Confessions of my Past, Present and Future
The Testimony of Clay
Confession is a heavy word, isn’t it? It invokes police interviews, courtroom dramas and, for the religious amongst you, unburdening weekly sins to a virtual stranger through a wooden lattice. Well, you won’t be getting any of those shenanigans here, my friends. As per Mr Murray’s invite, we’re talking books; shiny new books, books battered by age and constant reading, books that haven’t even seen the light of day. So, enough preamble. Grab yourself a cup of tea, a glass of beer or a bottle of methylated spirits (if that’s your poison). We’re off on a little tour.
First stop, the Eighties, a decade replete with bright fashion, not so bright wallpaper and grim politics. It’s not one of my favourite decades. I remember it as a dismal foggy time, punctuated by football hooligans going absolutely mental on the terraces and streets, the skinheads of the British Movement and the National Front terrorising the UK immigrant population and the ‘yuppies’ being the proto-corporatists dickwads that they’d always been. Aside from a few bands doing the business, there were few saving graces to that decade, at least the first half of it anyway. Then I discovered a love that would stay with me for the rest of my days. Horror came gambolling into my life and the little bastard hasn’t left since. Here’s what happened:
The Eighties: Into The Valley
I have to say before starting off, that I won’t be banging on about Salem’s Lot by Stephen King. I’ve written a lot about that particular book. I’m a bit bored of talking about it now. As much as I love Lot, I can’t face writing another word about it. Instead, I’ve searched through the memory banks, sifted through years of rubbish and come up with THE book that started me down the ‘Dark Path’.
I’m surprised that I’d forgotten about it, but then it was a long time ago.
I can’t remember exactly what age I was when I discovered this little gem, in all its hideous ‘reptilian monster on the cover’ glory, but I remember being bowled away by it. And I found it in my Junior School library of all places! This is the Eighties we’re in now, folks. None of that ‘safe-space, trigger warning’ bollocks so prevalent, these days. We were a hardier bunch back then. Another selling point of this book (for a nerd like me that is), was the title. I remember finding this book next to the Target novelisation of Doctor Who: Destiny of The Daleks and, looking back, it makes perfect sense. The book in question was the mighty Jon Pertwee Book of Monsters.
Yes, Doctor Who himself endorsed this book, as well as writing the introduction plus little intros for all of the short stories within (constantly referencing his good friend, The Doctor). What more could a Doctor Who loving, 2000AD reading shy stammering kid ask for?
The monsters of the title were an eclectic and frightening bunch. Pertwee (and the writers) gave us carnivorous monster cacti that hunted by vibration, a legendary worm terrorising 16th Century Durham, frogspawn that killed with electric shocks, alien eyes hypnotising the nation, a bizarre transparent slug like creature that digested all in its path, even a baby dragon called Ming who had a nice line in incinerating bullies. This book terrified and grossed me out, in equal measure.
There’s a sequence in the story Night of the Sand Wolf that had me sleeping with the light on for a few weeks. The protagonist, an escaped convict, bedding down for the night in an odd house with an even odder owner, is awoken by a strange gelid noise. Switching the light on, he finds that the walls no longer have wallpaper; they are now a quivering pink mass, oozing caustic yellow liquid. To add to the poor guy’s trauma, the room is shrinking rapidly, the ooze is flowing freely and the walls are slobbering. I can’t remember how Mr Convict escaped, but the revelation at the end (his host lives inside a giant carnivorous cactus and his room was trying to digest him), thrilled a little version of me as well as planting a gelid oozing seed in my impressionable mind.
Likewise, the image of the ‘Glendale Monster’ wrapping pseudopods around its victims and dragging them into its transparent body, its victim’s death agonies apparent for all to see, induced repulsion and fascination in equal measure. As if all this goriness wasn’t enough, the book even had lovingly rendered drawings of key passages contained within. The one for the Night of the Sand Wolf is excruciating in its detail; a screaming man being impaled on a giant cactus, it’s thorns ripping through his prone body. How my school librarian (a very stern and bookish woman) let this book through, I’ll never know? I’m eternally grateful to her for this little gem, however.
Sadly, Jon Pertwee’s Book of Monsters is no longer available. I had a look whilst writing this. Nada, nish, no show. It’s gone, perhaps forever, lost in the mists of antiquity and Eighties school libraries. Maybe, one day, I’ll get lucky and unearth a copy. Until then, I’ll have to rely on the memories of a boy trying to sleep with one eye open, convinced that his room is going eat him.
