“VANGUARD” NOW AVAILABLE THRU AMAZON!

Vanguard and Paragon look mighty zippy in this awesome new cover by Mariuz Zabdry!

It doesn’t matter if it’s a car, girlfriend or boyfriend, or superhero you create, you never forget your first. When your first superhero makes his debut in your first published comics work, though, that’s really special, and, thanks to Caliber Comics, I’m getting to relive that experience because they have made the adventures of my first superhero available in their own solo package for the first time in Vanguard: Genesis!

Vampire? Superhero? Both? Or something worse? Lee Cowan is your average high schooler until he is murdered then resurrected with terrifying powers and a terrible, uncertain destiny.

Now you’ve probably never heard of Vanguard, but you’ve definitely heard of the artists I was blessed to collaborate with on these adventures, starting with Vanguard’s origin story “Genesis.” Published in 1981 in Quazar #1, “Genesis” featured art and letters by Dan Jurgens.

Dan and I completed the next Vanguard adventure, “Paragon,” in 1982, but plans for Quazar #2 fell through and “Paragon” went unpublished until 1997, when Sundragon Comics included it and “Genesis” in its impressive anthology series Scales of the Dragon.

A Trip Down Memory Lane: (Left) the first concept sketch of Vanguard, circa 1979 by Dan Jurgens; (Center) cover to QUAZAR #1 featuring Vanguard, 1981 by Marshall Rogers; (Right) Splash page to “Paragon,” 1982 by Jurgens.

Vanguard by Christopher Jones, circa 1996.

Because Dan and I were raw talents when we worked on Vanguard, Sundragon correctly decided the stories needed polishing. So I re-scripted the stories while S. Clarke Hawbaker (NomadStarslayer) and Christopher Jones (Dr. WhoYoung Justice) re-pencilled “Genesis” and “Paragon” using Dan’s art as layouts. After that Clarke and C.P. Smith (TAP, OZ) inked “Genesis,” C.P. inked “Paragon,” and JEO*Graphics lettered both stories. These reworked stories appear in Vanguard: Genesis, along with an art gallery of Vanguard art through the years and an afterword by me.

To say I’m excited to finally see these stories in their own publication is an understatement. If you enjoy old school superhero tales with a supernatural bent … something like a cross between the original Morbius the Living Vampire and Omega the Unknown … this one is for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chuck Acri: A Tribute

I am sad to report that Charles “Chuck” Acri, host of The Acri Creature Feature, passed away on June 9, 2018.

Mr. Acri launched the ACF in 1969 as a unique way to promote his home improvement business, the Acri Siding Company.  It ran until 1976 and returned for two brief revivals in 1982 and 2003.

As I mentioned in an earlier tribute I wrote about the ACF and another regional Creature Feature, the 1970s was a time before streaming, DVDs, or VCRs, and few Midwestern cities and towns had revival movie theaters, so about the only chance monster movie fans got to watch classic and not-so-classic horror films was on Creature Features. Because of that, our fondness for these films was often extended to the programs that presented them.

Chuck Acri, though, may have been the most unusual of all Creature Feature hosts. Like Marilyn Munster, he was a normal person in a realm of monsters. Even more unusual, he sold siding and home improvement accessories during commercial breaks. That was the reason he sponsored the program, but his approach was low-key, personable, and never condescending. He appreciated having the opportunity to speak with viewers, and realized that viewers had invited him into their homes through their television, so, like a good guest, he was always respectful during his stay. He also enjoyed hosting the show and often joined the program’s cast at events like charity softball games. As a result, the ACF enjoyed what may have been the widest distribution of any regional Creature Feature in America during its run.

A winner one last time! This memento was given to visitors at Chuck Acri’s June 16 visitation.

Before buzzwords became synonymous with branding, Chuck Acri was all over it. Popular phrases he coined include his greeting to viewers each week (“Hi! Chuck Acri here!”) as well as his sign off (“Good night and God bless you all.”)  Points he wanted to emphasize were concluded with: “Don’t you know!” He never started a film before grabbing a (skull-shaped) cup of “piestingle” from the set’s coffin — Lord only knows how it got there each week — which he shared with his co-host Bernie the Skull (voiced by dee-jay, musician, and magician Sandy Singer), and there was the “Creep of Week Award” presented to two viewers who submitted the best Creature Feature related item, most typically a drawing but sometimes other things like models they had built or (in my case) plays and poems they had written.

