The Dragon and the Cross: A St. George’s Day Poem

A couple of years ago, I started writing a St. George’s Day poem. I had this idea, see well, more of an image, in my head. I’d seen a billboard with an England fan’s face on it. White greasepaint, red cross, as solemn as if his life depended on the match. Who knows, maybe it did. I don’t have much truck for football myself, but it did spark an idea in me. Rather than St. George a chivalrous knight, why not St. George a berserker, a raging, painted warrior fighting for his faith against his hellish opponent? I could write about that.

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Saltburn and the Gothic Tradition

Okay, so Saltburn might not be as hot on everyone’s lips as it was when it dropped on Amazon just before Christmas, but I only just got to watching it because nobody told me it was a gothic film. A gothic film? If I’d known that, it would have earned an immediate Go-Straight-to-the-Top-of-my-Watchlist ticket without passing go. Unconvinced? Do the neon club scenes of the first five minutes have no place in the gothic canon? The almost-contemporary mid-00s setting? Ah, but what about the references to Shelley and Byron? What about that bloody scene on the garden bench, or that, ahem, penetrating scene on the fresh grave?

Let’s take a scalpel to Saltburn and see what tropes of the gothic tradition we can lay out on the slab.


In naming itself after an ancestral home, Saltburn joins itself with some familiar titles in the gothic tradition: Northanger Abbey, Gormenghast, Rawblood, Crimson Peak… It’s a kissing cousin to even more – The Castle of Otranto, The Mysteries of Udulpho, The Fall of the House of Usher – and joins Manderley and Bly Manor as the seat of a rich family and a corporeal symbol of their legacy. Like the aforementioned piles, naming the house makes Saltburn is a character in its own right: a warren of wealth standing above and untouched by the seductions and Machiavellian plots within it. It stands like a stone in a blood and tear-stained river.

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2023 Writing Round-up

Wow, 2023 was a year, wasn’t it? I can’t pretend it was a great one for actual writing (well – more about that below) but it was hella eventful in other arenas. Factors distracting me from writing including (but were not limited to) the ever-growing Baby T (now a toddler – who knew that children grow?), completing my first year of full-time teaching (ah, so this is what they grow into) and drumming at various gigs. That said, writing books isn’t the only pie I’ve got my authory fingers in, and it’s been great to be part of the adventures of those who’ve made films, displayed paintings or written songs that relate to things that I’ve written. This is my 2023 writing round up and all the activities I’ve been part of.

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The 50 Best Horror Novels Ever

Back in 2019, I assembled a list of the best horror novels ever. This was no mere copy-and-paste job from another website. I trawled all manner of sites and surveys, harvesting the names of those novels which kept on appearing. There were 42 novels on my conglomerate list and, three years later, I have read every one of them.

42 is such an awkward number, though (unless you’re a Douglas Adams fan). Wouldn’t it be great if there had been 50 novels that had kept appearing? 50 must-read horror novels. The 50 best horror novels ever. Well, having read the whole original list, and more besides, I feel qualified to fill in the gaps. Here are the real 50 best horror novels ever – 42 recommended by online horror communities and 8 of my personal recommendations.

Grab your cushions and steel your nerves. These really are the 50 best horror novels… ever.

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New Atlantis: A Poem

I hang my head in shame. It has been more than six months since I’ve put finger to key and clacked a new blog post into being. More than six months since sharing a story, poem, or even a trademark thought or reflection. Well, it ends today. I’ve a new poem to share with you, and a little tale to go with it. Patient readers, I present for your pleasure: New Atlantis.

2022: Good for babies, disastrous for writing

You might recall my last blog post. I described the recent changes I’d made in life: I was immersed in teacher training and expecting a baby in January. Well, I’m now a teacher and, even more importantly, a father. Tristan Smith was born on 12th January 2022, and he’s as perfect a baby as we could hope for. Yes: even when he cries all day. I loved that crying when I was trying to complete my final assessment for my PGCE. Loved it. Hmm.

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