First published back in March of 2020, Guy N Smith’s horror collection ‘Tales From The Graveyard’ collected together ten horror short stories and one non-fiction article, all of which were originally published within the ‘Graveyard Rendezvous’ (1992 – 2012) GNS fanzine, as well as featuring the brand new short story ‘Sabat: The Robber’s Grave’.

The collection was available in paperback and ebook formats, as well as a limited edition hardback (which was only available for purchase until 31 October 2020).

Introduction – Guy N Smith – 3 Pages
Author Guy N Smith introduces the collection with a brief history of the ‘Graveyard Rendezvous’ GNS fanzine, how it evolved from the original publication which fan Andy Hurst created, until it’s final demise in 2012.  The introduction is bursting at the seams with details about the contents and timeline of the fanzine’s evolution.  In fact, it’s everything an avid collector and completist of GNS works wants to see within a publication of this nature.

The Shooting On The Moss – 12 Pages
Charles and Peter had come up from London to the Scottish Highlands to enjoy a weekend of grouse hunting.  They’d arranged to go shooting on the Mankwill moorlands, a stone’s throw away from Loch Ness.  However, seeing a heavy mist creeping down the mountainside, their optimism of a successful shooting trip was diminishing by the minute.  But it was when the flockmaster, a rugged old farmhand called Macgregor, point blank refused to go up the mountainside to the Moss, that the pair’s nerves started to fray.  Apparently, back when Macgregor was a young lad, his father had ventured up to the Moss when the mist had drawn in and had never been seen again.  It was enough to put the two grouse hunters on edge.  But not enough to prevent them from going up into the misty Moss…

Absolute classic Guy N Smith setting.  A misty moorland with two amateur grouse hunters choosing to ignore a warning from the rugged old flockmaster who’d been spooked by his father’s disappearance on the very same moorland.  Painting the right picture for the backdrop and delivering the required atmosphere are absolute key to the success of a story like this.  Luckily, Smith knows this particular set up like the back of his hand.  He’s a master of delivering this type of pulpy tale.  Getting the characters established enough so their fate delivers the punch it needs.  Building upon that tantalising air of mystery.  The unknown.  The mounting, almost palpable suspense.  A great opening short, delivering a gloriously pulpy conclusion.

The short story was first published within ‘Graveyard Rendezvous: Issue 1’ (1992) where it was originally titled ‘Shooting On The Moss’ (i.e. with no ‘The’).  The story was later reprinted within ‘Horror Shorts: 1st Collection’ (1999).

The Ghouls – 8 Pages
Granger lay in the pitch black, barely able to move an inch.  The coffin was a good foot or so too small for him.  Nevertheless, his time within the coffin’s cramped confines would soon be over.  He waited there, one hand resting upon the metal cylinder suppling him with life-giving oxygen, the other clutching the .32 revolver.  He just hoped Pieter, the callow youth he’d paid to return at dawn and dig down through the six feet of fresh earth, stood by his promise.  Although if he was right about what might soon occur within the shadowy graveyard, Pieter’s services wouldn’t be required…

Here we have a great little ghoulish treat.  The story slowly, piece by piece, unravels the mystery behind the strange predicament our protagonist has put himself within.  From early on you’ll have no doubt guessed what his reasons are.  But it’s only in the last couple of pages that the full picture is revealed.  The extraordinary lengths this foolhardy fella will go to.  It’s short and sweet and packed with pulse-racing suspense throughout.

The short story was first published within ‘Graveyard Rendezvous: Issue 2’ (1993) and  later reprinted within ‘Horror Shorts: 1st Collection’ (1999).

The Lurkers – 8 Pages
The freelance journalist knew his days were very possibly numbered.  Carson’s two henchmen had been following the journalist around everywhere he went.  Stalking him with their loaded automatics.  Lurking in the shadows waiting for him to slip up.  Carson had offered a six-figure sum for the typewritten manuscript.  But the journalist knew, with the manuscript and Lycett’s rough notes gone, there would be only one way they could be sure of eradicating the contents of that unpublished piece of literary work forever.  Presumably Lycett was already dead.  So, without the manuscript, the journalist knew his days would be numbered too…

This one’s a great dark crime thriller, with an excellent concept nestled behind the unfolding plot.  It’s told from the first-person-perspective of our unnamed protagonist, gradually laying down the jigsaw pieces to explain the premise, like breadcrumbs guiding the reader through the story.  It takes a good few pages before you’re totally in the picture, by which time your growing intrigue has gotten you hooked.  The crafty twist at the end merely seals the deal for a damn fine, incredibly well executed, thriller.

It should also be noted that the story has no connection to Smith’s full-length novel ‘The Lurkers’ (1982), despite them sharing the same name.  The short story was first published within ‘Graveyard Rendezvous: Issue 4’ (1994) and then later reprinted within ‘Graveyard Rendezvous: Issue 18’ (1997).

