Jim Mountfield’s folky fortieth

 

© Horrified Magazine

 

My horror-writing alter-ego Jim Mountfield has just had a short story published in the new anthology Horror Stories from Horrified (Volume 2): Folk Horror.

 

‘Horrified’ refers to Horrified Magazine, a webzine devoted to British films, television and literature in the horror genre.  The magazine’s current literary editor William J. Brown, its former literary editor John Clewarth and its editor-in-chief Jae Prowse have put this collection together.  Meanwhile ‘Folk Horror’ refers – quoting its entry in Wikipedia – to “a subgenre of horror… which uses elements of folklore to invoke fear in its audience.  Typical elements include a rural setting and themes of isolation, religion, the power of nature, and the potential darkness of rural landscapes.”  Or as Jae Prowse puts it more poetically in his introduction to the collection, it’s macabre storytelling with evocations “of briar and bramble, of the quiet eeriness of rurality, of secrets buried in the earth, and of the fiend in the furrows.”

 

According to my calculations, my story in Folk Horror is the 40th one I’ve had published under the pseudonym Jim Mountfield.  Entitled Bottled Up, it’s set in East Anglia, a place where I lived in 1998, again in 2002, and then again in 2008-2009, and a place that ranks as perhaps my favourite part of England.  While a lot of examples of folk horror have strange rural communities welcoming hapless outsiders into their ranks, for nefarious reasons – see Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man (1973) or Ari Aster’s Midsommar (2019) – Bottled Up is about an ancient sect that’s just fearful of outsiders and exists to keep them at bay, something that might resonate in the 2021 Britain of Brexit and Covid-19.

 

Horror Stories from Horrified (Volume 2): Folk Horror is now available at the Horrified Magazine shop and can be ordered here.  Incidentally, the magazine’s previous collection, Horror Stories from Horrified (Volume 1): Christmas is still available, contains another Jim Mountfield story called First Footers, and might be a timely purchase as Christmas 2021 approaches.

Another encroachment by Jim Mountfield

 

© Schlock! Webzine

 

Hot on the heels of my previous announcement about my fantasy-writing pseudonym Rab Foster having a story published in Swords and Sorcery Magazine comes the news that my horror-writing pseudonym Jim Mountfield has just had story published too, in Volume 16, Issue 21 of Schlock! Webzine.  Entitled The Encroaching Sand, it’s as much a pessimistic meditation on the inescapability of fate as it is a horror story and it was inspired by a year I spent in a remote part of Libya, working as an academic manager and living in an adjacent apartment at a university campus that was, basically, in the middle of nowhere.

 

When I wasn’t working, and especially at weekends, there was absolutely nothing to do and, it seemed, absolutely nobody else around in this place.  It was possibly the most psychologically difficult thing I’ve ever done.  Although in hindsight, of course, I was fortunate.  I left Libya just a few months before the drawn-out revolution, anarchy and bloodshed that saw, finally, the overthrow of Colonel Gaddafi.  I just hope that during that difficult time no harm came to the people I worked with.

 

One thing I did during that year to combat boredom – I started writing and submitting horror stories under the penname Jim Mountfield.  That was almost 40 published Mountfield stories ago.  So eventually, for me, the experience had a positive result.

 

During October 2021, Schlock! Webzine, Volume 16, Issue 21, can be accessed here and The Encroaching Sand itself can be accessed here.

Another orchestration from Rab Foster

 

© Swords and Sorcery Magazine

 

My short story The Orchestra of Syrak is now available to read online in the 116th issue of Swords and Sorcery Magazine.  As the name of the magazine suggests, The Orchestra of Syrak belongs to the fantasy genre and for that reason it’s been published under the penname Rab Foster, the name I attach to any fiction I write that involves magic, castles, mythical monsters and brawny, heroic swordsmen lumbering around clad in nothing but leather jockstraps, and that evokes the spirit of such writers as Robert E. Howard, Michael Moorcock and Karl Edward Wagner.

