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Monday 31 December 2018

Casting the Runes

UPDATE: Released February 7th, 2019

If you're still waiting for this, so am I; the plan was for a December Audible release but it's been pushed to early in the New Year. I can't tell you any more than that, but I can tell you this; I've heard the finished show and I'm really happy with the way it's turned out. Just look at the headliners in our powerhouse cast:

Anna Maxwell Martin, Reece Shearsmith, and Tom Burke in Casting the Runes

If you need to scratch your Jamesian itch while you're waiting, Neil Brand's 15 Minute Drama adaptations of five M R James stories are available on BBC Sounds until January 18th. And if it's the straight text you want then Audible itself carries several Casting the Runes original short story readings, most of fine quality.

So, what do we bring to the table? A new and contemporary take on the story is something I've been wanting to tackle for some time, and when Simon Barnard at Bafflegab Productions offered me the opportunity, I went for it.

The idea had been cooking for a while. I've always been a fan of Night of the Demon, in which Bennet and Tourneur brought the tale forward in time to a '50s setting to produce a remarkable movie and a classic of the genre. There's an underlying power in the story that doesn't only survive translation, but energises the retelling.

I revisited the film before I tackled the script (one of the joys of the job, and you get to call it research). But that was for the sole reason of ensuring that I took nothing from it.

I was there for the day of the recording in West London. It went well. If you want to know anything further, you'll need to give it a listen.

(You can read about Audible's free 30-day trial at audible.co.uk; if you leave Audible you get to keep your purchased material, so technically you could get the download for nothing. When I signed up last year it was to get hold of Adam Roche's remarkable podcast series The Secret History of Hollywood, only to find that Audible-exclusive podcasts are bundled in with your membership at no extra charge. So I got my free stuff and stayed to graze, on items like Bafflegab's own award-winning production of Blood on Satan's Claw; which is why such offers make commercial sense, I suppose.)

As soon as I get that firm release date, I'll post it here and on Twitter.

(Cast photo by Lisa Bowerman)

Saturday 22 December 2018

THE SPIRIT BOX 2-day promotion, free download

From midnight to midnight (Pacific Time) over Sunday December 23rd and Monday 24th, you can download The Spirit Box from Amazon at no cost. Zilch. Zero.

Update: extended to the end of Christmas Day, December 25th.

Click here for your region's Amazon link or scroll down and click on 'Buy the ebook'.

“The finest British writer of bestselling popular fiction since le CarrĂ© … Gallagher, like le CarrĂ© , is a novelist whose themes seem to reflect something of the essence of our times, whose skill lies in embedding those themes in accessible plots.”—The Independent 

Rachel's in trouble. She's a ticking bomb. A couple of co-workers bullied her into stealing a radical new drug from their employer, and now it's lodged inside her. They're watching her like hawks and her time's running out. John Bishop runs security for the company; as a father who once lost a teenaged daughter to an accidental overdose, his drive to hunt down the thieves and rescue their victim grows more intense with every lost minute. He can never bring his own child back. But he can save someone else's. Then his superiors realise that if the swallowed package bursts and Rachel dies, their secrets are kept safe and their problem goes away. Though Bishop's on the trail, he's an easy man to cut loose and discredit. But now he's Rachel's only hope. 

"Gallagher's hardboiled style is pitch-perfect for the tale's grim events, but he leavens it with dislocating moments of powerful emotion that draw the reader irresistibly to the characters. The novel packs a wallop that should make an impact on fans of both suspense and horror fiction."—Publishers' Weekly 

“Stephen Gallagher has carved a highly individual niche with his distinctly psychological approach to the genre.”—Yorkshire Evening Post 

“His prose is clear and diamond-sharp, his imagination dark and vivid... a terrifying walk along the edge of nightmare.”—Time Out 

“One of Britain's most exciting writers of literate, nerve-shredding thrillers.”—Starburst 

“Perhaps the finest contemporary British thriller writer.”—GQ 

“Gallagher has quietly become Britain's finest popular novelist, working a dark seam between horror and the psychological thriller.”—Arena 

The Spirit Box Stephen Gallagher Paperback: 292 pages £7.99 Publisher: The Brooligan Press (7 Nov. 2017) Language: English ISBN-10: 0995797374 ISBN-13: 978-0995797376

Thursday 20 December 2018

Seriously, eBay?

