The Respectable Face of Tyranny Chapter I: exclusive excerpt

Below is the first chapter of Gary Fry’s forthcoming novella from Spectral, The Respectable Face of Tyranny, for your delectation and delight – please note that there are now only NINE copies of the limited hardback edition (with bonus novella World Wide Web) left, but the paperback (containing just The Respectable Face of Tyranny) will be available soon, which can also be pre-ordered through the previous blog entry, at bargain prices. Enjoy!


“Dad, I’m getting a tattoo.”

“You are not getting a tattoo.”

“I am getting a tattoo.”

“Sally, you are not getting a tattoo.”

And then, with a predictability Josh found vindictive, his daughter said, “Mum would let me have a tattoo.”

Abruptly the space between them went silent.

There was no use telling Sally that if what she’d just said was true, she should go and live with her mother. They’d had that debate until they were both red in tooth and claw, and a sad truth had always lurked at the back of it: Denise had left them, for another man, not only putting her ex-husband’s nose out of joint, but also that of her only child.

But the world was cruel; neither needed reminding of the upheavals of the last year to realise that.

Josh looked up from his book to re-examine the static caravan’s interior and then tried to recall brighter days, just before the global economic meltdown, when he and his family had lived in a fine detached house in West Yorkshire and had used this Whitby-based alternative accommodation only when they wished to, during long summers and icy winters, to get away from the everyday travails of work and school. Although he’d purchased the caravan (like everything else in his once prudent life) as a long-term investment, he hadn’t expected to be living here so soon.

And nor had his daughter Sally.

At least she’d stuck by him, however . . . which was more than could be said for Denise. At the first scent of a financial  crisis, of an end to regular hair  appointments and a withdrawal of her credit cards, Josh’s ex-wife had done a bunk, hooking up with some wealthy guy she’d met at the gym and developing a relationship too quickly to imply spontaneity. All of which had left Josh with the responsibilities of looking after a sixteen year-old girl. He was only forty three himself and had never been much of a people-person.

It had turned out that he didn’t have much of a head for business, either. During several months in early 2008, over £300,000, his life’s savings from his small security company, had been plundered on the stock market . . .

The book he was reading at the moment was right: big events stood behind everybody, dramatically defined them, were lights casting the darkest shadows . . . And if Josh didn’t stop thinking this way, he thought he might start crying again.

He glanced back at his daughter, flinched from the sullen expression she wore which reminded him of her mother, and said, “Why didn’t you arrange to see any of your new friends this evening?”

“No money.”

“Who? Them or . . . you?”

Sally gave him a look as if to say What a stupid question. But that of course was unfair. Despite having cut back on innumerable forms of expenditure since his portfolio had been battered – selling the house and his beloved 5-series BMW; giving up skiing and horse riding – he’d tried hard not to compromise his daughter’s lifestyle. Okay, so she’d had to switch schools from a Leeds comprehensive to one out here on the coast, but surely that would be good for her in the long run. City kids were under the constant threat of malign influence; there were no such dangers in this relatively peaceful town.

“I’m saving up,” Sally said at last, still examining the upper meat of one arm, as if picturing the inked horrors she presumably wanted tattooing there. “There’s a guy in town who does them really cheap.”

Josh wondered who had put this idea in the girl’s head, and was reminded that, in all its tawdry prevalence, fashion transcended any geographical restrictions. He glanced at the small television in one corner, which he’d managed to salvage from their previous home. The medium of devils, he thought, but then realised he shouldn’t be too critical of Big Business. He still had a lot of money invested in such companies. And when most of this had been eaten away during the financial crisis, his dividend-based income had been slashed to the bone.

Realising he’d get nowhere arguing with stubborn Sally (another characteristic she shared with her mother), Josh picked up his book again and resumed reading about the origins of the universe, about Big Bangs, quantum theory, and other such heady material. He wasn’t sure why he’d developed an interest in these issues – he’d always been rather quotidian in his approach to things – but the truth was that during the last few years, as great events had unfolded in his otherwise quiet life, a curiosity about existence on this third rock from the sun had been firmly established.

