I want this to be a platform for EVERYONE within the horror community; authors, publishers, bloggers, reviewers, actors, directors, artists. I could go on, if you work in the genre then you are more than welcome to apply for the job.
For the sake of Twitter characters and in looking for something a little more punchy, I’ve now decided to call this feature The Graveyard Shift. (#GraveyardShift)
The rules are quite simple…
You are invited to imagine yourselves as warden for an old graveyard, and 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 email@example.com
A new shift is about to begin and the warden is some layabout miscreant from the midlands…
John F. Leonard
The graveyard shift at Kendall Reviews sounds like my kind of job. At heart, I’m one big old dosser and Gavin has my vote for dream boss. Working for someone who encourages you to read and listen to music instead of actually grafting? That can’t be bad. Okay, it’s looking after a cemetery. So what, that’s no big deal. The residents aren’t going to cause any trouble. They’re all brown bread. Right?
Anyway, the books I’m bringing in with me …I’m working already! This has required some serious thought.
‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
My night shift rucksack is always going to contain some Stephen King. I’ve been a big fan since the first books – in truth, I prefer his earlier stuff. The Stand and IT are all-time favourites. The former brings together two of my great loves – horror and the apocalypse. The latter is horror with a cosmic flavour and that’s the best kind of horror. Both are chunky paperbacks and you can’t beat a long book when the night might be endless.
However, I’ve opted for ‘Salem’s Lot here. It’s an absolute must-read for me. Published in the Seventies, there’s something very old school about Mr King’s take on the vampire story. It echoes, pays homage to, the originals. I’ve read it numerous times and will no doubt do so again.
Sorry, think I may have started off with a cheat – shoehorning three books into a one book slot. That’s okay, I’m a writer. Taking liberties, playing a little fast and loose with the rules, is part of the job description. It won’t happen again, I promise. Cross my heart and hope to …well, perhaps not, given the surroundings.
The Rats by James Herbert
The darkly marvellous (and sadly missed) Mr Herbert deserves more love. I rarely hear his name mentioned when folk are discussing influential figures in the horror genre. He was there at the beginning for me – my first dip into reading horror, many years ago, well before I raised a razor to my face – and I still rate him.
Mutated rats terrorising London. A problem caused by man which chews away at man’s carefully constructed attempt at civilising society …reminds me of certain non-fictional events which currently dominate the news.
I also like the fact that The Rats Trilogy ends up in apocalyptic territory with the third book, Domain.
Ghost Story by Peter Straub
This is a great book. Don’t expect shock-a-minute or blood and guts. You don’t necessarily get such instant gratification with works of art and that’s how I think of Ghost Story. A work of art, something to enjoy in the moment, then ponder and reflect upon as the years roll past you. It features five elderly men, the Chowder Society, who meet and tell stories. The suggestion that the world is not as it seems on the surface is a central theme. That’s an idea which figures in my own writing and has long been attractive in reading matter.
As an aside, it strikes me that Peter Straub and James Herbert share at least one similarity. They’re very different in stylistic terms, but they both seem regularly overlooked and under-valued.
The Great and Secret Show by Clive Barker
I fell in love with Clive Barker’s stuff after reading the Damnation Game and adored many of the books which followed. I’ve chosen The Great and Secret Show because it’s one of those books that’s poppy and accessible whilst being vast in scope. A genre-defying tour de force.
There’s certainly horror in there, but it’s horror loaded with fantasy and cosmic darkness and that kind of mix really appeals. I sometimes think Clive Barker’s imagination can’t be fully captured by words or pictures. It manages to wriggle free of them and leave you thinking about the unwritten and unseen bits. That’s a great (and probably secret) quality for any work.
Summer of Night by Dan Simmons
Small town, a group of kids, and ancient evil turning what should be idyllic sunshine months into a period of nightmare. Might sound like a cliched recipe, but Summer of Night is a horror classic. Another one with an apocalyptic undercurrent running through it. I could easily have picked other books by Dan Simmons – Hyperion, Drood, The Terror, Carrion Comfort, to name a few.