I reckon Putin's people must have hacked eBay and now they're trolling me. I searched for a nice old hardback copy of Boris Pasternak's counter-revolutionary classic Doctor Zhivago, and now when I log in these are my literary 'recommendations':

The map puzzle book is the hardest to explain, unless it's an unsubtle message for me to 'get lost...'

But then you can always rely on family for support.

Wednesday 28 November 2018

Doctor Who, Season 18 on Blu Ray

The 'as-yet unscheduled' limited edition Blu Ray release of Doctor Who season 18 is now on the schedule for a February 2019 UK launch.  It includes a feature titled The Writers' Room, filmed in a secret location (okay, it was a rather fine pub in Stoke Newington) where Chris Bidmead, Andrew Smith, John Flanagan and I got together for a summer afternoon of chat and Who memories.

Andrew has described the get-together as a highlight of the year, and I entirely concur. If you enjoy watching it half as much as we enjoyed making it... well, then I guess we'll have had twice as much fun as you.

Other new bonus features include commentary tracks with Tom Baker on The Leisure Hive, and Lalla Ward and Rachel Davies on State of Decay, both moderated by Matthew Sweet, while Warriors Gate gets a surround sound mix masterminded by sonic supremo Mark Ayres. Along with the new material comes the stuff previously compiled for the DVDs.

Oh, and I expect there are some shows on there as well.

And while I've got you here, don't forget this:

Tuesday 20 November 2018

Leytonstone: the Afterword

The second in Stephen Volk's Dark Masters trilogy of novellas, each of which delves into the fictional psyche of a real-life figure from the darker end of the popular arts, Leytonstone is an extended riff upon a well-known incident from the early life of Alfred Hitchcock. I was honoured to be asked to write an afterword to its original edition from the Spectral Press.

Now all three novellas have been collected together into a single hardcover volume by PS Publishing, and a thing of great beauty it is. Leytonstone now takes its place between Whitstable (featuring Peter Cushing) and Netherwood (Dennis Wheatley, in a tale of an uneasy alliance with 'Great Beast' Aleister Crowley).

There are no afterwords in this new edition, either mine or that of Mark Morris for Whitstable; but you can read my little Hitchcock essay here, if you like.

You don't have to have read the novella. Though you may want to, and you should.

But don't say you were never warned...

Monday 12 November 2018

Scraps of WHO

A quick note on some Doctor Who-related stuff I've got coming up in the New Year. I'll give more details on each in due course but for now, just the headlines...
  • During the summer I was one of four Season 18 writers participating in a filmed chat for the as-yet unscheduled Blu Ray release. All of us around a table in a rather nice pub. I've seen an early cut and it's turned out rather well.
  • I've signed a contract for a BBC Audiobook of the Terminus novelisation, and...
  • After banging on about the 'lost' version of the Warriors' Gate novelisation for many years, I finally bit the bullet and reassembled the text from surviving fragments, again for BBC Audio. The production will be something special. With BBC Books focusing more on recent material, there are no plans at this stage for a print version.
  • Frank Collins is working on The Black Archive #29, a book-length study of Warriors' Gate. Along with interviews from me, director Paul Joyce, and others, he's had access to all my drafts and working papers in the Hull History Centre.
  • Neil Cole's Museum of Classic Sci-fi in the Northumbrian village of Allendale features some pieces from Warriors' Gate and, most impressively, the original Garm mask and costume from Terminus.
More on each of these as news becomes available.

And in the meantime, there'll be the audio release of Casting the Runes, a contemporary production featuring Tom Burke, Anna Maxwell Martin, with Reece Shearsmith as Karswell, from Audible in December.