It was getting on for eight o’clock this deep autumn evening. Josh finished another chapter, frowning over some complex notions, and then put down the book. Light rainfall flicked the roof of the caravan, like the sounds of insects scrabbling with malign intent – like financiers, he thought; or solicitors; or the Inland Revenue . . . But again he tried to shove aside these corrosive thoughts.

A little later, he poured himself a glass of something numbing – supermarket-brand scotch; it was tasteless but, if taken in sufficient quantities, performed the trick he desired – and then suggested that his daughter go to bed to avoid being tired for school the following day . . . which of course led to more petulant dispute.

“I don’t want to go tomorrow.”

“I thought you said you liked it there. You’ve made plenty of new friends, haven’t you?”

“Yeah, but the lessons are boring on Fridays. Like, triple history. Who cares?”

He himself hadn’t cared much for academia as a young man, relying rather on practical knowledge and a knack for building a trustworthy reputation to ensure success in business. It was only lately that he’d realised that everything in life, strokes of luck and crippling blows alike, had complex antecedents, an intricate network of causes leading to effects . . . But the fact remained that it would be hypocritical to lecture the girl.

At that moment, inspiration struck. Flipping back in his book, he read from one of the front pages: “ ‘He who cannot draw on three thousand years is living from hand to mouth.’ ” Then, as a brutal wind blew against one side of the caravan, causing it to lean on its tenuous foundations, he looked across at Sally. “A great poet once wrote that, and I guess he meant that to protect ourselves in the present, we have to understand the past. Forewarned is forearmed, as it were.” But then, recognising the mild pretensions he was
displaying, he glanced away. “Well, something like that, anyway.”

“Dad,” said Sally, getting up from the seating unit in one corner of their tiny lounge. She bore a more sympathetic expression than the one he’d observed earlier, as if she was thinking: Maybe a bit more knowledge would have protected us from disaster.

“Yes, darling?”

She stopped just in front of him, gently took the book from his hands, and then added, “You don’t half talk a load of old rubbish.”

They laughed, the way they often had during happier days, when the family had been unbreakable, cushioned by fiscal solidity. And oh, how fragile that had all proved to be, great monsters coming to take it away . . .

Josh, hugging his daughter, heard something skittering aggressively across the land just outside their new home. After bidding Sally goodnight and watching her vanish inside her bedroom, he climbed to his feet and went to the main entrance, shoved the door open and peered out into the dark.

The static caravan was situated on the fringe of the holiday park, a few hundred yards from a cliff that gave on to an isolated stretch of beach called Saltwick Bay. In certain parts of the site, people were allowed to live residentially, benefiting from year-round sanitation and utilities. Great floodlights kept the park illuminated at night, at least until a sensible hour, but right now Josh was unable to benefit from these, because the only entrance to his place looked out onto the fields surrounding the site. This was lovely on a bright morning, with Whitby Abbey a toothy ruin on the near horizon, but at this time that was no help at all. Blackness filled the eye like an ineradicable stain. The only sight of anything moving outside was surely just a projection of idle fancies, or irrepressible recollections of recent events . . . Stress could do this to a man, as Josh knew all too well. But he was getting over all that; he’d come here to relax and recuperate. Maybe what he needed was a little fresh air.

After checking to make sure his daughter had settled – her light was out and he could hear sleepy breathing beyond her half-closed door – he stepped outside and then locked up the caravan. It was a damp night, moisture seeping into
his casual footwear. Nevertheless, he kept on moving, headed for the coastline, where the wind grew a little more ambitious, ruffling his thinning hair, making him feel every year of his incipient middle-age.

