Tag Archives: C.M. Saunders

Dead of Night – Reviews

When it was first released back in 2010, my splatterpunk novella Dead of Night picked up some pretty awesome reviews. I’ve gone back through my files and dug up some highlights. Loved the bitch slap at the end of the last review.

“In his zombie-infested novella Dead of Night, C. M. Saunders draws a picture of horror and desperation for his readers as he unleashes a band of undead Confederate bushwackers on an unsuspecting and innocent couple. As I read, I found myself pulled into the action, rooting for the young hero and heroine to make it through the night.”

“This story is not just hacking and slashing and eating brains; there is a fair share of suspense in Dead of Night that I found to be quite effective. Mr. Saunders gives his readers a chance to get to know the hero and heroine before plunging them into mortal danger, and this makes us care about their fate. Dead of Night contains a sense of urgency that will definitely get the blood pumping. Mr. Saunders brings us into the minds of his two protagonists; we share their terror, their pain, their despair, and their hope for survival.”

  • Book Wenches

“Dead of Night is an obvious product of a great many horror films. The departure from realism, the horrendous injuries inflicted on the hero, the coincidences and lucky breaks – all lead directly from the late night horror screen. Evil Dead in particular seems to be a strong influence, especially with the besieged-in-a-cabin sequence.”

  • Dark Fire (UK)

“Although it has lots of gore, it isn’t all about the blood and guts. Instead it is suspenseful and atmospheric. The scene where Nick wakes up in the middle of the night and first spots a zombie is tense. And being in the middle of nowhere, disconnected from the rest of the world with no one to turn to for help, added to the creepiness.”

“At the beginning, C.M. Saunders takes time to establish the characters, and although some may find that part slow, I found their relationship and discussion of Michael Jackson interesting. Since Nick and Maggie were well-developed I cared about them and found the story more interesting.”

  • Little Miss Zombie

“If you are craving a zombie novel that deviates away from the typical “movie-style” theme – this will satiate your hunger. There are the normal horror elements: new love, remote setting, fight for survival, mass burial. However, C.M. Saunders’ Civil War zombies are intelligent; able to work as a team; possess fine motor skills; and cannot easily be killed. In fact, these “bushwhackers” peaked my curiosity. Would the psychological, mental, and physical aspects of fighting in a war end upon death? It is possible that these zombies are unaware that it is no longer 1861 – 1865. If this is the case, it would mean that they are denied the peace and solace they so richly deserve. The plot was very creatively written and flowed efficiently. I did not experience a single dull moment as I read the novel. Many of you will agree, a vast majority of horror novels have at least one character lacking a bit of common-sense. As others so eloquently state, “too stupid to live”. I feel that C.M. Saunders tried to weed the “stupidity factor” out, and he did a great job of it. The zombies were even spared this humility.”

  • Buyzombie.com

“I have this horrible OCD quirk. It’s doesn’t matter how boring a story is, I have to finish it. Fortunately, that didn’t kick in with Saunder’s Dead of Night. This is a fun, short read that carries on with the latest trend of zombie soldiers. While Saunders doesn’t really bring any new to the table, it’s a cool chapter in the great big scheme of zombie stories. This is a great story. It’s a quick read with great cover art, and I do have to say, it’s MUCH better than Saunders’ first novella from Damnation Books.”

  • Swamp Dweller

dead-of-night-reissue

Dead of Night (Revised edition) is available now on paperback and ebook.


X5 x 10 x 10

To mark the release of X5, my latest collection of short fiction, earlier this year I posted a line from one of the stories from it on consecutive days across my social media channels. Just for a laugh. As each of the X books contains 10 stories, that meant over the 10-day period I posted a total of 10 lines. I know that taken out of context they might not make much sense. The idea was just to give readers a deeper insight into each story than a standard synopsis would allow, and perhaps spark some morbid curiosity. Then I decided to collect all the extracts together here, because blogging.

Demon Tree:

“It looked like a giant moth/human hybrid, complete with a huge set of leathery wings folded behind it, and was covered in grey or black fur which had thinned in places to reveal skin so dry it resembled scales.”

Revenge of the Toothfish:

“Its yellowing eyes were way out of proportion and had realigned themselves so they were on opposite sides of the head. The nose had elongated and extended into a snout, and the mouth was ringed by a pair of bulging, dark grey lips.”

Surzhai:

“Their life force and vitality came from the blood of the vanquished, which they collected on the battlefield and doused themselves in or even drank, vampire-like.”

The sharpest Tool:

“Her head was full of abstract images offering a tantalizing glimpse of some other existence, a distant life full of meaning, colour and joy. But each day the images faded a little more and now she wasn’t even sure if what she saw were snatches of memory or some manufactured product of her fractured mind.”

