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Posts Tagged ‘children’s books’

JEKYLL’S MIRROR: Origins Part 1

Monday, December 15th, 2014

Hi all

JEKYLL’S MIRROR, my brand new cyber-age take on the legendary story THE STRANGE CASE OF DR JEKYLL AND MR HYDE is officially published on 1st January (although you can get it early from Amazon by clicking here!)

I thought it might be interesting to write a series of short blogs about the origins and inspirations for the book. I often get asked ‘Where did you get your idea for your latest book?’, and the answer is almost always – lots of different places! It’s very unusual for an entire book to spring from just one source, and that is very much the case with Jekyll’s Mirror.

Over the course of a few blogs, I’ll be describing these different origins and influences, but let’s begin at the beginning: the first thrill of terror I felt at the idea of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Now, don’t click on the video below until I’ve explained what exactly this clip means to me…

Like most people, I suspect, I’d been vaguely aware of the idea of Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous tale: a good doctor drinks a potion he’s concocted and transforms into the evil Mr Hyde. Of course, that’s a bit of a misunderstanding of the story. Dr Jekyll isn’t a saint and Mr Hyde has many more layers than those of a simple bogeyman. I discuss some of the false ideas about the story and what I consider to be its true meaning in Chapter 5 of Jekyll’s Mirror, and will probably write a blog about it, but let’s go back to my childhood and my first encounter with these characters…

Like Dracula and Frankenstein, Jekyll and Hyde has become part of cultural mythology and is deeply ingrained in our shared idea of ‘Story’ and the world around us. Newspaper headlines scream ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ when some foul but hitherto unsuspected murderer has been discovered; we use those richly suggestive names to describe people we know who have behaved out of character; in essence, we use and abuse the idea of the story while many of us probably haven’t read a single page of the original book.

scooby

Mr Hyde encounters those ‘pesky kids’

I’m not sure when I first encountered the good doctor. That introduction is lost in the mists of memory. It might well have been courtesy of that wonderfully batty Scooby Doo episode (I was a Mystery Inc nut when I was a kid), The Ghost of Mr Hyde, in which the great-grandson of the original Dr Jekyll uses his Mr Hyde alias to embark on a career as a jewel thief. Or the notion of the double-personality and the transformation might have come my way courtesy of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s thinly-veiled comic book version, the Incredible Hulk, Dr Bruce Banner now using gamma rays rather than those infamous ‘powders’ to unleash his inner monster.

hulk

Stan Lee’s comic book take on the story

However that first meeting occurred, I remained conscious, fascinated (at terrified!) by the  idea of Jekyll & Hyde. A horror story in which the monster isn’t something ‘other’ – isn’t something ‘out there’ waiting to find you – but is hiding (hyding?) inside your very skin.

By the age of eleven I still hadn’t got round to reading the original book, but late one October evening in 1988 I begged my parents to let me stay up and watch a new TV movie starring Michael Caine. On the centenary of the most infamous murders in British history, ITV had produced JACK THE RIPPER, a thriller in which Caine played Inspector Frederick Abberline, one of the real-life policemen who had investigated the Whitechapel killings.

mansfield

Richard Mansfield, the first actor to portray Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

The programme is a rather unconvincing account of the Ripper murders, using the silly idea of a royal connection to ‘Jack’, but it did feature a moment I found truly mesmerising. In 1888 the renowned American actor Richard Mansfield brought a stage version of Jekyll and Hyde to the West End. I’ll talk a little more about Mansfield and other actors who have tackled the role(s) of Jekyll & Hyde in another blog, but in the TV movie there is a moment where a modern-day actor Armand Assante recreates Mansfield’s transformation scene on stage. For the eleven-year-old me, the scene was absolutely terrifying –

