A new Spectral review…

This new review, courtesy of Walt Hicks and posted on David T Wilbanks’ Page Horrific review blog, is an absolute belter, and confirms both Gary’s standing as a writer destined for great things and also that I am definitely on the right track with Spectral Press:


What They Hear in the Dark by Gary McMahon is the inaugural release from Spectral Press, and they could not have gotten off to a better start.

The novella is a carefully crafted, slow burn of dread and suspense, told from the POV of Rob, half of a heart-broken couple mourning the untimely loss of their son. McMahon adeptly paints his characters quickly and with beautiful economy, and the reader feels almost like a voyeur observing their tormented bereavement so intimately. The wife and mother Becky is revealed in quietly morose layers that are particularly poignant. Overwhelming grief and pain, along with a number of atmospherically concise metaphorical devices are wonderfully melded, his spot-on dialogue contributes to the dark tone. McMahon’s deft eloquence is ideal for this type of ‘quiet’ horror tale, and his pitch perfect pacing to a heart-rending denouement is breath-taking.

Spectral Press’ mission statement of nodding to “classic ghost/horror stories written by some of the great”(s) is well-realized here, and I was reminded somewhat of the late, great Charles L. Grant with this offering.

The cover art for the chapbook is also appropriately understated, and the interior layout is easy on the eyes and comfortable to read. There were a couple of misused semicolons and a double tab in one paragraph, in the version I read, but otherwise the novella was extremely well-edited.

Much of the material I have read lately is of the “in your face” variety of horror, descriptive, violent and gruesome–and there’s nothing wrong with that at all, particularly if well done. However, if you have a passion for literate, darkly atmospheric tales told without the necessity for gore and violence, then Spectral Press’ What They Hear in the Darkis precisely your cup of hemlock.



What a brilliant harbinger perhaps for Spectral in 2011!!

New Spectral Press review

Here’s a short but sweet review of What They Hear in the Dark by Nick Cato, posted on his Antibacterial Pope blog:


The first release from this new small press is an emotional look at a couple coping with the death of their son. During the renovation of their home, they discover a hidden room where there’s no sound…although Rob can sense a disturbing presence within, Becky seems to be a bit comforted by being in it, believing their son is close…

Being a short chapbook, that’s all I can reveal, but suffice it to say McMahon’s tale has a similar tone to some of Gary Braunbeck’s stories, i.e. simultaneously chilling and depressing. This is short and sweet “quiet horror” done right.

Yet another Spectral Volume I review…

Here’s another great review from David Hebblethwaite, as posted on his Follow the Thread blog. Here’s what he had to say about What They Hear in the Dark and Spectral Press (this follows two short reviews of current Nightjar Press titles):


Coincidentally, there’s a couple with a new house and a relationship under strain in Spectral Press’s first title,‘What They Hear in the Dark’by Gary McMahon. Rob and Becky are renovating a house whilst still coming to terms with the death of their son Eddie, and find a strange room which, according to the plans, shouldn’t be there. They call it the Quiet Room, because it seems to absorb all sound.

There is, of course, something mysterious about the Quiet Room, but McMahon’s ultimate focus is less that than the characters of Rob  and Becky. What impresses me most about the story is what’s going on beneath the words and imagery, the way that the Quiet Room comes to embody the couple’s different responses to Eddie’s death — for Becky, the silence is comforting, as she feels it brings her closer to Eddie; for Rob, the Quiet Room is a place of fear, caused by his search for a deeper explanation for his son’s death than the one Becky has accepted. These conflicting views come to reflect the wider tensions in the couple’s relationship, making for a nice balance between character and atmosphere. McMahon’s story is a good start for Spectral Press; I’ll be keeping an eye on what they do in the future.


I couldn’t have wished for a better start for the imprint – copies of this are going fast, so secure yours today!

Another Spectral Press review

Another good review of What They Hear in the Dark, this time from Neal Hock at the Bookhound’s Den:


I’d never read anything written by Gary McMahon; in fact, I hadn’t heard of him before I saw this chapbook. However, the cover blurb by Tim Lebbon immediately grabbed my attention since I’m familiar with his work. I can’t really say that I had much in the way of expectations going into this one, but I did hope for a decent read.

Rob and Becky are renovating an old house. Not a home, but a house. Though they live under the same roof, Rob and Becky are worlds apart. Since the loss of their son they seem to have gone their separate ways. During the renovations, they discover a hidden room—the Quiet Room. The room is aptly named, as there is no sound in the room—none at all. But there are other things in there. Things that may bring Rob and Becky back together…or to the brink of madness.

