SALEM RECOMMENDS: SPIDER-MAN (1977)

Before there was any such thing as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or CGI, or Tobey Maguire, there was the Spider-Man live action TV series which ran from 1977 to 1979.

The pilot episode was released theatrically in Europe so I was lucky enough to see it on the big screen at the formative age of six. It was only my second ever visit to the cinema. My first was to see Star Wars.

The live action Spider-Man blew my mind. My 49 year old self was not so impressed.

The dual roles of Peter Parker/Spider-Man are taken by Nicholas Hammond (aka Freidrich from The Sound of Music and Sam Wanamaker in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood). Here, Peter is a grad student/science enthusiast/amateur photographer who people keep addressing as “kid” even though he’s clearly pushing 30. He also spends a great deal of his screen time sneezing.

The plot concerns some sort of ‘life coach’ guy who’s taken control of the minds of his followers and is getting them to carry out robberies. It’s all part of a wider plan to extort money from the city ($50 million, to be exact). But he didn’t reckon on some “kid” getting bitten by a radioactive spider and stumbling upon his nefarious scheme.

It’s a real clunker of a story. Gone is the zippy, sparky creative energy and snappy dialogue of the original 60s comic books by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, and instead we get a dry retelling with little or no humour and some very dodgy fight scenes. Spider-Man himself doesn’t do a lot of web-slinging or swinging, preferring to scamper about on rooftops without ever standing up straight. That said, there is a memorable moment when a stuntman in Spidey costume really does swing from one building to another. However, it might just be memorable because they used the same shot in every episode of the series.

There was a famous scene which sadly doesn’t feature in the pilot in which a stuntman, again in full Spidey regalia, was winched up the side of the Empire State Building, bringing New York City to a standstill. Now THAT was impressive.

It’s also with sadness that I must report that none of Spidey’s comic book villains ever made it into the series. Obviously, budgets were never going to allow for an airborne duel with the Green Goblin or a punch-up with Doc Ock, but an appearance by the Kingpin would have been nice.

Despite all of this, I couldn’t look away. This film has a strange fascination all its own. It’s almost as if there is actually a good film in there somewhere, desperately trying to break out, so you keep on watching in the hope that it does. Mind you, it’s worth sticking with just for the enormous collars and the funky soundtrack.

Stan Lee dismissed this series, which ran for two seasons before being cancelled, as a “nightmare” and “juvenile”. You can see his point, but watching it again through the prism of a 43-year gap, it becomes a kind of historical curio, and one not without charm.

It was directed by TV stalwart EW Swackhamer (surely a name which could also lend itself to a porn star or a Confederate general). To date there has been no DVD release, but there are vintage VHS copies floating around out there and it’s available on YouTube (obvs).

SALEM RECOMMENDS – TRICK OR TREAT

Trick or Treat, released in 1986, is billed as a horror movie but it isn’t really. It didn’t horrify me anyway, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t devilishly entertaining.

Eddie is a high school loner, picked on by the jocks for being a metalhead, laughed at by the girls. One fateful day, he sees on the TV news that his idol, heavy metal star Sammi Curr has died in a hotel fire. Stricken by grief and convinced that no one but Sammi ever understood him (adolescents, eh?), he turns to a local rock DJ for solace. This DJ ‘gets it’ because he’s played by none other than Gene Simmons from off of Kiss, and he presents our hero with a super-rare Sammi demo record.

When Eddie plays this backwards, as you do, he discovers that he can communicate with his deceased hero, and Sammi Curr, hideously scarred and back from the dead, starts exacting bloody revenge on all the scumbags who made his no.1 fan’s life a misery.

Eddie is a bit of a non-entity, to be honest. He just seems to bumble around not saying much of anything, even when things start going shit-shaped. In contrast, Tony Fields has more than enough rock star charisma to play the demonic Sammi Curr, back for his encore. Trick or Treat only hits the high notes when he turns up to off someone in some ghastly manner.

Apparently, Blackie Lawless from off of WASP was approached to play the Sammi role (which would have been AWESOME!), but he backed out when he discovered that Fastway had already been signed up to provide the soundtrack.

Speaking of which, the soundtrack is also worth checking out. Fastway was the post-Motorhead band founded by guitarist Fast Eddie Clarke, and while it may stick to that tried n trusted corporate, mid tempo 80s metal formula, there are more than enough fist-in-the-air choruses to satisfy even the most demanding headbanger.

