THE LURKERS IN THE ABYSS
The Lurkers in the Abyss & Other Tales of Terror was launched at the World Fantasy Convention in Brighton.
The collection is published by Shadow Publishing. The cover art is by Paul Mudie.
Copies are available from Shadow Publishing, Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
Publication Date: August 31st 2013
Introduction by David A. Sutton
The Lurkers in the Abyss
Terror on the Moors
The Shade of Apollyon
Winter on Aubarch 6
The Shadow by the Altar
Out of Corruption
A New Lease
Inside the Labyrinth
A Sense of Movement
Soft Little Fingers
His Pale Blue Eyes
First review on Amazon is a five-star review from Shaun Jeffrey:
"This fiction collection is a dark tour de force that charts David's writing through various professional publications. Usually in a single author collection you will find a couple of space fillers to up the word count, but in this case there wasn't a single story that I didn't enjoy reading. David has a knack for writing believable characters, using prose that grabs the reader and drags them into the story. With stories stretching the gamut of dark delights, his effortless prose makes it look easy, using his skill to elicit a range of emotions from the reader. David's work deserves far more attention. A highly recommended collection, and if there's any justice, it should win awards"
Douglas Draa, Contributing Editor for Weird Tales magazine, posted this review on Amazon:
"Lurkers" has to be the finest collection of single author short stories that I've read in many a year.
This collection is 100% entertainment. There's not a week story in the book. These are simply great stories extremely well told.
Every single one of these stories oozes straight forward old school story telling. And what sets them even higher above the competition than they already are is the hard edge of urbanity with a strong touch of modern sensibility. There's not one drop of ironic post modernism in the book. Just pure grim horror. There's no happy endings in these stories. and that's one of the books joys. Mr. Riley doesn't pull any punches or weaken his tales with false sentimentality. Bad things happen to the undeserving in David's universe.
If you love demons, monsters, zombies, cursed locations, sorcerers returning from the dead, a sly nod to HPL and Stephen king then this collection is for you. And it's no wonder that the titular story made not only the years best list when it came out, but was also chosen by John Pelan for Cemetery Dance's monster "Centuries Best" collection.
The only reason I'm giving this 4 stars is that if I gave it 5 then you would just figure that I was full of it if I gave it five stars.
It's a five star book though in all honesty.
Believe me though, (And I know what I'm talking about. I work for Weird Tales Magazine) I'm a tough sell after reading horror for over 40 years and this is one of the finest new collections that you can find today. Do yourself a big favour and order it now.
I purchased my copy through Amazon.de"
Great review on Horror World website by Mario Guslandi:
Link to review
"For the fans of classical horror fiction, a very interesting collection by a modern but classical author."
My collection was reviewed on hellnotes by Sam Gafford:
I’ve been reading horror literature for over 35 years now and I like to think I have a pretty good handle on the field. Then something like this comes along and you wonder, “how did I miss this?”
Riley has been writing for some time. His first published story, the titular “The Lurkers in the Abyss” was included in the 1969 book, THE ELEVENTH BOOK OF HORROR STORIES. The story went on to be included in THE CENTURY’S BEST HORROR FICTION published in 2012. Riley has written many other short stories since 1969 and been published in a wide variety of places and yet I don’t recall ever coming across his work before.
Which is a shame because these stories have a powerful insidiousness that eats away at the back of your mind and reappear when you least expect it. Their ideas and utter maliciousness gnaw at you to the point where you begin to question the dark shapes in your bedroom or the creaking sounds in the hallway outside your door.
The universe that Riley presents is not a forgiving one. Like Lovecraft, Riley’s early influence, his universe does not care about you nor is it concerned with whether you are a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ person or even what could be considered ‘fair’ in life. Many of the main characters in Riley’s fiction are people who are simply going about their regular lives until something happens and suddenly they have been marked by darkness.