Chuck Acri was born March 4, 1939 in Des Moines, Iowa. Married twice, he had seven children, fifteen grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. Owner and operator of several businesses during his life, Chuck Acri passed way in Plano, Texas, having moved to the state to open a joint window business with three of his sons. Even after leaving the Midwest, Chuck Acri remained proud of his association with the ACF and the joy it had brought so many viewers. The Acri family made a point of inviting fans of the program to his visitation on June 16 in the Quad Cities area, where the program was produced, during which time the show’s theme song Windmills Of Your My Mind was played over the funeral home’s speakers, and a commemorative Creep of the Week Award was given away along with a photograph of the ACF cast and “Hi! Chuck Acri here!” wristband as mementos. He was laid to rest in Des Moines on June 18.

Funeral program from Chuck Acri’s June 16 visitation.

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STEVEN PHILIP JONES AT MSP COMICON 2018!

 

Oh boy! Oh boy! Oh boy! I wait all year for this!

 

It’s time again for MSP ComiCon in Minneapolis/St. Paul!  May 19th and 20th at the Minneapolis State Fairgrounds!

And can you believe it? They’re celebrating their 30th anniversary!

You don’t want to miss it!

I’ll be selling graphic novels, novels, and cd’s including Comics Writing, DraculaHeroes & Horrors, LovecraftNightlingerSherlock HolmesTalismen, and Tatters. I might even have some samples of an upcoming project to show off as well!

See you there!

 

 

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“Sherlock Holmes: Adventure of the Opera Ghost” Available For Order Through Diamond Distribution!

Time for another Diamond Distribution alert!

Last month it was Sherlock Holmes: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Holmes! This month the graphic novel Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of the Opera Ghost by me and Aldin Baroza with a cover by Guy Davis (Baker Street) is available for order on Diamond’s Preview website! Copies will be in stores 5/9/18!

Dr. John Watson is mourning the loss of his wife, Mary, and questioning his friendship with Holmes soon after the great detective’s return from the Reichenbach Falls. Without warning Holmes vanishes again, leaving Watson to deal with the managers of the Paris Opera House, who are seeking assistance with a homicidal ghost. Watson agrees to look into the matter and soon finds himself confronting Erik, the tortured opera ghost who proves to be more than a ghost and a match for the world’s only consulting detective.

 

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“NIGHTLINGER” AND “JEKYLL & HOLMES” NOW AVAILABLE FOR ORDER THROUGH DIAMOND DISTRIBUTION!

Time for not one but TWO Diamond Distribution alerts!

Not only is Nightlinger (with awesome artwork by Aldin Baroza) now available for order through Diamond’s Preview website, but Sherlock Holmes: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Holmes (with eyepopping art by Seppo Makinen) is also available for order!  Copies will be available in comics stores starting 4/11/18!

NIGHTLINGER: Prepare for a new hero that has tasted the stench of evil’s darkness yet has also touched the goodness in men’s hearts. A hero who rewards as well as punishes and battles street crime as well as that which crosses supernatural dimensions. The hero is Feril Nightlinger and joining him is his sexy female assistant Mike Segretto, who tries to keep Nightlinger embedded in the realm of humanity. This graphic novel collects the Nightlinger comic book series, the short story Nightlinger: Sins of the Werewolf, and sketchbook pages.

SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL & MR. HOLMES: A meet-up of classic Victorian characters! Sherlock Holmes confronts the split persona of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde! When word gets out that respected Dr. Henry Jekyll is allowing the hedonistic Edward Hyde free access to his wealth, Holmes realizes that something, no matter how improbable, is wrong.

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“TATTERS” NOW AVAILABLE FOR ORDER THROUGH DIAMOND DISTRIBUTION!

Time for another Diamond Distribution alert! Tatters by Aldin Baroza and myself is now available for order through their Preview website! Copies will be available in comics stores starting 3/28/18!