Incidentally, I was lucky enough to catch Fastway live a few years ago, not too long before Fast Eddie sadly passed away.

Trick or Treat was the directorial debut of Charles Martin Smith (from off of American Graffiti and Starman) who also makes a cameo appearance in the movie. Smith also directed Dolphin Tale, Dolphin Tale 2, A Dog’s Way Home and the forthcoming A Christmas Gift from Bob. When it comes to cutesie animal movies, Smith has a good pedigree.

See what I did there?

Trick or Treat is most certainly of its time, but it’s a perfect movie for Halloween, especially if you invite all your chums around for sugary treats and a bit of heckling. It’s worth seeing for the Ozzy Osbourne cameo alone. He plays a moralising clergyman hell bent on bringing metal down. Such delicious irony!

DEMON POSSESSED BY SPIRIT OF TEENAGE GIRL

Orobas, a powerful demon estimated to be tens of thousands of years old, has been possessed by the spirit of a teenage girl, according to doctors.

The demon, who has the head of a horse and is also known as the Great Prince of Hell, now believes himself to be a fifteen year old girl called Karlie who has 134 Instagram followers. Since falling victim to the possession he has also set up accounts on TikTok and the streaming service Twitch.

“It’s an incredibly sad case,” said Dr Hans Orff who is overseeing the demon’s treatment. “A week ago this being had twenty legions of lesser-demons under his control, but now he can only communicate by text. Oh, and also by rolling his eyes and issuing the occasional derisory snort.”

Despite this, doctors at Ysbyty Gwynedd hospital in Bangor where Orobas is being treated are hopeful he can be returned to his former diabolical glory. “There’s definitely progress,” Dr Orff explained. “When he was brought in he was doing dance challenges on TikTok and streaming himself playing video games, but now he’s starting to get back to his old self again. He’s already ripped the heads off several porters and spat down their necks, and attempted to burn down the hospital. He’s not out of the woods just yet, but once that vile, evil presence has been banished from him completely, he’ll be able to return to being a productive member of demonic society.”

IS THIS THE REAL LIFE DEEP LEVEL?

In my debut horror novel DEEP LEVEL published by darkstroke books, four friends set out to explore a network of forgotten train tunnels beneath the streets of London.

The network in my story was built in secret to serve the superrich of Victorian society, but the Low Level Station in Glasgow was no secret and was constructed to serve a population of millions.

Situated beneath Glasgow Station, the Low Level was opened in 1896 and kept running until 1964. Described by the poet C Hamilton Ellis as “Sombre, sulphurous and Plutonian”, it was rife with crime and thick with grime. As well as being a working rail network, it also housed vast coal and grain stores and was utilised as a mortuary during World War 1.

Needless to say, there have been reports of supernatural phenomena throughout the years, with accounts of poltergeist activity and sightings of a grey lady and, most disturbingly of all, a supposed demon-child.

However, it seems that Glasgow’s Low Level Station may well be about to rise from the grave as it is being transformed into a heritage museum. I for one am looking forward to exploring this mysterious site for myself, but if I don’t see any ghosts I’ll be asking for my money back.

SALEM RECOMMENDS – FALLOUT by KARLA FORBES

If you like your thrillers brutal and uncompromising as well as tense and exciting, welcome to the world of Nick Sullivan.

Nick is a high-flying banker with a beautiful wife, big house, nice car and a boat. Yes, he has it all, until he and his best friend stumble into the path of three psychos hell bent on inflicting carnage across England. In a matter of hours, Nick has lost everything and is Britain’s most wanted man.

Karla Forbes really knows how to turn the screw, cranking up the tension with every turn of the page, and we readers get dragged right through the wringer alongside the hero. We’re with him for every punch, every setback, every kick in the guts, and from start to finish there’s no let-up. How does this guy keep going, you’ll find yourself asking. But keep going Nick does, and we along with him.   Fallout is an exhilarating read, full of twists, turns, curveballs, tragedies and life-lessons. One warning though, you’re going to feel bruised by the end of it, but don’t let that put you off.

Enjoy the ride!

SALEM RECOMMENDS – UTGARD BY ENSLAVED

People often ask what attracts me to the extreme metal scene. Quite simply, it’s because that’s where all the innovation is, and a fine case in point would be Enslaved.

Enslaved’s entire career in music has been a journey, beginning in the frosty, twilit Norwegian Black Metal scene of the early 90s and culminating here and now with Utgard, their 15th studio album.

