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Friday 28 December 2012


Just before the holidays I did a Q&A for Litro, the London-based print and online literary magazine.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be? Why? 
The ability to delete selected unpleasant memories. Which would be a whole can of worms because we're the products of all our experiences, good and bad. Lots of story potential there.
You can find more gems to rock the world, including What's the most extreme thing you've done in pursuit of reading or writing? and Describe your most defining experience with money, if you click here.

Monday 24 December 2012

Bedlam Detective UK cover

It's been sighted...

Available for pre-order here.

Sunday 23 December 2012

Is it just me or...

Is there an FX house that specialises in totally unconvincing CG cityscapes for period movies? Because  they seem to be getting a lot of work this year.

Tuesday 18 December 2012

New Sebastian Becker Story

As part of the runup to Christmas, I've written a new short story for Random House's Dead Good Books site. Set in the Bethlem Royal Hospital in 1912, the action takes place in the period between The Kingdom of Bones and The Bedlam Detective. If you're a new reader it'll serve as a brief introduction to Becker and his world.
It was late in the afternoon when one of the ward orderlies appeared in the doorway to Sebastian Becker’s basement office. Sebastian had spent most of the day clearing a space to work. They’d given him a desk and a chair, and a hook for his coat. He would have appreciated a window.
The orderly, clearly not expecting to find the room occupied, said, ‘Oh.’
‘Is that my welcome letter?’ Sebastian said, eyeing the envelope in the orderly’s hand.
‘That would depend, sir,’ the orderly said. ‘Are you the Visitor’s man?’
The story continues here.

Sunday 16 December 2012

On Being a Pro

As an early-career writer you work about 90% from the heart and about 10% from the head. Stuff pours out of you. You can lose track of time while you're working. Everything's inspiration and there's little in the way of calculation. I've heard writers claiming that they go into a trance-like state when they work and, frankly, they're right up their own arses; all they're trying to do is impose some mystic significance on that undisciplined rush.

To be carried along by that kind of inspiration is an exhilarating experience but, inevitably, there's a downside. The heart is not a great organiser. The evidence is there in all those would-be debut novelists who can't muster the craft to place a single short story with an indie magazine, but keep on sending out their 250,000 word epic.

Being a pro means being in control of your gift. The same's true whether we're talking about writing, art, dance, sports... anything. An outpouring of the heart can be high-value stuff but, like a kid in a kitchen, it needs a hell of a lot of cleanup to get anything presentable from it.

And when you're starting out, that's exactly what you do. You pour it all down onto the page, and then you look at it. You think it's wonderful. Others don't seem to get it. What will it take to make them see it the way you want them to? What do you have to change? What do you need to lose? What do you have to supply that isn't there already? Do it again. Do it different. Do it better. Make it work.

The balance starts to shift as you instinctively seek that magically right proportion of feeling and thinking. You learn to recognise what's right before you set it down, as opposed to having to work out what's wrong afterwards. If the balance shifts too far, if you become all calculation and no inspiration, then you fall into the habits of a hack. But mostly the process seems to take care of itself over time, as long as you keep at it.

I've lifted these thoughts from the afterword to the Telos Classics edition of Valley of Lights, in which I ramble muchly about the background to the writing of the novel and the circumstances surrounding its publication.

I may put more of it online in time, if I can work out how avoid dumping one big TLDR on you.

Saturday 15 December 2012

From the Archive

The Stephen Laws archive, that is, or more correctly it's lifted from his Facebook page. No, it's not horror fiction's very own Boy Band. That's the late and much-loved Charles L Grant, me with Paul McCartney's hair, Laws, and Bigdog himself Joe R Lansdale at the BFS Awards.

Laws is a notorious pickpocket, which is why Charlie and I are guarding our change. Laws is venting his frustration by goosing Joe.

And what can I say? It was the 80s. We all tucked our shirts in our pants back then.

Wednesday 12 December 2012

Dead Static

If you're in London, from now until Saturday night you can catch the second run of the science fiction comedy Dead Static at the Hen and Chickens theatre in Islington.

