You are invited to look after the Kendall Reviews Cemetary, and to choose eight books, preferably horror/dark genre, to take with you to cover your shift; here you can discuss why you chose the books.
As well as the books, wardens are allowed one song/album to listen to. Again, an explanation for this choice is required.
You must also discuss one luxury item you can bring, which must be inanimate and not allow communication.
If you’d like to take part in The Graveyard Shift then please submit an application to firstname.lastname@example.org
A new shift is about to begin. The warden for the week’s #GraveyardShift is…
Well, here I am in the new job. The gloom gathered in a while ago, and the graveyard shift at the ….er… graveyard has begun. I’ve been shown around the one room shack, my home for the next several hours of the shift, every shift for the duration of my time as warden. I’m guessing the shack hasn’t changed in years, as evidenced by the girlie magazine calendar on the wall which dates back to 1983, its page forever turned to November, which must have been a previous warden’s preferred young lovely. There’s a handy collection of graffiti too, ranging from the perverse to the profane: a pentacle here, a cock and balls there, along with the apparently ubiquitous legend “insert name woz ere,” written in several places. Its bloody depressing, I have to say, but I have a remedy for my surroundings. Inside my bag, I have some items which will pass the time quite readily, the rules listing the things I’ll be permitted to bring along written by some long retired warden by the name of Kendall. Come closer, dear reader, pull up a chair. Let me tell you what I’ve brought along to cure the insufferable boredom of a long night alone.
The Long Walk By Stephen King
A left field choice, some might say, but I consider this to be the finest work King has ever published. It’s a prescient piece of writing, foreseeing the rise of reality television, the endless pursuit of minor celebrity and riches. The Long Walk was written in the 70’s but could easily have been written much more recently.
The Long Walk is an annual contest in America, televised to the nation and attracting huge crowds. One hundred teenage boys walk from Maine to … wherever they get to before the walk ends. The catch is that they cannot stop, and have to maintain an average pace. The penalty for not keeping pace? Death. Three strikes and you’re out. Ray Garrity is on the reserve list, but he got the call. That means someone dropped out at the last minute, and he is in. Our first encounter is at the start line, with the one hundred hardy souls gathering to get the walk underway.
What follows is quite a harrowing tale, as walkers form groups and get to know each other on the way. We learn about the characters, their reasons for signing up to walk as they question themselves and each other, eventually questioning their own sanity for doing so. All the events are seen through Garrity’s eyes, and we feel what he feels as the field is whittled down from the hundred to a handful. When the first shot rings out, we feel the horror of reality setting in and understand that the deaths on the road are very, sickeningly real.
King is often accused of bloat in his books, of overwriting and waffling, but there is none of that here. This book is direct and to the point … and almost cruelly so. King is unflinching and unrelenting in his telling of this story, making you look hard at the reality of what these kids are forced to endure. It’s a compelling read, and one which demands you to keep turning the pages and experience the next atrocity, tragedy, heartbreak.
The ending, when it comes, could be viewed as analogous to fame. Once you get it, is it really what you thought it would be, and is it worth the cost?
The Long Walk is an easy choice for me, and is a book that keeps me engaged every time I read it. I re-read it every few years, just to experience it again, so it would certainly pass a night shift quite nicely.
The Handmaid’s Tale By Margaret Atwood
A book that’s even more prominent now because of the television show, which expanded on the ideas conveyed in the novella and provided a much deeper, much more visceral view of the world which Atwood created. The Handmaid’s Tale is another book I return to again and again (I’ll be honest, all the books I’m listing here are,) and find some new depth to it each time.
Like 1984 before it, The Handmaid’s Tale is a warning. It’s set in a future where men are becoming infertile due to some kind of nuclear catastrophe, and one of the US states have come up with a solution to the issue. Their answer is totalitarian in nature, and robs women of their rights. Homosexuality is banned, and Muslims are blamed for the ills of mankind. Gilead is borne of necessity, but offers an outlet for all the hideous aspects of the nature of man to come to the fore.
