What can we say about Joshua Reynolds? Founder of the Royal Academy of Arts, noted 18th century portraitist knighted by George III in 1769… wait a minute. Who wrote these notes? Django!!! Bad dog. This is the wrong Reynolds, you daft animal. Uh, right. Today’s guest is the other guy, Joshua M Reynolds, who, well, he writes stuff. Good stuff.
Yes, it’s greydogtales, the only site still using lurchers for in-depth research and a labrador as a doorstop. It’s muddy here, and so our notebooks are covered in bloody great paw prints, but we’ll see what we can do.
Our guest writer is well known in at least two quite separate fan circles, and if they ever meet we may need more than longdogs to keep them in order. For Warhammer enthusiasts, Joshua Reynolds has written – and is still writing – a number of novels based on those heady days of utter carnage, betrayal and mad zealotry.
If you’re not familiar with it, Warhammer is one of those things you do with a table-top when you’re not chopping up chicken carcasses. Scary lead and plastic figures creep into the madness that lies beyond the tomato ketchup, and there are even more rules for where you put the cake knife.
On the other hand, you may prefer the spine-chilling, rather stylish adventures of Charles St Cyprian, the Royal Occultist, for Mr Reynold’s other main endeavour is chronicling the adventures of this renowned occult detective. Set mostly in the 1920s, the tales follow in the footsteps of William Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki, except that St Cyprian is a rather more droll and stylish fellow.
“Formed during the reign of Elizabeth I, the post of the Royal Occultist, or ‘the Queen’s Conjurer’ as it was known, was created for and first held by the diligent amateur, Dr. John Dee, in recognition for an unrecorded service to the Crown. The title has passed through a succession of hands since, some good, some bad; the list is a long one, weaving in and out of the margins of British history and including such luminaries as the 1st Earl of Holderness and Thomas Carnacki.”
Let’s see if we can get any of this right in our interview…
greydog: Welcome to greydogtales. Important stuff first – Josh or Joshua? Or Mr Reynolds, Sir, in our case?
josh: Josh is fine. Or Joshua. Or Your Most Squamous Majesty. Face-Eating Willy. Tupelo Jim Smalls. Clyde. I answer to most anything, really.
Except Tupelo Jim Smalls. Not any more. I got my reasons, and I’ll thank you not to ask.
greydog: We wouldn’t think of it. Right, we dragged you here mainly because two of your recent stories stirred our old brain cells. The first was The Fates of Dr Fell, an excellent twist on the old portmanteau idea of multiple stories, in the manner of the films Dead of Night and Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (see our feature here: spawn of the ripper: the true story). Are you a horror film sort of guy?
josh: I am! The older, the better. Silver screams are the best screams. Keep your CGI, I want practical effects, goshdarnit. Gimme a guy in a grossly unrealistic gorilla suit, ambling awkwardly across a darkened Hollywood soundstage. That’s my jam.
That said, I have seen some newer stuff recently that I really enjoyed. From the Dark (2015) was a pretty swell vampire film which I encourage everyone to see, if they get the chance. It’s a good, old fashioned monster film with some nice sequences and plenty of mounting tension.
greydog: We can only agree. Films from the old days are still our favourites – but maybe we’ll try From the Dark now.
The second story that caught our eye was your novella The Door of Eternal Night, which manages to weave Arthur Conan Doyle and his creations into the tapestry. Both stories are part of the highly enjoyable Royal Occultist series, which seems to grow and grow. Is there a grand plan mapped out for Charles St Cyprian and Ebe Gallowglass?
josh: Not as such. I know roughly how the series ends and when, but I’m in no hurry to get to it. There are still plenty of stories to be told before starting that particular grim fandango. Basically, I’m happy to write about St. Cyprian and Gallowglass haring about in their Crossley, shooting hobgoblins, as long as people are willing to read about it.
greydog: The Royal Occultist is the nearest thing we know of to our own Tales of Last Edwardian. They’re somewhat different, but both draw on the legacy of Thomas Carnacki, the Ghost Finder. How did you get involved with William Hope Hodgson’s work, and what made it appeal to you?
josh: I first came across Hodgson in an anthology called Grisly, Grim and Gruesome. The story was “The Horse of the Invisible”, which is still perhaps my favourite Hodgson story – Hodgson’s descriptions of the sounds the eponymous phantom makes still creep me out a bit, even today. Even then, I was drawn to the idea of someone investigating a haunting as if it were a mystery. I credit that story with sparking my love of not just Hodgson, but occult detective fiction as a whole, really.
