Ginger Nuts of Horror
Welcome, to the second part of my F-Con 2015 report.
After a short, restless sleep in my hotel room - the too small single bed, or the floor beneath, was tilted at a slight angle, causing me to fear I'd fall out - I woke early and stumbled down for breakfast, after suffering a short, spontaneous nose-bleed (I have a slight deviated septum from an ancient injury and am prone to the occasional nose-bleed at times of stress or just bumping my nose slightly). I had the place pretty much to myself, so gorged on a lovely fry-up until other people started to arrive. The hotel was nice enough, if a little old-fashioned, but the staff were really friendly and not at all worried about establishment being taken over almost completely by a bunch of horror, SF and fantasy enthusiasts. Breakfast was an entertaining affair, with talk of skin-suits - a brief explanation of the Fighting Fantasy game of the previous night - and it escalated quickly to my contemplation of whether you could hollow a person out and wear the remaining flesh as a disguise (this is now mulling around my head as a short story idea...so no stealing).
After dropping Kit Power off in time for his Doctor Who panel, I returned to pick up Rich Hawkins and his wife Sara. I was taking my car this day as I had a few books that I'd brought down for signing and I planned to buy a few more, and after my idiotic decision to lump a huge bag of thirty-plus books around at Edge-Lit that July, I wasn't about to make the same mistake twice.
There were a number of things I wanted to do that day, but perhaps because it was a longer day - convention time-wise - or because I had actually planned my day this time, everything felt a bit less hectic than the previous day, more relaxed. Now, as I've said already, my memory is terrible, so it may be that I get the order of things completely wrong, or my account of when I met folk differs from what they recall. No matter, the remembering is what counts. So, I know I spoke to Adele Wearing at one point, and met her Mr Fox, I know I had a brief conversation with the legend that is Simon Clark (and I think he actually remembered me from Edge-Lit 2014 where he came up and just started chatting to me; it was a truly wonderful experience); and I think it might have been late on, but I did have a lovely conversation with Steve Saw, Alison Littlewood and her husband Fergus in the corridor (after having said hello to Alison numerous times in passing throughout the event). However, to the first of my intended events.
Adam Nevill is a name that should need no introduction to readers of this site, or horror fans in general. One of the best of the current crop of UK writers - hell, I think he knocks the socks off most horror writers in general and I'm only halfway through his third book, The Ritual - he is also an extremely down to earth and decent individual, making time to talk to anyone and everyone and just coming across as a lovely human being with no pretentions or snobbery. So I was absolutely happy to make the launch for his new novel, Lost Girl, where I bought two copies - one for reading, one for the shelf - and had a lovely chat with the man himself. But then it was on to the surprise event of the convention...
A while back, there was apparently a conversation on FB that took place with Jim McLeod and few others where he mused on the desire to appear as a minor character who dies in a number of different horror stories. I think horror writer Willie Meikle had set this precedent already in a couple of his novels. So, Phil Sloman decided to set up a group where he would invite, in secret, a host of different horror writers to join and write a story featuring a character called Jim McLeod who simply must die at the end. The idea was - as Jim is one of the most tireless and selfless promoters and reviewers of horror, championing and shining a spotlight on small press writers who might otherwise not get much exposure - that all the stories would be compiled in a single hardback edition and presented to Jim at F-Con. I was utterly delighted to be asked by Mark West to contribute and was over the moon to be in such company. Adam graciously allowed part of his event to be taken over, and when all his books were signed and bought Phil, and a few of us who were in the book, cornered Jim and Phil gave a little speech explaining what he was presenting Jim with. The look on Jim's face was wonderful as he first had no clue and then, as comprehension dawned, he started to break down and was overcome with emotion. It was a wonderful wee highlight of the weekend and has been captured on film for those who wish to see a big tough ginger Scotsman cry...
After the emotional high of this, I nipped off to the John Connolly signing, which was taking place in the dealer's room at one. I've been a fan of John's work pretty much since his first novel, Every Dead Thing, and it was that which I'd brought for signing - my not quite first edition hardback. John was a delight; chatty, engaging and warm, and he even asked about my own writing and included a good luck with it as he signed my book. It was really refreshing to find someone of his stature and fame to be as down to earth as any of us, and this is something the whole weekend encompassed - that no matter what apparent level the writer occupied, they were approachable, engaging and happy to talk to anyone. It was fantastic to meet someone I've long admired, and to have an actual conversation with them that didn't involve me spluttering and stammering.