Tatters combines elements from the science fiction, Gothic, and political thriller genres to tell the story of an amnesiac drifter named Peter Collinson who makes some high-powered deep state players nervous as he struggles to recover his past with only haunting memories and what might just be the ghost of his real identity to guide him.

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“IMAGINATION THEATRE’S SHERLOCK HOLMES” NOW AVAILABLE

It’s time to celebrate one of the most entertaining and impressive accomplishments in Sherlock Holmes history, one in which I’m happy and proud to play a small part.

From 1998 to 2017 Imagination Theatre was the only continuous radio outlet for Holmes adventures, originating with KIRO in Seattle and syndicated internationally as well as broadcast over XM Satellite Radio. Produced by long-time radio personality and entrepreneur Jim French and starring John Gilbert and then John Patrick Lowrie as Holmes and Lawrence Albert as Dr. John H. Watson, IT broadcast faithful adaptations of all 60 stories of the Holmes Canon (“The Classic Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”) and 128 reverential pastiches (“The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”) along with hundreds of original mystery and adventure programs.

Renowned Sherlockian David Marcum and MX Publishing, a leading publisher of Holmes fiction and related historical work, commemorate this remarkable achievement with their new anthology Imagination Theatre’s Sherlock Holmes: A Collection of Scripts from “The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,” which assembles one script from every writer who contributed to this run, including my 2014 Great Hiatus adventure“A Case of Unfinished Business.”

In this adventure, the world believes Sherlock Holmes died defeating Professor James Moriarty, but the war to stop the evil genius’ criminal empire rages on.  Moriarty’s death triggers a plan that threatens three continents, and a mysterious government agent needs Dr. Watson’s help to solve a clue Holmes left behind to prevent this catastrophe.

All royalties from Imagination Theatre’s Sherlock Holmes are being donated to the Stepping Stones School, a special needs school based in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s former home Undershaw.

Print copies and Kindle copies of Imagination Theatre’s Sherlock Holmes can be ordered through Amazon.

A recent live recording of a Sherlock Holmes adventure at the Kirkland Performance Center in Seattle, WA. Jim French is seated first from left. Standing from left to right are announcer and frequent actor Dennis Bateman, Lawrence Albert (Watson), and John Patrick Lowrie (Holmes).

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“DRACULA: THE SUICIDE CLUB” NOW AVAILABLE THROUGH DIAMOND!

Time for another Diamond Distribution alert! Dracula: The Suicide Club is now available for order through their Preview website! Copies will be available in comics stores starting 2/28/18!

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Re-Animator: The Director’s Cut of the Original Comic Book Adaptation

Dave Dorman’s now famous cover for Issue One of the Malibu Graphics adaptation of the 1985 cult film Re-Animator.

In July 2017, Arrow Video released a deluxe two-disc Blu-Ray restoration package of the 1985 cult classic Re-Animator, which, among its many nifty extras, includes a nice nice nice color reprint of all three issues of the 1991 Malibu Graphics comics adaptation written by yours truly and drawn by my frequent partner-in-crime Christopher Jones (Doctor Who, Young Justice, Batman Strikes!).  NOTE: Inks for Issue Three are by Terry Pallot.

Limited to 10,000 copies, the Blu-Ray quickly sold out, but seeing the comics adaptation released again got me thinking that it might be fun to share some behind-the-scene tales about the original comic as well as some NEVER-BEFORE-SEEN pages that do not appear in the Malibu Graphics or Arrow Video comics.

Sound cool?

Well then click the page links below to read the comic … but CAVEAT LECTOR. This adaptation, like the film, features VIOLENCE, NUDITY, SEXUALITY, AND PROFANITY.

MATURE READERS ONLY.

I’m trusting you. Okay?

Also CLICK on ANY IMAGE IN THIS POST for a CLOSER VIEW.

ISSUE ONE

1  2  3  4/5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  21  22/23  24  25  26  27  28

 ISSUE TWO

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  21  22/23  24  25  26  27

 ISSUE THREE

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  21  22  23  24  25  26  27  28  29  30  31

As for those behind-the-scenes tales, let me set the WABAC Machine to…

1989 -1990

When I heard through the comic book grapevine that Malibu Graphics had acquired the comic book rights to Planet of the Apes, I wasted no time calling Creative Director Tom Mason to ask if I could throw my hat in the ring as writer.