Something Bad:

“If I stay long enough, shivering in the doorway, mouth hanging open and facial muscles twitching, I see the stringy black stuff on the bathroom floor begin to take shape.”

Down the Road:

“She couldn’t believe she was doing this. Picking up a hitcher? If dad found out he would kill her, if her passenger didn’t kill her first.”

Coming Around:

“He couldn’t see them, but he could hear them panting and snarling.”

Where a Town once stood:

“When Sam was a child, he remembered thinking someone had been drawing on his grandad with a pen and spent hours trying to rub off the ‘ink’. Only later did he find out that the network of deep blue scars carved into his granite flesh were the result of a life spent on the coalfaces.”

The Last Night Shift:

“Something dark was smeared around his mouth, and I noticed he was holding something in his hands. Gradually, horrifyingly, the full implications of what I was seeing dawned on me.”

Subject #270374:

“The guy in a white coat asked if I was getting sexually aroused. Just came out and said it. I mean, what the fuck? Who in this world could or would get turned on by pictures of mutilated bodies and severed limbs?”

X5 is out now


RetView #60 – Death Ship (1980)

Title: Death Ship

Year of Release: 1980

Director: Alvin Rakoff

Length: 85 mins

Starring: Richard Crenna, George Kennedy, Nick Mancuso, Sally Ann Howes, Kate Reid, Saul Rubinek

I’d never even heard of this Bloodstar Films production until I read about it in an issue of the venerated Fortean Times magazine (FT396, if you’re interested). I’ve always had a thing for Nazi zombies, as referenced before in previous RetViews Shock Waves and Outpost. I also recently discovered that I have a thing for horror set on ships. I have no idea why that is. It could be something about the bleak, all-encompassing emptiness of being at sea, but it’s probably more to do with the fact that if some supernatural shit befalls you in a house, or even a cabin buried in the woods, you can always just count your losses and run. You can’t do that on a ship. You have to stay and face whatever evil shit is about to befall you. Anyway, the potential for Nazi zombies and an evil sea-faring vessel combo suckered me right into Death Ship. Throw in Richard Crenna from the Rambo films, Saul Rubinek from True Romance (and Frasier) and George Kennedy from, er, Cool Hand Luke and Earthquake, I was already sold. And if all that wasn’t enough, just look at this poster!

So what’s it all about?

Well, stuffy Captain Ashland (Kennedy) is on his final cruise before handing over the reigns to Trevor Marshall (Crenna) who has brought his wife (Howes, in her final film appearance) and kids along on the trip. At a glitzy on-ship party there’s a band playing, some drunk people, and lots of terrible dad dancing. Everyone is having a great time. Except Captain Ashland, who you doubt could have a great time anywhere. But all the decadence and debauchery comes to a sudden halt when the cruise liner smashes into something and sinks, leaving just a handful of survivors unfortunately including Marshall’s annoying kids, a lecherous young officer, and a near-hysterical passenger, floating around on a makeshift raft. The next morning they find the grumpy captain in the water, which is a stroke of luck, or maybe not, then they come across a massive, ominous-looking black ship anchored in the middle of the ocean with a ladder down ready to receive them, which seems like another mad stroke of luck but turns out to be quite the opposite. Thinking they’ve found salvation, the survivors board the strange ship to find it deserted. Still, it’s better than being on the raft, or so they think. The first sign that something isn’t right comes when ship’s entertainer Jackie (Rubinek) is suddenly scooped up by a possessed winch and dumped screaming head first into the sea. Bye, Jackie. It was fun while it lasted. Things degenerate from there. The remaining survivors, whilst trying to navigate this mysterious vessel full of disembodied voices, creepy shadows and inanimate objects that take on lives of their own, get picked off one-by-one, until only the good-natured Trevor Marshall, his wife, and those annoying kids are left and ultimately find themselves back where they started on another flimsy-looking rafty-thing in the water. There’s probably a message there.

Life and soul of the party Captain Ashland and the underlying friction between him and his would-be replacement Marshall is instrumental in all this.

“You don’t know how to handle a crew or passengers!”
“Maybe so, Marshall. But I know how to handle ships.”

At one point, Ashland even dons a discarded German navy uniform and appears to channel the ship’s long-dead and rather sadistic head honcho whilst embarking on a murderous rampage. It all leads up to the highly anticipated revelation, which ties things up nicely and makes for a nice, satisfying conclusion. Especially after the evil Captain Ashland comes to a suitably sticky end and, of course, good triumphs over evil.