These were unpleasant reflections, but it would be foolish to deny that he was getting older. He and Denise had married young, and Josh had worked hard to secure their finances before they’d decided to have a child. About five years ago, he’d sold his home-security business and sunk all the proceeds into stocks and bonds. He hadn’t wanted to work all his life and, after taking professional advice, had found a way of generating an income from capital growth and dividend yields that had suited both himself and (to a lesser degree) his ex-wife, while also allowing their daughter to grow up with all the comforts he
himself had never enjoyed as a boy back in poverty-stricken 1980s Bradford.

He’d always been aware of the inexorable passage of time. Sally had grown up quickly and, just before the credit crunch and all the upheaval this had resulted in, Josh’s mother had developed early-onset dementia. At her own request, she’d moved into a supervised block of apartments in her beloved Whitby. This was largely what had governed Josh’s decision to buy holiday accommodation here on the coast. Before long, he realised, he’d have to take on his mother’s care more proactively than had been the case up until now. He also knew it wouldn’t be long before Sally would be thinking about moving on – maybe to university or to a place offering more job opportunities than this secluded, tourist-driven town. These thoughts made Josh feel sad – and not a little afraid.

He’d come to the edge of the cliff overlooking enigmatic Saltwick Bay. The strong light cast by the large sodium lamps in the holiday park illuminated the lengthy patch of grassy land on which he stood, feeling its sinuous way over the fenced-off drop, before being challenged by the swarming darkness of a distant sea writhing with chalk-like dashes of starlight and moonshine. There was a pungent aroma of salt and seaweed, conveyed by a chill wind which struck Josh with all the indifference of a final settlement invoice. He shivered, and as he did so, coins chinked in his pockets.

Then, as he glanced down the side of the cliff, he saw them.

The tide must be out, though it was too dark to say for certain. If the alternative was true, however, how could these small entities be located where they were? Each seemed to be made of light, iridescent of wing and fiery of skull; their infectiously jerky motion put Josh in mind of birds stalking for prey on riverbanks. They bobbed and wove, scudding across a dark surface, which must be just the sand and stone he’d observed while exploring the area during the last few years. If these creatures were real species, and not merely tricks of light, they’d require material purchase on solid ground, because surely nothing could glide across water with such leaden inertia.

Were these entities just illusions engendered by a mind still smarting from all Josh had endured lately: near bankruptcy, his brutal divorce, the mild trauma of relocation? All he could think about was the book he was reading, a tome exploring the origins of existence, how the universe’s creation had led inexorably to life on this planet, to evolution and then to humankind . . . The author had talked of big events existing behind all living entities, like a sun at their back, blazing and roaring, casting long shadows from all that was real, driving everything forwards, hungry and eager . . .

Josh looked again at the creatures he could see down in Saltwick Bay.

And at that moment, the holiday park’s lights went out.

He was immediately put in mind of an entity as big as a building, looming up behind him, blotting out the sodium lamps, eliminating his shadow. This thing was impervious to the hopes, cares and aspirations of Josh and his kin, subsuming everything once treasured at an indifferent whim. It was a mighty force set in motion by accident, by botched plans, by a non-sentient power . . . Josh wasn’t sure where these thoughts were coming from. All he knew was that, with the absence of illumination behind him, the light-laced creatures down in the Bay were now much more visible.

Approximately ten in number, they appeared a few feet high and at least one wide and long. They seemed to trail slivers of rainbow as they darted back and forth, leaping occasionally, ducking repeatedly. They made no sound. If they were feeding, it was difficult to determine what their prey could be. Then, after several minutes, they gathered like a collective mass of colour and light, like some surreal flock, before taking wing . . . or at least shooting up into a star-stricken sky. And seconds later they were gone, gaudy hues winking away, swallowed by the darkness.

Then Josh felt lonely, ineffectual, victimised, and – for a second time this evening – dismayingly frightened.

The Respectable Face of Tyranny Chapter One is © 2012 Gary Fry/Spectral Press. All rights reserved. 

You can order the hardback from here and the paperback from here.