Utgard is a magnificent album and a worthy successor to their previous release, E. From the opening chants of Fires in the Dark to the lush, soundscape of closer Distant Seasons, it is in itself a journey. Via the icy, brutal riffs and vocals of Jettegryta, we are led through an atmospheric spoken word track Ütgardr and the surprising and soaring Urjotun. Surprising because the intro wouldn’t sound out of place on Queen’s Flash Gordon soundtrack. En route, there are psychedelic hints of Hawkwind and discordant traces of Voivod, but we never forget who’s at the wheel.

This is Enslaved at their experimental, proggy best, and a genuine contender for metal album of the year. So, if you’ve never checked out Enslaved before, hop aboard because you’re in for one hell of a trip.

GOING DOWN – HOW DEEP LEVEL CAME TO BE

It all started with a nightmare. It was still there, raw and vivid, when I opened my eyes in the morning, and I knew it was too good to let fade. I knew that there was a story in it. And so I dragged my weary frame out of bed, staggered into the spare room (which doubles as my office) and started making notes.

I have always suffered from nightmares and anxiety dreams, and I get them far more often than most people, judging from conversations I’ve had on the subject. Some I experience as ‘movies’ and some as a ‘participant’.

The nightmare that eventually became DEEP LEVEL came in two parts.

The first part was a ‘movie’. I was removed from the action, watching it unfold from without. I saw a few people, all terrified, huddled together in a tunnel. Beyond the tunnel was an underground railway platform. But this platform was quite unlike the ones you see in modern-day London. This one was old, dark, abandoned.

The people in the dream were explorers. I knew this because they all had torches. They were also lost. As they crept towards the platform, an engine appeared. It was a Victorian engine, with a rusted, swollen boiler, a long stovepipe chimney on top and huge wheels. It rolled silently and steamlessly into the station and stopped at the platform. It had no driver. The people in the dream screamed and fled in all directions.

In the second part of the dream I was in the middle of the action. I was running in terror from this silent engine. If I let it get too close to me I would feel my lifeforce ebbing away. Clouds of dusty cobwebs would cover my eyes. My body would turn to lead.

It was a ferocious dream, but I awoke excited. I knew that it would make a great short story, and so I began writing. The short version was told in the first person and centred around a lone protagonist, a bookseller named Rich. He discovers this secret network of Victorian tunnels and faces the horror therein alone.

As happy as I was with the completed short version, I knew there was more exploring to be done, and so I set about expanding it into a novella. This time it would be told in the third-person, and Rich would be accompanied by his friends, Roz, Ffion and Syd.

As the story grew, Roz (short for Rosalind) evolved to become the heart and soul of it. If this tale has a hero, it is her. She’s a fifty-something archivist who came to the UK from Sierra Leone as a young girl. Lost and overwhelmed in 70s London, she finds her tribe amongst the rude boys and the rude girls on the ska scene.

Ffion is a cinema usher who moved from Carmarthen to London to live with her boyfriend. She is the proverbial life and soul of the party; loud, boisterous and just a little bit crass. But she is also warm, loving and loads of fun.

The final member of our intrepid foursome is Syd. Syd (or Syeeda to her mum and dad) is an aspiring writer. She composes and illustrates short stories before putting them away in a box and forgetting about them. She is a civil servant by profession, but a supermodel in the eyes of her friends.

As it became clear to me that DEEP LEVEL was going to be closer to novella length than novel, I began to worry about the likelihood of it being published. Were publishers still marketing novellas? Were readers still buying them? I wrote into Writing Magazine asking these very questions (letter printed April 2019) and they assured me that yes, the novella is very much alive and well and encouraged me to go for it.

Turns out they were right.

Fast forward a year to April 2020 and I get furloughed from my job, which I love. I work for a radio station as a commercial scriptwriter, and at first I am disappointed about my furloughing, but I then decide that it’s actually an opportunity to take my dream of being a novelist forward. And so I get to work.

In the four months I was away from my job, I finished one novel that I’d been working on (a Victorian vampire tale), started another one (a sci-fi horror story) and set about marketing a previous one (that would DEEP LEVEL, folks). It didn’t take me long to find someone interested.

Darkstroke Books were actually the third publisher I sent it to. I initially submitted three chapters and a synopsis. They came back to me within a couple of days with a request to see the full manuscript. A few days after that they made their offer of publication. It all happened so fast it made my head spin.

