An A to Z of books

Okay, I was tagged in this a while ago (thanks Jess) but I’ve just found my scribbled notes and thought I’d post them (at last). Any excuse to go on about books…

Author you’ve read the most books by

That’d be Stephen King, I should think. Or perhaps Ed McBain – he has a fair few, and they’re pretty slim, quick reads.

Best sequel ever

Well I remember loving Lloyd Alexander’s The Black Cauldron as a kid. That was a terrific, much darker, follow up to The Book of Three. I loved all of those Chronicles of Prydain books, though. As an adult, I don’t think I’ve read much by way of sequels. Wizard and Glass, part of King’s Dark Tower series, was pretty terrific.

Currently reading

Authority (Jeff Vandermeer), The Bazaar of Bad Dreams (Stephen King), Tales of Ordinary Madness (Charles Bukowski) Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson (Jeff Gunn)

Drink of choice while reading

Nothing in particular. Coffee is most likely, maybe red wine if I’m in the bath or perhaps a Jack Daniels with ice if I’m feeling really indulgent.

E-reader or physical book

Physical, for all the usual reasons, though I have come around to the idea of e-versions thanks to an app on my phone. I have a few titles on that which is great for when I’m caught without a book.

Fictional character you would have dated in high school

I remember having quite a thing for Tess of the D’Urbervilles at college. A bit older and I was in lust/love with Anita Blake of Laurell K. Hamilton’s Vampire Hunter series (until the books got a bit silly). Nowadays I’m more of a Clarice Starling kind of guy.

Glad you gave this book a chance

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke, was a bit longer than I could comfortably commit to at the time but I’m bloody glad I did because it’s brilliant – reading that was time well spent indeed. And Skulduggery Pleasant, by Derek Landy, which was recommended to me so enthusiastically by one of the kids I used to teach as part of an evening class in Creative Writing. I don’t tend to read YA stuff but thoroughly enjoyed this (and several others in the series).

Hidden gem of a book

House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski. I came to this completely cold, having heard nothing about it, and it remains one of the best books I’ve read. Partly due to the physical experience of it (you have to see the book to understand) but also I found some of it genuinely unsettling.

Important moment in your reading life

Realising books don’t carry age certificates, that I could read something adult and be treated seriously by the writer. The realisation came with The Shining when I was about eleven. Too young to fully appreciate it, of course, but the right age to recognise the power of words.

Another defining moment was giving up Richard Layman. Realising I didn’t have to keep reading them just because I’d read so many already. Again, I was young, but I soon noticed how formulaic (and rapey) these novels were and I was beginning to see that the horror genre had better to offer elsewhere.

Just finished

The Tooth Fairy, by Graham Joyce. And wonderful it was, too.

Kind of books you won’t read

There aren’t many. I’m not a big fan of comedy as a genre to itself – I prefer it as one of many aspects in a book rather than the defining feature – but that’s probably about it. Autobiographies and misery memoirs aren’t big favourites but I’ve read one or two.

Longest book you’ve read

Probably Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke, or Stephen King’s It (I’d have to compare page counts). Unless The Lord of the Rings counts as one?

Major book hangover

Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. It broke me. I’ve read it several times now and feel bereft every time it’s over.

Number of bookcases you own

Not enough. I’ve just moved and so a lot of my books are still in boxes, but I’ll be buying some more cases soon…

One book you’ve read multiple times

There are several, due to teaching, and I’ve mentioned a few in the answers above, but I’ve read Ray Bradbury’s work more than once (I know, it says one book, but I figure one writer is an acceptable compromise).

Preferred place to read

Anywhere comfortable, and preferably quiet. Bed, bath, lazing on the sofa. Maybe lounging by a pool or on a beach somewhere…

Quote from a book you’ve read that inspires you

“So it goes.” From Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut.

Reading regret

Finishing too many bad books just because I didn’t like to quit. Nowadays I give them a fair chance and then stop if it’s not for me – there are too many good books out there to be wasting time on bad ones.

