Marked To Die


A Tribute to Mark Samuels



Edited by Justin Isis

With 450 pages, the biggest multi-authored book of new Weird Fiction in the 21st Century.

Table of Contents:

The Shadowy Companion, foreword by Mark Valentine

Rapture, Reggie Oliver

The Golden Dustmen, Colin Insole

Canticle, Daniel Mills

White Light, White Heat, Adam Nevill

The Black Mass, Justin Isis

The Big-Headed People, DF Lewis

Attraction, John Mundy

The Early Signs of Blight, Kristine Ong Muslim

Chaoskampf, James Champagne

A Bad Un to Beat vs. The High Gate Waterman:
It’s All About the Benjamins, Brendan Connell and Quentin S. Crisp

Language of the City, Thana Niveau

The Singular Quiddity of Merlin’s Ear, Simon Clark

The Carnivore of Monsters, Stuart Young

The Men With Paper Faces, John L. Probert

Empty Houses, Ralph C. Doege

Reinformation Theory, Yarrow Paisley

Prison Inquieta, Jon Paul Rai

Slag Glass Lachrimæ, David Rix


Also a book where I break my 17 year old non-submission fast for the fifth time by having a new story published here.

When I real-time these stories, my comments will appear in the thought stream below.

48 thoughts on “Marked To Die

  1. I haven’t read it yet but I sense MARKED TO DIE is uniquely a tribute that combines both a seriousness of tribute and a satire upon all such tributes. A modern day miracle.
    An absurdibute – a book that I hope will be positive and worthy of the weird fiction tradition – something that I Intend will become clear as I start and then progress below through my real-time review of each story.

    MY BIO IN THE BOOK: “First and only novel published at the age of 63 (2011). Creator of Nemonymous from 2001. Author of over a thousand published fiction works from 1986-2000. Inventor of gestalt real-time reviewing from 2008. Publisher of other authors. My Mum often mentioned difficulties with my big head when bearing me. I first met Mark Samuels around 1987. I severely risked his life (and mine) around that time when driving him to a convention through my momentary lack of concentration on the motorway. He will tell you about it. He once made a very difficult solo car drive himself to visit me and my wife in our then home of Coulsdon. He kindly wrote an article about me for the Dagon DFL Special in 1989. We and others shared many pub get-togethers in the 1980s and early 1990s in Purley. Pleasant and instructive walks around Machenesque London, too. I greatly admire his writing successes since then. One of his books was my very first real-time review in 2008.”

    Three Graveyard Gongoozlers.

  2. RAPTURE by Reggie Oliver

    “…a sun setting (or rising) over the sea.”

    A classic Reggification — by a compellingly limpid story of genuinely memorable Machensque weirdness over London skies — of truth and rapture, of vice in danger, of absurdity and religious satire, of all those unpolitically incorrect things going on in the world around Hampstead Heath and Archway Road, behaviour here stared at unswervingly without fear of the social justice warriors tearing it to pieces on-line should they ever get wind of it or, even, without fear of such warriors’ favour when deploying their interpretation of this text and praising, to high heaven, its even higher moral high-ground.
    This whole book, like this story, I already sense, has more than just one face. More than one version of textual interpretation or exegesis as well as more than one version of physical production image. This first story, within it, also has an engaging characterisation of a man in his small flat – someone who has recently split up with his fiancée – and tells of his interface through thin walls with his equally well-characterised but, for me, frightening neighbours, whose High Church draws him into a battle against the dark forces of our End Days, seasoned with sexual undercurrents and switching selves as well as a switching book that contains such selves.

  3. THE GOLDEN DUSTMEN by Colin Insole

    “But holding the book enhanced her perceptions. She found that she could eavesdrop on the voices and whispers from the houses above: the banalities and pleasantries of family life and the muttered soliloquies and embittered rants of crazed solitaries.”

