds of the contributors to the site.
To kick the series off I could think of no better example of a Forgotten Son than the Scottish horror author ( yes there are more than just Willie Meikle flying the genre flag up north) Joe Donnelly.
Some of you will remember those back page adverts that you used to get in such publications as The Radio Times and The TV Times, not the ones for the super comfy trousers with the elasticated waists, or those fabulous commemorative dinner plates. I'm talking about the ones for those book clubs such as The SF and Fantasy Book Club, and The Mystery and Thriller Guild. For our younger readers, these were book clubs that enticed you into entering a two-year or six / eight-book deal with things like buy five books pay for one or had all of the books at 99p. They were amazing, a full page advert enticing you with books galore. Once you signed the deal and picked your five books, you would receive a little catalogue through the post filled with books for you to buy, most of which were offered at a decent discount, and came in a special "book club format" with slightly smaller than average sized hardbacks.
In a pre-Internet age, this was a fantastic way to discover new authors, my first batch of books from The Mystery and Thriller Guild featured books from Mark Morris, Simon Clark, John Pritchard, Graham Masterton and Joe Donnelly. While many of these authors are now household names, to those of us who live and breath horror, at the time they were unknown entities but at 99p for a hardback book, no Scotsman worth his kilt could pass on such a great deal.
It is a testament to the Book Club that I have formed a long standing relationship with all of these authors, and it has been fascinating seeing the careers of some of them exploded. However, it is touched with a little bit of melancholy seeing someone such as Joe Donnelly fall from the public eye, and as far as I know stop writing altogether.
In an era where it felt that almost every writer was either American or a Brit writing about America in their horror stories, it was so refreshing to have an author setting their stories in Scotland. Writing in an authentic Scottish voice and using some lesser known Scottish myths and legends as the basis for their stories ( it would still be a good few years before I stumbled across Mr Meikle in the Waterstones at the East end of Princess Street). Joe could best be described as Scotland's answer to Graham Masterton, most of his stories had a similar feel, of a reluctant everyman hero coming face to face with some old menace from our folklore, and damn were they good. From Irish zombies to evil witches, to what I consider is his magnum opus a Scottish version Stand By Me, Donnelly was nothing short of a master storyteller. Even now I still regularly check Amazon to see if he has a new book out, I want to, no need another book from him. If you happen to be reading this and know Joe give him a prod, tell him we need him back writing.
Joe was born in Glasgow, in Scotland, close to the River Clyde, but at a very young age he came to live in Dumbarton, which is some miles from the city and close to Loch Lomond, Ben Lomond and the Scottish Highlands.
At the age of 18, he decided to become a journalist and found a job in the Helensburgh Advertiser, a local paper in a neighbouring town where he learned the first essential of writing: how to type. Quickly.
A few years later, at the age of 22, he became editor of his local newspaper, the Lennox Herald in Dumbarton, before moving to the Evening Times and then the Sunday Mail in Glasgow where he became an investigative journalist.
During his career he won several awards for newspaper work including Reporter of the Year, Campaigning Journalist and Consumer Journalist.
It was while working in newspapers that he wrote his first novel, Bane, an adult chiller, which was followed by eight other novels, mostly set in and around the West of Scotland and loosely based on Celtic Mythology.
Recently he completed the Jack Flint trilogy for children, although he says his books are aimed at "young people of all ages...those with some adventure in their soul."
For those of you not familiar with Joe here are his books that put him firmly in my top ten of all time favourite authors. Please consider purchasing the books via the included links, I think you will like what you read.
The town of Arden, in the west of Scotland, is old. Its history is lost in the mists of time. But history keeps repeating itself, and Arden has had a troubled history since ancient times.
Nick Ryan returns to Arden to settle down in his childhood home.
But Arden’s disturbing history is about to catch up with him.
As he uncovers the truth about his home town, something has awoken under the dark rock that looms over the estuary. It is hungry. And angry.
The ancient walls which kept it in check have been breached. It wants to be free. It will wreak its revenge.
All that stands between it and Arden are Nick Ryan, a brain-damaged man, and the young daughter of a childhood friend.
They stand alone as the nightmare begins.
It was every mother's worst nightmare. Her husband had abandoned her for a sinister, younger woman and the weird nomadic group she led, and had taken their two children with him. But now Patsy had snatched Peter and Judith back again and was bringing them home to safety. Or so she thought. For as she left the dark old house with the witch-woman's snarled curses deafening her, tearing at her being, the real nightmare was just beginning. She drove into the night, and the road shifted, changed.
A town locked down. Police are hunting a mad, bad stranger whose shocking deeds have put fear into the hearts of every mother; fear for their children.
