Showing posts with label Simon Bestwick. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Simon Bestwick. Show all posts

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

3 Minute Scares is back for its second year!


North Manchester FM presenter Hannah Kate wants you to scare her this Halloween! She’s asking people throughout Greater Manchester to submit their scariest 3-minute stories for her annual creative writing competition. Writers keen to be crowned Greater Manchester’s spookiest wordsmith can submit a recording of their mini-tale via Hannah’s website, with the best entries being played on air on the Halloween edition of Hannah’s Bookshelf on Saturday 28 October. Winners will also have the chance to read their story at the Boggart Hole Clough Halloween Lantern Parade later that evening.

The Halloween flash fiction competition will be judged by horror author Simon Bestwick and Dr Sorcha Ní Fhlaínn of MMU’s Centre for Gothic Studies, with the writer of the best entry receiving a prize from Breakout, Manchester’s real life escape room game. Entries need to be 3 minutes long, meaning a word count of 350-400 words. The judges will be looking for style and originality, as well as how scary the story is.

Last year’s competition was won by Ian Peek, with a terrifying little tale about Jack o’Lanterns. North Manchester FM presenter Hannah Kate says: ‘Ian set the bar pretty high with his winning entry last year, but I’m looking forward to seeing what this year’s competition brings. The standard of entries from all over the region last year shows that there’s a lot of talent for terrifying out there.’

All writers need to enter the competition is a computer with a microphone… and a good story. Entries can be recorded via Hannah’s website. More information and rules of the competition can also be found on the website.

Hannah’s Bookshelf is North Manchester FM’s weekly literature show, and it goes out live every Saturday 2-4pm. The show has been running since January 2015 and has featured guests including Rosie Garland, Ramsey Campbell, Tony Walsh and Gwyneth Jones. The show broadcasts on 106.6FM for North Manchester residents and through the ‘listen online’ feature for the rest of the world.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Hic Dragones presents... A Night of Strange and Dark Fictions

as part of Prestwich Book Festival

Monday 27th May, 7.30pm
Prestwich British Legion (near Heaton Park tram station)
225 Bury Old Road
Prestwich M25 1JE

Tickets £6 (+ booking fee) in advance from the festival’s Eventbrite shop

Come and listen to some of the finest and strangest authors writing in the UK today. What do they have in common? They’ve all been published – at one stage or another – by North Manchester’s strangest publishing house, Hic Dragones. And they’re together in Prestwich for one night only.

Rosie Garland:
Manchester-based Rosie Garland has published five solo collections of poetry and her award-winning short stories, poems and essays have been widely anthologized. She is an eclectic writer and performer, ranging from singing in Goth band The March Violets to her well-loved stage persona Rosie Lugosi the Vampire Queen. The Palace of Curiosities (HarperCollins) is her debut novel.

Toby Stone:
Toby Stone is a Whitefield-based novelist who also teaches in North Manchester. Toby went to the same school as Batman (Christian Bale) and Benny Hill. As an adult, Toby has been a toy-seller, an Avon lady, double-glazing Salesman of the Week, a mortgage broker, a suspicious barman, a school governor and a bingo caller. Aimee and the Bear (Hic Dragones) is his first novel.

Also featuring readings from Hic Dragones anthology writers:

Simon Bestwick: acclaimed author of ‘modern masterpiece of horror’ The Faceless (Solaris)
Richard Freeman: writer and cryptozoologist
Jeanette Greaves: contributor to Wolf-Girls and Impossible Spaces
Nancy Schumann: author of Take a Bite, a history of female vampires in folklore and literature
Beth Daley: graduate of the Creative Writing PhD programme at the University of Manchester
Daisy Black: writer, medievalist and heavy metal morris dancer

Your host for the evening will be Hannah Kate, ringmaster at the strange little circus that is Hic Dragones.

Plus… prizes to be won, a bookstall and a stall from Rock and Goth Plus


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Sunday, 29 April 2012

Review: Simon Bestwick, The Faceless (Solaris, 2012)


The Faceless is a new horror novel by Simon Bestwick, and published by Solaris. Set (mostly) in the Lancashire town on Kempforth, it tells the story of the investigation into a series of missing person cases, and the apparent appearance of the local bogeymen, ‘the Spindly Men’, previously only known as a nursery tale used to scare children. The blurb on the back of the cover promises that it will be ‘a breath-taking tale of the supernatural’.

I must admit, I was a little worried about reading this book and writing a review. Simon Bestwick was one of the writers I contacted in my role as Project Co-ordinator for Hic Dragones, and, as a result, he took part in the Manchester Monster Convention that my company organized. Simon was a great guest speaker – funny, engaging and supportive – and his novel, The Faceless, sounded so fascinating, so I was just a little bit nervous… what if the book was disappointing and I ended up having to write a bad review? That would have been awful!

