Monthly Archives: January 2013

Cover to Cover: the Fifty Book Challenge


Last year, I took on a challenge to read 50 books in 12 months. The only rule was that each book had to be read cover to cover, no exceptions. It’s too easy to just read the first few pages then abandon it.


I will be upfront and tell you now that I failed. But only just!  

Here is a full list… 

December 2011

Dead Town – KC Elliot (2011) F eb

Stricken – Sean A Lusher (2011) F eb

Ten Rules of Writing – Elmore Leonard (2007) NF eb

Dark Waters – Peter Mark May (2011) F eb

How to Get the Women You Desire – Ross Jefferies (1999) NF eb

January 2012

Breathless – Dean Koontz (2010) F pb

The Legend of Rachel Petersen – F JT Baroni (2011) eb

Zen in the Art of Writing – Ray Bradbury (1973) NF eb

The Noctuary – Greg Chapman (2011) F eb

February 2012

Rock n Roll is Dead: Tales inspired by Music – Various (Bloodbound Books) (2011) F eb

Numbers:Their Occult Power and Mystical Value – W. Wynn Westcott (1911) NF eb

Sinful – Yolanda Sfetsos (2011) F eb

Bookie Wook 2 – Russell Brand (2010) NF pb

Desolate – Robert Brumm Jr (2011) F eb

March 2012

The Most Vital Chinese – James McGlasson (2011) NF eb

You Will Survive Doomsday – Bruce Beach (2010) NF eb

The Long Walk – Stephen King (1979) F eb

Machination Mutilation – Shaun Jeffrey (2012) F eb

Mile 81- Stephen King (2011) F eb

April 2012

Drugging the Nation: China & the Opium Curse – Samuel Merwin (1907) NF eb

Full Dark, No Stars – Stephen King (2010) F hb

Vampire Blood – Katherine Meyer-Griffith (2010) F eb

Deadline: The Horrifying Adventures of Harvey Banks, Tabloid Reporter – Jochem Van Der Steen (2010) F eb 

May 2012

By the Light of the Moon – Larry C. Kerr (2011) F eb

Ghost Writer – Tom C Underhill (2012) F eb

Sustenance – Nate D Burleigh (2012) F eb

Incident On & Off A Mountain Road – Joe R. Lansdale (2011) F eb

Country Driving: A Chinese road Trip – Peter Hessler (2011) pb

June 2012

12-21-12 – Parker Lee (2012) F eb

Eva: A Ghost Story – Mike Emmett  (2012) F eb

Rant  – Chuck Palahniuk (2007) F eb

July 2012

Horns – Joe Hill (2010) F pb

Windigo Soul – Robert Brumm, Jr (2012) F eb

Advanced Book Marketing – E.J. Thornton (2012) NF eb

August 2012

The Bad Place – Lincoln Crisler (2012) F eb

The CV – Alan Sugar (2011) NF eb

Mike’s China – Mike Dixon (2011) NF eb

Welsh Pirates – Dafydd Meirion (2009) NF pb

September 2012

Travels with Facebook – Phiona Stanley (2012) NF eb

Black Brig – Jeffrey Kosh (2012) F eb

The Uncollected Stories – Stephen King (2003) F eb

October 2012

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future – Michael J. Fox (2010) NF eb

Shudder – Harry F. Kane (2012) F eb

Fading Light: An Anthology of the Monstrous Companion – Various (2012) F eb

In The Tall Grass – Stephen King & Joe Hill (2012) F eb

November 2012

Mysteries in History – Paul D. Aron (2006) NF eb

It’s So Easy (and Other Lies) – Duff McKagan (2011) NF eb

A Face in the Crowd – Stephen King & Stewart O’Nan (2012) F eb

Shadows In Ink – George A. Turner (2012) F eb

December 2012

Ash – James Herbert (2012) F eb

Legends of Urban Horror: A Friend of a friend told Me – Various (2012) F eb

14 – Peter Clines (2012) F eb

Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid: The Lives & Legacies of the Wild West’s Famous Outlaw Duo (2012) – Charles Rivers Editors


F: Fiction

NF: Non-fiction

pb: paberback

eb: ebook




2012 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,200 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Getting a Haircut in China


Getting a haircut in China, especially somewhere other than a major city, can be a strangely unsettling experience as a foreigner.

Unless you speak fluent Chinese, which the vast majority of foreigners don’t, it is virtually impossible to articulate what you actually want the stylist to do to your hair. It took me absolutely ages to learn how to say, “I want a haircut,” in Mandarin, which, when you think about it, is pretty damn obvious when you are standing in a hairdressing salon. It’s like going into a restaurant and saying “Get me some food.”

Once, a hairdresser flatly refused to cut my hair on the basis that he didn’t know how to cut a foreigner’s hair. I tried to explain that it was just hair, and all hair is basically the same, but my efforts were lost on him. Another time, on a university campus in Beijing, I had the fantastic idea of taking a photo with me to show the establishment what my hair should look like, but the guy just laughed at my picture, gave me a business card, and carried on regardless. Cheers, mate. This was the same guy who made me sit in the window, so passers-by could see he was cutting a foreigner’s hair. Its good for business, apparently.

If, through a combination of hand gestures, limited Chinese, and the hair stylists (usually) even more limited English, you manage to somehow convey what you would like them to do, then the fun really begins.

First they wash your hair and massage your head, which can take anything up to twenty minutes (I still haven’t learned how to say “I just want a haircut without the head massage, thanks very much” in Chinese). It’s okay if you are lucky enough to have a hot young girl doing that part, but it can be a bit disconcerting to have a big fat Chinaman running his hands through your hair and rubbing your ear lobes.

Wash and massage complete, they then rinse your hair and get started with the cutting. This is a painfully slow process. Most of them seem to spend the entire time fannying about and snipping at thin air with scissors, while others seem to try to cut your hair one strand at a time. Often, when you leave your hair is virtually the same length it was when you went in. The general idea seems to be to make the customer feel spoiled and pampered rather than actually cut their hair. You can tell they take pride in their work, which is a good thing, but unfortunately they do very little that’s actually constructive.

When the ‘cutting’ part is finally over, they wash your hair again, rinse your hair again, then sit you back in the chair and start cutting, again. After that they use a hair dryer on you and finally, attempt to style your hair for you using a range of styling products. The problem is, having no idea what you want your hair to look like, they simply style it the way they think you want it. I invariably end up with a puffy bouffant George Michael circa 1988 hair-do, which doesn’t really suit me at all.

The whole process routinely takes over an hour, and that’s if you don’t have to wait. The Chinese seem to have a different view of haircuts in general. Instead of the end result (a damn haircut, get it?) they seem to value the ‘getting there’ process more. This is indicative of many things in Chinese culture. For us westerners its all about rushing to the prize at the end. I live in hope of finding a happy medium. Or a fast and efficient hairdresser who understands English.



Gore magazine

The debut issue of the aptly-titled Gore magazine is out now, featuring my short story Switchblade Sunday.

Switchblade Sunday is the twisted tale of a mild-mannered office worker who gets robbed one day, and exacts a terrible revenge…




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