Friday 26 October 2018

Becker's World

"We have a man. We want to know if we can trust him and I think you can get us the answer."

Sebastian Becker was never meant to live, but sometimes you just don't plan these things.

He made his first appearance in The Kingdom of Bones, pursuing the fugitive Tom Sayers from London's Music Hall circuit to a final confrontation in a Lousiana furniture store, a Javert to Sayers' Valjean. The Bedlam Detective found him back in England with his young family, working cash-in-hand to support them as an investigator for the Lord Chancellor's Visitor in Lunacy. In The Authentic William James he's handed a job with political implications that he turns into a personal mission.

“You feel others’ pain. But you won’t share your own. There are people who love you. They love you more than you know. But you can never bring yourself to believe that you deserve it.”

Along the way I've been adding shorter pieces, fleshing out Becker's world, filling in some of the gaps. Out of Bedlam falls between The Kingdom of Bones and The Bedlam Detective; the action of One Dove slots in between Bedlam Detective and William James. The new novella takes us forward with a character whose potential I'd begun to sense along the way. For new readers it includes a (relevant) sample chapter from The Authentic William James.

Thursday 25 October 2018

Broadcast Blues

I've begun watching a WGA preview screener of Amazon’s Homecoming with Sam (Mr Robot) Esmail directing Julia Roberts in a podcast-inspired drama. It's too early for me to offer judgment, but so far it’s intriguing and engaging and matches no obvious broadcast model – half-hour serial fiction with varying episode lengths and other "No one ever does that" elements that I’ll leave you to discover.

Right now it seems like no more than a week or two goes by without some form-breaking novelty from one of the streaming platforms. A lot of shows that do nothing for me, but a significant number that do. 3 years ago I was working for a US network whose drama VP told me that the traditional networks were expecting to survive no more than 6 years in their current form. I get it now.

This item in The Guardian's media section brought that conversation back to mind:

The big game-changer was Beau Willimon and David Fincher's House of Cards, I reckon. Prior to that, online drama meant no-budget, no-name exercises in the disguising of negligible resources. HoC landed among the webisodes like Orson Welles in a paddling pool.

The success of Netflix et al is that of providing for a wide variety of tastes. In the arc of my career I’ve seen UK broadcasting go from ‘something for everyone’ to the steady narrowing of focus onto one or other imaginary demographic. Lost count of the number of times I’ve been told what “the ITV viewer” or “the BBC1 audience” wants (usually homely and heartwarming ‘people like us’ stories).

Nothing wrong with that. But it’s like beans for every meal.

I had a conspiracy theory that the BBC’s Bodyguard Radio Times cover spoiler was a veiled rebuke to the on-demand viewer. But I do hope our national broadcasters survive and prosper, without being reduced to a diet of sports and shiny-floor shows with live voting..

By the sound of it, they’ve got 3 more years to work out how.

Tuesday 16 October 2018

Dark Mirages: Dracula

Dark Mirages is a new book presenting unproduced screenplays by writers with genre credentials, each with a story behind it.

In my case Dracula was commissioned by the BBC and cancelled, unread, on the very day that I delivered the script. The producers were Deep Indigo working with BBC Wales.

 My angle was that nobody had 'done' the book properly since Gerald Savory's 1970s adaptation. Dracula is a work that's often plundered and rarely honoured. Stoker never gets the respect that's automatically accorded to an Austen, an Eliot, or a Hardy, maybe because he wrote an instinctive classic rather than a cerebral one.

Things would have to change, as in adaptations they always do. But for me the guiding motivation would always be the question, What was Stoker getting at, here?

I won't insult you by explaining how the novel is a collage of second-hand perceptions, cast in the form of letters, journals, and dictated notes from the principal characters. The character of Count Dracula is offstage for much of the novel, which adds to his mystery and enhances his credibility.