Tickets are nine quid. I believe there are still comps available for bona fide reviewers (ie, if you can prove you are one, and not that you just suddenly decided to be one to snag a freebie).

The List describes it as "Steve Jordan's science-fiction comedy about an over-confident smuggler and an insufferably upbeat conman trapped in a shuttle on a collision course with an asteroid belt." The play runs an hour and it's over a pub, so what's not to like? Have a drink, wander up to see the play, come back down and have another.

I saw it in its first run at the Camden Fringe. I had a great time. The show's associate producer is Little Miss Brooligan, aka Ellen Gallagher. Collar her after the show and ask her what an associate producer does and if you find out, tell me.

Logo design is by Paul Drummond, who designed this blog and the website of which it's part.

It's a tiny, tiny world.

Tuesday 11 December 2012

Shedding Light on the Valley

Writing about Greg Hoblit's supernatural chase thriller The Fallen for her Cats on Film blog, Anne Billson got in touch to clarify a point.

Apparently some of the Amazon reviewers of my 1987 novel Valley of Lights contend that it owes something to Jack Sholder's movie The Hidden. In Valley of Lights, a Phoenix police sergeant is targeted by an ageless, amoral body-hopping entity that has been living on the fringes of society for so long that it can't even remember its own origin. It's not a great life; it's an eternity of lying low, until threatened by discovery.

I wrote the book in '85 and in July '86 it was optioned by AWGO (Anciano Wyn-Griffith Orme), a newly-formed UK company with Hollywood feature ambitions. In October '86 director Stuart Orme went over and showed the script to New Line's Robert Shaye in the hope of getting New Line to back it. Shaye didn't say no right away. In '87 the book came out in hardcover, and in July the guys were confident enough to take me over to scout locations in Arizona and take some meetings in LA. I kept a diary of that trip which is included in the 'Telos Classic' edition of the novel. We interviewed casting directors as a step toward attaching a lead: Ed Harris was top of our wishlist, I recall, and William Hurt was on it as well.

New Line finally said no. The guys were talking to other backers as well, but when New Line released The Hidden in October '87 our movie was dead. We didn't know it right away, but it was.

Did The Hidden rip us off? It's hardly likely. But does Valley owe anything to The Hidden? Not a thing. It was out first.

Anne's blog post is here. I like The Hidden. It's a fun movie. I've never seen Fallen.

Thursday 6 December 2012

It's Publication Day

The British paperback edition of The Kingdom of Bones, the novel that introduces The Bedlam Detective's Sebastian Becker, is published today by Ebury Press.

Marilyn Stasio in The New York Times wrote:
THE KINGDOM OF BONES... shows the occult mystery in its best light. Vividly set in England and America during the booming industrial era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, this stylish thriller conjures a perfect demon to symbolize the age and its appetites, an entity that inhabits characters eager to barter their souls for fame and fortune. When met, this demon is residing in Edmund Whitlock, an actor whose life gives us entry into the colorful world of traveling theatricals. When Whitlock passes on his curse to the company soubrette, the troupe manager follows her to America, intent on rescuing her, and runs afoul of the law. Although Gallagher delivers horror with a grand melodramatic flourish, his storytelling skills are more subtly displayed in scenes of the provincial theaters, gentlemen’s sporting clubs and amusement parks where a now-vanished society once took its rough pleasures. 
And this from crime titan Ed Gorman:
"I read Stephen Gallagher for two reasons. First because he's one of the most entertaining writers I've ever read. And second because I can't read a short story of his let alone a novel without picking up a few pointers about writing. He's an elegant stylist, a shrewd psychologist and a powerful storyteller with enormous range and depth.

"I finished his latest novel The Kingdom of Bones and I was honestly stunned by what he'd done. The sweep, the majesty, the grit, the grue, the great grief (and the underpinning of gallows humor from time to time). This is not only the finest novel I've read this year but the finest novel I've read in the past two or three years."

The Kingdom of Bones UK paperback cover