A Trip to the Circus with Darren Shan

I wrote this piece in 2014 after attending Darren Shan’s event at The Edinburgh Book Festival. I’ve had the pleasure of going to the Book Festival for the last four years and I never miss Darren’s events and signings when I’m up there. The Master of Horror always puts on a good show, so I thought I’d dig out last year’s review and post it on Books, Films and Random lunacy.

Darren Shan’s 2014 Edinburgh show, ‘Zom-B Continues’ was a mixture of terror and delight as Darren took a hungry audience of all ages to the circus. Young fans and older horror-connoisseurs alike waited, foaming at the mouth for the arrival of their darkly adored author.

Blown in by the cold unforgiving Edinburgh wind, typical for a regional August, Darren began to enthral the crowd with stunningly gory extracts from his latest tale ‘Zom-B Circus’. A brain-munching short story which was written as an addition to the Zom-B universe and isn’t essential reading to the whole series, but fits neatly amongst the other books and is a fast-paced piece of undead fun.

Shan, the Ringmaster lead the audience into his blood-stained circus tent as he read precisely crafted scenes depicting mutilated flesh and brains which were exquisitely transposed upon the imagination. The consciousness of his audience, a canvas on which Shan painted deliciously disturbing creations like Mr Dowling; a psychotic clown who is an unstable hybrid of Hannibal Lector and a homicidal mime.

As the crowd went ‘Ooh’ ‘Ahh,’ and ‘Awah,’ in darkly comedic audience-participation, he dragged us deeper into a circus realm of twisted mutants and gory variety acts all of whom were horrifically controlled by the deranged clown, Mr Dowling.

The Master of Young Adult Horror then began answering questions from his fans, his animated responses to a vast amount of queries gave the show yet another dimension.

Within the ocean of gore which Darren Shan expertly weaves, there lies an undercurrent of consciousness which transcends the bounds of young adult writing. The event was thought-provoking and fun, showing us that the demons of fiction are not the only ones to fear. Darren Shan is not simply a horror writer but a true artist with an extensive body of work. His stories are consistently unpredictable, and as Zom-B continues, it can only get more intriguing.

Wild Wild Western

I’ve written a number of various ramblings on this blog, but I’ve not yet taken the time to write about one of my favourite genres of cinema; the western was once a cinematic staple, the big screen’s hottest trend. In the 50’s and 60’s Hollywood’s biggest actors could not truly call themselves a ‘star’ until they’d put on a Stetson and sat in the saddle.

When I was younger, I was oblivious to the history and value of the western in Hollywood. To me they were simply cowboy films, vintage movies shot in hazy cinemascope that I watched with my Nan on peaceful afternoons. I loved them from an early age and always found something quite hypnotic about them. The epic backdrops and shoot-outs in saloons, the gun-slinging antiheroes, on quests for vengeance helped feed my imagination.

The films are best remembered for the multiple iconic actors in their lead roles; Randolph Scott was renowned for his portrayals of tough sheriffs on horseback on the hunt for corrupt ranchers in such movies as ‘A Lawless Street’ and ‘Ride the High Country.’ James Stewart and Audie Murphy also made considerable contributions to various Wild West pictures, but the genre would have been nothing without the quintessential cowboy himself, John Wayne.

In his long career, Wayne continually returned to the saddle in classic films like ‘True Grit’ and ‘El Dorado.’ These westerns are not iconic merely because of their actors, but their enduring success is also due to the individuals behind the camera. The most famous of those directors were Howard Hawks who shot the classic ‘Rio Bravo’ with John Wayne and Dean Martin and of course, John Wayne’s long-term collaborator and friend John Ford. Wayne and Ford remain to this day, one of the most iconic partnerships in cinematic history with such enduring movies as ‘The Searchers’ and ‘She Wore a Yellow Ribbon,’ not to mention a multitude of other frontier tales, all framed in the majestic backdrop of Monument Valley. Those moving pictures often chronicled the battle between gunmen and Native Americans in epic fashion have been a major source of inspiration for multiple directors and writers who have followed the duo. Director Martin Scorsese named ‘The Searchers’ as one of the first films that inspired him to make movies.

These films may not be the most historically accurate or in some cases, the most well rendered pieces of cinema ever made, but they are undoubtedly timeless. Their stirring scores and charming performances give them a timeless quality, transporting the viewer back to a simpler time before cinema had been transformed by the advent of 3D and special effects and the cinematic audience had discovered an appetite for blood and guts in the decades that followed. The performance-driven movies of John Wayne and other actors of that era aren’t the most thrilling to be created but they hold a vital place in cinematic and cultural history and have proven themselves truly immortal.

A Book Review: ‘Sunburn’ by Darren Dash

I recently had the honour of receiving an advanced copy of Darren Dash’s latest blood-soaked novel to review. It’s been a thrill to be one of the first people to cast an intrigued eye on this book, here are my thoughts…

‘Sunburn’ is the second novel by Darren Dash, the adult alter-ego of the bestselling ‘Master of Young Adult Horror,’ Darren Shan. Darren’s tales of vampires and demons have been read the world over, and his fans hunger for his dark musings, but it is only as Dash where the reader is exposed to the true depth of his gory imagination.

The tale is a slow-burning horror narrative that chronicles the summer holiday of the docile Dominic, his domineering girlfriend Martini and best mate Curran as they travel to Bulgaria; a destination chosen by Martini as a refreshing alternative to the three friends’ previous alcohol-fuelled holidays. The trio explore the unfamiliar country, slipping in some sight-seeing between the frequent excursions to nearby pubs where they chat with locals about politics and cultural contrasts whilst getting pleasantly drunk. As the pages turn, Dash paints a vividly detailed picture of the three main characters, casting a three-dimensional glow upon the laidback lady’s man Curran and his weakness for the bottle, Dominic’s peaceful subservience and Martini’s paranoid temper. As the suspense builds and alcohol begins to impair decisions, a terrifying beast of myth waits in the woods and they realise a case of sunburn is the least of their worries…

The book is a well-written and disturbing piece of fiction that explores relationships and delves into the deepest corners of the human mind. The plot reads like an international horror movie, enticing the reader with a series of detailed and comedic chapters before exploding into a vision of blood-chilling gore. Dash’s gift for imagery is a true thrill and is used to full affect in ‘Sunburn;’ as he creates twisted sequences of violence with startling descriptions and metaphors. The author has yet again, created a novel unlike anything he’s previously written under any of his pennames, and has made it impossible for the reader to predict his next move.

To read more about Sunburn and Darren Dash’s other work click this link http://www.darrendashbooks.com/