Lurcher for Beginners 9: Bitey Face!

Get the bandages out, it’s time for some violence – although this may not be what you think. We’re not talking about horror stories where body parts get eaten or pulled off, or weird stories of people’s heads going wrong today. Instead, we’re back among the lurchers and longdogs, and we have some guests along for a change.

Not only are there some jolly good photos provided by Mandy Locky, Gina Beck, Richard Woolley and Julie Stringer, but we have an American guest, Katrina Stumpf, as well to share something from her blog. More about them in a minute, but first, the Great Game…

sykes and sui, from julie
sykes and sui, from julie – apparently the dribble fallout was extensive

Lurchers are weird. Yes, they do share many characteristics with other dogs, but they have peculiarities which seem to be seen more often in the type. We’ve said before that many lurchers don’t like to sit, that their deep chests and joint articulation give them a gait and posture of their own, that they like sleeping upside down with their legs in the air and so on.

And though almost all dogs play, our extensive scientific studies show that bitey face is more common in lurchers and sighthounds than in other dog breeds or crosses. You might be able to prove us wrong, but do you really have the time and resources of the dedicated greydogtales research team to do so? We think not.

cody playing, from katrina
cody playing, from katrina

Bitey face is a game well known to lurcher enthusiasts. Basically, it consist of two or more lurchers posturing and doing play-bows, bums in the air and tails wagging furiously. Before you can say “How sweet,” and pour another cup of tea, they are launching themselves at each other with their jaws wide open.

where lurchers get it from - jurassic bitey face
where lurchers get it from – early bitey face

It is, on the surface, a game which looks like two insane predators trying to eat each other. Teeth clash audibly, heads end up in mouths, ears get put at serious risk and so on. You think it’s over, and then one of the little darlings does that play-bow again, and they’re off for a second or third round.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
the classic play-bow: roxy and lizzie, from katrina

The play-bow is, incidentally, a good sign that your dogs are having fun, not itching for actual violence. Bodies are generally relaxed, they will take pauses, and sometimes swop who’s on top.  There will be fur grabbing and snapping, but not ‘sink your teeth in’ biting.

Lurchers may have long, slender muzzles, but they still have serious teeth. Django has teeth which belong in Jurassic Park. Let’s not kid ourselves – bitey face is an alarming sight. The first time our neighbours saw it, they were almost shrieking with concern, convinced that Django and Chilli had decided to murder each other. Two pleasant, licky dogs had turned into a blurred ball of bared canines, wild growls and quite a lot of legs. The dogs were fine, but we did have to sedate the neighbours. Who’d have thought chloroform was so expensive?

odin and scully, from gina and mandy
odin and scully, from gina and mandy – hey, that’s my head!

Is bitey face actually dangerous? The general answer is no. Dogs aren’t stupid (except the odd one who is). A lot of the time it’s only a fun muzzle-rubbing bit of rough and tumble. The dogs take it in their stride.

OK, they can very occasionally catch each other’s lips, noses and ears by accident. Ears, for some reason, bleed like a blood transfusion centre during a January sale, even though the wound itself is quite minor. But we’ve not had a bitey face game so far where anyone got seriously damaged, so we don’t worry about it.

lizzie and roxi, from katrina
lizzie and roxi, from katrina

If it’s getting out of control, and we’re sick of the noise and the over-turned chairs, we spray the dogs with a house plant sprayer full of cold water. All this does is surprise them, and they stop the game to see what’s going on. Bitey face is an important part of their play. They don’t unplug your television, so why should you stop them enjoying their own entertainment?

scully and odin, from mandy and gina
scully and odin, from mandy and gina

Bitey face on the run is hard work to monitor. Once they get up to speed and start snapping at each other as they charge (their idea of fun and egging each other on), the lip cuts get more likely – not because they’re being nasty, but their momentum is so great. Even then no harm is usually done. As we tend to run ours with open basket muzzles on, the loudest sound is of them bashing the plastic muzzles together, which they seem to enjoy.

lizzie and roxi, from katrina
lizzie and roxi, from katrina

We have heard of humans trying to play a version of bitey face with their lurchers. We do not recommend this. Firstly, you will lose. Make sure that you haven’t wagered any money (or chicken carcasses) on the outcome. Secondly, there may be parts of your face which you quite like. We suggest that you hang onto them. Time alone will do enough damage there without helping it along.

