Paul Kane is the award-winning, bestselling author and editor of over seventy books – including the Arrowhead trilogy (gathered together in the sellout Hooded Man omnibus, revolving around a post-apocalyptic version of Robin Hood), The Butterfly Man and Other Stories, Hellbound Hearts, The Mammoth Book of Body Horror and Pain Cages (an Amazon #1 bestseller). His non-fiction books include The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy and Voices in the Dark, and his genre journalism has appeared in the likes of SFX, Rue Morgue and DeathRay. He has been a Guest at Alt.Fiction five times, was a Guest at the first SFX Weekender, at Thought Bubble in 2011, Derbyshire Literary Festival and Off the Shelf in 2012, Monster Mash and Event Horizon in 2013, Edge-Lit in 2014, HorrorCon, HorrorFest and Grimm Up North in 2015, The Dublin Ghost Story Festival and Sledge-Lit in 2016, plus IMATS Olympia and Celluloid Screams in 2017, as well as being a panellist at FantasyCon and the World Fantasy Convention, and a fiction judge at the Sci-Fi London festival. His work has been optioned and adapted for the big and small screen, including for US network primetime television, and his latest novels are Lunar (set to be turned into a feature film), the Y.A. story The Rainbow Man (as P.B. Kane), the sequel to RED – Blood RED – the award-winning hit Sherlock Holmes & the Servants of Hell and Before. He lives in Derbyshire, UK, with his wife Marie O’Regan and his family. Find out more at his site www.shadow-writer.co.uk which has featured Guest Writers such as Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Charlaine Harris, Robert Kirkman, Dean Koontz and Guillermo del Toro.
It’s an honour to have someone of Paul Kane’s calibre contributing to Kendall Reviews. I first became aware of aware of Paul’s work via his name being linked to my literary idol, Clive Barker. I started to pick up his novels, really enjoying his writing style and world building. From a wide and varied bibliography I would certainly recommend you read Sherlock Holmes And The Servants Of Hell, The Hellraiser Films And Their Legacy and Before a thrilling horror/action adventure that made it into the Kendall Reviews Best Books of 2017
Now, get yourself comfortable and enjoy a fantastic piece from Paul Kane about his Top Ten Films and Books…
Paul Kane: Top Ten Films and Books
I’ve said this before when people have approached me to do my Top Tens of things, but I find it impossible to narrow it down to just ten. By the time you get to my age, you realise you’ve read a lot of books and seen a lot of movies – so any list like this is going to be very fluid. It might change next week if I see something and fall head over heels in love with it. However, the below represents a pretty good run-down of my favourites – with apologies if I’m repeating myself from previous outings. To make it a bit fairer, we’ll also take anything Barker-related – such as The Hellbound Heart, Hellraiser, Cabal, Nightbreed, The Books of Blood, The Great and Secret Show, Candyman – as read (or seen). I could compile a Top Ten just of those… in fact I have before in the past! Anyway, here you go – as Smashie (or is it Nicey?) might say: Let’s Rock!
1) The Thing (Directed by John Carpenter, 1982).
A movie that had a massive effect on me in my formative years – when I crept down to watch it late at night on ITV one Saturday and totally freaked myself out. I remember not being able to face my Sunday dinner the next day after seeing that autopsy scene, but couldn’t tell my parents why. It was probably my first exposure to the sub-genre known as ‘Body Horror’ – which would become so important to my work. Marie and I even edited The Mammoth Book of Body Horror years later, and included ‘Who Goes There?’, the original John W. Campbell tale which The Thing is based on. It’s also a perfect example of how flexible horror can be, in this instance an SF-Horror (other examples of this in my all-time favourites list would definitely have to include Alien and Event Horizon). Everything about this film is just perfect, from Bill Lancaster’s script to Carpenter’s direction, from the desolate setting to the inventive effects, not to mention the memorable characters – this is Kurt Russell’s finest hour as reluctant hero MacReady (“Those damned Swedes!”). I could watch it a million times and that still wouldn’t be enough.