    …and I know that feeling. Indeed.
    I also know the feeling of reading stories by Colin Insole, with my being already, I claim, the most widely-read reader of his books and stories, as the above link attests. And I am pleased to say that this work about the Society of Golden Dustmen is one of his most effulgent, richly textured and darkly pervasive texts, with intriguing seams of layered history cross-sectioning, inter alia, the area of the City of London near Cheapside where I used to work in the early 1970s. And it feels real to me.
    It is so richly textured it seems to be the most intense apotheosis of Arthur Machen’s ‘Fragment of Life’, of MR James’ academic conspiracies of ghost-hunting (here to the potential detriment of a young woman student’s synchronous layered heritage as well as to the vulnerability of her person itself), of a Lovecraftian seething such as an “anonymous tide of the London crowd”, of the London history-fiction of Peter Ackroyd and of a unique Colin Insole quality that unswervingly and admirably stares at its own rich texture of history and wonder, staring at it perhaps to the detriment of characterisation as it relentlessly builds up a constructively curdled plot that mesmerically and obsessively carries such layers of myth, dream and inferred dark splendour.
    The young woman also has an adjacent-room neighbour, as Reggie’s earlier protagonist had such neighbours, too….

    “Ring finger, blue bell,
    Tell a lie and go to Hell.”

  4. CANTICLE by Daniel Mills (& HERE)

    “They pus.”

    This is a Canticle indeed, one of Christianity, rapture as capture, with its gift of suffering, confession, crucifixion et al, a text that is almost an Eucharist where you can taste the blood upon white hands, seen through the eyes of a narrator who is both crucified and wed, blending a childhood home with a prison or seminary or convent, a backstory that’s striped with glorious pain and loss and incantatory refrains of Complin, Vespers, Sext etc.

    “…crushed by the weight of his own body which was heavier than any cross. […] Nine months have passed in this way,….”

    I sense this whole book will be an unlikely gathering of cross-bred neighbours as I eventually come to meet them. I am still due to receive the harder black-covered version of this book as a foil to this Yellow one of strikingly staged exorcism and young nuns.

  5. WHITE LIGHT, WHITE HEAT by Adam L. G. Nevill

    “…and where love eternal burned like the middle of a star,…”

    Having recently reviewed a novel by this author, I expected great things of this substantive story, especially as it also appeared to be substantive when I simply saw it sitting on the page before I read it. But I had no clue whatsoever as to how truly great it was to become, having just finished reading it. THIS IS A MAJOR WORK OF WEIRD LITERATURE, there can be no doubt. It flows with some absolute incontrovertible destiny, reflecting but frankly outdoing any Ligottian Corporate horror, both in that genre’s huckster hoaxing as well as a serious treatment of the lot of the worker and his bosses and cynical goals and propensity to despair. This is the darkest but also the most constructively absurd apotheosis of that nightmare of an existence that many of us have experienced for real in such corporations. Here we have the striking new concept of Nevill’s take on this scenario, a corporation publishing fiction…!
    With the most nightmarish vision of corporate bosses I have ever read, plus all the satirical aspects of such corporate tyranny now made into a nightmare here of censorship and false exegesis. The concept of the white envelope, the Reliquary of Light factored into this from a Father of the Catholic Church, this book’s already running theme of neighbours living either side of thin walls except here the thin walls attenuate seedily even more, a wind farm on a sea’s horizon as some oblique ‘objective correlative’, and much more. I could continue quoting passage after passage from this work to prove my point, each passage outdoing the previous passage as one progresses through this indubitably inspired work. It must have been written in an epiphany of creation that most of us will never reach. Read it and see.

  6. THE BLACK MASS by Justin Isis (& HERE & HERE)

    “–and living philosophies competing for primacy, vandal stains and art globs.”

    I found myself often compulsively fingering the large, wobbly, seemingly autonomous, sebaceous-cyst on the back of my neck, from which I have been suffering for a month or two as it hopefully ripens towards operability, while I absorbed this page-turning black-mould blockbuster of a weird adventure thrilling novella about Mark Samuels in Japan fighting all manner of foes and of plagues, blights and masses of carpeted goo and suppurating muck. It demonstrates the already generally extolled writing talent of Isis as a living state to extrapolate body horror and seething Lovecraftian concupiscence and subsumption as well as tapping here into the Samuels fiction canon itself, the fiction of, say, cigarettes and inimical TV transmissions taking over your mind with static, while transmitting Borges’ Aleph and the Human Communion, and creating a new character named Mark Samuels in a believable Japan where that country’s dolly birds, inter alios, treat his weird fiction as a popular cult, but a Mark Samuels, despite the differences of caricature and extrapolation, who we can believe is actually the real Samuels with the faith of Catholicism and puckish bravery — together with in-jokes, cameo appearances by other real writers, and crafted adaptations of Samuels fiction themes, as well as Isis’s own inbuilt stuff of creation that surely boggles more than just my cyst, but boggles the reading brain itself. You will know what I mean when you read it. This is stuff that those who love cosmic horror fiction, with all its gaudy effrontery and daring, will love even more. And there is a lot more to love in the plot, too. It reaches beyond the humour of Tuckerisation, but you will often find it amusing. With more than just an edge of genuine disturbing discomfort as well as sublime awe.