It’s easy to see why Death Ship got lost in the shuffle. It doesn’t have the immediacy of other popular horror flicks of the day like Cannibal Holocaust, Friday the 13th or Prom Night. It could, however, be a distant cousin of The Fog. It has a much more brooding atmosphere and, dare I say, slightly more substance reinforced by some remarkable cinematography, an impressive plot, and a killer (sorry) cast. It’s picked up a few retrospective reviews like this one on Warped Perspective, which is a real indicator as to whether a movie is truly attaining cult status, and review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes gives it an overall score of 4.2 out of 10 based on 5 reviews, which isn’t as bad as it sounds. One review states, “Death Ship is a terrific, low-budget cheesy supernatural tale that should definitely appeal to midnight movie horror fans. I thoroughly enjoyed the film, and I feel that this is one of the most underrated films in the genre.”

It’s hard to argue with that, and those sentiments are echoed by Jeremy Blitz of DVD Talk, who said, “It isn’t a perfect film, but it is an enjoyable one, especially for fans of the somewhat lower tier horror efforts of the late seventies and early eighties.” Its flaws, however, are plain to see. Many called it unimaginative or derivative, with a shower scene in particular said to mirror the famous one in Psycho a little too closely. Incidentally, the shower scene in Death Ship was shot in one take, as it was deemed too expensive and troublesome to clean up the blood and shoot it again. It wasn’t all plain sailing (boom!). Damningly, TV Guide called the movie “ludicrous” and gave it a one-star rating. It’s probably safe to say that despite its considerable merits, this won’t be something that many of it’s stellar cast will look back on with much pride. For one delightful moment whilst researching this piece, I thought I’d stumbled across a modern(ish) remake. But that turned out to be nothing more than the result of some artwork someone mocked up in Deviant Art. Good effort, though.

Trivia Corner

As the ghost ship collided with the cruise liner, brief scenes of an explosion, a grand piano falling between decks, and the engine room flooding were cut in from another movie entirely. The movie in question was The Last Voyage (1960).


Taking shelter in the Hiraeth Chair

My short story The Hiraeth Chair, is included in the spring 2022 edition of Shelter of Daylight, edited by Tyree Campbell.

Hiraeth is a Welsh word. There is no direct English translation, but it is basically used to describe a deep longing or sadness, often tinged with nostalgia and homesickness. I think the most accurate description would be along the lines of missing something, or some place, to which you can no longer return. You can find a more in-depth explanation here.

I played with the concept for a long time. I find it fascinating. I think it’s partly symptomatic of the human condition; whatever we have, wherever we are, most of the time we wish we were somewhere else. Running parallel to this is the notion of time travel. What if we found a way to return to those places we yearn for so much? And what would we leave behind?

This isn’t actually a horror story, which makes a change for me. Nobody dies, and there are no decapitations or slayings. It would probably more accurately be described as soft sci-fi. One reader told me it was one of the saddest stories they’ve ever read. To my mind, it’s not sad. It’s optimistic. It’s whatever you want it to be, I guess. If what that reader says is true, though, then I’ve done my job.

It’s a nice little coincidence, or pure irony, that Shelter of Daylight is published by Hiraeth Books.


Drabbledark II

I’m pleased to announce that my story The Hungry is included in Drabbledark II: An Anthology of Dark Drabbles, out now on Shacklebound Books. The anthology, edited by Eric Fomley, promises, “A ton of amazing dark horror, science fiction and fantasy drabbles.”

The Hungry was inspired by Dan Simmons’s The Terror, itself a fictionalized account of Sir John Franklin’s lost expedition to the arctic. I’ve always thought they should’ve known better than to get on a ship called HMS Terror. They may as well have called it HMS You’re Fucked.

Check out the amazing cover art:

Go here for the full ToC.

Drabbledark II is out now on ebook and paperback.


Trigger Warning – Speaking Ill

My short story Eeva is included in the new anthology Trigger Warning – Speaking Ill, edited by John Baltisberger and published by Madness Heart press.

From the blurb: “Through strange, terrifying, and disgusting horror, these 9 authors ensure that death is no safe space. No corpse will escape their due through death, but will instead be allotted the full measure of what our authors have in store.”

This is your trigger warning.

Eeva is ostensibly a story about getting a Facebook friend request from some murky figure in your past and all the memories that it might dredge up. That’s probably something we’ve all experienced. On a more personal level, its about a Finnish exchange student I met (who wasn’t called Eeva) at university who may or may not have been a vampire. Vampire or not, the bit about her inviting three blokes on a weird group date simultaneously really did happen. By the end it turned into a ‘last man standing’ scenario. Maybe they do things differently in Finland.