 

Actually, The Orchestra of Syrak involves only a small dollop of magic and monstrousness and contains no castles or brawny swordsmen at all.  It’s about a group of thieves who discover a strange assortment of musical instruments and, if it’s indebted to any writer, then it probably owes something to the American pulp-ster Clark Ashton Smith.  In the 1920s and 1930s, Smith churned out dozens of phantasmagorical stories, many of which were published in the doyen of pulp-fiction magazines, Weird Tales.  In the 1970s, some of his better-known stories appeared in Britain, published by Panther Books in paperback collections with titles like Lost Worlds Volume 1 and Volume 2, The Abominations of Yondo and Genius Loci.  The collections’ covers featured some fabulously colourful and evocative artwork by Bruce Pennington.  In fact, I like Pennington’s artwork so much that I’ll use this entry as an excuse to reproduce it here:

 

© Panther Books

 

Returning to Clark Ashton Smith – one thing you can’t ignore about him is the unashamed verbosity of his prose.  He was never a writer to use one adjective when half-a-dozen, multi-syllabled and archaic ones would do.  I know I’m guilty of overwriting occasionally, but the opening paragraph of The Orchestra of Syrak contains six adjectives and adverbs, while in the similar-sized opening paragraph of the title story in The Abominations of Yondo I counted 21.  Still, although Smith’s prose veers off into dark shades of purpleness, I have to say I find it endearing, though it’s not something I can digest in more than small doses – any more than I’d want to eat slices of rich, dark, thickly-creamed Black Forest Gateau all the time.  (I think it’s a shame, however, that so many young, up-and-coming fantasy writers are so influenced by Smith that they laboriously try to emulate his writing style.  While Smith’s style is uniquely appealing, that of his imitators is often just unreadable.)

 

For the next month, The Orchestra of Syrak can be read here, while the home page of issue 116 of Swords and Sorcery Magazine can be accessed here.

 

And here’s a picture of the young Clark Ashton Smith, looking oddly like Jarvis Cocker in his His ‘n’ Hers period.

 

From wikipedia.org 

Jim Mountfield takes a train

 

© Midnight Street Press

 

My short story Ballyshannon Junction is featured in the recent anthology Railroad Tales, edited by Trevor Denyer and published by Trevor’s Midnight Street PressRailroad Tales is a collection of stories ‘involving railroads, trains, stations, junctions and crossings’ that also involve the ‘horrific, supernatural or extraordinary’.  For that reason, Ballyshannon Junction is attributed to the pseudonym Jim Mountfield, the penname I attach to my macabre fiction.  (Well, my real name ‘Ian Smith’ hardly sounds as evocative as, say, ‘Edgar Allan Poe’ or ‘H.P. Lovecraft’ or even ‘Dean R. Koontz’.)

 

Ballyshannon Junction had a long gestation period.  It’s rooted in my childhood in Northern Ireland when, up until the age of eight or nine years old, I was lucky enough to have a former railway station as my personal playground.  My family were farmers and, after my parents got married, my grandparents decided to move out of the family farmhouse to let their son and new daughter-in-law get on with the running of the farm.  They bought the nearby Bundoran Junction, a former railway-station building and its surroundings that’d last seen trains in 1957 when the Irish Northwest line was closed, and they lived there in retirement.

 

The property had two platforms, one by the line to Enniskillen in County Fermanagh and one by the line to the seaside town of Bundoran in County Donegal.  My grandfather planted trees along one line and filled in part of the other to create a lawn.  I often spent the day there, or stayed with my grandparents overnight, and the place was like catnip to my young imagination.  The station house had a glasshouse-like annex that I’d always thought was the old waiting room, although I’ve recently learned that it operated as a ‘refreshment room’.  In addition, there were sheds, a pavilion building, a pond whose water was presumably used for filling the old steam locomotives and, best of all for a kid like me, an intact signal box with a staircase leading up to it – great for playing at being soldiers, knights, the Foreign Legion, the US Cavalry or anything else that might require a fort.  I also remember a section of rusty metal wall that, according to this website, had once been the station’s urinal and, obstinately, still stands today.