It may also be relevant to point out that the pain of having a dog’s tooth accidentally rammed up one of your nostrils is, well, not to be sneezed at. We have experienced this. Trust us.

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time to take a break – rudy and maggie, from richard

Finally for this section, we were sent a couple of short bitey face videos by a nice chap called Richard Woolley, who clearly knows the phenomenon well. Richard says “We adopted Maggie in August. A very shy and timid girl and didn’t come out of the kitchen or conservatory for about 6 weeks! That’s when she bolted out of the front door! Missing for 4 days. At Xmas we adopted Rudy, a big lump who loves attention but very calm and a great influence on other dogs including Maggie. She’s much better but still very timid, still keeps her distance but the two of them are joined at the hip.”

Here’s one of the vids – Maggie and Rudy.

Fastgreyz

You’ll notice that we sort of cheated in some of the pictures above – some are actually greyhounds – but that’s still cool here. Katrina Stumpf is an American from Virginia who is involved in rescuing retired racing greyhounds. We were looking for neat pictures of bitey face, and came across her lovely blog fastgreyz, which covers all sort of greyhound-related goings-on.

cora, cody and lizzie, from katrina
cora, cody and lizzie, from katrina

Her current pups are – Cody, a black male 7 years old; Lizzie, a white/red 3 year old female and Cora, a white/brindle 9 year old female who had 4 litters of racing greyhounds after her race career. She also has a non-greyhound Roxi, a 3 year old hound/spaniel mix adopted from local adoption group who rescued her from a high kill shelter in West Virginia.

katrina's late cali, running
katrina’s late cali, running

Unlike us, Katrina has a very fast camera, and picks up photographic gear specifically for action shots. Which is why her pictures show dogs at play in close detail, whereas many of ours show dogs’ bums disappearing off the edge of the shot.

power-dog lizzie, from katrina
power-dog lizzie, from katrina

Katrina supports local rescues, and there are tons more great photos on her blog, which you can find here:

fastgreyz

lizzie, from katrina
lizzie, from katrina

We thank all our contributors, and wonder if we actually managed to match all the right dogs and people in the photos. Probably not.

Do join us again on greydogtales at the weekend. It may be weird fiction or art next time, we’re never quite sure…

 

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The Wet World of British Comics

Once upon a time there was a house. Then some idiot filled the loft so full of books, comics and vinyl LPs that the entire building collapsed into a rubble-filled crater. Luckily the idiot was out with his lurchers at the time. The idiot’s partner tried to comment, but little could be heard through her insane frothing. The dogs nodded, peed on the wreckage and wandered off…

317809-20703-124116-1-fish-police
the fish police never sleep

It hasn’t quite happened yet. However, whilst delving through mounds of really dodgy seventies science fiction and fantasy novels up there, we do regularly find a lot of comics and graphic novels. Many of these have been carefully stored (to maintain their pristine condition and collectable value) by shoving them under pieces of an old bunk bed to stop the rafters giving way.

They are in surprisingly good shape, the ones that the rats and squirrels haven’t found over the years. After many hours of going “Blimey, this one’s complete pants,” and “Wow! Tomb of Dracula,” we finally excavated the Fish Police. As we’d recently asked about aquatic-style comics on Facebook, and received some great suggestions, we decided to return to our nautical weird theme. It’s…

Stranger Seas Ten

We’re actually going to show off some British comics aquatic heroes today, but the Fish Police should never be forgotten, so we will mention them. This was a great series by cartoonist Steve Moncuse. It concerned an underwater city populated entirely by talking fish (why not?) and its law enforcement problems. Inspector Gill floated round in a sort of Bogarty, noir way, facing organised crime and generally being… a fish policeman. We like a title that sticks to the point.

The original Fish Police stories were published from 1985 to 1991, and for added greydogtales amusement, we note that it was made in to a short-lived Hanna-Barbera animated show for TV in 1992. Apparently only six episodes were made, and only three were ever aired in the States. Here’s an episode you can watch:

But let’s get down to a handful of aquatic characters from dear old Britishland. Time for Aquavenger, Norstad, Fishboy and more. Only two more actually, in case you get over-excited. We’ve tried to credit sources at the end of the article, but anyone is welcome to say “This is wrong,” or “This is mine, give it back,” and we’ll happily do the necessaries. We’re comics fans, not experts.

