Author Archive

On Kubrick’s THE SHINING

DENIAL OF TRUTH:

The Act of Acting in THE SHINING

 

Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is a cinematic inkblot; what you see on the screen is interpreted differently by each viewer. Look at it long enough and you’ll likely come away with your own vision, your own meaning.

There are many interpretations of The Shining, covering a variety of subjects. What follows is just my own thoughts regarding a few specific areas of analysis, namely the themes of truth, denial, and the danger of repeating past mistakes, how these themes are reflected in the characters, and about some common criticisms regarding the central characters and why I feel these criticisms are unwarranted.

One of the most frequent criticisms of Kubrick’s version of The Shining has to do with the characters of Jack and Wendy; the actors Kubrick chose to play the parts, and how they are portrayed, especially when compared to the Stephen King novel on which the film is based. The changes, the critics opine, aren’t just unnecessary, they detract from the story, robbing King’s creation of its inherent power and purpose. That would be true if we were talking about a literal adaptation of the source material. But we’re not. We’re talking about an artistic interpretation, a case of the filmmaker using the source material as a blueprint, a jumping off point to create his own unique vision, a platform to invest his own ideas and themes into an already existing world.

Let’s first look at the character of Jack Torrance. A common criticism is that Jack, as played by Jack Nicholson, goes crazy too soon (or is already loony to begin with). This in turn doesn’t let the viewer feel his plight as a man who goes crazy while staying with his family at The Overlook Hotel.

This perceived flaw comes down in part to expectations. What the viewer assumes the movie is about as opposed to what the movie is actually about. They assume, perhaps largely based on their familiarity with the novel, or with horror tropes in general, the film is about a sane man who gradually goes crazy while working as a caretaker at a hotel over the winter. So, they automatically place these assumptions onto the movie, these prejudices, and when they don’t conform to these assumptions, they consider the film inherently flawed. But a film should always be judged on its own terms.

Kubrick was a fiercely intelligent and creative filmmaker with his own unique ideas and style, and the choices he made regarding character behaviour shouldn’t be tossed away as simply poor judgment. In Kubrick’s films, artistry and authenticity take precedence over convention and realism.  I believe there was a reason he chose an especially animated actor such as Jack Nicholson to play Jack Torrance, and had Nicholson play the character unhinged from the get-go. Having Nicholson’s character already half-crazy to begin with cuts into what I see as one of the movie’s central themes: denying your true self, and how by doing so, you’re doomed to be trapped in a cycle of repeating the mistakes of the past.

Rather than the conventional plot of King’s novel, that is, a story of a relatively normal family dealing with the horrors of the spirit world and past indiscretions while staying at the Overlook, I believe Kubrick wanted to look at an already fractured family and how refusing to face up to their true selves and deal with their problems is the real cause of the ensuing horrors.

Jack Torrance is a violent, abusive alcoholic. He’s also a man in denial of these parts of his personality, the monster part of him. Rather than face up and deal with his demons, he instead puts on a front, a mask of normality. It’s this Jack we meet at the beginning of the movie: an apparently congenial, friendly man who’s looking forward to spending five months at the hotel. But, it’s an act. All’s not well with Jack; he may appear together, but his disordered interior is starting to show itself externally (notice, for example, the small yet obvious flap of wild hair at the back of his otherwise presentably combed head during the interview in Ullman’s office, like a piece of himself has split). Kubrick highlights this artificial exterior by having Nicolson give a heightened performance – because you tend to exaggerate when you’re feeling one way inside but putting on an opposite front for the world to see.

This is why Nicholson’s acting is over the top. His character is already unhinged (aside from obvious personality issues – insecurity, rage – he’s an alcoholic who hasn’t had a drink in five months), but there’s more: Nicholson is playing an unhinged man faking a normal, happy exterior. So: burgeoning madness wrapped up in a brittle mask of sanity. It’s when he starts to unravel that his true personality ‘shines’, and the monster is finally unleashed. Which, like the hotel, is ornate, baroque, and larger than life. In Kubrick’s films, theme and content merge, whereby storytelling aspects such as structure, editing, and acting reflect the underlying themes and ideas. So it is with Nicholson’s performance. As Jack Torrance becomes more seduced by the hotel, becomes more a part of it, so his acting reflects the hotel: ornate, larger than life.

