New review 19:08:2013

Soul Masque by Terry Grimwood. © 2013 Terry Grimwood. Cover concept ©  2013 Neil Williams/Spectral Press. All rights reserved.

Soul Masque by Terry Grimwood. © 2013 Terry Grimwood. Cover concept © 2013 Neil Williams/Spectral Press. All rights reserved.

It’s been fairly quiet around these parts lately, so let’s change that by bringing you the latest review of Terry Grimwood’s chapbook story, Soul Masque. This one is from subscriber Paul Feeney, and was posted to his Facebook timeline:

“The world is on the brink, demons are rife and those that purport to do God’s (yes, God, with the capital…) work seem as corrupt as those they fight. Within this dark, grimy war revolves the separate yet tangled lives of Sian, a facilitator and handler of sorts and dispenser of mingled pain and pleasure; Jon, the wielder of the Glory and slave to chemical dependence; Meg, Jon’s lover and companion; Rennie, who loves Meg but carries his own dark secrets; and The Singer, an angel whose appearance and motivations somehow seem less than holy…

Twenty three pages of short story and there’s enough here for an entire novel. I don’t just mean the idea, I mean the thing itself reads like a novel. It’s mind boggling to think how much Terry Grimwood has managed to squeeze into this small chapbook. It’s a testament to the writing which is spare and fractured, yet incredibly detailed. In fact, the whole structure is disjointed, adding to the fragile, brittle world the characters inhabit – and also themselves. In a few scant words, Grimwood gives full flesh to his people, covers the bones of his story in rich detail with light strokes of his writing. It’s an incredible feat, only slightly marred for me by the use of present tense in places. At least at first. It made it difficult for me to break into the story at first, which is already dense and layered. I feel, and this is purely a personal thing, that it would have been better to start with past tense and introduce the present later, because, as the story races towards its end, it really doesn’t distract at that point.

Still, a minor quibble. The story is epic, beautiful, tragic and very dark, with little hope of redemption for any of its protagonists. There’s enough here to sustain a whole series of novels and I’d love to see more. The scene with Sian and The Singer in her room…well, it sent shivers up and down my spine.

Gorgeous, brutal stuff. Look forward to more.”

Many thanks, Paul – more soon!

New reviews – 30:04:2013

A bumper selection of review to browse through today, so let’s get down to it straightaway with the first one:

Whitstable cover image

This one is the latest for Stephen Volk’s Whitstable, courtesy of The Zone – thanks to Tom Johnstone for the write-up! You’ll find it right here.

PLEASE NOTE: there are now just THREE copies of the limited signed and numbered hardback left – those wanting a copy should get to the Spectral Shop NOW to secure their copy before they all go. The book will NOT be reprinted in this format again!


Paul Feeney has been a regular supporter of Spectral Press since its launch nearly 2 1/2 years ago, and he posts mini-reviews on Facebook after reading each publication. The reviews below are of the latest three chapbooks:

What Gets Left Behind cover image

“OK, number 7 in the Spectral Press chapbook series.

Mike returns to the town he grew up in through the 70’s and 80’s, hoping to lay some personal ghosts to rest, and finally say goodbye to his childhood friend Geoff.

It’s a well written story, with some nice touches and clear descriptions and dialogue. The structure is essentially the tale from the past, bookended with passages form the present. Whilst it’s pretty clear what is probably going to happen, more so towards the end, and thus slightly robs the story of some of the surprise, the telling is fine. There are also a few nice creepy moments in the finale, that really get the hairs standing up.


There was something I just didn’t engage with in the story and it took me two reads to figure it out. It doesn’t feel long enough. This is an entirely personal thing for me, because I love the sense of nostalgia this sort of story can conjure, especially when it’s well done and I felt this was where the story most came alive.It just should have been more. For me, it needed more immersion in the past, in order to resonate more with the present. But that’s my perception, not a failing of the writing.

As always, the book itself is lovingly created, and is a nice addition to the Spectral line up. I look forward to more from Mark.”

The Way of the Leaves cover image

“And on to Spectral chapbook number 8.

Two lonely youngsters, who have become drawn to each other through their similar natures, spend their time exploring the woods around their village. They come upon a barrow (old burial mound) and what happens there sets in chain events that will affect them forever.

Great atmospheric story. It’s extremely well written and the narrative flowed very well. Tallerman has the enviable ability to draw a full canvas from only a few words, to create powerful images with minimal description. I found the setting very evocative and there was something ancient and timeless about it (not just because of the subject).

There’s a strong sense of foreboding throughout, a feeling of sad and tragic inevitability. although it’s not really about scares as such, there is room for a couple of nice little creepy moments, such as when the kids are crawling into the entrance to the barrow, at night, in near dark… However, it’s all about the overall atmosphere, which is maintained throughout the tale.

