‘Why is it called Skinner Lane? Why … because that’s where something called the Skinner lives.’
Internationally renowned horror novelist Simon Clark returns to his roots with a new edition of Blood and Grit, the short story collection that launched his career twenty-one years ago. Together with all six original tales, Blood and Grit 21 features the haunting ‘…Beside the Seaside…’, Simon's first professional sale, while a brand new story takes us back to the iconic ‘Skinner Lane’. In a new illustrated afterword, Simon recounts how the original book came about and reveals the locations that inspired its stories. Last but not least, this new edition includes the original foreword by Andrew Darlington, who also provides a brand new introduction that's a rousing celebration of Simon's career to date.
Let Simon himself guide you through the contents:
The original Blood and Grit contained the following stories:
~ SKINNER LANE: This is dedicated to anyone who has wondered what it would be like to be skinned alive. Come to think of it, I wonder if it was inspired by watching a woman on a beach enthusiastically peeling the sunburnt skin from her husband’s back. “On one branch peeled faces hung like tatty masks…”
~ OUT FROM UNDER: When city populations grew at an explosive rate there wasn’t enough space to bury the dead. I imagined a world where the late-lamented were hygienically shrink-wrapped then handed back to the next-of-kin for storage at home. “Like those vacuum packed trout you buy, he could feel the shape of the body beneath the tight plastic – the head, the limbs, the lumps and ridges.”
~ OVER RUN: Here the dead refuse to lie down and play dead. They aren’t mindless zombies, however: they rise from their graves for a purpose, because someone harbours a secret. “Two hundred sat on a burial mound where the voices of the five-thousand-year-old dead vibrated faintly through the clay to tickle the two hundred shriveled rumps.”
~ BITE BACK: An entity of total destructive evil pursues a man across Yorkshire. Featuring explosive – even implosive – action in Wakefield, Sheffield and Doncaster. This is a road-movie style thriller of mayhem and redemption. “The boy’s face jerked up as the glass roof exploded into crystals and the stone pillars burst under the impact.”
~ REVELLING IN BRICK: Someone once said that the universe is not only as strange as we can imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine. Here I imagined what would happen to a character if reality became stranger and more bizarre, and more disquieting, with every passing day. “The blade travelled smoothly. It was sharp and the dwarf was strong.”
~ SEX, SAVAGERY AND BLOOD, BLOOD, BLOOD: The title says it all… well, almost. Hold on tight, you’re in for a hell of ride. “Oh, the love in the place. The love and the hate, and the fear and the pain, and the agony and the ecstasy…”
Blood and Grit 21 fiction extras:
~ …BESIDE THE SEASIDE, BESIDE THE SEA…: This story, which first appeared in BBR, was reprinted in a paperback anthology by the name of The Year’s Best Horror, edited by Karl Edward Wagner. Karl was a living legend – the legend continues long after he’s gone. Cheers, Karl.
~ 21 SKINNER LANE: An all-new story to celebrate the collection’s reissue. Here, Kenny, the hero of Skinner Lane is once more confronted with an evil that he thought he’d laid to rest twenty-one years ago. “His eyes locked onto the figure that was a grim totem of bones and dried-out guts.”
Simon Clark is the award-winning author of the cult apocalyptic novel Blood Crazy: "everyone over the age of 19 has been driven murderously insane... children and teenagers flee for their lives..." His novels include Nailed By The Heart, Vampyrrhic, Whitby Vampyrrhic, The Night of the Triffids and a bloody fistful of others that earned accolades from magazines around the world. This from Hellnotes: 'Clark's is surely the most outrageous imagination to grace horror since the discovery of Clive Barker' And: 'I actually loved Blood Crazy. Not just liked it, but loved it.' A quote from Beyond.
King Blood is now known as On Deadly Ground and has been re-issued on Kindle.
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I didn't really come across Simon Clark until the late 90s - his books have never really received that much publicity and I was unaware of the existence of this book until this kindle version. Feel sorry for the reviewer who paid a fortune for a copy - only for it to be released as a cheap e-book (that has happened to me as well with a different author) but I'm glad finally to get the chance to read it.
The stories have definitely got a 90s feel - reminds me of the 'Year's best' horror anthologies, edited by Karl Edward Wagner which I used to devour back in the day and I think I've come across at least one of the stories in that collection. Some of the stories are a bit surreal for my taste - I don't think this is something Clark does particularly well - but overall they are all pretty frightening - there is one in particular which will give me nightmares for years. The protagonist in 'The Biter bit' seems to be an early prototype of Tug Slatter in 'Blood Crazy' and I liked the authenticity of the Yorkshire settings.
I would have given this 5 stars were it not for problems with the kindle edition - the formatting seemed to go haywire at times especially when I tried to use the back button when I found myself in the middle of a different story. Overall all though, highly recommended!
Update 8th January 2014: Kindle issues now seem to have been resolved so have amended title/score accordingly.
This is Clark's first printed collection of tales and it's never been bettered. I paid £75 for the paperback such was it's rarity so this is a bargain, with extra stories thrown in. Contains stories of the weird and wonderful, the scary and unnerving and the down right bizarre. At this silly price give it a punt you won't be disappointed. Highly recommended.