Summer of Night gets in the backpack because I found the book genuinely creepy when I read it as a teenager. A story that stays with you. It’s gloriously spooky, perfect for any graveyard shift.
Phantoms by Dean Koontz
Dean Koontz doesn’t normally figure on lists of my favourite books, but a friend reminded me of a couple of his stories. Watchers is an odd, feel-good thriller rather than horror story. I liked it an awful lot and recall Phantoms with even more fondness. It’s definitely a horror story. An isolated village, emptied of humanity with some stranded visitors trying to survive the mystery. You’re talking my language, pressing my buttons, with that kind of scenario.
Mr Koontz doesn’t classify himself as a horror writer. Apparently, he only wrote Phantoms to ride a horror wave in which he’d mistakenly got tagged. I’m glad he had one eye on paying the bills and developing his career – it’s a good story.
The Infection by Craig DiLouie
Clearly, some zombie horror needs to be present in my twilight shift selection. Why? Well, I love zombies. Simple as that. There, the secret is out. Tales of the reanimated dead float my boat. Any chance, however remote, of literary credibility is dashed. Ah well, not to worry, there never was much chance anyway.
The Infection is one of my favourites from the plethora of zombie novels which have emerged in recent years. I’m hooked as soon as you throw mutation into the mix and Mr DiLouie does a fabulous job on that front. There’s a militaristic flavour to proceedings which works well with the storyline. All in all, it’s a gorgeous slice of gun-toting, bitey, mutated goodness …yum yum!
The Colour Out of Space by HP Lovecraft
My graveyard shift bookshelf won’t feel quite right without some Lovecraft. Problem is, what do you choose? There are plenty of options. I’ve plumped for The Colour Out of Space mainly because I just watched a film adaptation of it (the 2010 version) and the viewing has prompted a reread. This is a lovely science fiction/horror mash-up.
If I’m honest, actually reading Lovecraft can be hard work (certainly harder than temporarily warding Kendall’s boneyard). The writing style is dated and I find it too formal and somewhat stilted. For all that, I hold Lovecraft close to my heart. His concepts permeate modern literature so deeply that people often don’t register their presence.
By the way, the movie doesn’t score high on reviews, but I thought it was pretty decent.
That’s eight? Already? Scheisse.
Game, Set & Match by Richard Harvey
Those who know me could be forgiven for expecting something retro, rebellious and loud. A punk gem like Never Mind the Bollocks by the Pistols or maybe Floodland by the Sisters of Mercy. That would be fine if I was writing. The energy transfers. Hits your ears and fuels the fingers. Before you know it, you’re giving the keyboard some serious grief. But if I’m reading (err, read that as working), I want less intrusion. Gentler sounds that open your head, rather than putting it into overdrive.
So, the soundtrack from Game, Set & Match. An instrumental album by Richard Harvey. Composed for the television serialisation of Len Deighton’s trilogy.
I enjoyed the books and the series. The music is beautiful. Sombre and restful. Melodic and melancholy. I think it’ll conjure an appropriate mood as the midnight hour approaches. Alone, but not lonely. I rarely find myself in that unhappy state. Just as well, writing would be tough if you didn’t like your own company. Not that you’re liable to be lonely, surrounded by books and the deceased, listening to the music of death and deceit.
I’m beginning to really look forward to this stint as warden on the graveyard shift at Kendall Reviews. My chequered past includes a lot of different jobs, many of them far from satisfying. Yep, down the years, I’ve done a fair few night shifts. Not out of choice – paying the bills and keeping the wolf from the door. They can be a difficult, disorientating way of earning your crust. This will probably be the last one I do and I’ve every intention of enjoying it.
