Hello there, you might remember me from such books as Class Three and…erm…WHAT’S THAT OVER THERE? BEHIND YOU! I THINK IT’S A ZOMBIE.
So, you’ve read Class Three, haven’t you? No? Go and buy it then! Come back after or you’ll get two things, one a spanking (good or bad, haven’t decided which yet) and two if you read on and you haven’t read it, it’ll be very much like eating an entire packet of milk chocolate malted milk biscuits before heading out for a slap-up grill at the Savoy.
As ye olde map said, ‘There be spoilers ahead’.
I do witter, so may digress slightly, SNAKE. See, it’s like a form of tourettes. So, Class Three, where did it come from? MY BRAIN. I’ve been somewhat obsessed with the undead since a younger version of me watched Dawn of the Dead when I was blatantly too young. I was hooked, zombies aren’t your slashers, vampires or dream-dwelling maniacs, you look at them and go HA, how the hell can something that slow catch…MY GOD, ONE SNUCK UP BEHIND ME WHILST I WAS LAUGHING AT THEM AND IS NOW NIBBLING ON MY BALLBAG.
See, you’re dead, because you underestimated them.
They’re slow, stupid and smelly, but, in numbers they are an unstoppable force. The classic thing of having to destroy the brain gives you a small window of attack, but have you actually considered the force required to get through a human skull? It’s a lot. Not that I know. Erm…moving swiftly on.
I’ve wanted to write my own zombie book for years, and back in 2006 started to work on one in my head, it was called Eye, Zombie, and originally was going to be a husband and wife heading off for a weekend in the countryside in an RV, with their three kids before the wife started a new job. The apocalypse would kick off, the husband would get infected and die, and over the course of three books, the wife would become a sort of undead smiting Sarah Connor, I was even going to kill off their baby, I know, heartless bastard.
However, I’m lazy, so never got round to it, which is good. One thing that bugs me about the whole zombie apocalypse thing is how that if you get bitten, you become a zombie. I mean, seriously, how? When you become a zombie do your teeth suddenly become some kind of hollow fangs like a snake? No. So, I worked on how to make EVERYONE infected at the same time.
Now things get a little spooky about now, you may have seen in the news recently, the little lander called Philae that landed on a comet. Back in 2006, the rocket had blasted off a few years before, but I remembered how weird it would be for something man-made to land on a comet, dig up some unknown stuff, jet back to earth and drop it off. I thought, what if its cargo of comet stuff WAS the infection, the probe explodes in the earth’s atmosphere, and in a weird reversal of fate, instead of seeding the earth with life giving minerals, it deposited a virus which brought the dead back to life?
So, I had my HOW, I still needed a WHO, in this case, I decided on two of them. My brother and I are equally fascinated with zombies, we have concocted our own plans in case of apocalypse, much to the amusement of our wives (we’ll still save them despite their mocking). I figured on a road-trip, they were going somewhere, I wasn’t sure where though. Originally, I toyed with the idea that one of the brothers became a zombie, as the end of Shaun of the Dead is fucking hilarious.
Anyway, I rejected that, as felt it wasn’t really going to work that well over an entire novel. So, around 2008, I came up with my first chapter, which is pretty much Chapter Two in Class Three. I came up with the opening line ‘It’s not me, it’s you’ and from there I wrote the rest.
I decided they should go to get to their folks, so started to write them in, but I also still liked the idea of having a sub-plot from the zombies point of view, but still relevant to the story. So yeah, I killed them both, kinda like a mad combined Oedipus and Electra complex.
I’ve always enjoyed mental Doomsday Cults, we just don’t do deranged cults like we used to, so thought I’d bring them back. When I wrote that chapter and made it the first one, I thought there is no way I can leave The Reverend like that, and decided to make a thread based on him.
Justin and Dan came about after a conversation with, well, Justin and Dan, my fellow self-published authors, I wanted a couple of sicko’s and they were ideal. Then I just had to link the pieces together and make sure it held together, trying to hint at stuff without giving it away, like the fact that Colin and Francine were Jim and Philip’s parents.
I like stories that have these seemingly disparate threads which are interlinked but not necessarily at the places you would think, so hoped I achieved that aim. So what next? Well, Class Four follows on from my Epilogue, which was the second I wrote, as when my wife read the first one, she didn’t really get it, you can decide for yourself as it is at the bottom of this page, it kinda explains why I kept mentioning that fucking nuclear power station at Brokdorf!
