Rough Music: Reader’s Review #2

Rough Music by Simon Kurt Unsworth

There are two things that amaze us here at Spectral Towers: first, that Spectral is truly an international imprint and, secondly, that readers appreciate what we’re trying to do and often set about reviewing the stories we publish. This Reader’s Review fits the above to a tee, as Riju Ganguly, the reader in question, is from Gujarat in India – here’s his review:

“I had received this book today, in somewhat “out-of-shape” condition. I promised to myself that I have to ‘straighten’ out the book physically, before I dive. And then, returning to an empty house after the office-hours (wife & daughter not here right now), it seemed most natural that I should pick up this slim volume and, you know, take a quick look and then change, have dinner, etc. etc. Naturally, Simon Kurt Unsworth’s compelling proce caught me by the rough of my neck, and dragged me across the pages. Shame on you SKU! You didn’t even allow me to have my customary tea, before this terrifying story of rage, love, exploitation, half-hearted attempt at redemption, and eventual retribution & loss, was over.

The story is about Cornish. He is, as we get to know, not a nice man. Every night, at around 03-00 hours, he is awakened from sleep by a group of people who create tremendous noise, while wearing masks and standing outside his house. Somehow this noise is not heard by anyone else. And then Cornish watches a curious drama being enacted by these people in front of his house, night-after-night unfolding newer acts & actions, and eventually…

Read this book. I don’t know whether Spectral Press still has any copies left or not (they publish these exquisite chapbooks in highly limited editions), but Cold Tonnage or Fantastic can be helpful. This is top-notch stuff, from the pen of one of the best story-tellers of our time. Highly recommended.”

Riju gave Simon’s chapbook 5 stars on Goodreads – here’s the link to the Goodreads review.

(Unfortunately, this chapbook is completely sold out and unavailable from anywhere else – sorry!)

A trio of Rough Music reviews

Rough Music Cover

Here at Spectral, there was a great start to the week yesterday (more on that below) and today we’ve had a boost to that good start in the form of some new reviews of Simon Kurt Unsworth’s Rough Music, the fifth in Spectral’s line of quarterly chapbooks. The first of those reviews is from Anthony Watson, which can be found posted to his Dark Musings blog –  if you’d like to know what he thought of Simon’s story, then please follow the link from here.

The next review is from Gef Fox over at Skull Salad Reviews – see what the wily Mr. Fox has to say about Rough Music here.

And finally, Jassen Bailey of The Crow’s Caw review blog also gives an account of what he thinks of the chapbook – you can find out what Jassen thought of it here.

(Talking of reviews, I’ve just discovered this very short review of Paul Finch’s King Death, posted in The Black Glove horror ‘zine – check it out!)


You know that great start to the week I hinted at above? Well, it was because the limited hardback edition of this novella from Gary Fry SOLD OUT  yesterday!! Yes, all 100 copies have now been spoken for. However, fear not – some copies can be currently ordered from the This Is Horror online shop, and the book will also soon be available from Fantastic Literature in the UK, as well as Jeff ‘N’ Joys (UK), Bad Moon Books (USA), Ziesing Books (USA), Camelot Books (USA), Wrigley Cross (USA) and Nightfall Books (USA) – links to those will be provided to them once the books have been shipped.

You can also buy it in paperback form, but this version omits the bonus novella contained in the hardback – details of how to order this version can be found here.

Rough Music: a reader’s view

Rough Music Front Cover

We here at Spectral love getting feedback from readers and subscribers as well as reviewers – and subscriber James Bennett has just sent us this short but excellent review of the latest chapbook, Simon Kurt Unsworth’s Rough Music – this is what he had to say about it:

Rough Music is the fifth release in the Spectral Press line of chapbooks and another fitting addition to the collection. Simon Kurt Unsworth is a British horror writer, whose work has appeared in several acclaimed anthologies, including Never Again, Lovecraft Unbound and The Very Best of New Horror. In 2008, he was nominated by the World Fantasy Awards for Best Story.