Fortunately, and I’ll say this upfront, my worries were completely unfounded. The Faceless is well-written, compelling and utterly creepy.

Although the missing persons investigation is an important part of the plot, this is not a police procedural story. Sure, as detectives Joan Renwick and Mike Stakowski (and the rest of their team) begin their search for four people who don’t seem to have much in common – except that the ‘Spindly Men’ were sighted around the time each one disappeared – there are moments that will be recognizable from other crime fiction: the team don’t always trust Renwick’s methods; there’s pressure from a boss desperate for ‘results’; the lead detectives are haunted by the demons of their own pasts. However, Bestwick’s detectives (particularly Renwick and Stakowski) are three-dimensional and sympathetic – much more than simply generic stereotypes.

In addition to this, the police investigation is only one aspect of the story. It is intertwined with two other plotlines. The first involves Anna Mason, her brother Martyn and his child Mary. Anna is a local historian who has moved back to Kempforth to be with her family. Early on in the book, Martyn (recovering from a breakdown) has experienced a serious trauma, and Anna is trying to help him cope. After an early confrontation with the ‘Spindly Men’, Anna and Martyn become dragged into the horror that is beginning to engulf Kempforth.

At the same, celebrity psychic Allen Cowell is called by his apparent ‘spirit guides’ to return to his home town and assist the police investigate the disappearances. Allen and his sister, Vera, escaped their brutal childhood in Kempforth years earlier, and had vowed never to return. However, in order to escape his own personal ghosts, Allen must do as his guides instruct and head back to, as Vera puts it, ‘the bastard North’. I wasn’t expecting to find Allen and Vera particularly interesting – as, on face value, a celebrity psychic involved in a police investigation doesn’t seem to be anything too new – but Vera was, probably, my favourite character of the entire novel. The bleakness of the pair’s lives, and the brutality of their history, was really gripping.

These three main storylines weave around one another, before eventually coming together, as Renwick and Stakowski, Anna and Martyn, and Allen and Vera must team up to work out what exactly is going on. Again, while this might seem like a bit of a cliché, there is a fresh and engaging quality to the way Bestwick constructs it. A lot of this is a result of his ability to create real and believable characters. There are no cardboard cut-outs in this book.

That said, The Faceless is a horror novel. And while my own preference might be for horror that is driven by compelling and well-rounded characters, some of you might be wondering when I’m going to actually say something about the dark stuff…

In this respect as well, Bestwick’s novel does not disappoint. I must admit, I was somewhat skeptical about the return of childhood demons as actually figures of horror – I’ve read that in other books, so was not sure whether the ‘Spindly Men’ could go where other nursery rhyme monsters have not gone before. In fact, these are not the real vehicle of horror. Although they are truly creepy creations, they are far from being the most horrific things the protagonists must face. Readers, like the characters in the novel, might initially blame the deaths and disappearances on these supernatural beings, but the truth (as it is slowly revealed) is much, much more disturbing.

As the novel progresses, the cruelty and brutality (some might say ‘evil’) that runs through Kempforth’s history begins to come to light. As Anna Mason’s historical research is added to Allen’s visions and the detectives’ investigations, the extent of the dangers becomes apparent and the protagonists’ search for answers leads them inextricably to the long-since abandoned hospital at Ash Fell. This hospital is at once a grotesque and a chilling creation. Like all good horror locations, Ash Fell has its ‘real life’ historical basis, but it is taken to its ultimate and terrible conclusion. Perhaps, again, this my own personal preference, but it was the historical basis for Ash Fell that chilled me the most, and it was this that lingered with me after I’d finished reading the book. I won’t say any more, plot-wise, as this book has a lot of twists and I don’t want to stumble into spoiler territory – suffice to say, a lot of things are not what they seem.

There is a lot of plot of in The Faceless, but this is not a bad thing. The main strengths of Bestwick’s writing, for me, lie in his constructions of people and place. (As I said, my own preference is for books where I am genuinely rooting for the characters, but I also like to feel immersed in the ‘world’ of the book.) However, I would say that Bestwick has also created a story that is original and memorable, and it unfolds at just the right pace. His version of ‘ghosts’ and ‘hauntings’ is also unusual, and unlike much recent horror and supernatural fiction.

Overall, I highly recommend The Faceless, as one of the best UK horror novels I have read recently. I always slightly distrust reviews of horror where the writer claims to have been left scared after finishing the book, so I won’t say that. I will say, though, that The Faceless left me distinctly unsettled and disturbed. And what more could you ask from a piece of horror fiction?