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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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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Reading and Writing Challenges in 2021

We all know what kind of a year 2021 has been. And while 2020 was a tough one, we all felt like 2021 would be the light after that dark night. For many, it was just as rough, but I’m proud of holding my head above water and for achieving what I did this year. Now that I’m done mixing metaphors, I’ll give you the lowdown. Some of it’s personal stuff, but I beg your indulgence. – here’s a bit about my new novel too. Reading and writing challenges in 2021.

New Careers

In January of this year, I decided I wanted a career change. Not just any change either – I wanted to become a teacher. And the first time I said it aloud, I wondered why it had taken me this long to work it out. It was inevitable. In all my jobs, I’ve loved mentoring my colleagues. I’ve loved being part of training. And I’d never really gotten to grips with not having six weeks off in the summer.

I have the most supportive family in the world, and with their help and support (emotional, professional and financial) I went through all the applications and interviews required to start my PGCE. I’m now three months deep into my placement at primary school, and loving every minute. It’s hard work but I think I might have found the vocation that has eluded me thus far in my professional life. And speaking of family…

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The Amazing Maurice: 20th Anniversary Review

The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents was published in 2001. It was Terry Pratchett’s first Discworld novel written for children, and also the first to receive a major award – the Carnegie medal. This year marks the book’s 20th anniversary, and it can’t have been many fewer than 20 years ago when I was first introduced to it as an audio cassette on the long drive to Tenby in my Nanna’s MG Rover. It must be no less than seventeen years since I last read it. How will an Amazing Maurice… review fare under the cynical gaze of an adult Liam?

Well. The book fares very well. But we’ll get to that. First, I need to describe what I remember about this book. We all know memory can play tricks. A recollection from childhood is as likely to be fictional as true. I remembered The Amazing Maurice… being a very dark book – full of shadows and flickering flames that can’t quite illuminate the impending twists and turns of the tail tale. Perhaps, as a tender pre-teen reader, I couldn’t quite grasp everything that was going on?

Chapter titles are accompanied by a snippet from Mr Bunnsy has an Adventure, a book the Rodents adopt as their bible
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New Reading Challenge: 2020

What a horror story 2020 was eh? Who would have thought at this time last January we’d all end up living in a world of travel restrictions, infection apps and no pub. No pub! Inevitably, without my favourite writing spot, my prose turnout dropped a bit this year… But three weeks of furlough did give me time to read lots of books, and I achieved my new Reading Challenge for 2020: reading 52 books in the year.

Reading Challenge 2020

We know I like to record every book I read. It’s good to read widely and to treat reading as entertainment just as worthy of your time as gaming, scrolling and Netflix. As an author, you pick up tips and learn more about your own place in your genre (or out of it). A challenge helps to push you to read more and to try new books for new experiences.

You even got a preview of what’s been on my hit-list when I posted my mid-year reading roundup in the summer. I hope you’ll still enjoy scanning a half-interested eye down the full tally.

Challenges of 2021

I know a lot of creative people have struggled this year. In the all the upheaval and ever-changing rules, your mentality recalibrates from creative to survival mode. It’s nothing to beat yourself up about. Usually, I make resolutions for the new year. But this January all I’m resolving to do is take things as they come. I’ll roll with the punches and deal with things in a positive way that might inspire others to do the same.

Who knows, I might even squeeze some writing in. I’ve got a doozie of an idea about a Victorian séance, and it would suit chapter titles named after tarot cards…

Watch this space! And now, to our headline act, the Reading Challenge 2020.

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