Review of Dracula by Bram Stoker


When I first tried reading Dracula, I got frustrated.  I thought it needed editing and I didn’t like the way it jumped from one narrative perspective to another.  I’ve since changed my mind and I now regard this novel as one of the best ever written.

The fractured narrative stems from the fact that the novel is really a collection of documents: someone has put together all the evidence regarding Dracula.  The documents are in chronological order and we hear many voices throughout.  One narrative voice confirms and adds to another voice: we end up with a chorus.

The story, though very melodramatic (as befits a good Victorian novel) is actually quite gripping and I don’t think anyone has written a more exciting ending in fiction.  I’ve now re-read this novel twenty or more times, and I find myself more and more moved by the writing and the characters.  I once detested Lucy but now I find her story and her fate very sad.  The sequence where she describes her dream while under the Vampire spell is beautifully and tragically poetic.

In fact, the writing is amazingly lush in many parts – just sample the sequence about the attempted seduction of Jonathon by the Vampire Brides.

All in all, this is a thoroughly exquisite, exciting, and touching novel.


Review of The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson


Incomparable classic horror novel.  As a child, the film adaption of this novel was my favourite. I wasn’t even familiar with the term Gothic but I did know I loved a creepy, old-timey horror story.

Jackson’s novel is spectacularly creepy but it is also filled with 3 dimensional characters and this makes the reader even more unnerved.  At the heart of everything is the lonely Eleanor.  Life outside Hill House is so dismal, that the horrors within are actually strangely comforting to her.

I can’t pick a favourite bit, but the picnic scene, where the surroundings suddenly because a photographic negative is probably one of the finest sequences ever written in a horror story.

Oh, and if you are familiar with The Hero’s Journey, you will find it fits this novel admirably.

You can’t really call yourself a horror fan, imo, unless you’ve read this classic!

Review of The Willows by Algernon Blackwood


I always like to think about the transgressions of the protagonists in horror stories.  Something has to cause/invite the horror. In The Willows, the narrator and the Swede eschew human civilization and in doing so, they unwittingly enter into a forbidden territory: “we allowed laughingly to one another that we ought by rights to have held some special kind of passport to admit us, and that we had, somewhat audaciously, come without asking leave into a separate little kingdom of wonder and magic–a kingdom that was reserved for the use of others who had a right to it, with everywhere unwritten warnings to trespassers…”

As is usual in horror, despite the many warnings the protagonists receive, they arrogantly or naively persist in their journey. The narrator’s dismissive tone soon changes. The moral of this story appears to be that man has his place in the world, but there are some spaces/places that are not meant for him.  The narrator and the Swede stumble onto what appears to be a conduit to another universe or realm.  The forces of man and of alien cannot co-exist: one of them must be destroyed. Clearly, there must be areas left on earth that are unsullied by the human race: there must be some room allotted to The Other.

This is a masterly, chilling tale.  It’ll certainly be considered a bit slow in its pacing by modern audiences; however, if they have the patience, they’ll certainly be rewarded.

Reader Response


A friend of mine offered to be a beta reader for “He Sees You When You’re Sleeping”:

This story is about a child who made a child’s choice decision without realising it would entrap him for life. To free himself, he needed to replace himself. So in his desperation, he chose his own nephew… at the same age he was when he made his decision.  

Further note: The psychology behind this story is SPOT on! If this was a real event (minus the santa elves thingy) this boys last good memory was with his sister as children. His next memory is that of children desperate but acting out of self preservation. This was his learning years and by the time he became an adult, he would have no understanding of social right and wrongs. So it is not surprising he would choose the closest relative to replace him.  Your story is that of the paedophile. He knows no wrong, acting out of self preservation taught as a child.  Many might wonder why he chose his nephew. I wasn’t surprised at all as this nephew was the one he could get closest to with out setting off alarms. You even got the age right! Well done. These little boys/men are still children and can not be released from this cycle until the replace themselves. But unfortunately it only frees them for a time. 

I had NO idea I was tapping into that particular mindset but now that it’s been mentioned, I can really see that that is what I’ve done.  Told the most horrible story imaginable.

Finally, with respect to “Stefano”, this same friend enthused:
FUCKING BRILLIANT! YES!! This story will make a mother think before following doctors advice. The kid could not awake to save himself due to the drugs so died of fright (even subconsciously causing himself physical harm to fit his… nightmare) a.k.a stigmata.   Yes I know this is just a story…but I see horrible reality for so many children kissed off with drugs never getting to the source of the real problem, then they suppress and later it comes out as a story like Uncle John scared me when he grabbed me- he must have touched me etc…… This and He sees you when you are sleeping are stories I respect and hope to see more of them.”

You know, I never thought “stigmata” when I wrote the story, but now I realize that’s what he had and all that that implies.  My friend, I noticed, reacted quite strongly to the child-in-danger themes – and they are powerful, if done correctly and not cheesily.

I swear, writing is an exploration into one’s own psyche and the critical response one receives is like “therapy”, for want of a better word.  Perhaps that really is the single only reason anyone ever writers anything…….



I just saw an interview with Philip Glass, the composer.  I like his soundtracks a LOT.  Kundun, Dracula, The Hours: he’s composed mesmerizing music, imo.

Well, he’s related that during his early concerts, there would be people in the audience who would stand up and scream during the performance.  They would throw eggs!  EGGS?  Do people really do that???

They wouldn’t just leave after that.  They would stay and disrupt.

Philip said it was clearly a political act.  Who just carries eggs in their pockets?

That made me think: if he could survive that pure vitriol, yet remain an artist, and become a success….well, then any artist should be able to suffer the slings and arrows.

It’s just an excellent reminder…….