Sunday 4 October 2009

VERACIOUSNESS - by P. S. Gifford

Horror writer, Paul, makes his debut...


The hammering downpour battered mercilessly against Philip’s apartment window, threatening to break in at any moment. Philip seemingly oblivious to the torrential storm, sat at his cluttered desk typing away frantically. His strained blood shot eyes, receding hairline and drawn out features made him appear far older than his forty-one years. The single radiator in his apartment failed to defeat the chilling wind penetrating the ill-fitting windows.

Philip shivered, and pulled his frayed cardigan tighter around his torso. A wry smile infiltrated his customary impassive features as he re-read what he’d just spent the last six hours writing. He glanced at the clock, in five hours was supposed to be back at the accounting office, along with thirty other anonymous faces. Yet work he must, as royalties he had earned recently would barely keep him in food, yet alone the modest rent of even a place as dilapidated as his.

Yet, in the evening Philip transformed from a mild mannered office rat to a man with an obsessive passion to write.

Philip had always enjoyed reading ever since he was a young child back in his native England. He often read up to four books a week, finding extraordinary comfort in the realities and alternate worlds that were deftly created within his mind. What had particularly captivated his imagination, as he grew into a teenager, was the world of horror. He read, and re-read, all the classics, from the masterpiece tales spawned from the twisted, brilliant minds of Ambrose Bierce, Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft. To the modern masters of the trade, such as Stephen King, Dean Koontz and Clive Barker- to name just a few. It was when he moved to Chicago with his father that the urge to write, which had been building up inside of him for as long as he could remember, took a hold over him.

Whereas other teenagers dated, went to movies, and got into the usual trouble that teenagers tend to get in to, Philip wrote. At first his words were pathetically clumsy and inadequate…and everywhere he submitted he quickly got rejected. Yet Philip persevered, working eight hours a day at his mundane desk job, and a further eight hours each evening writing. Finally, after years of disappointment, he managed to get published in a few small time journals, which led to a few magazines, which ultimately progressed, over ten years of writing, to his first novel. Whereas the book itself received a mixed reception from the critics, it sold surprisingly well. In fact well enough to garner Philip a coveted writing contract with a major company.

Amongst his critics one voice was distinctively louder and more vehement against him than most, a certain Justin Holloway. Justin wrote literary reviews for several of the nations leading newspapers, and was regarded in high esteem from his peers. Justin expressed in his distinct glib patronizing style that horror fiction was a dead, or at least fatally wounded, industry.

Yet, despite this, Philip bathed in whatever glory he could garner from his modest accomplishment for a few months. He even managed to afford a leave of absence from his soul draining day job. Philip appeared on local radio shows, attended book signings and genre conferences. He experienced a tiny, yet sublimely tantalizing, glimpse of the life of a successful writer. And this became his addiction far more than any drug could ever get a grip. Alas Philip’s success was short lived, his follow up book got tepid reviews and barely sold, and Justin Holloway relished linguistically attacking his work in his reviews.

In the proceeding years of that initial successful book, Philip penned nine more novels, each getting a more panning critique from Justin; almost as if Justin had some twisted personal vendetta against him. If his tenth book failed, his commitment to his contract would have been fulfilled.

Philip stretched languidly and read aloud the last paragraph he just had written.

Rudy simply sat there cautiously examining the scene he now found himself in. As he pulled his long black mohair coat tighter about him he lit another Pall Mall cigarette and greedily inhaled it. He felt his hands finally stop trembling as the nicotine began to penetrate his blood. Glancing at his watch he realized it was approaching midnight and time for him to get going. Walking methodically over to the body, he could still see the intense fear alive within the dead man’s eyes. With no hint of emotion Rudy reached down and slowly retrieved his ten inch butcher’s knife that, moments before, he had effortlessly slipped into the unfortunate mans heart.

This was Rudy’s twelfth murder. His skill at butchery had unarguably become quite refined. Suddenly an image of his very first victim abruptly replayed within his mind. He recalled how the man had squirmed, begged and whimpered. It had taken eight stabs of the knife and a few bangs over the head with a baseball bat before he finally extinguished life from him.

“Yes, I have come a long way over the last six months,” Philip mumbled as he fondly remembered the real life rehearsal of the scene he just had written. This is certainly my finest hour…

He discovered that the art of murder wasn’t as easy and a straightforward as he had initially assumed, and that missing illusive ingredient had been missing from his books. Without which any sense of reality was not achieved. Philip appreciated that some basic knowledge of anatomy was going to be of benefit to him, if he was to master the art of murder. He spent many a night at the library since; reading, learning and evaluating. Upon each lesson, he would set out into the night yet again.

Of course all these murders and butchering had been merely rehearsals, just experiments in technique to improve his skill at writing on his favorite topic. But now, after months of planning, he was finally going to achieve his ultimate objective. At long last he would have retribution to the man who had spawned so much hatred within him. Philip’s eyes sparkled as he focused on his last e-bay purchase; a book simply entitled ‘The history of torture.’

Philip, remembering vividly chapter seven, then allowed his gaze to fall on a tabloid he kept, for inspirational purposes, on his desk. He re-read the words that continued to fuel his anger; words that had transformed a once kind-hearted Philip into a ruthless, blood thirsty killer with their unsavory venom.

“The Revenge of a Madman" by Philip McGregor - A book review by Justin Holloway.

What has the world of horror become over the last twenty years?

It seems that all originality has been replaced with variations upon the same few tired mundane themes. Case in point, the newest book by the author, and I use the term in its loosest form, Philip McGregor. It was to my great horror that I was assigned to review it and I hasten to add that was the only horror that I felt during the whole experience. Philip writes using a formulated series of plastic, transparent clichés. You are fully aware when reading that Philip has not experienced anything remotely horrific in his life. In fact I would go as far to say that he has never as much even killed a rat. Philip if you are reading this. I strongly urge you to either give up on this style of writing or go out and experience life.

Philip felt the thrill of adrenaline, spawned by his hatred, course through his veins. He got up from his desk allowing his rage to manifest into courage. As he put on his black mohair coat he stared wistfully at the address he had finally, after many years of searching, discovered; Justin Holloway’s. With that, he felt for the duct tape and croquet needle in the coat’s inside pocket, and Philip methodically closed his apartment’s door, heading into the stormy bitter night, towards his car.

Paul Steven Gifford was born on April 28th 1965 in Birmingham, England. Paul, from a remarkably early age, discovered he was completely fascinated with the written word. By the age of nine he was devouring several books a week, and had begun to write.
In the early 1980’s, he and his father relocated to the Californian coast, which he has cheerfully called home ever since. He has three horror antholgies published, is a regular on the convention and book signing circuit and is a member of the Horror Writer’s Association. Paul lives in Lake Forest, California, is married, has a teenaged son, two dogs, one rabbit and an endless dream.


  1. Welcome, Paul.
    I hope this isn't a true story, fella, and
    nothing negative from me as I know the consequences!!!

  2. Writers! Dodgy bunch! Great story!

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. This story idea just rocks! I hope you expand on it.

  5. Thanks for the feedback. I have tinkered with the notion of expanding it into a novella.