Genre: Horror / Anthology
Publisher: Dark Chapter Press
Publication Date: 29th September 2017
REVIEWED BY NEV
A copy of Bloody Heather: An Anthology of Scottish Horror Stories was sent to Confessions of a Reviewer by the publishers, Dark Chapter Press, in exchange for an honest review. This is said review.
Dark Chapter Press normally put out anthologies that I would put to the top of any reading list. Bloody Heather is a slightly different theme, being Scottish Horror Stories but one that has the added bonus of featuring a legend of the storytelling world, Graham Masterton. Quite a coup for Dark Chapter Press but then they are good at getting the top names in their books in one way or another.
This one also features two names I have read before in DCP books, David Basnett and Alice J. Black as well as new to me, Stephanie Ellis and L.M. Hunter.
This is what I though.
EVIDENCE OF ANGELS BY GRAHAM MASTERTON
Gillie is hoping and praying that the new baby on the way is going to be her new little sister, Alice. It just can’t be a boy. It can’t be.
A story set in Edinburgh, this is one of those stories that could be set during any time period that has already past. I know it is modern-ish times because of cars being mentioned, but the feeling it gives could put it in the 1800’s such is the bleakness.
There are many different elements to this one. A child’s jealousy, the ignorance of the church or even the madness that dwells within each of us. That’s what I like about stories like this. You could ask ten different people their opinions of it when they are done and you could get ten different answers.
Graham Masterton has not lost his touch for telling a haunting ghost story. I think I would have liked this one a bit longer though. Certainly, without the abrupt ending it had.
On reflection though, it answers many points raised, left just where it does finish.
THE BORDER AND THE BASTARD BY DAVID BASNETT
Kate and her father have moved to a new house from Yorkshire, to a remote location known as Bairnloch. This seems to be for a fresh start after a rough ride for both of them. Kate didn’t want to move. She wants it even less when the weird things start to happen.
Lovely story about a father and daughter wanting to restart their lives in a place that is not all that it seems. As the story progresses, it turns from a lovely story to one of absolute horror, where it appears the people involved are not all they seem either.
Using old legends brought to modern times, Mr Basnett presents us with an old skool horror story that, although done many times before, has a fresh take on it and a couple of twists and turns that you will never see coming.
Filled with an eerie atmosphere from start to finish, this is not one you want to read when you are in the house by yourself and the weather outside is frightful.
DOMNUILL-DHU BY STEPHANIE ELLIS
John was whisked away from Scotland as a child by his mother, and his aunt, Esther. He never knew why, but he always heeded the warnings from his mother never to return.
Now he has a wife of his own, and Mair has talked him into returning to his family home for the funeral of his Grandfather. She is sure everything will be OK. John should have listened to his mother.
Never heard of Stephanie Ellis before but by god after reading this, I will be looking for more of her work.
There are so many different feels to this, I don’t know where to start. If feels quite Victorian in many ways even though it is clear that it is set in modern times. In some instances, it feels almost Lovecraftian. In more than one scene it feels very Hammer Horror and I could imagine the blessed trinity of Cushing, Price and Lee playing starring roles in this story.
Absolutely loved this one.
WRETCHES SUCH AS I BY L.M. HUNTER
Malcolm is doing his best to look after what family he has left. Living with his daughter, his sisters and his nephew in a small cottage, times couldn’t be any tougher.
When Duncan comes to collect the rent, his tactics get tougher and tougher and Malcolm struggles to deal with it. Strange things happening on their land aren’t helping him either. Ghostly things that no one can explain and no one wants to accept.
This is just superb. Absolutely superb. This is like a five season epic series all tied up into one novella that is just fantastic.
You learn so much about the family that you feel like you belong with them. You fear things when they fear them and you feel for them no stop during their times of strife.
The ghostly elements in this one are top notch. Even as I sit and type this short review, I have goose bumps thinking about the story. It is the true definition of creepy.
Seriously, this story just blew me away!
TOUCHED BY DEATH BY ALICE J. BLACK
Hannah is going through a tough time. She has just lost her parents and is struggling to cope. Through circumstances, mainly of her own making, she ends up living with a lady she doesn’t even know, learning things she never knew, and trying to survive things she never thought would happen.
This is another one where you immediately feel connected with the story. The characters are believable and you warm to them very quickly. It took a while to get going with the horror elements of the story but once it did, it surely made up for it.
There is one scene in this one that truly had the ice sliding down my spine.
Alice J Black is another home-grown author that has a very easy style to read. Non-complicated, it will have you engrossed for the entire story. You feel as if the something you have been waiting on could happen at any minute but she teases you just that little bit longer to keep you on your toes.
And then the killer twist that I never saw coming! Bravo for that Ms Black.
So, there you go. My thoughts on Bloody Heather.
Rumour has it that this was one of the very first anthologies that Dark Chapter Press decided to put together back in the early days, and it sat on a shelf for a while, for one reason or another.
I have one response to that; WHY THE HELL DID YOU DO THAT?
This should have been out a long, long time ago.
Themed anthologies are so hard to do. They either hit the mark right from the start, or they equally fall on their faces right from the start. This one hit the bullseye. This one was, obviously, to have Scottish connections and there are plenty of them in these pages.
Scotland has always had a unique kind of Celtic, Gaelic history to it that lends to making a horror story truly horrific. The important thing to remember though is that, that history is not connected to massive monsters or slashers running amok. It’s about legends and myths and making stories creepy more so than horrific, so that the reader feels uncomfortable in their own skin while reading.
Bloody Heather has all of the above in bucket loads. The stand out stories in this one for me were from the two ladies I have never heard of before. Stephanie Ellis and L.M. Hunter have excelled with their stories. I absolutely loved them and I will be hunting these two women down and searching out everything they have written because they have given me a fresh new appetite for fresh new authors writing fresh new horror.
