Chump really shouldn’t exist. I didn’t plan it to be released at all, so, you might ask, why the hell is it for sale? Well…this was all down to Zombie Ed and the Festival of Zombie Culture. I’d been a guest in 2015, and was invited back the following year. As the date approached, I realised that although I had plenty of new books for sale, I didn’t have any new zombie fiction. The Class Four trilogy had morphed into something else, and I wasn’t ready to tackle that yet. I was then struck with a thought. I had a couple of zombie short stories that weren’t doing anything, why not write a few more, package them together and I’d have something new?
Now, I’m not a fan of collections, which is an odd thing for a man to say who has released one. The main thing I wanted was to write some zombie stories that were completely different from what I had written before. I love trying new styles and new things out, so with a number of them, I did something which is a bit unconventional. Anyway, enough prattling on, here’s a brief breakdown, story by story. Enjoy.
This is an odd one, as originally this nameless character featured, briefly, in DEAD DROP. When I got the picture through from Jon Dixon, I loved it. After getting it to look cool on the cover, my mind wondered how this poor unfortunate soul came about. I didn’t want to write a full back story though, more of a small introduction, so I came up with the idea of writing a poem, of sorts. It describes how she came to be zombified and backing up the adage that if you do get turned into a zombie, whatever you’re wearing is how you’re gonna be forever.
I love a good Western, the ‘For A Few Dollars More’ trilogy is a particular favourite, but aside from a few films and books, the undead haven’t really featured too much in the Wild West. A mate of mine, Thomas S. Flowers III, had been asking for ages if I was going to write a story set in those lawless times. Again, I didn’t want to write a complete novel/novella on it, but when I was coming up with ideas for CHUMP, this fit perfectly. What else fit perfectly? Making Thomas the main character. I remember watching Return of the Living Dead, and heard the famous, “BRRAAAIIINNNSSS,” line. I’m not a fan of zombies talking, but choosing to do different things meant that I could ditch my rules and have some fun.
It’s not meant to be taking the piss, definitely an homage, and there are a few other Facebook chums in there as characters too. It’s just a silly story of a snake oil salesman unable to talk himself out of trouble, and him and his wares creating the zombie uprising. It was good fun to write, and I’d have to say that the duck farmers scene is one of my favourite parts I’ve ever written.
I read a review of this audiobook recently, where someone was laying into the fact that I’d named it after the film, 28 Days/Weeks Later, and how much of a shit writer I was. Fair enough. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Originally called 1984, I changed it for one simple reason. 28 Days/Weeks Later are not zombie films, and it bugs the hell out of me. So I figured I’d do a story playing on it, where the transformation from human to infected/zombie takes 28 seconds. It was never meant to be a part of that canon, it’s something called a ‘parody’. Think that’s one of the most vociferous reviews I’ve ever had, and it did kinda stick with me for a bit.
Anyhoo, the story is set just before the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. With the Eastern Bloc boycott, I decided to write an alternative take on this, that the reason wasn’t political, just their athletes had been turned into slathering, ravenous beasts. Featuring a Scottish super spy, and some rather dead pan performances, I loved writing this. It’s just so much fun, and silly. I have started to write a few serious stories of late, but there’s nothing better for me than to write something to try and get a few laughs.
This began life in the second book of the Class Four trilogy. What was going to happen was that the psychos from Class Three, would be against the Children of Ishtar and a squad of rogue SAS operatives. The book was called VERSUS, and I wrote the introductory chapter for each party. Then, what usually happens, happened. I came up with the idea for HEXAGRAM, and wanting to write some non-zombie stuff, did that instead. By the time I got back to it, my entire mindset on the trilogy had changed. The psychos and SAS squad had been ditched, so I had this story doing nothing.
When CHUMP came about, I thought it was perfect to tart up a bit, and to include it in the collection. It’s a self-contained tale, and although it’s far from my favourite, people have said that they rather liked it. What would’ve happened in VERSUS? Well, the three forces were going to converge on Faslane, home of the one British nuclear sumarine that wasn’t either deployed or being repaired. After a mass fight, most of them would’ve died. Terrible shame. The pyschos fate is kinda eluded to in THOSE WHO SURVIVE, as Justin’s head is in a glass jar in Devin’s room. Devin was tortured by the pair, hence his injuries, only managing to escape when Malky found him, and saved him.
I wrote this to submit to an anthology called, THROUGH ZOMBIES EYES, or something. It didn’t get accepted, but I loved the story. As opposed to it being from the point of view of a survivor, you’re inside the rotting brain of a zombie. Except that the narrator is trapped there. With his body operating on pure primal instinct, all he can do is watch, get driven slowly insane, and make bets with his invisible friend, you, the reader.
