Confessions of my Past, Present and Future
As a kid I read a lot, and throughout my life I was always obsessed with the dark, forbidden fruits that lurked in the horror section of the local library and book shops. The joy about books is there is no classification, so unlike the video shop, where I could only look at the covers and imagine the lurid delights within, I was able to fully explore the darkness in the written word.
By the time I was thirteen/fourteen, I was already reading Clive Barker, and began exploring other authors that frequented the shelves of the horror section. Shaun Hutson was a writer I’d seen mentioned a few times and so opening to the first page of Renegades, I was blown away by the sample paragraph at the front of the book. In graphic, gory detail it described someone being shot in the head. The detail was disgusting with lines like ‘confetti of brain and pulverised bone’. I needed to know more.
As I read the book, the early promise did not wane, and I was assaulted by an explosion of violence and sex. This was pushing my boundaries and I loved it. Put simply, the book rocked. It felt like the literary equivalent of a heavy metal song.
When I sat down to write my first book, Terror Byte, my memories of Renegades and its lasting impressions was the first thing I drew upon when describing the gore and sex scenes. I wanted that tone. That feeling like the book was slapping you in the face. I was so pleased when a few reviewers picked up on the Hutson-esque vibe. A great testament to the power of his writing, that it left such a mark on me for all those years.
The other book I’d like to talk about in my past, is of a very different nature and one that I encountered not too long ago (in 2012), but its impact was what I can describe as a life changer. That book is the collection The Pleasures of the Damned by Charles Bukowski. I was at a time in my life when I was feeling a little washed up. I was struggling with my job, my dreams had faded and I had pushed most of my friends away through erratic behaviour. I was drifting and heading nowhere. I’d starting seeing a girl and one day when I arrived to meet her for a coffee I noticed she’d been reading a Bukowski book. I’d heard the name before. Long forgotten (although personal favourite) 90s band Animals That Swim were big Bukowski fans, even turning his poem, Sway With Me into a song. The next day I read about him on the internet. I was fascinated to read how he hadn’t been a success until much later in life. In today’s youth obsessed culture you are led to believe if you haven’t done anything by the time you’re twenty-five, you never will. But Bukowski showed this wasn’t the case. Did I still want to write? Well it wasn’t over. The game wasn’t up.
The next idle Saturday I walked into Waterstones and picked up The Pleasures of the Damned. I randomly opened a page and the first poem I read was Scarlet. It talked of his drinking (dump the sacks of empty bottles), his infatuation with a woman balanced with the crushing weight of relationships (I’m glad when they arrive and I’m glad when they leave…and since it’s always either starting or finishing I’m glad most of the time) and the banality of everyday life (and in my kitchen the faucet keeps dripping needs a washer. I’ll take care of it later). I was hooked and bought the book.
His confessional style of saying how you felt was earnest and captivating. It refreshed my idea of what poetry was, and above all it ignited my desire to write once more, after spending years only thinking about it. I wrote my own poems, spending whole evenings crafting and completing them. Each one giving me confidence and at the same time allowing me to work through my own personal demons. Some of these you can view over at my website if you a few moments to kill.
There have been three moments in my life where art has caught me in such a way that I call them game changers. They are Nirvana’s Nevermind, Kate Rusby’s Little Lights and Charles Bukowski’s The Pleasures of the Damned. I wonder if there will be a fourth?
This is going to be a tricky one to decide upon. The state of the horror scene, whilst very much underground, is full of such great talent at the moment. Books I’ve read that have really been quite something include Monster by Matt Shaw and Michael Bray, Reinheit by Thomas S Flowers and Larry 2 by Adam Millard (I could talk about Sinister Horror Company releases but they are all ace, right?).
Picking on two authors that have really made an impact of late would be Nathan Robinson and Benedict J Jones.
I first heard of Nathan Robinson with his book Ketchup On Everything. The first thing that struck about the book is that I loved the prose. His prose reminds me a little of mine, or at least I share some affinity with his style, so I’m often reading his stuff thinking ‘Yep, great line there. Wish I’d written that.’ The second thing that got me about Ketchup On Everything is the bravery in the tale. This book is heart breaking and emotional. It’s set around a very difficult subject that could have fallen flat if not handled delicately and well. Nathan really does an excellent job at dealing with the themes (which I won’t ruin here). This is a great book, highly recommended.
Following that I read another of his books, Midway. This tale is about an Atlantic swimmer that suddenly loses their boat and crew, and is left in the middle of the Atlantic. This is a clever story centred around one person on their own in the middle of the sea, and the horrifying thoughts of what is beneath the waves. To keep the tension going throughout really shows his skills as a writer and story teller.
Nathan has a number of other books out and the next convention I see him at, I’ll be buying the lot. He very quickly turned me into a fan.
Benedict J Jones is another author whose work makes me want to devour his full back catalogue. I started with Slaughter Beach, and I loved it. But before you even turn the page you need to spend a few moments looking at that amazing cover. It’s a thing of beauty.
The story itself is right up my street. It reads like a video nasty straight from the golden age of exploitation cinema. Within the first few chapters you have drug taking and sex, and it’s not long before the violence kicks in too. What more can you ask from your pulp fix?
The other title of his I have read is Pennies For Charon. This involves his signature character Charlie Bars, and the story is a noir-horror thriller set in LAAAANNNNNDDDAAAANNNNN (outside of the UK that should read: London). This is an exciting crime thriller with a blood thirsty edge that builds the tension as it goes. I haven’t met a single person that hasn’t raved about this book when they’ve finished it. If that isn’t endorsement enough then what is?
What would I be reading or writing in 2045? Interesting question.
I think I will still be writing horror, but I have an inner conflict when I write. I have two opposing sides that fight it out amongst the pages. There’s the pulpy entertainment side and then there’s the artistic (some might call it pretentious) side. The more I write, the more I experiment and the more I let the artistic side come out to play. Upon Waking was a good example of those two coming together head on, I think they both had room to breathe in that one. The book I’m currently writing started off with a pulp premise, the arty part informed the narrative, and as I’m writing out the plot details I’m getting very excited to let all that pulp excess back in to the story.
When I write I like to talk to friends about my ideas, and I gauge their reactions. When they smile and have that little sparkle in their eye, lost in the daydream of the images playing out in their heads, then I know I’m onto a winner. But coming back to the point I will probably be trying to push my own limits of the genre I work in, but still fill my pages with monsters and deranged killers.
Hopefully by 2045 I will have written a book that truly scares the crap out of people and another horror tale that makes you cry. I’ve had this heart breaking tale in my head for ages now so I’d like to see if I can do it justice. Nathan Robinson set the bar high with Ketchup On Everything. If I can come close to that I’ll be happy.
I’d also like to release a poetry book one day. I don’t expect it to sell in any vast quantities, if at all, but I’d like one for my own vanity shelf.
I also have an itch to scratch in that I’d love to write a James Bond style action novel. I might do it and post on the net for free as a bit of fan fiction. It might help to get it out of my system.
What would I be reading in 2045? I would like to think I will have finally tackled and emerged victorious over James Joyce’s Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake. I might also have read Lovecraft’s stories without falling asleep (the concepts are cool, but the prose is tectonically paced). And I’ll be re-reading Bukowski. I’ll always be reading Bukowski.
You can read my review of Upon Waking, here.
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You can buy any of Justin’s other books here.
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J. R. Park is a writer of Horror Fiction based in Bristol, UK.
Regularly citing Guy N Smith as an influence and inspiration, it was an interview with the said author in Darkside Magazine that was the catalyst for Park to begin his career in literature.
He writes his books as if they were video nasties beamed straight from the golden era of exploitation cinema.
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