Aquavenger is triffid, as we say here. He emerged in (and only in) Pow! Annuals, from Odhams. Pow! was one of those British comics which tried to have more mergers than editions – well, almost. After a short run in 1967 and 1968, Pow! absorbed Wham!, but was itself eaten by Smash! This was a time when every magazine was soon to be called “The Amateur Angler, incorporating Lady Bicyclist and Boy’s Own Spiffing War Adventures”.

no relation to any classical sea gods
no relation to any classical sea gods

Bob Shane, captain of a rusty little ship called the Crab, somehow rescues an old chap who he finds clinging to wreckage at sea. Much to our surprise, the old chap turns out to be Neptunius, a being who possesses “ageless powers”. In order not to be confused with anyone else, Neptunius has thoughtfully left his trident at home.

Despite the fact that he doesn’t appear to have enough power to stop himself having to cling to wreckage, he offers our Bob “unlimited power in the crusade against the powers of darkness”. As far as we can tell, Bob then goes back to limping around in his ship most of the time. Except when he yells “Aquavenger” and transforms into a superhero.

We find it particularly fine that Aquavenger’s nemesis disguises his intentions by calling himself… Admiral Nemesis. Clearly a villain with a taste for wordplay.

Creative attribution – we think Aquavenger was created by Philip Hebden, and mostly drawn by Victor Ibanez at one of the Spanish comics studios.

Norstad of the Deep, on the other hand, is a heart-warming story of a fishman with an axe. Also from Pow! Annual, Norstad was definitely not human. Or a god.

SDC13956 (2)

In fact, he is the deposed rule of an underwater kingdom in the Pacific, who loses his strength and courage, and as a result is doomed to be picked up by yet another interfering human ship.

We see that you can still buy some of the original 1971 artwork for Norstad, watercolour on board:

SONY DSC
11″ x 15″, ortiz, book palace

book palace comics art

Creative attribution – Leopoldo Ortiz for the art.

From fishman to Fishboy: Denizen of the Deep. This young chap appeared in the Buster comic from 1968 onwards, ending in 1975. Buster was a more long-lived comic than Pow!, and is fondly remembered from our own youth.

fish_01

In a typical story of the time, Fishboy was abandoned at an early age somewhere on a remote island. Naturally under such circumstances he learned to breathe underwater and converse with fish. How could he not? Turning aquatic, he soon had slightly webbed extremities, and possibly super-speed or something like that. We got hung up on how exactly a small Brit mutated so violently without radioactive waste or cosmic rays. And also why they keep emphasising that his hands and feet are only slightly webbed.

fishDen_01

Creative attribution – written by Scott Goodall and drawn by John Stokes.

The Jellymen strikes out in a new direction, and their story is one of those “invasion from the deep” tales quite popular with British writers. Remember 1953’s The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham?

This strip was in The Beezer in 1960, and starred the jellymen themselves, who rose from the sea bottom to take over Britain. We have no idea why. Rationing in the UK had only ended six years earlier. Perhaps they felt some kin with the gelatine we were using in our trifles and plates of brawn, and sought to liberate wobbly food items everywhere.

BubGH

Anyway, the jellymen were sort of see-through purple-grey creatures with lots of limbs and suckers, vaguely humanoid, who ‘bubbled’ on things, including people, and trapped them for later usage.

Fortunately, as so often happens, a science teacher was at hand. One “Potassium” Roberts, in this case, who mobilised his students and, with a knowledge of chemistry which somehow eclipsed that of the major academic and engineering institutes of the day, dissolved the jellymen’s plans. Our old chemistry teacher, dear “Bugsy” Blythe, would have been proud of him.

Creative attribution – all we can find is that the strip was drawn by Ken Hunter.

Almost finally, from The Hornet, which ran from 1963 to 1976, comes Dolphin Patrol, completely different again. The Hornet, as you might guess, then merged with The Hotspur, which was later incorporated into The Victor. After this they all became a wool-pattern magazine called Knitting for Boys (& Junior Taxidermy).

This one is set during World War Two, and describes the thrilling adventures of young Johnnie Dawson and his trained dolphins. Presumably refused entry by Brisbane Marineworld, Johnnie decides to spend his time fighting the Japanese in the Pacific. An odd choice which hardly seems fair on the dolphins, but that was how comics were at the time.

