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House of Bad Memories

My friend MICHAEL DAVID WILSON will be known to many of you as the founder of THIS IS HORROR. But did you know Michael’s also a writer? His novel, HOUSE OF BAD MEMORIES, is out tomorrow, and it’s a corker. I had the pleasure of reading the book in advance, and I think my blurb perfectly encapsulates my feelings: “All the many ties that bind a chaotic and increasingly dysfunctional extended family together are stretched to breaking point and beyond in HOUSE OF BAD MEMORIES. The book goes in every direction except the one you expect. It’s a wild, bloody, and expletive filled riot that’s never anything less than intense. With genre shifts worthy of a Ben Wheatley movie, it’s highly recommended.”

HOUSE OF BAD MEMORIES by Michael David Wilson

Denny just wants to be the world’s best dad to his baby daughter, but things get messy when he starts hallucinating his estranged abusive stepfather, Frank. Then Frank winds up dead and Denny is held hostage by his junkie half-sister who demands he uncovers the cause of her father’s death. Will Denny defeat his demons or be perpetually tortured for refusing to answer impossible questions?

This really was such a blast. A frenetic book with numerous genre and gear shifts, it caught me completely off-guard. Knowing Michael the way I do, I detected aspects of his personality and his life coming through in his story telling. I decided to ask him about it.

First, it’s an unarguably gross and violent book, and I wondered whether this was a conscious decision at the outset, or whether the mood had taken him while he was writing? “It mostly happened organically. That being said, I felt with both THE GIRL IN THE VIDEO and THEY’RE WATCHING there were moments where I hinted at extreme violence but stopped short of explicitly showing it – instead showing the aftermath or implying something horrendous occurred. I didn’t want to fall into a pattern of hinting at but never fully delivering violence which is how some of the more extreme moments (hello chapter 22, hello Sweden) showed up. I also wanted to make sure that if I was delivering something grotesque and extreme it wasn’t something that readers had read or experienced before—and given the early reader reaction, I’m confident I delivered on the originality front.”

I’m always fascinated when stories shift genre – is it something that the writer plans, or it is a question of opportunities presenting themselves? Michael said that this book was “very much a novel of two halves. HOUSE was originally a novella that was set to be published a few years ago but the rights ended up reverting back to me. When that happened, I considered my options and realised there was a further story to tell. I think it will be easy for readers to guess where the original novella ended and the new material begins as the tone abruptly (though hopefully organically) changes. As for the final genre shift, that was the final touch that really brought everything together and whilst it might seem to come out of nowhere, if you re-read the book, it’s very much foreshadowed from the start. The final touch came later in the writing process when I was deciding on how to end things.”

I first met Michael in Coventry, many years ago. Since then, his life has taken him around the world and he now lives in Japan. The main character in the novel has done the reverse, re-locating back to the Midlands from Japan. There are other very clear personal parallels. I was interested in his decision to incorporate some of these themes. He told me the novel is “definitely my most personal release and there’s always something therapeutic about exploring feelings on the page. The first half of HOUSE was inspired by childhood trauma, the second half by the most testing challenges I’ve endured in my adult life. In both instances, I dial things up to eleven and then some, so whilst this is not autobiographical in terms of the events played out in House, the feelings are authentic. Japan is my home now. I fully intend to be here permanently. It’s where my life is now and whilst I’m from the UK, I’ve never felt at home in the UK like I do in Japan. It’s a funny thing, though, because it does beg the question of whether there’s no place that is fully home. I feel like an outsider in the UK but I am an outsider in many ways in Japan. Perhaps that’s a story and exploration for another day.”

Thanks to Michael for allowing me to read the book in advance, and for being so open with his answers to my questions. You’ll notice that he mentioned some of his other titles. It’s very remiss of me, but I neglected to recommend THEY’RE WATCHING, when it came out in 2020. Written with his THIS IS HORROR co-host BOB PASTORELLA, it’s another excellent and unsettling book.

After relocating to a small coastal town, Brian discovers a hole that gazes into his neighbour’s bedroom. Every night she dances and he peeps. Same song, same time, same wild and mesmerising dance. But soon Brian suspects he’s not the only one watching and she’s not the only one being watched. THEY’RE WATCHING is THE WICKER MAN meets BODY DOUBLE with a splash of SUSPIRIA.

They're Watching, by Michael David Wilson and Bob Pastorella.

HOUSE OF BAD MEMORIES is published on 13 October by CEMETERY GATES MEDIA. THEY’RE WATCHING is available now. Both books are highly recommended!