The arrogant Dr Jekyll wishes to prove to his friends that his story is true: that he has shaken ‘the very fortress of identity’ and is able by his genius to transform his features. Assante channels Mansfield in a terrifying way, and it’s easy to imagine how, when the original play premiered in London in those hellish Ripper months of autumn 1888, people fainted in the theatre and the show was eventually banned. This short scene from the TV movie stayed in my mind: Jekyll’s hooting laughter, the bubbling skin, the pulsating face as the dark Mr Hyde begins to emerge.

assante

Armand Assante’s Dr Jekyll prepares to drink the potion…

This was my first proper introduction to Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Afterwards, I rushed out, bought the book and, in horror, devoured it. Since then I’ve reread it perhaps fifty times and have even written a stage version of my own. I find the ideas behind it – the nature of who we are and the dangers of repressing parts of our personality – absolutely fascinating.

But I will never forget this moment from the TV movie – that eerie hooting laughter has found an echo in one of my main characters Doreen Lackland who, when she transforms into her very own ‘Hyde’ in JEKYLL’S MIRROR, recreates the laughter of Richard Mansfield…

TO SEE THE TRANSFORMATION GO TO THE 57th SECOND OF THE VIDEO. It’s creepy… you have been warned!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mirror Mirror…

Friday, October 31st, 2014

JM2

Something very dark has decided to make an early appearance this Halloween, bursting from the cold, dead earth of the local cemetery…

I’ll have to wait until midnight and try to rebury this gruesome treasure.

It isn’t due to be born until January 2015!

But you can preorder it by clicking this link

 

No Ghosts Need Apply

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

 

The latest Holmes & Watson

The latest Holmes & Watson

In honour of the return of Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’ brilliant Sherlock, I’ll be reprinting a cheeky short story from my back catalogue, a pastiche called THE ADVENTURE OF THE EXSANGUINATED SLEUTH. The story will be posted Monday, but first a discussion of that most rational of detectives and his attitude to my favourite genre, the supernatural…

The question I always get asked at signings and school events: what did you read when you were a kid? I then bore the audience to death (sometimes literally) with a huge list of favourite books and stories. Always at the very core of that list is the ‘canon’ of 56 short stories and 4 novellas that make up the adventures of Mr Sherlock Holmes.

Holmes was my first real literary passion, and I use the word ‘passion’seriously. Whenever I sat down with one of those stories, I found my young heart racing as I followed the Great Detective and his faithful companion and chronicler, Dr John H Watson (formerly of the 5th Northumberland Fusiliers) into the dingy alleys of Limehouse, over the hound-haunted moors of Devonshire and across the cantons of Switzerland, all the way to that fatal encounter at the Reichenbach Falls… (SPOILER ALERT)… and beyond!

From the age of 5 to 14, the cosy sitting room of 221b Baker Street was as familiar to me as my own bedroom. All I had to do was close my eyes to see Holmes’ Stradivarius violin propped up on his chair, his correspondence pinned to the mantelpiece with a jack knife, the tobacco-stuffed Persian slipper, that patriotic ‘VR’ done in bullet holes in the wall, Watson’s bull pup lounging on the hearthrug (probably poisoned by Holmes in one of his unethical experiments), a chalkboard covered in strange ‘dancing men’, and on the side table: a dark lantern, Watson’s service revolver and Holmes’ burglar kit all ready and waiting for the next thrilling adventure.

A lovely chill raced down my spine whenever those famous words – ‘The game’s afoot!’ – were uttered or when I read some wonderful line like: ‘Mr Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound…’

Of course, in the end (SPOILER ALERT!) there was no demonic hound haunting the Baskerville clan, just a big dopey dog covered in luminous paint. You see, unlike his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes was an arch rationalist who did not believe in the supernatural.

In The Hound of the Baskervilles, Holmes shrugs off the legend of the ghost dog as interesting only to ‘a collector of fairy tales’ while in The Sussex Vampire, another story that at the beginning seems to be dipping its toe into the world of mythical monsters, Holmes makes it clear that his work as a detective ‘must stand flat-footed upon the ground… No ghosts need apply’.