In Gilead, women are divided into categories. Handmaid’s are fertile, and are given to fertile men to produce offspring. If they fail in their duty to conceive, it is their fault. It doesn’t matter if they were married in their lives before Gilead, or if they were homosexual, because women are the property of Gilead now.
I do love this book for its intention. It’s supposed to make you angry, sad, and a little scared for what the world might become. My one criticism is that Atwood didn’t go far enough in her original work. I feel she looks away when she could look deeper, that she is too polite and doesn’t give us a proper view of the horrors of her world. She tells us, but very rarely shows us the state of the wider world. The atrocities are implied, or told second hand unless they happen to Jude. For me, that takes away from what could be an absolutely excellent book, but was absolutely and devastatingly amended in the TV show.
Despite its flaw, I still like this book. It’s not a long read, but still one I go back to again and again. It’ll pass a few hours quite nicely.
The Lord of the Rings By JRR Tolkien
I don’t need to explain this one, do I? Surely, everyone knows this story of hobbits, elves, evil rings and its twisted servants? I mean, everyone’s seen the movies, if not read the books, right? Right, so I won’t explain the books, but just why I’m choosing it.
Firstly, yes I’m cheating. Bite me. It’s a trilogy, and I’m only supposed to choose eight books. Well, lets assume there’s an omnibus version then. I’m a writer, and I’m supposed to bend the rules, okay?
This was the first adult book my dad put in my hands when I was a kid. I think I was around eleven at the time, and he didn’t tell me that I didn’t actually have to read all the notes and appendices at the beginning. It took me months to push through it all: the histories, the languages and genealogies. It was killing me, and I put it down a few times before my dad finally told me I didn’t need to read all that stuff. Cheers, pop.
Once I got to the actual story, I was transported immediately. I wasn’t reading words, but seeing the story play out, hearing the words in my head. That wasn’t a first, but it was the most vivid experience I’d had up to that point. I was with Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin on their way across the Shire. I was with them when they ran from the Nazgul at the Buckleberry Ferry, at the Prancing Pony and every step of the journey after. I felt like I knew Middle Earth, it was a place I’d once visited and loved. I still get that feeling now when I re-read the trilogy. Whenever I finish the books, I’m always a little saddened that I have to leave that world behind.
So, what better excuse to make a return visit?
The Spear By James Herbert
Okay, this is the left-field choice. There are other Herbert books that I’m sure other writers will pick out, and I can well understand why. The Spear isn’t one of James Herbert’s classics, but is one I don’t think is talked about enough.
This book is silly. There’s no way around it, The Spear would make a great comedy. Literary horror, it certainly isn’t, but it is entertaining. It’s packed full of 1970’s cliché, with cops and secret agents who wouldn’t be out of place in an episode of The Sweeney. The concept could be terrifying if handled differently; the Nazis are still around and in possession of the Spear of Destiny, and are intent on raising Himmler from the dead. Brilliantly, it isn’t so much terrifying as just … hilarious.
So, this is my pick. Not a James Herbert classic, but one I hope he wrote with tongue very much in cheek. Perfect for a boring, nothing happening night shift.
The Last Kingdom By Bernard Cornwell
I could choose pretty much anything by Cornwell, such is the quality of his work. No, he isn’t horror, but his work can be pretty bleak. He deals in historical fiction, and everything he does is truly immersive. Bernard Cornwell knows his history, and he has a way of putting you in the scene of whatever moment he’s portraying.
With The Last Kingdom, its Dark Ages Britain in the years just before Britain was born. We follow Uhtred, a northern English nobleman, raised by Vikings after they sack his father’s stronghold at Bebbenberg (modern day Bamborough.) He is a man of two worlds, and the entire story follows his struggle in reconciling his torn sensibilities. All of this as he is reluctantly helping Alfred the Great become … well … the great, I suppose.
The Last Kingdom is the first book of a series, and a fantastic introduction. I’ve already broken the rules once in this piece, so won’t do it again here. Just know, this book will make you want to read the entire series. Oh, and there’s a TV series adaptation on Netflix too, which is equally as great as the books.
