About Alan Baxter

Alan Baxter is a British-Australian author who writes dark fantasy, horror and sci-fi, rides a motorcycle and loves his dog. He also teaches Kung Fu. He lives among dairy paddocks on the beautiful south coast of NSW, Australia, with his wife, son, dog and cat. He’s an award-winning author of six novels and over sixty short stories and novellas. So far. Read extracts from his novels, a novella and short stories at his website – www.warriorscribe.com – or find him on Twitter @AlanBaxter and Facebook, and feel free to tell him what you think. About anything.

No new content – Archive only.

It is with regret that we are closing Thirteen O’Clock to new content. We may re-open at some point (never say never), but for now there is just not enough time for us to manage the site. If anyone out there wants to take it on, please contact us and let us know. But contact one of the editors (ideally Alan Baxter) directly, as the TOC email address is no longer being monitored and emails will not be seen.

For the immediate future, the site will remain as an archive, but if the cost of hosting and renewing the domain becomes too difficult, that too will go. Enormous thanks to everyone who has in some way contributed to this site over recent years, and thanks for all the great dark fiction. Make sure you continue to seek out and consume all the fantastic dark fiction Australian and international creators are regularly producing.

So long, and thanks for all the grim.

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Blurring The Line, ed. by Marty Young – Review by Greg Chapman

12003146_879319075487621_892517258321694034_nBlurring The Line

ed. by Marty Young

Cohesion Press

Review by Greg Chapman

Blurring the Line was definitely not the anthology I expected.

But, in this case, that’s a very good thing.

Described as a collection of fiction/non-fiction, Blurring the Line delivers on its intent of exploring the grey area between real and inventive horror, and in doing so, revealing just how diverse – and satisfying – horror fiction can be.

Commencing with probably the most definitive non-fiction piece, Tom Piccirilli’s Our Doom is Nigh, is a poignant and revelatory insight into his battle with cancer. From there though, the lines do indeed begin to blur. What follows are stories that delve into paranoia, witchcraft, cryptids, human anomalies, conspiracies and several cracking ghost stories.

Some of the stand-out tales included Lisa Morton’s Woollen Shirts and Gumboots, Tim Lebbon’s Clown’s Kiss, Miskatonic Schrödinger by Steven Lloyd Wilson, Consorting With Filth by Lisa L. Hannett, Hoarder by Kealan Patrick Burke, With These Hands by Brett McBean, The Body Finder by Kaaron Warren, Paul Mannering’s Salt on the Tongue and Annie Neugebauer’s Honey.

All in all, the selections by editor Marty Young, are inspired and several of the stories even managed to have me scanning Google to see if there was any truth to them.

The only negative – if there is one – was the inclusion of the “non-fiction” articles interspersed between the stories. Although I believe they were designed to give the reader a taste of the proceeding stories, I found the articles occasionally inhibited the flow of the stories. But this is just the reviewer’s personal opinion.

Blurring the Line is a very solid anthology of horror stories that certainly kept me enthralled and entertained and wondering what is truth and what is fiction.

Recommended.

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Of Sorrow And Such by Angela Slatter – review

25664279Of Sorrow And Such by Angela Slatter

Tor

Mistress Gideon is a witch. The locals of Edda’s Meadow, if they suspect it of her, say nary a word—Gideon has been good to them, and it’s always better to keep on her good side. Just in case.

When a foolish young shapeshifter goes against the wishes of her pack, and gets herself very publicly caught, the authorities find it impossible to deny the existence of the supernatural in their midst any longer; Gideon and her like are captured, bound for torture and a fiery end.

Should Gideon give up her sisters in return for a quick death? Or can she turn the situation to her advantage?

Angela Slatter is one of my favourite authors, an absolute master fantasist. Her collections Sourdough and Bitterwood are among my all-time favourite collections ever, and this novella is set in the same world. You don’t have to have read those collections to enjoy this book though – it’s an entirely standalone story with gorgeous prose, fabulous characters and a dark, grim plot.

Slatter does a great job of evoking the cunning woman in the patriarchal society trope, but breathes entirely new life into what could easily be old and stale ideas. Her women are powerful, but not entirely nice. They’re often selfish survivors driven to questionable actions. The men are not simply moustache-twirling bad guys, but complex and complicated characters with equally difficult lives. All of these things are expertly woven into a dark and spellbinding plot.

The story does start slowly, but it builds in intensity, particularly from the middle onwards. The slowness is never boring, though, because Slatter’s work is simply a joy to read. Beautiful prose, tight dialogue and evocative description abound. And if you haven’t read her collections of short fiction, I highly recommend you do, for all the same reasons as those above and more.

And again, this is a story which proves the value of the novella length, perfect for this tale. I can’t recommend this one highly enough. (And there are lots of novellas in the Tor line, either out now or forthcoming, that demand attention.)

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X’s For Eyes by Laird Barron – review

Xs-For-EyesX’s For Eyes by Laird Barron

Journalstone

Brothers Macbeth and Drederick Tooms should have it made as fair-haired scions of an impossibly rich and powerful family of industrialists. Alas, life is complicated in mid-1950s USA when you’re child heirs to the throne of Sword Enterprises, a corporation that has enshrined Machiavelli’s The Prince as its operating manual and whose patriarch believes, Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds, would be a swell company logo.

I’ve been a fan of Barron’s work for a while now, and his fiction can be very dark. There’s certainly darkness here, but there’s a decent amount of comedy and light-heartedness too.

This novella sees rival Men-In-Black-esque corporations, Lovecraftian mythos, twisted characters with convoluted pasts, and a mind-bending plot. It’s some truly bizarre and compelling stuff.

The characters have very little agency, but that’s rather the point it seems. On the one hand, it annoyed me initially as I read, because it seemed like nothing more than a litany of stuff happening to people. But as we observe these people juggled like inconsequential balls by cosmic powers beyond understanding, the larger truths of the story become clearer. Though never clear. And the novella is a perfect length for stories of this kind. All tremendous fun.

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The Ritual by Adam Nevill – review

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The Ritual by Adam Nevill

Pan Publishing

This is a fantastic horror novel, one that is genuinely chilling and disturbing. It’s really two books in a way – everything up to about halfway is one terrible story, then the second half is another, equally horrible story. But both are expertly knitted together at the end.

In all honesty, I preferred the cold, open, chilling first “story” more – four friends lost in ancient woods in Scandinavia, being hunted by… something. Nevill’s writing absolutely shines here and in many ways a novella of this story alone with a different ending might have been close to perfect.

But when the story switches (can’t tell you why or how without spoilers) it becomes an entirely different type of horror story. It’s still brilliant and I enjoyed the whole book, but I’ve seen some reviews where people loved the first half and hated the second half. I can understand that, but I still enjoyed both and the story as a whole by the end was very satisfying. It’s the first of Nevill’s novels I’ve read, and I’ll certainly be reading more.

A tremendous tale of old gods, ritual horror and desperate survival. Highly recommended.

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