Laurence at Darkstroke was keen to launch DEEP LEVEL into the world that same year. Luckily, the process was expediated by it not needing a great deal of editing. In this field, I had a head start as self-editing accounts for nine-tenths of my job as a commercial scriptwriter. When I come up with a campaign idea and a subsequent script, most of my time will be spent chipping that script down to a nice cosy 30 seconds.

It’s something you hear repeated ad infinitum in the arena of writing: make every word count. In my day job, I have no choice. It’s what I do.

The cover illustration is my own. I have a degree in art, so I’m glad I was able to (finally) put that to good use. I was very clear about how I wanted the cover to look. I like striking minimalist designs, simple colour schemes and silhouettes. Laurence was happy to run with my design and passed it on to Darkstroke’s resident graphics bod to provide the titles etc. I couldn’t be happier with the end result. I think it looks terrific.

A word or two about research. It would be no exaggeration to say that I’ve been researching this novel for my entire adult life. Rich works in a bookshop. I’ve done that. Ffion is a cinema usher. I’ve done that. Syeeda (our aspiring writer) is a civil servant. I’ve done that. Rosalind is an archivist. My mother does that!

In addition, I read up on Victorian London, on what lies beneath London and on the Victorian tube network (because yes, there really was one!). In addition, I watched documentaries about the London underground and the ghosts that haunt it. I really enjoyed the research process for this book and I now know a great deal more on this subject than I used to.

Darkstroke have been great. I’ve learned a lot from Laurence, Stephanie and my fellow authors about the minutia of publishing and being published. I’ve had to create the online profile of Richard E. Rock from scratch as it is a pseudonym (or immortal name, as I prefer to call it), my given name being fundamentally unspellable and hence un-Google-able. Also, I’ve had to start thinking seriously about how I raise the profile of myself and my work in order to create a momentum that can be carried over into future publications.

The only disappointment in this whole journey was that my novel was launched into the world during a lockdown, so I couldn’t go out with my family to celebrate. Also, because of the present situation, I can’t get myself in front of any writing groups to sell it, or get a spot at any book fairs. But that’s beyond anyone’s control, so there’s no point fretting about it. It is what it is.

However, the day I received my preview paperback copy in the mail was amazing. What an incredible sensation, holding my very own book in my very own hands and thinking, I wrote this. There isn’t a feeling in the world like it.

DEEP LEVEL is only a few days old, as I write this, but it’s already picked up a few (very positive) reviews, for which I am extremely grateful. My number one priority now is to generate interest in it, get people reading it and create that momentum. Because I really do believe that my novel is good enough to create a buzz, to create good word-of-mouth, to excite people enough that they want to talk about it and tell others.

And that’s what writing’s all about, right? Creating something that excites you as much as it excites readers, so you keep on writing and the readers keep on reading. Because, no matter what anyone may tell you, books make the world go round, and that’s quite simply a fact of life.

SALEM RECOMMENDS…VEROTIKA

I couldn’t help noticing that horror streaming service Shudder has been shouting about the fact they now have VEROTIKA available, so I thought now might be a good time to take another look at it.

In case you are unaware, VEROTIKA is a horror anthology movie directed by Glenn Danzig, vocalist of the hugely influential (and hugely awesome) horror punk band The Misfits and a respected solo artist in his own right.

This film is based on stories originally published in Danzig’s very own VEROTIK comic book line and is, to be blunt, one of the most catastrophically inept films I’ve ever seen.

“But wait,” I hear you say. “This feature is called Salem Recommends. So are you recommending this or aren’t you?”

Allow me to clarify. Yes, this movie may be clunkingly amateurish, abysmally acted and downright confusing, but my god is it entertaining! My first thought after the end titles had rolled was: “I really need to watch this again.” Partly because I couldn’t quite believe what I had just seen, and partly because…

Well, no, it’s just that.

As I said, VEROTIKA is an anthology featuring three terrifying tales linked by a horned goth lady called Morella (played by adult movie star and nude model Kayden Kross).

Incidentally, there are a lot of porn stars in this movie, so checking it out on IMDB makes for a very interesting read.

The first segment is called THE ALBINO SPIDER OF DAJETTE and is the only one to feature an ending. I’m not kidding there. This genuinely is the only story in this anthology to achieve any sort of denouement. The other ones just kind of go on for a bit and then stop.

But before you read on, be warned. Here be spoilers.

