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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How to Write a Screenplay

This article may or may not contain instructions on how to write a screenplay. But it does contain the twisted tale of how one of my short stories was adapted into a(n equally short) film.


It started January 2021. No wait. Technically, it started before our lives were hit by 21st century black death and we all went into lockdown. My bandmate and I were plying our trade at an open mic in Worthing. Another guitarist asked if I could put some percussion behind his set. We got talking and, like any good self-publicising writer, I mentioned my books. I played cajon to We Are the Champions. A good night was had by all.

Back to January 2021. Chaz – for ‘twas Chaz Parvez who had conscripted me into his Queen tribute – shot me a message on Facebook. He was writing, producing and directing a short film. A horror. I wrote horror stories – would I mind giving the screenplay a critical read? I opened the attachment. “2-5-1 (WORKING TITLE)” by Chaz Parvez. You want the first lines?


“the killing”


This was my kind of thing.

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On Folk Horror

Folk horror is something of a retrospective tag for a brand of (mostly British) horror.  Although it is mostly affiliated with a clawful of early 70s horror films, it was 2010 before British screenwriter and horror aficionado Mark Gatiss popularised the term in referring to a trifecta of films with an emphasis on witchcraft, superstition and the British landscape.  The term has gained notoriety since then. Many modern writers, filmmakers and musicians have made a conscious effort to tap its rich aesthetic.  I’m one of those writers.

Folk horror really speaks to me.  Maybe it’s because I grew up in a small English village. Maybe it’s because I love nothing more than strolling through the countryside and letting my imagination run wild.  But I find rural English horror pleases me on a good few levels, and I enjoyed throwing my own hat in the ring with my most recent book Harvest House.  Here are some of my thoughts on why I like folk horror. Why I find it horrifying. And there are some signposts to exploring folk horror for yourselves too.

Witchfinder General, The Blood on Satan’s Claw and The Wicker Man share a preoccupation with British folklore, superstition, the landscape and evil.
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Why I Won’t Be Watching American Gods

I first read Neil Gaiman’s American Gods in my late teens.  It was winter time and I fitted it in between college classes and bus stops and it struck such a chord with me.  The book is full to bursting with rich imagination, and images from that first reading that have stuck with me ever since.  Which is why I won’t be watching the new TV adaptation of the book.

Books aren’t necessarily better

I’m not the kind of person to say the book is always better than the film (although it often is).  In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say I think The Shining is a better film than it was a book, despite Stephen King being one of my favourite authors.  But books and films and television series are different media and connect with you in different ways.  Obviously, screen adaptations are more visual.  A book can throw pages of description at you but it still relies on its reader interpreting that information and forming an image from it.  If it’s on a screen, well, that’s the image that will wind up in your mind’s eye.

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