Sometimes, it’s easy to forget your good fortune. Nowadays, I have a modicum of control over how my time is divided. I effectively get paid for playing with words. Not always as simple as it sounds, but a long way from hard work. Can you dig that, as they say?
One final thing to do, in preparation. Choose a luxury item. Christ, that’s even more difficult than picking eight books or one album. Let’s have a think. There’ll be a dilapidated office. Dim and draughty. A leather office chair, splitting at the seams. A chipped desk with initials carved on the top and chewing gum stuck underneath (you know what writers are like). Surely some of the previous occupants will have left stuff? Half a bottle of scotch or a bar of chocolate. Some instant coffee.
Sod it, I’m taking cigarettes and a lighter. No rubbish, Benson & Hedges Gold (not a problem hiding the disposable in that packet to avoid any silly questions about it being two items). Yeah, yeah, I know, smoking is bad for your health and hard on the pocket. Frankly, I don’t give a flying figurative.
Life is achingly short. Now and again, at whatever cost, you need to squeeze some pleasure out it.
John F. Leonard
John messes around with words for a living. He was born in England and grew up in the industrial midlands where he learned to love scrawny cats, the sound of scrapyard dogs and the rattle and clank of passing trains. He enjoys horror, comedy and football (not necessarily together). A family man, he now lives a few miles from the old Victorian house in which he was born. Scribbling scary stories seems to keep him vaguely sane (accurate at time of writing).
His latest publication is a rather disconcerting cocktail of cosmic horror, the Seventies and football.
John’s Amazon Author Page UK – HERE
John’s Amazon Author Page US – HERE
You can follow John on Twitter – @john_f_leonard
John’s Goodreads page can be found HERE
It’s 1979 and Sammy Rafferty is on the run. From the past. From the police. And, perhaps more importantly, from some rather unfriendly criminal types.
He thinks his football dreams are over, but that might not be the case. He’s run to Burntbridge Lye. A place where dreams don’t always die.
Sammy “the butcher” Rafferty has long since kissed his playing days goodbye. Never kicking a competitive ball again was a hard pill to swallow and he’s not ready for his managerial career to come to an untimely end. The thought of forever being shut out of football makes his heart sink and feet itch.
There isn’t any choice. The cards have been dealt and you have to play the hand you’re given. Sammy grits his teeth and gets on with it. Life settles into monotony and offers only boredom and frustration …until he comes across an old football ground nestled in the back of beyond.
He can almost hear the roar of the crowd as he parks at the gates of the deserted Burntbridge Palmers, a decaying stadium on the outskirts of Bledbrooke Town.
The club that won’t die could be just the place for a man who still has a gleam in his eye. After all, they’re both ghosts that won’t go away.
Burntbridge Boys is about a lot of things.
Horror, for sure. No doubt there. Old school horror, with a twist. A ghost story where the ghosts aren’t really dead.
A fond reminiscence of football, back before football became completely commercialised? Yes, definitely, soccer plays its part. Although, it has to be said, the beautiful game is sometimes less than beautiful in Burntbridge Boys. It can be somewhat ugly and …disturbing. And often more than a game.
Deceit and double-dealing? Yeah, there’s a fair-sized chunk of that.
It might also be about power passed into hands too fragile for the holding. The darkness hidden in human hearts which is best kept hidden and secrets that are better not revealed. Society and its cruel attitudes, before society became an equally dreadful click-driven social media experiment.
You’ll draw your conclusions – that’s one of the joys of reading.
On a more prosaic level, is there such a thing as a football horror story? Let alone one set in the past which wallows in a darkly imagined history of the game.
Who knows? When the Dead Boxes are involved, anything is possible. Such items have always been scary things.
Even in the swinging Sixties and glam-shock punk revolution of the Seventies, they contained a terrifying mix of horror and salvation. Throw the Scaeth Mythos into the mix and stuff gets decidedly multi-dimensional.
There are different realities and the walls which separate them can be paper-thin. The tiniest tear can allow horror and madness to bleed through.