    [The article Samuels wrote about me in 1989 for the Dagon DFL special was about his visit to my wife and I for a cup of tea, an article entitled ‘Brewing Up With Des Lewis’. Here in this novella he visits someone else for a cup of tea, someone far more dire than I am or think I am! And my earlier likening of the book’s front cover to the old-fashioned British TV Test Card of yore was, I now believe, surely intended by the book’s production team and not just a quirky observation on my part.]


    “Nobbut middling,…”

    My extrapolative take on Samuels’ ‘The Tower’, together with a smidgeon of my own story ‘The Tallest King’ that, back in the day, he publicly said he enjoyed.
    My middle name is Francis. And it is also the middle name of Mark Francis Samuels.

  8. ATTRACTION by John Mundy

    “Black masses became elongated figures like stick caricatures…”

    An impressively pungent death-bed scene, as an old man with his family around him (including the narrator, his adoptee son) speaks his last messages and eschatological ambitions. Highly atmospheric with a shockingly telling ending that will haunt you, including memories of the characterful interactions of acrimony, greed and jealousy that are adeptly conjured by the text.

    “It was after the sounds had ceased that I lit a cigarette and smoked it,…”

    [You will not believe this, but it is absolutely true (speak to my wife, if need be), but earlier this morning my object of neck ailment I mentioned in connection with ‘The Black Mass’ above actually burst gorily onto the pillow. I have been to the GP since then to check it out…
    Imagine my additional shock when reading the Mundy story since then.]

  9. THE EARLY SIGNS OF BLIGHT by Kristine Ong Muslim

    “the bad man’s rot seeping in”

    A very intriguing take upon OCD, even the synaesthesia of paper publications themselves, a shared OCD between a mother and her son, the latter haunted (and thus haunting us) by a recurrent bad man in the closet of childhood’s Pooh lamplit bedroom… Their backstory, even in this relatively brief text, we gradually learn to learn about amid a hypothesis of chaos theory behind it that makes this story linger on with us.

    translated by James Champagne

    Information Overload Unit

    “…the better to tempt (and maim) unsuspecting Muslim children.”

    “…a symbolic enactment of the eternal battle between Order and Chaos,…”

    With intriguing oblique connections to the previous story, like neighbours who have not yet met, this is the first section of ‘Chaoskampf’, a novella, a genuinely compelling, stylish and well-characterised account of a Russian captain of a submarine on a secret mission to find special weapons from the Third Reich. Secret to the Captain and those he trusts to tell. It takes place at the time of Glasnost and Perestroika at the tail end of the Cold War. This tranche of history, the interface of cultures about to blend fully, is very well conveyed, and I found it all fascinating. The Captain, for example, listens to The Smiths on his Walkman and has an IBM computer. There is a pleasing tinge of Pynchon to this text. And its many literary references (including Machen and Cioran) are richly textured, and the Captain’s backstory is highly poignant with a father who was persecuted by the State for his Christianity and the Captain’s Christian, Chagall-loving wife was tragically killed by investigating Chernobyl’s ‘eye of the gorgon’… There is much else I could describe here, and if the rest of the novella fulfils the promise of what I have already read, then this will surely be another classic.

  11. III
    Sigmoid Colon

    “‘A cigarette! Of course I have a cigarette,’ Captain Karnov said as he reached into the pocket of his military uniform and pulled out a cigarette. ‘The question is, do you have a lighter?'”

