Praise for Twisted Tales Events

'In the past few years Twisted Tales has become a major force in the promotion and appreciation of horror fiction. As well as putting on author readings and signings at bookshops it has expanded into organising larger events, bringing authors and critics together for discussions of the field. I've been involved in quite a few of both and have found them hugely enjoyable and stimulating - I believe the audiences did as well. May Twisted Tales continue to grow and prosper! If you love the field, support them! I do.' - Ramsey Campbell

‘Twisted Tales consistently produce well-organised events for writers and readers of horror. What really distinguishes Twisted Tales for me is the intelligent themes and investigations they pursue, and the high quality of the discussions they always stimulate. As an author I've been invited to three of their events and have been pleasantly startled, to near shocked, by the attendance levels - two out of three were even sold out. I salute anyone who contributes so much to the literary and cultural life of horror fiction.’- Adam Nevill

'Twisted Tales events are wonderful... a great way of promoting 21st century horror fiction. Supported by Waterstone's Liverpool One and really well organised, Twisted Tales brings together established names in the genre as well as new voices and of course readers. Looking forward to much more to come...' - Alison J. Littlewood

Monday, 22 August 2011

Regicide by Nicholas Royle [Preview]

Welcome to the first of our new content type, an exclusive preview chapter of an upcoming horror novel that we're more than a little excited about. Our first preview comes from British Fantasy Award winner Nicholas Royle who, you may remember, did our very first event with us. The novel is called Regicide and it's due out on September 1st. Here's the blurb:

Carl meets Annie Risk and falls for her. Hurt by a recent relationship, she resists becoming involved. A chance find offers distraction: Carl stumbles across part of a map to an unknown town. He becomes convinced it represents the city of his dreams, where ice skaters turn quintuple loops and trumpeters hit impossibly high notes.... where Annie Risk will agree to see him again. But if he ever finds himself in the streets on his map, will they turn out to be the land of his dreams or the world of his worst nightmares?

Thanks to Nick and to Solaris for providing this preview. Enjoy!


‘There are few things impossible in themselves; it is the application required, rather than the means to make them succeed, that we lack.’

