Hi folks! Well, after all the excitement last week . . .

My birthday, (“How terribly strange to be seventy,” as Paul Simon said on ‘Bookends’), Independence Day, Nicky’s birthday, The Eagles in concert with Joe Walsh on remarkable form, the discovery of a new make of gin, the new Springsteen album, the televisual treast that is CATCH 22, and so on.

I’m aiming to be a little calmer this coming week.

Heh, I say that when—tomorrow as I write this—Nicky and I will be London-bound to celebrate the launch of Tim Lebbon’s and Chris Golden’s TEN-WORD TRAGEDIES anthology based on the work of musician Frank Turner. Will we ever learn? Prob’ly not but that’s the way you like for us to be, ain’t it: crazy busy.

So let’s start out with a pretty fine review.

Ramsey Campbell’s BY THE LIGHT OF MY SKULL from horror author Matt Cowan who goes to some lengths to evaluate all fifteen stories. Bravo, Matt—way to go, fella.


That’ll keep Ramsey’s army of fans quiet for a short while as we continue preparing the first volume of Mr C’s lavishly illustrated PHANTASMAGORICAL STORIES.

The big push this week is for our dear chum, Mike Carey.

. . . a wonderful writer of regular prose and comicbook scripting (LUCIFER and others) and many more both one-offs, series and movie screenwriting and so on. Thus as is customary these days here amidst the occasionally crumbly edifices of PS Towers, let’s lift a quartet of extracts from his long overdue monstrous THE COMPLETE SHORT STORIES OF tome, kicking off with this piece which pretty much shows the way for this little journey, starting with Mike’s re-appraisal—as it were—of the first tale in the book, "Iphigenia in Aulis".

“Iphigenia in Aulis” feels like a good place to start this collection, for two reasons.

It marked a very significant change in my career as a writer, and I can pretty much carbon date the actual writing of it.
     Early in 2011, Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner had invited me to submit a short piece for a planned anthology of horror, supernatural, and dark fantasy stories. The theme was to be school days and school experiences. I said I’d be really happy to write a story for the book, but then half the year rolled by without me finding the time to sit down and write. I was writing for Marvel Comics at that time, working on one of the X-MEN books, and comics writing—with its attendant short deadlines—dominated my life.
     But in September I took four days off to attend the Raptus comic convention in Norway. The day I left London I felt the first tickling of an idea, and by the time I landed in Bergen it was very solid and clear in my head. Or at least the protagonist, Melanie, was clear. The plot was a lot sketchier, but the story built itself around her with minimum conscious planning.

     I wrote “Iphigenia in Aulis” over the four days I was in Norway, from the eighth to the eleventh of September, and sent it in to Charlaine and Toni a week later. They liked it and accepted it for the anthology, AN APPLE FOR THE CREATURE.
     In due course it became the novel, THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS, and then a movie. In all its forms it was really well received, and in 2017 I won the UK Screenwriters’ Award for Most Promising Newcomer for the screenplay. I was fifty-eight years old at the time, so “newcomer” was stretching it a bit, but I’ll take it.
     More importantly, I had tried out a lot of new things in the story and it felt like most of them had worked. In one way and another, the three novels that followed THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS were all shaped by what I did here.

It’s probably fair to say that that most wonderfully talented of girls is Mike’s most enduring and perhaps endearing creation . . .

. . . but it certainly didn’t spell an end to other dalliances with the undead, as Mike explains in the Intro to "We’ll Always Have Paris".

I’d already written my Auguste Dupin story, “The Sons of Tammany”, when I was invited to write a story for an anthology of urban horror. So I abandoned my first thought, of using New York as a setting, because I didn’t want the story to feel like a retread.
I settled on Paris instead. My wife Lin and I were just back from a holiday there, and its beautiful streets were still vividly in my mind. But over the weeks that I mulled over the story I was in Central London almost every day, meeting with TV producers to talk about series that ultimately never happened (which I think makes up about three-quarters of a screenwriter’s life).
   Something weird happened. I’d start imagining a Parisian setting, and London or New York would creep in somehow. Or I’d transpose an idea from one city to another to see how it played in the different milieu. I got progressively lost, inside my own head, and once in real life (because Covent Garden isn’t Les Halles).

     Getting lost can be strangely pleasurable. IN THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY, G. K. Chesterton has one of his characters complain about the dreary reliability of the railway system. “Why do all the clerks and navvies in the railway trains look so sad and tired, so very sad and tired? I will tell you. It is because they know that the train is going right. It is because they know that whatever place they have taken a ticket for, that place they will reach. It is because after they have passed Sloane Square they know that the next station must be Victoria, and nothing but Victoria. Oh, their wild rapture! Oh, their eyes like stars and their souls again in Eden, if the next station were unaccountably Baker Street!”
I decided to write a story about a city where the next station could be Baker Street, Times Square, L’Étoile, or Krasnogorsk. It turned out to be a zombie story, but there’s only the one zombie and you might miss it at first even though it’s a seriously big bastard.

