Monday, 30 July 2012

"hits the ground running in breathless fashion"

Stuart Barr (twitter: @MaxRenn) reviews for Frightfest. A review from him scares me because he seriously knows his stuff. Here's what he has to say about Doom Rider:

"Following the conclusion of his Lazarus Stone trilogy of young adult horror novels, David Gatward has broadly stayed within the genre with his new offering DOOM RIDER but where the previous trilogy was gruesome grand guignol, this new book is a more of a streamlined thriller. In fact to begin with it appears to be more in the science fiction than horror genre. However Gatward’s preoccupation with apocalyptic imagery soon brings a healthy dose of supernatural horror into the plot.

The book opens at the Glastonbury Festival, however it soon becomes apparent that this isn’t quite the festival of felt jester hats, scrumpy, wellies and music we know it as. This is an alternate Britain ruled by a totalitarian religious elite and the festival is now a celebration of fringe religious cults. The hero Seth Crow is an unwilling participant in one such cult sideshow run by his parents. Crow lives a rootless existence as the star attraction in a travelling end-of-days cult roadshow as ‘Apocalypse Boy’. Seth has a gift for cold reading an audience and delivering uncannily accurate predictions of their ultimate fates. On the verge of his thirteenth birthday he plans to run away from this life which he despises, but his plans go quickly south. First he meets a mysterious young girl, Lily, who is instrumental in saving his life from an assassination attempt by a group of religious killers, The Chosen. Seth discovers that he has lived many lives, and all have ended before his thirteenth year. Ended at the hands of a society of assassins who believe he has a crucial role to play in the Apocalypse.

DOOM RIDER has a fast-paced chase narrative, and owes a little to THE HUNGER GAMES, not only in its dystopian setting but also in the theme of children being persecuted to maintain the status quo of an adult society. Plus bows are really in at the moment for some reason. However it also has strong comic book elements and when Crow discovers the reason that he is being hunted he becomes something similar to the antiheroes of the comic books GHOST RIDER or THE DARKNESS. If I have a major criticism of the book, it is that Seth Crow is not quite as deftly characterised as Gatward’s previous adolescent hero, Lazarus Stone. The Stone trilogy gave over much of its first book to building his character, whereas DOOM RIDER, as you can probably tell from the synopsis I’ve given (which is really only the books opening chapters), hits the ground running in breathless fashion.

Young readers will be pleased by the many exciting action scenes and generous helpings of mayhem (in terms of reading age and content this would carry a BBFC 12A cert). They will also be presented with some quite weighty concepts to chew on, in particular the nature of free will vs. predestination. There is a very strong subtext to the book about not taking religious dogma at face value and finding one’s own path. Very potent ideas for a teenage audience."

Sunday, 22 July 2012

"A brilliant take on the coming of the Apocalypse..."

Am amazed by the reviews Doom Rider is getting. Seems that people are really liking it. So here's another that's just gone live, and it's fab! Read it, and make sure you follow the reviewer: she's awesome.


He has the POWER to destroy THE WORLD...

Seth Crow has lived a thousand lives, and in each one he's been murdered before he turns thirteen. And now he's being hunted again. But this time it's different...The Apocalypse is coming. And he only ones who can save the world, hold the power to destroy it.

Where to begin? David Gatward has a knack for gruesome detail. It's true. To be perfectly honest with you I don't do horror but this I loved. I had expected more graphic corpses and bodies torn apart and was, to begin with, a little disappointed. But when you meet the last Rider...OH! Creepy as hell! But I am getting ahead of myself! The main character is a lad called Seth, once part of a travelling family show delivering prophecies to people desperate to be 'englightened'. He finds himself almost attacked by a girl who throws images into his mind of his many, many past deaths. This is the beginning for him. Lily has come to save his life before a religious order called The Way slay him for the thousandth time. And off they go on a romp to save the riders of the Apolaypse. Will they destroy the world? Won't they? It's completely up to Seth.

Lily becomes Seths conscience. While he is busy being overrun by his immense power, Lily is there to bring him back to himself. To guide him, to try and stop him from detroying civilisation. A feisty and clever girl, Lily is one ass kicking addition to the book - literally! She doesn't have magical powers but she gives as good as she gets - look out for the scene where she takes out three grown men before being overpowered! Although she doubts whether she has done the right thing in saving the First Rider, she never doubts that it is possible to save the world.