La Rochefoucauld, Maximes

Chapter One
THIS IS WHAT happened before I found the map.
     I went out with Annie Risk. I’d met her only two days earlier at Jaz’s party. We went out to a pub and for something to eat in the West End, and then afterwards I was leading the way back to her hotel because I thought I knew where I was going. I should have done, having worked as a cycle courier in a former life. Still, there would always be one or two areas where my sense of direction would fail me. Grey areas between districts, where the streets appeared indistinguishable from each other.
Annie Risk didn’t know this part of London at all, so she was relying on me. It was only sensible, although she clearly didn’t like giving up responsibility, especially to a man. But by the end of the evening I think she’d decided I was probably all right. She could trust me this far. In any case, now that I’d lost my way, we were equals again.
     One street turned into another at a right angle. None of them appeared to be named and the Georgian terraces that lined them looked identical. The windows were dark, the doors locked tight. The air was warm. We turned right and right again, then went straight on and turned right once more.
     I sensed Annie watching me as I pushed my nose forward into the sticky night haze of petrol fumes and fast food. She must have thought I was trying to sniff our way out. I was. My sense of smell is renowned. Or it should be. I wondered what she made of my appearance. I had long hair which had been dyed black so many times it was beginning to spoil. My face is big and stupid – open and kind, an old girlfriend had told me; I’d like to believe it – and by late evening it’s usually dark with stubble. My eyes are grey and they don’t always manage to hold your gaze. Although it depends who you are, I suppose. At the time I had this beaten old white leather jacket which I loved and wore always. With it that evening, if my memory is reliable, I was wearing a baggy white cotton shirt and tight black jeans. Jaz often told me the jeans made me look ridiculous; other people just said they were retro. In any case, they emphasised the thinness of my legs, which for one so tall – I’m over six foot – did make me look kind of odd. My cowboy boots – worn outside the jeans – were black with a white butterfly motif on the back. Because of the pack of Camels I kept down the left one I walked with a slight limp.
     I don’t know, I liked the way I looked, or I’d grown used to it and felt pretty comfortable about it. It had been a long time since I’d had to worry about what someone else might think.
     I kept looking around for landmarks. But there weren’t any and if the doors had numbers, I couldn’t bloody well see them.
     ‘It’s around here some place,’ I said, peering into the gloom for a way out of the seemingly endless maze. A pulse in my temple had begun to irritate me and I thought I might be getting a headache. The night air was close and thick. But the evening had filled me with hope and I was determined not to let things get to me. These streets couldn’t go on forever. We’d find Annie’s hotel. I hoped she wouldn’t think me foolish for leading her into this warren and not being able to find the way out.
     ‘It must be quite an expensive hotel,’ I said. The area we were in – south of Euston Road, east of Paddington, on the edge of Marylebone – was not exactly cheap.
     ‘Actually no,’ she said. ‘Not for me anyway. It’s run by a friend of a friend of mine’s dad and I get a special rate. It’s where I always stay now when I come to London.’
     The distance from one streetlamp to the next remained constant. The windows on all sides were dark, many of them shuttered.
‘How often do you come down, then?’ I asked her as I glanced across the street.
‘The last time must have been two, three years ago.’
The pulse in my head throbbed. I wondered if I’d had too much to drink. ‘It’s not exactly a regular thing then?’ I said.
     She lived in Manchester in her own flat and earned her living as a graphic designer. Already, from the sparse details she’d given me, I’d pieced together a picture of her flat. Tucked away in a row of terraces like the ones filing past us now, it was small and warm. She liked cushions and hanging things – rugs on the wall and curtains in doorways – and somewhere there would be a kitten drowsing. In contrast to all of this would be her computer, occupying pride of place on the small desk by the window. I imagined her sitting there early in the morning perhaps, still in her dressing gown, the cat purring in her lap, as she clicked and double-clicked, pulling the design on the screen one way and squeezing it then changing her mind and altering the whole thing.