But despite Holmes’ scepticism, Watson’s accounts of their adventures together often contain a frisson of what might be called supernatural or uncanny terror, and despite this terror always being rationalised and made sense of at the end of the case, a hint of eerie impossibility seems to linger in the mind of the reader. Maybe this is because, very often, Holmes’ cases teeter on the edge of gothic literature, a sub-genre that was the first to treat the supernatural as a real threat and which did much to birth the detective story.

All of this, as I say, is by way of an introduction to my very short Sherlock Holmes story that will be appearing on the blog Monday. It’s a parody really, my way of poking a bit of fun at the Great Detective’s insistence that ‘no ghosts need apply’…

HAUNTED & WITCHFINDER: INCREDIBLE KINDLE DEALS!

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

So… There are Hussey Horror deals galore on Kindle!!!

You can get my new book HAUNTED and WITCHFINDER: DAWN OF THE DEMONTIDE for just 99p!

AND you can get my chilling short story, TURN HER FACE TO THE WALL, for absolutely NOTHING! Yup, completely FREE!

This Macabre Madness will have to end soon, so snap ’em up while you can. You might event choose to give these bargain horror books as gifts as part of Neil Gaiman’s brilliant All Hallows Read project!

Just click on the covers below and you’ll get around 150,000 words worth of terror for just 99! (OK, enough with the exclamation marks!!!)

Haunted-5 front only

Witchfinder_-_Dawn_of_the_Demontide[1]

turn

Haunted: the full story

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

This week marks the Book Birthday (which just means it’s being published – hooray!) of Haunted!

I’ve posted quite a lot about the ‘big idea’ behind the book (basically, in 1920 famed inventor Thomas Edison claimed to the world’s press he was on the verge of creating a machine for speaking with the dead! No kidding, Google it!) and I’ve posted a few random and (hopefully!) intriguing quotes here and there, but I haven’t really said that much about the story itself.

So here it is. The story of Haunted, with as few spoilers as possible:

haunted_house

 

We begin with the adventure of a young boy called Henry Torve who, at the urging of his best friend, is about to break into FUNLAND, a derelict theme park that overlooks the little town of Milton Lake. To prove his guts and join a local gang, Henry must run the ‘Funland Gauntlet’ and return with the head of a mannequin from the abandoned park’s ghost train.

Only one catch. Funland is rumoured to be haunted. And not by just any old spectre, but the former owner, a certain Mr Hiram Sparrow. Eleven years ago, this Hiram lost his mind and engineered the mass murder of all the thrill-seekers who were visiting his park. Now his ghost is supposed to lurk in the dingy depths of the ghost train.

On that snowy winter night, in the dank corridors and dusty chambers of HIRAM’S HELLISH HORROR HOUSE, something terrible, something uncanny, something impossible happens to Henry. It begins with the ringing of an old-fashioned telephone, but that’s only the start of the story… (and you can read this entire chapter at the Amazon page here).

Old-Six-Flags-in-New-Orleans-looks-like-a-Post-Apocalyptic-theme-park

After this bone-chilling prologue we are introduced to our main character, Henry’s cousin, Emma Rhodes. When we meet her, Emma is trapped in a world of pain and grief caused by the accidental death of her little brother. But Emma will soon be forced to face the world again in a test that will demand every scrap of her formidable courage.

What exactly did Emma’s cousin witness at Funland to drive him out of his wits? Whose is the voice, so like her dead brother’s, that calls to her from the abandoned house across the street? And who is the brave and lonely stranger who’s made that ruined house his home, and whose damaged spirit calls out to her own?

As the snow falls and the town is cut off, a dark mystery threatens to engulf Milton Lake. From every period of its long history, the dead of the town are returning. Soon they will begin to claim the lives of its citizens as their own, for someone has discovered the fabled Ghost Machine of Thomas Edison and, unless Emma and her new friend can stop them, the dead will overwhelm the living. But the identity of the necromancer is not the only mystery.

For the stranger Nicholas Redway harbours his own secrets.