In the hot summer, the oppressive atmosphere nears breaking strain. And five young friends need to get out from under. They plan a camping trip, to find an old wartime relic high on the moors.
They don’t know that their every move is being watched. Not until the stranger stalks out of the trees and into the valley.
And for five trapped boys, the nightmare has just begun.
Five friends go camping in the hills near the town where it is said that a fake village was made during the war to deflect German bombing raids from the towns. Out in the freedom of the hills, though, a killer known as "Twitchy Eyes" is waiting to make himself known.
This title was released in the US under the much duller title of Dark Valley
The Ring Of Dreams..The solid grandeur of Cromwath House, deep in the heart of rural Scotland, is the material symbol of Alan Crombie's cherished dreams.With its purchase, the boy from the backstreets feels he has finally made the top.The local people are friendly, eager to welcome a new family to the neighbourhood.And Tommy, Alan's young son, shares his father's enthusiasm for the new house.So too do Katie and Laney, Alan's twin daughters, whose elfin beauty is flawed only by their inability to speak.The Circle Od Chaos..Only Helen Crombie fails to reflect her family's delight.But Helen has been suffering from depression, and surely she will also come to love the place as much as the rest of her family do? No one could fail to be won over by the house's allure-as countless previous occupants have discovered to their cost. For strange powers were disturbed when Cromwath House was built.And within its walls an ancient evil slumbers. A chilling blend of Celtic legend and contemporary life, of the mundane transformed into the macabre, Stone is a worthy successor to Joe Donnelly's first terrifying novel-Bane.
Donnelly strikes at the gag reflex in this gruesome, harrowingly suspenseful offering set in Scotland. Paralyzed from the waist down during a shoot-out, Caitlin Brook has moved back to her childhood village overlooking the Fasach Wood. Visited by Martin Thornton, a reporter who witnessed the shooting and ran to protect her, Caitlin initially believes that he is interested only in her ''story,'' but soon a romance develops. Then Caitlin's wheelchair is pushed into the river by a strange beast and she nearly drowns. Rescued by Sheila Garvie, a charismatic local healer, Caitlin soon sees that more than her spirits are being restored--so are her legs. Martin, suspicious, has Sheila's herbs analyzed and learns that the ingredients are the same as those used by Druidic shamans circa 2000 B.C. to summon the stag-antlered demon, Cernunnos, whose power is made graphically apparent when wanderers into the Fasach Wood are treated to revoltingly painful deaths at the hands (limbs) of trees. The increasing number of gory deaths propels Martin into a confrontation with Sheila--and a final cataclysm. Interesting Druidic lore augments this well-written romp.
Photographer Sean McCullain and writer Liz Cannon are marooned in a cottage on the west of Ireland during a storm. Nearby, some archaeologists have unwittingly uncovered an ancient site, the home of the Shee, the goddess of destruction, who has the power to assume any shape.
Levenford had seen it's share of horror, with the strange and bloody deaths in the old house in the centre of the town some thirty years before. Now a new round of deaths has shocked the town. And they are more brutal than anyone could have imagined. Levenford is at the mercy of a superhuman, remorseless killer, that, whatever it is, loves the dark places, the high places the old town offers. Evil has been given flesh and blood. And this evil demands more. . . The slaughter has turned the town into a pressure chamber of dread. Jack Fallon has no leads that will help him stop the carnage. But soon the bizarre visions of a young Highland woman begin to make some kind of weird sense. Only she can unlock Levenford's terrible secret. Only she can lead Fallon to the Shrike. . .
It begins as two separate investigations. An elderly woman collapses, dying in a shopping mall, screaming for her baby. A young girl disappears on the same day. For detectives David Harper and Helen Lamont the two cases seem to have no link.
Except for the baby.
The baby that the missing girl seemed to be carrying.
A very demanding baby.
And the question isn't: What sort of woman would steal a baby.
It is: What sort of baby would steal a mother?
The kind of baby no woman ever wants to meet.
Jack Flint is 13. He's never known his mother and has - literally - lost his father. On a stormy Halloween he steps from his humdrum world of school, chores and getting by, into a maelstrom. Scaling the dark-walled coppice known as Cromwath Blackwood he and his best friend, Kerry Malone, find a mysterious circle of thirteen standing stones. Stones that almost seem to be breathing, pulling the boys to a place of myth and mayhem. From playing fields to battle fields they stumble into the legendary world of Temair. Here Celtic myth comes to life as Jack, Kerry and Corriwen Redthorn, the orphaned daughter of a Temair Chief, face the terrifying cunning of Morrigan, goddess of death and her servants, the Scree and the cruel, black-feathered Roaks. Their quest is fast paced and furious. Along the way, startlingly, Jack realises they are not just saving their own lives, they find clues that might lead him to his father.