I’ve been doing book reviews at Horror Drive-In for about a year and a half now, and I remain thankful to Mark for giving me the opportunity to do so. In some cases, I get to read books before they’ve been released to the general public. But perhaps the greatest benefit is being able to try new authors that I might not have otherwise taken a chance on.
For example, take Paul Kane. Prior to receiving his short-story collection, PERIPHERAL VISIONS, I’d never heard of him. But by the time I’d turned the final page of his book, I knew I’d be following his writing from then on. You see, Paul is wildly creative and original in much the same way that Al Sarrantonio is. And, like Al’s projects, I can purchase Paul’s work knowing that I’m going to be thoroughly entertained each and every time.
This month we’re happy to feature one of Paul’s tales, entitled “Nine Tenths”. My hope is that you’ll not only read the story and enjoy it as much as we did, but that you’ll give his writing a shot next time you’re buying some books. I don’t doubt you’ll dig it.
I see the projectionist is ready to go, so it’s time for me to step aside. Ease back in your chair, throw back a handful of popcorn, and enjoy the feature presentation. Don’t forget to hang around afterwards for our lengthy interview with Paul.
He’d been watching the place for a few weeks.
In his line of work, patience and persistence paid off. You couldn’t afford mistakes, because they got you caught. So he’d camped out, watching; always watching.
As far as Ren could make out, the new owner – a middle-aged man who was going both grey and bald at the same time – lived all alone in that big place. He was usually out in the evening (some kind of shift worker, perhaps) but when he was gone, he’d be gone for hours. Ren would watch him leave in that sporty Mazda number, during which time he’d phone the house number at random intervals to see if anyone picked up. No-one ever did, and there was no sign of any wife or family at all; no sign of anyone.
Ren also made recces, gaining access to the wall at the back through the wooded area beyond. What would have been a selling point when buying the place – a nice, quiet, isolated spot – was a major bonus in his specialist field. The wall was fairly standard size, offering no obstacle to him: he’d been climbing like a monkey since he was small. He’d been doing this for almost as long, graduating in the ranks from petty thief to professional burglar. One gig these days could last him a good few months, because he chose them so carefully and always scoped out his targets.
The house itself was alarmed, which he could spot from the outside. It would be easy enough to cut the lines to that, though. What he was also able to do on those research missions was take a look through the windows and see whether it was actually worth breaking in; it was amazing how many properties looked like they’d be Aladdin’s caves, but turned out to contain nothing of worth at all.
This one was different. No sooner had he pressed his face up against the glass than he spotted the works of art on the wall; the LCD TV and home cinema system, not to mention blu-rays; the music system, racks of CDs; the various statues and ornaments scattered about the place that would make a mint when he sold them on (so much stuff that he considered bringing someone else in on this... but decided ultimately that he could handle it). This was a person who enjoyed the finer things in life.
It was also while he was looking through his third or fourth window that he spotted the locked door, just off from the hallway which led into the spacious kitchen. In Ren’s experience locks always meant that there was something valuable on the other side – and he hadn’t come across a lock yet that wouldn’t yield to him. It would probably be where this guy kept his serious money; there might even be a safe on the other side? Again, Ren had to the tools and the skill to handle any kind of job...
So he’d waited for the man to leave once more that night, tested the phone for the final time, and when there had been no answer, he’d made his move. Did he feel any kind of sympathy for the people he stole from, any kind of guilt at what he did? After this long? Hardly. Besides, Ren had always subscribed to the philosophy that possession was nine tenths of the law. Once he had all he wanted loaded up into his van – parked down the side of the house, out of view – it would belong to him. And if he chose to sell it on... well, that was his affair. He’d lose no sleep over it.
In his black clothes and mask, he blended into the shadows – not that there was anyone around to see him. Ren brought along the tools necessary to disable the alarm, which took only a few minutes. Next he took out his glass cutters and armature, to gain entrance through the back door. Long gone were the days of him trying to use a screwdriver to jimmy doors on his estate. Now he had much more finesse.
He’d popped the locks and bolts on the door in a matter of seconds, gaining access quickly and stealthily. Start with the larger stuff, he told himself – he’d brought along a trolley to pile it on. But there was just something nagging at him about that locked door. Beyond it, there might be cash – or better – that would render all that hefting redundant. Have a look inside there, first... Go on...