Because of this approach, you don't get Count Dracula's version of the events. You can work it out by a kind of literary triangulation, but I've never seen it done and still come out as Stoker. Dracula's role gets rewritten, as if his character somehow isn't integral, nor needs to be rendered with any fidelity to the author.

What we usually get is either a romantic rapist or, if the makers want to signal that they've seen Nosferatu, a hideous cockroach. Rarely has anyone made a serious attempt to show us Stoker's nasty-minded, empty-hearted predator, who insists to his dissipated party-girl 'brides' that he's capable of love, and then goes on to prove at great length that he isn't.

It was the fastest, fiercest script I've ever written. We opened a discussion with Vincent Cassel's people, for our Dracula of choice. And as my script made its way to Cardiff a drama executive in London heard of a proposed ITV version over lunch and cancelled our project that same afternoon.

We had a completed script, we were way ahead. The other project didn't even have a writer yet. But the news took over a week to reach us, during which time the producers of the ITV project got out a press announcement and effectively bombed the BBC's boat.

There's a coda. About two years later, the BBC financed ITV's version and screened it as their own. I didn't - couldn' t - watch, but the general opinion seems to be that it was not great.

So there's that.

Monday 9 July 2018

Coming Soon

Publication November 2nd 2018. Paperback and ebook.

In the lobby of a Blackpool hotel, one year after the end of the Great War, Britain's spymaster recruits a young sideshow fortune-teller for a mission of historic importance.

A standalone novella from the author of the Sebastian Becker novels The Kingdom of Bones, The Bedlam Detective, and The Authentic William James.

The Sebastian Becker Stories: Reviews

The New York Times: "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… 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.”

The Sunday Times, London: "From its attention-grabbing opening, this period thriller moves back and forth in time to tell a compelling story of a man battling against what he believes to be demonic forces … [Gallagher] is brilliantly successful at evoking the shifting, transient world of travelling theatres and cheap carnivals that provide the backdrop to his twisting tale."

Ed Gorman: "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."

Kirkus Reviews: (for The Bedlam Detective, 100 Best Fiction selection for 2012) “Monsters, actual and metaphorical, are at the heart of this superbly crafted thriller. Gallagher loves character development but respects plotting enough to give it full measure. The result is that rare beast, a literary page turner.”

Jonny Lee Miller, via Twitter: "Just finished Stephen Gallagher’s The Bedlam Detective. Only bad thing about his books is that they eventually end. Brilliant."

New York Times: “Gallagher's detective is a man of fine character and strong principles, but he's upstaged by the monsters he pursues. Watching Becker track down a pedophile is gratifying, but it can't beat the sight of 20 overburdened boats hurtling through white-water rapids or Sir Owain, armed to the teeth and blasting away at giant serpents only he can see.”

The Historical Novel Society: “It’s certainly a thriller, but with a literary depth unusual in the genre, and fascinating in the complexity of its construct. Gallagher’s prose is swift, sure, and occasionally darkly comedic… Three words of advice: read this book.”

Stephen Volk: “It's a blinding novel (The Authentic William James)… each chapter had me chuckling with joy—if not at the acerbic wit, the brilliant dialogue—the sheer spot-on elegance of the writing: the plot turns, the pin sharp beats. Always authoritative and con-vincing, never showy. Magnificently realised characters in a living breathing world... Absolutely stunning.”

Publishers Weekly (starred): “British author Gallagher gives Sebastian Becker another puzzle worthy of his quirky sleuth’s acumen in his outstanding third pre-WWI mystery... Gallagher makes the most of his unusual concept in the service of a twisty but logical plot line.”

About the Author

Stoker and World Fantasy Award nominee, winner of British Fantasy and International Horror Guild Awards for his short fiction, Stephen Gallagher has built a career both as a novelist and as a creator of primetime miniseries and episodic television. His fourteen novels include Valley of Lights, Down River, The Spirit Box, and Nightmare, With Angel.

Wednesday 6 June 2018

The Brooligan Press

The Brooligan Press website is now up and running, with details of all the titles in our list and global links for ordering paperbacks and ebooks.