Series you started and need to finish

There are a few I haven’t finished but that’s because I lost interest. The two that spring to mind both involved a recurring character who just became too powerful for me to be all that concerned any more (plus there are only so many huge adventures one person can get involved in before it becomes silly). A series I haven’t started but would like to is Frank Herbert’s Dune series.

Three of your all-time favourite books

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The Road, by Cormac McCarthy.

The Time Traveller’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

Unapologetic fan-boy for

Used to be Stephen King, but I’m a bit more wary these days. Ray Bradbury, definitely. Ernest Hemingway.

Very excited about this release

The Fisherman, by John Langan

Worst bookish habit

Resisting books because I’m trying to convince myself I have enough to read for now. Thankfully this doesn’t happen often.

X marks the spot: start on the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book

Michael Marshal Smith, Spares

Your latest purchase

The Fisherman, by John Langan

Zzz-snatcher book (last book that kept you up far too late)

Annihilation, by Jeff VanderMeer. Absolutely brilliant.

 

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News

A few things have happened in the last couple of weeks so here’s a bit of a catch up…

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First of all, I’m delighted to announce that Probably Monsters has been nominated for a British Fantasy Award for Best Collection. (It was a great way to start the day today.) You can see the full list of nominations here – there’s damn fine work in every category and I don’t envy the judges at all.

 

Probably Monsters

Ellen Datlow also said some very kind things about Probably Monsters in her Summation 2015 in The Best Horror of the Year, Volume 8:

Probably Monsters by Ray Cluley (ChiZine Publications) is a terrific debut by a writer who has been getting increasing and well deserved attention in Great Britain (one story won the British Fantasy Award). These twenty stories showcase his broad range, including three new stories, one of which (‘Indian Giver’) is reprinted herein.”

You can order Probably Monsters direct from ChiZine here, and it’s available on Amazon here.

Best Horror of the Year 8

So yes, as mentioned, The Best Horror of the Year, Volume 8, is now available. You can order it here, and here. There’s a magnificent line-up of stories, and I’m lucky enough to be making my third appearance in this series with ‘Indian Giver’.

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Also out now is Ténèbres 2016, an anthology of horror stories translated into French. I appeared in the 2011 volume with ‘Beachcombing’ and it’s just as much of a thrill to appear in the series again, this time with ‘All Change’. You can buy it from Dreampress here.

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Speaking of ‘All Change’, there’s now a podcast version courtesy of Tales to Terrify for those of you who like to hear a story read aloud. I’ve not had a chance to listen to it yet myself, but Tales to Terrify did such a good job with ‘The Travellers Stay’ that I’ve no doubt it’ll sound great. Click here to have a listen, and browse through their archives – there’s loads of good stuff. (‘The Travellers Stay’ is here.)

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And speaking of stories available free online, you can read ‘A Tale Before Supper’ over at This is Horror. It’s my response to M.R. James’s short tale, ‘There was a Man Dwelt by a Churchyard’, a sequel of sorts and a homage, and it was great fun to write in such a style. If you want to read James’s story first, it’s online here.

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And I think that’s about it for latest news. As for work in progress, I just made some last minute edits to my story ‘Trappers Valley’ which will be available soon in Crimewave 13 from TTA Press. Four stories are out there looking for homes and one has been entered into the L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest (‘Tethered to the Cold and Dying’ received an Honourable Mention in 2010 so I’m hoping to beat that this time around). I’m also finishing up a few stories for anthologies, and still slogging away at the novel. So, happily busy.

Which means I should really go and get on with some writing…

 

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A great review and an(other) interview, too

Ted Grau has posted a wonderful review of Probably Monsters over at The Cosmicomicon, and was kind enough to interview me as well. You can check it out by clicking here, if you like.

You can order Probably Monsters here and here.

Probably Monsters

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Me and the sea (and a few other things)

John Linwood Grant interviews me at Grey Dog Tales as part of the Stranger Seas series, and I do love a good nautical horror story. How about you? Got any favourite horrors at sea?

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Best News

So I can spill the beans, now that the table of contents has been posted: my story ‘Indian Giver’ will be republished in volume 8 of Ellen Datlow’s The Best Horror of the Year series. The story first appeared as one of the ‘previously unpublished’ stories in my collection Probably Monsters. It’s one of a few ‘weird westerns’ I’ve written.

