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About Ashley Lister
Ashley Lister is a prolific writer of fiction across a broad range of genres, having written more than fifty full length titles and over a hundred short stories. He is the co-host of Blackpool's Pub Poets and a regular participant (and occasional winner) in their monthly Haiku Death Match.
Aside from regularly blogging about writing, Ashley also teaches creative writing in the North West of England. He has recently completed a PhD in creative writing where he looked at the relationship between plot and genre in short fiction.
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John Wayne Gacy, the killer clown.
Derek Turner makes his living as a psychic. But, when he makes his first genuine contact with the spirit world, it is an encounter that starts him on a pathway to holding conversations with dead serial killers.
Someone is recreating the most infamous crimes of the world’s sickest serial killers: including Jack the Ripper, BTK, Charles Albright and Ed Gein. Derek learns that it’s within his power to either profit from this situation or bring it to a needed conclusion and prevent further unnecessary deaths.
But profit can be a compelling argument.
Blending the reports from true crime stories with the lies from a professional psychic, Conversations with Dead Serial Killers explores the danger and obscenity that comes from glamourising murderers.
From the Book:
The thing that few people appreciated about Ed Gein was his skill as a seamstress. Clive had sat through every episode of the Great British Sewing Bee and, whilst the finalists on that show invariably produced some nice-looking creations in the last episode of each series, and sometimes that was when they were working with awkward fabrics such as taffeta or broderie anglaise, none of them had (yet) been challenged with creating something original from human skin. To Clive’s mind it was an injustice that everyone looked at Ed Gein’s work (the belt made from nipples, the lampshade made from Mary Hogan’s face, and the chairs, fully upholstered, in human skin) and all they saw was the Grand Guignol horror that came from murder, the desecration of graves, and the violation of corpses. No one appreciated the man for his craftsmanship and finesse with a needle and thread.
Clive sat back at his desk, surveying the screen that held his notes on Gein and wondering how close his latest book was to being ready for publication. There were hundreds of biographies covering Gein, describing him as the Plainfield Butcher, the Plainfield Ghoul and the Grandfather of Gore, and explaining how he had been the role model for fictional monsters such as Leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Norman Bates in Robert Bloch’s Psycho, and even Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs.
Clive’s approach to the biography had been different. Rather than go on about the lawlessness and illegality of Gein’s actions with the usual ghoulish voyeurism with regards to murder, grave-robbing and skin-removal, Clive wanted to celebrate the Ed Gein that the history books had overlooked. Gein was a hard-working labourer. Gein was a loving son who aspired to be just like his mother. And Gein was a diligent researcher who had studied subjects as diverse as the Nazis, cannibalism and, if his well-thumbed copy of Grey’s Anatomy was any indicator, human biology.
Not that Gein was the only subject of the biographies he had written. Clive had published one volume on the comforting bedside manner of Dr Harold Shipman foregrounding the under-reported benevolent side of the world’s most prolific serial killer. He had also written about the forbidden romance between Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, and wanted to write about the passion that kept Fred and Rose West together. Importantly, and it was a consistent theme throughout all of the books he was writing, Clive wanted to talk about the fact that some of these ‘notorious killers’ had managed to grow up unassuming and normal despite the trauma of abusive childhoods.
From the book:
Ellie told herself she had no worries about going into the sub-basement. Yes, there were lots of ghost stories, usually passed around by the weaker students and the less academic members of staff, but she knew better than to believe such nonsense. She had to admit, some of those stories would be considered disconcerting if there was any credibility to support them but she had a PhD in English Literature and believed herself above such juvenile campfire stories.
Her favourite ghost story of those that supposedly occurred on the campus, was the one that had echoes of the ‘Bloody Mary’ urban legend. According to this tale, and she’d heard it from probably half a dozen undergrads, students were dared to go alone, at midnight, to the corridor approaching Legrasse. Traditionally they were supposed to take a candle and stand facing the doorway to Legrasse Building. Ellie had the idea that this legend came from before the days of motion detectors and automatic lighting because, the students in the story were supposed to stand alone at the entrance to Legrasse and call the name of John Legrasse three times with their candle burning in front of them. After saying his name for the third time, the student was meant to blow the candle out and the spirit of John Legrasse would appear.
Ellie had asked each of the students who recounted this story, “So what happens then?”