NOTE: Our researcher Django couldn’t find a decent-sized illo for this one. So it’s not our fault.

Creative attribution – art by Dave Sutherland and Shone.

We said almost finally because we’re going to end with another US aquatic hero whom we have only just encountered. Dolphin first appeared as far back as 1968 in DC Showcase #69. At this stage she looks sort of period-wholesome, like something from Bunty.

Showcase079Dolphin00

Later she was revamped, gained some sort of darker ‘alien experiment’ vibe, and turned into someone who seemed a lot more kick-ass. She started hanging out with the Aquaman gang, and even became Aquaman’s lover at one point. Whether this change is good or bad we leave up to you.

artist yet to be determined
artist yet to be determined

Creative attribution – Dolphin was conceived of by Jay Scott Pike.

####

A number of the characters featured above were suggested by the Mighty World of British Comics group on Facebook, and we duly thank them. Snippets and some illos have also been drawn from the following sites, who deserve full credit:

http://petergraycartoonsandcomics.blogspot.co.uk

http://www.internationalhero.co.uk

http://kidr77.blogspot.co.uk

http://mangamax-aieeee.blogspot.co.uk

http://britishcomicart.blogspot.co.uk

Next time on greydogtales – Barring unforeseen events, Bitey Face: An illustrated guide to how your lurchers are not actually killing each other, and after that – more horror!

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Five Books What I Did Not (Quite) Write

Do you have an unsold novel under the bed? Did you write Larry Potter and the Chamberpot of Secrets years before J K Dowelling even thought of the endearing Weasel family? You are not alone, dear listener, for I, J Linseed Grant, have been there and wept the bitter tears of Why Didn’t I Get My Act Together Sooner.

hey, we can't play bitey face with these on...
hey, we can’t play bitey face with these on…

We’re going to return to the lurchers next week, including a post on the super game of bitey face, which is a common cause of sheer terror and misunderstanding if you come across it without warning. However, as it’s the weekend, we’re relaxing and throwing yellowed, crumbling manuscripts up in the air for fun.

All these money-making plot ideas were mine, once. Brooding young vampires called Edwin who are covered in shiny sprinkles when you get them in the sunlight, and who have a troubled relationship with a nearby clan of were-badgers. Found footage horrors such as the Bleurgh! Witch, in which a group of students drink too much pale ale and wander off in the woods only to become terrified by their lack of proper sanitary facilities. And my classic Fifty Shades of Beige, where a woman is lead into the strange world of Dulux paint charts, a journey of self-discovery which exposes her desire to paint her house in taupe, oatmeal and barley all at the same time.

SW_Neutral_04
an unexpurgated version of that dulux chart

A long time ago, way back before I started greydogtales, before I began to write short stories, I produced big, solid novels. We’re mostly talking the late eighties and early nineties here. They were very big, solid novels. The sort where you settle for a rough weight in kilos rather than a word-count. I didn’t do much with any of them, I merely added to the stack every year or so. It wasn’t long before being in paid employment became more important than constant editing and re-writing for no tangible reward, and the process was pretty much abandoned.

But the ‘stack’ still existed in principle, and over these last few months I’ve been finding out where the little poppets were – under a table, in the loft, propping up an old printer etc. I’m pretty sure I’ve found all of them now, and I’ve even glanced through sample chapters. Having done so, I think it’s likely that most won’t ever see the light of day again (the only obvious exception is the horror novel I mentioned a few days ago, House of Clay, which which may yet happen -see author writes book).

You see, I didn’t write those books. Another me, many years ago, wrote them. It’s very tempting to go back and reflect on old, cherished things. You only need a shovel, a lantern and easy access to a cemetery, and you’re away… no, that wasn’t what I was talking about, was it?

The temptation I meant was that one where you get your early work out and wonder if you can still peddle it somewhere. A tweak here, maybe an ‘in’ phrase there, make that character a woman and take out the references to Disraeli…

The truth is that in most cases their time has passed. Some have concepts that were new and exciting when written, but are now commonplace. It’s quite irritating, really, to write something in 1986 and then see your idea used as a regular formula thirty years later. Whining “I thought of it first” will not get you gold stars, or even a pint at the bar.

Some were never the books I wanted them to be. In at least one case I no longer care if the characters accidentally fall down a well and drown en masse. I’d even push some of them. Let’s face it, most of your old work is… old work.