  12. IV
    There is a Light That Never Goes Out

    “…and at that moment Boris was truly in disarray, what with his hair being a mess…”

    Having now read III and IV, I defy any reviewer to say anything whatsoever about them without spoiling the whole of ‘Chaoskampf’.

    by Brendan Connell and Quentin S. Crisp

    “You are always the first point in the baseline from which you triangulate.”

    Some may triangulate the coordinates of this work as the Brexit of Literature.
    A patchwork of in-jokes and a number of genuinely great passages of visionary wonder and the Catholic Cathrianism of Cathars.
    As this book is looking more and more like it has deliberately marked its reader to die more than anyone else in it – as well as being the literary version of the earlier mention by Champagne of a ‘doll bomb’ – this particular story with a nonsensical title is the crucial component that needs the careful attention of an experienced dreamcatcher like me. My bomb disposal work has already begun by triggering this story’s “vape-stick” to replace the various references in it to Markitty’s tobacco, but leaving the various brands of beer – and the famous weird writers who once drunk them in the various pubs now haunted by Markitty – to hopefully continue fermenting. The convoluted footnote-looping of references to ‘Marked to Die’-type Tribute Fiction Collections are, meanwhile, worth preserving. What has been good enough for the More Dark man is surely good enough for the Mark man.
    [I suspect the wonderful passages read aloud in this story by Q-bon from an iPhone were written by Markitty himself.]

  14. imageLANGUAGE OF THE CITY by Thana Niveau

    “But then I began to see other things. Like the mould.”

    That Markian mould again, as both shape and rot. I can’t do it proper justice here but indeed it is an accretive story, dealing with the woman narrator’s phobia of all cities as prehensile entities, cities and their description here taking forms that more and more place the effective palimpsest of Markian tropes upon you like a growing Markian mould of words upon us, cities and computers, a husband’s death, more rot, language, patterns and codes, and the cities themselves striating through her, cross-sectioning in various layers. Or levels. Layering a reconstruction or deconstruction of a womanly self and levelling out that mould into a shape as well as rot. A ‘niveau’ is another word for ‘level’.
    Marked to that level.

  15. image

    “Perhaps it was his belief that angels reflected his thoughts back at him,…”

    This is a uniquely striking, if engagingly old-fashioned, narrative of a story as story. Neat, page-turning, provocative, plainly well-written, sown with original plot ideas and characterisations that are successfully harvested in its disturbingly perfect denouement.
    It believably reminded me at first of narrowboat holidays on the canals that I once enjoyed, particularly one when a fellow traveller accidentally dropped something valuable into the cold black water…. Here the narrowboat is called Miss Sally, which made me think of this being a mis-sallying forth? Which effectively it is, to investigate the giant concrete ear that was once used as a weapon or at least a propaganda weapon against the Nazi bombers during the Second World War – providing an oblique comparison with the secret Nazi weapon sought by the protagonist in the Champagne story.
    The relationship of the protagonist with his new wife and her young son who is dumb, the collusive use of their phone texts, the eclectic sonar triangulations of magnified sound, the purr of moth wings or more abrasive mosquitos as a nuance for Spitfires, you should be ‘transported’ by this haunting narrative in a heartbeat.

    “The domain of miracles.”


    This novelette FEELS as if it was written in a state of inspiration and white heat as much as the Nevill work did earlier. This Stuart Young work is another experience that is certainly alone worth buying this book for. It does not share the writerly perfection of the Nevill text that evolves a shattering Ligottian vision taken to the apotheosis of a Corporate Business of fiction books themselves (now turned to permeating pages into the healing of body as created by Stuart Young), but in many ways the Young work takes its inspiration to new levels of deconstructive constructiveness, so I am duly giving it the relatively rare honour of placing this novelette in my increasingly renowned Dysfunction Room HERE and I shall do that as soon as I have completed writing this review of it.
    And not White Heat so much as Black Heat, with the first person narrative of a black man, with his back story from age 15, his sexual drives, his nightmares as truth and fiction, his multiverse theories of singularity, his St Pancras and Diocletian preaching for Markitty, his being implanted with St Pancras cancer, or is that a misremembered typo on my part? The surgeon with the upside down face, the girl friend a version of whom he once hoped was a paedophile nurse when he was in hospital, the interconnected cure for his cancer with a language of cities tessellating from the Niveau work (“Waves of energy radiating out, wafting over me, layered a three-dimensional model of my surroundings…”and “Then his body absorbs the pages, they spiral down to the whirlpool at his centre…”) via a pattern of coded mobile phones that he needs to find and use to fight his cancer, by stalking people through London and elsewhere for their phones … and in tune with the collusive mobilephone texts from the Clark work…(“The Endless Knights sit at their round table in an infinite loop of chivalry;”) … the Q-bon iPhone story from Markitty…
    “…white moths wrestling with a shadow.” Tumours as body rumours? Changing realities to one where we never had cancer. I just retrieved all my old mobile phones for myself in a more personal context, having finished reading this novelette a few minutes ago.
    And a retrocausal Brexit, too: “If you live by a different set of boundaries to those around you, there’s going to be a point where things get nasty. The balance of power shifts; either you gain control as new boundaries are established to accommodate you or else those around you work harder to enforce the old boundaries. And in protecting one boundary, one sacred truth, it is all too easy to destroy another.”
    “Even the monsters are scared.”
    “I sneeze out an opera composed of tastes and textures of foods that only exist in the dreams of beings who were never born.”
    “I need to find a way to end this.”

  17. THE MEN WITH PAPER FACES by John Llewellyn Probert

    “My name’s Sally. I’m one of the nurses here,…”

    With the upside down face of the earlier surgeon, and the memory of this book’s earlier mis-sallying Clark and Young plots (the latter also containing paper subsumption), we have here a strikingly in-your-face horror tale that, in a mutant form of Cardiff, is an enjoyable Dr Who type plot of alien encroachment, plus an accretive bodily and city-wide ramshackleness and mis-triangulated coordinates. It also has a genuine terrifying ending as the narrator discovers his wife in this environment of displacement. It is also arguably (in fact, genuinely, in my view) a strong metaphor of the outcome of Brexit in the UK of recent days. Just check it out sentence by sentence and you will agree, I am sure, that this text’s uncanny prescience of the “two different species” of ourselves, and much more in this plot that is relevant, ties in with my assessment of Probert’s story as a fable of unpredictably significant events that have happened since it was written and published. Also a very engaging story in itself.

    “Our world is not just falling apart, but is actively being taken to pieces. For what purpose I cannot say, except that it suits their needs.”

  18. EMPTY HOUSES by Ralph C. Doege

    “I looked at the bottom of my glass for an exit,…”

    I look through the words on the page for the reader’s own exit, a let out clause, as I follow this narrator at different ages, different back-stories, some tranches of such stories having the narrative ‘I’ as a forward slash within italics, with each part of his life – rituals, and girls, and parents – overlapping with another part, and, within such overlapping, a sort of plagiarism by his life of things he has read like a specific story by Samuels. I am still in there trying to get out. Through a glass darkly. Flow my tears, the policeman said.

  19. REINFORMATION THEORY by Yarrow Paisley


    This serendipitously carries on the jumble of the Doege identity conundrum, and the prevailing language of chaos theory in Champagne, Muslim, Connell-Crisp, Niveau, Young, Isis….
    Age and health being a great leveller in dulling the need for humans to act with animal lust, here the health and age are replaced by being coded within such jumbled cybernetics, penis and pudenda as wielded in mirrors watched by a Janitor with a mop, and dreams and loops like earlier Tribute Collection footnote loops (here: “Thus effect is self-causing, cause self-effecting.”), a woven Paisley ‘whole cloth’ imageas a series of incantatory prose refrains as the Director of the Institute inspects ‘me’, whoever I am, with that member or other organ wielder in the mirror. The climax of this story is, for me, another metaphor for current times that have occurred since the story was written and published, Jumbo Johnson, fresh from his mirror, taking over the whole outfit from Come Cameron. Read it and and see. It really is. Perhaps it will have the effect of its own cause by stopping such an event happening at all. Trumping it, in other words, as we can only hope. The ultimate REINFORMATION.

  20. PRISION INQUIETA by Jon Paul Rai

    “‘Dwoiinggig’ rang in his ears in an endless loop.”