There We Were, Now Here We Are
It’s a good time for the Horror genre; so many authors, so many books. Amazon’s control quality notwithstanding, there’s so much to choose from. So much that I’m only going to drop a few names (otherwise we’ll be here for at least a year. I’d love to stick around but I’ve got books to write myself and a bedroom to check before sleeping. There’s still an echo of that whole ‘room trying to eat me’ thing going on. Anyway, back to the Here and Now.
The old Masters (King, Masterton, Campbell, Barker) are still kicking about, releasing great new material. And yes, I WILL include The Scarlet Gospels by Clive Barker in that catch all phrase. I think it’s a good book. Not a great book, not the one I was expecting but still a cracking read. My opinion, my article. Then we have the Young Turks of the mid to late 80’s/90’s, your Ray Gartons, your Edward Lees (totally sick bastard, that one). Flash forward to now and the names Burke, Ralston, Hickman, Lennon, Keane and Sowder pop up (not just in the list but also on my shelves and Kindle).
I’m going to hone in one dude whose work has pretty much gripped me from the off: Mr Kealan Patrick-Burke. I love his work. From the twisted psycho bastard inbreds of Kin to the saga of Timothy Quinn, Burke displays a deft touch with characters that, as a reader has me shaking my head in wonder and, as an author, has me shaking my head in jealousy. He knows how to portray the downtrodden and courageous nature as well as the pure evil of human beings. It’s the characters that make his fiction. Without them, the plots would fall flat. I’ve read a lot of his work, but Kin sticks out in my mind. Maybe it’s because that was the first book of his that I read. Maybe it’s that first scene with a grievously wounded girl -blood-soaked and battered with a mutilated eye -that did it. Either way, it’s a seriously tense piece of work that bowls along at a maniac pace, gleefully slinging blood, gore and backwoods lunatics about with abandon.
No sequel yet though. Kealan, if you’re reading this, get a shuffle on and get a sequel out. This horror writer needs to know what happened next. Speaking of what happens next, hang onto your hats:
Drinking Beer and Creating Fear
The future: vast, unknowable, a little dark. Much like my adopted hometown on a Friday night but with less vomit and discarded kebabs. Thinking about the far future isn’t a trait I’m known for. Forward planning only stretches out to next week. Some questions need to be asked apparently. What will I be writing? Will I EVEN be writing? Will my reading tastes change? My answers?
I think I’ll always read and write horror. It’s been a part of my life for so long so far that to abandon it would be like changing my football team (an unforgivable sin). As far as the writing goes, I’ll probably still be peddling the same phantasmagorical horror/sci-fi/cosmic mash up that I’ve started off with. There’s something about writing ‘not so straight forward’ tales of terror that appeals to me. I’d also like to think that I’ll have my shot of my favourite TV show in the future. I’m not going to name it. I’ve mentioned it a few times now. If you don’t know what that is, you’d better scroll back and re-read. Maybe I’d ditch the horror element for that particular gig, knowing what a bunch of colossal wusses the BBC are.
Whatever happens, I’ll always be writing and reading. It’s my thing. J.G. Clay without those two activities ceases to exist, on all counts. No reading equals no inspiration. No inspiration equals no writing. And no writing equals no J.G.
After all, I’m only a pen name.
You see, I don’t really exist.
You can buy Tales of Blood and Sulphur here:
CONFESSIONS REVIEWS J.G CLAY
J.G Clay is definitely a Man of Horror. There can be no doubt. Putting aside the reverence he has for the horror greats, such as King, Barker, Herbert, Carpenter, Romero and Argento, there is another fact that defines his claim for the title of the ‘Duke of Spook’. He was born on Halloween night. By a quirk fate, it was also a full moon that night. Co-incidence?
Here at Clay Towers, we don’t believe in coincidences.
The 41-year-old hails from the Midlands in the United Kingdom, is married with one step child and two dogs that bear a strong resemblance to Ewoks. Beyond the page and the written word, he is music mad and can hold down a tune on a bass guitar pretty well. He is an avid reader and also has an enduring love of British sci-fi, from the pages of the ‘2000A.D’ comic to the televised wanderings of Gallifrey’s most famous physician. Clay is also a long-time fan of the mighty Birmingham City Football Club and endures a lot of flak from his friends for it.
And for more about J.G. visit his site, or find him on social media: