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Archive for the ‘Brian Ball’ Category

Brian Ball – Devil’s Peak

Posted by demonik on May 28, 2009

Brian Ball – Devil’s Peak (NEL, 1972)


“while stranded in a transport cafe during a freak snowstorm, a man finds himself involved with Satanists”

Another that’s so for eluded me but fortunately not our more clued in members.  According to Justin Marriott: “A foolhardy student finds himself holed up in a remote roadside cafe on the Derbyshire hills during a huge snow-storm. Once again the plot leads to a single night during which the forces of evil are summoned, but this time the female vessel is a descendant of  local Satanists and totally knowing of her actions. Set in a claustrophobic greasy spoon with a small supporting cast of randy truck-drivers, quarrelling owners, a coach load of nubile schoolgirls and an annoying poodle, Devil’s Peak improves upon it’s predecessor by conjuring up a dizzying atmosphere of  impending doom and evil doing.” – Paperback Fanatic #7, 2007

See also Vault of Evil’s Brian Ball thread.

Thanks to Steve Goodwin for supplying the scan and Brian Ball info!

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Brian Ball – The Venomous Serpent

Posted by demonik on May 13, 2009

Brian Ball – The Venomous Serpent (Horror No. 3) ( July 1974)

The Venomous Serpent

The Venomous Serpent

The brass in the little-used Derbyshire village church has such delicate detail. Sir Jocelyn and Elizabeth Fitzalan stand together, at the side of the man a lion, and beside Elizabeth – a fanged dog. And the face of Elizabeth, is obliterated, despite the clear detail elsewhere. But Young Sal takes a rubbing none the less.

She hangs it in the bedroom, but at night the moonlight makes the straightforward take on other meanings, and static objects begin to move – and writhe. The simple rubbing begins to take on a life of its own, and to do so it must suck the life force from elsewhere. Life becomes a nightmare, and Sal is powerless to stop the evil that has grown from such innocent beginnings.

Review by Steve Goodwin

It was a dark and stormy night…

It was also the first time the priest of the little parish church at Stymead had ever seen a woman naked – the ivory skin, the deep black hair, the red lips, the sensuous curves, the exquisite breasts, the taloned fingers… the fangs.

So, exquisite breasts or not, it was probably best that the priest wasn’t alone with the Lady of Stymead, beautiful but venomous wife of the gallant knight Lord Humphrey. Probably best that some stout-hearted men of Stymead – masons, smiths & carpenters to entomb her and ensure she stayed entombed, the swine-killer with his broad-bladed knife… were also in attendance.

And something else… some small, sleeping thing curled at his lady’s feet beneath the grave-wrappings.

The lapdog.

The night creature.

And the next thing you know it’s 1974.

Sally and Andy are art school drop-outs living in a converted barn in the Peak District with a large mongrel dog and two fluffy little kittens. They have a craft shop that does a reasonably brisk trade in garish candles, reclaimed Victorian scrap, one-guinea watercolours and garden gnomes, and an ovine local farmer for a landlord who wants them off his land – not taking too kindly to their co-habiting, tinned spaghetti-eating, beardy ways.

If they’d stuck to the plaster gnomes everything may have been OK, but Sally makes a fateful error – she dabbles in one of the black arts… brass rubbing.

Soon faceless, beckoning spectres are forming in the moonlight. Sheep and various small, furry animals are being found completely drained of blood. Mysterious dank-haired men with bad skin take to hanging around the craft shop full of ominous foreboding. And Sally’s not quite herself.

I enjoyed The Venomous Serpent so much that I read it in just two sittings (and I’d have probably finished it in one go, if it wasn’t for annoying distractions such as work). This is unusual for me – even for a hundred and twenty-odd pager – as being both fickle and easily distracted, I’ll almost inevitably have my head turned by some other eye-catching cover or well-turned blurb…

While not exactly a page turner, I still found myself well and truly drawn into this tale of diabolical Derbyshire which reads almost like a long short story (most of which takes place either in the converted barn, the ruined church or the brooding High Peak village of Stymead – “like a village underwater”).

The characters for the most part are fairly stock, but there are a few colourful extras brought in to considerably liven up the proceedings. Foremost among them is local eccentric clergyman, I. C. J. Cunningham, M.A.

I’ll say one thing for the New English Library, they certainly gave good vicar.

Running him a close second is Arthur “sodding townies” Meggitt, toothless, large-trousered landlord of Stymead’s only pub, ‘The Black Nigget’ (it’s an Old English word for a witch’s familiar in case you were wondering).

“I’ll have a pint of shandy.”

“Bloody fancy town drinks!”

As is usually the case with these things, the 70s period detail adds much – I was particularly struck by how much of his time our woolly-jumpered protagonist Andy spends drinking and driving.

Eerie rather than blood-spattered, I was strangely unsettled by some passages for reasons I couldn’t begin to explain;

She looked down at the kitten on the duvet and poked it with her finger.

It looked at her, mewed and then, quite deliberately, spat in her face.

This is good old-fashioned seventies British horror. Where else would you find a couple who, facing nameless nightcrawling terror – their mortal souls in imminent peril of eternal damnation, would decide that their best course of action was a pie and a pint in the local pub?

Maybe it’s a Derbyshire thing.

The book also references both of Brian Ball’s other NEL horrors of the time, Lesson For The Damned and Devil’s Peak.

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Brian Ball – Lessons For The Damned

Posted by demonik on September 15, 2007

Brian Ball – Lessons For The Damned (Nel, 1971)

Brian Ball Lessons

I thoroughly enjoyed Ball’s The Venomous Sepent a few months back, so I’d been looking forward to the day when Lesson for the Damned worked its way to the top of the ‘to be read’ pile – and now that it has, thankfully it in no way disappointed.

Penelope (Penny) Carstairs is an ordinary junior school teacher in the village of Hoggins in the Peak District, except for the fact that she’s a nymphomaniac and bored. She’s screwing two men at the moment, Claude Witherington, the married headmaster of her school, who knows exactly what to do to please her in their pre-school sessions (though the old cleaner is getting suspicious). Bruce Tyler the farmer’s son, on the other hand doesn’t have much of a clue, but is strong, athletic and crazy about climbing rocks, cliffs, even buildings in the village. In one scene he climbs up to her bedroom – “Penny! The bloody catch is fastened! Let me in! Come on! I’m holding on by a fingernail and my right bollock!”

Her two very boring domesticated housewife friends Jean and Anne-Marie (whose particularly ugly baby gets called Sweetie the whole time) persuade Penny to go a night school class run by Alcybiades Barton and learns of a supposed witch buried up alive against the church wall two hundred years ago.

That’s all the plot I’m going to give, as I’d hate to ruin it for those of you yet to read this wonderful slice of 70s kitsch.

The only thing that lets it down slightly is a “To the Devil a Daughter”-type weak ending, but apart from that it’s spot-on. Curt didn’t think much of it at “Groovy Age of Horror”, but then he is a yank  :)  I reckon he missed a lot of the Britishness about the characters, little Jimmy West dropping his pencil and trying to see her knickers in class, the school fete and assemblies, singing rugby songs in the pub on a Friday night – this gets a solid 7.5 from me, just below “Venomous Sepent” and “Tanith” but above “Village of Blood.”

Review by Severance

See also Vault’s Brian Ball thread

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