 

Just to make the Junction seem more exotic still, the strip of ground behind the station building, between the two platforms and lines, was covered in trees. This belt of woodland was only a few metres wide, but to someone of my small size and immaturity it seemed like a dense forest.

 

In the mid-1970s, my grandparents relocated to the village of Ballinamallard, three miles away, and Bundoran Junction was bought by a retired clergyman, the Reverend Robert Simmons, and his family.  However, after that, I remained a regular face at the Junction because I was at school with the Simmons’ two sons and sometimes got invited to visit them.

 

I’d been trying to use my memories of the Junction as the basis for a story since my teens. In fact, when I was 16, I wrote the first 20 pages of a story wherein a young homeless man, wandering about the countryside, stumbles across a disused railway line and starts living in an old signal box.  There were no station building or platforms in the story, and I added a railway tunnel, but otherwise the setting was identical to Bundoran Junction.  (The story’s premise was that the young man became convinced that something hideous and evil was lurking in the tunnel.  He’d even find weird slimy footprints in the mornings, leading up the stairs to the door of the signal box, which suggested the thing was stalking him.  But – curses! – I could never figure out what the thing in the tunnel actually was and eventually I abandoned the story.)

 

In the years since, I’ve tried several times to write other stories based on the Junction, but with a similar lack of success.  Then, earlier this year, when Trevor Denyer announced that Railroad Tales was open for submissions, I decided to try again.

 

It also occurred to me that with my previous attempts at Junction stories, I’d always set the action not in Northern Ireland, but in some anonymous, generic tract of the English countryside.  This time, I thought, why not write something about Bundoran Junction that’s actually set in Northern Ireland?  To my surprise, I got the story finished and, to my immense satisfaction, it was accepted for Railroad Tales.

 

Not only does Ballyshannon Junction – Ballyshannon is a town in Donegal that’s close to Bundoran, the place that the real Junction was named after – take place in Northern Ireland, but it’s set in the year 1982, which wasn’t long after the period when I played there as a kid.  For that reason, although it contains supernatural elements, Ballyshannon Junction is also informed by the mistrust, conflict, sectarianism and terrorism that blighted Northern Ireland at the time.

 

309 pages long, and bringing together 23 weird and creepy stories with a railway theme, Railroad Tales can be purchased through Amazon UK, here.

 

From eadiemcfarland.co.uk

Rab Foster gets theatrical

 

© Aphelion Webzine

 

I’m pleased to announce that my 13,000-word story The Theatregoers has been published in the July 2021 edition of the webzine AphelionThe Theatregoers is a sword-and-sorcery story in, I hope, the tradition of such revered pulp writers as Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith and C.L. Moore and, as usual with my fantasy fiction, I have published it under the pen-name Rab Foster.

 

On this blog I’m not normally presumptuous enough to offer other writers, or aspiring writers, advice on how they should go about creating stories.  On this occasion, though, I’ll suggest two strategies that helped me to put The Theatregoers together.

 

Firstly, when you have an idea for a story, get that idea written down as quickly as you can before it flits from your memory again.  (At my age, things flit from my memory with terrifying speed.)  I have a 17-page-long document on my computer hard drive containing more than 400 ideas I’ve had for stories over the years and I’m constantly adding to it.

 

Admittedly, many of those ideas will probably never see the light of day as stories and, to be honest, looking at some of the ideas I wrote down long ago thinking they were bolts of divine genius, I don’t think the world will be missing anything if they don’t.  I doubt if anyone really wants to read a story about the notoriously bad Dundonian poet William McGonagall building a time machine in order to travel back in time to prevent the Tay Bridge Disaster from happening; or about a Sri Lankan tuk-tuk driver who’s secretly a superhero; or about ‘a fashion show for serial killers’, where the dresses have been fashioned out of…  Well, you can probably guess what they’re made of.