Two had said they had no idea. One had honestly admitted that they doubted anything ever happened. But the others had been a little more graphic. A pair of girls who’d recounted the story in breathy whispers said that Legrasse had appeared. They hadn’t been able to see him, because the lights were out and they’d just extinguished the candle. But the air in the corridor had dropped to hypothermia temperatures and their flesh had prickled with the goose bumps that came from being in the presence of a ghostly spirit. Something as cold as Death’s icy finger had scraped against the backs of their necks. One of the girls had screamed and pushed through the emergency exit and fled to the sanctuary of the car park. The other had rushed out behind her.
The final girl’s story had been even more disquieting.
She had done the same as her friends, walking down the dark corridor with a candle in her hands, and then she’d gone through the ritual of saying Legrasse’s name three times. However, she didn’t have a chance to blow out the candle before some unseen draught snatched the flame from the wick and plunged her into darkness. The temperature plummeted. An icy finger touched the nape of her neck and crept downwards. And it seemed clear that other things had happened. “What happened next?” Ellie had asked. But the student refused to say. She had remained silent on the subject and continued to remain silent. A fortnight later, she decided to leave her programme of study and had not been heard from since.
Shivering at the memory, telling herself that it was pretty stupid to be thinking about creepy ghost stories as she wandered along supposedly haunted corridors, and even more stupid to be unnerved by them when she knew ghosts did not exist, Ellie folded her arms across her breasts and began to walk faster.
Why do women swing?
In a frank and fascinating exposé of female involvement in the swinging scene, Ashley Lister sets out to find answers to this tantalizing question. Through painstaking research and countless interviews, he reveals the sometimes shocking attitudes and secret lives of those women at the forefront of today's recreational sex scene.
This is the first ever book devoted exclusively to female swingers and includes candid confessions from a wide spectrum of women, from young party-loving students to outwardly conservative middle-aged professionals. It provides a comprehensive and up-to-the-minute survey of the contemporary swinging scene and a remarkable insight into modern female sexuality.
A dwindling band of heroes fight against the inevitable apocalypse in this concluding story from Ashley Lister’s series of dark tales from Innsmouth.
From the book:
The inert creature was lowered into the sea with a surprising display of tact and delicacy. It was a monstrous thing: twelve foot tall with a vaguely human shape. It had webbed hands and feet. There was a frill of gills beneath its jawline. The skin colour was the green of a brooding ocean and the facial features were a reptilian mask of bulging eyes and broad, rubbery lips.
“All hail Father Dagon,” Sharon chanted. Her R’lyehian pronunciation was flawless and, when her disciples picked up the chant and echoed her words, they enunciated with the eloquence of diction she had demanded since becoming the first female leader of the Esoteric Order of Dagon. “Hear us now as we call on Yog-Sothoth and Nyarlathotep to raise Father Dagon from his slumber,” Sharon called.
From the book:
A fragrance of neglect hung in the air. It was the odour of second-hand clothes in charity shops; the subtle stink of long-forgotten corridors in derelict buildings; and the smell of uninhabited houses.
“This feels wrong,” Stuart whispered. “This is tantamount to burglary.”
“It’s not burglary,” David Middleton assured him. “We’re not stealing anything.”
“I didn’t say it was burglary,” Stuart said. His voice was low and soft, but not so quiet that it hid a note of testiness. “I said it was tantamount to burglary. Tantamount.”
“Did you know,” David began, “here in the UK, only 14 arrests are made for every 100 burglaries?”
Stuart eyed David sceptically. “Is that supposed to make me feel better?”
David shrugged. “I only mention it because, even though what we’re doing isn’t technically burglary, I thought you might be reassured by the fact that so few burglaries result in prosecution.”
They stood in the majestic hallway of the abandoned Porter house. Dark blue shadows swathed them like a shroud. David knew better than to turn on any lights. That was a sure way to draw attention to the fact that the property now hosted illicit visitors. His eyes were used to the lack of light and he could make out the stripe of the regency wallpaper, the flow of the stairs up to the galleried landing and the hanging presence of an unlit chandelier above.
“Why is this place empty?” Stuart asked, peering myopically into the gloom around them.
“It’s a mystery,” David admitted. “The place was owned by a husband and wife: Mr and Mrs Porter. He went missing one night whilst he was out walking the dog.”
“What? Was he murdered or did he do a runner or something?” David shook his head.