Ren couldn’t resist. It was like a magnet was drawing him to the door. The lock was again a fairly standard one, but probably hadn’t come with the house. He checked the seals for another alarm, just in case, but there was nothing. The lock sprang open and he pushed on the door, flicking his small torch into the blackness. There was a set of steps leading downwards, into some kind of cellar. A wave of cold air greeted him.
Ren frowned... Was it worth going down there, when he could just load up on the ground level? Hell, he hadn’t even checked the upstairs yet – who knew what kind of finds there were? To his surprise, Ren found his foot on the first step. He’d come this far, he had to know what was so priceless it needed to be kept down here.
His beam flashed over a room, with metallic cupboards on the walls. Could be storage, he thought to himself, the kind they use in banks. In all his time, he’d never pulled off a bank job, so maybe he was in over his head. Don’t be silly, you still know how to break those kinds of locks, he reminded himself.
But there were metallic shapes in the middle of the room as well, plus what looked like floor-to-ceiling storage cabinets. Ren moved further down into the basement, one ear still cocked for any noises upstairs. These days if you were caught by the owner of the place, and they attacked you, they’d be the ones going to jail... But he’d rather avoid that kind of messiness if he could.
He couldn’t see properly using just the torch, but found a light switch on the wall not far away. Ren hesitated before throwing it; the light wouldn’t extend upstairs. Now he could see the room as a whole, the cupboards and the table not far away – the edges of which he’d only just brushed with the torch.
Ren wasted no time in trying to open the cupboard doors. They were steel, and remarkably cold, but he managed to fling open the one nearest. It was full of glass vials, each one containing liquid. He picked up the closest and read the label on the side. Ren had no idea what it was for, but he did know one thing: drugs were drugs, no matter what way you cut it. He’d been right, there was a fortune waiting just in this cupboard alone.
Moving to another, he opened it and found containers. White, plastic, which opened up at the top. They ranged in size from the very large to the really small; each with a temperature gauge. Ren frowned again. He should just fill his backpack from the first cupboard and leave... But he wanted to see if there were any more of the vials in the cupboards.
He made for another one on his right, tugging it open. The metal finally came loose and Ren stared at the contents of the cupboard. He staggered backwards, hitting the edge of the table. He felt nauseous, but tried not to throw up inside his mask. Breathing long and slow, he opened another cupboard... This one was even worse.
Ren swallowed, a sour taste in his mouth. He turned and looked at the larger cabinets. Against his better judgement, he reached out his hand. Before he could stop himself, Ren had opened that door too. He caught only a glimpse of what was inside, before he felt the blow on the back of his neck.
But that glimpse was more than enough.
When he woke, Ren still felt sick, but it was a different kind of nausea.
He tried to move, then realised that not only was he doped up, he was also strapped down. Are you happy now? he said to himself. You got your drugs, all right.
A face appeared above him, the grey-bald man whose home this was. Just behind him was another figure, much larger, the one who must have struck him from behind. They were both dressed in aprons, wearing rubber gloves.
“Ah,” said the owner, “back with us?”
Ren attempted to say something, but found that his tongue and lips were completely numb.
“You’ve kept us waiting, almost as long as you did deciding to rob us in the first place.” He smiled; it was a chilling sight. “That’s right, we’ve been watching you for some time.” Ren wrenched his eyes away, then wished he hadn’t. The cupboards were still open, the contents clearly visible.
“What? Oh yes. You were probably wondering what I did, what paid so well? I sell them on, you see. In just the same way you sell things on, I’d imagine. It’s a specialist field.”
Could... could he be comparing what they did? It made Ren’s stomach churn to think about it. He never... he’d never do anything like that!
“About 90% of each ‘unit’. The rest...” His eyes flicked over to the larger cabinet. Ren looked too, seeing the poor thing inside again. “It’s just a hobby of mine really, isn’t it Maynard?” he said to the larger man, who nodded.