His snarling, barking performance in the latter part of the film echoes the monsters of fairy tales: he’s the big bad wolf, the giant from ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’, and the witch from ‘Hansel and Gretel’ all rolled into one. At one point Jack even recites lines from ‘The Three Little Pigs’ as he terrorises his wife and son. Jack has finally peeled off the outer sheep layer, the one he’s been wearing since the start of the movie, to reveal the wolf beneath.

Along with warnings of the dangers of living in denial, The Shining is also about abuse; parental abuse, spousal abuse, and the abuse of man against man. The spectre of Jack’s abuse towards his family looms like the Native American rugs and artefacts that adorn the hotel (which was literally built on the remains of the local indigenous people), reminding us of man’s tendency towards violence and the repeating pattern of violence that will continue unless we face the truth head-on and learn from our mistakes. As such The Shining is filled with references to man’s dual nature of good and evil: twins, symmetrical set design. And mirrors.

In the movie, mirrors represent a kind of truth: the mirror concepts of good/evil, truth/lies. Take the scene in the bathroom of room 237. At first, Jack sees only a beautiful young woman emerging from the bathtub, his blindness to the truth making him see what he wants to see. It’s only when he looks in the mirror (truth) that he sees the old mouldering corpse. Also key is the scene after, when he retreats back to his residence, and Wendy asks him if he saw anything. Even though clearly a horrible, bordering on traumatic, incident, Jack, true to his being in denial about the truth – the ugly monster he really is – denies seeing anything.

Because Jack is a man in denial, he also denies the ghostly truth of the hotel. He sees the ghosts – if you take them as being real spirits, and there’s no reason not to – which means he also ‘shines’ (the title refers not only to Danny, but also to Halloran, Jack, eventually Wendy, and also to the hotel itself). But rather than act accordingly, with fear (like Danny) or amazement, he treats the ghosts as normal. In a way he treats them as real people, just regular hotel staff and party guests, thus denying his gift.

Look at the order of when the Torrance family start to shine, and how this relates to the themes of denial and truth: Danny, the innocence/truth already shines. Jack is next to shine, revealing his true self relatively early on in the movie, but he denies his gift and so descends further into madness, doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. Wendy is the last to face up to the truth, and hence is the last to shine, but as she accepts the ghostly reality presented to her, she is able to overcome her failings and save herself and her son. Halloran even hints at this denial vs. acceptance early on in the movie. He tells Danny, while discussing the shining ability over ice cream: “There are other folks, though mostly they don’t know it (Wendy) or don’t believe it (Jack).”

So, rather than think about Kubrick’s The Shining as a story of a normal man who gradually descends into madness while staying at an isolated hotel during the winter, I suggest thinking of it in this way: The Shining is the story of an already unstable man tipping over the edge into insanity while staying at an isolated hotel during the winter. It’s a small distinction, but I believe an important point of difference. Think of the basic plot in this way and Nicholson’s performance won’t seem so needlessly over-the-top, with the arc of Jack’s story being about how he loses his tenuous grip on sanity because of his weakness, his denial of truth.

The other performance often criticised is Shelley Duvall’s. Some say she’s terrible, that she overacts (or simply acts badly). That her character is just a simpering fool who’s there merely to play the part of the typical female horror movie victim. A badly miscalculated portrayal of what was a strong female character in the book. I think the Wendy Torrance of the film is deeper than that, a vital component of the story, and that writing her character off as badly written, acted, or that Duvall was miscast, misses the point of her character, what she represents, and how she fits in with the themes of denial, and why Kubrick drastically altered her character for his film.

I think Kubrick made a master decision to alter the character of Wendy Torrance for his film. In the novel, she’s an ex-cheerleader type who, to paraphrase King, hadn’t had to deal with any real problems before and so has to face them in the hotel. Really, Mr King? Wendy hasn’t had to deal with any real problems in her life before coming to the Overlook? What about living with an abusive alcoholic who once broke her son’s arm? I am a big fan of the novel, I think it’s a sensational haunted house story, one of the few novels to unnerve me when I first read it as a teenager, but it’s conventional in its approach: conventional characters going through conventional narrative arcs. The film, however, goes deeper psychologically and is more unconventional.

