2017 GNS Fan Club Convention

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GNS Convention 2016

Last year was such a wonderful day with record attendance so I hope that we can top that this year. If you would like to join in just let me know that you are coming so I can cater for the numbers.

This year’s convention will be on 3rd Sept 2017. We always start the day at 1pm and it winds up when everyone decides to leave. The convention is held at my home in Shropshire and for any information that you need for finding us and accommodation in the area you can contact Annie at blackhillbooks@hotmail.com

Many of those attending the convention like to make a weekend out of the event. For those wanting to do so, Chris Hall (a regular to my annual Fan Conventions) organises a ‘Fan Club Gathering’ which commences on the Saturday before the convention at the nearby town of Knighton. For those interested in meeting up with the other Convention attendees for this popular night out, please contact Chris at: dlsreviews@aol.co.uk

Chris Hall is a lifelong fan and avid collector of my work. He is also the sole individual behind the highly-revered website DLS Reviews (www.dlsreviews.com) which offers up an ever-expanding collection of reviews on a vast array of horror and dark fiction novels. Chris has attended the annual Guy N Smith fan convention each year since 2010, and assisted author J.R. Park with compiling, editing and contributing to the ‘Hell Of A Guy’ anthology which celebrated 25 years of the Guy N Smith convention. Chris also became the unfortunate victim of the giant crabs in Guy N Smith’s novel ‘Killer Crabs: The Return’.

Each year we have a different theme and this year it is ‘Dangerous Wild Animals in Britain’. For all those who attend this is what I have planned for the day:

  • Meet and greet, a chance for everyone to mingle, get to know each other and help themselves to the buffet. Nichola, who many of you know, will be here as usual to help out.
  • Once everyone has arrived they will be entered into the free raffle. There is only one prize and this will be kept a secret until the draw. It is a most unusual prize.
  • I always launch my latest book at the convention and this year is no different. I have compiled an anthology of all the short stories that I submitted and were published in the iconic London Mystery Magazine. I will also be relaying the inspiration behind the first story in the anthology, ‘The Mummy’ which comes from a real life experience.
  • What’s in the pipeline? An exclusive for the year ahead.
  • Every year I write an exclusive chapbook for the convention which is signed and given to everyone who attends as a thank you for coming. This year it is non-fiction and based on the Dangerous Wild Animals theme.
  • I would also like to show everyone an item from my personal memorabilia and share with you the tale behind it.
  • Take a walk on the wild side, weather permitting. Accompany me to my own private land nearby which has been the inspiration (and featured within) many of my books.

Pipe Dreams: Chapter Seventeen

Pipe Dreams: An Autobiography

E-BOOKS AND PRINT-ON-DEMAND

Traditional publishing is in decline, bookshops and libraries are closing. This is mostly due to modern technology which has given us electronic books.
Many of my friends possess an e-reader, Amazon’s Kindle seems to be the most popular but many similar products are hitting the market and doubtless there will be more to follow.
Like many traditional readers I would not consider any alternative to a printed and bound book in my hands. However, I do not dispute the advantages of an e-reader. One can download a virtual library, carry it in your pocket wherever you go and read it on a train, a hotel room, on the beach or anywhere that you have the opportunity to read.
It is a big bonus for writers and, whilst not a personal fan of these products, I cannot argue against its benefits. There were those early days when I was having 3 and 4 book contracts virtually thrown at me but then came single book contracts, a reduction in sales and, even with a superb track record, problems in finding a publisher.
Now, for myself and many other well-known authors, the good times are back and getting better. E-books are cheap to buy and royalty rates far higher than ever.
Again I am grateful to the Ellett family. First to Pat for her typing, then Fred for his tobacco growing input and now to their son Phil. Not only does Phil offer a wide range of technical services but his expertise in creating and marketing e-books (as Scan2ebook.com) is quite amazing. He and Fred have built a scanner which enables him to scan a book in a fraction of the time it would take to sit and turn pages.
So, virtually all of my books from my first in 1974, through to my latest are available for downloading.
Of course this electronic facility enables anyone to publish their books regardless of quality. There is, and always will be, rubbish out there, badly written drivel which nobody wants to read. It simply won’t be downloaded. Equally it gives new, talented authors a platform to ‘get their work out there!’
However, for myself and doubtless many other writers who have proved their worth in the days of traditional publishing, their sales will be excellent. I have no doubt that with future technology this will get even better.
Only time will tell.

Print On Demand

In addition to e-books there are Print-on-Demand services available so the opportunity to read a ‘proper’ book has not been lost forever. It is there, available to authors and complementary to e-books so the best of both worlds can be enjoyed.
We use Amazon and I can only compliment them upon the quality and rapid turnaround provided by their POD service, and at a reasonable cost.
So, this is the new face of publishing. I feel that we have only scratched the surface so far.