You hear how he got turned, and how he is slowly falling apart, as his senses dim, and his body is broken by the survivors he bumps into, and the general lack of awareness the force now in control of his body possesses. It was one of the first times that I wrote in my first person style, where I ask questions, and receive answers, but they aren’t written down. It’s down to the reader to assume what was said in reply. I’ve written a number of stories like this since, and will again. I love characters conversing, and what better than for a character in my story to chat with the reader?
This is near novella length, and unlike most of the other stories, is 100% serious. Think this was only my second ever full on straight story, which says more about my silliness than anything else. I wrote it to submit for the Year of the Zombie competition, run by David Moody and Wayne Simmons. I didn’t think I’d have a chance winning, and it was always my intention to get this out there on its own anyway, when CHUMP was born, it was a perfect vehicle for it.
I think at some point, it might end up being a standalone release, as it’s a decent story. Focussing more on human nature, with the undead being part of the background than in the fore. It shows how people end up banding together, forced into helping each other out, but it also shows that some people are inherently bad, and just want to take advantage of others. You’ve got Ceepher plodding on, trying to survive, staying out in the wilderness, because he just doesn’t want to be around people anymore. And of course, there’s always a government of some kind, who think they’re still in control, trying to pull the strings.
As I was doing different things, I wanted to do a horror story, of sorts, rather than an atypical zompoc story. I’ve always been fascinated, thanks to World War Z (the book), of the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse. Set in the few months after things are getting back on track, you’ve got Sadie going door to door, trying to scrounge ration tickets from people for things they don’t need. She knocks on the wrong door, and ends up with more than she bargained for.
I wanted this to be a bit mysterious, and I think the split between people who saw the end coming and those who didn’t is a 50/50 split. Something for me to work on in the future, no doubt, but I’m happy with how it turned out. As I said earlier, I didn’t want ten stories all about people bashing zombie’s heads in, and this definitely steers clear.
Yes, I am silly, if you haven’t worked that out yet, then you haven’t read my work. One of the stories I wanted to do, had to include zombified animals. Black Sheep the film is pretty cool, Zombeavers isn’t, but I wanted to make some kind of zombie animal the main focus, as it completely changes the survival dynamic. There’s a book reviewer called Adrian Shotbolt, and I wanted to pen a little thank you to him, so after seeing he’s partial to fishing, thought zombie fish would be a perfect vehicle.
I crammed this with so many things, the nod to Umbrella Corp, and a certain narcoleptic Elder One, being amongst the most obvious. I just wanted this to be over the top, gory and just good simple fun to read. I like reading serious stories as much as the next person, but I also like lighthearted things. There is so much crap going on in the world at the moment, that I want to try and make people laugh. If it’s through the medium of zombie fish eating people alive, then that’s what I’m going to do.
Following on from life in the aftermath, I wanted to do another angle on it. I think it was in 28 Weeks Later, when they’re going through the houses, and the state they were in. When the war is won, someone is going to have to go through street after street and clean up the place. Houses will be looted, could still contain the undead in, and need to be sanitised before they can be used to rehome people again. The people doing this would have to be a certain kind of person, people who have survived through god knows what, and are undoubtedly a little unhinged.
I didn’t want to write it as a standard story though, so opted for a sort of script, where a radio presenter spends a few hours going around with one of the clean-up crews. I loved writing this story. The world weariness of the two operatives, Daryl in particular, in contrast to Slim’s more casual world view. One has been through the mill, the other coasted through the apocalypse. A small dig on the class system, if I’m being honest. Even when the world goes to shit, people will still be divided between those who do the menial work and those who think they’re better than them.
This is the bonus story, contained after all the back of book guff. It’s set in a world which I’m going to be writing about at some point. One thing about zombies, is how people get infected, it’s a bone of contention for a lot of people, I watched White Zombie and Serpent and the Rainbow, and thought that Voodoo, and the classic notion of what a zombie is, needs to be redone. I’ve got a couple of books to help out with the theology and try to make it a little authentic, I even have the book cover. I just need to write it, hopefully next year.
Anyway, this little tale is similar to my first person story, except you do get answers to questions. I thought the best way to convey this was through a series of text messages between two friends. It’s not a long story, but I hope the way it’s presented and the potential of where it exists in the overall story, will get people to seek this book out when it’s released.
So there you go, that is CHUMP. I honestly loved putting this together, the physical product is probably the best book I’ve created so far. The artwork is phenomenal and the way the cover of the book is quite plain, before opening up to that garish interior, really stands out for me. There’s a video on YouTube which shows off the book itself, and has an excerpt from the 28 SECONDS LATER audiobook, the link is below.
I think the weirdest thing, was when this book was nominated for an award at the beginning of 2017, Best Collection in the Saboteur Awards. My wife and I went along to the ceremony, I knew I wouldn’t win, but you have to celebrate these little things when they happen as they are few and far between.
Anyway, that’s CHUMP, if you have any questions about any of the stories, give me a shout on Facebook or through the Contact page here.
6 October 2017