Necronomicon – The Best Weird Tales of HP Lovecraft
There are two must-own collections of Lovecraft’s work; the Knickerbocker Press complete works, and this one. Both are exquisite collections, compiling the very best of Lovecraft’s tales.
Lovecraft’s work needs no introduction or explanation. He’s one of the architects of modern horror, and it deserves constant study. He wasn’t the greatest storyteller in the world, and is quite lazy really, but his concepts and ideas are simply amazing and far ahead of their time. Honestly, I’d be perfectly happy to just bring along a couple of Lovecraft stories, but why limit myself when I can have all the best of them?
Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe
Again, there are a plethora of complete editions of Poe’s work, but this is the one I own. The Fall River Classics edition comprises the stories, poems and magazine articles of his crime investigations into one large volume. All the old favourites are here; The Raven, The Telltale Heart, The Fall of the House of Usher, Masque of the Red Death, The Pit and the Pendulum, the list goes on.
Like Lovecraft, Poe needs no explanation, and I can get lost in Poe’s work at any time. What better storyteller to bring with me than one of the early master … and why not bring everything?
Imajica By Clive Barker
Constant readers of Kendall Reviews will know that I’m a big Barker fan, so it’s really no surprise that I would include him in this list. Like all the books on this list, I can read anything by Barker at any time.
Imajica is Barker’s masterwork, and the longest single book he’s written to date. In my opinion, it’s the best story he has ever written, and certainly the most ambitious project he has undertaken. Here, Barker completely throws off his horror tag and embraces the fantasy wholeheartedly, and what he offers is truly magnificent.
The story begins in London, and a sometime artist meeting the husband of a former lover. The husband has hired an assassin to kill his wife, and he wishes the artist to stop her from being killed. What unfolds from here is a revelatory journey of intrigue, a trip into other worlds and witnessing the bonds which tie them all to us. Here, we are introduced to new theology, metaphysics and ideas which are totally unique to Barker. It’s a thrill ride from beginning to end.
Imajica is a book which requires re-reading. There are simply too many nuances to digest everything in one go. Every time I read it I find something I missed before, every fresh trip between those pages is both familiar and new. Why not use the quiet time on night shift to study further?
Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd
It’s a night shift, I’m alone and have a book in my hands. Why not have something calming to listen to in the background?
Pink Floyd is a band that my dad and I bonded over, and has always been my very favourite. Few bands can evoke the emotions that Floyd do. To me, they boast one of the very finest back catalogues in the rock music canon, and the albums released between 70 and 79 are consistently great. These songs bring back memories, and I can feel my dad with me every time I hear Pink Floyd’s music. Now that he’s no longer with us, I value that connection more than ever.
Dark Side of the Moon isn’t my favourite Floyd album, but it certainly is perfect for the mood of a graveyard after dark. Let’s just sit back and listen to Clare Torry blasting that iconic vocal on Great Gig In The Sky, then you can tell me I’m right.
Well, you’re not going to allow me a pen and paper or anything to write with, so I’m going to go with the other obvious item: coffee!! Its gonna be a long night, after all.
Paul Flewitt is a horror and dark fantasy writer from Sheffield, UK, where he lives with his wife and two children.
Paul began publishing in 2012, beginning with the flash fiction story, Smoke, for OzHorrorCon’s Book of the Tribes anthology. He went on to pen further short stories, including Paradise Park, Climbing Out, Apartment 16c and Always Beneath.
In 2012, he also published his first novel, Poor Jeffrey, which was received to much critical acclaim.
Paul cites writers such as Clive Barker, Stephen King, James Herbert and JRR Tolkien as inspirations on his own writing.
Paul continues to write, contributing to Matt Shaw’s The Many Deaths of Edgar Allan Poe anthology in 2020 with The Last Horror of Dear Eddie. He also began releasing free short stories and fanfiction on his Wattpad account for fun.
You can find more information, and keep up to date with latest news at these links…
Facebook: Paul Flewitt
Amazon: Paul Flewitt