In the title story, the ‘hero’ is simply someone who is trying to escape a band of rough thugs and get home safely when he stumbles across something far, far worse. In “After Nightfall”, a Lovecraftian type researcher learns that it is better to not question some customs. Simply the act of a car breaking down in a snowstorm can be enough to bring about “Terror on the Moor” while the house of an evil man can live on even after it’s been demolished and turned into apartment blocks as in “Prickly”. Even science fiction is not immune as Riley shows there is horror even here in “Winter on Aubarch 6” and “Help-Plants”. Perhaps the most insidious of these stories is “Soft Little Fingers” where a man becomes cursed simply because he looked at a window of a car at the wrong moment. And there are ten more tales like this in the collection; enough to make you want to sit in a bright, lighted place for a very, very long time.
In the introduction, David A. Sutton characterizes Riley’s stories as “urban horror” and there is plenty of that here but there is also something more. Something that, like the work of Ramsey Campbell, is out of synch with the rest of reality. Even more, with Riley’s fiction, you are left with the feeling that you yourself, at any time, doing the most mundane acts, could be consumed by darkness.
And what more can you ask of a horror writer?"
Kevin Demont (known to all and sundry as Demonik) who runs the Vault of Evil has started a special thread on that site with an ongoing summary and critique of my collection, The Lurkers in the Abyss.
"With a novel and umpteen collections on the go, swore I'd resist even the tiniest peek at this for time being, but, you know, Mr. Sutton's typically informative introduction only runs to four pages, what harm can it do, etc. It was the fatal reference to the theme of Writer's Cramp cracked my resolve ....
After Nightfall: Cheery anthropologist Elliot Wilderman arrives in the decrepit hamlet of Heron to room at the solitary inn. His generosity at the bar soon wins over the taciturn locals, and in no time he has accumulated much valuable data pertaining to local tradition and legend. But still one mystery remains. Why do the populace hide themselves away behind stout locks at nightfall, and, stranger still, what's with the plates of raw meat they leave outside their doors? His landlady, Mrs. Jowitt, cautions him to do as they do, stay indoors nights and avoid the mouldering huts on the edge of town, but Mr. Wilderman is of nosey disposition. A fog descends on Heron. What harm can it do to lean out of his window and watch for those who come to claim their meal?
The title story is perhaps better known, but for this reader, After Nightfall is Mr. Riley's 'seventies masterpiece. The author likely had the typical Lovecraft New England setting in mind for his location, but, for me, Heron anticipates Chetwynd-Hayes' Loughville.
Writer's Cramp: With a deadline impending and the new issue still eight pages shy of completion, Cartwright-Hughes, slimy literary editor of Digest of Horror magazine, plagiarises the plot of a submission from unknown author A. J. Dymchurch of Oswaldtwistle, Lancs. Rubbish writer he may be, but Dymchurch is an accomplished Black Magician, and, unless he receives a very public apology, Cartwright-Hughes is for the chop.
Out of Corruption: Set in 1934, very Lovecraftian in feel but - mercifully - minus any Cthulhu Mythos overkill. Our narrator, Raymond Gregory pays a visit to his friend John Poole who has recently moved to the grim and depressing Elm Tree House in Fenley Wood. Poole, an occult dabbler, gives Gregory the guided tour and the more his guest sees of the place, the less he likes it. The house gives off terrible vibes, most notably the pentagram of slime in the cellar. Neither is he over-keen on the tramp-like fellow who has taken to prowling nightly in the garden.
Gregory learns from local librarian Desmond Foster that Elm Tree House was built on the site of a 13th Century Abbey torn down when the locals discovered the Holy Fathers were worshippers of Satan. The Monks were the lucky ones - they were merely slaughtered on the spot. The Abbot was half-hung, disembowelled and quartered alive. His last sneered utterance - "The dead rise and come to me" - suggests he didn't mind such treatment in the slightest. His gibbeted remains mysteriously disappeared that same night.