The Respectable Face of Tyranny: the paperback (plus other stuff)

Yes, you read that right – Gary Fry’s novella, launching the new Spectral Visions line of longer works in April, will also now be available as a paperback. You can pre-order copies below, but please note that this contains the lead story only – the bonus novella, World Wide Web, is ONLY available in the hardback edition, of which only a few copies are left (see here for details on ordering the limited HB edition if you want both novellas). The paperback will be available through Spectral only for the time being, but it will also be made available through Amazon shortly before official publication.

Prices include postage and packing.

UK – £5.99 (£4.99 + £1 p&p)

EU – 9 Euros (6 Euros + 3 Euros p&p)

USA  – $12 ($8 + $4 s&h)

RoW – $12 ($8 + $4 p&p)

And yes, that’s right, I said Amazon – Spectral is spreading its wings in a bid to get its name out there to the masses far and wide. That may be a commonplace these days, but it shows how far Spectral has come in such a short time. We are also looking to upload an e-book there at some point in the future, too. There’ll be an announcement when it’s available – look out for that!


The winner of the Spectral/This Is Horror short story writing competition will be announced on 9th March 2012 – we’ve had more than a few VERY strong, high-quality entries and deciding the overall winner is proving to be a tough one. Keep on the lookout for a special blog announcement here very soon!!


Now, SFE has its very own Facebook page – go here to ‘like’ it and please spread the name around!! Thanks!!

Rough Music: a new review from Follow the Thread

So, to start this new week off, here’s a link to a short review of Simon Kurt Unsworth’s chapbook from David Hebblethwaite’s Follow the Thread blog. To find out what he thought of this latest publication from Spectral Press, just click here (it’ s the third one down).

The chapbook itself will be sent out to subscribers either at the end of this week or the beginning of next (most likely the latter). All that remains to be done now is for the signature sheets to be signed – and that’s being done tomorrow.

And then, it’ll soon be time for the first Spectral Visions novella to be released – there aren’t many copies of the limited hardback version left and it’s very close to being completely sold out. Click the link here to get details on how to order the book.

Onwards and upwards!

Black Static visits Nowhere Hall: a review

Yes, Cate Gardner’s Nowhere Hall has been out for a while now, but the fine reviewer at Black Static magazine, Peter Tennant, has been saving a few things by this excellent writer so he could review them all at once. And so, in the latest issue of the magazine (#27), Peter reviews not just Cate’s chapbook, but also two of her recent novellas, Barbed Wire Hearts (Delirium) and Theatre of Curious Acts (Hadley Rille Books), both of which are eminently worth getting hold of.  As he writes so eloquently of Cate, she is indeed in a “genre of one”.

Getting to the main point here, however, Peter says of Nowhere Hall:

“It’s almost a stream of consciousness ghost story, if there can be such a thing, with events bleeding into each other and surreal imagery (e.g. Death as a man with an umbrella), not a word wasted and imagery laden with meaning, so that you almost instantly want to read the work again and pick up on all the things you missed first time around, and then again after that, with the assurance that there will always be something new waiting to be discovered.”

Further, Peter also says:

“It is a tale that is as unique as it is eminently readable, the ghost story as something strangely beautiful and beautifully strange.”

However, if you want to read what else Peter says about Nowhere Hall, as well as Barbed Wire Hearts  and Theatre of Curious Acts, then you’ll just have to hunt down a copy of Black Static #27, which is published by TTA Press.

More reviews soon!!

Two new reviews and an update

So, first up this bright Tuesday morning is a new review of Simon Kurt Unsworth’s Rough Music – this one was written by Walt Hicks and can be found on his Hellbound Times blog. Walt has been a consistent supporter of Spectral Press ever since it opened its doors – so what did he think of the first issue in the imprint’s second year? Find out here.

(Psst – Happy Birthday to Mr. Unsworth, too!!)

