King Death: a view from Down Under

King Death cover image

It’s always a good thing to end the week with a review, especially a good one. And so it is with the one sent to me by Australian author Angela Slatter (or should that be DR. Angela Slatter now?), purveyor of beautiful but slightly warped reinterpretations of the classic fairytale, as well as distinctly unsettling weird fiction. This particular review is of Paul Finch’s British Fantasy Award-nominated tale of medieval hubris set amidst the aftermath of plague, King Death. You can read what she wrote by going here.


Don’t forget that this Spectral Visions novella by John Llewellyn Probert is up for pre-order right now, however we suggest that you be quick about ordering one – close on three-quarters of the print run of the limited hardback have already gone. This is sure to be another sell-out, so grab your copy now! You can find ordering info by clicking the tab next to ‘Home’ on the menu bar above.

Look forward to hearing from you!

News: British Fantasy Awards

Spectral Press logoIt’s that time of year when the British Fantasy Society announces its shortlist for the awards to be given out by the Society at FantasyCon, being held in Brighton once more, at the Royal Albert Hotel, in September. All nominees on the shortlist have been voted for by the membership and will now go on to be judged by jury.

British Fantasy Awards nominee And yes, that badge immediately above means exactly what it’s meant to tell you: we are very pleased to announce that Spectral Press have picked up two nominations in this year’s awards. They are:

King Death cover image

Paul Finch’s tale of misplaced medieval hubris is up for the Short Fiction award, alongside works by Simon Bestwick (whose own Spectral chapbook will be out in June next year), Michael Marshall Smith, Adam Nevill and Angela Slatter. Don’t forget, too, that Paul’s story is being reprinted in the Paula Guran-edited Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2012, due out this July.

The second nomination is for Spectral Press itself in the PS Publishing Independent Press Award, where it’ll be up against Chomu Press (Quentin S. Crisp), Gray Friar Press (run by Gary Fry, author of The Respectable Face of Tyranny, published by Spectral last month) and Newcon Press (Ian Whates).

A full list of the nominees for this year’s awards can be found here. FantasyCon 2012 is due to take place over the weekend of 28th – 30th September.

We’ve put in a lot of hard work over the last seventeen months to bring our readers the best in top quality ghostly/supernatural fiction and, although in all honesty our main motivation is to give back to the genre we love what we’ve got out of it as a mark of gratitude, we’d be lying if we said that these nominations haven’t put big grins on our faces and validated all the reasons why we set Spectral up in the first place. It’s nice to see that hard work being recognised and, even if we don’t win, we can take a lot of heart and encouragement from just being on the shortlist. So, thanks to everyone who nominated us!

As a quick aside, let it also be known that FantasyCon 2012 will see the launch of John Llewellyn Probert’s The Nine Deaths of Dr. Valentine, with a reading, a signing and free wine. A specially-signed edition of the hardback plus a pair of white gloves as worn by John in his author photo for the book will be featured in the FantasyCon Raffle. It’s an event NO T to be missed!

See you in September!

King Death: a new review from Dreadful Tales

King Death by Paul Finch

One of the pleasures of running Spectral Press is when we receive a review of one of the previous publications in the chapbook line and that’s exactly what happened yesterday, when Colum McKnight of Dreadful Tales posted a write-up of Paul Finch’s King Death chapbook. It’s quite an in-depth review, but to discover what Colum says about it, please click here.

Talking about King Death, the anthology in which it’s due to be reprinted, The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2012 edited by Paula Guran (Prime Books), is scheduled to be published in July, according to Amazon at least. It’s a chance for those of you who missed it to catch this beautifully-told and atmospheric tale set in Great Britain’s fourteenth-century plague years. That book can be pre-ordered from Amazon and I encourage all to get your hands on a copy as soon as you can!

Order Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2012 from Amazon UK or Amazon US.

More reviews soon!

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.

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…

King Death at Twilight Ridge

As seems to be traditional around these parts, we’ll start the week with a review. This is the latest write-up on Paul Finch’s King Death, posted on Robert Morrish’s Twilight Ridge blog. To see what the Cemetery Dance columnist thinks about the most recent Spectral chapbook, please click here.

Talking of King Death, as you will most probably have worked out, the picture above is of the front cover of the Paula Guran-edited The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2012, the volume in which Paul’s medieval tale will be featured. And just take a look at some of the illustrious names that will be keeping Paul company!! Stephen King, Joe R Lansdale, Tim Powers, Charles De Lint,  Gene Wolfe…. a heady mix indeed!