With Poole reduced to a gibbering imbecile, it's obvious to Foster and Gregory that their friend's foolish meddling in the dark arts has revived the Abbot and his rotting accomplices. The worst news is, the Abbot firmly believes in taking his revenge in kind ...
Prickly: (Stuart David Schiff [ed.], Death, Playboy 1982). Back to the golden age of witchcraft & black magic, when seemingly every local newspaper thrived on stories of naked witches, grave-robbing ghouls, and all manner of cemetery desecration. What a complete load of warlocks - except for ...
Barchester, 1975. The demolition of a row of houses to make way for a tower block releases Prickly, the pet monkey/ familiar of the late Horace Horatio Brierly, who achieved local notoriety as a Black Magician. Prickly is adopted by Brierly's youthful Satanic cult as their den mascot. Soon the walls of the new block are defaced with scrawled graffiti of the PRICKLY RULES OK, PRICKLY SUCKS RED BLOOD variety. They also paste hand drawn pictures of the fanged, red eyed little monster.
The kids takes to terrorising the new tenants, poor old Mrs. Glasson coming in for particular persecution. Marooned on the fourteenth floor, and in constant dispute with the council over a rat infestation they dismiss as a product of her neurosis, Mrs. Glasson is one of life's victims, or at least, she will be come Halloween if Prickly and his evil teeny- bopper disciples have any say in the matter.
His Pale Blue Eyes: (Johnny Mains [ed], Bite-Sized Horror, Obverse, 2011). Reads like a companion piece to Romero's Children in 7th Black Book Of Horror which is no bad thing. It's been over twenty-four hours now and ten-year-old Allison's parents still haven't returned from the supermarket. Armed with a rifle, she sets off to the rescue, doing her best to keep out of the clutches of the zombies. During the course of her terrifying journey, Allison saves the lives of van driver Greg and his two sons, and persuades them to search for her mum and dad. They eventually spot the doomed couple on the mini-mart roof, hurling slabs down at a forty-strong mob of hungry corpses, whereupon Alice makes a snap decision which may not be in the best interests of Greg and his kids ....
The Shade Of Apollyon: (World Of Horror #7, May 1975). The narrator, a keen student of dark sorcery, is embroiled in public dispute with a smarmy sceptic over the reality or otherwise of "supernatural" phenomena. To resolve their feud, the occultist accepts Updike's challenge to raise a demon. Of course, he has no intention of doing anything so dangerous, but, incensed that his rival should have the temerity to arrive drunk, resolves to teach the smug fool a lesson.
He spikes Updike's coffee with a hallucinogenic, then sets to work on his mind, mapping out a deeply unpleasant Middle Eastern adventure for the drugged man centred on a vile statuette of the Angel of Death. Updike is reduced to a quivering wreck, but, by now thoroughly enjoying himself, the occultist prolongs the mental torture for longer than is advisable.
Winter On Aubarch 6: (Fear # 11. Nov. 1989). A fugitive crash lands on a lonely uncharted planet. Arrach Gudgeon resolves to wait a year before launching a distress flare, by which time he will have been pronounced dead and his crime forgotten. He's coping well until, with the approach of winter, the huge swamp worms go to ground as his food supplies dwindle. Facing slow starvation, a desperate Gudgeon takes inspiration from a story of auto-cannibalism by obscure 20th century author, Stephen King. With advanced technology at his disposal, all Gudgeon need do is programme the computer to perform a succession of extreme nip and tucks without fear of losing anything vital.
Ten months into his ordeal, a rescue party arrive on Aubarch 6 ....
The Lurkers In The Abyss: (Herbery Van Thal [ed], 11th Pan Book Of Horror Stories, 1969). "Now be reasonable, eh? We ain't inhuman." Ian Redfern, disgruntled Dole office employee, is set upon by a bunch of unkempt high street thugs while on his way home from the library. Struggling free of their ringleader, Dag - a kid who literally reeks of death - Ian sprints down backstreet's, over a patch of waste ground, on through a cemetery of evil repute until, fatally, he takes shelter in a derelict house. Even now he's not shaken his pursuers, but they who lurk in the tunnels beneath the basement are a far more terrifying prospect.