The Executioner – 14 Pages
Wolskel had a personal vendetta which he is making good of.  He’d worked hard in researching them, hunting them down and then finally taking revenge.  They all deserve the death penalty, there’s no doubt in his mind about that.  Some may have forgotten, but he hadn’t.  They’re all Nazi war criminals, living normal lives amongst the British population, unknown to the general population. But not unknown to Wolskel.  He’d already taken the lives of three such criminals, but they were just practice runs for the one he wanted the most.  The one who Wolskel could never forget.  The one known as Bremmer.  A man who was instrumental in betraying 14,000 Polish servicemen to the Russians and instigating the massacre in Katyn Forest in 1940.  The man who killed his father.

Wolskel’s time for revenge is almost upon him.  But then he hears of another assassin who, as fate would have it, is also after Bremmer’s blood. This assassin, known only as ‘The Hawk’, is known as one of the best.  Wolskel suddenly needs to bring forward the time of Bremmer’s abduction.  He can’t lose the opportunity of delivering the Nazi’s rightful execution. The execution is his job to do.  His alone.  It’s his right…

Written to help publicise the release of his novel ‘The Hangman’ (1994), Smith’s gallows-related short is certainly an imaginatively written tale packed with suspense until the final twist ending.  From our first meeting of the character, the short keeps a purposeful air of mystery about the principal antagonist of Bremmer. Indeed, from early on nothing seems to be as it appears.  And as the tale carefully progresses onwards, so the suspense of this strange unknown intensifies.  The tale concludes with a creatively-bizarre, but altogether intriguing twist of pure black comedy, to end the otherwise morbidly downbeat premise with.  Textbook Smith.

The short story was first published within ‘Frighteners: Issue 3’ (1991), then reprinted within ‘Graveyard Rendezvous: Issue 6’ (1995), and again within ‘Horror Shorts: 2nd Collection’ (2001).

Cannibal Island – 12 Pages
The skipper, Jack Dunn, and his crew had done the voyage many times.  The weather was calm as “The Seagull” made its way through the gentle waves, transporting its cargo of grain and other goods to unload in Hawaii, before returning back to San Francisco.  The crew had been at ease the whole time, relaxing in the fine weather until the hurricane hit, sending them off course, hundreds of sea-miles from any land in the shark infested Pacific.  They battled through the storm throughout the night, until at dawn, the trawler hit a reef.  Somehow Dunn managed to fight through the crashing waves, to swim to a small uncharted island.  But what awaits Dunn and the two other seamen who managed to survive the storm?  In the shadows of the undergrowth, dark faces can be glimpsed, before they dart out of sight.  Dunn and his sea mates know for sure now, on this island, they are not alone…

I’ve always wondered why there were so few cannibal novels during the heyday of pulp horror.  Even during the surge in popularity with exploitation films during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, such as with ‘Jungle Holocaust’’ (1977), ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ (1980), ‘Eaten Alive!’ (1980), ‘Cannibal Ferox’ (1981) and ‘Cannibal Terror’ (1981), the cannibal trope never really made it across to pulp fiction in any noticeable degree.  Which is all the more reason why Smith’s cannibal short story, which was interestingly penned a long time before the aforementioned surge in cannibal films, is enough to get most fans of the subgenre excited.

The premise itself is a pretty standard affair.  Shipwrecked survivors of a storm find themselves marooned on an unchartered island where a cannibal tribe think they’re an offering from their twenty-foot-tall god that’s carved from stone.  It’s got all the ingredients going for it to deliver a proper 80’s pulp horror.  Unfortunately, when it comes to the crunch, when our hapless heroes are face-to-face with almost certain death, Smith unwinds the horror with a far-too-simplistic escape and rescue.  The build-up was excellent, the premise absolute textbook pulp, but that’s as far as the story goes with it.  Nevertheless, as an action-rich thriller, it’s still a damn entertaining read.

The short story was first published within ‘Tettenhall Observer And Advertiser’ (1953), then reprinted within ‘Our Boys’ (1972).  Later on it was reprinted again within ‘Graveyard Rendezvous: Issue 9’ (1995), and further still within the collection ‘Fifty Tales From The Fifties’ (1999).