We meet the other riders of the apocalypse who have been given unique powers by Gatward. Kelly is Strife. She has an incredible sword and voice that creates sonic waves and booms that crush and disintegrate things! I couldn't help but be impressed when she gave off that first wave of power. No girlie weapon for her! We also meet Dem, who is Famine, an odd little likable character who is obsessed with bugs and, naturally, controls swarms of locusts. The final Rider is Death - I will leave a little mystery around this one so as not to spoil the surprise. It is creepy though, when you picture it talking in your head you can't help but feel a little shudder. Not to mention the fact that it is followed round by tattered, ragged and skeletal damned souls, crawling around on the floor after the horse.
The story is, if not completely original, a brilliant take on the coming of the apocalypse and it's potential. The religious sect that is almost running the country, the way people cling to it for some form of hope and enlightenment, the iconography - pictures of 'The Protector' wherever you go. All these ideas aren't that far fetched, which lends an extra layer of chills to this book! There wasn't one bit where I was growing bored or skim reading. It is well written, fast paced and full of action! Definitely deserves this grade! My Grade: A

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

I want you to read,

but only what I WANT you to read

Now, I'm going to have a bash at my own response to the whole age-rating system for kids' books, but for now, I'm going to post this, because it's brilliant:

The kid’s are allright Graham, honest, they really are

Okay, this is a bit off-topic for a movie blog, but it’s my blog and I’m annoyed about something so buckle up.
G P Taylor appeared on BBC Breakfast on Monday morning, if you haven’t heard of him then you are probably (like me) too old. G P (Graham to his friends) is a retired C of E minister who is a bestselling author of novels for children (or Young Adult fiction as the publisher’s category would have it). In the course of a brief interview Taylor revealed that he had decided to forgo the direction of his latest series of books The Vampyre Labyrinth series for the rather hyperbolic reason that he has been told they are “the most frightening thing that has ever been written for kids”. G P may be a former vicar, but he does not appear to believe that modesty is a virtue. Clearly that statement is pretty astoundingly big headed, but whatever gets you through the next book, right? No, G P’s alarmingly inflated ego is not my issue; it’s where he went next.

Astoundingly for an author, Taylor argued in favour of the introduction of a restrictive age rating system for children’s books. This is baffling; to my knowledge even the Daily Mail has so far failed to notice the threat to society posed by encouraging children to read. But G P is diving right in there. This idea has been mooted before, a few years ago it was pushed by some publishers of children’s fiction to little success as it was met with an orchestrated campaign of protest from authors (including big guns such as Philip Pullman, J K Rowling and Terry Pratchett) and the idea was quietly dropped. So why is G P Taylor resurrecting it? Well the cynical among is (yes, that means me) might say this is an author seeking to grasp the opportunity to plug his own work. For any horror loving kids watching being told that a book is the scariest thing ever is likely to send them scurrying to the nearest bookseller (I know it would have worked on my 12-year-old Hammer obsessed self). It may also be a reflection of the clearly difficulty the BBC is having tempting A-list guests to Salford, sorry G P but you ain’t Phillip Pullman or JK, that’s just a demonstrable fact.

The idea of an age rating body a-la the BBFC for children’s books is absolute, complete and utter bullshit for a number of reasons. Firstly as was pointed out by comedian, actor, musician and children’s author (he writes grown ups’ books too) Charlie Higson, Taylor is muddying the water by conflagrating the Young Adult category with the Children’s category. There is a huge difference between The Tiger That Came to Dinner and the Alex Ryderbooks. For years it has been a goal to get teenagers interested in reading fiction, as Higson is very keen to point out, in order to do that you need to present the teen audience with subject matter that appeals and attracts them. Thus the growth in exciting and engaging genre fiction (and Twilight but everything has its place).

Another thing that isn’t really taken into account here is that the young adult audience has vastly different reading ages in relation to their actual age. In fact this is something that some authors arguably use as a kind of in-built system that turns away readers of less developed sophistication in their vocabulary and maturity. Phillip Pullman’s fabulous His Dark Material’s trilogy which is written in a vocabulary and style more sophisticated than most genre fiction aimed at adults. I can remember seeing a theatre production of these and hearing a very small girl of around 10 explaining to a confused adult the books themes of experimental theology, physics, and the guilt of an absent god in a chaotic universe.
How would such a system deal with the fact that many children read adult fiction (and are encouraged to do so by the National Curriculum), and there is a category of fiction that is designed to appeal to both children and adults alike (for example A Christmas Carol, Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time). How would G P Taylor propose such a system dealt with this? Would he slap a rating on 1984? And if he would, is he prepared for the maelstrom of protest that would inevitably result?