At Jaz’s party I’d been struck by her right away. We’d chatted a bit and after several beers I was relaxed enough to ask if I could see her again. She’d said no. But it was in my nature not to give in, even if I sensed complete futility. Anything’s possible had always been my motto, though with women this was more an article of faith than the result of experience.
     Annie had said it wasn’t a good idea because she would be going back to Manchester, and in any case she didn’t want to complicate her life.
     She was about five foot five with black hair, dark eyes of indeterminate colour, a loose top, a baggy dark grey and green cotton skirt with tassels and lace-up leather boots. The more we talked, the less I allowed myself to be distracted and the more I felt my slightly drunken smile relaxing into a stupid grin.
She’d finally given in to my request in spite of her resolve. Perhaps she saw something in me she liked. We could have some fun before she went back, she might have been thinking.
     ‘Just go for a drink,’ she said.
     ‘Maybe something to eat as well,’ I pushed.
     ‘OK, but then I’m going back to my hotel and back to Manchester.’
     I raised my hands in innocence.
     We met in town, just off Cambridge Circus. I’d walked down from the Caledonian Road after locking up the shop. She was wearing a cut-off red denim jacket and the same tasselled skirt as at the party. Her dark hair was drawn back in a ponytail; a few strands escaped and fell in front of her ears.
I stopped staring and we stepped into the Cambridge for a drink. We stayed for over an hour and when we came out Annie’s hair was loose. She was no longer making a clear effort to remain beyond my reach, but I hung back nevertheless.
     Usually, when I knew someone only from afar and then spent time with them in close company I saw through the daunting exterior to the younger, more vulnerable person underneath. Some men revealed themselves as boys and in my eyes would never grow up again. Annie showed signs of the girl she had been but that was all they were – signs and clues to the woman she had become. She laughed a lot after we’d had a couple of drinks and though her words of warning about going back to Manchester free of complications rang clearly in my head, I began to feel that more might be possible.
     We had some pasta in a scruffy little Italian, the Centrale, and shared a bottle of wine. Annie’s eyes sparkled. Still I didn’t push it.
     ‘I’ll walk you to your hotel,’ I suggested as we hit the sultry pavement again.
     She fluffed her hair with both hands. ‘I could get a cab.’
     ‘It’s a lovely night,’ I said, reaching into my left boot for my cigarettes. I cupped my hand around my lighter. She told me the address of the hotel and I said confidently, ‘I know where that is. No problem.’ We walked through Soho. I noticed people glancing at us. We looked good together. I said to her, ‘The world is full of all sorts of possibilities and you’ve got to make the most of them, or what’s the point?’
     ‘Yeah, right,’ she said.
     I had thought I was happy being single but now I was excited. As I sneaked sidelong glances I saw her lips constantly breaking into a smile. No complications, she’d said. Yeah, right.
     ‘How long have you lived in London?’ she asked me.
     ‘Nine years,’ I told her. ‘But it was working as a courier that helped me find my way around. That’s when I met Jaz.’
     We crossed Oxford Street and turned left towards Regent Street.
     ‘It’s warm, isn’t it?’
     Annie nodded. ‘Do you know the way?’ she double-checked.
     ‘Oh yes.’
     The deeper into the maze we penetrated the more hopeless our chances seemed to become of finding the hotel, at least before its front door was shut for the night. And yet, I thought, the further we walked the nearer we were to eventually hitting a street I recognised.
     ‘You’re very optimistic,’ she said.
     ‘I’ve always thought you can influence the outcome by the way you think,’ I said, while she looked unconvinced. ‘I know these streets…’ I went on, and her look changed to one of incredulity. ‘I mean I don’t know this actual street but I can picture the area on the map and it’s impossible to get lost. As long as we keep walking, sooner or later we’ll reach a familiar street.’
     ‘They all look familiar to me,’ she said. ‘Familiar to each other.’
     I had to admit she was right, and for a moment I imagined we’d entered another world in which quiet city streets could multiply. It was that kind of evening. It felt weird. The only limits seemed to be those of my imagination.