Secondly, here’s a review of Paul Finch’s King Death, which appeared in Issue Eight (Winter 2011) of Strange Aeons magazine. I reproduce it here in full with the permission of the magazine:

In the early 1300’s, rumors of a terrible plague began to spread throughout Europe. Entire regions of China and India had fallen, and it seemed death itself was drifting westward. Rumor became reality in 1307 when a Genoese ship pulled into the port of Messina with a dead and dying crew. The Black Plague had arrived, and by 1350 an estimated 50-70% of England’s population had perished.

In Spectral Press’ fourth offering, Paul Finch transports us back to this slightly exaggerated time where the mortality rate more closely resembles that of Captain Tripps than the actual Plague. It is a world no longer in the thralls of death, but a world which has gasped its last pitiful breath, and lies rotting under an unremorseful sun.

Rodric, a former member of the free-companies, has seen his fair share of destruction. Clad in a suit of black mail with a skull emblazoned upon his helmet and shield, he rides through the silent, fetid countryside (on a pale horse no less) ridding corpses of their riches and the few survivors he encounters of their lives. He is a man without honor or remorse. Hardened by war and having grown increasingly numb to the horrors that surround him, he sets out upon his diabolical crusade with little sympathy.

One day, while Rodric reflects upon his incongruous kingdom, he spies a well-bedecked page-boy, half alive and stumbling through the valley below him. Greed spurs him into action, and after his alter-ego cows the boy into a terrified silence, he presents himself as Death, King Death, and demands to be taken to the wealthy lordship he abandoned. In return, he agrees to grant the boy’s final wish, to join his family in death. But once they arrive, Rodric learns that there is a precipitous price to be paid for masquerading as Death, and realizes, albeit a bit too late, that it’s not always good to be King.

While not my favorite offering from Spectral, Finch certainly has a way with words. Though he paints a dour portrait, his brushstrokes are eloquent and unequaled in their execution. Whether describing a wild land reclaimed by nature, or a procession of the decomposing dead, there is beauty to be found. And it’s because of that beauty, that torrid love affair with morose prose, that this chapbook deserves to sit upon your shelf. A worthy addition to Spectral’s ever-growing library, but limited to their standard 100 signed and numbered editions, finding your own copy might be as hard as finding a lone survivor in a time of plague. But don’t let that stop you from jumping on the unearthly bandwagon. Future releases will sell out quickly, so make sure to stop by their website and subscribe, because the terrors you miss today, will surely turn into tomorrow’s spectral regrets.

More reviews coming soon!


This is just to let those interested in purchasing copies of the series of Lovecraft audio-CDs that Temple of Azathoth Records are producing in collaboration with Spectral that the project has been delayed by two months due to a personal bereavement. The first in the series, featuring two stories from the master of cosmic terror himself (The Music of Erich Zann and Nyarlathotep) and a tale from the modern wielder of Lovecraft’s strange legacy, Joe Pulver (The Delirium of a Worm-Wizard), will now be available from May 2012 instead. More information will be brought to you here as the time approaches for release – but rest assured it WILL be unleashed upon an unsuspecting world…

Rough Music: first impressions

Due to the marvels of modern technology, even though I will be sending Simon Kurt Unsworth’s Spectral chapbook off to the printers this morning, the first reviews have already started to come in. Wonders will never cease, eh? Anyway, the first of these is from Jim McLeod’s Ginger Nuts of Horror blog, wherein he explains that the tale had something of a personal resonance for him – the question is, though, did he like it or loathe it? Find out here.

The second review is from Geoff Nelder and I reproduce it here in full (with his kind permission):

Rough Music by Simon Kurt Unsworth

Short story that is Volume 5 of Spectral – 24pg A5 print booklet with card covers, signed and numbered, 100 only, a limited edition published in March 2012 by Spectral Press

When Cornish’s slumber was disturbed by a one-man-band beating the hell out of what might have been a saucepan with a heavy spoon, he was irritated, annoyed but not unduly concerned. Alas, the unruly incident, both visual and acoustic, incremented the following night. Was someone out to torment the community or him in person? After another night, he suspected the latter and the reader, reading between both the lines and the sheets is able to suspect why. This tale is more cunning than it first appears, and the resolution of the conflict(s) is sufficiently intriguing for the reader to determine whether the rough music is real or … something else. 