Monday 14 May 2018

The British Horror Movie You'll Never Get to See, and Why

Last weekend found me back in Pooley Bridge. It's a village at the northern tip of Ullswater in the Lake District with a post office, a couple of pubs, a handful of tourist shops, a posh bistro, and a steamer pier. Ullswater is, for my money, the fairest of the Lakes, and the village was the model for the settlement that I called Ravens Bridge in my novel The Boat House.

It's the story of a Russian hitchhiker who goes to ground there in the 1980s, on the run from the authorities and from the Soviet-era police agent sent to track her down. She stays because the woods and lakes remind her of her Karelian homeland, a place she was forced to leave because of a growing obsession with deaths by drowning. She finds a seasonal job and a place to crash, and works hard to put down some roots.

I messed about with the place for fictional purposes, of course. I put a lakeside restaurant on the steamer pier and gifted the town a boatyard. I had form for this; it was in the adjacent valley of Martindale that I'd found the setting for my first 'proper' novel, Chimera, just a few years before, and early efforts to teach myself some basic movie skills had involved a 16mm camera, a rented shooting lodge on the Dalemain estate, and a group of press-ganged friends and coworkers.

With The Boat House I can fairly say that I suffered for my art. To research Alina's backstory I made a rail trip from Helsinki to St Petersburg and came home with a dose of Hepatitis A, courtesy of the kitchen hygiene at the Europiskaya Hotel. This made for a somewhat fevered writing process but the result, heavily edited with a cooler head, felt exciting and unique. It took a while to get published, but when the book deal came it was a good one. It wasn't long before screen rights were optioned by a respected producer, and with her I produced a treatment that snagged us Film Council development funding. By now her feature-director husband had become involved. The resulting script drew in a major studio. An A-list cinematographer was attached and a top-notch production designer - if you've ever worked in film you'll know how utterly crucial to a movie's look and tone that is - headed up to the Lakes to start finding locations. It was at this point that I found myself off the project.

What followed was a perplexing time. My unused screenplay was earning its keep as a personal sample and fetching me new work, while the producers kept on commissioning scripts from other writers. I'm not sure how many but after five I stopped counting. These weren't rewrites, but new first drafts. I didn't see them all, but I did see a couple. Here's the problem; all this time, the meter had been running. Even unmade scripts don't come cheap, and nor do feature film department heads. By the time the option expired the charges run up against the production were significant.

I can sell the book again but those turnaround fees would need to be repaid on the first day of principal photography by anyone taking on my screenplay, or any subsequent version of it. Chump change for an American studio, I know; but The Boat House is a British Picture, albeit one with a Lewtonesque vibe. It's closely bound to a landscape with a specific sense of place, and that kind of money is a budget killer for any British producer.

And that's why, barring a miracle, you'll never see the movie.

So what's prompted me to be telling you this now? Well, getting back after a four-hour walk on the hottest day of the year so far, I called into the Post Office to pick up a cold beer or two. Don't judge me, I'd earned it. The Lake District boasts a number of craft brewery labels, but one in particular caught my eye; on the front the image of an ethereal lake creature, and on the back, "By the historic Coniston Copper Mines, mythical Asrai emerge from the caves above the moonlit Levers Water. Cold and pure, these elusive creatures fear capture by man lest they fade away and turn into pools of water."

Mythical Asrai? Moonlit waters? That's pure Boat House stuff. Dang. Where was this brew when I was writing?  For inspiration I'll take it over Hep A any time.

Pooley Bridge took a severe battering in the storms and winter floods of 2015, and its charming sixteenth century river crossing was destroyed and swept away. For the short term it's been replaced by a temporary metal bridge with a permanent replacement planned for construction later in the year. A number of padlocks on the ironwork have begun to appear this season, like the ones that brought down the parapet on the Pont des Artes in Paris.

I guess if you want to hedge your bets when declaring undying love, a forever lock on a temporary bridge is the way to go.