IT WAS ONLY when we heard the telephone ringing in the next street that we realised how strangely quiet it had been up until then. Not only were the streets we were walking through devoid of traffic, but there was no distant murmur of cars heading west on the Marylebone Road. There were no sirens wailing beyond Baker Street, no Tube trains rumbling underneath our feet, there was no drunken abuse being hurled from pub doorways. There weren’t any pubs.
     So we both heard the phone before we reached the street. The ringing got louder as we approached the house it was coming from: a house with dark windows just like those on either side, with nothing special about it apart from this insistent ringing.
     I looked at Annie and she smiled nervously. I raised my eyebrows and we carried on past without stopping.
     ‘I wonder who’s ringing,’ she said as we turned into the next street.
     I shrugged my shoulders. ‘It must be important to keep ringing for so long and this late.’ The sound was barely audible now and I realised that was because other noises had intruded. I could plainly hear the faint hum of passing traffic and the light step of pedestrians coming from the end of the street.
We turned right and a hundred yards later stumbled blinking into Marylebone High Street. Looking at each other, we said nothing. I just took a cigarette from the pack squeezed down my boot and lit up.
‘It’s straightforward now,’ I said, loping into my stride and casting an eye back for Annie. She seemed to be walking closer to me, whereas I had expected she might back off now we were in more familiar surroundings. I slowed down fractionally to allow her to catch up. If she did decide to see me, would I always be as thoughtful? Was that what she was thinking?
     We walked on.
     ‘This is it,’ I said, taking a step back from the building and looking up at the full height of it. ‘It doesn’t exactly leap out at you, does it?’
     There was no hotel sign, just a polished brass plaque bearing the number 23. Something about it disturbed me and the pulse in my head returned. I made a mental note to drink several glasses of water before going to bed. ‘Why so low key?’ I asked, nodding towards the hotel.
     Annie shrugged. ‘They don’t need to try? I don’t know.’
     For a few moments we both stood there awkwardly, a yard apart in front of the hotel.
     ‘Well, thank you,’ I began as I bent down to kiss her on the cheek. But I didn’t finish because she turned her face towards mine and met my mouth with hers. She allowed the tiniest amount of give and I could sense the hardness of her teeth behind the softness of her lips. I felt an instant, euphoric pleasure.
     Annie pulled away and looked down. Apart from feeling I ought to apologise for the taste of my cigarettes, I didn’t know what to say or do.
     Annie was muttering something about going in before they shut the door. Her cheeks were flushed.
‘Thanks for a lovely evening,’ she said as she made for the doors, probably hoping I wouldn’t ask the question I wanted to ask: could I see her again? She looked back. I’d started to look away and my hair had fallen forward to curtain my face, so she almost certainly couldn’t make out my expression.
     I watched through the glass in the door until she’d collected her key and been swallowed by the ornate, gilt-decorated lift, then threw my head back and took in a deep breath from the stifling night. I made off down the street like a child wading through the shallows at the seashore. My mind was swimming with pictures of Annie’s upturned face, thoughts about seeing her again and the smells and sensations of her hair brushing my cheeks as we kissed. I found myself yearning for more. There was no excitement the equal of this. Anything really was possible now. I turned left, and right at the bottom of the street, then left again, heading east.
Because my head was full of Annie Risk it took me a while to realise I was locked back into the maze of streets it had taken us so long to negotiate before. It was the silence that made me realise it and, once again, only when I heard the faint ringing of a telephone. Something made me believe that it was not only the same telephone, but that it had been ringing non-stop since we’d passed it on the way to the hotel.
     Soon I was in the very same street and approaching the house. The ringing grew louder. I looked around: the street was empty, all the windows plunged into dark reflection. The thick air enveloped me like the still waters of a deep pool. The telephone continued to ring.
     I reached into my boot for a cigarette and spun the wheel on my lighter.
     The telephone rang.
     I took a deep drag and dropped the cigarette without bothering to grind it with my boot heel. Afterwards I couldn’t fully account for what I did next except by restating the fact that it was a weird evening. Getting lost in streets I thought I knew. Also, I was high on a cocktail of drink, cigarettes, arousal, imagination and Annie Risk. It felt as if the universe were spinning around me. I felt a compulsion and I didn’t question it. I just went ahead and did it.
     Within moments I had climbed the four steps and tried the door, only to find it locked. I took off my jacket and bunched it up against a small square pane in the window. Delivering one swift punch to the jacket I broke the glass which seemed to melt rather than shatter and flow into the interior gloom.
The telephone was still ringing.
     I reached an arm through the hole and fiddled with the catch until it sprang open. The window opened easily after that and I jumped into the room. For one sickening airborne instant I feared the floor would give way under my feet, but it was solid.
     I crouched and looked around. The ringing seemed to be coming from a room deeper inside the house. Slipping into my jacket I stepped as lightly as possible to the door, my way lit by the glow of streetlamps. In the hallway, illuminated by a faint glimmer from the half-moon of stained glass above the door, I orientated myself. The ringing was coming from the dark end of the hall. My breathing had become shallow. It was not only that I was frightened by the possibility of disturbing the owner of the house, I was still gripped by the feeling that this wasn’t an ordinary evening. I was buzzing. I had to answer the phone. It was important.
     At the end of the hall were two doors.
     I tried them both. The telephone was behind the second.
     I saw it from the doorway. Black and lobster-like it sat hunched on a small wooden table draped with a white sheet which looked as if it had been daubed with black ink.
     It was still ringing; now, of course, louder than ever.
     The thick carpet sucked at my feet as I started to cross the room and I worried I might lose a boot. The air in the room smelt musty and old, as if by opening the door I had broken the seal on a long-kept secret. Perhaps the phone had always been ringing. Air swirled past me as I used my arms like a swimmer to move forward.
     I hesitated for a moment as I stood over the little table. What if the phone went dead just before I picked it up? I almost hoped it would.
     I lifted the receiver and the ringing stopped. The Bakelite felt clammy in my hand as I raised it to my ear. On the edge of hysteria a woman’s voice just had the chance to utter these words – ‘Carl! Help! Come quickly, Carl! Please!’ – before the connection was severed.
     As I stood there in the darkness and the line buzzed, I became more and more frightened.
     I didn’t tell you my name, did I? That was deliberate. As you’ll have guessed, my name is Carl.


Regicide is due out from Solaris on the first of September. For further information on the publisher and author please visit their respective websites:

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