Profile: Ramsey Campbell [1991]

The Far Reaches of Fear

[From Critical Wave #24, 1991; thanks to Chrissie Harper for scanning these pages for me.]

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A shortened version of this interview had appeared in Fantazia, a monthly magazine published by Birmingham-based Pegasus Press and which was later rebooted as the short-lived Academy. For a more recent chat with Ramsey, check out the first episode of Ghostwords TV.

Towards the next frontier [3]

The inaugural episode of Ghostwords TV is now available online, featuring an interview with Ramsey Campbell, news and reviews, editorial opinion and a personal tribute to David Bowie. You can subscribe to the feed here.

The horror, the (Birmingham) horror…

As previously mentioned, the Birmingham Horror Group held its inaugural meeting on 5 December in Acocks Green, when the turn-up comprised James Brogden, Ray Holloway, Louise Palfreyman, Chrissie Harper and yours truly — plus, addressing us via Skype from his home in Wallasey, group president Ramsey Campbell. A follow-up gathering took place on 2 January, but a virtual appearance by Dez Skinn unfortunately fell foul of wifi problems. The next is scheduled for 6 February; details will be posted here.

New horror group rises from the slab

A new monthly gathering for horror and dark fantasy fans in Solihull and Birmingham will be launched next month at the Spread Eagle pub in Acocks Green. British horror author Ramsey Campbell has agreed to be the group’s honorary president, and plans to attend the inaugural meeting via videolink. For full details, please contact me via

Edit 1/12: The initial gathering will be held from 7pm on Saturday, 5 December. The group’s website will be launched very shortly.

Book review: Scared Stiff by Ramsey Campbell

StiffScared Stiff by Ramsey Campbell

[From Critical Wave #15, 1990. Initially released in the UK by Macdonald, this collection was issued as a Tor paperback in 2003; copies of the latter are currently available via Amazon.]


Subtitled ‘Tales of Sex and Death’ and originally published in 1987 by the American small press Scream (although Campbell’s afterword is new to this edition), this showcase draws together eight stories with a sexual subtext, all but two dating back to the late 1970s (when Michel Parry tried to inject a little spice into British horror anthologies and gave Mayflower’s a few sleepless nights in the process).

Ironically, the most effective stories are those in which the sex scenes are underplayed, such as ‘The Seductress’ and ‘The Other Woman’. Individually workmanlike, the remainder suffer from being grouped together, the descriptions of limp penises, “smacking” vaginas and imprisoning legs rapidly becoming monotonously repetitive. Where once such stories might have shocked, even incurred the rage of the judiciary, now they look curiously old-fashioned.

Book review: The Count of Eleven by Ramsey Campbell

rc_thecountThe Count of Eleven by Ramsey Campbell

[From Critical Wave #25, 1992. Published by Macdonald, both the original hardback and subsequent paperback edition are currently available via Amazon.]


When Jack Orchard’s video shop is burned to the ground in a freak accident, his natural good humour persuades him to laugh it off — till he discovers the premises were uninsured. An obsessive numerologist, Orchard finally pins the blame for his ill-fortune on his failure to distribute a chain letter which arrived the morning before the fire.

Trouble is, the bad luck continues: Orchard is unable to find work after local gossips accuse him of arson, his teenage daughter is mugged, his wife is implicated in her employer’s fraud. Orchard’s analysis of the apparent failure of the chain letter is simple: those lucky souls he included on his mailing list failed to continue the chain, and the misfortune this should have earned them has unfairly rebounded upon the Orchard family.

It is at this point that The Count of Eleven, which opens as a broad black comedy (not to mention a platform for the author’s fascination with the cinema), begins to darken. Like Norman Bates in Robert Bloch’s Psycho (1959), Jack Orchard is transformed in the readers eyes from innocent victim to malevolent predator, metamorphosing into the vengeful ‘Count of Eleven’ and leaving a bloody trail of violent homicide in his wake.

Campbell’s latest novel (his eleventh, coincidentally) is something of a departure from his previous work, though the serial killer theme has echoes of 1979’s The Face That Must Die. Slapstick and sociopathic murder make for unusual bedfellows, and whilst the mix isn’t always successful, The Count of Eleven offers a refreshing change from the usual stalk ‘n’ slash formula.