Look at this glorious cover.

Best Horror of the Year 8

And this. Look at this for a load of writers to appear with. I’m very lucky to be appearing with these fine people.

We Are All Monsters Here by Kelley Armstrong
Universal Horror by Stephen Graham Jones
Slaughtered Lamb by Tom Johnstone
In a Cavern, In a Canyon by Laird Barron
Between the Pilings by Steve Rasnic Tem
Snow by Dale Bailey
Indian Giver by Ray Cluley
My Boy Builds Coffins by Gary McMahon
The Woman in the Hill by Tamsyn Muir
Underground Economy by John Langan
The Rooms Are High by Reggie Oliver
All the Day You’ll Have Good Luck by Kate Jonez
Lord of the Sand by Stephen Bacon
Wilderness by Letitia Trent
Fabulous Beasts by Priya Sharma
Descent by Carmen Maria Machado
Hippocampus by Adam Nevill
Black Dog by Neil Gaiman
The 21st Century Shadow by Stephanie M. Wytovich
This Stagnant Breath of Change by Brian Hodge

This marks my third appearance in one of Ellen’s ‘best of’ volumes. ‘Bones of Crow’ appeared in volume 6, and ‘At Night, When the Demons Come’ volume 3. ‘At Night, When the Demons Come’ will also be appearing in Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror, which gathers together stories from the last ten years. Can’t wait to see the cover for that one, but in the meantime here’s the contents list. Again, I’m in great company.
Shallaballah by Mark Samuels
Sob in the Silence by Gene Wolfe
Our Turn Too Will One Day Come by Brian Hodge
Dead Sea Fruit by Kaaron Warren
Closet Dreams by Lisa Tuttle
Spectral Evidence by Gemma Files
Hushabye by Simon Bestwick
Very Low-Flying Aircraft by Nicholas Royle
The Goosle by Margo Lanagan
The Clay Party by Steve Duffy
Strappado by Laird Barron
Lonegan’s Luck by Stephen Graham Jones
Mr Pigsny by Reggie Oliver
At Night, When the Demons Come by Ray Cluley
Was She Wicked? Was She Good? by M. Rickert
The Shallows by John Langan
Little Pig by Anna Taborska
Omphalos by Livia Llewellyn
How We Escaped Our Certain Fate by Dan Chaon
That Tiny Flutter of the Heart I Used to Call Love by Robert Shearman
Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad No. 8) by Caitlín R. Kiernan
Shay Corsham Worsted by Garth Nix
The Atlas of Hell by Nathan Ballingrud
Ambitious Boys Like You by Richard Kadrey

Of course, I’ll post again when the book is ready to order. In the meantime, maybe do what I do and keep looking at that cover and touching the screen…

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Probably Monsters short-listed for Best Collection

This is Horror has published the short-list for their This is Horror Awards and – great news! – Probably Monsters is up for consideration as Short Story Collection of the Year. I’m honoured to get in among this load of talent:

  1. Get in Trouble: Stories by Kelly Link
  2. Probably Monsters by Ray Cluley
  3. Sing Me Your Scars by Damien Angelica Walters
  4. The Nameless Dark by T.E. Grau
  5. Vile Men by Rebecca Jones-Howe
  6. Voices of the Damned by Barbie Wilde

Click on the link below to check out the whole list of categories and nominees. There are also details on how you can submit your vote.

This is Horror Awards 2015

And while you’re there, why not click on a few other things as well, have a look around? This is Horror celebrates the genre with all kinds of reviews and essays and podcasts and all sorts of other things, the site is well worth checking out.

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Probably Monsters as a favourite

Peter Tennant reads and reviews a great many books every year, and I’m delighted to say that he picked out Probably Monsters as Best Collection of 2015. I’m especially pleased because I’ve followed Peter’s reviews for years and he’s pointed me in the direction of some great books, so for him to say this is quite a thrill. I’m in great company, too – you can see his list of favourites at the TTA Press site or via his personal blog, Trumpetville.

You can order Probably Monsters as a paperback or ebook from ChiZine Publications, here.

Probably Monsters

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