Anyhow, out of curiosity, I looked at five of my (roughly) completed manuscripts, and decided to grade them. Boy, do I know how to have fun? The answer’s still No, by the way.

A Song of Ice and Turkeys

Our number one spot goes to one of my first novels, The Path of Years. This gets an A for effort, and an F for any possibility of it ever being published or even understood. It’s a deep religious fantasy based on the politics of a monotheistic Aztec/Mayan-type culture riven by internal power struggles. It has maps! Dynasties! Betrayals! It has a culture so well-imagined that you’d be better off reading a history book, and you’d need a glossary for every page. It includes its own languages, based on Meso-American tongues and even some song extracts. Verdict: One absolutely for the Vault, or even under it.

the path of years
the path of years

I See Far Too Many Dead People

Number two, far more readable than Path of Years, is the oddly titled Shasten. A sort of horror novel, this recounts the problems of a medieval spiritual order taking refuge on an island off Tunisia, where they are in conflict with a growing Islamic movement. Not because they’re Christian or Jewish, but because they happen to be contemplative necromancers who use the withered dead as servants. There’s nothing particularly wrong with it – and it has the occasional cracking scene – but it’s hard now to imagine why anyone would want to amble through it. Verdict: Another for the Vault.

The Malazan Book of the Complicated

The third novel is almost sellable – The Wavedancer’s Daughter. It’s one of my Os Penitens fantasies, set in a culture where face-changing and manipulation of the flesh are commonplace, where grievances last for millenia and The Silence of His Voice can still be heard. Grimdark in a way, if you know the fantasy term. The Chrisante Gate watches the Gynarch’s dream unfold, and huge cultures clash at every level. There’s a lot of betrayal, and some great ideas. The trouble is, I can’t stand the main character any more and want to push her down that well I mentioned earlier. The rewrites would be enormous. Verdict: To be used to keep the Vault Door open.

High Plains Slaughterer

Number four, and we’re getting closer to something we could possibly use – Pale Woman, which was never properly finished off and yet has some of the bits I most like. A dark fantasy again, but not medieval, not quite like anything I’ve seen elsewhere. Its roots are a touch Anglo-Saxon, but more plain weird. Closer to horror, with a main character I loved: Pale Woman herself. She’s dead, restless and bound to a perverted form of justice, a thin, lonely figure with lank hair who destroys as much as she saves. One of the books I’d most like to risk re-visiting. Verdict: Near the Vault, but not quite in it.

The Starvation Games

The fifth and last – Strange Weapons. The only novel I submitted a few times, and one which almost got there. Read and re-read by more than one agent, praised but not taken at the last hurdle, very popular with its beta-readers. It needed a rewrite, and I didn’t have the energy at the time. This one, surprisingly, is a contemporary dystopian tale set in a world falling apart. Britain is engulfed in civil war, Europe has closed its borders, the States have descended into isolationist in-fighting. Across Africa, moderates, animists and Muslims alike struggle to hold back a right-wing Christian movement which seeks to establish the Black Cross over every city and village on that continent. Verdict: I’d need a lot of pale ale, but…

strange weapons
strange weapons

My concluding advice to me, and to others, would be to be brutal. Best use for old manuscripts:

  • steal any characters which worked in their own right – intriguing personalities, traits etc. – but don’t keep them just because you were vaguely fond of them.
  • check if there are plot-lines which were sound when the book itself wasn’t, and nick those at the same time (did they really work that well though, honestly?).
  • admire the amount of effort you put into get the hang of this writing thing, and feel pleased with yourself for once.
  • lock that vault up again and get on with writing something new.

My advice is, of course, quite worthless because I’m too busy producing short stories to concentrate properly.

Join us next time on greydogtales for something which is… not about me as much, at least.

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A Ginger Horror: Jim McLeod Finds Out Where We Live

Today’s mega-interview is hard-hitting, includes some rude words, and is predominantly ginger. Yes, it’s Jim McLeod, taking a break from running that major horror fiction and film review site, Ginger Nuts of Horror, to bring joy and vitriol to our mild, puzzled lives.