After this, I wandered the room buying a few books; some from Terry Grimwood's table, some from Chris Teague (who, in addition to his Pendragon books, had books from Gray Friar Press and Fox Spirit Books), and one of the last copies of the hardback of Andrew David Barker's (who I didn't get a chance to meet) The Electric from Alex Davis's table. I then went out to deposit all the books I was carrying - it was a lot, by now - in my car. As I came back, I heard a strident ringing and saw people walking out of the building. The bloody fire alarm had gone off! I was due to start an hour's slot as a guest trader on The Sinister Horror Company table - the lads had very kindly offered out hourly places on FB that previous week - and I suspected Ben Jones - who had been in the slot before me - had set the alarm off deliberately. The bastard! Anyway, once the all clear was given, we trooped back in, I took up my place and managed to sell a few copies of The Last Bus, which was nice. Most of the rest of the afternoon was spent hanging out with the Sinister lads, Adam Millard, Rich and Sara Hawkins (who was proving to be quite the promoter for her husband's work...), Andrew Freudenberg, Kit Power, Ben Jones and a few others, in the dealer room. At one point Laura Mauro - who had been travelling up from London that day - came and found me, and it was an absolute delight to meet her for the first time. Although I've only read two of her stories, I think she's one of the best of the newly emerging horror talents, and yet she is so self-effacing, so grounded, she's a joy to be around. She's also a little scary when she slips into her fake London gangster talk - at least I assume it's fake... - but she was definitely one of my favourite people to meet at the event.
Kit Power had his book launch for GodBomb! Taking place in the dealer room, and though the hubbub of buying and selling made it difficult to hear, he carried out a reading with aplomb, standing up on an empty table to get to eye level with rest of us normal sized people. I've recorded most of it on video, should you wish to watch.
More milling about, a spot of dinner in the bar - slightly overdone cheeseburger - and relaxing in a nice seat and just being content to watch the world go by (though I did have to rush off at one point as my fucking nose started to bleed again, this time a bit heavier than the morning). The only other thing I wanted to attend that day was the double Undertow Publications launch of Victoria Leslie's (V. H. Leslie) Skein And Bone and their anthology Aickman's Heirs. So I had time to chill. I caught up again with Robin Lupton, the young American writer I'd met the day before and we had a lovely conversation in the bar for about an hour. She then had to leave, I went and found my companions, and we all toddled off to the Undertow launch.
Here I met more people I knew only from social media or in passing mention of their work; Priya Sharma (who is lovely and smiley), Helen Marshall (who looks nothing like her pics so I didn't actually recognise her), Nina Allen and others. I also got to meet Victoria Leslie and get my copy of Skein And Bone signed. Victoria is the loveliest, friendliest person you could meet and she chatted with me for a bit, vaguely recalling my name from social media, which was nice; she even asked for recommendations of good books after finding out I review for Ginger Nuts. I told her Damien Angelica Walters's Sing me Your Scars was one to definitely check out. Once I'd hogged enough of her time, I had a good long chat with Laura Mauro, where she continued to terrify me with her lapses into gangland speak. I also got her to sign my copy of Black Static, in which her story The Grey Men appears. We talked about all things horror, I probably praised her writing quite a bit, and then we were joined by an unrecognisable Carole Johnstone (newly dyed blonde hair which threw a few people, I think) another writer whose work I love and we chatted briefly before everyone had to run off to various other things.
Back to chatting in the corridors and me avoiding the disco (I have a terminal fear of dancing and you will NEVER get me up), then we realised that Kit Power had a reading at that awful and fabled time of 23.45. I was for definitely going and after the others realised it was on, we all endeavoured to be there. Turns out, Kit had a lot of people in attendance. Many of those from the previous reading - James Everington, and sorry James for missing yours, I was out in the corridor having my ear bent - stayed to hear his story, and a bloody entertaining read it was too. Kit went full amateur dramatics on us, with a story reminiscent of Edgar Allen Poe, and played the dialogue and narration to perfection. It went down a storm and afterwards, we stayed to chat and congratulate him. Big Jim McLeod - who I hadn't seen much of, to my dismay - came up to me and alternated between hugging me and calling me a bastard for keeping the secret book project from him. I think he might have had a few shandies...
And that was it. A much more relaxing and even day, with little of the rushing about from the first day. I got to chat to loads of new folk, hang out with old friends and meet some of my heroes. A drive back to the hotel with Rich, Sara and Kit and off to my room to lovingly look at my latest book buys and try and sleep in my weird tilting bed...
Part 3 Coming Soon...
Part 1 can be found here
THE HEART AND SOUL OF HORROR