“No. Just went missing.”
“Bloody hell,” Stuart muttered.
“Two days later his wife disappeared.” Stuart sucked an exclamatory breath of surprise.
“It really is,” David agreed. “The executors have put this place on the market at an inflated price, trying to cash in on a lucrative sale, but that’s not going to happen.” He smiled sadly, an expression that couldn’t be seen in the darkness, as he added, “They’re trying to sell an overpriced property in the middle of a very picky buyers’ market.” Glancing around the dark shadows he said, “This property is going to stay empty for a long time.”
Stuart considered him suspiciously. “You seem to know a lot about it.”
David shrugged. “The property is being managed by Murdoch’s, the estate agent where I work.” He lightly jangled a set of keys and added, “That’s how we were able to get in here so easily.” He could have added that it was because he had gained access using his employer’s keys that their presence on the property wasn’t technically burglary or breaking and entering, but he figured there was no sense reminding Stuart about the source of his earlier unease. Stuart was looking around, his night-blind gaze trying to scour the darkest corners of the unfamiliar surroundings.
Five staff members from Innsmouth University break into a church to unearth a secret that should have remained buried. Deep beneath the church's ancient sepulchre there is a grave, labelled with a warning that promises hell on earth if it is ever opened. And still, because they believe they know better, the graverobbers ignore the warning.
From the novella:
Harper slowed the pickup to a crawl. Goosebumps prickled his bare forearms, but he knew the cold weather was not responsible. Tendrils of chilly mist swept against the windscreen and threaded through the halogen beams of his headlamps as they lit the gloomy black asphalt ahead. The roads were unlit. Even the moon was hidden behind an impenetrable blanket of dark grey cloud above. But the inclement night remained outside the toasty warm cabin of the pickup. And still, the goosebumps on his forearms continued to make the small hairs stand erect.
It was a movement he caught in the corner of his eye that made him stamp on the brakes. The pickup slammed to a halt that pulled his chest hard against the restraints of the seatbelt. Harper hissed through gritted teeth. Acting quickly, he released the seatbelt, killed the engine and reached into the glove compartment. A .45 Magnum fell into his hand. It was already loaded and he thumbed the safety off as he balanced its weight in his palm. Smiling without humour, he pushed open the pickup’s door, snatched a flashlight from beside the driver’s seat, and stepped into the darkness.
“I saw you hiding there, you little fuckers,” he grunted. “Come on out and get what you deserve.”
There was a moment’s silence: the night and Harper each holding their breath. For an instant he wondered if he had been mistaken. He wondered if his senses had let him down, or if what he’d thought he’d seen had simply been a trick played by his overactive imagination. The night’s hours of solitude had a way of whittling down a man’s senses until they were so sharp he could see things that weren’t there. This had been a particularly long night, longer than any Harper could recall experiencing, and his nerves felt frayed and hypersensitive. But, whilst the temptation to lower the Magnum was strong, the notion that he had not been mistaken was stronger.
He switched on the flashlight and placed it beside the barrel of the Magnum so he could see where the path of his bullets would follow. The beam carved a tube of light out of the misted night, creating shapeless ghosts that threatened to haunt him.
“I saw you hiding, you little fuckers,” he said again.
This time his voice was raised and meant to be more threatening. To his own ears, it sounded flat and weak as he threw it into the darkness.
“Come on out,” he called, “and get what you deserve.”
He had barely finished the final syllable, when the pair of them ran at him. Their sweat-sleek faces glinted wickedly sharp reflections from the stray beams of his flashlight. Their eyes, bright and wild with manic intensity, shone murderously. Their teeth, long, sharp and stained a dirty red, were bared in threatening grins. Harper went for the one on his left first. A single shot in the forehead stopped it dead in its tracks. There was an expression of comical surprise on the face and he knew the back of its head had disappeared. The Magnum was not a lightweight weapon. Before he could even see the flow of blood, Harper had turned to aim at the second would-be assailant. The fucker was fast and bearing down on him with a snarl of malicious intent. Its teeth were gnashing. Its hands were twisted into claws, and it looked set to throw itself at Harper. From its throat came a feral growl of menacing fury.
Harper fired the Magnum twice.