In very little time at all, other writers of Children’s and Young Adult fiction such as Higson, Darren Shan and David Gatward took to Twitter to vent. Higson called Taylor a “prat”, Taylor retorted that Higson was a hypocrite (that’s what “pot” and “kettle” means right?) Gatward accused Taylor of proposing censorship, Taylor responded “lol”. Taylor would say his suggestion is to protect children, but there is no better censor of children’s fiction than children. If his book was really too scary, a juvenile reader would put it down. Children like being scared, if all they wanted was blood and gore, they would be ignoring the books of Shan, Higson, Gatward and Taylor and reading Shaun Hutson instead.
Ultimately the idea that the kids we need to be worried about are the ones reading books is just bloody hilarious. Yep, I agree with Higson, prat (only I might use one of the many stronger terms popular in playgrounds when I was ten some thirty two years ago, I’ll be polite and settle on “numpty”).

For more on this, read this Guardian article on the furore

Also I suggest following some of the participants on Twitter
G P Taylor (be nice!) @GPTAYLORAUTHOR
Charlie Higson @monstroso
David Gatward @davidgatward

Doom Rider Hits Auz!

Yep, it's true. On July 10th 2012, Doom Rider was launched over in Auz. And, as proof of this, I flew my brother over to make absolutely sure it had happened. And behold, the pictures speak for themselves...

Doom Rider Review (

"This book is awesome!"

What better than a review by someone a book you've written is aimed at? Nothing really. Read on... It's a cracker.

Seth Crow lives in a world full of religion and apocalyptic beliefs- and he hates it. While he is at Glastonbury festival putting on his show ‘apocalypse boy’ for money, a huge explosion causes everything and everyone to cease to exist. He meets Lily, a courageous girl who tells him that he has lived a thousand lives. Also, the stop the end of the world, he has been killed in every life before the age of 13! But this time, Lily, who has lived in the shadows of Seth in each life, has decided to save him, to see what happens.

The world starts crumbling apart; rioting, fires, storms of locusts. The end of the world is nigh! And, as Seth travels to find the others to help him, he discovers that he can destroy the world, but also save it…

This book is awesome! David Gatward, the author, has a really vivid imagination that will keep you turning the pages. Each page is action packed and it’s one of those thrill-a-minute books; that you simply just can’t put down! I especially love the characters not only of Seth, who is so realistic, but also of Lily and Kelly. They’re awesome, and I wish I was one of them, it would be so cool!

Overall, I found this book truly amazing. It is based on the tales the author had heard growing up from his father, a Methodist minister. It’s so gripping, and feels real, it’s excellent! It can be quite sad at parts though, so I would leave this book to over 10’s. I would definitely recommend it- it is an amazing thrill ride that includes devastation, love, drama, and of course, Seth the amazing Doom Rider!


Monday, 9 July 2012

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Jon Mayhew, Author of Mortlock and Other Gothic Tomes, Reviews Doom Rider

This review was posted last night. It's brilliant! The link's at the bottom - worth checking so that you can hang out with Jon and his awesomeness.

"Two confessions: I've met David Gatward on a few occassions and found him to be a tolerably decent chap and Hodder sent me a proof copy to read, which was very kind of them.

I really enjoyed this book. It's pacy and Seth immediately got my sympathy. He's edgy but as you read, it becomes obvious why. I loved the world Gatward painted. A world not far from this one where people put their faith in false prophets and it's impossible to distinguish who are the real ones! A world of chaos and political manipulation. And yet we still see something worth saving through the loyalty and friendship of the characters. There are moments of real sorrow for Seth and some great horror scenes too.

What I loved most of all, though, were the horses. A horseman of the apolcalypse has to have a horse right? And these monstrous bruisers are not of the My Little Pony mould. They're brilliant skull-crushing monsters that any doom-merchant would be proud to ride!

Doom Rider is an action-packed and thought-provoking adventure that will appeal to fans of The Dead, The Dark and The Damned. Go out and buy it now while you're waiting for my next book."


Friday, 6 July 2012

Me and the Weirdstone of Brisingamen

I've a guest spot over at bookzone4boys where I wax lyrical about a book that changed my life, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, by Alan Garner (and this is the very same cover that I bought 28 years ago!) The link's at the bottom of this, but here's what I said:

"Some people (I think) can say that a book changed their life. I'm one of those people and for me that book was The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, by the legendary Alan Garner. I was eleven at the time, on holiday, and spotted the book on one of those carousel things you get outside souvenir shops. It was the cover I liked first (see? covers really are important!) and the title then drew me in (Weirdstone? Brisingamen? Words that evoke thoughts of mystery and magic, for sure.) Holiday money spent, and back at the caravan, I devoured the book.