The Wendy of the film is an insecure person; meek, compliant, someone who has trouble standing up for herself. Someone who finds it hard to leave her overbearing, alcoholic husband, instead making excuses for him, allowances for him, preferring to live in denial and pretend everything is hunky-dory rather than face up to the truth and making the decision to leave her toxic marriage. King thought the Wendy of the book should have been carried over into the film, but I disagree. The Wendy of the film is a more believable character, the type more likely to not only marry but stay with a man like Jack*, and she brings a vulnerability not present in the novel. It’s an aspect of the character – a victim of abuse, someone outwardly happy but inside broken and terrified – that I don’t see many people discussing, let alone recognising.

So as much as the film is about a man struggling with his demons, The Shining is also about a victim of domestic abuse finally getting the courage to stand up for herself and escape her abusive relationship, and in doing so saves both herself and her son. But she has to get to that point, and getting there isn’t an easy journey. She’s trapped, like in a maze.

Like mirrors, mazes play an important role in the film, both story wise and thematically. There’s of course a literal maze, the hedge maze, and the hotel itself, with its winding corridors, vast chamber-like rooms, and dead-ends, acts as another kind of maze. The Overlook, a surrogate home (Jack and Wendy want to believe it’s a kind of extended holiday, but you can never truly escape your problems, no matter how far from home you are) traps the characters inside its haunted walls – the world’s largest and most majestic maze. And the Torrances – Jack and Wendy specifically – are unknowingly trapped in a maze of their own making; they are lost in a maze of pain, abuse and denial, going around in circles, seeing only what they want to see, unable to see the big picture, oblivious to the fact that the exit – the truth – has become obscured, and dangerously out of reach. Only Danny knows the truth, if only instinctively; right from the beginning he – or, rather, ‘Tony’ – doesn’t want to go to the Overlook, knowing the maze of violence and madness that awaits them. And when Wendy does eventually come to the truth, it’s nearly too late. She’s been wandering around in a daze of denial for so long she has become trapped right at the heart of the maze – the self-imposed maze, as well as the labyrinthine Overlook, and now she must navigate the harsh reality if she wants to get out alive.

Like with the character of Jack Torrance, Wendy in the first half is a woman who is acting. She’s also in denial; denial of the true nature of her husband’s personality, and of their toxic marriage. She’s existing in a world of make-believe-happy families. She’s also wearing a mask, a fake ‘happy’ exterior. This false happiness is most apparent when Wendy, like Jack, is around people other than her family. Wendy is reluctant to admit the truth to the doctor about the injury Danny sustained from Jack when he was younger. But when she does, her demeanour changes. She still smiles, but there’s unease behind the smile, a nervousness about her as she convinces the doctor – and herself – that Jack hadn’t meant to hurt Danny, that it was all just an accident. Deep down she doesn’t believe it, but she’s acting; she’s in denial. Again, Kubrick makes Duvall’s faux happiness an exaggeration (this is especially evident during the tour of the hotel early in the film, with Wendy’s over the top observations such as, “This place is fantastic, isn’t it, Hon?”), highlighting the idea that these people are living in denial of their true selves. Their lives aren’t honest, and if they don’t look at themselves and see the truth, then their world will come to a bloody end. If Jack doesn’t face the truth, then he’ll wind up like the previous caretaker, Grady, and slaughter his family. If Wendy doesn’t wake up and admit the truth, then she and her son are in danger of dying at the hands of a madman.

Fortunately, unlike Jack, Wendy does eventually see the truth. It’s a truth she can no longer choose to deny, and it’s only when her mask of denial is removed and she finally opens her eyes and sees it (via that teller of truths, the mirror – Redrum) that she starts to protect her son and her true personality shines through.

This Wendy, however, isn’t the strong action-woman type that viewers are so used to seeing in horror films; the ‘final girl’ so to speak. No, Wendy may have finally seen the truth, but she’s a broken woman beneath the mask, a woman who’s been living in fear and so she regresses to a kind of state of shock, as the truth about her husband and her life – in all its horror, including the danger she has put her son in by staying with Jack – is almost too much for her to bear. Now she’s opened herself up to the truth, she’s overwhelmed by the spectral visions that come flooding at her, like blood gushing out of the elevator. I think Duvall plays this damaged, insecure, abused, terrified woman perfectly. It may not be the type of performance given by the type of actress many viewers are used to or expect (those damn expectations and prejudices again) but it’s an authentic one. Which makes it all the more affecting.