Writing for Horror Tree, Rebecca Rowland said, “For those readers trapped in the monotony of working “stuffed in a corporate box,” C.M. Saunders’ “Eeva” revisits the youthful excitement and nostalgic novelty of strange desires. The narrator receives a friend request from a woman he knew briefly in college. Most of his social media inquiries are from “obviously-fake catfish accounts made in the image of busty Russian beauties called Layla, or Filipino women who tell me they love me then ask me to buy them a new phone,” but this notification piques his interest, and that’s because Eeva isn’t a textbook case of lost love. Hidden beneath her bohemic façade was a primal nature that went deeper than the narrator ever could have imagined. To reveal any more would be to spoil the climax, but be warned: readers should go forth with a strong stomach.”

You can read the rest of her review here.

Trigger Warning – Speaking Ill is out now.


Heartless Cat’s Eyes

Cat’s Eyes, my disturbing little drabble about dating dangerously, is included in Heartless, part of the ‘Holiday Horrors’ series of anthologies published by Black Ink Fiction.

From the cover:

What happens when love goes horribly, gruesomely wrong? A red wedding, a sacrifice to Saint Valentine, blind dates gone amiss…there are so many ways romance can be twisted. This anthology, with over 40 international authors, is not for the faint of heart.

Heartless is out now on ebook and paperback


Don’t Fall Asleep podcast

I’m bloody excited to have one of my stories, The Others, featured on the near-legendary Don’t Fall Asleep podcast put together by those amazingly gory folk at Bloodbound Books!

The Others is about a Tinder date going wrong. Very wrong. You can read more about the furry-themed story and where it came from HERE.

Listen in to Don’t Fall Asleep on Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts, for a chance to win a paperback Burnt Fur, the anthology the Others was originally published in. You can also find it on YouTube.

Don’t forget to check out the Bloodbound Books website for a ton of free content including my splattery short Siki’s Story.


All Tomorrow’s Parties

You might recognize All Tomorrow’s Parties as the name of a Velvet Underground song. I don’t know why I chose that. It’s not even my favourite VU track (that would be Heroine) but all the time I was writing this story I couldn’t get that song out of my head. It just seemed so apt. It’s not the first time I’ve nicked a song title for a story. I’ve done it with The Alarm, The Damned and Springsteen before. And I did it to Warrant (remember them?) and Metallica without even realizing. I think of it as a way of paying homage, but admittedly I’m secretly glad you can’t copyright song titles or I would probably be in some deep doodoo by now.

I’ve always been fascinated with time travel. I’d like to say ever since I read The Time Machine by HG Wells, but if I’m honest Back to the Future probably has more to do with it. Written in first person POV, All Tomorrow’s Parties is about a guy who finds a lost cellphone on the way home from the pub. But it’s no ordinary cellphone. It has an app which serves as a window to the future. You might think that’s a good thing. And it is. For a while. But then things go sideways, and the protagonist soon learns that knowing too much can be just as dangerous as not knowing enough. I don’t think I’m breaking any new ground with this story. But in true Saunders fashion I can put a twist in there that you probably won’t see coming.

You can read All Tomorrow’s Parties in issue 10 of SFS Stories, described as, “A throwback to the golden age of fantasy and science fiction.”


The Plague Pit

So… my latest book Back from the Dead: A Collection of Zombie Fiction recently dropped. It contains two complete novellas (Dead of Night and Human Waste) alongside several short stories that were previously published in Morpheus Tales, Crimson Streets and the anthology Digital Horror Fiction Volume 1. You can read a review by Ginger Nuts of Horror HERE.

The centre piece of Back from the Dead, is a new novelette called The Plague Pit. When I wrote it a couple of years ago, the original intention had been to sell it to a magazine or anthology as I do most of my stuff, but at around 8000 words it was just a bit too long for most markets. Then, I planned to publish it myself as a stand-alone, but wouldn’t you know it, at around 8000 words it was just a bit too short for that. Rather than ask readers to pay for what amounted to little more than a short story, I decided to package it with some other similarly-themed stories.

During the Black Death which swept through Europe 14th Century, people were dying at such a rate that they were often disposed of in mass burial sites. These burial sites, which were usually located away from town centres for obvious reasons, were colloquially called plague pits. Local legend maintains that there’s one such plague pit situated near an abandoned chapel somewhere in the hills overlooking main character Owen’s home town and one summer’s afternoon, he sets out on a hike to try to prove or disprove the myth. What he discovers is far, far beyond his imagination.

Incidentally, the town in the story is Wood Forge, a fictitional place loosely based on my own home town of New Tredegar which I’ve used as the setting for several of my stories over the years including What Happened to Huw Silverthorne, What Happened Next and Never Go Back. Some of these stories are interconnected, while others just reference each other or some past work, the ultimate goal being to compile all the Wood Forge stories together into one book some day. I guess you could say Wood Forge is my version of Castle Rock, kudos to you if you get the reference.

Back from the Dead: A Collection of Zombie Fiction is available now on paperback and ebook.


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