I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of writing this diminutive book. Weighing in at only 22 pages, it makes for a quick read. It was a good read—not necessarily a fun one—because the author does a tremendous job at capturing the overwhelming sense of loss and despair of Rob and Becky. I recommend What They Hear in the Dark if you want to be introduced to McMahon’s polished, atmospheric writing. Just be careful if you’re reading it on a dreary day, because that’s exactly the mood in this one.

This is the debut chapbook from Spectral Press, whose mission is to “be devoted to presenting single-story chapbooks, in the ghostly/supernatural vein, in a high-quality but very classic format. Each will be in strictly limited quantities of 100 only, signed and numbered by the author.” Based on this initial release, it looks like there are good things to come from them.

4 out of 5 stars.

The happy publisher…

… and his first publication…

Yes, they’re actually here!! So anyone who wasn’t sure can now order one in complete confidence!!

You can buy subs for Spectral Press chapbooks (or individual copies, if you wish), direct.  You can now have the whole of the first year’s publications sent right to your door AND you’ll be able to enter the subscriber-only prize draw (for details of the prize, please see below). You can now pay through Paypal and each sub will cost £10UK/£12EU /$20US/ $25US RoW (all prices inclusive of postage and packing). Individual chapbooks will be available for £3.50UK/£4EU/$8US/$12RoW (again all prices inclusive of p+p). Please send Paypal remittances to spectralpress[at]gmail[dot]com. If you want to pay by cheque please email me for details on the same address!!

When you do subscribe, your name will be entered into the prize-draw, where you stand the chance of winning a specially signed and framed edition of the first chapbook by Gary McMahon. Alongside it will be a copy of the annotated manuscript, which means that Gary has scribbled all over it in red pen – and he’s even signed it and drawn a little doodle of a smiley horned creature on it as well (very cute, in the way that only Gary understands the word). The winner might even get a free subscription extension for another year on top of that…

Closing date for competition is 31st December 2010! So, what are you waiting for? Get subbing NOW!!


Second Spectral Press review in…

The following review was written by Mark West, and can be found on Goodreads:


The first chapbook from Spectral Press, Gary McMahon’s short story continues the writer’s ongoing fascination with the darkness of the human soul and the depths to which people are capable of falling. As with his superb “Different Skins” collection, he mines areas that we will willingly look in with him as our guide but where I doubt any of us would like to be left alone. This short is like a hammer blow, dealing with the family dynamic between bereaved parents – Rob and Becky – grieving the loss of their son Eddie. It becomes apparent that he didn’t die of natural causes (and when you find out what happened, it’s a sickening moment that McMahon pulls off with aplomb) and sets the tale up for its dreadful climax.

Emotionally devastating, told with your McMahon’s usual brisk style without an ounce of fat or excess, this is gripping and painful and beautiful and honest and bleak as all hell.

Highly recommended (and a terrific launch title for Spectral too)

A Public Service Rant… er, I mean… Announcement!

So, we were caught by surprise yesterday with the weather, or at least I was. The BBC forecast clearly said that there would be a light snow shower around 3pm and that it would stop within three hours. So what did we get? A very light snow shower that started at around 11am and which went on for about five minutes, then stopped. Only to start again very shortly after and not stop until 8pm. Yup, nine hours of snow falling from the sky – haven’t seen anything like it since my 70s childhood in Wales. And, judging by what a few meteorologists have intimated, this winter is going to be harsher than the 1962-63 one, which my dad was always fond of telling me about – I was born in ’63 in the middle of a snowstorm, apparently – which, according to my own twisted sense of logic, is why I prefer winter to summer. And yes, I’m sticking to that.

Anyway, I digress. Why am I writing this particular blog (apart from the therapeutic value of a rant, however mild) and wittering on about the weather? What does it have to do with Spectral Press? Well, it means, given the backlog that The Royal Mail currently seems to have amassed, that the signature sheets that have been/will be sent by Gary McMahon for the first chapbook will be delayed. Which inevitably means that the book won’t be collated this week as planned – and said printers will be closed until the 3rd January. Rest assured, however, that the chapbook will be available in the first month of 2011 (come what may) and that all subscriber copies will be sent out practically the minute they arrive here at Marshall-Jones Mansions. I even have the envelopes all written out ready. These really are circumstances frustratingly out of my control and yes, it’s bloody annoying.