THE ALBINO SPIDER OF DAJETTE concerns a young French lady (played by porn star Ashley Wisdom who, in fairness, does a pretty good job with the accent) who has eyes on her boobs instead of nipples. One day, when she’s a bit upset, they cry onto a spider, causing it to mutate into a man-sized human-arachnid hybrid who goes out breaking women’s necks every time Dajette falls asleep.

Yeah. You read that right.

Soon, Paris is living in fear of this mysterious serial killer known only as “The Neckbreaker”, so Dajette has to try and stay awake, lest this foul creature goes out and commits any more murders for which she holds herself partly responsible. She doesn’t last long, however. One of my favourite scenes involves her walking into a coffee shop, sitting down, not having anything, paying and then leaving again.

Dajette, you went in there for coffee and, when offered some, turned it down. What did you just pay for, exactly?

But I digress…

At the climax, she calls the cops to her home and takes an overdose of sleeping tablets, thus causing the accursed spider-man to appear just as the aforementioned coppers are bursting in through the door, armed with guns and outrageous accents. Before they shoot the creature dead, one of them shouts: “Take your hands from her neck!”

Um. Dude. The creature’s hands aren’t on her neck. She’s already lying dead on the floor. Didn’t you notice?

And so we skip gleefully to segment two, which is all about some mysterious woman who goes around cutting women’s faces off and hanging them on her wall. You may have noticed that I described her as mysterious. This was no accident, as this deranged killer also moonlights as a masked stripper called – wait for it! – Mystery Girl.

CHANGE OF FACE, for that is the title, stars Rachel Alig (who is notably not a porn star) in the lead role. She is by far and away the most non-scary serial killer I’ve ever seen in a film. I’m not going to hold her entirely responsible for that. I mean, look at the script she had to work with.

This segment also features a glorious, scenery-chewing turn from Sean Kanan as Sgt. Anders, the cop on the killer’s trail. Well, actually, saying that there’s any kind of trail here to be followed is being generous. Cop finds business card. Business card leads to strip club. Job done.

Be warned. This segment features gratuitous shots of strippers.

And so we limp on to the last segment, DRUKIJA: CONTESSA OF BLOOD. The more eagle-eyed among you might have noticed the similarity between that name and a certain Transylvanian vampire.

This story is about…

Hang on! My bad. There is literally no story to this one. Instead, we as viewers simply look on as a Countess Bathory-type medieval ruler (played by Alice Tate, also not a porn star) kidnaps virgins from surrounding villages, bathes in their blood, sometimes drinks it, and spends a great deal of time admiring herself in the mirror. And that’s it, really. There’s no threat involved. No angry mob bearing pitchforks and flaming torches marching on her castle. She just does her thing and all’s still hunky-dory at the end.

Actually, in one scene when she’s climbing into a bath (full of blood, obvs), you can actually see that the actor is wearing a bit of tape to protect her…erm…modesty.

The attention to period detail in this film is staggering.

See what I did there?

So, where to begin? It’s pretty obvious that what Danzig was aiming for here was something along the lines of Sin City. A trashy, pulpy movie that not only knows it’s trashy and pulpy, but actually revels in it. But that’s not how it turned out. The end result is simply amatuerish.

Firstly, absolutely none of this is either frightening or erotic. Without fear or tension, gore is just gore. It’s a special effect. And also, this film makes the age-old mistake of assuming that just by filling the screen with naked women, it’s erotic. No it isn’t.

Watching it, it occurred to me that if someone ever gave a bunch of horny, adolescent schoolchildren a budget, a cast and a film crew and told them to go make a movie, this is exactly what you’d get.

And yet, despite all this, I loved it! Seriously, it was a stupendously entertaining ninety minutes. As previously stated, I couldn’t wait to watch it a second time. Which I did. And guess what, I loved it just as much again.

For horror fans, I would say that this is a must-have for the collection. You really do have to see VEROTIKA at least once in your life. I can recommend the edition that comes with the blu-ray, DVD and soundtrack CD, because the soundtrack is ace. For real.

But anyway, I for one can’t wait for Glenn Danzig’s next movie. I just hope it’s as good as this one.

THE CHAMBER OF ART AND WONDERS

Little Death

The sound of sirens filled the valley and, high in the overlooking hills, the idyllic peace was shattered. My first thought was that it was an air-raid warning. Then I realised that I was thinking as a Brit, and I wasn’t in Britain now. No, that piercing wail had nothing to do with air raids, it was an avalanche warning.