Just a side note about how Kubrick highlights the fakeness of the two adult lead performers by way of exaggerated performances. Notice how he counteracts this with having the son, Danny, underplay. Notice how Danny speaks, his movements: unlike his parents, he speaks quietly, almost at a mumble, without much expression. Because, unlike his parents, he knows the truth about the Overlook. As he plays the truth in the movie, the innocence, he’s the only one in his family who acts with realism – opposite to his parents’ phony exaggeration. The other prominent characters in the film – Halloran, Ullman, Grady, and Lloyd – also underplay compared with Jack and Wendy. These actors seem to inhabit a more conventional style of acting, closer to the realm of naturalism, whereas Nicholson and Duvall often seem to be performing a grandiose play.

So, it appears that having his two adult leads exaggerate to theatrical proportions, when all other actors act naturally, was a deliberate choice on Kubrick’s part, and not merely a result of miscasting or bad direction. The theme of denial of truth, of people trapped in a state of artificial living forced to deal with the violent reality that comes with truthful admission, is reflected in both the structure of the film and the performances. It’s why Kubrick chose to present a family already damaged and living in denial; why Jack comes across as already mentally unbalanced and goes mad quickly; and why Wendy comes across somewhat ditsy early on and bordering on madness later.

The Shining shows us that by taking account of our inherent defects, we can overcome our flaws and ultimately survive and prosper: both as individuals and as a species. Jack is a monster, an ogre who presides over the innocent like a giant, but is ultimately undone by his own weakness. By not admitting his own truth, blinded by arrogance and rage, he remains trapped in a maze of his own doing, a maze of madness, and it’s no coincidence his downfall comes about by him getting lost in the hedge maze. If, like Jack, we refuse to acknowledge the monster in the mirror, then we as a people are destined to remain locked in a repeating pattern of violence and madness (as symbolically portrayed by having Jack – or the spirit of Jack – trapped in an old hotel photo; a kind of purgatory). However, if like Wendy we’re able to stop living in denial and are instead able to face up to the truth, then we’ll break free from the cycle of abuse and lies and make it out alive.

Damaged, yes, but wiser.

False truths are often easier to deal with than reality. But living a lie is damaging to the soul. And the ghosts of the past will come back to haunt you if you don’t learn from history’s mistakes. For me, these are the great underlying truths of The Shining.

 

 

 

 

*While working on this piece, I came across an interview with Kubrick, conducted by Michel Ciment (as found in the book Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining: Studies in the Horror Film, edited by Daniel Olson). To my pleasant surprise, I read the following, in which Kubrick confirms my own long-held opinions about the character of Wendy Torrance. He also gives a small insight as to why he chose Shelly Duvall to play Wendy and the changes he made to her character: “I think she brought an instantly believable characterization to her part. The novel pictures her as a much more self-reliant and attractive woman, but these qualities make you wonder why she has put up with Jack for so long. Shelley seemed to be exactly the kind of woman that would marry Jack and be stuck with him.”

 

 


New Interview

London tour company Strawberry Tours recently interviewed me about Jack the Ripper. Read my thoughts about this most infamous of serial killers here.


The Awakening Re-Released

AwakeningI’m thrilled to announce that my coming-of-age/voodoo novel, The Awakening, has been re-released. Initially published as a limited edition hardcover four years ago by Tasmaniac Publications, this is the first time the novel will be available in the US in both paperback and eBook editions. The new edition comes with a foreword by author James Newman (Midnight Rain) and is published by Bloodshot Books. Available to buy in paperback and Kindle.

“THE AWAKENING is a riveting and fascinating novel that really grabs readers. I loved that it’s a coming of age novel that thrusts readers into the story and won’t let them go. Brett McBean was already one of my favorite authors but THE AWAKENING is one of the best books I’ve read in years, and I can’t recommend it highly enough!” – John R. Little, author of THE MEMORY TREE, MIRANDA, and URSA MAJOR

“A story that raises itself above a simple horror tale, THE AWAKENING resonates with heart while applying just the right amount of chills. Highly recommended!” – Ronald Malfi, author of THE NIGHT PARADE

Welcome to the small Midwestern town of Belford, Ohio. It’s a quiet, friendly town. On one corner of Main Street you’ll find Barb’s Corner Store. Opposite you’ll see the town square, with its neatly trimmed lawn and statuesque gazebo. There’s everything you need here. There’s even a local bogeyman. You know the type: reclusive, looks a little strange. The person all the kids are afraid of. Every town has one. Except this one is stranger than most.

