Midnight Echo 7 giveaway

You lucky people! Thirteen O’Clock has a glossy print edition of Midnight Echo #7 to give away. Midnight Echo is the official magazine of the Australian Horror Writers’ Association. Issue 7 is the The Taboo Issue, edited by Daniel I Russell and contains:

  • Commode by Shaun Hamilton
  • Driven by Anthony Ferguson
  • Saturday Night at the Milk Bar by Gary Kemble
  • Symmetry Fades by Rick McQuiston
  • The Hunting Room by Kia Groom
  • Brand New Day by G. N. Braun
  • Dead Inertia by Eric Blair
  • Just Some Good Old Boys Sitting Around the Fire Talking Shit by A.J Brown
  • Parlour Party by Michael Penkas
  • The Case of the Kissing Corpse by Jack Skelter
  • My First Horror Show by Ed Higgins
  • I Like to Share by Ron Jon
  • Ghosts of You by Lee Battersby
  • See Jane Mesmerised! by Tom McLaughlin
  • The Final Degustation of Doctor Ernest Blenheim by Andrew J. McKiernan
  • What the Dark Does by Graham Masterton
  • A Slice of Life – A Spot of Liver by Paul Haines
  • (comic) Allure of the Ancients – The Key to His Kingdom by Mark Farrugia and Greg Chapman (not available in MOBI or EPUB formats)
  • (poetry) Cat by Michelle Scalise
  • (poetry) Pain and Pin Me Sweetly, My Love by Kurt Newton
  • (poetry) Pleasure Me by Bec Mirr
  • (art) Greg Hughes
  • (art) Jason Paulos
  • (art) Joshua Hoffine
  • (interview) Graham Masterton
  • (interview) Joe R Lansdale
  • (Interview) Joshua Hoffine

To take away the giveaway copy, just comment below with the last thing you’d like to hear echo in a quiet house at midnight. Creep us out and we’ll pick one lucky recipient. (Sorry, but this is open to Australian residents only.)

The Corpse Rat King by Lee Battersby – review by Greg Chapman

The Corpse Rat King
 Lee Battersby
Publisher: Angry Robot
ISBN: 9780857662866 (pbk.) / 9780857662880 (eBook)
Published: September, 2012


Marius don Hellespont and his apprentice, Gerd, are professional looters of battlefields. When they stumble upon the corpse of the King of Scorby and Gerd is killed, Marius is mistaken for the monarch by one of the dead soldiers and is transported down to the Kingdom of the Dead.
Just like the living citizens, the dead need a King — after all, the King is God’s representative, and someone needs to remind God where they are.
And so it comes to pass that Marius is banished to the surface with one message: if he wants to recover his life he must find the dead a King. Which he fully intends to do.
Just as soon as he stops running away.

Lee Battersby is one of Australia’s leading speculative fiction authors with more than 70 short stories published across the globe. He’s also been at the helm of many of magazines as editor, including Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine and Midnight Echo, so he definitely knows what makes a great story.

His first novel, The Corpse-Rat King is the very definition of a great story; the perfect concoction of old world fantasy, intrigue, adventure and full-bodied characters that sweep you deeper into the story with each turn of the page.

I’m not an avid reader of fantasy books, but when I was presented with the opportunity to “beta-read” (sort of an advanced-advanced reader copy) I jumped at the chance simply because I knew it was Battersby. I’m glad I jumped.

The Corpse-Rat King centres on Marius Helles, a man who has made a living out of pillaging riches from fallen soldiers on battlefields throughout the war-torn realm of Scorby. But all that changes when Marius’ young apprentice is run through by a pair of soldiers who catch him the act. Instead of going to his charge’s aid, Marius plays dead amongst the other corpses and this act of cowardice brings Marius to their attention. The dead, mistakenly believing he is their king, issue a decree that Marius must deliver unto them a king and, to make sure that he does, they turn him into one of the living dead and so begins his quest.

From there, Battersby uses his exemplary world-building prowess to place us alongside Marius as he journeys across the kingdom in search of the seemingly impossible. With each step, we see Marius slowly realising his failures and flaws in life and his efforts to reconcile with the people he did wrong. If anything, Marius’s quest is secondary to the main plot, which is Marius coming to terms with the type of man he was in the past.

The realm of Scorby is a character in itself with Batterbsy offering the reader a richly detailed history of its kings, mythology, temples and taverns. While not as epic as Middle Earth (and it doesn’t pretend to be), it’s certainly a very realistic and memorable landscape.

But there are many good doses of adventure to be had in this novel. Some of my favourite scenes include Marius competing in a very unique and dangerous poker-style game in order to secure funds for a place on a boat and an underwater (yes underwater) meeting with a long dead, but still very mad, king and his favourite and also, long-dead horse. Batterbsy also adds a pinch of tongue-in-cheek humour to the mix, which only serves to make us sympathise with Marius even more.

The Corpse-Rat King is intended to be the first in a series of books and given the apparent finality of the ending, it will be very interesting to see where Battersby’s plans to take us with book two.