I cite this as the text that made me want to be a writer. Not necessarily because I had an epiphany, but because it was THE book that made me really truly love what words could do. I lived in the world created in those pages. One scene particularly haunted me, where the heroes are trapped in a cave and have no choice but to dive into a sump (where the cave continues but is underwater) not knowing if they were soon to drown or come up into a fresh part of the cave. This was even more terrifying for me thanks to a swimming accident some years earlier. That scene is little more than two pages. Astonishing that it should still be with me, even now.

From that point on, the world of books and words had me. I was one of those kids that would write not six or seven pages for an English story assignment, but dozens and dozens. Myself and a mate would both write stories then read what we'd each come up with. I think also that the world of Weirdstone created in me a love of the darker side of writing and story. I like books and films that take a walk down that more gloomy threatening trail, where things hide in shadows and heroes don't always come out at the end with the girl, or indeed in one piece.

So now here I am writing full-time, seeing my stuff in bookshops and knowing full well that somewhere kids are reading the stories I've created. That never ceases to amaze me. I write stuff, it gets published, people buy it and read and seem to like it. So here's a big thank you to Alan Garner: that one book changed my life. And I'm forever thankful for that."
Doom Rider Tattoo

To celebrate the launch of Doom Rider, I decided to get a tattoo. The story itself mentions a tattoo, and the image is actually on the cover and chapter headers. So I had a video done of the whole thing! Enjoy...

Monday, 2 July 2012

Amazing review of Doom Rider by the wondrous Holly Harkness over at her blog

Dearly Departed, 
We are gathered here today to discuss Doom Rider, by David Gatward. I am big fan of high-concept ideas – if you can sum it up in a sentence, there’s a good chance I’ll be interested. In this case, the moment I heard ‘boy discovers he’s one of the horsemen of the Apocalypse’ and saw the awesome cover, I was sold. Of course, it didn’t hurt that I knew it was being penned by the phenomenal David Gatward. Thanks to his previous series, The Dead, I had an inkling that I’d be in for a wonderfully dark and twisted read. I wasn’t disappointed. 

The very first thing that struck me was the brand of religion found in the world of Doom Rider. Seth’s life on the travelling faith show circuit was a really fascinating foundation for the character. I must admit, my own religious knowledge is practically non-existent, but The Way seemed to be a mix of evangelical faiths, borrowing from a few of the mainstream religions without resembling any too closely. This background makes Seth a very conflicted character, and it was precisely because of his origins that I found him so interesting, even more so than Gatward’s previous protagonist of the Dead series, Lazarus Stone. The cast of supporting characters is also varied and colourful, particularly when we begin to meet the other riders, and it’s here that the book really starts to shine.

I read in an interview with Gatward that he decided to take his interpretation of the riders all the way back to their original roots, so he could portray them differently. Well, it worked, because these versions of the horsemen of the apocalypse are like nothing I’ve ever seen before, and this originality makes them all the more awe-inspiring, purely because I was completely unprepared for the strangeness of their abilities (especially Death!). Gatward really has a knack for description, and there are some fantastically gruesome scenes in this one. Whenever I read one of Gatward’s books, I’m reminded of that old creative writing class tip to do with description – use all the senses, not just sight. Gatward is a master of this, and all the senses are constantly engaged, to the point where you’re really there alongside Seth as he struggles with the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Doom Rider is a fantastic addition to the YA horror genre, one that every reader with a taste for the darker side of life should read. It will be released in Australia on 5 July 2012.

Doom Rider Review

An astonishing review of Doom Rider, my new novel, out July 5th 2012, on

David Gatward is a member of my 'drop everything' list, by which I mean that when a new book comes through from an author on that list I literally drop everything to read it. Even if I'm mid-way through another book. It isn't a particularly long list, although it grows year by year, but I still don't know what I would do if two books arrived at the same time. Let's hope that never happens.

I loved David's The Dead trilogy, and rank them as some of the best children's horror books ever written. Sadly though the adventures of Lazarus Stone came to an end, but I have been on tenterhooks waiting to see what Mr Gatward wrote next, and I have therefore been looking forward to this one for some time. Back in February I posted a guest piece by David aboutDoom Rider, as part of my Coming Up In 2012 feature, and I have been eagerly awaiting its arrival ever since. Thanks to the lovely people at Hodder I was able to dive in to the proof about ten days ago, and read it in a single sitting.