Don’t forget, for those of you who want to enter the Spectral/This Is Horror Short Story Competition, you have until midnight GMT on 31st January 2012 (tomorrow) to get your entries in. We’ve already had some cracking stories sent in and there’s still time to enter, so why not add yours to the list? Details of submission guidelines and prizes can be found here.

King Death: a new review

In the wake of receiving the news that Paul Finch’s Spectral chapbook would be the imprint’s first reprint in a Year’s Best anthology (Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2012, edited by Paula Guran and published by Prime Books), subscriber Chris Bissette sent me his own review of the story, posted on his website. Want to know what Chris thought of this slice of medieval supernatural horror? Then just click here.

More reviews soon – onwards and upwards!

News: Who says Monday mornings can’t be good?

Spectral Press is DEFINITELY on the up and up, as this first blog of the week will show. The editor here at Spectral Towers is currently doing a victory dance, albeit one that’s slightly arthritic. Now I can hear you all say “And why is he doing a victory dance, especially first thing on a Monday morning?” (although that could be because he hasn’t had anywhere near enough coffee yet)….

Although I was told just over a week ago, I can officially announce that Paul Finch’s King Death is going to be reprinted in Prime Books’ Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2012, edited by Paula Guran. And what great writers will be keeping Paul company – Gene Wolfe, Tanith Lee, Tim Powers, Joe R. Lansdale, Charles de Lint, and Lisa Tuttle, as well as future Spectral chapbook author Angela Slatter. This is the best news that a new independent press could possibly hope for, and shows that Spectral isboth on the right track and has a great future ahead of it!

You can see the full Table of Contents list here.

In similar news, Ellen Datlow will also be “writing extensively about Spectral’s debut” (quoting the revered editor herself) in her summary for Best Horror of the Year Volume 4, due out in May, I believe. Yet another indication that Spectral is going places…

Onwards and upwards!! =)

A double review and some news

Today’s review is a double one, courtesy of the fine folk at Shock Totem, specifically a gentleman by the name of John Boden. Like his previous review of Spectral chapbooks for the same magazine, he’s chosen to review two at once and this time out it’s the turn of Cate Gardner’s Nowhere Hall and Paul Finch’s King Death. John loved the first two Spectral publications, so does he feel the same about Volumes III & IV? Click here to find out!


After yesterday’s announcement and call for submissions for the first Spectral Christmas Ghost Story Annual 2012, I have now moved that blog to a new page so that access to the guidelines is permanent until the deadlin of June 30th. If you’re interested and want to know whatt you need to do to submit, then please just click on the relevant page. Thanks!!

A reader’s mini-review, a reminder and some news

Today’s bloggy missive starts off with a mini-review of Paul Finch’s King Death from a reader, Riju Ganguly, which the good man posted to Goodreads and to which he also gave 5 stars. Here’s what he said:

A short-crisp piece from one of my favourite authors, displaying all the hallmarks of his penmanship: rich descriptions that enliven 14th Century England and the Black Death devastating its contours, brilliant portrayals of the two characters (the mercenary Rodric and the mysterious boy), and the stage-by-stage construction of the story within a few pages. And special commendation for Spectral Press for bringing out such an exquisite chapbook. Recommended.

Many thanks for the little write-up Riju – the original posting can be read here:

I would encourage any readers of Spectral publications to send in their reviews to me for putting on the blog – if you have one then please send them to spectralpress[AT]gmail[DOT]com. Thanks!!


Don’t forget that the Spectral/This Is Horror short story writing competition is still ongoing, where the lucky winner will get to have their winning tale published as a chapbook as well as receiving a lifetime subscription to every single publication that Spectral puts out. This is a great chance for aspiring writers to get their work out there, so get your typing fingers dancing and start writing!! Details of the competition can be found here.


Or, rather, a heads-up on a blog post to be posted here on Monday about submissions to the first Spectral Christmas Ghost Story annual, to be published in early December 2012. So, if you fancy writing something seasonal to be read to an enthralled audience sitting around a roaring log fire on Christmas Eve this year, then this annual anthology might just be your thing – make a date to come back here on Monday to get all the gen on submissions to Spectral’s first short story anthology.