Across the valley, the Nordketter mountain loomed vast over Innsbruck. Here was the source of the warning siren, and only 24 hours earlier myself and my girlfriend had been standing at its peak. But today we were observing it from the safety of the stunning grounds of Schloss Ambras.

Schloss Ambras is a ravishing renaissance castle and palace closely associated with the reign of Archduke Ferdinand II (1529-1595). It is the stuff that fairy tales are made of, and housed within is Ferdinand’s astounding collection of curiosities and marvels, known as the Chamber of Art and Wonders.

Ferdinand II is one of history’s most prominent art collectors, with his gallery boasting a schmorgasbord of bizarre, dazzling and beguiling pieces, one of the most celebrated being “Tödlein” (1519) by Hans Leinberger (pictured above).

This figure, exquisitely carved from pear wood, depicts Death armed with a bow and a quiver of arrows. It was most likely made for Emperor Maximilian I before finding its way to Ferdinand II’s collection as an heirloom.

It’s an incredible piece of work, but there are hundreds of other exhibits to see too , including the iconic portrait of Vlad the Impaler, a suit of armour made for a giant and several preserved sharks that hang from the ceiling. So, if you ever find yourself in the Austrian Tyrol, a visit to Schloss Ambras is a must. Just watch out for those avalanches.

SALEM RECOMMENDS: IF IT BLEEDS by STEPHEN KING

If It Bleeds by Stephen King, as modelled by Salem

In writing, you will often hear talk of “The Voice”. For the uninitiated, The Voice basically means the tone or style of the narration. Is it formal? Is it short and snappy? Is it ponderous? Does it engage you? Does it leave you cold?

You get the idea.

However, whenever I consider Stephen King, I never think in terms of The Voice, I think in terms of The Groove.

Yes, this man’s writing has groove, like a great heavy metal riff that grabs you by the scruff at the start of a song and drags you all the way through to the end whether you like it or not. And you usually do.

If It Bleeds is a collection of four short stories, and it’s groovy, baby! The opener, Mr Harrigan’s Phone, is about a kid hired by a rich and reclusive old man to read to him and perform other assorted household tasks. Right from the off it sounds creepy, but it’s actually quite a touching relationship. But not in THAT way. Stephen King is, of course, a master when it comes to setting a scene, so by the time things turn ACTUALLY creepy, we as readers are fully engaged with the two main characters, which makes the twists and turns as they come all the more shocking.

In The Life of Chuck, King goes cosmic. I haven’t read a cosmic King story in a while so I was ready to embrace it. Judging by other reviews and reactions I’ve read, this story is the most divisive one in the collection, but I loved it.

I actually found the fourth story, Rat, rather delightful. I’m not sure if this was Stephen King’s intention with this, I’m going to go ahead and assume not, but that was the effect it had on me. This tale sees an author, Drew Larson, sick with flu, trapped in a remote cabin as a storm rages outside. He saves the life of a rat who is not quite what it seems and ends up offering him a Faustian pact.

Again, the scene-setting is flawless and I was enjoying spending time with Mr Larson, but I liked this story without being horrified or creeped out by it. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? If it’s enjoyable, does it matter?

Besides, as a cat, the thought of a talking rat really got my juices flowing. By the time I got to the end, I actually felt quite hungry.

But the main draw for me here, as for a lot of other people, judging by all the reviews and reactions I’ve read, is the third one, If It Bleeds, starring the one and only Holly Gibney.

For those of you who have not had the pleasure, Holly Gibney is a recurring character who featured in King’s so-called Bill Hodges trilogy of books (Mr Mercedes, Finders Keepers and End of Watch) as well as The Outsider. These are all tremendous reads so check them out. She’s one of his finest creations, and she can give me worm drops anytime.

Ahem.

So anyway, this is Holly’s first time out as the main character, and I revelled in every single second I spent with her, doing what she does best: being Holly Gibney.

I’m not going to give too much of the story away here, because I don’t want to spoil it for all my fellow Holly fans, but I will say that the title comes from the old journalistic mantra, ‘If it bleeds, it leads’, and concerns a TV journalist who arouses our hero’s suspicions.

It feels like a natural successor to The Outsider and is equally intriguing, creepy, exciting and satisfying. Brilliant stuff.

So, all in all, If It Bleeds is a very tasty treat indeed. Even better than a whole box of Whiskers Temptations. Go and sink your teeth into it right now, and tell them Salem sent you.