Dark Chapter Press, I salute you. Again.
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Scotland: The Celts, the Picts, the castles, the lochs, the heather, the tartan, and the whisky. Dark Chapter Press have gathered horror and paranormal stories from a master story-teller at the top of his game in Graham Masterton, and four rising stars in Basnett, Hunter, Ellis, and Black, to take you to that land shrouded in bloody heather.
Edinburgh native Graham Masterton takes you to his birth city where Gillie has taken secret vows to be a nun. Her seething resentment that her new baby brother is not a sister coincides with her having visions of angels.
The Border and the Bastard centres around an isolated farm amongst heather strewn hills in the Scottish Borders where Kate and her father are relocating following a family tragedy. When Kate finds a single red rose on her pillow and evidence of animal mutilation, she must piece together the history of Bairnloch before it’s too late.
Ellis weaves a terrifying tale of the pull of family ties and returning to your childhood home to fight your destiny. You’ll never again hear the wail of bagpipes without a shudder and thinking of Domnuill-dhu.
Wretches Such as I transports you to the Western Isles in 1860 where the Malcolm faces the desperate struggle of everyday survival, an evil landowner and a mysterious light in his barn.
Fresh from a failed suicide attempt, Touched by Death sees Hannah taken in by her Scottish great aunt Felicity with dire warnings to avoid the standing stones after dark. But when her past catches up with her, she must uncover the mysteries of Brighglyn and decide which path her life will take.
Graham Masterton (born 16 January 1946 in Edinburgh) is a British horror author. Originally editor of Mayfair and the British edition of Penthouse, Graham Masterton’s first novel The Manitou was released in 1976. This novel was adapted in 1978 for the film The Manitou. Further works garnered critical acclaim, including a Special Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America for Charnel House and a Silver Medal by the West Coast Review of Books for Mirror. He is also the only non-French winner of the prestigious Prix Julia Verlanger for his novel Family Portrait, an imaginative reworking of the Oscar Wilde novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. Masterton was also the editor of Scare Care, a horror anthology published for the benefit of abused children in Europe and the USA.
Masterton’s novels often contain visceral sex and horror. In addition to his novels Masterton has written a number of sex instruction books, including How To Drive Your Man Wild In Bed and Wild Sex for New Lovers.
Masterton currently lives in Surrey, England. His wife and agent Wiescka died on 27 April 2011, aged 65.
In 2002, while living with his wife in Cork, Ireland, he added crime fiction to his repertoire with A Terrible Beauty featuring Irish Detective Superintendent Katie Maguire. This was republished in 2013 as White Bones and sold 100,000 ebook copies in a month. It is to be followed by further Katie Maguire adventures, Broken Angels (2013) and Red Light (2014). In 2010, Masterton published Rules of Duel, a short novel from the early 1970s that he wrote in collaboration with William S. Burroughs (Burroughs has co-author credit).
Hailing from north of Hadrian’s Wall, the true-life inspiration for Game of Thrones’ The Wall, that was built to keep the Roman empire intact, David was raised amid the foothills of the Cheviots and in the shadow of the sprawling Northumberland National Park. His fast-paced style of writing and knack of breathing life into tired genres has established him as a horror and young adult author to watch out for.
Eve of the Damned is his first novel and part one of the Return of the Vampire Trilogy with Eve Evans as the protagonist finding herself at a very strange school.
Island of the Dead is part two of the Return of the Vampire Trilogy and explores more of the Island and Eve’s friendships and foes.
The Shadow of Life is the final part three of the De Omori Trilogy and sees Eve struggling with her first De Omori assignment as she leaves school and has to track down both her grandmother(ish) and a vicious killer.
Ravensdowne is his first horror novel for adults and finds an older, more experienced Eve Evans trying to suppress a wave of murders.
Kill for a Copy is his first collaboration with Dark Chapter Press and is a collection of no filler and plenty of killer that has a dark tale to suit all.
Kids – Kids is an anthology about the devils’ spawn; children who break all social protocol and scare the living hell out of you. Newborn, toddler, infant, teenager? Kids has them all. Whether they’re evil personified or bravely facing evil head on, these children will live long in the memory.
L.M. Hunter is afraid of everything, which made writing horror a natural choice. Born and raised in the gloomy forests of the Pacific Northwest, she now lives in Seattle with her husband and the ghost of their former cat. She works as an educator by day and tweets infrequently as @lauren_m_hunter.
Stephanie Ellis writes speculative fiction stories which have found success in magazines such as Massacre Magazine and Sanitarium, as well as in anthologies by a number of publishers including Alchemy Press, Mystery and Horror LLC, Knightwatch Press amongst others.
She is an active member of the online Flash Fiction community FlashDogs and competes regularly each week with her Flash stories committed firmly to the darker side. In complete contrast she also writes poetry and is a regular contributor to the Visual Verse online anthology.
Alice J. Black
Alice lives and works in the North East of England with her partner and slightly ferocious cats! Alice has always enjoyed writing from being a child when she used to carry notebooks and write stories no matter where she went. Nothing much has changed and she writes all manner of fiction with a tendency to lean towards the dark side. Dreams and sleep-talking are currently a big source of inspiration and her debut novel, The Doors, is a young adult novel which originally came from a dream several years ago. Several of her short stories have been included in anthologies and she is always working on more. When she’s not writing, she always has a book in her hand and will read from whatever genre suits her that day.
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Founded on 1 August 2014, Dark Chapter Press is a horror Publisher with a mission to foster new talent and high quality speculative fiction.