Tuesday, 9 February 2016

What I watched in my holidays - by Scott Harrison aged 42

I was only 6 years old when the Hammer House of Horror TV series originally aired nearly 36 years ago.

But let’s not dwell on that.

I can’t really recall where I was at the time. Instinctively I want to say on holiday – down in Cornwall, sitting at a table in a B&B eating fish and chips while watching TV – but I guess that’s just my default position as a number of my more important childhood viewing memories were made while on holidays in the late 1970s/early 1980s. Tales of the Unexpected, for example. I distinctly remember lying there on the fold out sofa bed in the living room (this was about 1981, remember), a glass of coke in one hand, the novelisation of the film A Spaceman in King Arthur’s Court in the other, watching Roald Dahl sitting there in his armchair and introducing the next nasty little bit of half-hour macabre fluff on offer. Or there’s the original mini-series of V. I distinctly remember walking into the kitchen of the B&B (or guest house, it might have been a guest house) and seeing the trailer for V on the small black and white portable that was sitting on the foldaway kitchen table. The first episode was broadcast later that night.

But back to Hammer House of Horror.

We can safely say that I can’t remember where I was when I first saw this series. It was early September, so I must have been at home. But watch it I did. I remember that much at least. In fact, I remember it all too vividly. I also remember being utterly terrified by it!

Revisiting TV series and films that you watched when you were just a nipper is an odd feeling. Especially when those memories are strongly linked with such potent feelings – be they happiness, sadness or, as in this case, absolute terror. The first thing that struck me when rewatching this classic series (and, yes, it is a classic, mark my words) is how much of it I remember, and how much of it terrified me as a child of six going-on seven.

Scenes such as aging estate agent and would-be adulterer Denholm Elliot trapped within an endless, ever-changing dream of lust and murder; or Leigh Lawson and girlfriend Angela Bruce desperately trying to break the curse of the African statue before it caused the death of their friends and, inevitably, themselves; Rosalyn Landor dressed in virginal white and desperate to escape the Black Magic ceremony which will end her life; or Kathryn Leigh Scott’s slow decent into insanity as she is convinced that the man she has accidentally killed has returned to haunt her…

I think I also have a vague recollection of Diana Dors and her small brood of ragged werewolf children keeping two unsuspecting travellers prisoner in their house, but seeing as I actually watched this episode about thirteen years ago in a hotel room down in Brighton with Lee Harris after having lunch with author Robert Rankin I can’t, hand on heart, say that this memory is from it’s original transmission.

But most of all I remember the episode The Two Faces of Evil. Oh my god, how I remember that episode! The family driving along country lanes, seeing the ‘scarecrow’ in the field, the car crash, the father being dragged from the car by the ‘scarecrow’, the father replaced by the doppleganger, the doppleganger father being unable to speak and blaming it on the bandaged throat…the memories just go on and on. And as a six year old (almost seven year old) boy I had never been so terrified. So much so that it actually made me a bit weary of my own father for several days afterwards.

The series may not have the same impact now as it did when it was originally broadcast (that was, after all, thirty-six years ago…but, as I said, let’s not dwell on that!!) but it is still a visceral little gem, a series with a huge set of balls swinging between its legs, a series with bags of imagination and verve that is sadly lacking from our TV screens today. It’s a series that still shocks with its gore and refreshingly adult nature (some of the episodes even have decapitations, murders and nudity in the pre-credit sequences alone!!) which smacks of a time when TV audiences were still happy to be shocked, disgusted, or totally creeped out without feeling the need to immediately reach for the telephone to complain about how disgusted they were that a TV programme had the temerity to make them feel an  – gasp! – emotion.

It’s just a pity that it never carried on past a single series of 13 episodes. Sure, four years later the same company gave us Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense (or as my dad always called it, Hammer House of Mystery and Suspenders – my dad had a habit of doing that, renaming TV titles, so that you just couldn’t quite take them seriously anymore, no matter how hard you tried), but it was never quite as good, not quite as balls-out due to the gradual taming down of British TV that was happening at this time. No, by this time sex, violence, nudity and swearing was slowly being outlawed on British TV until, by the end of the 1980s / beginning of the 1990s a strange blandness had spread across the airwaves – a time in which Carry On films were unofficially banned and classic sitcoms were hacked to pieces in case they offended…well…anyone at all really.

I miss TV series like this. And I think British TV misses them too. What I wouldn't give to see an anthology series nowadays with half the courage, attitude, swagger and talent that's on display here. Come to think of it, what I wouldn't give to write an episode for a TV series half as good as this one was!


Thursday, 8 January 2015

Star Trek Book Cover Reveal

There's no lovelier or more exciting way for me to start the new year than finding that the cover of my forthcoming Star Trek book, Shadow of the Machine, has been revealed over on the StarTrek.com website!

And it's a real beaut.

Not only do we have Admiral James T. Kirk dressed in his Admiralty uniform from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but we also have a naked (sans cloud covering disguise) V'Ger hovering over the Earth.

The back cover blurb for the book reads:

"After its recent encounter with V’ger, the U.S.S. Enterprise has returned to dry dock to finish its refit before commencing its continuing mission. The crew has been granted a two-week period of shore leave before preparations for their next voyage begins. Shaken by their encounter with V’ger, Kirk, Spock and Sulu travel to their respective homes and must reflect upon their lives—now forever changed."

