Category Archives: Horror

Book Review: Australian crime anthology and First Nations science fiction

Is it just me or is there definitely a renewed local interest in short story collections? There seems to be a few more of them being published than is normally the case and I am particularly interested in two that have come across my radar: Dark Deeds Down Under, an anthology of crime fiction edited by Craig Sisterson and This All Come Back Now, a new anthology of first nations speculative fiction, edited by Mykaela Saunders.

First up, Dark Deeds Down Under. The interesting selling point of this book is that it contains 19 crime fiction stories from Australian and New Zealand authors, some well-known, others not so much. As is the case with every anthology not every tale did it for me but there were far more hits than misses, which is unusual. I just want to briefly note the highlights in the collection for me.

Aoife Clifford’s ‘Summer of the Seventeenth Poll’ felt very much in the spirit of TV shows such as In the Thick of It, in its depiction of a political spinner who job sees them stumble across a murder, and the story has a real sting in the tail. No surprises that ‘The Cook’ by possibly my favourite Australian crime writer, David Whish-Wilson, was a terrific yarn about an ex-con speed cook and the troubled relationship he has with his son.… Read more

Pulp on the big screen

This month sees the 50th anniversary of the Mike Hodges film, Pulp.

I feel like Pulp, which I reviewed on this site here back in 2016, does not get a lot of love from people, but I am a fan of its bizarre, at times almost campy noir vibe. Most of all, I like the fact that it is an ode to the era of mass produced literature and to a time when pulp, in all its forms, could still be dangerous.

The lead character is a sleazy expat British expat pulp writer called Mickey King, played by Michael Caine, a nod to the prolific writer Earl Stanley Gardner. King’s dialogue drips with sleazy pulp cadence and the film is full of images of pulp in its many forms.

Ever since watching this film, I have been on the look-out for signs of pulp in the movies. As a 50th anniversary tribute to the Hodges film, below are the screenshots of what I have managed to find so far. I am sure there are many others and I would love readers to alert me to ones I have missed or to help me identify the ones below that I have not been able to identify.

Sella Davis (1937)
I Wake Up Screaming (1941)
Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
The Killer Who Stalked New York (1950)
The Blue Gardenia (1953)
The Bad and the Beautiful (1953)
The Hundred Eyes of Dr Mabuse (1960)
The Hundred Eyes of Dr Mabuse (1960)
The League of Gentlemen (1960)
The League of Gentlemen (1960)
The Evil Eye (1963)
The Naked Kiss (1964)
Hud (1964)
Who Killed Teddy Bear (1965)
Who Killed Teddy Bear (1965)
Who Killed Teddy Bear (1965)

Who Killed Teddy Bear (1965)
A Quiet Place in the Country (1968)
French edition of Woolrich’s Waltz into Darkness in Stolen Kisses (1968)
The Lost Continent (1968)
Orgasmo (1969)
Hi Mom (1970)
Brotherhood of Satan (1971)
Get Carter (1971)
Get Carter (1971)
Paper Moon (1973)
Identikit (1974)
Farewell My Lovely (1975)
Rosie Dixon – Night Nurse (1978)
Hammett (1982)
Killers Kiss (1998)
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
Johnny Gaddaar (2007)
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My cultural highlights of 2021

In past years, I have always tried to conclude the writing year with wrap up of my top fiction/non-fiction reads. But this year I want to do something a little different and look more broadly at the culture that has sustained me in what has been another difficult and stressful 12 months, dominated, as it has for so many of us, by the Covid pandemic.

Film

As was the case in 2020, Covid meant that I spent far more time than I would’ve liked at home. So, most of the movies I watched had to be on the small screen. One of the standouts for me was a 1953 Argentinian retelling of Fritz Lang’s 1931 classic, M, called El Vampiro Negro or The Black Vampire. Helmed by one of Argentina’s most famous mid-century directors, Roman Vinoly Barreto, the story focuses the panic that engulfs Buenos Aires as children are stalked and murdered by a paedophile. Barreto particularly focuses on a nightclub singer and mother, played by Argentina’s equivalent of Marilyn Monroe, Olga Zubarry, who is the sole eyewitness to the child killer and who fears her daughter may be the next victim. Proof positive that classic noir was not just a North American phenomena, El Vampiro Negro is a powerful film, stunningly restored by the US Film Noir Foundation.… Read more

Projection Booth podcast #543: The Mephisto Waltz (1971)

I had a great time co-hosting for the latest episode of Mike White’s Projection Booth podcast, on Paul Wendkos’s 1971 occult thriller, The Mephisto Waltz. The episode features a very special guest, Jacqueline Bisset. The Mephisto Waltz is one my favourite 1970s occult thrillers, occupying as it does a liminal space between the aesthetic forms and conventions of made for TV horror movies – hugely popular format in the 1970s – and big screen productions. We talked a lot about the film’s similarities to Roman Polanski’s 1968 movie, Rosemary’s Baby, other examples of occult transference cinema, and how the occult, along with other strange & unexplained phenomena – UFOs, the Loch Ness monster, the Bermuda Triangle – were much more a part of everyday public discussion in the late 1960s/1970s. You can access the entire episode at the Projection Booth site here.Read more

Interview: James Herbert

Regular readers of this site will be familiar with my fascination with New English Library paperbacks of the 1970s, as well as my confoundment that no one has yet written a comprehensive history of the incredibly influential mass market publisher. The first of the pulp and popular fiction histories that I co-edited for PM Press, Girl Gangs Biker Boys and Real Cook Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950-1980, focused in some depth on NEL’s youthsploitation books (bikers and the skinhead and other paperbacks written by James Moffat aka Richard Allen), including re-published important material written by British critic Stewart Home. NEL was also included in my second PM Press book, Sticking it to the Man: Revolution and Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950-1980. I’ve read bits and pieces on NEL, how they worked, their authors and their books around the place, mainly on-line, but there is nothing comprehensive I am aware of that has really pulled all this disparate information together and properly analysed the significant of NEL to 1970s British print culture.

Anyway, when award winning writer, author and horror historian Johnny Mains mentioned to me during an online discussion that he had an interview with one of NEL’s best known authors, James Herbert, that didn’t have a home, I was keen to provide one.Read more