 

The other writing strategy I’d suggest is to keep reviewing your list of ideas and particularly think about how two or more ideas can be incorporated into one story.  In other words, don’t see each idea as a single seed from which a single story is grown.  Many times, I’ve had an idea that’s looked good on paper but that has resolutely refused to develop into a story – until it’s occurred to me to try splicing it together with another, seemingly totally different idea elsewhere on the list.

 

In fact, with The Theatregoers, I ended up throwing no fewer than four disparate ideas from my 17-page list into the creative blender.  I’d always wanted to write: (1) a story set in an abandoned city out in the middle of some inhospitable desert (similar to the setting of the 1921 H.P. Lovecraft story The Nameless City); (2) a story set in a theatre, where the characters would have adventures falling through trapdoors, scrabbling down stage curtains, flying about on wires above the stage, running through storerooms full of assorted props, and so on; (3) a story about vampire-like creatures that don’t drain their victims of blood but of moisture; and (4) a story about a tattooed person whose tattoos aren’t as inanimate as you’d expect, reminiscent of the title character in the classic Ray Bradbury collection The Illustrated Man (1951).  Somehow, I came up with a single, hopefully coherent narrative.

 

© Panther Books

 

For the next few weeks, the main page of the July 2021 edition of Aphelion can be accessed here, while The Theatregoers itself can be accessed here.

Rab Foster gets perspective

 

© Schlock! Webzine

 

I still remember the moment when I discovered Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian stories and, by extension, the joys of sword-and-sorcery fiction.  I was ten years old and my family had just boarded the ferry at Larne on the east coast of Northern Ireland.  We were heading across the Irish Sea to Stranraer in southwest Scotland, where we planned to spend a week’s holiday.  (In years to come, we would be on that ferry many more times.  However, by then, we’d moved to Scotland permanently and were travelling in the other direction, back to Northern Ireland to visit family and friends.)  Anyway, the ferry-trip took about two-and-a-half hours, which seemed like an eternity to a restless ten-year-old like me.  To escape the prospect of extreme boredom, I went straight to the ferry’s little onboard shop and bought a slim paperback from a bookrack there.

 

The book was Conan the Freebooter (1968), which caught my eye because its cover featured the titular barbarian engaged in a bloody fight with a giant ape.  It contained five short stories about Conan’s exploits in the Hyborian Age, a mythical era of forgotten civilisations, magic, monsters and romance that’d supposedly existed tens of thousands of years ago between the destruction of Atlantis and the beginning of recorded history.  Actually, only three stories of the five were proper Conan ones written by Robert E. Howard – Black Colossus (1933), Shadows in the Moonlight (1934) and A Witch Shall Be Born (1934).  The other two, Hawks Over Shem and The Road of the Eagles (both 1955), were actually non-Conan stories by Howard that’d been set in Egypt in 1021 AD and the Ottoman Empire in 1595 respectively.  However, another author, L. Sprague de Camp had sneakily rewritten them years after Howard’s death, resetting them in the Hyborian Age and replacing their original heroes with Conan.

 

Anyway, as I sat on that ferry reading that particular book, my enthusiasm for the sword-and-sorcery wing of fantasy literature was kindled.  Warriors, knights, sorcerers, witches, kings and queens, princes and princesses, goblins, trolls, ogres and dragons, populating castles, fortresses, palaces, citadels, gladiatorial arenas, mysterious forests, mist-shrouded lakes, dark caves and foreboding mountain passes, involved in the casting of spells, the summoning of demons, epic quests to locate mystical objects with fantastical powers, Machiavellian court intrigue, battles, sieges, swordplay, derring-do and much, much bloodshed…  How could the imagination of a ten-year-old not be fired by all that?  Admittedly, I found the busty, lascivious wenches who kept popping up in the Conan stories a bit boring, although needless to say I appreciated their presence more when I was a few years older.