The Pony Riders: Book of the Month – October 2016

“The Pony Riders” was certainly a departure from my horror novels. It is also my lengthiest novel at 380 pages.

Why, then, did I write a western? Since boyhood I have been an ardent fan of westerns, and tales of the pony express captivated my imagination, especially those featuring the notorious gunman J.A. Slade. Slade, though, was romanticised in some of the stories about him in boys’ papers. In reality he was a drunken gunman and murderer which is perhaps why he was appointed Road Boss on a section of the route ridden by those brave carriers of the U.S. mail.

Mark Twain wrote of him “He was so friendly and gentle spoken that I warmed to him in spite of his awful history. It was hardly possible to realise that this person was the pitiless scourge of the outlaws, the raw-headed-and-bloody-bones the mothers of the mountains terrified their children with. And to this day I can remember nothing remarkable about Slade except that his face was rather broad across and the cheek bones were low and the lips peculiarly thin and straight. But that was enough to leave something of an effect upon me, for since then I seldom see a face like that without fancying that the owner of it is a dangerous man.”

All of the pictures which I have seen of Slade portrayed him dressed in black with a matching brimmed hat.

As a boy, armed with a toy cap-firing pistol, I used to pretend that I was J.A. Slade, gunning down outlaws and Indians.

Moving on many years, Jean and I went to New York to meet my Zebra editors. We were taken to lunch and clearly they were looking to commission my next two horror books. That was when I dropped my bombshell announcing that “I would like to write a western!”

There was a stunned silence, then “well, let us have a synopsis and some sample chapters and we will give it every consideration.”

I did just that on my return home and “The Pony Riders” saw publication in 1997. It was a factual history with a fictional plot interwoven. Of course, one of the leading characters was J.A. Slade.

It was published under the Pinnacle imprint and did tolerably well. In fact I recently noticed that a copy was offered on the internet at £30!

For myself, J.A. Slade lives on.

I have it in mind to write another western sometime. I wonder how it would be received by my current fan base.

The Busker: Book of the Month – September 2016

By the mid-1990’s traditional genre publishing, including horror, had virtually disappeared. It was a trend which was not doing fans any favours.

At that time I was doing very well with Zebra/Kensington, USA, but out of the blue they informed me that they were discontinuing their horror list and concentrating on self-help books and romances. In view of my encouraging sales I was not pleased to put it mildly.

So I decided to try self-publishing. This was in the days before e-books and Print-on-Demand so I had to go down the traditional road and found a very reasonably priced printer in Ireland. There was much work involved in preparing a manuscript for the printers and I am indebted to Hal Astell for his help in this.

“The Busker” was published in 1998. It had already been short-listed for the Lichfield Prize and, following other short-listings in previous years, would have been published by Sphere who sponsored these awards. But, of course, Sphere were no longer interested in horror!

I had set this unusual horror novel in the City of Lichfield. A somewhat unusual dark fantasy theme, it was launched there at the James Redshaw bookshop with a very encouraging attendance on the evening.

The cover picture was provided by my good friend, Andrew Compton, a professional press photographer. As we decided upon a picture of the Busker, the central character, I decided to pose for this, clad in ragged garb, a hat pulled down over my face in order to hide my identity.

Then, one of the fans at the launch, raised a hand and asked “who’s the Busker then?”

I had my explanation ready, that there had been this tramp in the district for some time and I had paid him a quid to lie down in the grass and have his photo taken.

“Then why is he wearing your pullover?” the fan fired back at me!

Okay, I then had to admit to being the Busker on that photo shoot.

Dixon Hawke Stories

Dixon Hawke Stories

From boyhood I had always been fascinated by the adventures of Dixon Hawke and his young assistant Tommy Burke. They were really carbon copies of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, as were Sexton Blake and Tinker.

Hawke stories were launched by D.C. Thomson in 1919 in a small 100-page booklet, ‘The Dixon Hawke Library’, which was published until 1941, 576 issues in all. Then we had the annual paperback of short stories which lasted until the early 1960s.

Alongside these publications were Hawke stories in Thomson’s boys’ paper, “Adventure”, launched in 1921. They were somewhat different, though, as here the Dover Street detective featured in yarns which were full of action, whereas in the case books and the earlier ‘libraries’ he solved his cases by his powers of deduction.

Then in the late 1960s on a holiday in Scotland I discovered that the “Sporting Post”, Thomson’s weekly football paper, carried a complete DH short story. So I decided to give it a go and submitted a 1,000 – word mystery.