Rough Music is another impressive feather in his cap. The story centres on Cornish, a married man who is trying to resolve a troubled relationship with his wife, Andrea. As events in the story slowly unfold, Cornish begins to hear a strange musical discord in his neighbourhood late at night. When he looks out of his window, naked and afraid, and sees the grotesque troupe come to dance on the local green, he finds himself drawn into a weird confrontation with the shadows of his past…

The author takes nothing for granted in this story and handles the unravelling of the plot with patience, skill and genuine depth of feeling. Kurt Unsworth uses crisp, clean prose to draw the reader through the unsettling, enigmatic scenes. Rough Music is subtle and will make you think. The story remains haunting and engaging throughout, the themes of loneliness, guilt, secrets and loss compelling from start to finish. The atmosphere is wonderfully claustrophobic, something for horror fans to savour. The main character’s dread is increasingly chilling as the bizarre performance outside his window swells from the initially annoying into a menacing cacophony. What does the troupe want? Why have they come here for Cornish? An air of mystery pervades the narrative beautifully.

Rough Music is a thoughtful, eerie and fascinating tale, and while the discordant theme turns our eyes to the shadowed corners of our own hearts, the ambiguous ending strikes just the right note.

Highly recommended.

Many thanks to James for taking the time to put this together!!

If there are any other readers/subscribers out there who would like to put forward a review of ANY of Spectral’s publications, then please do so – send them to spectralpress[AT]gmail[DOT]com. We look forward to hearing from you!!

A couple of new reviews for a sunny Monday morning

Rough Music Front Cover

With something of a sense of relief (and despite winter being my favourite season), it appears that spring is finally arriving at Spectral Towers. There’s nothin’ but blue skies here today, absolutely guaranteed to lift the spirits for certain. Even better, to boost those spirits higher still, would be some great reviews – and it just so happens that two write-ups on Simon Kurt Unsworth’s Rough Music passed across my virtual desk over the weekend. So that’s my Monday sorted.

First up is The Eloquent Page‘s aseessment of the latest chapbook – pablocheesecake, the man behind the eloquence, last year gave Spectral an honorary Publisher of the Year award, having been impressed by the consistency of quality from the imprint. Simon’s short story is the first of Spectral’s second year of existence, so was Mr Cheesecake as impressed by this one as he has been with all the others? Find out here.

Next we have a review from a new venue, The Horrifically Horrifying Horror Blog, run by Emma Audsley and Shaun Hamilton. For the purposes of this review, they passed Rough Music on to Matthew S. Dent for appraisal – so what did he think? You can read his thoughts about the tale here.


The limited hardback edition of Gary Fry’s The Respectable Face of Tyranny is almost sold out – as of this writing there are only SIX copies available. If you’d like a copy of this collector’s item, then please go here – postage is FREE in the UK and for the rest of the world there’s HALF-PRICE AIRMAIL. That’s an irresistible offer, so you know it makes sense!

Onwards and upwards!!

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!

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!

Simon Kurt Unsworth’s Rough Music: the trailer

Once again, Mark West has produced a lovely video book-trailer to go with the latest Spectral chapbook, Simon Kurt Unsworth’s Rough Music, which is due to be launched upon the world at the end of February/beginning of March 2012. This one has, unfortunately, sold out already, but you can still get yourself a subscription (for 1, 3 or 5 years) to ensure that you receive every subsequent issue of this critically-acclaimed series of chapbooks – and Paypal buttons have been provided for your convenience down the right-hand side of this blog.

In the meantime, here’s the trailer for Rough Music:


The Spectral/This Is Horror Short Story competition closes tonight at midnight GMT (31st January 2012)!! Glide on over to the This Is Horror website for all the details!!

Revealed: Rough Music cover concept

The above beautifully atmospheric image, by the excellent Neil Williams, is the cover concept artwork to Simon Kurt Unsworth’s Rough Music, to be published in March 2012 – there are still a few very minor tweaks needed here and there, but this is what we’re running with. It neatly encapsulates the mood of Simon’s story: the darkness, the claustrophobia and the distinctly unsettling atmosphere. Marvellous!!