 

Of course, decades have passed since then and my opinions of Robert E. Howard and his oeuvre have changed somewhat.  Yes, I still respect him for knowing how to tell a proper story.  But it’s difficult to read the average Conan story now without wincing at least half-a-dozen times at the barbarian’s swaggering sexism – those aforementioned busty, lascivious wenches had little to do apart from throw themselves adoringly at their hero’s feet – and the general undercurrents of racism and ableism.

 

And there are plenty of other sword-and-sorcery stories by other writers I’ve discovered since then that I prefer.  For example, there are the Jirel of Joiry stories, a swashbuckling fantasy series written both about a woman (Jirel) and by a woman (Catherine L. Moore), which appeared in the 1930s at the same time as the Conan ones, their polar opposite in the sex-war stakes.  There’s Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series (1958-1988), which wittily rip the piss out of the genre.  And there’s the Kane novels and short stories (1970-1985) written by the underrated Karl Edward Wagner, which feature an immortal swordsman who’s as violent and immoral as Conan but whose adventures are described with considerably more intelligence.

 

Anyway, this is all a preamble to saying that Rab Foster, the alias under which I write my own fantasy fiction, has a new sword-and-sorcery story called Perspectives of the Scorvyrn published in this month’s edition of Schlock! Webzine.  I see it as a back-handed tribute to Robert E. Howard.  The two main characters are opportunistic warriors in the mould of Conan and have a similar swing-your-sword-first-and-ask-questions-later attitude to life.  Unfortunately, their lack of scruples and imagination leads them into serious trouble.  And that’s trouble with a feminist tinge…   Moreover, much of the story is written in the present tense and, as its title suggests, it’s told from multiple perspectives.  That’s a style and approach that I’m sure a writer as traditional and old-school as Howard would have absolutely bloody hated.

 

For now, Perspectives of the Scorvyrn is available to read here, while the homepage of the May 2021 edition of Schlock! Webzine can be reached here.

 

© Lancer Books / John Duillo

Jim Mountfield rides shotgun

 

© Shotgun Honey

 

Jim Mountfield, the pseudonym under which I write fiction of a (usually) dark hue, has just had a short story published in the webzine Shotgun Honey, which is dedicated to the ‘crime, hardboiled and noir genres’.

 

The story is called Karaoke and is inspired by the seven years I spent living in Japan – seven years during which, astonishingly, I spent a lot of my free time hanging out in bars.  The majority of those bars were frequented by suited salarymen, staffed by immaculate hostesses and equipped with karaoke machines.  Although I was always too shy to sing at the start of an evening, I’d have somehow overcome my shyness by the end of it – a dozen Kirin beers might have had something to do with it – and I’d be up there warbling into the microphone with the best, or worst, of them.  This was in the 1990s and the English-language selection on the machines was pretty middle-of-the-road and non-raucous – Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Tom Jones, Pat Boone and the early Beatles – which meant I was usually crooning stuff like Fly Me to the Moon or Love Letters in the Sand.  Eek.

 

As Shotgun Honey is about crime, however, the story features yakuza gangsters as well as karaoke-singing.  Incidentally, the three main characters are named after three people I knew in Japan.  Mr Ashikawa and Mr Hiraizumi were both teachers at the high school where I worked for the first two years – Mr Ashikawa was a calligraphy teacher and he’d answer the staffroom phone with a memorably singsong cry of “Ashikawa desu!”  Maybe that’s why I made his fictional namesake a talented singer.

 

The character Umeki, meanwhile, is named after a lovable rogue I had in my classes while I taught at a university in Sapporo, which was my job for the subsequent five years.  Let’s be tactful and just say he wasn’t the hardest working of my students.  A week before I left Japan, the real-life Umeki invited me out for a few drinks and we ended up in one of his haunts, a bar whose interior resembled Ernst Stavro Blofeld’s penthouse in Diamonds are Forever (1971).  I think he was keen to create the impression that he lived the lifestyle of an international playboy, but I can’t help suspecting that today he’s become a grumpy and greying Kacho-San (‘Section Chief’).