Another solid entry in the Spectral line-up.”

Creakers front cover by Neil Williams

And finally:

“Number 9 in the Spectral chapbook series (yay, I’m now up to date! :-D).

Ray’s mother has passed away and it’s his ‘happy’ task to clean up her home to sell on. However, while he’s staying there, odd sounds and strange visions assault him…the ominous ‘creaking’ sound.
OK, I may be picking this up wrong, but I found this to be quite an amusing tale, despite the dark undertones that pop up as it progresses. When the first round of ‘creaks’ start to sound, I was chuckling away to myself and the prose was light and amusing. Or so it seemed to me. Maybe I was picking it up wrong. I hope not. Of course, this light tone doesn’t last and soon there are hints of darker goings on.I found the story moved easily between these different tones and in fact, the lighter moments helped to define more clearly the darker turns. I really hope this was deliberate.There’s some very solid writing on display here and each reveal is handled deftly and with subtle ease.

A great story and a name I’ll have to look out for in the future. I only hope the parts I found humorous were intentional…”

Many thanks to Paul for taking the time to write these!
More reviews soon!

The Respectable Face of Tyranny: a quotable quote and a mini-review

The Respectable Face of Tyranny cover image

So, to return to a semblance of normality after the euphoria of being nominated for some awards, here are a couple of nice things people have said about Gary Fry’s Spectral Visions novella. First a quote:

“An excellent novella from Gary Fry. The Respectable Face of Tyranny is set on the North Yorkshire coast, and the author shows us a place at once familiar and strange, beautiful and threatening . . . His characters are caught up in vast, uncontrollable events, responding as best they can in a world where the unexplained hovers just beyond the visible and the mundane.”
Alison Littlewood, author of A Cold Season

And now, a mini-review, posted by Paul Feeney on his Facebook page:

“The first of Spectral Press’s original novellas, and leading the charge is Gary Fry’s  The Respectable Face Of Tyranny. This is a beautifully written piece of work, and although only 40 pages long, manages to cram enough ideas and detail in it for a full length novel. The book itself is beautifully put together, and the cover photo is amazing and really sets the tone for the story inside.

Although ostensibly about a father, Josh, who has lost his financial security in the recent crisis, and is forced to relocate to a caravan near Whitby with his teenage daughter, it is also about the general fears we experience in an uncertain world, especially since the economic crash, and also about concerns specific to Josh as a father. He mulls over the recent past, while also contemplating world changing events from WW2 to the big bang. He is also prone to seeing odd things as he walks the eerie beaches, but tries to put these visions down to stress. Like a lot of the stories Spectral Press has put out so far, there is an uncertainty as to the reality of the supernatural overtones. This lends an air of discordance in the story, which works well within its confines. The possibility that Josh has inherited his mother’s mental illness is alluded to, but there are also other scenes which appear to confirm the existence of what Josh is experiencing. Inevitably it is up to the reader to make their own judgement on these things, and like most good horror/supernatural stories, it is not really about that anyway. It’s about becoming displaced from a once secure position, it’s about change, it’s about realising that some things are completely out of our control and it’s about sometimes facing up to the mostly insignificant part we play in the world. There is a sense that the universe we inhabit is illusory, and all attempts at control are futile. A very well written story, and a great way to begin Spectral Visions.”

More reviews soon!

The Respectable Face of Tyranny: the paperback (plus other stuff)

Yes, you read that right – Gary Fry’s novella, launching the new Spectral Visions line of longer works in April, will also now be available as a paperback. You can pre-order copies below, but please note that this contains the lead story only – the bonus novella, World Wide Web, is ONLY available in the hardback edition, of which only a few copies are left (see here for details on ordering the limited HB edition if you want both novellas). The paperback will be available through Spectral only for the time being, but it will also be made available through Amazon shortly before official publication.

Prices include postage and packing.

UK – £5.99 (£4.99 + £1 p&p)

EU – 9 Euros (6 Euros + 3 Euros p&p)

USA  – $12 ($8 + $4 s&h)

RoW – $12 ($8 + $4 p&p)

And yes, that’s right, I said Amazon – Spectral is spreading its wings in a bid to get its name out there to the masses far and wide. That may be a commonplace these days, but it shows how far Spectral has come in such a short time. We are also looking to upload an e-book there at some point in the future, too. There’ll be an announcement when it’s available – look out for that!


The winner of the Spectral/This Is Horror short story writing competition will be announced on 9th March 2012 – we’ve had more than a few VERY strong, high-quality entries and deciding the overall winner is proving to be a tough one. Keep on the lookout for a special blog announcement here very soon!!


Now, SFE has its very own Facebook page – go here to ‘like’ it and please spread the name around!! Thanks!!