Meet Mr. Joseph. With his severely crooked neck and nasty facial scar, the old man from Haiti is the one resident all the kids whisper about and are scared to go near. But there are things about Mr. Joseph no one knows about. He has no heartbeat. No breath passes by his lips. And he has been dead for over ninety years.

It’s summer vacation and fourteen-year-old Toby Fairchild is looking forward to spending a lazy, carefree summer playing basketball, staying up late watching monster movies, and camping out in his backyard with his best friend, Frankie.

But then tragedy strikes. And out of this tragedy an unlikely friendship develops between Toby and the strange old man across the street, Mr. Joseph. Over the course of a tumultuous summer, Toby will be faced with pain and death, the excitement of his first love, and the underlying racism of the townsfolk, all while learning about the value of freedom at the hands of a kind but cursed old man.

Every town has a dark side. And in Belford, the local bogeyman has a story to tell.


The Invasion of Fear

Here’s an article I wrote about the inspirations behind my novel, The Invasion. In it you’ll read about my boyhood fear of home invasions, the Manson murders, and my thoughts on horror fiction writers writing stories from fear. Check it out at Shotgun Logic.


Five Real Life Home Invasions

I’m a true crime nut. The Invasion, like a lot of my fiction, is drawn from real life horrors (specifically the Tate-LaBianca murders). Over at HorrorTalk, I discuss five home invasion cases that have deeply disturbed and affected me over the years. You can read my article here


Top 10 Home Invasion Movies

Are you a fan of home invasion movies? I am. I’m a sucker for any and all horror/thrillers that deal either in part or wholly with the terrifying threat of a home invasion. I’ve seen a lot of home invasion movies, it’s one of my favourite sub-genres, and so I thought I’d narrow the pile down to the ten most memorable. My thanks to Matt and the good people at Addicted To Horror Movies for allowing me to invade their site.

My Top 10 Home Invasion Movies


Two New Reviews

So far, feedback for my latest novel, The Invasion, has been overwhelmingly positive, and I couldn’t be happier. I’m thrilled readers are responding to it.

Here are two recent reviews:

The Scary Reviews

iHorror (also contains a bonus interview after the review)

The Invasion is available now in both paperback and Kindle


Another Interview

You can read the interview at Sylv.net here. It’s short and sweet, so won’t take up too much of your time.


New Interview

I was recently interviewed by Gef Fox, about my latest novel release, The Invasion, as well as about writing in general. You can read the interview at the Wag the Fox blog, here


The Invasion is here!

InvasionpbkMy latest novel is now available! I’m thrilled to say the paperback and digital editions of my horror/thriller novel The Invasion have been released and are now available to purchase.

Paperback

Kindle

It was supposed to be a quiet end to a long day: five close-knit family and friends settling in for some much-needed sleep after coming together for an early Christmas party.

Instead, it’s the beginning of a shocking night of brutality when six intruders break into the sprawling residence of Debra Hillsboro, a middle-aged romance novelist with a fierce devotion to her loved ones and a strong kinship with her home of almost thirty years.

Armed with smartphones and a modern brand of madness, the intruders – an internet-age cult disconnected from humanity and addicted to causing fear and mayhem – have come to the secluded property for one purpose: to terrorize, and ultimately kill, everyone inside all while filming their heinous crimes.

Outnumbered and cut off from the outside world, the terrified occupants find themselves trapped in a fight for survival as a once place of safety is turned into a deadly maze of darkened rooms and forbidding hallways. On this sweltering summer night, they must somehow find a way to escape before the cult turns the beloved home into a house for the dead.

Also, if you’re a reviewer or run a site dedicated to books or all things dark and disturbing, contact Hook of a Book Media and Publicity to be a part of The Invasion book tour.

 


The Invasion hardcover

I’m thrilled to announce that the limited edition hardcover edition of The Invasion will be published by the wonderful Thunderstorm Books. I’m excited to be working with them again, and couldn’t be happier with the cover artwork, which was done by Alex McVey.

