Gary McMahon: The Book I Would Like To Be Buried With…

jesus sonIn the second in the series of Bury Me With…, I asked scary Gary McMahon about the book that has influenced him more than any, the book he’d like to take with him to his grave…

“I had to think about this one for a long time, and two or three books immediately demanded my attention – books that had a profound effect on my entire life when I first read them. Alan Garner’s Elidor, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. But in the end, I went back to the first book I thought of when I saw the question:

Jesus’ Son, by Denis Johnson.

Johnson’s book consists of a bunch of episodic short stories, all narrated by the same character – a nameless junkie in 1970s America. The stories chart his drug addiction and his ennui, but they also show us so much more about the character and the people around him. The narrator’s voice has a fragile poetic quality, but there’s also a grinding realism to the descriptions of the world he moves through.

There’s beauty here, and pain, and even transcendence. The spirituality of the book has little to do with God or religion, but provides striking insights regarding humanity in all its shattered glory. Everyone the narrator meets is as broken as him, and rather than wallow in self-pity he is overcome with the melancholy beauty of the human condition. His observations and insights are tender and life-affirming, yet he is a true lost soul. When he tells us “I knew every raindrop by its name”, we believe him, and we feel his sense of awe as he says it.

If you’ve never read this book before, do yourself a favour and track it down. My own copy is never far from hand. I’ve only ever read it all the way through once, but I dip into it often, licking the frost off the dream (to steal and abuse a line from Charles Bukowski).

Jesus’ Son is a masterpiece: it’s a book that reminds me what it is to be human.”

More information on Denis Johnson can be found at Wikipedia.


mcmahonAbout Gary McMahon:

Gary McMahon’s fiction has appeared in magazines and anthologies in the U.K. and U.S and has been reprinted in both The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror and The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. He is the British-Fantasy-Award-nominated author of Rough Cut, All Your Gods Are Dead, Dirty Prayers, How to Make Monsters, Rain Dogs, Different Skins, Pieces of Midnight, Hungry Hearts, and has edited an anthology of original novelettes titled We Fade to Grey.

Angry Robot/HarperCollins will publish the novels Pretty Little Dead Things and Dead Bad Things in 2010 and 2011. The Concrete Grove trilogy will be published by Solaris Books from 2011 onwards.

Simon Strantzas: The Book I Would Like To Be Buried With…

March 22, 2010 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Bury Me With This Book, Interviews 

In the first of what hopefully become a regular series, I’ve asked genre authors about the book that has influenced them more than any, the book they’d like to take with them to their grave… first up is Canadian author and tundra-spook Simon Strantzas:

collectedstrangestories“The book I would like to be buried with is such an obvious selection for me that it hardly seems worth the effort to explain. Anyone familiar with my writing might guess the answer, but for those in the dark I suspect I’d most like to be buried with The Collected Strange Stories of Robert Aickman. Aickman didn’t write a lot of fiction over his lifetime, but what he did write continues to fascinate and befuddle those of us who enjoy his work. He dealt with dreamscapes, with symbols and metaphors, and while many of his tales lack a clear explanation for what exactly has occurred in them, they are often like the best of our dreams – at times illogical, yet always adhering to their own internal logic.

collectedstrangestories2Reading Aickman one can’t help but feel that it’s the reader, not the author, who is at fault if things aren’t clear – the tales make sense, one can feel that they do, even if how remains frustratingly elusive. To study these ciphers, to tease out their true meanings, would take eternity, and I suspect, trapped in that coffin beneath the ground, I’d have nothing more to do than put my mind to it once and for all. Imagine: to be the only corpse in the yard who understood Aickman… I wager I’d be the belle of the undead ball that year.”

The first two volume edition of The Collected Strange Stories of Robert Aickman was published by Tartarus Press and Durtro Press in 1999 and is now out of print, but available through several specialist dealers.

More informaton about Robert Aickman can be found at Wikipedia.


Photo © A. Capozzi 2009About Simon Strantzas:

Simon Strantzas is the author of the critically-acclaimed Cold To The Touch (Tartarus Press, 2009), a collection of thirteen tales of the strange and supernatural. His first collection, Beneath The Surface (Humdrumming, 2008) was called “possibly the most important debut short story collection in the genre [in years]. . .” by multiple award-winning editor Stephen Jones. Strantzas’s stories have appeared or are due soon in The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror, Cemetery Dance, Postscripts, and elsewhere. In 2009, his work was nominated for the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction. Current projects include a third collection of short fiction, a novella, and a short novel. He also hopes to one day catch up on a voluminous amount of reading.

He has lived in Toronto, Canada, for his entire life and has no plans on leaving for sunnier climes.

  • Visit Simon’s website
  • Read a recent interview with Simon at Savvy Reader’s Bookshelf

Book review:Apartment 16, by Adam Nevill

March 18, 2010 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Book reviews 

Apartment 16With the exception of a handful of short stories consistently high in quality and spookiness, Adam Nevill’s singular voice has been quiet in the six years since the publication of his debut novel Banquet for the Damned, which was released as a collectable slipcased hardback by PS Publishing, and more recently in paperback format through the lamentably short-lived Virgin Books horror line which Nevill helmed.

Those years of whispering silence have been fruitful as his second novel, Apartment 16 (plus a third, in-progress), have been picked up by publishing giant Pan MacMillan – an occurrence that (hopefully) has all sorts of positive implications for the genre in this country. A BIG UK publisher buying titles by a UK author? Not something that’s happened since, well, since the days of Clive Barker, and before him, Ramsey Campbell and James Herbert (synchronistically Nevill’s stablemate in horror at Pan MacMillan). From that ‘golden age’ and all that’s gone between (most of it not so nice if you’re a UK-based horror fan or writer) to now is a big gap in time, so whether you like it or not, these facts make Apartment 16 an important novel, and Adam Nevill an important writer who, I’m happy to say, establishes his status amongst today’s outstanding creators of speculative horror with Apartment 16.

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Film review: Pandorum

March 17, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Film reviews 

bowerIt happens less frequently than I’d like; a contented glow of time well-spent: 103 minutes of hybrid sf/horror that one is happy to place alongside peers such as Event Horizon, the Alien series, The Dark Hour, Pitch Black and…, well there aren’t many more to add to that list. Pandorum is a prime example of learning from what’s gone before and upping the ante to create an effectively tense and challenging experience with an originality all of its own.

Many years from now, as the Earth becomes a nuclear battleground for ownership of its failing resources, the Elysium is sent into deep space with a cargo of 60,000 sleeping people and the DNA of most of the planet’s flora and fauna; a modern ark, maintained by several crews who will be woken-up in turn as the years pass, bound for the single planet that has been identified as earth-like, Tanis; their mission, to start again.

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