Grand Master of Melodramatic Horror Mayhem, John Llewellyn Probert, (The Nine Deaths of Dr Valentine is well worth the read) is one of the Spectral Book of Horror Stories authors and kindly answers some questions for us.
1. Can you remember the first horror story you read that made an impact on you?
The very first? Gosh! I’ll cheat a bit because it’s not the very first but the earliest one that made the greatest impression on me at a very young age was “Thou Shalt Not Suffer a Witch” by Dorothy K Haynes. I suspect because it’s about a youngster whom no-one will listen to and who eventually ends up being burned at the stake. Haynes’ collection of the same name is great and well worth tracking down if you can find it.
2. What inspired the story you wrote for this anthology?
My story “The Life Inspector” is a very rare instance of a story idea coming to me in a dream. Most of what happens in the story popped right out of my subconscious. I wish more stories would do that!
3. How would you describe the kinds of stories you usual write and does this Spectral Book of Horror story depart from that?
I like to think of my stories as ‘Gruesome entertainments’. “The Life Inspector” is a little bit like that but I was actually trying to channel authors like J G Ballard who I think did some superb short tales satirising the middle classes. Oh, and when I got stuck I actually found myself wondering ‘How would Rob Shearman do this bit?’ but don’t tell him.
4. In your heart of hearts do you prefer your horror to be of the slashy variety or of a more subtle psychological stripe?
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m a big fan of ‘noisy horror’, if only to give it a term that distinguishes it from a sub-genre that can often be just a bit too quiet for me. Don’t get me wrong – I like subtle stuff done well but I much prefer all-out melodrama and catastrophe.
5. What are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation, which is the first volume in his Southern Reach trilogy. I’ve been a fan of his work since Veniss Underground and especially City of Saints and Madmen. I’m also working through , Steven Erikson’s massive ten volume epic fantasy saga the Malazan Book of the Fallen (I’ve just finished Volume 8 – Toll the Hounds). And there are books of short stories by Harlan Ellison (Shatterday) and Randall Garrett (his Lord Darcy series) on my bedside table at the moment as well.