You may know by now that Water For Drowning has been nominated for a British Fantasy Award for Best Novella. That’s pretty damn awesome and obviously I’m thrilled.
Something else that’s awesome is the list of other titles in that short list. I’m lucky enough to consider each of the nominated writers a friend and will be genuinely happy to see any of them win. No, really. And if you haven’t read their stories yet then here, let me tempt you…
Newspaper Heart by Stephen Volk
Not only has this story been nominated for a British Fantasy Award but it was short-listed for a Shirley Jackson award earlier in the year as well. It’s about a young boy’s relationship with a Guy Fawkes effigy but it’s a Stephen Volk story so of course it’s about more than that. And it’s a horror story, so any penny you give for the Guy might only be to make it go away. You can read what Stephen has said about the story here and here.
I was privileged to get an early read of Newspaper Heart and I remember admiring the ‘slow burn’ (pun fully intended) which gives the characters the attention they deserve and need in such an affecting story. It also gives the ending all the more impact, and it really is quite an ending – I didn’t see it coming until very late, and then it was in a deliciously tense ‘surely not…’ kind of way. It’s brilliant. I loved it.
Newspaper Heart originally appeared in The Spectral Book of Horror Stories, edited by Mark Morris, which is itself nominated for a British Fantasy Award for Best Anthology. I thoroughly recommend this book and copies are available here.
Cold Turkey by Carole Johnstone
All Raym wants to do is give up smoking. So why is his entire life falling apart? Why are new mistakes and old terrors conspiring against him? Why is he being plagued by the very worst spectre from his childhood? And why does giving up suddenly – horrifyingly – feel much, much more like giving in?
So goes the blurb. And here’s a taster:
“I saw him Mr Munroe.” A sly look lit up Jimmy’s blinking eyes. “He’s always chasing you.”
Raym’s hand froze in front of his chest, creeping back up towards his throat again. “What?”
“In a funny square van.” The kid blinked, blinked, blinked. He wooshed his hands either side of his body like he was starting a drag race, and Raym flinched again. “It’s got black tails – really, really looong ones, like party streamers!”
Again, I was lucky in that I was allowed to read this one early and was even given the chance to give a cover quote. This is what I said:
“Cold Turkey is rich with nightmarish invention. Johnstone has created a very distinctive villain with the sinister top-hatted tally-van man, yet knows when to hold him back to let other horrors take centre stage. There’s an addictive quality to the well-paced prose that makes reading Johnstone’s stories a habit you’ll never want to kick, and this one’s so good it’s probably bad for you.”
This is a TTA publication and if you’re quick you can still grab a copy here. Carole’s also up for an award for Best Collection and you can grab a copy of The Bright Day is Done from Gray Friar Press here. Judging by the stories I’ve read so far I can fully recommend it.
Drive by Mark West
When David sees Nat alone, late at night, she accepts his offer of a lift home. But, the streets at night are also alive with a gang intent on hurt and mayhem…
I read Mark’s novella in one sitting. It’s gloriously fast-paced and full of tension, its horror all too real and all too believable. There are characters and events here that are very recognisable and relatable and the story is stronger for all of that. It wouldn’t surprise me to see it become a film.
A lot of other people have said a lot of great things about it, which you can read here.
This is a Pendragon Press novella and you can buy yourself a copy here.
So, there you go. If you want to put Water For Drowning in context, check out those novellas above. Likewise if you just fancy a damn good read. Each is well worth your time and money, I promise.