The outcome was that my story was accepted and the editorial director wrote and invited me to meet her for afternoon tea at a Birmingham hotel. Over tea and scones she explained that they needed a weekly DH story and was I interested in writing more for them? I didn’t need asking twice!

My next two submissions were accepted, followed by a rejection of my third for a trivial reason. I could have amended it but D.C. Thomson did not work like that – it was either an acceptance or a rejection. Eventually I sussed it out. They considered that 52 stories a year was too heavy a workload for one writer so the purpose of the editorial director’s tour of the UK was to assemble a team. That way they had more than enough stories so some had to be turned down.

In due course I had a file of around half-a-dozen stories that had not been accepted. However, it became clear to me that DH editors were changing around every six months. So I tested “newcomers” with some of my rejections – and in many cases had those stories accepted!

I wrote numerous DH stories up until around 1974. By that time I had had my first horror novel accepted and another commissioned by New English Library. Nevertheless, writing Hawke stories, creating mysteries and the various ways in which they were solved, was an excellent learning curve for a young writer.

Sadly Dixon Hawke disappeared when the “Sporting Post” ceased publication in May 2000. His adventures were many, outnumbering most other fictional sleuths. Gone but not forgotten, at least as far as I am concerned. He was a good friend to me.

Night of the Crabs: Book of the Month – August 2016

By 1975 I had achieved my ambition to become a professional author and that year I left my job in banking to go full time. It was a nail-biting move, though, and my main concern was for the future. Would it be sufficient to provide an income which would sustain a wife and three children? Angus, our fourth child, was born in 1976.

I had already submitted the manuscript for “Night of the Crabs” to New English Library but they had not advised me of their publishing plans except that it was due to be released in the summer of 1976.

In July that year we went on holiday to Barmouth where the book was set. So, one balmy evening we were meandering through the town where most of the shops were still open. Gavin, our eldest son, wandered into W.H. Smith’s and suddenly there was a loud shout from him that had heads turning. “Dad, they’ve got hundreds of your books in here!”

So it was. A major instore display on shelves and a central revolving rack labelled “The No.1 Beach read.”

The shop manager approached me, enquired if I was the author, and then asked if I could possibly do a signing session – there and then! The outcome was that I ended up sitting at a table inside the doorway signing copies for a seemingly endless queue of buyers.

That was just the start. “Night of the Crabs” was on sale just about everywhere, had already been reprinted before publication, and saw 9 subsequent reprints and a number of foreign translation rights sold. Four months later the movie rights were purchased by Amicus.

A year later I fulfilled another of my ambitions, selling our house in Tamworth and moving to Black Hill, a remote area of the Shropshire/Welsh border hills where I already had the shooting rights and had been travelling here for the past 14 years.

Jean and I still live here today as my fans are well aware, many of them having attended my annual Fan Club Convention here. This year is a special occasion with my convention celebrating its 25th anniversary on Sunday, September 4th.

Aliens, Monsters, Mounties & Cannibals

Aliens, Monster’s, Mounties & Cannibals

My writing career began at an early age with 56 stories published in a local newspaper “The Tettenhall Observer”.  I was inspired by the boys’ papers of the 1950s, Adventure, Rover, Hotspur, Wizard etc., all of which I read weekly.

Times changed to meet the demands of a new young readership.  Many of those story papers either ceased publication or had their original text content replaced with picture strip stories.

As the years progressed I tried to find a market for my kind of stories.  Then, by chance, a copy of “Our Boys” came my way.  It was published by the Educational Company of Ireland, Dublin, and part of it was in the Irish language.

Tales of the Mounties (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) have always fascinated me so I introduced a character of my own, Kincaid.  He featured in 5 stories; “The Coming of Kincaid” (October 1971) “Kincaid Cleans Up” (November 1971) “A Man called Blaze” (December 1971) “Scourge of the North West” (May 1972) and “Yukon Pursuit” (June 1972).

The September 1971 issue carried a story entitled “The Dive of Death”, about a stunt man featuring in a sports film”.

Science fiction was another genre which I had read extensively in my boyhood, nothing sophisticated like modern stories, virtually all concerning aliens landing on Earth or spaceships visiting a variety of planets in the Universe.  My “The Beast from Space”, was set on Dartmoor where a monster from space lands, armed with a gun that shrivels up anything at which it is aimed.

All very basic, but reflecting stories which had once enthralled young readers.  “Cannibal Island” (March 1972), a story of a cargo ship on its way to Hawaii to deliver a load of grain, is swept off course by a hurricane.  The crew survive and they go ashore on an unknown island which happens to be inhabited by cannibals… Was this the germ of an idea which led to my novel “Cannibals” (Arrow 1986)?