Jim has many outstanding qualities – for example, he’s got a beard, and he comes from the well-known Yorkshire colony of Scottish-land (a little geography for our far-flung listeners). He’s also fun to know. Join us now and hear the truth about, uh, quite a lot of things…

Warning: There is a small amount of effing and jeffing involved. If you are a lurcher of a sensitive disposition, or a writer who thinks a spell-checker is the same as an editor, you might want to be prepared. The opinions expressed below belong to somebody, probably.

jim mcleod
a passing Scotsman, just as the sedative dart began to work

greydog: Welcome to greydogtales, Jim. We would say that it’s a great honour to have you here, but we’re dour Yorkshire folk and don’t believe in crawling.

What we do appreciate is you finding the time to join us, considering the amount of work you put into your site Ginger Nuts of Horror. So we want to look at that side of things first. For people who don’t know much about GNoH’s origins, how did it all start?

jim: Well that’s a story in itself. It all started six or seven years ago. I have no concept of time-frames – I ought to know because my daughter was just about to turn one year old. Yes I know I should know how old my daughter is and I’m a terrible parent, I’ll burn in hell, probably at the hand of my daughter Cthella.

So I was on a three month absence from work after getting my left wrist rebuilt. Apparently I had spent the previous seven years going around with a broken wrist and not realising it. I’m hard as hell, or as my wife says, stupid as hell for not going to the doctor earlier. And while mucking about on the internet I came across THE BRITISH HORROR NOVELS FORUM, a great message board that has sadly been killed off by Facebook. Inhabiting that space were such reprobates as William Meikle, Ian Woodhead, and a few other authors.

I can’t remember if it was Ian or William who suggested that I start interviewing authors on the forum. The interviews took a form of question and response on the forum and went on for as long as the natural discussion allowed. After a few weeks of doing this William suggested I started my own blog. It was supposed to be called THE GINGER NUTCASE OF HORROR as I am ginger, if you haven’t figured that out, and nutty about horror. However, thanks to being off my nuts on really strong prescription painkillers I registered the name as Ginger Nuts of Horror.

Looking back six or seven years later I would never have imagined that what started off as something to do while recovering from a major operation would have grown into one of the biggest horror review websites out there, let alone ever thinking that I would interview Joe Dante, Graham Masterton, Joe Hill, Simon Clarke, and numerous other heroes of mine. And never would have thought that it would take up so much of my life. I work night shifts, and on my day/nights off I get up at 4am just to keep up with the number of emails, reviews and interviews that I have to deal with.

jim mcleod ginger nuts of horror logo

greydog: We tend towards the weird, which often includes horror but which ranges across a lot of genres and interests. How do you set your own site’s boundaries? There must be areas which are too peripheral or too unpleasant for you to want to include – or is it case-by-case every time?

jim: It used to be easier when I was the only reviewer on the site, as I have a pretty strict and conservative set of values and morals. So the extreme side of horror was never going to be touched upon by myself, it’s just not my thing. Hell, I skip over any naughty business in horror books. But in more general terms I think horror is a pretty all-encompassing genre – you can go from the quiet end of the spectrum with the ghost stories of M R James, right up to the extreme end of the spectrum from the likes of Matt Shaw, but it can take in everything from Aliens, Bizarro, Terminator, serial killers, big hairy monsters and psycho clowns. To me horror is a feeling not a genre.

And now that we have a great team of reviewers I’m more open to cover the extreme side of it, mainly thanks to the contributions of Dawn Cano’s extreme horror fiction reviews and Alex Davis’ excellent extreme Horror column FILM GUTTER.

The rest of the spectrum is covered by Kit Power, George Illet Anderson, George Daniel Lea, Charlotte Bond, Duncan Ralston, and Kayleigh Marie Edwards, John Boden, plus Andrew Freudenberg and Adrian Shotbolt, who are taking the lead with the music side of the site.

I’m so lucky to have such strong team of reviewers, who are also a great bunch of guys and gals, ones I am proud to call friends.

greydog: We even know some of these terrifying people, but we wouldn’t dare let them loose on here. Despite that fact that you cover films, news, views and all sorts of horror-related matters, would we be right in saying that horror fiction, the written word, is still the heart of your work?

jim: It is and it isn’t. Personally I have become really disillusioned with the fiction side the genre. There seems to be a real sense of entitlement within the writer community these days. You know the sort, the ones who will spend all day posting that coffee writer meme, interspersed with whinging posts about bad reviews. They forget that writing is all about paying the dues – these are ones who slap a book together, think they can edit it themselves then slap it up on Amazon and wonder why they aren’t a best seller. It’s a rising problem and one that is really pissing me off. Christ, I’ve had death threats over book reviews.