Mr. Strange’s Christmas Dream – 10 Pages
Alexander Strange was truly the modern counterpart of Charles Dickens’ Scrooge.  The town’s youngsters, particularly during the festive season, would shout after him as he walked from the small insurance office where he worked, back to his house a few streets away.  However, his life of monotony and routine had recently been disturbed.  A ghostly figure had visited him as he lay in his bed at night, telling Strange he’d be in his grave before Christmas had passed.  Whether it was merely a nightmare or a premonition, Strange was unsure.  However, as the yuletide season drew ever closer, he became increasingly apprehensive.  If it was going to happen, if he’s nightmare was to be believed, it would be any day now…

Here we have Smith putting his own spin on Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ (1843), with his frugal character Alexander Strange fitting the bill for Scrooge perfectly.  The Christmas backdrop is set perfectly, with Smith drawing the reader in with a wonderfully festive air from the yuletide season.  The suspense in the story isn’t so much “will it happen” as it is “when and how will it happen”.  Indeed, as the story progresses onwards, you begin to predict the poor man’s fate is fast approaching.  However, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll foresee quite how spectacular the demise is.  Altogether an enchanting Christmas ghost story that compliments the season perfectly.

The short story was first published within ‘Fantasy Unlimited: Issue 12’ (1972) and later reprinted within ‘Graveyard Rendezvous: Issue 14’ (1996).

The Case Of The Ostrich Slasher – 14 Pages
Detective Chief Inspector Richmond was keen for Raymond Odell to get to the bottom of the latest crime to come into the station.  An ostrich had been found dead at a nearby ostrich farm.  The body mutilated by some deranged sicko.  With the ‘Phantom Horse Slasher’ still at large, Odell was told he had to get to the bottom of the case quickly.  So, without further ado, Odell and his young assistant, Tommy Bourne, head off to the Masons Ostrich Farm to get to the investigate this strange crime of an ostrich slasher…

Before commencing with the tale, Guy introduces the characters of Raymond Odell and Tommy Bourne, as well as setting the scene for the bygone days of old-fashioned detective work, before forensics reshaped the world of criminal investigation.  It’s only a short, one-page introduction, but nevertheless gets you in the right frame of mind for puzzle solving and clue hunting, which is what Smith’s Raymond Odell stories are all about.

The story itself is a textbook Odell tale.  From early on Smith’s dropping hints and clues like ten tonne boulders.  To be honest, you couldn’t miss them if you’re were blind drunk.  Nevertheless, the clues keep rolling in, and the plot thickens some more.  It’s all good fun in a pulpy crime detective novel kind of way.  Odell of course keeps his wits about him throughout, smugly keeping his cards close to his chest until the final reveal, which might well blow the mind of young Tommy Bourne, but for the reader, it’s more an exercise in tight, well-crafted animal crime noir, akin to something you’d expect to see scheduled on BBC1 early on a Sunday evening.

The short story was first published within ‘Graveyard Rendezvous: Issue 16’ (1997).

The Werewolf Legend – 12 Pages
Back in 1974, Guy N Smith penned his first full length pulp horror novel.  The story was ‘Werewolf My Moonlight’ (1974).  A novel which spawned two further sequels, as well as a number of other werewolf stories.  From his research into the history of the werewolf, Smith has become somewhat of an authority on the matter.  In this article on the legend of the werewolf, Smith provides a thorough overview of the myth, its origins, and a story-like rendition of a classic werewolf narrative.  The latter follows a villager in what we suppose to be medieval times, whereby he transforms into a werewolf when the full moon rises, and tears about the nearby fields killing and devouring sheep.  This section of the article takes us back to Smith’s aforementioned first novel, reading like a chapter almost taken straight from the tale.  The whole article is a great read, full of interesting details delivered with a clear passion for the subject matter.

The article was first published within ‘Graveyard Rendezvous: Issue 19’ (1997).

The Howling On The Moors – 12 Pages
There’d been reports of a large ghostly wolf which had put in several appearances over the past few weeks along the Sussex coast.  Getting frustrated with the consistent volume of calls, Detective Chief Inspector Richmond sends Brook Street detective Raymond Odell and his assistant detective, Tommy Bourne, to investigate.  What the detectives find at the coastal spot is enough to get Odell puzzling over the pieces.  With their own eyes, they spot the fleeting image of a ghostly apparition at the top of the coastal hillock.  The plot thickens further when they stumble upon the twisted heap of what was once Marty Wiseman – smuggler and alleged murderer.  Odell senses the two appearances are somehow connected.  He just doesn’t know how…

Here we have another classic Raymond Odell story.  As with the earlier Odell offering, this one again harks back to the days of inquisitive detective work before the advent of forensics.  To be honest, this particular story reads more like an episode of ‘Scooby-Doo’ than it does a pulpy crime mystery.  In fact, the great solving of the case isn’t actually down to clever detective work, but instead because one of the criminals decides he “might as well tell you what we’ve been up to, as you’re going to die anyway”.  Furthermore, good old Detective Odell survives the tale more by luck than judgement.  In comparison to the earlier Odell story, this one is far less reliant on cunning deduction by a razor-sharp investigative mind, and more a simple case of our hero merely stumbling into the thick of the crime, then escaping because of a lucky break.  Not the best Odell story, but still quite entertaining.

The short story was first published within ‘Graveyard Rendezvous: Issue 35’ (2010).