Ren was able to take in the full length of it now, the oddness of the body with its parts stitched upon parts – the bits that were left over from this man’s organ stealing operation. There were both male and female bits, spliced together: it had three eyes, each covered in cataracts – and not viable for selling on; two mouths, one almost where it should be, the other on its cheek; but just two holes where its nose should be. Ren gasped as it moved, the warmer air obviously wakening it. Those three eyes opened and looked at him, blind but pleading, as it moaned and strained against its own bonds.
What kind of madman was this?
“We’re not so different, you and I. Finders keepers, isn’t that what you people say?” Not quite, thought Ren. “You were on my property, and now...” He held up his scalpel. “You are my property.”
90% (nine tenths) sold on. The rest...
Ren tried to struggle again, but realised it was useless. As the scalpel came down, he had to concede that the man had a point. It was his rule as well, wasn’t it? His law?
The law of possession.
But that thought didn’t comfort him much as the blade sank into his flesh, cutting deep – some of which he felt, some he didn’t.
Nor did it help in the slightest when, at last, the man reached for his power tools... But nonetheless, they were his final thoughts.
Nine tenths, Ren turned over and over in his mind as he lost consciousness.
Horror Drive-In: Many authors can pinpoint a moment when they knew they wanted to become a writer. Are you able to trace it back to a specific time in your life?
Paul Kane: I’m not sure I could be that specific about the writing, but I know I’ve always had an urge to tell stories – even from a very early age. Before I even started writing things down, I would draw pictures – almost like comic strips – and before that I would tell stories with my action figures, changing their names and making up new backgrounds for the characters, then plunging them into adventures. I suppose it was a way of expressing what was inside me, the need to get those tales out somehow. I’d also tell stories in the classroom and playground at school. And that’s where the writing first came into it, through assignments in class; when the teachers would ask for stories or essays, mine would often go off on fantastic tangents, even if it was supposed to be about what we’d done over the holidays or whatever. I’m sure they got quite exasperated with it… But I first became aware of the fact that people were out there making some kind of living writing stuff like this down through books in libraries, and again teachers encouraging us to read a lot from an early age. Before that it was family members like my granddad who would read stories to me – I remember one in particular about a house that used to appear in the fog and vanish when the mist had lifted. From about the age of nine or so, I was also starting to get interested in the SF, Fantasy and Horror genres, which turned me on to how the professional authors in the genre were doing things. I spent the next several years voraciously reading anything and everything in those genres – which I still class as my real education. I read everything I could get hold of by authors like James Herbert, Stephen King, Tolkien, Moorcock, Frank Herbert, Ray Bradbury…. And way too many others to list. But if there was a point at which I made a conscious decision to try and start writing something with an aim to maybe getting it published, it was after reading Clive Barker’s work in the 80s – not to mention seeing his movies. Clive’s been such a huge inspiration to me and I was delighted when I finally got to meet him years later and say thanks.
HD-I: What steered you toward the SF/fantasy/suspense genres?
PK: Even before reading genre books, my parents let me watch TV shows and movies in this vein – and probably a lot that I shouldn’t have seen at such an early age. I can remember being terrified by the 70’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers during a screening of it on TV one Saturday night when I was about seven or eight, but at the same time loving it! I can also remember being freaked out by the aliens in the TV adaptation of Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles. My dad especially was a huge fan of shows like Dr Who, Star Trek, The Incredible Hulk, Planet of the Apes, so I took my lead from him, mainly. He also used to buy me comics when he took me into the local village, and I can remember reading not just the superhero stories, but also adaptations of things like Dracula and Frankenstein, probably some EC-style comics too during the 70s which had made their way over to the UK. I’ve been in love with those genres ever since. I also got into gaming a bit in my teens which helped steer me in the right direction. But I have to say, both my mum and dad have been incredibly supportive every step of the way with my writing – neither of them told me I should get a ‘proper job’ or that I was wasting my time, and for that I’ll always be eternally grateful to them.
HD-I: You might be the hardest working guy in the writing biz. Every time I turn around you’ve written a new story or edited a new book. Have you been able to make writing your full-time occupation?