Friday 11 May 2018

Two New Titles from The Brooligan Press

Available now... two new trade paperback titles from The Brooligan Press.

Frankenstein's Prescription Banished to an isolated rural for killing a fellow student in a duel, Hans Schneider meets the mysterious Dr Lavenza and learns about Frankenstein's prescriptionthe secret of eternal life. Together, Schneider and Lavenza set out to collect the missing pieces of the formula. But they are not alone. From Germany to Rome, from Rome to Paris, to the failed and wretched Eden of an all-too-human God, a dreadful creature follows in their wake and brings destruction wherever they go.

First appearance in paperback. "A unique piece of work; fast, funny, and with a terrific sense of period and place. Frankenstein's Prescription reads like the bastard creation of Jonathan Swift and Jimmy Sangster."

The Companion A broken church window, smashed in a bid to contain the power trapped within its stained glass... The desperate sobbing of a child who isn’t there... When restoration expert Kit Farris moves into the adjoining Grange with his three daughters, how can he possibly know what dark forces his work will unleash?

Previously published as Shapeshifter, now appearing for the first time under its original title in an edition revised and expanded by the author. "An excellent book, which celebrates and transcends genre. As much family story as ghost story, a tense drama of abuse, neglect and longing... An old-fashioned ghost tale with a modern edge, consciously a tribute to M R James in its setting and atmosphere.” Neil Philip, The Times 

Wednesday 21 February 2018


Sunday 28 January 2018

The Northern Crime Quartet

A retrospective ‘umbrella title’ that’s become attached to four consecutive novels written during my publishing run with Hodder & Stoughton, just before the balance of my career tipped more toward screenwriting.

Four linked stories in a shared Northern landscape, playing variations on a theme of flawed good versus complex evil. Though it was never my intention, some were inclined to read it as a deliberate move to leave my horror/fantasy roots behind and claim a piece of the mainstream. It wasn't, but no matter. I was just looking to create different monsters.

Down River is the story of Nick Frazier and Johnny Mays, two childhood friends reunited as plainclothes police officers, one of them tragically unbalanced and ultimately dangerous. It features the promotion of Jennifer McGann from uniformed duties to CID trainee, and includes witness evidence from a teenaged hitchhiker named Lucy Ashdown.

In Nightmare, with Angel, a convicted criminal (Ryan O’Donnell) earns redemption through a self-sacrificing act that reconciles a lost child (Marianne Cadogan) with her equally lost father. Jennifer McGann is the investigating officer on her first big solo case.

Rain follows Down River’s hitchhiking teenager Lucy Ashdown to London in her murdered sister’s footsteps. She’s pursued by suspended DC Joe Lucas as a favour to her dad. She outwits Joe at every turn, but fails to see that the closer she gets to an answer, the closer she is to sharing her sister’s fate.

The Painted Bride focuses on the case of Frank Tanner, a car dealer whose wife has gone missing; no one believes he’s killed her apart from Molly Gideon, his sister-in-law. Molly’s a recovering heroin addict with no credibility, but she sacrifices everything to protect the children and bring him to justice.

They’re tales of ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances. The settings are Northern cities, moorland, marshes and coastline, plus the ‘80s London of Rain and Nightmare’s European angle with the fall of the Berlin Wall. In each of the stories, the violent are broken and the victims are strong. They prevail.

Showreel for 2018

Sunday 21 January 2018

Coming Soon

With a third, new collection of material to follow later in the year

Wednesday 10 January 2018

The Spirit Box: first time in paperback

This is kind of exciting... following on from the mass-market publication of The Authentic William James comes the first paperback appearance of The Spirit Box, previously available in this gorgeously boxed format with a cover by Chris Moore:

The Spirit Box is closely followed by the paperback debut of The Painted Bride and then, for the first time ever, my backlist titles gathered together in a uniform edition. Not reprints, but new settings from the original texts.

Available now. You can find all these titles, plus links to the ebook editions, here.