More information about the limited edition can be found here. If you’re interested in securing a copy, best get in quick, as numbers are extremely limited.

Invasion1

 


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Lock your doors, The Invasion is coming…

Invasionpbk


The Awakening cover reveal

Here’s the cover for the upcoming US release of The Awakening. Design by Kealan Patrick Burke.

Awakening


The Awakening to be resurrected

I couldn’t be happier to announce that my coming-of-age/voodoo novel, The Awakening, is set for a re-release later in the year. The novel was first published in limited edition hardcover by Tasmaniac Publications in 2012, followed by an Australian paperback/digital release by LegumeMan Books. Now, the good people at Bloodshot Books will be releasing the first US edition, to be published in both paperback and digital formats. To find out more, click here:

The Awakening Coming in August


Three New Releases

As is often the case with writing, sometimes you can go for months, even years, without a single release. Then, like blood from a knife wound to the jugular vein, they can come pouring out in one great spurt.

Over the past few weeks, (after a drought of almost two years) I’m pleased to report I have three new works/editions that have been released. They are:

mammoth

THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF JACK THE RIPPER STORIES. This anthology of Ripper tales contains my story, ‘A Child of the Darkness’. The UK paperback and eBooks editions (Robinson) is now available: Little, Brown. The US eBook is available now (Running Press) with the paperback to be released December 22nd: Amazon

 

blurring

BLURRING THE LINE. A new anthology of horror and dark fantasy stories that contains my story, ‘With These Hands’. Published by Cohesion Press. The eBook edition is available now, with the paperback to follow: Amazon

 

schmerz_des_erwachens

DER SCHMERZ DES ERWACHENS (THE PAIN OF AWAKENING). The German edition of my novel, THE AWAKENING. Published by Festa Verlag in a special collector’s edition, limited to 666 copies.


Horror and the Slender Man

I was recently interviewed by writer and journalist Andrew Masterson about the Slender Man case specifically, and horror in general. The article has just been published in The Age. You can find the article here:

Slender Man – the comic book comes to real-life horror


New Novel Complete

I’m excited (and relieved!) to say that I’ve finally finished the last round of edits, and so the new novel is complete! Titled The Invasion, it’s a very dark thriller concerning a home invasion. Loosely based on the Manson murders, and drawing from my own fear/morbid fascination with home invasion crimes, it’s the first in a planned home invasion series, and goes to some very dark places indeed in telling the story of one terrifying night when a modern-day cult break into the house of a bestselling novelist and proceed to terrorize the occupants. As a brutally realistic story, and one heavily influenced by real life crime, it’s similar in tone to The Mother, and should appeal to fans of that novel.

Watch this space for more information regarding the novel.


Melbourne Signing

WCAaron Sterns and myself will be at Dymocks, Melbourne, on the 14th of March, signing copies of the Wolf Creek prequel novels. It should be a great evening, so we’d love to see you there. Details of the event can be found here.


Wolf Creek Novels Launch

einvite-wolfTo celebrate the release of Penguin Book’s Wolf Creek prequel novels, Notions Unlimited Bookshop is hosting an official launch party. Come and meet writers Aaron Sterns and Brett McBean, get your copies of Origins and Desolation Game signed, down some libations and mingle with other Mick Taylor fans. Date: February 1st 2014, starting at 4pm. For more information about the event, click here. Hope to see you there!


Competition Time!

*UPDATE: The five winners have been decided, so the competition has ended. Thanks to all who played and congratulations to the five winners! For the record, my all-time favourite Aussie horror movie is: LONG WEEKEND (1978).

To help celebrate the release of the Wolf Creek novels, I’m giving away five signed copies of the second installment, Desolation Game.

As Wolf Creek is one of Australia’s greatest horror movies, I thought I’d make the competition Oz Horror related. All you have to do is guess my all-time favourite Australian horror movie (note: Wolf Creek is out of the running as an answer, for obvious reasons). The first five correct guesses each win a signed copy of Desolation Game: Wolf Creek Book 2.

Send your guesses to either my email address (brettmcbean@hotmail.com) or a PM on Facebook. Happy guessing!


The Game Is On!