Hounds From Hades – 10 Pages
It had been nigh on twenty years since the black dogs’ mournful howl had been heard echoing across the still night air.  The legend of the hounds of hell stretched back to the Middle Ages.  Anyone who saw the dogs died, and when their howling was heard, death for someone in the hills was certain.  Head forester Frank Hall had never believed a word of the legend.  But that night, in the remote border hills, he will witness first-hand a nightmare made real.  One which will change his mind forever about the existence of the Hounds from Hell…

This one’s a classic Guy N Smith short story.  A reworking of the age-old legend of the Black Dogs.  The backdrop is typical Smith.  The setting, that of where the author himself lives in the rural border hills (although I have absolutely no idea if a Devil’s Peak exists in this particular neck of the woods).  The story itself is a simplistic but hugely entertaining one.  That classic set up, of a bunch of deer poachers out on the remote border hills in the middle of the night.  Of course, for them to break the laws of nature, they will pay the ultimate penalty.  And so, in come the black dogs, for a spot of swift justice.  Simple, but wonderfully effective.  A great little short.

The short story was first published within ‘Graveyard Rendezvous: Summer 2009’ (2009).  The story was later published as a standalone offering in the Ghostwriter Publications free e-chapbook ‘Hounds From Hades’ (2009) where the title was correctly named on the cover, but incorrectly named ‘Hounds Of Hades’ on the pages inside the e-chapbook.

I Couldn’t Care Less – 8 Pages
Malcolm Palmer awaited the final conclusion to his death sentence.  Not that his imminent death worried him.  He didn’t mind dying.  After all, there was nothing left to live for now Paula was gone.  Her death had been a tragic accident.  How could anyone think him guilty of her murder?  He’d loved his wife.  Nevertheless, he didn’t try appealing the sentence.  Whatever happened to him now, he simply couldn’t care less…

Here we have a bleak and sombre offering, involving a heartbroken husband dealing with the consequences of his wife’s untimely death.  Pretty much every aspect of the story is drenched in sadness and grief.  But it’s in the utter defeat of our protagonist, the indifference to his terrible fate, where the tale really knocks you for six.  And then you get the ending.  The magnificently executed twist-ending.  A brilliantly written piece.

The short story was first published within ‘Graveyard Rendezvous: Issue 40’ (2011).

Sabat: The Robber’s Grave – 12 Pages
Mark Sabat, ex-priest, SAS trained killer turned exorcist and detective, is now in his mid-to-late sixties.  Retirement beckons, and he’s looking forward to it.  However, there’s been a murder in the sleepy Welsh town of Montgomery and Scotland Yard’s Inspector McCaulay wants Sabat to investigate.  The inspector has personally asked Sabat to look into the crime because of a potentially supernatural element.  The victim had been strangled.  The force applied so great that it snapped the neck.  Furthermore, it appears the body was found in the very same churchyard as that of a supposedly cursed grave.  A man who had been publicly hanged for a crime he didn’t commit.  A dead man who could now be seeking revenge upon those who sent him to the gallows...

Smith is perhaps best known for two particular pulp horror series – his signature ‘Killer Crabs’ books and the much-loved Sabat tales.  To see Smith returning again to Mark Sabat almost forty years after the first Sabat novel was penned, is enough to get any good GNS fan grinning.  Here we see our favourite ex-priest turned occult detective on the brink of retirement, but still doing his thing.  Although, to be fair, the action exhibited in the tale isn’t quite as intense as those bygone days when Sabat would be up against the very vilest of demons.  Instead, here the action is pretty much over before it’s really begun.  It’s possibly the easiest takedown in zombie history.    Still, great to see Mark Sabat back, and even with his increased years, not afraid to be venturing into graveyards in the dead of night.

DLS Summary:
Guy N Smith is a master of pulp.  It’s no secret that I adore his work, so you probably won’t be surprised to learn I’d been looking forward to his Graveyard Rendezvous stories finally getting the full publication they deserve.

Smith is undoubtedly most at home with writing a novel rather than short stories.  That said, over the years, he’s written more than his fair share of both.  With ‘Tales From The Graveyard’ we have a collection of some of the horror shorts Smith wrote over the course of his career, many of which could easily have become lost over time.  Okay, so the stories are a bit of a mixed bag, some more accomplished than others.  However, the distinctive voice Smith has in his writing, in his settings and characters, brings the stories together wonderfully.  Having a brand new Sabat short included is the sugar-rich icing on the cake.

The collection also contains twenty-one pages providing full-colour reproductions of the covers for eleven issues of ‘Graveyard Rendezvous’, along with details of which story is contained in each of the issues.  A nice touch to finish the collection on, immortalising a bit of GNS history in the final pages of the book.

The collection runs for a total of 136 pages, along with an additional 21 pages for the Gallery.

© DLS Reviews

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