PK: Thanks for that! I do like to keep busy, but I’m sure there are others out there who work a lot harder than I do. Plus which, writing and editing is fun, so it doesn’t really seem like hard work to me. My dad’s an ex-miner and had to go down the coal mines every day to put food on the table, so compared to that… I like to be involved in lots of different areas though, whether it’s the fiction, scripting – I’m only just dipping my toe in the water with this, but am really enjoying the format – or non-fiction stuff. Variety’s the spice of life, so I doubt I’ll ever get bored doing things this way. Yes, off and on I’ve been a professional writer for about fifteen years now. I started by writing reviews and articles, which is something I’ve carried on doing throughout my career, then branched out into other areas. I’ve also taught part-time in the past, but it’s always been connected with the writing – like workshops or creative writing classes – or painting and drawing, which again is linked to the work I do. I’m very fortunate to be able to make a living doing something I love, especially in this financial climate, so I never forget just how privileged I am.
HD-I: You’ve been able to meet and work with many of the biggest names in the genre. Multi-part question: Who were you most excited to work with? Who stood out as an all-around great person after you spent some time together? And last, who haven’t you worked with that you hope to some day?
PK: Yes, again I’ve been incredibly lucky to meet and work with some of the biggest names in the genre – whether it be in the writing or film/TV world, or on the art side. As I mentioned, it was such a thrill to meet Clive in person after knowing him ‘virtually’ for a few years and working on a couple of British Fantasy Society projects with him. We hooked up finally at FantasyCon 2006 where I interviewed him live on stage in front of about four hundred people. He was just the nicest and coolest man, and we got to spend some time alone with him at the old Trip to Jerusalem pub in Nottingham, which was fantastic. He took our books back with him to his hotel on Saturday night and signed and drew in them, personalizing them, which was absolutely lovely of him. It was great to catch up again a couple more years down the line on the post production for Book of Blood down in London. That was a surreal experience, sitting on the top deck of the catering bus chatting while zombies walked past down below… I was thrilled to meet Neil Gaiman for the first time back in 2005 in Birmingham, as I’d been reading and loving his stuff for years. For my money Smoke and Mirrors is one of the best collections of all time. Thankfully again, it wasn’t the last time and I’ve caught up with Neil many times since, the last occasion being at the World Horror Convention down in Brighton last March. At that one, I also got to meet and chat with another one of my heroes, the Guest of Honor James Herbert. That’s a day I won’t forget as long as I live. Simon Clark’s another author I’ve got to know over the years and we’ve become good friends – Simon only lives about half an hour away, which helps for getting together for a meet and drink. My wife Marie O’Regan, Simon and I all traveled together to our first World Fantasy Convention in San José last year, and it made the long journey so much more enjoyable. The wonderful Christopher Fowler, too, who has been a writing inspiration of mine since the early 90s, we also got to know about ten years ago. Chris kindly agreed to introduce my Peripheral Visions collection – which took quite a while to get published – and we’ve been friends ever since. It was great to meet authors like Kelley Armstrong, Nancy Kilpatrick and Sarah Langan for the first time at World Horror in Toronto back in 2007, after following their individual careers – and to find they were just as nice in person. Ditto Stephen Volk, who penned the brilliant Ghostwatch and Afterlife for TV; we met him at the same event and now hook up whenever we can. Fiction-wise, I’d love to do something with Stephen King, or feature a short of his in an anthology of mine. He’s been a Guest Writer on my site, but it would be brilliant to be able to use one of his short stories someday in a book. Film-wise, David Lynch, Ridley Scott, James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, David Cronenberg, or the horror greats: Raimi, Craven, Carpenter, Hooper. It was a wonderful moment in my life when Mick Garris – another thoroughly genuine guy – wrote and said he wanted to use a story I’d written for the network follow-up to Masters of Horror, and Steve Niles would be adapting. Days like those really don’t come along that often and are dreams come true.
HD-I: Over the years you’ve written a variety of non-fiction pieces, including introductions, columns, and book & movie reviews. Do you find this to be as enjoyable as writing fiction?
PK: Well, even though I was doing bits and pieces of fiction first – though nothing professionally – I started off making a living doing non-fiction, so it will always have a special place in my heart. I used to go to all the press screenings to review movies for my local paper and national genre magazines, which was fun. I also owe much of my association with the Hellraiser mythology to my hardback non-fiction book, The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy. Through the years of research for this one, I became friends with a lot of the cast and crew from the movies, and also ended up working on the fiction anthology Hellbound Hearts with Marie – a very talented author, editor and writer herself. I can’t really say whether I like it more or less than the fiction, as they’re both very different. It’s the same as asking if I prefer to write or draw and paint: I love doing both, though in the last few years I haven’t been able to devote as much time as I’d like to the art.
