I was drawn to the horror genre in my early teens, as a form of pure escapism from what I regarded as dull reality. I read ‘serious’ literature too, but there was just something about Lovecraft, Machen, Dunsany and the others that ‘hit the spot’ for me and I couldn’t get enough of them. Spent all my pocket money on the paperbacks every week; they cost about 20p at the time. I collected most of the Dennis Wheatley Library of the Occult and everything by more contemporary writers like Guy N Smith and Robert Lory that I could lay my hands on.
2). You name Lovecraft as a key inspiration. Would you agree that fear of the unknown is one of the most- if not the most- critical ingredient in a good horror tale?
Absolutely. Just like in the great horror films. My favourite there is The Haunting, where you never actually see anything. Shadows and noises; the rest is left to your imagination. With Lovecraft and his Cthulhu Mythos, there are hints of tentacles and other ‘eldritch’ details but the actual appearance of the Great Old Ones is left to you and your hopefully fevered imaginings!
3). If you could recommend three pulp-horror novels/novellas to someone who has never ventured into the genre before, what would they be and why?
I really prefer the older pulp horror writers like Lovecraft and Derleth but I do occasionally venture outside my horror zone when the mood takes me. I’ve recently been reading the Necroscope series of innovative vampire novels by Brian Lumley for the first time and would highly recommend them. You can immerse yourself in that world, admire the sheer invention of it and, in my case, envy the way he can let his imagination let rip onto the written page.
‘The House on the Borderland’ by William Hope Hodgson is another firm favourite, if slightly older. It taps into pure psychological terror and it’s another one where you don’t know whether the terrors are real or imagined, or a bit of both, again like The Haunting, and all the more scary for it. A great classic of the genre.
Finally I’d have to recommend ‘At The Mountains of Madness’ by the master himself, HPL. If you can imagine a cross between John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ and a ripping yarn like ‘The Lost World‘ you’ll get the idea.
4). Is there anything you would like to see more of in the horror novels of the now? Conversely, is there anything you’d like to see less of?
As I mentioned already, my pulp horror tastes tend to pre-date the 80s, but from a sample of what’s on offer these days I can see that psychological horror and the blood-and-guts variety seem to be fairly evenly represented and that’s fine with me. It’s a rich field that covers a multitude of sins so there has always been something for everyone, from the gut-wrenching Books of Blood by Clive Barker to the often more subtle horrors lurking in Stephen King’s small-town America. I personally do not like sadistic violence or too much sex and incline towards the more traditional type of fantasy and a reworking of the old gothic mainstays, as in King’s Salem’s Lot and Lumley’s Necroscope books, in which vampires get a new lease of life/death.
5). If we may ask, do you have any other pulpy tales in the pipeline?
I have one book completed and am halfway through another. Along the same lines, naturally.