DGFINALHappy New Year to all my wonderful readers! Exciting news to begin 2014: the Wolf Creek prequel novels are now available! The thoughtful folks at Penguin Books Australia know you’ll be looking for summer reading fare, and what better way to relax under the Aussie sun than by reading about that lovable cad from the outback, Mick Taylor. Be sure to pick up both the first book in the series, Origin, and of course the second book, Desolation Game. The books are available online in both paperback and eBook editions, and I presume in bookstores all around Australia soon. For more information about my book, click here.


Top 5 Reads 2013

It’s almost the end of the year, and so I thought I’d post my five favourite reads of 2013.

castle1/ We Have Always Lived in the Castle – Shirley Jackson
I’ve long been a fan of Jackson, but this novel put her in the upper ranks of favourite writers. A stunning book, darkly comic and filled with memorable characters. A look at small-town America through Jackson’s truly unique eyes.

ham2/ Ham on Rye – Charles Bukowski
This has now replaced Post Office as my favourite Bukowski novel. Funny as hell, yet with a bittersweet honesty.

women3/ Women – Charles Bukowski
I went on a Buk kick early in the year, reading (and in some cases re-reading) almost all of Buk’s novels. While not quite as concise and punchy as Ham on Rye or Post Office, I found Women to be one of Buk’s funniest and in some ways, his most quintessential. Full of hard-drinking and even harder women.

basal-ganglia-large4/ Basal Ganglia – Matthew Revert
A stunning leap forward for the talented writer/publisher/designer. For me, it’s Revert’s most mature and fascinating work. A unique tale about a pillow fort, a wool baby and identity. Marvelous.

rebecca-arrow-edition15/ Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
The Hitchcock film has been a long-time favourite of mine. I’ve been meaning to read the novel for many years. This year, I finally got around to it. Excellent gothic romance, as good as I had imagined it would be.


Wolf Creek: The Novels!

DGFINALWell folks, I can finally announce a project I’ve been eager to share for a while now. Coming soon from Penguin Books Australia – Desolation Game: Wolf Creek Book 2, by Brett McBean and co-written with writer/director Greg McLean. Penguin Books plan on releasing six prequel novels, all original stories that chart the bloody rise of Australia’s favourite fictional psychopath – Mick Taylor. The first two prequel novels (Origin, co-written by Aaron Sterns and McLean and Desolation Game) are scheduled for release January 2nd 2014, in the lead-up to the release of the second Wolf Creek film in February. I couldn’t be more honoured to be a part of this iconic Oz Horror film series, and I hope readers will embrace these original novels.

SYNOPSIS:

When sharpshooter and killer Mick Taylor searches for a place to keep a low profile, he finds somewhere where his peculiar talents are appreciated: a war. And in Vietnam, an out-of-control sergeant takes the amateur murderer and turns him into a pro.

Back home, Mick makes use of the sick lessons the army taught him, when hapless tour operators bring a Kombi-load of sightseers out his way into the Western Australian desert. Two suspicious flat tyres deliver an engaged Japanese couple, a father and son, a US army vet and his girlfriend, and a couple of cute girls to Mick’s lair. Middle of nowhere, population one. The group finds themselves in hell, as Mick makes sure their once-in-a-lifetime tour stays that way. And though one of the drivers escapes and goes for help, Mick sees no reason to stop the killing spree.

In the second Wolf Creek prequel novel, the cult film’s writer/director Greg Mclean and horror writer Brett McBean get to the heart of Australian horror’s most terrifying psycho killer. Is Mick Taylor possessed by some dark power in the landscape itself? Something ancient? Does the Red Centre demand blood?


Keep Notions Unlimited Open!

Notions Unlimited Bookshop has reported that, sadly, unless it sees a substantial growth in its customer-base, the Chelsea-based spec-fic bookshop will be forced to close its doors. The owner/manager, Chuck McKenzie, is a long-time friend and a big supporter of my work. He also works hard to help promote Australian authors and publishers, and his bookshop is one of the few specialist shops in Australia dedicated to all things horror, fantasy and science-fiction. It would be utterly sad to see such a wonderful place close. We need bookshops like Notions Unlimited and we need people like Chuck. So please, help spread the word. Buy all your spec-fic books at Notions Unlimited and tell all your friends and family to do the same.