But, I’ll end on a lighter note (this is where the light-hearted, human interest stories would go in a broadcast news bulletin – see? I do pay attention…). I popped into the printers a few days ago to check to see whether the covers had been printed – and yes, they had been, and to further erode a worn-out phrase, they blew me away. The quality is something that exceeds even my expectations and really enhance the graphics work of Neil Williams, who designed them. Combined with Gary’s superb story, it really IS a thing of beauty, even if I say so myself – I have high hopes for Spectral, but only time will tell. Roll on the New Year!!

First Spectral Press review…

This came in last night courtesy of Neil Leckman and posted on his Virtual Cubicle blog – short and sweet, and most definitely very sharp!

“I just read Gary McMahon’s What They Hear in the Dark, a signed and numbered chapbook from Spectral Press, coming out January 2011. Gary has proven that not all silence is golden, and not all rooms are equal. He has a grip on the range of emotion that comes with loss, and how sometimes what you don’t say hurts more than what you can. Be prepared to have him take hold of you, by the throat, and not let go until your vision blurs, and your knees become weak.”


SPECTRAL PRESS I: What They Hear in the Dark by Gary McMahon

An absence is more terrifying than a presence…

Rob and Becky bought the old place after the death of their son, to repair and renovate – to patch things up and make the building habitable.

They both knew that they were trying to fix more than the house, but the cracks in their marriage could not be papered over.

Then they found the Quiet Room.”

“Gary McMahon’s horror is heartfelt…” –Tim Lebbon

22pg A5 print booklet with card covers, signed and numbered, 100 only – published January 2011.

Available from the publishers – Spectral Press, 5 Serjeants Green, Neath Hill, Milton Keynes, Bucks, MK14 6HA, UK for £3 (plus 50p P+P) either through Paypal (spectralpress@gmail.com) or cheque (made payable to ‘Simon Marshall-Jones’) to the address above. Subscriptions for 2011 issues (3) available for £10 – payment details as above. US/RoW please email for prices to your countries…

Web: spectralpress.wordpress.com

Email: spectralpress@gmail.com

Subscribers, please note: this issue will be sent out in early January due to it being THAT time of year and the possible inclement weather that’s been forecast…. Spectral Volume I is currently at the printers and the signature sheets are in Gary’s hands… return expected any day now… =D

Spectral progress report…

Just a quick blog today,. to let y’all know the state of play on how the first Spectral chapbook is coming on. I have just returned from the printers and it’s all looking mighty grand, the signature sheets will be ready by Monday morning and then I can send them on to Gary to number and sign. As soon as they arrive back on my doorstep,  they will go back to the printer’s, and then all the fun of collating and stapling begins for them.

They handily printed up a ‘mock’ of the text and I am happy to report that it meets all expectations and then some – everything was crisply reproduced and very clear. The cover also looks great, too – the people I am using have obviously taken extreme care with it all and to very exacting standards. I shall definitely be using them again.

Quite frankly, it’s absolutely amazing how fast this has all come together. It’s just less than two and a half months since I found myself toying with the idea after being inspired by FCon 2010, and both Nightjar and Tartarus Presses, and then thinking that FCon 2011 would be the ideal launch venue to kick things off in. However, with all the authors I asked agreeing to sign on and then, after I opened the doors to subscriptions (26 and counting at the present time), the brilliant response to it, it’s meant that I can start a lot earlier than anticipated. So, instead of having to wait until September 2011, subscribers and readers will only have to wait about a month.

2011 and Spectral Press have enormous potential between them. I have further plans, as some of you know, and ideas are constantly brewing in my head. I have a few authors in mind that I would absolutely love to feature in the line-up, but that depends on a few factors that I am unable to fulfill at the present time. But I sincerely hope that that won’t always be the case and that at least some of the writers I want to appear will consent to write something for Spectral.

Now, one of the plans I have is that, every couple of years, I will hold an open competition asking for submissions and then maybe getting some of the Spectral authors already published to adjudicate if they have time. The prize will be a chapbook publication. The aim would be to give some newer writers a chance to get their work published. Necessarily, the same high Spectral standards will apply when it comes to choosing the winning story.

Further down the line, there’s the possibility of expanding slightly and possibly publishing very limited novellas in hardback – that one was inspired by ChiZine Publications’ production of Tim Lebbon’s The Thief of Broken Toys. That book showed exactly what is possible, even in a compact format. The possibilities are endless, I feel.

Anyway, the upshot of all this is that everything is going to plan and very smoothly so. Subscribers can expect their copies of What They Hear in the Dark by Gary McMahon to be with them in early January. I am just looking forward to seeing it all come together.