Some sad news to share. STEFAN CUSH from THE MEN THEY COULDN’T HANG died suddenly last week from a heart attack. He was 60. As many of you may remember, TMTCH made a memorable appearance in the first HATER novel. While I was writing the book back in 2006, I was in touch with Phil ‘Swill’ Odgers from the band who’d enjoyed the AUTUMN books. We got chatting and he made an off-hand comment about adding him as a character in a future book. I’d just written the scene in HATER where Danny and Lizzie are at a rock concert and all hell breaks loose when one of the band members starts attacking the others, mid-set. Cut a long story short – the band in the book became TMTCH, and it was Swill who did the attacking, but the rest of the lads were very accommodating and they all made an appearance. I was lucky enough to see the band a few years later, and they were magnificent.
There’s not a day goes by when I don’t think about how lucky I am to still be alive after my heart attack last April. Since my illness, I’ve been in contact with many people who’ve either had a heart attack themselves or who’ve lost loved ones. Very sadly, a member of my family passed away unexpectedly last weekend after suffering a massive heart attack. Without wishing to preach, I’d urge everyone to be aware of their own heart health. I know that health services around the world are under unprecedented strain right now, but please do seek advice if you have any concerns. If I’d not received such brilliant treatment from the NHS last April, I doubt I’d be here today.
Just prior to the second national lockdown starting here, and in the absence of many new releases, our local cinema showed a series of classic horror movies. I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned how close we live to a cinema before. It’s literally a five-minute walk from my front door, and in the eight or so years we’ve lived in this spot, it’s been a source of gainful part-time employment for three of our daughters. I love the place and have been keen to support it whenever its doors have been open during the nightmare which has been 2020. I managed to catch a couple of films, the first of which was NEIL MARSHALL’S werewolf classic, DOG SOLDIERS.
Here’s a quick synopsis from IMDB: A British Squad is sent on a training mission in the Highlands of Scotland against Special Operations squad. Ignoring the childish “campfire” stories heard about the area, they continue with their mission and come across the bloody remains of the Special Ops Squad, and a fierce howling is pitching the night sky… With two mortally wounded men, they make an escape, running into a zoologist by the name of Megan – who knows exactly what hunts them. What began as what they thought was a training mission turns into a battle for their lives against the most unlikely enemies they would have expected – werewolves.
Hello everyone. Well, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted. It’s actually only a few weeks, but it feels like a lifetime. In my 20+ years of writing apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, I never believed we’d ever collectively experience anything like Covid-19. Before you stop reading, don’t worry – this isn’t me using this nightmare situation to try and sell a few books.
Couldn’t resist sharing that video, though. My old pal Iain McKinnon and some of his colleagues made a series of short HATER promo videos back when DOG BLOOD was about to be released, only for us to be unable to use them because it looked like the movie was about to happen.
Anyway, back to the point.
It’s surreal and frightening to be sitting here in lockdown like this. If I’m honest, it does feel like something out of one of my books, and plenty of folks have been quick to point that out. I wrote THE COST OF LIVING when my family and I moved into our current house and set it on our development; now we’re genuinely isolated in our home from a viral pandemic. The AUTUMN series, of course, is all about a world ravaged by a virulent disease, and with the toilet roll panic buying hysteria in the supermarkets, I’ve seen things on the TV news which definitely remind me of HATER (chapter 20 in particular). But for all these similarities, I DON’T THINK THIS IS THE APOCALYPSE.
Terrifying though, isn’t it?
The books I write have always focused on the worst case scenario. You can bet the folks you meet in the first chapter will have been through absolute hell by the time they get to the last page (if they get that far). The infections they’re dealing with are just a MacGuffin designed to cause maximum chaos for my characters to sort out. We are not those characters, and though the disease we’re fighting today is an absolute fucker, I’m hopeful it will be beaten. Things feel so oppressive and grim right now that it’s easy to believe we’re all trapped without hope in a grim Moody dystopia, but we’re not. We can and we will get through this!