greydog: In Sam Gafford’s anthology, Carnacki: The New Adventures, you actually have Carnacki meeting a young St Cyprian. Is this the ‘official’ origin story for St Cyprian’s involvement, or have we missed one?
josh: It is and you haven’t! “Monmouth’s Giants” is chronologically the first St. Cyprian story. That said, there are also several Carnacki/St. Cyprian adventures available, set during the Great War, when St. Cyprian was serving as Carnacki’s apprentice. If you’re interested, you can find a full chronology here: the royal occultist
greydog: You grew up in South Carolina, yet the world of the Royal Occultist is very English. Did that come naturally from reading UK fiction, or did it require an awful lot of research? And spelling lessons, putting the ‘u’ back in color etc?
josh: A bit of both, really. I read a lot of period literature–Waugh, Wodehouse, Sayers, Allingham–and did plenty of research into English history, especially the inter-war period. Also, I live in England now, so there’s probably some sort of osmosis going on.
greydog: You have an impressive back-catalogue. Part of that includes work set in the Warhammer universe, and we did vote Nagash in the last election. At least he’s honest. Did you find writing in an established world like that one limiting?
josh: Nah. Limits make things interesting. There are always stories to tell, if you look hard enough. And established franchises are prone to having all sorts of intriguing nooks and crannies to explore. Places where new canon overlaps with old, and blank spaces on the maps.
Also, Nagash 2016. Serve him in life AND in death.
greydog: We’ve seen worse campaign banners. We’re interested in your authorial stance, which seems to be “I do a job”. A while ago someone asked how you got into a particular line, and you said: “I was scrounging around for submission opportunities and ran across X’s guidelines. I figured it was worth a shot, so I knocked out a novel pitch that day and submitted it.” You’re not into the ‘tortured artist having vapours in a Parisian attic’ routine, then?
josh: Ha! No. Writing is my profession, and I like to think I’m good at it. It’s what I do to make money, which I then use to pay my mortgage bill and buy groceries and such. To accomplish that, I have to treat it like a job…eight to ten hour days, invoices, taxes, the whole nine yards. As my old granny is known to say, ‘them vapours is not conducive to financial stability’.
greydog: A wise woman. Now, we always wonder what writers read. What sort of fiction do you use to relax? More in the fantasy and supernatural genres, or something quite different?
josh: If we’re talking about relaxing specifically (as opposed to inspiration), I like mysteries. Thrillers, procedurals, cozy, noir… I read ’em all. You give me a sewing circle or a washed-up actor or a cat solving crimes, and I’m a happy fellow. Too, I’m a mark for writers like Dorothy L. Sayers and Ernest Bramah. Real Golden Age of Detective Fiction stuff.
greydog: Bramah is sadly rather overlooked these days. His blind detective Max Carrados is an interesting read, though his tales of Kai Lung the Chinese storyteller, are even better. And we know you have more stories on the way. Any major projects for 2016 that you can share here?
josh: Well, hopefully, Infernal Express, the long-delayed third novel in The Adventures of the Royal Occultist series, will be out sometime soon. Not to mention the equally delayed second volume of Eldritch Inquests, the occult detective anthology I co-edited with Miles Boothe for Emby Press.
Novel-wise, there’ll also be a few Warhammer-related projects, but if I talk about those, they take away my cheese club privileges.
greydog: We’ll ask no more, then, but we’re coming in with our knuckle-dusters up for our last question. St Cyprian and Ebe Gallowglass versus Abigail Jessop and Henry Dodgson. Who’s going to win?
josh: Oh, that’s obvious. Us, when we rake in all that sweet, sweet box office money. I mean, we were planning to sell tickets, right?
greydog: We are now. Many thanks, Joshua M Reynolds (not an 18th century painter).
We do have an accidental publishing connection with Josh, although we didn’t know it until recently. His novella The Door of Eternal Night is part of the series The Science of Deduction from 18th Wall Productions, and our own contribution to the series, A Study in Grey, is due out this month.
You can get the ebook from the link above. Josh can also be found on his writing website, here:
Next week on greydogtales: Lurchers and folk horror, but not at the same time. Subscribe, or follow on Facebook, and you’ll know which posts to avoid (we’re sure we should put that more positively, somehow).