So, Class Four book one, picks up with Francis and Nathan, having found Philip’s guide, they head towards Rhayader, and you can bet your shiny metal ass it won’t be easy. It’ll also explain more of what makes Francis tick, as he seems to be a bit of a favourite with people who have read early drafts.
Below are some of the many things I have referenced, some nods are slight whilst some are so full-blown obvious that I know some of you would’ve shaken your head with disdain, hey, I’m a fan! If I drop down dead now and become a zombie I wanted to have written one zombie book which had everything in that I wanted, so enjoy, or not;
- Colin – Jim and Philips dad, yeah, blatantly taken from the British zombie film of the same name
- Francine – In the original Dawn of the Dead, Francine is the woman in the mall who survives along with Peter
- Jim and Philip – As they were loosely based on my brother and I, I used our middle names, and you thought the P stood for Penis huh?
- Jay and Ben – I wanted a couple of dudes, so used the two singers from the band Hacktivist as inspiration
- Captain Henry Rhodes – Mentioned in radio reports a few times, is the evil bunker commander in Day of the Dead
- Francis – Not really set on anyone, but when I was writing him, I had Abraham from The Walking Dead comic in my mind
- Mrs Lundy – In case you hadn’t figured it out, she carked it when Jim bunged his tunes on, the ‘gentle thud’ was her expiring, hence why she was a zombie without having gone anywhere
- Reece – One of the kids on the minibus is my nephew, sorry for getting zombies to eat you buddy
- The Children of Ishtar – When I wrote the cult, they had to have a cool name, I came across this passage from the Epic of Gilgamesh (head to the Evolution of the zombie archetype heading), which is purported to be one of the earliest texts in human existence which mentions the undead, the name of the goddess? Ishtar
- Wendy – The dead chiropractor rattling the gates of the army base Sophie and her mum are holed up at first off? She’s very real too, a friend of ours
- Doctor France – The scientist from the radio in Chapter Seventeen, is based off the actor Richard France who played a near identical scientist in Dawn of the Dead, Dr Millard Rausch, the whole radio exchange is based on that scene, it really stood out when I watched it as a kid
- General Hemlock – The main bad dude from Dead Rising 3, thought it a good nod, plus in Class Three he’s a good egg
- Lawn Farm – The Jefferson’s suggested some people had taken up residence here in Chapter One, it’s the name of where my wife grew up
- Foree – Originally Foree was called Frimley, it was only when I searched afterward to make sure the place names were made up (with the exception of Rhayader and the RAF base) I found Frimley existed, so I went for another Dawn of the Dead reference, which is pretty popular. Peter, the other survivor of the mall was played by Ken Foree, another little thing of note, in Shaun of the Dead, Shaun works for Foree Electric. Mind blown huh?
- Monroe – You’ll notice a pattern soon. The mall from Dawn of the Dead is a real, genuine shopping mall in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, you can still go there (it’s on my bucket list). Monroeville sounded too American though, so I took the ville off
- Dacre Close – Where Sophie, her mum and Henry York reside is the name of a place I lived when I was a teenager
- Rhayader – This place is real, check out its location and you’ll understand why it’s on my list of potential sites
- The Randy Dog – Very loosely based on my local for years, The Royal in Gillingham, Dorset, the amount of cash me and my mates sank into that place was eye-watering
- The Zombie Mall in Reading – A very real place, run by Zed Events, the zombie being shot in the face happened, remember seeing the tooth cartwheel through the air. I strongly suggest you go, one of the best things I have ever done in my life. And I’ve seen attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion
- Newstead Haven – Duane, sorry, Phil, was going here after the petrol station, it’s the name of the town from Dan’s debut Burning House, want to try and get in little references like that in each of my books
- RAF Upper Heyford – Another very real place and was used in the filming of WWZ, wanted an abandoned military base in the area where I set my book
- Sainsburys – The supermarket where Frank meets his end was based on the Waitrose I used to work in as a teenager
- Portway School – This is the name of my Infant and Junior school I went to in Andover, the assembly room and classrooms helped with the mental map of how they got around the place
LITTLE CLASS THREE FACTOIDS
- The Salisbury Arms is based on the pub of the same name in Salisbury, not identical in description, just in the vibe before it got done up. It was rumoured that you were only welcome in there if you were from Salisbury
- The restaurant Sophie dumps Jim in right at the start is called Il Maestoso Salmone, or The Majestic Salmon, this is the name of the tent Justin and I stayed in at Download Festival in 2013. Yes, we named our tent, we’re authors don’t ya know
