Spooky Isles talks to Howard Jackson about his new horror anthology, Nightmares Ahead, from Red Rattle Books
Howard Jackson: Nightmares Ahead has zombie and vampire stories but also tales about ghosts, monsters and inexplicable random events that cause confusion. Nightmares Ahead has over 30 stories. All are written by me but the range allows me to experiment with style and subjects. The book has stories that will appeal to any horror fan.
Where did the title Nightmares Ahead come from?
Some stories were inspired by dreams, and the book, because of its range of interests, is a kind of journey. This justifies the book being concluded with a story that is not obvious horror. The journey has stopped and reality returns.
The stories vary in length. Is that because you just let each story find its own length?
Not quite. Just over half of the stories were written to order and had a 1500 word limit. These stories are just the thing for a train ride. They can accompany a quick breakfast before you leave for work. Elsewhere I did let the story find its own length. Los Perros Muertos is 11,000 words and that makes sense because it is a tale of discovery.
In the introduction you state that the stories are intended to ‘harrow the mind’.
The stories are not savage and explicit. Zombie Bites has graphic moments, and so will the Zombie novel from Red Rattle Books due in October. Nightmares Ahead frightens and disturbs but because of what it leaves in the mind of the reader. The stories may not terrify readers as they read them but it will be a brave reader who switches off the light to think about what he or she has read.
Why do you think some critics have said that Nightmares Ahead raises the bar for horror fiction?
I assume that they like them. For my part, I have tried to produce a good range, I have built on my own knowledge of horror fiction and I have also attempted something different.
Although the stories are told in a minimalist method, you have attempted different styles. I am interested in the story, The Task That Had To Be Done.
That has a pagan setting, so it enabled me to use a different style of English, a very simple style but unusual. The task in the story also has good horror appeal. That is graphic, I suppose.
In the story, Honeymoon, the horrific incident is never stated. Why is that?
It’s not to be clever. Most readers will guess what has happened to the female character and understand that her inability to reveal the horror is what makes the tale disturbing.
What are the plans for the future?
I have to edit two more books for Red Rattle Books this year, the Zombie novel and a thriller. The authors of these books are talented, and both books are exceptional. Then I begin work on my own Jack the Ripper book. As you know, Bernard Shaw described Jack the Ripper as a ‘demented genius’. Shaw had hopes for him as a revolutionary. There is fictional life in the character, still.
I am sure that there is.