Stay safe, stay positive, stay sensible and stay healthy. My sincere best wishes to you and your families. I’m going to make a conscious effort to post here regularly in the coming weeks. I have some freebies and other things of interest I want to share with you (although my stories might be the absolute last thing you want to read right now!).
And if your ears can take more after such an aural battering, I wanted to remind you that the audiobook edition of CHOKEHOLD is now available from Macmillan Audio. It’s narrated by Gerard Doyle who, for his sins, has now voiced all six HATER audiobooks. His narration throughout has been superb, and I’m hoping to be able to ask him a few questions about his work on the two trilogies in the coming weeks. But don’t take my biased word for it, help yourself to a sample:
Well the new book has been out a few days and, as I expected, it’s polarising opinion (as have the other books in the series, to be fair). Some folks hated CHOKEHOLD (sorry, Starburst), while others really, really liked it – many thanks to Max at Geeks of Doom for his great review.
CHOKEHOLD is just as the name suggests: a story that viciously grabs ahold of you and will not let go, no matter how much you struggle. It is cutthroat, relentless, and — trust me when I say this — shockingly inspiring.
I had the pleasure of chatting to Jason Henderson at the Castle of Horror about the novel yesterday, and you can hear our conversation here:
All joking apart, the reason for the title of this post is quite straightforward. I don’t write the prettiest of books, and I don’t shirk away from taking my stories down grim pathways if they need it. In the case of CHOKEHOLD, much of it is necessarily bleak. I hope that readers will find some positives from the conclusion of Matt Dunne’s story. I think this final chapter is surprisingly uplifting and it sets the tone nicely for THEM OR US.
What do you think? Have you had chance to read CHOKEHOLD yet? I’d love to know what you think.
A series of nuclear strikes has left huge swathes of the country uninhabitable. It’s a level playing field now: both Hater and Unchanged alike have to fight to stay alive. Both have retreated to their camps to regroup, less than twenty miles away from each other.
It’s here that the last major battle of the final war will inevitably be fought, but neither side has any idea what’s waiting for them just around the corner.
Both armies are ready to fight to the death, each of their leaders hell-bent on victory. Their tactics are uniformly simple: strike first, get the enemy in a chokehold, then strangle the life out of them.
It’s very bleak, very bloody, and I hope you enjoy it!
Just one week to go until CHOKEHOLD hits the shelves. Here’s the first chapter for you…
Fifteen Miles East of Cambridge
The first few enemy figures appear on the horizon, and the fighters lying in wait for them are desperate to engage, starved of conflict. It’s been too long. These fuckers have had it coming. These fuckers will be shown no mercy.
It’s taken weeks to get to this point. Every meter of mud has been fought for; every reclaimed centimeter of concrete and tarmac has been won at a cost. They’re not going to give it up now, not after all those sacrifices, all those lives lost. There’s no going back. It’s them or us.
Word of the approaching attackers spreads quickly along the front line, accompanied by a nervous tension that borders on excitement. Some of these men and women dare to dream that the bulk of the bloodshed is behind them now, that this is the last push of the final war. There’s an unspoken belief that each new bloom of violence will bring them closer to restoring some semblance of normality to what’s left of their lives.
The service station is accessed by a single road that splinters off what used to be one of the major routes into Cambridge. The main road had been midway through a massive, years-long rebuild-and-regeneration program when the war began, and here, alongside the services, lies the abandoned remains of a construction base the size of a small town. The fighters used the roadworks equipment to strengthen and fortify their position while secreting their armored vehicles and heavy weapons among the highway maintenance vans and flatbeds. Diggers were used to carve deep trenches at a distance from the main buildings, and the ballast, soil, and scree they excavated now protects the service station itself—great drifts of the stuff used to block access, strengthen walls, and camouflage metal and glass from view. Inside the building, the familiar plastic façades of long-gone restaurant chains and fast-food outlets remain, reminding people what they’ve lost. But the rawness of their pain is eased knowing that what they have here is more than almost everyone else.
Remember these little beauties? If you’ve been following my work since the early days, you might remember these bloody HATER t-shirts which were popular when the novel was originally released in 2009. Now, because lots of you have been asking, they’re back. Click here or on the image below for more details.