An excavation at a newly discovered kurgan, an ancient burial site, in Innsmouth uncovers some disturbing surprises. A senior archaeologist dies. A nefarious cult take advantage of the discoveries to further their own cause. And before long, a team from Innsmouth are travelling halfway around the world to find the relationship between their excavation and a long dead secret that yearns to rise from its grave.
From the book:
The Thurston lecture hall lights dimmed. An audience of students, scholars and interested layfolk filled the tiered seats. The murmur of their expectant chatter susurrated from the ceiling and walls. Dr Ellie Green thought it was exceptionally busy for a lecture on an investigation into the roots of Proto-Indo-European language, but she was not surprised by the large numbers. Given the upset and notoriety that had plagued the investigation, Ellie had expected this lecture to be packed with ghouls and the macabrely curious. She recognised the faces of a handful of reporters in the auditorium and inwardly cursed each of them.
“This lot are going to eat us alive,” Anjali muttered in a soft whisper.
“We’ve faced worse,” Ellie reminded her.
Anjali pursed her lips, as though biting back a comment. Clearly she felt as though she didn’t need to be reminded about the worse things they had faced, particularly not now when her anxiety was already at insane levels.
The lecture hall lights dimmed again, a prompt that they were expected to begin and, after checking her watch, Ellie gave a light sigh and said, “I suppose we should make a start.” She stepped away from the shorter woman and went to the podium beside the screen. Her shoulders were back. She stood tall and defiant and ready to face anything. Dressed in a form-fitting suit, predominantly charcoal over a white blouse, and with a gold broach in the shape of an ugly mermaid pinned to her left lapel, she presented an imposing figure. She was tall, redheaded and austerely attractive.
With a click of the mouse she turned on the screen and silence blanketed the hall. The screen at the front of the lecture hall bore the title: KURGAN. Beneath that were the words, presented by Dr Ellie Green and Dr Anjali Hill. Beneath that were the words: respectfully dedicated to the memory of Dennis Waite, PhD, FHEA, MCIfA. In the bottom right hand corner of the screen was the message: Sponsored by the Esoteric Order of Dagon.
“Good evening,” Ellie began. She spoke with a cool confidence that did not betray any suggestion of nervousness. “It’s a pleasure to see so many faces in the hall this evening,” Ellie said brightly. “I had no idea that the field of archaeolinguistics was enjoying such a vogue of popularity.”
There were a handful of chuckles but this sound was lost beneath the uncomfortable shuffling of feet from those who clearly had no knowledge about archaeolinguistics or its related disciplines. These feet-shufflers, Ellie knew, were the ghouls who had come to hear a first-hand account of the ill-fated research project, and to see how her version of events married with what they’d read in the tabloids and seen on the viral videos.
“Our project, as you can see, has been given the single word title, Kurgan.” She pressed the mouse and the next screen appeared. Ellie paused for a moment allowing her audience to read the definitions she had placed there.
ARCHAEOLOGY a prehistoric burial mound of a type found in southern Russia and Ukraine.
adjective relating to the ancient Kurgans.
But one fearless lecturer from Innsmouth University understands the impending perils. He believes the Esoteric Order can be stopped. And all he needs to do is to help three dangerous individuals escape from Sefton Institute for the Criminally Insane.
From the book:
“Good evening to you all,” Sophia said. Her cheerful voice sounded odd in the sombre gloom of the empty studio. “It’s a pleasure to see so many familiar faces here, as well as a handful of new ones.”
She smiled around the unlit room with a level of sincerity that Ellie thought was more plastic than an inflatable sex doll. Sophia’s smile lingered a little too long in the direction where Ellie sat, as though she was trying to make a good impression on a guest of honour. Then, as though sensing her silence might be off-putting to some members of the audience, she snapped back to attention and said, “We have an excellent storyteller this evening, and I hope you’re all going to enjoy what he has to say.”
She paused again and a ripple of polite applause crackled through the empty room. Even though there was genuine enthusiasm behind the clapping, the acoustics deadened the sound so it echoed like nothing more than the snapping of dead twigs on a bonfire.
“Because some of you are new to the group,” Sophia went on, “and some of you were probably drunk the last time we went over the rules, I figured I’d just go through the main things once again before we begin.”
She didn’t bother waiting for anyone to speak. She was clearly savouring her position in front of an audience.