Secrets that will open Emma’s eyes to wonders beyond her imagining.

And terrors beyond her darkest dreams…

Haunted Quote 4

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

I hope you all enjoyed the first look at the HAUNTED cover last week, and that you all gorged yourselves on Easter eggs over the weekend! I’m on a diet at the moment, and so there was no chocolate for me. Now there’s a REAL horror story for you ; )

Anyway, it’s time again for another random/intriguing line or two from ‘Haunted’. This time there’s something a little meatier on offer – a taster of the infamous Phantasmagorium! This warehouse of horrors, this unimaginable trove of terrors, this store of supreme scariness will play an important role in the book. And so here’s a glimpse…

‘They hurried on past iron maidens with eyeholes full of blood; past the mummified heads of things half-human, half-animal; past a huge water tank in which the tentacles of some leviathan horror swooped and swirled. On, on. On down passages lined with…’

And we’ll leave it there!

Hurry back next week for more teasers!

Win Witchfinder 1: Dawn of the Demontide!

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Hi All

Isn’t January just about the most miserable month of the year?! Even the hellish denizens of the Demon Father’s domain are feeling gloomy, their razor-sharp teeth all a-chatter and their infernal blood frozen like the water of Damnation Lake (check out Witchfinder 3, chapter 21, ‘Forest of the Damned’ to find out just how *chilling* that bedevilled body of water really is!).

So to relieve the post-Christmas blues, how’s about a giveaway?

1 signed copy of Witchfinder: Dawn of the Demontide is up for grabs! All you need to do is leave a comment below this post. I’ll select a winner at random on Friday 25th January.

Good luck!

The 12 Days of Witchfinder

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

Ho-ho-ho, horror freaks!

A Very Witchfindery Christmas to all! In celebration of this time of festive cheer and goodwill to all men and monsters (‘Now you’re making me sick to my infernal stomach,’ the Demon Father complains), I’ve prepared a new take on a favourite carol, now featuring elements from all three Witchfinder books. Hope you enjoy, and best wishes to you and yours this Christmas!

THE TWELVE DAYS OF WITCHFINDER

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

A demon in an oak tree!

(then, in the usual way):

Twelve Scarabs Scratching

Eleven Crones-a-cursing

Ten Banshees bawling

Nine Zombies moaning

Eight Toads-a-tumbling

Seven Weres-a-wolfing

Six Ghosts-a-gliding

Five Demontides!

Four Raging Trolls,

Three Grim Grimoires,

Two Hellish Hounds

and a demon in an oak tree!

PS – check back here after the festive season and I’ll have a competition with a BIG PRIZE to banish those January blues!

I Want To Be An Author!

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

One of the great things about being an author is inspiring other people to give this writing game a go. To hear that a child has been encouraged by my work to take up writing is a huge honour, and so imagine my delight when a very special young lady called Grace Lewis-Bettison announced to her mum and dad that, when she grows up, she wants to be an author like her ‘Uncle Bill’. Some eagle-eyed fans of the Witchfinder books may have noticed that Gallows at Twilight is dedicated to Grace, her brother Noah and their cousin Eleanor. Grace is a very intelligent girl and she does the two things every would-be author must: she writes a lot and she reads a lot! To encourage Grace with her writing I’m publishing her first story on this website today! So sit back and enjoy ‘The Story of Terry the T-Rex’ and Grace’s brilliant drawing of Terry and his friend Sharpy!

(Please click to enlarge)

Headless Witchfinder Competition!!!

Monday, March 12th, 2012

Hi guys!

A competition for all you bookworms out there! Simply leave a comment below to be in with a chance of winning a signed copy of Dave Cousin’s spellbinding novel ’15 Days Without A Head’ and ‘Witchfinder 2: Gallows at Twilight’! The competition closes Thursday 22nd March – so better get your skates on! And while you’re here, why not take a look at my recent interview with Dave in the first of the ‘Essential Six’ series!