 

For now, Karaoke can be read here.  This story comes with a trigger warning for lovers of alcohol, who may be traumatised by the fate that befalls a 21-year-old bottle of Hibiki Whisky.

 

From unsplash.com / © Alex Rainer

Jim Mountfield is away with the fairies

 

© DBND Publishing

 

Jim Mountfield, the penname under which I write horror fiction, has just had a third short story published in 2021.  The story is called When the Land Gets Hold of You and appears in an anthology from editor Nate Vice and DBND Publishing called The Cryptid Chronicles.  As its title indicates, the stories in the collection all concern cryptids, that pseudoscientific category of animals that some people claim to exist but nobody has ever conclusively proven to exist.  Among the more famous examples of cryptids are Chupacabra, the Jersey Devil, Nessie and Sasquatch.

 

In When the Land Gets Hold of You, a storm knocks over an ancient oak tree on a Scottish farm and the hole created by its torn-up root system releases some unfriendly creatures from centuries of hibernation.  The creatures are modelled on the fairies found in Scottish folklore.  And as the story’s main character points out: “Fairies only became domesticated in Shakespeare’s time. He wrote A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which turned them into the Walt Disney beings we know them as today.”  But before Shakespeare: “…humans feared and despised them… you can’t deny what’s in those old legends. Fairies were feared. People were terrified of them.”

 

The creatures in When the Land Gets Hold of You are actually inspired by two types of Scottish fairy.  Firstly, redcaps were supposed to lurk in the peel towers that were built near the southern Scottish border to guard against invading armies from England.  The most notorious redcap is the one associated with the dark, oppressive Hermitage Castle in Roxburghshire. According to legend, William de Soulis, son of the castle’s founder, Sir Nicolas de Soulis, practised the dark arts and employed a creature called Robin Redcap as his familiar.  Robin Redcap was a hideous being. In his book about the mythical beasts of Scotland Not of this World (2002), Maurice Fleming describes him as “a thick-set old man with fierce red eyes, long tangled hair, protruding teeth and fingers like talons.”

 

Also providing inspiration is the brownie, which is actually supposed to be a benevolent fairy because it performed chores around households and farms while the human occupants were asleep.  However, if you visit Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, you’ll see a famous painting by Edward Atkinson Hornel called The Brownie of Blednoch (1889), which portrays the brownie of the title as a grotesque thing with grey-brown skin, pointed ears, a crooked mouth, eyes that resemble poached eggs and a beard that’s as long, swirling and tentacled as an octopus.  That said, even the monstrous-looking brownie in the painting is shown performing a service, which is guarding the local shepherds’ flocks at night-time.

 

In recent years, filmmakers have cottoned on to the notion that fairies and their associated lore provide promising material for horror movies.  Alas, the two horror films I’m thinking of, The Hallow (2015) and The Hole in the Ground (2019), both of which were Irish and used fairies as their ‘monsters’, were disappointing and missed opportunities in my opinion.  Much better are a handful of short stories by the underrated Scottish writer Dorothy K. Haynes. Changeling, Paying Guests and The Bean-Nighe all feature malevolent fairies and appear in her excellent 1949 collection Thou Shalt Not Suffer a Witch.

 

Offering 199 pages of chilling, cryptid-orientated entertainment, The Cryptid Chronicles can be purchased here.

 

From Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Riding out with Jim Mountfield

 

© Schlock Webzine

 

In 1970s Britain, it seemed television viewers couldn’t get enough programmes about the strange, dark and macabre.  For scary TV anthology series alone, this decade saw the broadcast of Beasts (1976), Dead of Night (1972), The Frighteners (1972), A Ghost Story for Christmas (1971-78), Leap in the Dark (1973-80), Shadows of Fear (1970-73), Supernatural (1977), Tales of the Unexpected (1979-88) and Thriller (1973-76).