And yet this has never happened from the film side of the genre, and you should read some of my film reviews, that’s where I really fly off the handle and let my piss and vinegar spurt forth with unfiltered glee.

Having said that it probably still is the heart of the site even if it feels a bit rotten at the moment.

greydog: Fortunately we don’t feel entitled. We just write the stuff and beg for as many cents a word as possible. Or free meaty bones and chicken carcasses. Now, we’re not going to ask how people can get a mention on GNoH. They should be able to work that out for themselves if they want to get on in the world (we know, we’re harsh). We’re more curious about what happens next. There are many published works with potential, or brilliant concepts, which aren’t quite there yet. How do you tackle reviewing those awkward animals?

jim: I always review with an honest and open mind. I try and not be mean with my reviews, but if the book/ film is crap the book/film is crap. And I don’t care who created it. There a number of sites out there who are either beholden to advertising revenue or some misbegotten notion that you can make a living out of reviewing horror, and they will give positive reviews to films and books just to keep on the good side of writers, agents and publicists. I don’t care about that. Hell, one of the big American publishers won’t send me books anymore after my damning review of a book from a BIG name in horror. I know I’ll never get an interview with the author now, but at least I know I told the truth about the book.

And before anyone says all reviewing is subjective, yes it is, but there is a line where subjectivity means nothing and something is just badly made.

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greydog: Last year a number of writers put together the book Jim McLeod Must Die as a tribute to you and your work with GNoH, but it must sometimes seem like a thankless task. You mentioned threats. Do you get much hassle from people believing they deserve your attention or applause?

jim: Oh god yes, I had to block two authors this month for constantly asking me when the review of their book was going up. If you submit a book or film to the site without reading the submission guidelines then it’s your own fault if you don’t understand that I don’t generally reply to submissions until the review is posted. I get over a hundred emails a day that actually require me to read them, I don’t have time to reply. And even if I do reply on submission it’s not a contract that I will actually review your book. Submitting a book or film to the site just means that we have added it to basically is a watch list. To put it in perspective the current list of books which have made it onto the review list sits at over 400 books. Even if all of the reviewers reviewed one book a week it would take us close to a year to clear the list. Which is a stupid thing to even consider.

Last year I ended up in hospital with blood poisoning, they reckon I was at six hours away from dying if I hadn’t gone into hospital, I posted a Facebook post after spending two days in hospital telling everyone what had happened and not worry about my Facebook silence. I got thousands of messages of support, but one tactless author, and I use that term loosely, actually sent me a message along these lines

I know you are in hospital, but I thought you might like to read my new novel and review it when you get out of hospital”

Seriously WTF? I really believe that at my funeral there will be a line of half arsed writers waiting to ask my family if there is an unposed review of their book on my hard drive. Fuck it, I bet you £1000 there will be some fucknut trying to get a review from beyond the grave with a Ouija board.

I have had death threats, idiot writers getting their fans to down vote my reviews on Amazon, threats against my family. And even some nut job writer sending me a letter written in their own blood. To be honest I find it all rather funny, that anyone could get so worked up about a genre where no one is ever going to be famous. There will never be another Stephen King, take the review and deal with it.

greydog: We would only ever write to you in someone else’s blood – we like to hang on to ours. As far as the range of your site goes, film is an area we avoid, maybe because it’s often even more subjective than fiction (and we don’t have enough time as it is). What slid you into that area – readership demand or something else?

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jim: It was purely a way of getting a bigger audience, plus a small pinch of being able to have a lot more fun with the reviews. I think films are easier to write bad reviews for. I can’t remember what film it was but my review of the film was a half-finished game of hangman, The answer to which was “HELL NO”.