Lee Battersby is one of those writers which writers aspire to and with The Corpse-Rat King he has once again cemented that reputation. Highly Recommended.

- review by Greg Chapman

2012 Australian Shadows Awards Now Open

The Australian Shadows are annual literary awards presented by the Australian Horror Writers Association (AHWA) and judged  on the overall effect – the skill, delivery, and lasting resonance – of  published horror fiction written or edited by an Australian/New  Zealand/Oceania resident of citizen.

The Australian Horror Writers Association is pleased to announce the opening of the 2012 Australian Shadows awards. The awards are open to submission of any horror fiction published, or anthologies edited, by an Australian/New Zealand/Oceania resident or citizen in the 2012 calendar year. Submissions close February 28th 2013.

The Shadows are awarded to the stories and collections that best typify the horror genre, delivering a sense of ‘creeping dread’, leaving the reader with chills and a reluctance to turn out the light.
Past winners of the Shadows include a who’s who of Australian Horror Writers; Lee Battersby, Terry Dowling, Paul Haines, Brett McBean, Kirstyn McDermott, Bob Franklin, Kaaron Waaren, Will Elliott, Deborah Biancotti, Amanda Spedding.

The award has five categories: Novel; Long Fiction (novellas and novelettes); Short Fiction (short stories); Collection (single author collections); and Edited Publication (anthologies and magazine issues).

Judging is by a group of six published writers well familiar with the Horror genre – B. Michael Radburn, Greg Chapman, Jenny Blackford, Gerry Huntman, Steve Gerlach and Stephen Clark.

Details can be found on the AHWA website at:

All enquiries to Robert Datson australianshadows@australianhorror.com

A Pad in the Straw by Christopher Woodforde – review by Mario Guslandi

A Pad in the Straw by Christopher Woodforde

Publisher:  The Sundial Press 2012

ISBN 978-1-908274-09-0 (Hardcover)

First published in 1952 , “A Pad in the Straw” collects twenty ghost and supernatural tales originally told by Christopher Woodforde (1907-1962)  as bedtimes stories  to a group of boys at New College Choir School in Oxford. Thus, strictly speaking, this should be a YA collection , where, indeed, young boys are the main characters in most of the stories. Actually, this volume by Woodworde (a cleric and antiquarian mainly known for his non-fiction books about ecclesiastical stained glass)  has been compared , in terms of plots and atmospheres, to the work of the great MR James. The distinct antiquarian flavor and the frequent use of East Anglia as the setting for his eerie tales certainly may suggest such a comparison, although, of course, the quality of Woodforde’s  fiction is  inferior. On the other hand, to label his stories as an anemic version of James’ work would be simply unfair.

On average, Woodforde’s tales are elegant, enjoyable examples of supernatural  fiction, albeit sometimes a bit weak.  “Malcom” revolves around a cursed tree exerting its evil power long after it has been destroyed; “The Old Tithe Barn” and “Michael” are delightful traditional ghost stories; “The Mirror of Man’s Damnation” is a moral fable in the tradition of the deal with the Devil;  “Cushi” a classical yarn where a sexton takes his revenge from beyond the grave; “Lost and Found” a real tale of antiquarian horror.

Some tales, however, do stand up as fine, skillfully crafted pieces of dark fiction.

The title story, “A Pad in the Straw” is a gentle, Jamesian story where the events surrounding the unpleasant encounter of two boys with the  supernatural are painstakingly retraced by a group of scholars.

In the creepy “The Chalk Pit” inhuman, evil creatures haunt a country road, while in the sinister  “Colin, Peter and Philip” the uncanny reason for a young boy’s disappearance becomes clear only twenty years later.

“The Doom Window at Brechkam” is an excellent specimen of “antiquarian” story revolving around a glass window of an English church.

The enticing “Ex libris” describes the finding of an old book ,the unusual binding of which belongs to a rather vindictive subject.

Reprinted in a limited edition by Sundial Press for the joy of  any lover of classy, gracefully told supernatural fiction, the volume will provide many, pleasantly frightful hours of  good reading.

- review by Mario Guslandi


Killeroo Gangwar – review

Killeroo Gangwar is a graphic novel by Darren Close and Paul Abstruse. It’s an incredibly Australian production, as the title and cover image to the left should make obvious. The titular character is a hard-as-nails human/kangaroo hybrid motorcycle gang leader. That in itself is actually a pretty awesome idea. Gangwar tells the story of Killaroo’s gang, The Outback Warriors, and their encounter at a roadhouse with rival gang, The Redbacks.

However, as far as a story goes, it’s more of an introduction or a prologue than an actual yarn. The book is very short, only about fifteen pages or so, and there’s really no time to develop any great depth. As introductions go, it’s very good. The artwork is excellent and very filmic in a bold, black and white style. That artwork conveys the story and action very well, and the violence and attitude of the whole piece are superbly realised.

The trouble was, I got to the end of this short book and felt like the thing had only just started and I wanted more. I can only assume there is more out there and there’s the potential for this idea and these characters to be explored in a variety of interesting stories. A quick web search certainly seems to hint that there is a lot more out there: this blog post gives us some information.