- The snake incident in Chapter One actually happened to my mum when we were at the Isle of Wight zoo, seriously, a stream of snake piss and shit is fucking gross
- Hoobastanks ‘Every Man For Himself’, Jim’s go to dumped music? Yeah, that was mine too
- Ms Pyjamas started off as a man. Yeah, a dude, he had his own cock and everything. On the third/fourth draft I realised that I didn’t actually have many female main characters, so thought it would be a cool dynamic to give Colin a female companion. Thought it would be weird that his wife is just dead and he’s already with another woman. Except they’re both dead and only interested in rending people limb from limb
- The Paul, Paul, he’s only three foot tall song? Originally this was an altered version of Eric the half a bee song by Monty Python, I still have it somewhere. However, because I didn’t want to run the risk of being done for copyright infringement, I made up my own song
- Did you read my acknowledgement to Defective Assembly at the front? Yeah, that’s me, remember seeing this sticker on the back of a broken chair at work years ago and thought it would be a brilliant band name
- The whole 28 Days/Weeks Later argument is also one I have with people. A lot. Seriously, people just do it to wind me up now I’m pretty sure of it
- Corey the Corsa? Yeah, that’s my car, named after Corey Taylor, lead singer of Slipknot
- Philip’s flat is a pretty close description of the first flat I lived in, in Salisbury and the bookcase is literally my current bookcase bursting with zombie stuff
- As Philip leaves his flat, he daubs DEAD INSIDE, DO NOT ENTER on his front door, blatantly nicked from The Walking Dead
- The kids in the minibus, thought that was harsh? Well, I wanted to get some typical tropes and ignore them, so yeah, the kids get eaten by zombies. I didn’t want it to be described, cos it’s unnecessary, so left it vague, even though you know what’s happened
- Originally, I had some excerpts from Philip’s Survival guide in the book, mainly after they used the weapons, just when I reviewed it, found they didn’t work very well, so took them out. I am toying with the idea of making the Survival Guide at some point, just as some background info on things
- Did you think anything odd about the Children of Ishtar? Apart from the obvious? There are no women in it, I wanted the cult to be symbolic of most religions which are pretty misogynistic, I wanted the Cult to be a copy of this, so no women allowed
- Philip mentions Kasha in his rant about zombies, giant ants etc. Kasha is a Japanese yokai that would steal corpses from funerals and cemeteries
- Did you get the Leonard Shelby reference? The main character in Memento, played by Guy Pearce, you get five bonus points if you got this, serious
- When Frank is losing consciousness after an axe meeting his head, he says “Don’t claw me, with your spoon”, my wife said this to me in her sleep one night, it stuck with me and had to use it
- Also, my missus refuses to re-read Chapter Fifteen, says it’s too sick
- The Battle of the Salisbury Arms was actually set to lines of ‘Pretty Fly for a White Guy’ by The Offspring, again, once I read up on what you can and can’t use from songs, I removed the lyrics
- The whole thing about Philip not liking the radio? That’s me, I hate listening to the radio, particularly local radio, drives me potty with the inane banter, adverts for double glazing and utterly shite music
- The terminator zombies were inspired by the prison guards from The Walking Dead TV show, and yes, they were supposed to be killed that easily. I wanted something which seemed invincible, but like most things have an inherent flaw
- The Naval base at Faslane is true as well, we’ll pick up with Dan and Justin in book two
- The song lyrics when Colin and Ms Pyjamas shamble off into the distance were originally going to be from The Littlest Hobo, again though, for copyright reasons I wasn’t going to use it, so came up with something in a similar vein and which closer mirrored what they had gone through that day. I’m pretty sure it isn’t the last we’ve seen of them either
- A lot of people who read the earlier drafts thought that the woman’s body in the cabin at the end of the Epilogue was Sophie, it’s not.
- Speaking of the Epilogue, HERE is the original, it’s a little rough as I’ve not edited it too much, but you’ll get the gist. Let me know what you think of it.
So there you go, there are loads of other things in there too, the Monty Python quotes, speeches borrowed from Braveheart, The Terminator, Aliens etc. I wanted to create as much an homage to the cool shit that I grew up on or which just won’t fucking leave my head, that I had to put them in. The follow up trilogy will still have some stuff like that in, but I’ll be dialling it back, making it a little more obscure in places.
I hope you found some of this to be vaguely interesting, if you read anything in Class Three and are interested to know how it came about or things you thought ‘hmm, that’s a bit odd/utter bullshit’, give me a shout, it’s always good to chat to people about stuff.
Happy shambling, stay gore-some