But I was too late.

Another writer had landed the gig.

Which turned out be one of the luckiest breaks in my career, because Malibu had also just signed an agreement with Full Moon Productions and Tom was looking for a writer to adapt the Stuart Gordon cult film Re-Animator.

Re-Animator turned out being step one in my long association with the works of H. P. Lovecraft, whose serial Gruesome Tales was adapted for the movie, but Tom could not just hand the assignment to me. The powers-that-be at Full Moon would have to approve me first, just as they would have to approve Chris, which they did after we submitted a proposal, a synopsis, and art samples. Dave Dorman (Star Wars) would later be commissioned to paint the notoriously famous first issue cover of a triumphant Herbert West brandishing his nemesis Dr. Carl Hill’s reanimated head.

Malibu originally planned on publishing Re-Animator in black-and-white, which was the norm for independent comics at the time, since the cost of printing comics in color was more than the average indy title could recoup in sales. The downside to this practice was that many comic book fans were prejudiced against buying black-and-white comics; so, somewhere between the tenth and eleventh hour, the powers-that-be at Malibu opted to gamble on the film’s bankable name and print Re-Animator in color. Which was great news, but Chris had just finished inking the first two issues for black-and-white and there was no time or budget to re-ink these pages for color. The result was that many of Chris’ gray tone panels ended up appearing darker than intended.

The P-T-B at Malibu also decided that the switch to color also necessitated toning down some of the adaption’s profanity, nudity, and sex. This meant touching up one page and deleting four pages in Issue One and deleting one page from Issue Three. None of these alterations or deletions hurt the narrative, although I have always felt the deleted pages from Issue One enhanced the depth of feeling between Daniel Cain and Megan Halsey, which in turn intensified the tragedies that befall the couple, while the depths of Hill’s obsession with Megan is intensified in the deleted page from Issue Three, which shows him fantasizing about Megan while she struggles coming to grips with the mysterious seizure that has struck her father, Dean Allan Halsey. That said, it remains obvious that Cain and Megan are passionate about each other and Hill is an industrial-strength pervert, but, for the sake of completeness, and to better hype this post, all the deleted pages and the original version of the altered page make their debut here in magnificent black-and-white.

Chris and my goal while we were adapting Re-Animator was to remain faithful to the movie while utilizing the advantages our medium afforded. One of those advantages is that we had a bigger budget to tell the story with than Gordon and his producer Brian Yuzna did while making the film.

Theirs was around $1 million dollars.

Ours was limited only by what Chris could draw.

For instance, we gave Hill, Miskatonic’s “grant machine,” an upgrade in wardrobe as well as provide the lecture hall where he teaches with a technological makeover. We also decorated Hill’s office with ancient Egyptian antiquities to reflect his mammoth ego.

Our bigger budget is also one reason why we dressed West in more expensive clothes and established that his family lives on Beacon Street’s crown, but another reason is because I got to wondering why a blue-chip student like West agreed to attend tiny Miskatonic University in provincial Arkham. Could it be West grew up somewhere near Akrham and wanted to be close-yet-not-too-close to home after only recently returning from studying abroad? In Boston, perhaps, the same city Lovecraft has West meet his dénouement in Gruesome Tales? If that were the case, then perhaps West was also descended from old money, which would be in keeping with the prototypical Lovecraft hero, often a descendant of a respected but not necessarily affluent New England family.

Another reason I wanted to set West’s roots in Boston is that Malibu often followed up the properties they adapted with original sequels. During my tenure with the company I wrote sequels to my adaptations of Dracula, Invaders from Mars, and Carmilla, but, while writing Re-Animator, Tom informed me a movie sequel was in the works and Full Moon had put the kibosh on a comic book sequel, fearing it would contradict events in the upcoming film. Full Moon did agree that Malibu could publish a prequel which I was asked to write, so I decided to foreshadow the prequel by dropping a few hints about it throughout the adaptation, like in the Prologue, when West instructs his driver to go to the Old Granary Burying Ground (the site of the prequel’s climax), and in Issue Two, when West looks at the kind but cryptic message from Hans Gruber, his celebrated mentor, in the case where West keeps his extra pair of glasses.