    I suspect, by dint of subsequent page headings, that the title might be PRISON INQUIETA, except ‘prisión’ is Spanish for ‘prison’ and this word , anyway, gives a feel of knowledge as comprision, an unquiet knowledge, here leading to ‘noises’ as of some arcane or Catholic sodality. The plot itself is one of a man called Jasen becoming lost from his group in the jungle and arriving at a rudimentary Prison, where its knowledge is by watching decrepit humans being whipped and slaughtered. The scenario entails a lake and I am strongly reminded of Clark’s MERLIN’S EAR situated on a lake, also unquiet, with magnified noises, here with the addition of ‘light’… A telling resonance. The ‘dwoiinggig’ bell tolls for me, Hemingway, but more like Graham Greene…?
    The disturbing knowledge of human religious compromise or comprision details the use of a Zippo lighter for cigarettes that the prison-keepers as well as Jasen smoke. Tobacco, the new ‘reeking’, wrecking incense. No compromise at all in such faith. Inquisition or holy sacrifice? A teasing tale.

  21. SLAG GLASS LACHRIMÆ by David Rix

    “Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between a miracle and a horror story.”

    Let me take this novella step by step, hopefully without releasing plot spoilers. Again, like the Nevill and the Young works, this Rix work shines with a driving Inspiration. Here the language is plainer, but nonetheless just as powerful, as it is that truly black heat, now, not white, that somehow shines through the Rix text. It is sometimes like an old-fashioned children’s book such as the Famous Five seeking out mysteries with torches, but here we are dealing with two well-characterised twenty-something women in that role, sometimes using nudity in a sort of Paisley mirror as well as sharing young adult adventures of discovery, and triangulating coordinates in a stream of clues as well as along the vast Thames itself within a London of ley-lines, of Sinclair, Ackroyd and Insole, but also within a London of a housing crisis where offbeat creative people find it hard to survive.
    Starting and ending with a Diver art installation in the Thames, amid squealing trains and squealing drills to carve jewellery from mysterious black shards of glass found on a distant explored bank of that river, a magnified sound as if Clark’s Ear as another art installation and Narrowboats have travelled here to meet the Narrowboats and canals of this novella.
    Imbued with books as “paper dreamlands”, including a specific book by Samuels that is a wonder and awe to read about here…
    The carved black jewels as ‘black tears’. I wonder if the author realises that ‘Amelia’ by Samuels was published in a magazine with the name of Black Tears in 1994, and that story turned out in hindsight to be the first draft of ‘The White Hands’.
    A series of Crying Rooms scattered about London, so deeply poignant as catharsis-points. “A sense of almost sacred sadness…” You will not forget the outcome for one of these two believable women, as a result. Nor will you forget the exploration of the nature of Weird Tales and Horror Stories, especially in books, those paper faces of hope as well as despair. There are many sublime and jagged moments in this novella. It may be an acquired taste for people-like-us but it also may be significant to the reading world at large. I have no idea. The shards and geodes of Rix. The smouldering visionariness of Samuels.

    “Out of nowhere a hand appeared bearing a lighted cigarette, which was coolly stubbed out on the small band of white skin between her top and trousers.”

    • A MOST INCREDIBLE SYNCHRONICITY, one that is significant to my whole philosophy of real-time reviewing…
      “And although I suspected the ‘black tears’ in it was a coincidence with the name of the magazine in 1994 wherein ‘The White Hands’ saw its first incarnation, this is probably the most amazing and meaningful coincidence that I have experienced during my real-time reviewing.”


    “…now there persisted only a black and white blast of static,…”

    …as well as of inspiration that prevails.
    Since 2008, when I started real-time reviewing books with, as it happened, a Samuels collection, I have often finished my reviews by dealing with each book’s last work as a coda to a symphony of words. That decision has here been taken out of my hands with this stark existential work of a mind in a space pod and a next phase of consciousness implied beyond such despair of death…
    I am myself that big-headed ‘phase’, that ‘view from outside’.


  23. It is a serious tribute, it is also an absurd satire of such tributes. It is a book of great weird fiction along that same spectrum. It is about the status quo, and also transcending that status quo with transmission static and the smoking gun of human frailty and faith.

  24. Pingback: Black Tears / White Hands | DREAMCATCHER: Gestalt Real-Time Reviews

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