HD-I: Has your non-fiction ever been compiled into a “Best Of” collection?
PK: It hasn’t yet, no… but it’s a thought! The problem with a lot of it is that the reviews are of their time. I did hundreds for the Terror Tales website back in the day, but they were of current books that were coming out – either small press or mainstream – much like you guys do for Horror Drive-In. I’m not sure there would even be a market for it! I guess the non-fiction book I put together with Marie, Voices in the Dark, could be classed as something like that, because it compiles previously published interview material, along with a massive amount that never made it into magazines. Featured in that one are conversations with people like Clive, Neil, Mick, James, Steve Niles, John Carpenter, Stuart Gordon, Sarah Pinborough, Richard Christian Matheson, Mike Carey, Rob Zombie, Christa Campbell, Zach Galligan, Betsy Palmer and Ron Perlman to name but a few.
HD-I: Prior to choosing writing as your vocation, you studied photography and filmmaking. Do you still spend some time behind the camera these days?
PK: As with the art, I don’t spend nearly enough time taking photos, unless you count those for an event. I did a hell of a lot of photography at college and afterwards – in fact my work was part of a tour that went abroad – but I had to prioritize and the writing was paying more, so I put the photography on the backburner. I’d love to pick it up again in the future, though, and people can still check out some of the work on my site. I studied film, but didn’t do that much film-making, apart from a few small student movies on video. My courses at Uni were more about examining different genres, film-making styles, and analyzing sequences in movies. All that came in very handy for writing the Hellraiser book. I would like to maybe do some directing in the future, as I’ve seen one of my own short scripts produced now – The Opportunity, which was made for about $4,000 and premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last year. There are some more on the boil with other directors, but to be honest I wouldn’t know where to start at the moment behind the camera. I think I need to hang around a lot more sets, picking up tips, before I venture into that field. One day, though. Hey, if Clive’s first directing job led to something like the original Hellraiser… who knows?
HD-I: Tell us about your passion for the Hellraiser movies.
PK: I’ve probably bored everyone to tears by now talking about this subject, but I fell in love with the series after reading The Hellbound Heart, then after seeing the movie based on it – again, at an age when I really shouldn’t have been watching it. There’s just something about the story, about this hedonistic man called Frank, who is seeking the ultimate pleasure – little realizing that one person’s pleasure is another’s pain. The whole thing of the dysfunctional family, the kitchen sink style drama that’s quintessentially British, in spite of the attempts to try and Americanize the first couple of movies… And of course there are the Cenobites. They captivated me more than anything, them and the puzzle box they sprang from. I could just see endless possibilities there, some of which were played out in subsequent movies and the comics, and also in Hellbound Hearts. The most exciting thing about that book was the excitement each author felt at being able to create their own Cenobites and expand the mythology; everyone got such a kick out of doing that. I’m extremely lucky, as I say, to know people like Doug Bradley, Barbie Wilde, Nick Vince, Simon Bamford, Pete Atkins, Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence… I could go on and on. The people who worked on the series are some of the nicest folks you’ll ever meet. As is the creator of it…
HD-I: What other movies rank as your favorites?
PK: There are so many, it’s difficult to list them all really. I’ve mentioned some of my favorite directors, so the works of Lynch, Cronenberg, Scott, Raimi, Cameron, Craven, Carpenter… Historically, the Universal horror flicks, then the Hammer movies. The films of Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, David Lean, Fritz Lang, Jean Renoir… I love the Harryhausen movies, especially Clash of the Titans, because I’m a sucker for creature features, and that means I’d include all the 50s UFO and radioactive monster movies too. I absolutely love Jaws – I think it’s the perfect suspense movie – and the remake of The Thing. I have a real soft spot for the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street series, the original Star Wars films, the Star Trek sequence – God bless J.J. Abrams for breathing fresh life into it – the first Matrix movie, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Ring films, the Blade movies, the new Chris Nolan Batman films… I’m a huge fan of 70s sci-fi movies, like Silent Running, Logan’s Run and Soylent Green, and I reckon the recent Moon did an excellent job of trying to recapture that feel. But I also like action movies if they’re done well, such as Taken and True Lies. I was really impressed with the latest adaptations of Clive’s short stories, Midnight Meat Train, Book of Blood and Dread – all three effective chillers. We also enjoyed Sherlock Holmes, Book of Eli and Solomon Kane when we saw them not long ago, three very different films…
HD-I: Do you have a strong readership in America and other places?