In Robert Bloch's Sweet Sixteen (aka Spawn Of The Dark One), the '50s motorcycle gangs are seen to have both boots in Satan's camp, and the same is true of the youth in a number of Mr. Riley's stories. Here, Ian is targeted by the hooligans-who-ain't-what-they-seem for no other excuse than Deg regards him an "intellectual" (Hippie?). And, as we've seen in Prickly, they start 'em very young in shunned, legend haunted Accrington ....
A New Lease: (Stephen Jones & David Sutton [eds.],Anthology of Fantasy & SF, 1994). Young Mark Dillon is bullied by twelve year old Gillian Willoughby and her prepubescent cronies to break into the derelict factory on Canal Street. Little miss sweary mouth insists that the premises are being used by local thieves to store knock off gear, but they've a darker reason for luring Mark onto the premises. What Gillian and friends really want is for him to get up close and personal with the mouldering occupants of one of five elongated boxes ....
Soft Little Fingers: (Barbara & Christopher Roden [eds.], Shades of Darkness, Ash-Tree Press 2008). Now here's a nice horrible one. Peter Devlin first encounters the Corsa in the queue for the drive-through car-wash. The dead-eyed, putty-faced kid staring through the back window gives him a terrible turn. After which, he spots the car and its leprous passenger at regular intervals until it is involved in a fatal accident, Mr. William McCarthy, drunk at the wheel, deliberately hitting a lamp-post head-on at speed. He had recently suffered the twin bereavement of losing both wife and daughter to a baffling wasting disease.
Mr. McCarthy is dead on impact, but what about the child with the papier mâché face? Peter leans through the window, hands fumbling across the back seat - and that's when the spectral, ice-cold fingers reach out to transfer their curse from one doomed family to the next ....
David Stann: cover scan from the excellent Galactic Central (i just tarted it up a little).
Help-Plants: (Charles C. Ryan [ed.], Aboriginal Science Fiction, Summer 1998). Acting on a tip off from a dying alcoholic prison inmate, Flannery O'Casey, intergalactic wide-boy, travels to the jungles of Queldon, in search of the legendary, self-reproducing help-plant, outlawed by the Droid Corporation as unwanted, free competition to their synthetic flora. With no local knowledge, Flannery hires Fullgor, a slow-witten reptilian giant, to take him to his treasure.
Fullgor dutifully locates the Help-Plant, a veined, purple throbbing monstrosity, warted and quite, quite magnificent. Everybody will want one of these! Unfortunately for O'Casey, MacIntyre, his former cell-mate, wasn't as dying as he let on, merely biding his time until he found someone stupid enough to do all the spadework. The Help-Plant is not as harmless to humans as he led O'Casey to believe.
The Shadow By The Altar: (Stuart Hughes [ed.], Peeping Tom #5, 2002/ Vault Advent Calendar, 2010): "Coincidentally, they had both been called to the same Magistrates Courtj, Tibbets for stealing a briefcase and camera from a parked car, Barlow for having attempted to desecrate a grave in the town cemetery.".
Stephen Tibbets, small time criminal, is approached by two men in a pub who offer him £200 to break into the home of Edward Barlow, Black Sorcerer, and deface a specific pentacle on his Satanic altar with red paint. Now that he's here, Tibbets is in two minds about completing the mission. What if those stories about the guy's familiar are true? As he dithers, Barlow returns with the shadow's evening meal ...
A Sense Of Movement: (Charles Black [ed.], Third Black Book of Horror, 2008). Troubled times for Malcolm. The first night of his annual holiday sees him split from his live-in lover after a drunken brawl in The Swan (Bill Sutcliffe loses his teeth but gains Linda. Where's the justice?). And now there's the business with a condemned slum on Anvil Avenue, once home to locally infamous Black Magician, Oscar Cunningham. What is it Malcolm saw last night watching him from an upper window?