Star Trek: The Original Series: Shadow of the Machine,
an eNovella, will be released on March 9th this year and will cost $3.99.

You can pre-order copies at Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com and iTunes 

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

SOMETIME NEVER wins an award!

Crikey, blimey and shiver me timbers, if it hasn't just gone and happened again!

For the second time in the space of a month another project I have worked on with SpokenWorld Audio has only gone and won another bloomin' award!

My audio play, SOMETIME NEVER, starring SIMON JONES and ROSALYN LANDOR won the Best Drama Award at the New York Awards last night. I'm sure I don't have to tell you how excited, thrilled and downright gobsmacked by this I, and everyone involved, is.

The audio play, which was directed and sound designed by the mighty NEIL GARDNER, with music by the fab JAMES DUNLOP, is the first in a series of 'own brand' audio dramas that I'm writing for SpokenWorld, and was an absolute blast to work on from start to finish.

I'd like to thank Neil, Simon, Rosalyn, James and everyone involved for doing such a wonderful job, and for making it something that I am truly proud of.

We are currently turning our attention to the second audio play, so watch this space for more details as and when!

I'd also like to offer Neil's other company, Ladbroke Productions, a huge and hearty congrats for winning a Gold New York Award for their documentary Living With Memory In Rwanda. A well deserved win, my friend! A double celebration for Mr Gardner tonight!

Meanwhile, I'm just off to crack open a bottle of bubbly!

Friday, 20 June 2014

Incoming News - Part 2: THIRTEEN Wins An Award!

Secondly, I am very excited, not to mention totally stunned (in a good way) to announce that THIRTEEN, the portmanteau audio horror anthology I edited and wrote for, has won the Award for Best Original Work at the 2014 Audie Awards in New York last month!

A massive thank you to all thirteen writers who provided such wonderful stories and all the narrators who brought them to life so brilliantly – and special thanks must go to the mighty Neil Gardner, producer and director of the anthology, and Barnaby Edwards, who’s reading of my linking story Hidden Track was just spot on in every conceivable way!

Splendid fellows, all of them!

You can find out what all the fuss is about by getting your hands on a copy of THIRTEEN either over at the SpokenWorld shop or on Amazon.

Incoming News - Part 1: Beside The Seaside Anthology Available Now!

And after a month of radio silence, I return with two bits of wonderful news on the blog today…

First off – Beside The Seaside, the third in an ongoing anthology range I’m editing for UK publishers Snowbooks, has now been released out in the wild and is available to buy in all good high-street bookshops and online stores.

The book features a stunning introduction by Fall & Rise of Reginald Perrin and A Bit of a Do creator David Nobbs as well as a selection of brand new stories by writers such as Alison Littlewood, Trevor Baxendale, Sadie Miller, Gary McMahon and me!

You can buy it online at a dozen places, including Amazon, Guardian Bookshop (at £2 off!), Mail Book Shop and Blackwell’s.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Beside The Seaside - Cover Reveal and Full ToC

Delighted to be able to reveal the front cover artwork for "Beside The Seaside", the third anthology I have edited for UK publishers Snowbooks.

The book contains stories all set along the Yorkshire coast and written in a variety of exciting genres, including Science Fiction, Horror, Spy Thriller and General Fiction.

It also features an introduction by bestselling novelist and scriptwriter David Nobbs, who is probably best known for creating and writing Reggie Perrin and A Bit Of A Do as well as writing scripts and gags for The Two Ronnies, Frankie Howerd, Kenneth Williams and Les Dawson.

Published in paperback in just a few weeks time, Beside The Seaside features stories by some of today's most exciting and talented writers, and can be pre-ordered over on Amazon HERE

Here is the full ToC of the anthology:

Introduction    by David Nobbs
On Scarborough Sands   by  Alison Littlewood
Landlady Interface  by  Lee Harris
Scarborough In July  by  Sadie Miller
The Last Train To Whitby  by  Scott Harrison
The Woman In The Sand  by  Trevor Baxendale
She Who Waits  by  Gary McMahon
The Girl On The Suicide Bridge  by  J.A. Mains
Scarborough Warning  by  Sue Wilsea

Published by Snowbooks
Price: £7.99

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

THIRTEEN - Audies Awards Finalist!

I'm unbelievably proud and excited to be able to announce that THIRTEEN, the portmanteau horror anthology I edited and co-wrote, has been chosen as a finalist in the prestigious 2014 Audie Awards!

As regular readers of this blog will know, THIRTEEN was released in August last year and, being chocked full of new stories from bestselling authors such as Stephen Gallagher, Kim Newman, Dan Abnett and Simon Clark, the audio anthology immediately began pulling in some amazingly fab reviews -

"...this is a great collection of supernatural tales, with a mournful and melancholy tone. They feel very much like old fashioned ghost stories and are genuinely chilling...those who like their spines chilled will be very pleased with Thirteen." rating - 9/10 - Starburst Magazine

"There are no clunkers in the anthology...A deliciously dark collation."  rating - 8/ 10 - SciFi Bulletin

Obviously I am very honoured, not to mention incredibly thrilled, for THIRTEEN to be nominated for an award, and a huge thank you must go to all 13 amazingly talented writers who contributed to the anthology, not to mention the producing / directing genius that is Mr Neil Gardner.

The presentations will be held on May 24th in New York, so please keep all fingers and toes crossed for us until then!

You can read the full list of all 2014 audio finalists HERE