PK: I seem to have built one up in the US over the years, through small press publishers – and now, thanks in no small part, to being published mass market over there with the post-apocalyptic Robin Hood books (Arrowhead, Broken Arrow and Arrowland, published by Abaddon/Rebellion and distributed through Simon and Schuster. Hellbound Hearts also came out through S & S, more specifically their Pocket division. The adaptation of ‘Dead Time’ as New Year’s Day for Fear Itself also helped in that respect, as it was a network show and was screened in E.R.’s hiatus slot over the summer of 2008. Other than that, it’s just been about publicizing the work as much as possible and putting in the hours, getting books to reviewers over there and so on. Having positive reviews in magazines like Cemetery Dance, Rue Morgue, Fangoria and on sites like yours has helped enormously too. But from the feedback I receive and visitors to the Shadow Writer site, I’m getting read by people all over the world, which is an amazing thing.
HD-I: Was it hard to break into markets that are abroad, or has it become easier with today’s ”instant communication” options?
PK: It’s always quite hard to break into any market – it’s taken a good few years to get ‘known’, as I say. But yes, it’s definitely easier to get in touch with editors and publishers now than when I first came on the scene. Back in the late 90s, I was still sending out postal submissions; I didn’t get online till about 1999/2000 and it opened up a whole new world to me, as it must have done to so many people. You can’t beat word of mouth, though, for markets. Some of the best anthologies I’ve been involved in have come from chats in the bar at a convention. I’ve been attending FantasyCon now since 2003 – have even ended up co-chairing one – and they’re excellent places to get to know publishers, editors and agents. Same goes for World Horror and World Fantasy. I’ve also met a lot of people who’ve become my dearest friends through attending conventions, which is the most important thing.
HD-I: In my review of Peripheral Visions, I admitted to living under a rock because I’d never read your work before (which is fairly embarrassing considering your output over the years). Are there any other well-kept secrets from your neck of the woods that we should know about?
PK: In a funny way, it’s good that you hadn’t come across me before as I’m always trying to reach people who haven’t. And I want to thank you again for your terrific reviews of both PV and The Gemini Factor; I’m just delighted you liked the work. If you mean any writers from over here who deserve more attention than they’re getting, Adam Nevill is a good example – although he’s beginning to get quite good coverage now since his novel Apartment 16 was released, and quite right too. Great writer and a top bloke. John Travis is a writer I first met back in the late 90s and is starting to make major inroads now, mainly through his first novel release The Terror and the Tortoiseshell from Atomic Fez – which I noticed even got a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. Well done, John! One of our contributors from Hellbound Hearts, Barbie Wilde – who played the female Cenobite in Hellraiser II – is coming out with some amazing stuff. I was fortunate enough to be given a sneak preview of her first novel, a serial killer thriller, and let me tell you she knocked it out of the park! I think she’s got a very bright future in genre writing.
HD-I: What projects are coming on the horizon?
PK: Apart from the imminent release of Voices and the third Robin Hood book, Arrowland – which I’m promoting towards the end of September, into October – there’s a collection of all my Dalton Quayle stories coming out at the beginning of next year. Quayle, my darkly comic homage to detectives like Holmes, Crow and Carnacki, featured in my very first collection almost ten years ago and has built up quite a fanbase himself in the meantime. I’ve also just sold a collection to the award-winning PS Publishing, which I’m very excited about. They do such great-looking books and I’m thrilled I managed to place something with them. There are a few other things in the pipeline in various media, but I can’t really say anything about them at this time… So watch this space, and keep checking the Shadow Writer site’s news updates monthly for more information.
HD-I: Thanks for your time, Paul!