Malcolm's drink dependency and recurring nightmares about the house fuel his instability. Even when he cops off with busty barmaid, Jenny Finch, it almost ends in manslaughter as his dreams are so terrible, he unwittingly lashes out in his sleep. There's nothing for it but to confront his fear, just as Oscar hoped he would. A Bedridden patient in the geriatric ward he may be, but the old demon-raiser still has the touch!
Lurkers: Fleeing the scene of a not altogether successful bank robbery, Johnny runs into a gang of thugs. It's Dag and the lads, looking not a day older than when last we met, and still stubbornly immune to the wonders of Clearasil. Johnny, in no mood for humouring cretins, brandishes his sawn-off shot-gun. Dag good as laughs in his face, so the desperate villain blows away one of his mates. Chased through the backstreet's by the pack, Johnny arrives at a row of derelict houses, picks the wrong one, and plummets through the rotting boards to land in a stinking, slime-filled crater in the cellar floor.
Dag and cronies arrive to gloat from the gallery.
The first of the abominations emerges from its tunnel ....
.... and that's where the story really gets going, taking in an Aliens-style shoot out with hideous subterranean creatures and an equally terrifying encounter with a ragged, once human tribe who hunt on behalf of the Old Ones. Sequels are risky, perhaps even more so when penned by the original author. Get them wrong and you risk killing two stories in one go, but, claustrophobic and suspenseful, Lurkers works just fine for this reader.
The Terrror On The Moors: (World Of Horror #6, April 1975). Alas, poor Peter Ridgeway. Had he but realised he was a character in a 'seventies horror story, the salesman would never have attempted that "short cut" across the Lancashire Moors during a blizzard. Lost in fog and driving snow, his car stalls after swerving to avoid a lunatic in the road, and he has no option other than to head home on foot. As Ridgeway trudges on through the snow, he glimpses a figure running along before him, eventually to arrive at a derelict farmhouse. Ridgeway, sensing a trap, is too cold and weary to resist the promise of shelter. Meanwhile, something as deadly as it is weird, awaits his arrival .....
Into The Labyrinth: (John Pelan [ed.], Alone on the Darkside, 2006). Beckett's first trip to Crete, a chance to forget his messy split from his wife and indulge the drink dependency which contributed to it. Marvelling at the fresco's unearthed at the Knossos excavation site, he's befriended by Demetrious, a local lecturer, encyclopaedic in his knowledge of Minoan civilisation. After a fascinating private tour, Beckett overlooks his new pal's bleeding stumps of teeth to agree to a dinner invitation. Unfortunately for Beckett, Dem's interest in the Minotaur runs far deeper than is healthy for either himself or those unfortunate enough to make his acquaintance. A drunken Beckett is jumped, dragged to the site entrance, and abandoned to the darkness of the subterranean maze ....
This one put me in mind of Conan-Doyle's bleak and nasty The Catacombs with an additional, and very horrible component.
Which leaves only a splendid Lovecraftian pulp romp to end on.
"The thing's face looks like someone's parents got too friendly with a fish."
Fish Eye: ( A.J. French & David Binks[eds.], Lovecraft e-Zine, #16, July 2012). First thought on seeing the cover was that Moody had used a little poetic imagination to depict a scene from the title story, but no, those interbred Innsmouth wannabe's are definitely Fish Eye and his disciples. When Captain Ed and his lobster-men dredge a hideous statue from the ocean, they unleash an ancient evil on the tiny fishing village of St. Mottrams. Soon the locals turn on outsiders - even those they've raised children by - in an orgy of butchery. Holidaymakers Mike Rayburn and Jeb Holowitz escape to raise the alarm ...
Very highly recommended. Try this one first - it's a career-spanning, 'greatest hits; Volume 1' compilation is why, then seek out a copy of Mr. Riley's début collection, His Own Mad Demons (Hazardous Press, 2012) to catch up with those dark denizens of Grudge End.