Ginger Nuts of Horror
In 2014 an English writer by the name of Rich Hawkins came to my attention. I stumbled across a Facebook post that saw some friends talking about a novella he had written. The novella was Black Star, Black Sun and had been published by a small press called April Moon Books based in Ontario, Canada and run by Neil Baker. I am a huge fan of small-town horror stories, and particularly when they have Lovecraftian overtones. That creeping sense of dread, the dark clouds that seem ever present in the skies, the untrusting appearances of the locals and the claustrophobic feel of a town and its people that forbids you to leave. These are all the sorts of ingredients that I love to read about-maybe it is because I am from a small village in the north of England where the locals often frown upon any stranger that dare enter their sacred town.
I liked the sound of this novella and decided to take the plunge, buying a copy for my Kindle. That same night I started Black Star, Black Sun. A couple of well-spent hours later and I was done, delighted that I had found a writer who wrote the sort of stories that I wanted to read and at the same time was able to capture all of the above elements of small-town horror that I was looking for. I needed more Hawkins in my reading life and discovered that his first novel The Last Plague had been released through another press that at the time I was unfamiliar with. Crowded Quarantine Publications is a small press based in the U.K. and run by writer/editor Adam Millard. Millard was another writer I was soon to become familiar with through his hilarious books The Human Santapede and Larry.
The other area of horror fiction that I adore is post-apocalyptic horror; the sort of horror where the world has been ravaged by some sort of disease or virus and only a few survivors remain, struggling desperately to stay alive. I was stoked to find that my new favourite author Rich Hawkins had written his first novel titled The Last Plague and that it was a post-apocalyptic nightmare set in the U.K. It features the tale of four friends who desperately try to reach their families in a country that has become overrun with plague-ridden, mutated monsters! At over 500 pages long, it certainly was an ambitious debut, one which got better and better as the story progressed, culminating in a terrific and horrific finale.
After finishing this book I elevated Hawkins to the top of my ‘must read’ authors list and pledged to purchase everything he wrote from then on.
2015 saw the release of The Last Outpost. The sequel to The Last Plague is a continuation of the plague series but can also be read as a standalone novel. The Last Outpost saw a huge step in in Hawkins development as a writer. There were very few characters in this novel, but they were perfectly drawn. It was a bleak, at times depressing read but oh! How good it was! I read over 200 books last year and when I decide upon my best reads of 2015 I had no hesitation in awarding The Last Outpost my number one.
On March 19, Rich Hawkins will release The Last Soldier. The final part of his plague trilogy. Now I will admit that I am not a huge fan of trilogies. I have often felt that certain trilogy reads have been too bloated and have too much filler. Some trilogies suffer with pacing more than anything, where the story doesn’t move along quickly enough or too many characters are being introduced that have little to no effect on the progression of the plot. It was a shrewd move of Hawkins to write The Last Outpost so that it could be read as a stand-alone novel. Whether he did this on purpose or not, only he will know, but, regardless of this, this reader cannot wait for The Last Soldier.
I have already had my appetite whet for this novel with the release of The Plague Winter. David Moody’s Infected Books are currently running The Year of Zombie; a series of monthly novellas from different authors that focus on…..yep, you guessed it, the living dead! Hawkins followed Adam Baker’s January novella: Killchain with his own that was another bleak but brilliant story set in the Last Plague world.
If you fancy dipping your toes into the world Hawkins has created then you cannot go wrong with any of his releases. I do like to see a writer’s progression, so my advice would be to go back to the beginning and seek out The Last Plague which is available from Crowded Quarantine Publications or Amazon in both EBook and paperback. Or, of course you could try his most recent release The Plague Winter. Whatever you decide I can assure you that you will not be disappointed.
With the fast-approaching The Last Soldier and another couple of novellas in the works, Hawkins has a busy 2016 ahead of him and I for one can’t wait to see what else he comes up with.