Uncanny UK has been hacked!

Apologies to anyone who has tried to visit Uncanny UK recently and found themselves unable to view the site. We’re not quite sure what’s going on but it looks like it might have been hacked by some Wonga-type outfit. Hopefully normal service will be resumed ASAP.

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Fantastic collection of illustration

Just discovered the entire online catalogue of the sale of Michael Winner’s collection of children’s illustration, sold at Sotheby’s in December last year. Oh, how I would have loved to have owned his Tiggers Don’t Climb Trees.
http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2012/the-art-of-illustration-l12409/lot.1.html

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Got the proof

Just about to start work on proofing my next four regional ghost guides. These are for Cumbria, Cambridgeshire, Oxfordshire and the whole of Scotland (I’d argued for Lowlands and Highlands & Islands but the publishers didn’t think they could afford the distribution that far north). Lots to keep me busy, anyway.

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Richard Freeman’s further foray into spooky fiction

I’ve written a review of cryptozoologist Richard Freeman’s extraordinary volume of 25 strange tales about the Japanese Yokai, ‘Hyakumonogatri’. It’s not appeared yet on the listing, so here is my review in full:

“Cryptozoologist Richard Freeman has suddenly launched himself on the world of weird fiction. Not only has he been able to showcase an extraordinary imagination he also been quite wonderfully prolific. Last year he published ‘Green, Unpleasant, Land’, a collection of strange tales taking as their starting points the British countryside and its folklore, with knowing nods towards such masters of this genre as Arthur Machen and Algernon Blackwood. Now he has been inspired by his love of Japan and its own particularly peculiar legends.

‘Hyakumonogatari’ is the first in an ambitious series of volumes of short stories set in Japan and reflecting a Japanese tradition of storytelling in which 100 spooky yarns are told by a number of guests. The ritual is supposed to ultimately call up a ghost. This volume contains 25 stories and Freeman is intending to write the full 100 himself in three follow-ups over the next couple of years. Judging by this initial collection, there is little doubt he will succeed admirably.

Richard Freeman is an accepted British authority on the Yokai, the surreal menagerie of ghosts-cum-demons-cum-monsters that inhabit Japanese folklore. The Yokai have provided the author with splendid material for ‘Hyakumonogatari’. Here you will encounter a bewildering array of supernatural menaces, from demonic humanoids and bestial monsters through to polite little critters that will devour you as soon as bid you good day and cute little doggies that spell instant death should you so much as brush against them. Here too are such weirdies as animated metal skeletons, murderous strips of cloth and trees bearing fruit with the faces of men. Freeman’s stories are set throughout the islands of Japan and in a number of different periods, from the times of the Shoguns through to the present day.

The stories are straightforwardly told, almost journalistic in tone at times. This, plus Freeman’s undeniable knowledge and love of Japan, lends an authenticity essential considering the grotesque and bizarre nature of his protagonists. The style works especially well in my favourite story, ‘Brother On The Hill’, which tells of primitive hominids encroaching on the domain of humans in a remote mountain forest in Hokkaido. In ‘Brother On The Hill’, Freeman’s expertise as zoological director of the Centre for Fortean Zoology lends further authenticity to a tense and thoroughly believable narrative.

‘Hyakumonogatari’ is a startling collection of more than two-dozen stories ideal for horror fans who are jaded by the endless round of vampires and werewolves (and vampires who fight or fall in love with werewolves). Any one of these yarns would have graced the pages of the old ‘Weird Tales’. Bring on the next 75, I say!”

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Humour with Hitch

Hitchcock
I can’t help but love Alfred Hitchcock, despite the rumours of his bullying treatment toward some of his female stars. Quite aside from being the best director never to win an Oscar, I love his lugubrious demeanour and black sense of humour. I’ve just read a greeat anecdote about him. Apparently, after Psycho was released, he received a letter from an angry father who told him that his daughter was now too scared to take a shower. To make matters worse, she had previously stopped taking baths after seeing the French horror classic Les Diaboliques. Hitchcock sent a note back to the man with this advice, “Send her to the dry cleaners.”

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Time for a coffee break!

skullcoffee

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NorthSouthWalesCheshire

I’m really under the cosh currently, writing a host of little regional ghost guides for publishers Bradwell Books. These three have just been published. The Cheshire one was fun to do: Chester is only about 10 miles from where I live but it was good to expand outside Wales for a change. South Wales Ghost Stories and North Wales Ghost Stories see me on familiar ground.

They’re handy little pocket books aimed at tourists more than locals. If you’re a resident of Wales or would like to read more about the ghosts of Wales, you might like to check out my Haunted Wales: A Guide to Welsh Ghost-lore published by the History Press. On the other hand if you’re just passing through or staying on holiday in Wales you’ll find them quick, handy books giving a great overview of some of the best ghost stories and haunted sites in Wales. Both books contain numerous modern ghost reports which therefore don’t appear in Haunted Wales.

Chester is one of the most visited cities in the UK so Cheshire Ghost Stories should appeal to a good number of tourists. The wider county is well worth exploring, too. For one thing, it’s famous for its beautiful Tudor period half-timbered houses – a great many of which are haunted. It’s an olde worlde county boasting really pretty countryside. And a good many ghosts.

Cheshire Ghost Stories, South Wales Ghost Stories and North Wales Ghost Stories by Richard Holland, published by Bradwell, are all available from the usual outlets and will be available in local supermarkets, too.  They retail for the very modest sum of just £3.99. You can view them at my Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Richard-Holland/e/B001KIIG52/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1367229426&sr=1-2-ent

However, if you live locally or are visiting any of the areas covered by the books, and you’d like to buy them, it might be good to get them from a real-life shop that probably pays its taxes. I need Amazon for various reasons but I’m determined to buy through them somewhat less often and use proper shops rather more.

I’ve since been commissioned to write further books on Cumbria, Cambridgeshire, Oxfordshire and a region of Scotland not yet determined. And my deadline is next month, so I better get back to it!

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