Monthly Archives: October 2014

The ‘H’ Word

I’ve lost count of the amount of times people have asked me why I write ‘horror.’ It comes up in every interview, and eventually most conversations. I guess it’s the obvious question to ask, but I’ve always found it a difficult one to answer. Firstly, I hate the H word. There are so many dimensions and sub-genres involved, the H word has become kind of a catch-all umbrella term. Asking google to find you a horror book is a bit like going into the finest restaurant in the world and asking for some food. Or calling up your local radio station and asking them to play some music. What do zombies, ghosts, werewolves, vampires, demonic entities, possession, serial killers, monsters, and haunted houses all have in common? That’s right, you can find them all in the horror section. But in most cases, the similarities end there.

I’m not a big fan of classifying anything, to be honest. It’s restrictive and fills the prospective reader’s mind full of semi-fixed ideas. I know it makes it easier when you are looking for something in particular. In theory, anyway. But most things in this brave new world we’ve created just don’t belong in tidy little labelled boxes.

If I had to choose a tag for my writing, I would probably go for ‘dark fiction.’ Because it’s fiction, and most of it is pretty damn dark. At the same time, though, a lot of my stories contain evidence of what one reviewer called ‘sardonic humour,’ so its not all doom and gloom. I can usually find something to poke fun at. My new novella, Out of Time, has elements of horror, thriller and science fiction, all rolled up into a murder mystery. If you look closely enough you might even find a giggle or two.

Out of Time

Out of Time

Another reason I don’t care for the ‘H word’ is that the genre is rarely taken very seriously in literary circles, apart from the classics like Dracula and Frankenstein. When was the last time a piece of horror fiction won one of the big awards? Most critics treat it like a snot-nosed little brother who spends all his time locked in his room listening to Slipknot and smoking weed. That isn’t entirely fair. Use caution, critics. Because if you ignore him for too long that snot-nosed little brother, frustrated and disaffected, might just scale the walls of your ivory tower and slice your throat while you are asleep in your bed. You have been warned.

The original version of this post appeared here:

http://www.rainstormpress.com/blog/-the-h-word-by-chris-saunders

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Book Review – Barbed Wire Kisses: The Jesus & Mary Chain Story by Zoe Howe

Barbed-Wire-Kisses-The-Jesus-and-Mary-Chain-biography

In the summer of 1986 I was twelve years old, and just getting into music. For my sins I used to buy the now sadly departed Smash Hits magazine religiously. One week, in amongst glossy, colourful images of the Pet Shop Boys, Madonna And Spandau Ballet, I came across a spread featuring two of the most miserable looking bastards I had ever seen. Black clothes, dyed black hair, eyeliner, drainpipe jeans, boots. Just looking at them you got the impression they were dangerous. Not to be fucked with. It was almost like they were the antidote to the preening pop glossiness that littered the musical landscape at the time. Looking back, they obviously spent a lot of time and effort trying to look like they didn’t give a shit. Whatever. In a time when image was everything (not so different to 2014, then) they stuck out like a sore thumb. It was the Jesus and Mary Chain, and I was hooked instantly, before I’d even heard any of their songs.

A few days or weeks later I was listening to the Radio 1 chart show on a Sunday afternoon, and one song stood out. It was called Some Candy Talking. Yep, It was the Mary Chain again. Some people say that particular song its about heroin. The band deny it, but they would, wouldn’t they? At the time I didn’t care. I didn’t even know what heroin was. All I knew was that single was fucking epic, and unlike anything else around at the time. I knew they had an album out, which would have been Psychocandy, and rushed out to buy it. But the single wasn’t on the album. Not on the cassette, anyway (it was on the CD, but I don’t think I had a CD player). What the fuck? Who doesn’t put their hit singles on their albums? After a while I realized that Psychocandy had been released the year before, and Some Candy Talking was from an EP of new material. No problem, I thought, it’ll be on the next album. But it wasn’t. That next album was Darklands, and I bought it anyway, because by that time April Skies had been released, which is truly one of the best songs ever written. I didn’t get to own Some Candy Talking until the 21 Singles compilation came out in 2002, still an essential album. Anyway, enough about the music. What about the book?

