Clifford Beal, originally from Providence, Rhode Island, worked for 20 years as an international journalist and is the former editor-in-chief of Jane’s Defence Weekly in London. He is the author of Quelch’s Gold (Praeger Books 2007), the true story of a little-known but remarkable early 18th century Anglo-American pirate. His debut novel, Gideon’s Angel, was published by Solaris Books.
What first attracted you to horror writing?
I’ve been a reader of the genre since I was about 13 when I started reading Poe. That same year I wrote a two-page story called ‘The Melancholy Mansion’. Probably still have it in a box somewhere. I actually consider myself more of a historical fiction writer – it’s just that this work has a horror element that starts as a slow burn and then ignites about halfway through.
Well, Gideon’s Angel is my first published novel so I’d have to back up and say Quelch’s Gold but that is straight historical non-fiction, originally published by an academic house. Even so, one reviewer claimed it was fiction. Cheeky bugger.
What are you working on now?
I’ve finished a prequel to Gideon’s Angel which is set some 20 years before, when the lead character was a raw mercenary recruit in 1620s Germany. A bit like Platoon meets The Wicker Man. It shows just how this young soldier developed his talent for running into otherworldly evils. I’ve also started playing around with a third book set in colonial Massachusetts, but we’ll have to see how the others run first.
Who do you admire in the horror world?
It has to be Stephen King. No one is better at delivering the fidelity of the mundane world that we all know, then turning it upside down as a very believable evil runs amok. He’s a joy to read and his dialogue is pure magic.
Do you prefer all out gore or chills?
There’s no contest here. Too much gore and torture porn bores me to hell. Real thrills are delivered by the slow build, the implied threat, the lurking menace. To be sure, some of the red stuff is necessary in horror, but it has to be timed for true effect.
Why should people read your work?
I’d like to think because it’s a thrilling adventure story, set in a time period that many will find engaging: long locks, lace, leather, gunpowder & sword – with some very menacing baddies and beasties. The 1650s in England had a strong ‘end of days’ vibe going, and creating a demonic plot wasn’t too much of a stretch!
Recommend a book
I’ve been delving into the old school over the past year or so. For real chills, I heartily recommend Algernon Blackwood’s short stories. He’s influenced a lot of modern writers of the genre.
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