2) Dune (written by Frank Herbert, 1965)
For me Frank Herbert’s Dune is a massively important book. I first read it during my ‘absorb everything genre-related’ period which began when I was about nine or ten and finished… well, it hasn’t yet really. I was just blown away by the scope of the story, which included its very own glossary at the back! This was a totally immersive depiction of the future and I was in there, with the sandworms and ’thopters, with all the different Houses and the Fremen. Most importantly, I was captivated by the story of this young man – Paul Atreides – who, like Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, had this destiny to be a kind of superhuman. A messiah figure, who doesn’t even know what’s in store for him. It’s the story of an underdog who comes good, an outsider who not only wins round people that don’t understand him and can’t relate to his background, but also goes on to lead them. Superb.
3) The Road (Directed by John Hillcoat, 2009)
I’m a massive fan of the Cormac McCarthy novel, which is – if anything – even more brutal than the movie. But I really do think the 2009 adaptation did a cracking job of showing the harshness of this world, but balancing it out with the relationship between a boy and his father (played impeccably by Kodi Smit-McPhee and Viggo Mortensen). And it’s those kinds of relationships under duress I’ve found so interesting writing about post-apocalyptic worlds myself, from Hooded Man to The Rot; strip everything away, all the trappings of modern society, and what are we really? It not only magnifies the good and the bad inside us, but forces good people to do bad things – and vice versa. For my money no other film has handled this complexity better.
4) The Silence of the Lambs (written by Thomas Harris)
To me, the serial killer, crime thriller, whatever you want to call it, has always been as terrifying as any horror novel. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy the more mystery-based ‘whodunnit?’ type of book (Colin Dexter’s Morse novels, for example, hugely influenced my own Gemini Factor…), but I also have a soft spot – if that’s the right word – for more extreme crime fare. I came to John Connolly’s work late in the day (shame on me!) and love his stuff so I could have chosen Every Dead Thing, his stunning debut, or I could have picked books by Mo Hayder, Boris Starling, Tess Gerritsen, Mark Billingham, Tania Carver… Indeed, the HWA are putting on an event in March at the Quad in Derby which focuses on this very subject, just to give it an early plug. The novel I have gone for in this vein is what I consider to be the pinnacle of the police procedural/serial killer sub-genre, though. I have to say, I read this – back to back with Red Dragon – after seeing Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster strut their Oscar-winning stuff, so it was always them saying the lines, but there was so much more to the novel than the movie. More character background, more about Lecter and Starling’s relationship, more about the investigation, more… if you’ll pardon the expression considering Hannibal’s appetites, meat on the bones. Thomas Harris doesn’t write many books, but when he does he turns out belters.
5) Citizen Kane (Directed by Orson Welles, 1941)
I’ve loved this one since my film tutor at art college showed it to us. Citizen Kane was one of the reasons why I went on to study film at uni, getting a BA and then an MA in it. Technically, and from a student’s point of view, it’s brilliant – notable of course for its revolutionary use of deep focus, amongst other things. But it’s also an excellent character study which has much to teach us about what’s important in life, and that appeals to the writer in me as well (the evidence of which you can see in stories like ‘The Butterfly Man’ or ‘Yin and Yang’). Welles is terrific in front of and behind the camera, with a solid supporting cast to back him up. This one’s also important because it’s partly the reason I’m called what I’m called – Kane being my fiction pseudonym.
6) Brother in the Land (written by Robert Swindells, 1984)
I read this one for the first time in English lessons at school. To say it had an impact on me – and later my fiction – would be a massive understatement. The post-apocalyptic story of Danny, who finds his hometown of Skipley has been destroyed and has to deal with the consequences, is for me at least as terrifying as something like Threads. These were people I could relate to, in a place similar to where I lived, going through the most heartbreaking of times. Draw whatever parallels you will with my Hooded Man stories… It was also a YA book before that marketing term ever existed, and one of the reasons why I turned my hand to that form with The Rainbow Man as P.B. Kane. And, coincidentally enough, I’ve just finished a post-apocalyptic YA novella called Coming of Age which should be out next year – once again as that P.B. guy.
7) Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Directed by Philip Kaufman, 1978)
As much as I love the original black and white version by Don Siegel, this film has the edge for me in the paranoia stakes, and it isn’t afraid to present a fantastically bleak ending. It’s got a special place in my heart, mainly because my parents sat me down in front of it when I was about 7 years of age; not entirely sure why – I couldn’t sleep for about a week! But God bless ’em, because they instilled in me a love for horror that’s never really left since. I’ve attempted to capture the sense of dread and not belonging from this one in a number of my own stories, but most recently and most successfully I reckon in ‘Shells’ – published in Terror Tales of the Seaside, edited by Paul Finch and reprinted in my latest collection Disexistence.
8) The Hound of the Baskervilles (written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 1902)
I’m a huge fan, as most people will have read when I did the publicity for Servants of Hell, of Sherlock Holmes in all his incarnations…though for me the definitive screen Holmes will always be Jeremy Brett. I came across the original Conan Doyle stories at around the same time as I did Clive’s work, which is probably why the two were forever linked in my mind, but my very favourite tale from the original canon is The Hound of the Baskervilles. It’s the definitive ‘horror’ Holmes really, with a huge supernatural dog running around killing people… even if it did have a more earthly explanation at the end. It certainly fired my imagination and I was delighted to be able to bring the hound in question back to roam the corridors of Hell in my own novel. It was probably also in part responsible for RED (published with the sequel Blood RED by SST), as well as the obvious fairy tale influence. There would also be no Crimson Mystery without this one.
9) Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975)
This movie is simply an exercise in cinematic suspense, executed perfectly. We can forgive the rubber shark that makes its grand entrance towards the end, because the way the tension is built up before that is a masterclass in how to have an audience on the edge of its seat. The shock where the fisherman’s head appears in the bottom of the sunken boat still makes me jump all these years later, almost as much as it does Richard Dreyfuss’ Hooper. And, of course, we wouldn’t care at all if it weren’t for the portrayal of the characters by him, Roy Scheider – as ‘fish out of water’ New Yorker Chief Brody, transplanted to Amity Island at the worst possible time – and Robert Shaw’s Quint, one of my favourite characters in anything ever. When he tells the story of the Indianapolis, not only do all the hairs stand up on end on the back of your neck, you totally understand where this Ahab-esque man is coming from. Not many films deserve the classic status they’re given more than this one. Also, crucially, without Jaws, there would be no blockbuster.
10) The Rats (written by James Herbert, 1974)
Hhmm, I’ve just realised that the last few choices are all about revenge of nature or animals on the rampage, but hey ho. I’ve long been an admirer of James Herbert and his work, and feel very privileged that I got to know him before his untimely death; my last abiding memory of him was the signing he did for us at FantasyCon in 2012, where he took time to chat to everybody and was telling tall tales – what else would you expect? What Jim did here with his first chiller (a term he coined himself) The Rats was take a tired horror genre and create something fresh within it that was copied again and again. The Rats was probably the first full on horror book I ever read, and I loved it! The terrifying notion of these giant killer rats plaguing London sent shivers down my spine and had me checking under my bed and in the wardrobe. It still does, frankly. When it was reported a while ago that giant rats the size of dogs had actually been found, I said to myself: Jim was right all along! There was also the sense that when you were reading The Rats you were doing something forbidden. To be fair, I probably was – reading gore and sex scenes at such a tender age – but boy was it a ride. I can’t mention The Rats, though, without including Lair and Domain, which raised the bar even higher. I’ll never forget the clever and emotionally draining way he handled wiping out an entire population at the beginning of the latter.
So, there you have it. As Julie Andrews once sang, these are a few of my favourite things. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading.
Thank you very much Paul, I’m thrilled you took the time to write such a great piece for my blog.
If you’d like to find out more about Paul Kane please visit his site www.shadow-writer.co.uk which has featured Guest Writers such as Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Charlaine Harris, Robert Kirkman, Dean Koontz and Guillermo del Toro.
A few Paul Kane titles that Kendall Reviews recommends you read are (links to purchase)…
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What a good article – some fantastic stuff here.