Sadly, “Our Boys” is long gone, but for a short time it had provided me with a market for the type of fiction I would have loved to write had I been old enough in the days of those story papers which had thrilled me in my boyhood.

Guy

 

 

Bamboo Guerillas: Book of the Month – July 2016

As mentioned in last month’s Book of the Month, Mews Books, a newly formed small USA publisher in the 1970’s, commissioned me to write “The Truckers” series.  All their UK books were distributed by New English Library under the editorship of the late Peter Haining in 1977.  Hardly had I had time to change the ribbon in my manual typewriter before Peter phoned me to say that Mews wanted me to write a war series.  Peter told me to set it in Malaya, focusing on the inhumanities and cruelty inflicted on captured British servicemen and told me “go over the top, there are no boundaries in these books!”  So I did just that and both books were completed in about six weeks.

However, all was not well at Mews.  Series books were fast becoming unfashionable and they decided to close their project.  The outcome was that NEL took on the remaining books.

Soon after I received a phone call from a young editor at NEL.  She said that the violence and sex in Bamboo Guerillas was far too explicit and could I tone it down!  I said ‘no!’  I had been directed to write it as such and I was not prepared to spend time on a lengthy, unnecessary rewrite!

So in 1977 “Bamboo Guerillas” was published by NEL, with some editing (!), but no mention of it being no.1 of a series, no.2 never appeared.

It went to a reprint without mention of this in the latter.  The first edition has a red cover depicting an Allied Forces soldier gruesomely stabbing a Japanese soldier.  The front cover blurb is “Kill or be killed in a savage Jungle War.”  The reprint is in very slightly larger format showing a charging Japanese with extended bayonet.  The cover is predominantly white yet it is stated that this is a first edition!  Curious.

Some years ago I was introduced to the cover artist of the “reprint”, Tony Masero, who kindly signed my own copy for me.

I cannot find the copy manuscript of the books.  They probably got lost in our move from Tamworth to Black Hill and doubtless NEL destroyed the originals after publication of the first.  If I still had them then we would publish the second in the series.  The idea has crossed my mind to write a sequel.  “Bamboo Guerillas” is one of my most collectible titles, especially the “reprint.”  I guess the print run was small.  Copies do crop up from time to time, though, on the internet.

My First Love

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Shooting Times Article

In addition to my fiction, horror novels and short stories, I have been writing shooting and countryside related articles for over half a century.  My first feature in this field appeared in the Shooting Times in 1963.  I well remember the legendary editor, the late Noel Sedgwick/”Tower Bird”, taking me for a drink in the Cheshire Cheese one of Fleet Street’s most famous pubs with its sawdust covered floor.

Through to 1996 I wrote about 90 articles for Shooting Times, along with contributions to virtually every other sporting journal of those days in addition to having around a dozen books published in this genre.  In 1999 I accepted the position of Gun Editor of “The Countryman’s Weekly”.  Having written around 2000 articles for this publication through to April last year, I then returned to the ST.

My contributions here include a monthly “Classic Cartridges” series as well as general shooting features.  Now it appears my sizeable fiction fan base have picked up on these, the reason being that articles are published under my own name instead of the former pseudonyms which I had used in the CW.

Fans are now buying issues containing my articles and I have been informed that some will be bringing a “pile” for me to sign at my next convention of Sunday September 4th.  One of my fans won the ST “letter of the week” in the May 18 issue.  I was delighted and flattered by the praise which he bestowed upon my articles.

The Truckers: Book of the Month – June 2016

During the 1970’s series were big business in paperbacks publishing, usually featuring a main character whose adventures continued from book to book.

Mews Books were located in Connecticut, USA, small publishers who decided to concentrate solely on series and had an arrangement with my own publishers at that time, New English Library, to distribute the books in the UK.

Mews contacted me in 1976 requesting synopses for horror, western and war series. I submitted all 3 genres and was expecting to be commissioned a horror series. Surprise, surprise they asked me to write a Truckers series, so it was back to the drawing board, more synopses and then one of the fastest “go-aheads” I’ve ever had.

The result was 2 novels, published together, “The Truckers No.1 – The Black Knights” followed by No.2 – “Hi-Jack!” The reason for Mews’ choice of this genre came from a smash-hit television series “The Brothers.” They hoped that my books would follow its success, even mentioning the TV series in the rear cover blurb of both novels.

Well, they did not follow in the wake of “The Brothers” because this time the theme had been overdone. The TV series finished and “The Truckers” made little impact.

However, today these titles are scarce and are avidly sought after by GNS collectors, fetching high prices on e-bay and elsewhere.