“First,” Sophia began. “The Explorers Club meet once a week. As you’ve all realised now, we meet in abandoned buildings, a different one each time, and we always have a guest storyteller. The guest will usually tell us about some supernatural experience they’ve had. And the one rule we insist on is: it has to be a true story.” She glared into the darkness of the studio, as though silently challenging anyone to dispute this claim.
No one said a word and Ellie could feel tension thickening the air.
“This is extreme entertainment like nothing you’ve ever experienced,” Sophia insisted. “We’re in an abandoned recording studio this week. We’re breaking the law by being on the premises. And we’re listening to a real-life ghost story from a genuine witness to the paranormal.” Her gaze shifted around the room, starting on Ellie and then circling back to her after passing a cursory glance over each of the other attendees. “I’m sure you’ll all agree, there are few scarier ways to experience a ghost story than whilst you’re sitting, illegally, in the dark of an abandoned building, hearing a first-hand account of something that should not have happened.”
From the book:
“Tell us about a time you nearly died, Tony.”
Heather’s suggestion was greeted by a barrage of laughter. There were half a dozen of them sitting around the table – the last souls left in an otherwise empty bar. Drained beer bottles and lipstick-smudged glasses stood between them like abstract monuments to the memories of good times gone. The darkness outside the bar window was fading to the apocalyptic grey of another dawn.
Tony glanced at his five colleagues and flashed an automatic grin. He hadn’t yet drunk enough beer to be light-headed, but he could feel the mood around the table was shifting. The evening had started as an early weekend escape from the offices of Raven and Skull; a two fingered salute to the workplace in the time-honoured tradition of every godforsaken Friday. After a grim week working nine-to-five – a grimmer week than any of them were used to suffering – Geoff’s idea that they should get pissed and have a laugh together had seemed like a stroke of pure genius. But now, whilst the maudlin veil of melancholy felt like it was finally lifting, Tony thought it was revealing something strange, unpleasant and potentially dangerous.
It was no surprise that they were talking about death. Given the events of the previous week it would have been more surprising if that topic hadn’t come up. But the fact that they were laughing about the subject seemed somehow unnatural, twisted and grisly.
“Go on,” Becky encouraged. Out of all of them, Becky looked the worst for wear after a night on the sauce. Geoff had nudged a glass of red down her white blouse, leaving a bloody stain over her right breast. Her usual pristine office composure had been destroyed as the night dragged her downwards. She now wore snagged tights and a snapped heel. With her hair awry and her eye make-up smeared, she looked like she had fought her way off a mortician’s slab. Smiling blearily, and clearly unaware of how wrecked her appearance was, Becky slurred her words when she repeated her request. “Go on, Tony. Tell us a story.”
“Someone get the next round,” Tony decided. “And I’ll tell you a story.” He raised a warning finger as Geoff disappeared in the direction of the bar. Glancing purposefully at Heather, he said, “But I won’t tell you about a time I nearly died. I’ll tell you about a time when I thought I was going to die…”
Many of these poems touch on the subject of sex and this is not surprising. The act of sex, whilst being a lot of fun, is also something that is quite amusing in our contemporary society. Intimacy is something which most adults desire, yet the subject remains forbidden and taboo, as though our passions are base, unsavoury or simply inappropriate. The Filipino writer, F. Sionil José said, “Poetry is emotion, passion, love, grief—everything that is human. It is not for zombies by zombies.” In that spirit, it would be a poor collection of poetry that did not reflect on that most passionate aspect of life that is physical adult intimacy.
Several of these poems have a political content. The American poet, Sonia Sanchez, said, “All poets, all writers, are political. They either maintain the status quo, or they say ‘something’s wrong, let’s change it for the better’.” It's debatable wheter or not any of these political poems suggest any change for the better. They are simply presented to entertain and amuse audiences with left-wing leanings.
In amongst these poems are a range of pieces that touch on an eclectic variety of subjects such as Cilla Black, growing old, apostrophes and Romeo and Juliet. The author has provided brief introductions to some pieces whilst others have been presented as self-explanatory artefacts.
It’s also important to accept this collection’s title that some of these poems are highly offensive. Ashley Lister expresses some outrageous opinions and questionable attitudes, all of which is done to entertain because, as the poet Anne Sexton once advised when discussing the art of being a poet, “Whatever you do, don’t be boring.”
So, if you are easily offended, this is not the book for you. However, if you’re willing to take the risk, please enjoy the contents of this collection.