And so we move forward and backward through Mike’s output . . .

. . . taking in, amongst many, this beautifully observe gem, "My Life In Politics".

This is one of my most recent stories, and it reflects some of my current obsessions. The commission came from Marie O’Regan, who gave me an extremely broad and accommodating brief. It was, and I’m relaying Marie’s exact words, “Write me a ghost story.”
     So I revisited some things I’d been brooding on, including the morally bankrupt way in which refugees and asylum seekers are treated in the UK, and came up with a ghost story that may not even have any ghosts in it. I suppose it’s comparable to my zombie story with one largely invisible zombie. Here the score is either zero ghosts or two thousand, depending on how far you rely on Denise’s version of what happens in the story.
     What the story does have is a monster. It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me when I say that the monster is a career politician. I think Tom Peverill is the vilest character I’ve ever created. If anyone is inclined to see him as a caricature, I’d like to point out in passing that as I write this, in July of 2018, the Conservative Party has just appointed as its vice-chair a man—Ben Bradley—who in a recent blog post suggested that the unemployed should get vasectomies to prevent the UK from “drowning in a vast sea of unemployed wasters”. How do you caricature that?

How indeed.

And so we reach the last of the four stories intro’d here.

If you have enjoyed what Mike has had to say—or you’ve seen the movie, read the novels or marveled at the comicbooks—then you need to treat yourself to this book.

Meanwhile, here’s Mike’s closing piece, his Introduction to "In That Quiet Earth.”

The last project that filmmaker and writer George Romero signed off on before his death was a collection of short fiction that was either set in the world of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD or was at least entirely compatible with it.
“In That Quiet Earth,” the third and last zombie story in this present volume, was my offering. I decided to honour the spirit of the original movie by making the scope of the story as small and tight as I could. It’s really just one man’s story, with the zombie apocalypse happening way off in the background.
    The title comes from the closing lines of Emily Brontë’s WUTHERING HEIGHTS, which has the narrator, Lockwood, visiting the graves of Cathy and Heathcliff. “I lingered round them, under that benign sky: watched the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells, listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass, and wondered how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.” Despite what you might think, I’m not putting those words to any ironic use here.
     By a weird coincidence, about a week after I finished writing the story I was contacted by the Brontë Society and invited to write a short prose piece for an exhibition commemorating the bicentennial of Brontë’s birth. I was really delighted to say yes, not least because that beautiful sentence was still rattling around inside my head.

And folks, there are many many more equally beautiful sentences to be had here in a clutch of tales old and new.

Signed Slipcased Hardcover edition. Limited to 200 copies


Trade Paperback edition.


And now I'll hand over to Nicky with this week’s update.

Thanks, Pete. We were very excited to see the traycases for Charles de Lint’s THE WIND IN HIS HEART arrive from Blissetts. They really are a thing of beauty. Thank you de Lint fans for being so patient. Orders will be posted out first thing next week.

As Pete already mentioned, earlier this week, we took the train to London to take part in the launch of TEN-WORD TRAGEDIES organized by the editors Tim Lebbon and Chris Golden. I'll let Pete fill you in on the detail later.

Finally, a quick reminder that it is EDGELIT in Derby this coming weekend where you will find all the great and good, except we won’t be there so that can’t be true.

Neil Snowdon editor of our hugely successful Electric Dreamhouse series will be overseeing the launch of COFFINMAKER'S BLUES by Stephen Volk and TOMMY by Kit Powers and I’m hoping we will have some photos for next week’s letter.

As promised to coincide with this event the order pages for both the books will be going up.

That’s all for now but watch out for a few more announcements leading up to the Dublin Convention. Back to Pete.

And, whoah, here’s a PS . . .

Brought back for youse all the way from the metropolis that is London, fresh from the nightmare that is British Rail (I’ll tell you about it sometime—remind me), filled with bona fide affection and admiration aplenty for Frank Turner (who rocks big time, and we really are talking BIG time) and grateful for the magnificent efforts put in by messrs Chris Golden and Tim Lebbon, the laudible editors of TEN-WORD TRAGEDIES. Yessir, last night was a blast and a half with Frank putting in an hour-long set followed by two further hours of individual one-on-one chatting, book-signing, photo calls, and drinks aplenty.

[L to R: Chris, Frank, Yours Truly, Nicky & Tim – Photo courtesy of Andy Chinneck]

And today our dynamic duo set off to EdgeLit there to team up with Nifty’n’natty Neil Snowdon—head honcho of Electric Dreamhouse—who will be peddling newly available literary yum-yums in the shape (and very shapely indeed, they are, in fact) of COFFINMAKER’S BLUES by Stephen Volk, and Kit Powers’s TOMMY. Whoo hoo!

Okay, that’s it kids. And thanks by the way—as always to you folks out there in PS-land—for letters, support, and the little flood of good wishes on our birthdays. Meant a lot, truly. We’re gonna spoil ya! More next week.

Hugs from the greensward!


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