David Gatward is still yet to disappoint me. Doom Rider is a finely crafted apocalyptic horror story that proves he is no one-trick pony, and goes a long way to establishing him as having one of the darkest imaginations in teen fiction. Many of the reviews of The Dead trilogy, including my own, played heavily on the gore that dripped bloodily from the pages. However, there was a lot more to those books than just the blood splatter - great characters, descriptive writing to die for, cracking dialogue with many great humorous moments, tight plotting and an exciting pace that will have you reaching for the defibrillator as your heart struggles to keep up. But still, most review focused on the gore. In Doom Rider David Gatward gives the gore little more than a cameo role, but has still produced a great horror story that will have critics and teen readers begging for more.

Doom Rider is set in Britain, at some undefined point in the not-too-distant future. Religious extremism grips the population in a way that is similar to some middle-eastern countries at the moment. The religion of choice is referred to as The Way, the leader of their 'church' known only as The Protector. Seth Crow lives in a caravan with his sister and his parents, travelling from festival to festival, pulling in the crowds with their show that preys on the public's fears about the end of the world, and more specifically about how and when they will die. Christened The Apocalypse Boy, Seth is a key part of this show, as he has a talent for 'cold reading' people - just like TV's The Mentalist, in a matter of seconds he can read a person, and make eerily accurate statements about their lives. As such, when he moves on to telling them about their death's the crowds simply lap it up. However, Seth is fed up with this life of duplicity, and the moods of his authoritarian father, and so he plans to escape. However, before he can he meets Lily, and from that moment his life changes is ways he could never have predicted.

Lily is a seeker, tasked with tracking down young people before they reach the age of 13, at which point The Protector and his elite inner circle of enforcers, The Chosen, believe that they will morph into one of the prophesied four horsemen of the apocalypse. We quickly find out that Seth has had many, many previous lives, and in every one he has been violently killed before he can reach his teens. Lily has had enough of this, and instead of leading The Chosen to Seth she helps him to escape. Of course, as the clock ticks over onto the day of his 13th birthday all hell begins to break loose, for Seth is Conquest, the first horseman of the apocalypse. At this point the pace of the story ratchets up to a whole new level, as Seth and Lily try to track down the three remaining riders, whilst trying to avoid being killed by The Chosen. Their efforts are more than a little hampered by Seth's new-found desire to destroy anything and everything in his new role. That's pretty much all you are going to get from me plot-wise as Doom Rider a book that will best be enjoyed with as little prior knowledge as possible.

I grew up in the church, and my mother is an ordained minister, and so there were parts of The Dead trilogy that resonated with some of the great biblical imagery that I was opened up to as a child and a teenager. I was pleasantly surprised then, when I read the press release for Doom Rider, to discover that David Gatward had a very similar upbringing. His knowledge of biblical imagery and the events that take place in The Book of Revelation, is obvious in Doom Rider, and by putting his own twist on things he has created a dark, modern horror story that is a long way from the New Testament version of 'the end'. I was also pleased to see him veer away from the norm, by having his horsemen named Conquest, Strife, Famine and Death, which is more in line with the concepts I had when growing up. However, as David brings attention to this himself in his Author Note at the end of the book I can't help but feel something of a fraud by mentioning my this in my review.

Some might question how a boy who grew up in the church could turn into a man who writes such deliciously dark stories. In answer to that I would like to leave you with an excerpt from the press release that Hodder sent out with the book:

Dave, more than a little aware that it could seem odd to write horror and dark fantasy in light of his background in the church and religious writing, puts it like this: “Dealing with our fears isn't about running away or hiding, but often facing them head on. And I know this from experience thanks to drowning as a kid and, years later, deciding I'd had enough of being terrified of water and learning to swim. It was scary, but it was also the only way I could think of to deal with it. Which is why I love horror. It's a genre unafraid to deal with the darker things in life (and death). It scares and horrifies and disgusts, as

much as it entertains and forces us to ask questions. Then there's the other side of it, too. I love a good, scary story! I love creating horrifying monsters and putting my characters in situations they simply can't survive, but do. It's a part of that sense of being a kid again, and creeping downstairs in the middle of the night so as not to wake the parents to watch a horror movie on TV because you really don't want them to know you've just seen a head explode in full-blown technicolour, and some terrifying demon launch itself at the next hapless victim, claws dripping in blood... And you know what? I'm happy with that."

Doom Rider is a standalone story and the book is scheduled to be released in paperback on 5th July. My thanks go to the generous people at Hodder for sending me a copy to review.