This is definitely one of the slicker and more professional local graphic novels that I’ve seen and I’d be intrigued to read more. For just six bucks, Killeroo Gangwar is definitely worth a look to see if it catches your interest too.


Bloodstones ToC announced

Ticonderoga Publications has teamed up with award-winning editor, Amanda Pillar, to produce an anthology of myth inspired dark urban fantasy called Bloodstones.  The anthology is loaded with seventeen fantastic tales of monsters, gods, magic and so much more.

Bloodstones will be published in October 2012, in time for Halloween, and will be available in trade paperback and ebook formats.

Ticonderoga today released the full Table of Contents. The 17 stories are:

  • Joanne Anderton, “Sanaa’s Army”
  • Alan Baxter, “Cephalopoda Obsessia”
  • Jenny Blackford, “A Moveable Feast”
  • Vivian Caethe, “Skin”
  • MD Curelas, “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”
  • Thoraiya Dyer, “Surviving Film”
  • Dirk Flinthart, “The Bull in Winter”
  • Stephanie Gunn, “The Skin of the World”
  • Richard Harland, “A Mother’s Love”
  • Pete Kempshall, “Dead Inside”
  • Penny Love, “A Small Bad Thing”
  • Karen Maric, “Embracing the Invisible”
  • Christine Morgan, “Ferreau’s Curse”
  • Nicole Murphy, “Euryale”
  • Jessica Otis, “And the Dead Shall be Raised Incorruptible”
  • Dan Rabarts, “The Bone Plate”
  • Erin Underwood, “The Foam Born”


Bread & Circuses by Felicity Dowker – review by Greg Chapman

DISCLAIMER: Thirteen O’Clock is managed by Alan Baxter, Felicity Dowker and Andrew McKiernan as Contributing Editors. While the Contributing Editors’ roles at Thirteen O’Clock are editorial and critique, all three are primarily writers. It is inevitable that their own work will form part of the Australian and international dark fiction publications which are Thirteen O’Clock’s focus, and as such it is also inevitable that their work will be reviewed at Thirteen O’Clock (to prohibit this would not only be unfortunate for Baxter, Dowker and McKiernan themselves, but for their hardworking editors and publishers).

Thirteen O’Clock will always have a third party contributor review the Contributing Editors’ work. Such reviews will be unedited (aside from standard corrections to typos and grammar), posted in full (be they negative or positive), and will always be accompanied by full disclosure of Baxter, Dowker and McKiernan’s place at Thirteen O’Clock. At no point will Baxter, Dowker or McKiernan review their own work.

Bread and Circuses by Felicity Dowker.

Ticonderoga Publications June 2012, ISBN 978-1-921857-08-9 (Paperback)

I’ve always maintained that horror is one of the most powerful emotions us human beings can experience, but when combined with love, hate and revenge, as is the case with many of the tales in Felicity Dowker’s collection Bread & Circuses, horror can also reveal our souls.

Bread & Circuses is rich with themes, motifs and mythology and of course Dowker’s lyrical prose. Having only ever read one of her short stories before (and I won’t be making that mistake again), I went into the collection completely blind – and I’m glad I did because the journey is one I won’t forget anytime soon.

One of the major themes in Dowker’s collection – and she freely admits this fact many times after each tale – is revenge. The characters in her stories are either seeking it or succumbing to it, sometimes in very real or fantastical situations. But I think underneath all the revenge there is an equally strong element of love too.

The title story “Bread & Circuses”, is a zombie tale about two women forced to live in a cemetery commune. To survive, members of the commune are rounded up to take on the zombies in a battle royale. Inevitably this couple is torn apart by a wave of violence and the reader can’t help but feel their pain, but love wins out in the end, in a gruesome, yet touching way.

“Jesse’s Gift” is another tale with love and friendship at its core. Girl meets boy; boy and girl meet demonic ice-cream man. Again there’s a finely-tuned interplay between dark and light, love and despair and Dowker uses horror to expose all our other traits with incredible skill. In fact her willingness to talk about her past in each of the afterwords only serves to heighten the impact intended with each story.

Dowker also reveals a lot about herself in her stories and even uses her own personal memories as inspiration. There are several tales revolving around a child that has either been subjected to physical violence or witnessed it. Dowker describes it with considerable courage and heart and still manages to craft unforgettable stories with “Us, After the House Came Back”, being one of the stand outs.

The power of Dowker’s writing shines in “Berries and Incense”, a wonderful dark fantasy piece which flows like a slow-burning hallucination. Animals associated with the dark arts are given human qualities and we see that they too can fall in love, suffer and die.

Other favourites were the deliciously dark “Phantasy Moste Grotesk” and its companion tale “The Blind Man”. Both tales would make the likes of Clive Barker proud and again the themes of revenge, love and their dark sides are on display.

I could say much more, but Bread & Circuses speaks for itself. Dowker was named Best New Talent at the 2009 Ditmar Awards and rightly so. She has a striking imagination and is not afraid to exploit human emotions through horror. Put simply, we need more writers like her.

Do yourself a favour and get a copy of Bread & Circuses now.

- review by Greg Chapman