 

One thing that’s often overlooked, though, is that there weren’t just plenty of scary programmes aimed at adults.  British children’s television in the 1970s delivered a fair number of chills too, most notably with series that were ostensibly science fiction but weren’t afraid to creep out their young audiences with their dystopian or plain weird scenarios, for example, Sky (1975), The Changes (1975) and – the kids’ show with the freakiest credits sequence everChildren of the Stones (1977).

 

In addition, 1970s kids in the UK – of whom I was one – also got their own supernatural anthology series.  This was Shadows, which ran from 1975 to 1978.  Its standalone episodes were penned by a range of surprisingly illustrious writers, including Joan Aitken, Susan Cooper, P.J. Hammond, Penelope Lively, Trevor Preston and the Mother of the She-Devil herself, Fay Weldon.  Yes, back then, treated to Shadows’ tales of ghosts, witches, timeslips and even folk horror (as essayed in the 1976 episode The Inheritance), we kids didn’t know how lucky we were.

 

I think I was inspired by Shadows and its tales of 1970s kids and teenagers having encounters with the supernatural when I recently wrote a short story called The Stables, which has just been published in the online journal Schlock! Webzine – attributed, as usual with my scary fiction, to the pen-name Jim Mountfield.  What the characters have to endure in The Stables, though, is considerably nastier than what their equivalents experienced in Shadows.

 

As its title suggests, the story also involves horses, which were another popular trope in 1970s British children’s TV shows.  There was, for example, Follyfoot (1971-73), set in a ‘rest-place’ for horses, and The Adventures of Black Beauty (1972-74), inspired by the 1877 book by Anna Sewell.  Both shows are probably best remembered nowadays for their jaunty theme tunes.  The Follyfoot theme was a number called The Lightning Tree, performed by pop-folk band the Settlers.  Meanwhile, the Black Beauty theme, Galloping Home, written by Dennis King and performed by the London String Chorale, is much admired by Alan Partridge (“It’s brilliant!”).

 

The Stables is now available to read in Volume 16, Issue 13 / the February 2021 edition of Schlock! Webzine here, while its homepage can be accessed here.

 

© Thames Television

Hanging around with Jim Mountfield

 

© Horrified Magazine

 

I’ve just had my first short story published in 2021.  Where the Little Boy Drowned, which is attributed to Jim Mountfield, the pen-name I put on my horror fiction, is now featured in the ‘Stories’ section of the online magazine Horrified.

 

The story belongs to a sub-genre that I like to think of as ‘constant jeopardy’.  The main character or characters spend the whole story, or most of it, stuck in a dangerous situation where the odds look stacked against them getting out of it alive.

 

Examples of constant-jeopardy stories include Jack Finney’s Contents of a Dead Man’s Pockets (1956) and Stephen King’s The Ledge (1976), both of which have their protagonist trapped on a narrow ledge high up the side of a towering apartment building.  Two other examples are stories I’ve read by the Spanish writer Vincente Blasco Ibáñez and by Winston Churchill (who very occasionally wrote fiction when he wasn’t politicking) that are both called Man Overboard.  As their shared title suggests, these are about someone falling off a fast-moving ship, into the middle of the ocean, without anyone else noticing that they’ve fallen off.

 

However, the most gruelling constant-jeopardy story I’ve come across is The Viaduct, written by Brian Lumley and first published in 1976.  It’s about two boys who, for a dare, decide to cross the titular viaduct not by going along the top of it but going along underneath it – using 160 rungs, which for some reason the structure’s builders have installed there, as monkey-bars. The viaduct straddles a very deep valley and you can predict that this isn’t going to end well.

 

I don’t want to give too much away about Where the Little Boy Drowned, but one of its key plot elements is a length of rope.  There’s also a supernatural element to it, with a faint nod to Japanese horror films – J-Horror – and particularly to Takashi Shimizu’s 2002 chiller Ju-On: The Grudge.

 

Where the Little Boy Drowned can be read here, while this link will take you to Horrified’s main page.