Zoe Howe is a dedicated music writer, and does a fantastic job of bringing the Mary Chain story to life, charting their rise from a council estate in East Kilbride to their creative and commercial peak, and then back down again. She writes in a sympathetic, accessible style, and while she is obviously a fan, she doesn’t allow this to colour her opinions too much. It’s painstakingly researched, with input from many of the main players in the story, including Jim Reid (the nice one). Also included are a comprehensive discography and a timeline, which helps you put everything in context in the grand scheme of things.

At its core, Barbed Wire Kisses is an archetypal rock n’ roll story of love and success, debauchery and violence, of two waster brothers being given the keys to the world and throwing them away in a drunken rage. The Mary Chain had the spiky attitude of the Sex Pistols, and the unabashed creativity of the Velvet Underground. Predictably, the story effectively ends in an acrimonious split whilst on an American tour in 1999, with William and Jim Reid both paying a heavy price for years of substance abuse. Like a shooting star, they were never meant to last. Happily, though, after years of avoiding each other they briefly reunited in 2007 to record a song for the Heroes soundtrack. It was called All Things Must Pass, which is weirdly prophetic when you think about it. A new album was rumoured to be in the works, but we are still waiting for that. They are, however, back on the road this winter to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Psychocandy, the album that should have had Some Candy talking on it but didn’t. Unless you bought the CD.

(Polygon, £12.99)


Ravel Morrison – A New Start at Cardiff City?

Red-CCFC-Badge-2013

It was announced recently that Cardiff City have signed 21-year old winger Ravel Morrison on loan from West Ham, initially for three months. On the face of it, it could be a decent move for both parties, despite Cardiff already having what is being reported as ‘the biggest and best squad ever assembled in the championship.’ Morrison is undoubtedly a player of quality, and needs some game time after finding himself marginalized at the Hammers. When Sam Allardyce signed him from Manchester United he said the England U-21 international needed to “Get away from Manchester and start a new life,” which seemed to hint at some unpublicized issues.

Tellingly, Morrison has played only 18 games for West Ham, and been farmed out to Birmingham City and QPR over the past two seasons. Reading between the lines, I sense there is something about Morrison. Maybe his off-field problems are weighing heavily on his young shoulders – he is due to go on trial over allegations of harassment of a former partner early next year. The question must be asked, do Cardiff really need a player with this kind of baggage? The club is already in the news almost constantly, and usually for the wrong reasons.

Despite having a wealth of luxuries, especially in midfield, the current Cardiff squad has been criticized for having a lack of raw pace. But with ten or twelve potential first-team midfielders already at the club, do they really need another one? I see eerie comparisons between Morrison and a mostly-forgotten player from the Hammam era.

Anyone remember Leon Jeanne?

If not, you could be forgiven. He arrived at Cardiff under similar circumstances from QPR in 2001, having fallen out of favour with then-manager Gerry Francis amid a series of disciplinary problems. Cardiff, his hometown club, was supposed to be a new start, but weeks after joining he tested positive for a class A drug. He was handed a suspended sentence and allowed to continue his career, but when tested again later in the season the sample he gave was not urine. That was enough and his contract was terminated after he had made only two first team appearances. From there his career nosedived and over the following decade he played for no less than 18 clubs, including Barry Town (twice), Merthyr Tydfil and Afan Lido. All in all, it’s very tragic story, and a cautionary tale of a talented young footballer letting it all slip.

I’m not suggesting for a moment Morrison has the same problems, or that his career will follow a similar trajectory, but the similarities are there. At the same stage in his career, Jeanne was a highly hyped, pacey, skillful midfielder with the world at his feet. He had a few off-field issues, but City took a chance on him. Now he plays for Weston-Super-Mare. Nothing against Weston-Super-Mare. It’s a nice place. I visited once. But let’s hope Morrison doesn’t go the same way.

From the Ashes – The REAL Story of Cardiff City FC is out now:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/From-Ashes-Story-Cardiff-Football/dp/1845242130

Originally published by the Huffington Post UK:

 http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/chris-saunders/


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