Unlike Re-Animator, neither Full Moon nor Malibu requested a proposal or synopsis for the prequel. My only instructions were to limit my story to three issues and suggest nothing that occurs after the conclusion of the 1985 film, so I decided it might be wise to focus on Gruber rather than West, and, before long, I hit on the idea that Gruber could have been a World War II concentration camp prisoner where his experiments in reanimation began.

The concept struck me as neither improbable nor inappropriate. It is no secret that the Nazis conducted bizarre, barbaric experiments on many unwilling prisoners, so what if the Nazis had experimented in reanimation? And, if they had, what if a prisoner like Gruber was able to turn the tables on those motherless scum by giving at least a few victims the chance to avenge themselves? Also, while it is common knowledge that over six million Jews were murdered in death camps like Auschwitz-Birkenau and Mauthausen-Gusen, it is sadly less well known that there were prisoner revolts at three of the camps, the most successful occurring in 1943 at Treblinka on August 2 and Sobibor on October 14. I wanted the prequel to pay tribute to these revolts, but, after reading my script for the first issue, the P-T-B at Malibu became concerned that Jewish readers would be offended and took me off the project.

I was disappointed, but Malibu was well within its rights, and I could take some solace that they had recently accepted my pitch to edit a paperback anthology of Lovecraft’s Gruesome Tales into what became became Re-Animator: Tales of Herbert West, which was later developed into the superior Reanimator Tales: The Grewsome Adventures of Herbert West. I never forgot about that prequel, however, and, when I got the chance to adapt some of Lovecraft’s stories for Caliber Comics a year or so later, I retrofitted the prequel’s concept for “The Music of Erich Zann”. For what it is worth, in the two decades since “Zann” was first published I have never heard a word of protest and “Zann” remains one of the most successful and popular Lovecraft adaptations I have worked on.

Now let’s move ahead to …

2012

I was attending the Minneapolis Comic Con in May when I spotted a flyer posted on a pillar promoting the city’s Crypticon horror convention scheduled for that November with Dorman’s Re-Animator cover prominently displayed on it and announcing that actors Jeffrey Combs (Herbert West) and Bruce Abbott (Daniel Cain) from the film were going to be guests. I am not the sharpest crayon in the drawer, but even I could recognize that this could be a great show for Chris and I to sell some Re-Animator comics and for me to promote my Lovecraft adaptations.

A few days later I contacted the Crypticon promoter to inquire if Chris and I could attend the Minneapolis show as guests, to which the promoter said: “Okey-dokey.” Chris and I were delighted, and Chris even created a new Re-Animator print for the show, but when November rolled around and we arrived to set up no one working the show had any idea who we were. Fortunately a phone call to the promoter verified we were supposed to be guests, but the mix-up necessitated that Chris and I set up in a different room from Combs and Abbott, which sort of defeated the purpose of our attending. Nevertheless …

That first night, Chris surprised me with a copy of his print signed by Combs and Abbott. Chris had given two copies to the actors as a token of appreciation and had them sign two prints for us. I was way more than delighted with this gift, but I had brought along a three-issue set of the adaptation for the actors to sign. Being shy as well as a world-class worrywart, I was worried I would offend the actors if I went over now. “Hey, we just signed that print for you! Where do you get off asking for us to sign something else?” But Chris assured me Combs and Abbott were nice guys, so I should man up and go get my comic books signed.

Combs was alone by the time the line I was standing in reached the actors’ table. I explained who I was and what a huge fan I was of the film and how much it would mean to me if he and Abbott would sign my comics. Combs took the comics, thumbed through them, and, while I was praying he wasn’t thinking I was being a pushy geek, he asked, “Didn’t we just sign a print for you?”

Living out your nightmare is even worse than advertised, let me tell you.

I confessed that was true, but assured him again how much their signing my comics would mean and that I would gladly pay for the signatures if he wanted. Combs said nothing. Just picked up his pen and started signing as I felt my heart start beating again.