Unsworth has penned a worthy addition to Spectral Press’s unbroken record of fine literary pieces of horror.

The chapbook will be sent to subscribers and individual purchasers starting at the end of this month.

Meanwhile, Gary Fry’s novella The Respectable Face of Tyranny is, gratifyingly, selling very steadily – in fact two-thirds of the limited edition hardback print run have already been accounted for. If you wish to get your hands on one of these lovely little volumes, featuring full-colour covers (a Neil Williams effort, based on a photograph of Saltwick Bay by Philip Haigh), coloured endpapers and a silk ribbon bookmarker, then I suggest you hop over to here and order one now – they’re sure to do one of Spectral’s patented vanishing tricks very soon!

More news and reviews soon!!

Assorted items of news


“Rough music: (- n) a loud cacophony created with tin pans, drums, etc,; the cacophonous ringing of bells, hooting, blowing bull’s horns, the banging of frying pans, saucepans, kettles, or other kitchen or barn implements with the intention of creating long-lasting embarrassment

Sometimes, the sounds we hear in the dark have resonances that we cannot foresee…

 “A writer whose skill is admirably suffused by a thorough grounding in the art of past masters of the macabre” Stephen Volk

The fifth volume of the Spectral chapbook series of ghostly/supernatural stories, from World Fantasy-Award nominee Simon Kurt Unsworth,  is currently well on its way and will be available at the end of this month/early part of March to subscribers. Sadly, it’s sold out – but we heartily encourage people to take out  a subscription to ensure that you never miss out on these highly sought-after items. Paypal buttons can be found down the right-hand side of this website. There are still some places available starting from Volume VI, The Eyes of Water by Alison Littlewood, author of the bestselling A Cold Season (Jo Fletcher Books).


This novella, due to be published on April 2nd and which will also have the honour of launching the new Spectral Visions line of longer works, is selling extremely well, with copies going very steadily. Gary’s chapbook for Spectral, Abolisher of Roses, sold out in very short order, even before it was officially published, and this looks like it could be going the same way. To order your pre-publication copy, go here – but you’ll need to get in quick to secure this hardback edition, complete with bonus story World Wide Web, full-colour cover designed by Neil Williams and a silk ribbon bookmarker, before it does sell out. The postage is FREE in the UK and there’s also HALF-PRICE airmail shipping for international orders!


All the entries are now in and this week will see me reading every one of the entries we received – the winner will be announced at the end of the month. Looking forward to seeing what chilling inventiveness people have come up with. Good luck to all those who sent a story in!


Don’t forget, too, that editing and proofreading services are  now being offered by yours truly, for both the seasoned professional author and aspiring writer alike. The Spectral chapbooks have been noted for the excellence of  their editing, so why not take advantage of my services to help you produce a highly-polished piece of work. Details of what’s on offer, as well as my rates, can be found here. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with regard to your writing project to see what I can do for you – I’ll be more than happy to help in any way I can!

The Respectable Face of Tyranny by Gary Fry: available to pre-order

From today, you can place a pre-publication order for the limited hardback version of the launch title in the new Spectral Visions line of novellas, The Respectable Face of Tyranny by Gary Fry, which will be published in April (it will also be available in POD Paperback and e-book versions – details will be given out nearer publication date). The limited hardback, in an edition of 100, will be signed and will also feature a full-colour cover (see above) and a silk ribbon bookmarker. The hardback edition will also feature an exclusive: an extensively revised version of Gary’s 2006 novella World Wide Web. Here’s a video trailer, created by Gary himself, to promote his novella:

EDIT 12th March 2012: THIS IS NOW SOLD OUT!