The larger audience is also why we have broken out into music and now art. The horror fiction side of it is a small market. After a while you find you are just talking to the same crowd, and I want the effect of the reviews to reach as big an audience as possible. Not for some sad ego trip, but just so all of the great writers who I love can get that extra bit of exposure. The site has never been about me, that’s why I never put my name to any reviews I write.

greydog: While we have you, we also wanted to ask about small presses, because you’ve done a lot of work promoting books from them. It’s a subject we touch on here every so often. We still see them as the engines which drive a lot of unusual and innovative fiction to the marketplace. On the other hand, a number of writers now self-publish right from the start. Any thoughts?

jim: Self-publishing only works when the writer treats it as a professional project. And you can tell which writers do this. Anyone who thinks self publishing is easy or an excuse to not get a decent cover image, or even have another person edit your book, is on a road to nowhere. The small presses have changed over the years, especially here in the UK, where they seem to be more of a place for established writers to publish limited editions of their work. There are still some small presses publishing new writers, such as Horrific Tales, Boo Books, Pendragon Press and Nightwatch/Black Shuck books to name a few. But a lot of the more established ones are just publishing the same old names.

Which I can understand as the margins of profitability can all rest on the sale of one copy of a book. So I can get why they publish writers with a proven track base.

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greydog: Let’s turn more to Mr McLeod himself. Getting greydogtales together on time is often nightmarish, and yours is a much larger and more complex site. How do you juggle the site, work and life?

jim: By spending every waking minute working on it. I’m lucky in that I work nights and my usual shift pattern means I have a lot of free time without the kids. So as I said, on my nights off you will often see me get up at 4am just to clear the backlog. I’m lucky in that I can get by with very little sleep. However it has meant that a lot of my other hobbies have fallen by the wayside. This is the year that I am determined to get back on my mountain bike. You’ll notice a drop in posts/reviews from me when the schools are on holiday, as I would rather be out having fun with the family.

greydog: What’s a good day off, away from horror and GNoH?

jim: A good day off involves the family and a nice big hill to climb. I love getting out there with my kids and partner, whether it’s a day of hillwalking or a visit to a museum, it really doesn’t matter so long as I get to spend time with them.

introduced by jim, and not for the faint-hearted
introduced by jim, and not for the faint-hearted

greydog: There’s some strange stuff out there. Do you personally ever get grossed out by the books or films that you’re asked to consider?

jim: Not very often, even something like Martyrs. Watched that with very little emotional attachment, right up until they forced fed her with a spoon, the noise of the spoon or fork scrapping of her teeth, freaked me out. I don’t know what that says about me psychologically but that is about the only time a film has really grossed me out.

greydog: We were quite upset by the Ghost Rider films – but that was because they turned out to be crap. You’re pretty steeped in the field. Ever considered writing yourself?

jim: Never, I know I don’t have the skill to do it. I do not subscribe to the notion that everyone has a book in them, there are some writers out there who shouldn’t even write a shopping list let alone a novel.

Having said that I did start to write a story composed sole of phrases from that terrible Horror Writers phrasebook that was published last year. I posted it as a live writing experiment on facebook, but I sadly lost the original document before I could finish it. It was awesome if I say so myself. So if anyone happens to have a copy of the last update of it please send it over. i would love to finish it.

greydog: Call our hotline now if you know where Jim’s last update is. Every pound raised goes towards supporting a cranky old Yorkshireman and his dogs. And just to be mean, how about finishing with a bit of name-dropping. Who really does it for you as a reader, rather than as a reviewer/website supremo, at the moment?

jim: For me right now, it’s a mix of old favourites like Adam Nevill, Gary McMahon, William Meikle, John Llewellyn Probert, Sarah Pinborough, and Brian Keene. Mixed in with new writers like Kayleigh Marie Edwards, Kit Power, J.R. Park, Duncan Bradshaw, Lee Thompson, James Everington, Phil Sloman, Laura Mauro, VH Leslie (Laura & Victoria featured in our feature scary women again), Cate Gardener – the list goes on and on. I really think we are in a golden age of talent.

Greydog: Many thanks, and the very best for Ginger Nuts of Horror in the future.

Jim: Thanks for having me. I have had a blast taking part. It’s not often I get to be on the other side of the fence, it’s a lot more fun than my side.

And don’t forget that you can find a wealth of trivia, news and hard-hitting reviews every week here on Jim’s site:

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Remember, you can now buy the new John Linwood Grant bestseller, “A Study in Grey” (or Gray, if you’re American). We say bestseller, but that’s what you’re for, dear listeners. Link on the right-hand sidebar. Not that we’re begging or anything, but…

Next time on greydogtales: We interview Nicholas Cage to find out why, although we think he’s done some great stuff, a lot of his films are utter rubbish. No, we’re lying again. It’ll be dogs and the weird, with probably a tad less horror.

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