Abbot returned then, accompanied by a tall blonde I assumed was his girlfriend or wife. Combs explained what he was signing and that Abbott had to sign, too.

“I didn’t know they made the film into a comic,” Abbot said as he now began thumbing through the adaptation’s first issue. As he flipped, he good-naturedly told Combs, “All I see is you. Where the hell am I in here?”

Now, as it turns out, the blonde was not Abbott’s significant other, but actress Kathleen Kinmont from the 1990 sequel Bride of the Re-Animator. Not knowing this, I grew increasingly nervous as Abbot kept flipping. It is no secret that he appeared in some intimate scenes with Barbara Crampton (Megan Halsey), but, worrywart that I am, all I could think of was how appalled the blonde might be if she caught sight of one of these scenes in the comic.

“That’s right! They’re signed! Oh, yeah! Uh-huh!”

Much to my relief, Combs (feigning indignity) took the comic from Abbot and began pointing to images of Daniel Cain on different pages. “There you are! There you are! There you are! Settle down, you whiny bitch!”

Abbott laughed, as did everyone else in earshot, and then he signed the comics. I thanked him and Combs and then got the hell out of there. Safe in the other room, I showed Chris my trophies as I beamed like a second grader. “See,” he said, “I told you they were nice guys.”

Which brings us …

BACK TO 2017

As this trip down Memory Lane shows, writing comics can be an interesting, though sometimes frustrating, experience, especially when it comes to writing licensed properties like Re-Animator. But I have no complaints. Yes, I called Tom Mason, and, yes, I had to submit a proposal and synopsis, but the Re-Animator gig practically fell into my lap. Working on a movie that I love and admire was a dream come true, and the opportunities it led me to are just as wonderful. Without Re-Animator, who knows where I’d be today?

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“DRACULA: THE SUICIDE CLUB” & “SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE CASE OF THE PETTY CURSES” NOW AVAILABLE!

It’s October and we’re kicking off the Hallowe’en season with the graphic novel Dracula: The Suicide Club by me and artist John Ross (Dr. WhoSpectacular Spider-Man) from Caliber Comics!

But that’s not all!

My Sherlock Holmes short story “The Case of the Petty Curses” is also available now in the new MX anthology THE MX BOOK OF NEW SHERLOCK HOLMES STORIES – PART VII, ELIMINATE THE IMPOSSIBLE: 1880-1891!

“Petty Curses” is an adaptation of my original Sherlock Holmes audio drama produced by Jim French Productions and first broadcast on Imagination Theater in 2008. All proceeds from this anthology go towards the restoration of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s residence Undershaw, the home where he lived while writing The Hound of the Baskervilles. Undershaw is currently the site of The DFN Charitable Foundation for Stepping Stones School, a school for children with special needs.

In “The Case of the Petty Curses” Sir Malcolm Angus-Burton is convinced his beautiful Egyptian wife Halima has cursed him. With no one else to turn to, Mrs. Angus-Burton asks Sherlock Holmes to prove her innocence, but, instead of refuting one curse, Holmes and his faithful friend Dr. John Watson discover two curses that may lead to one of the greatest tragedies London has ever known.

Dracula: The Suicide Club, an original sequel to the Dracula graphic novel also available from Caliber Comics, collects all four issues of the Malibu Graphics’ mini-series, includes a brand new introduction by me, and features spectacular front and back cover art by Kyle Huston.

Count Dracula, King of the Vampires, is dead, but that doesn’t mean England is safe. When Dracula is resurrected by one of his faithful nosferatu, it isn’t long before bizarre suicides begin plaguing London. Scotland Yard Detective Champion Harrison suspects these deaths may actually be murders, and so do the noted occult specialist Sir John Chandos and the beautiful clairvoyant Dion Fortune from the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, who offer to assist Harrison’s investigation. Their search leads them to London’s most mysterious new club and its peculiar chairman, and, as the club’s terrible secrets are revealed, Harrison and Fortune find themselves challenging Dracula and his followers.

Now that’s the way to start your Hallowe’en. If you’d like to read these horror-adventures, the MX anthology and Dracula: The Suicide Club are available on my Amazon page.

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