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This August edition of The Necronoppicon is dedicated to Bernard Cribbins, who has sadly left us. This man has been always been a part of my life, whether I was buying his Right Said Fred seven-inch single (not in the year of release, 1962 - I'm not that old!), watching The Wombles, or watching a Peter Cushing Dalek movie, or Fawlty Towers, or latter-day Doctor Who! As Russell T Davies said on Instagram, a legend has left the world. RIP, sir.

10 things I never told you about Jack Sparks

I remember gaining permission to re-use this awesome image, from an awesome person on Instagram. Having scoured my DMs, though, I can't find her name! If you're reading this, please reply to the email and tell you, so I can credit you next time for this great image!
Hey there! Since it’s been almost exactly six years since the mass market paperback of The Last Days Of Jack Sparks landed, I thought I would seize this arbitrary anniversary as an excuse to celebrate my first novel and tell you some stuff you may not have been aware of, or which I straight-up never told you. 

(Technically, my first novel was the 2005 horror tie-in novel Friday The 13th: Hate-Kill-Repeat, but Sparks is the first novel that was entirely of my own making, from the ground up.)

What follows contains at least one major spoiler and will be best appreciated when you’ve read the novel. (If you haven’t, then here’s the official page on my site, with various ways to buy - I thank you!)

So, here are 10 things I (probably) never told you about 2016’s The Last Days Of Jack Sparks. Plus one bonus thing I definitely already told you, but which bears repeating. Disclaimer: if you are one of my beloved Patreon supporters, some of this stuff will be less new to you... but you guys always get the scoop first. Thank you so much for your support! 
The first release of the book was a C-format (larger sized) paperback unleashed upon the UK on March 3 2016. To publicise this initial book, Orbit Books and I decided to treat egotistical social media star Jack as if he had been real. We wanted to stir up a little Blair Witch style uncertainty, and I think we did a pretty good job with that. If you start to type ‘Is Jack Sparks…’ into Google, then the uppermost autofill phrase becomes ‘Is Jack Sparks real’. And I love that when you search for that phrase, the first thing you see is my blog post from March 19, assuring you that Sparks was “of course” real!
Orbit really went all-out on Jack Sparks promo. For the press, they produced special ‘proof’ copies of the novel, inside which they painstakingly stapled handwritten notes! How very cool. I’m sure this helped create a buzz among the press, even if it only sparked (pun probably intended) a little more curiosity than a normal proof might. Five years ago, I donated one of these special proofs to a charity auction as part of an Authors For Grenfell initiative and was very happy to see it sell for £400.
As you might imagine, somewhere I have a notebook full of possible early titles for the novel. Orbit and I certainly racked our brains. Titles I wrote down include the following:

The Last Revelations Of Jack Sparks

The Final Confessions Of Jack Sparks (I seem to remember this was the main contender at one point, until we heard that another book with a similar title would be published at around the same time)

The Last Testament Of Jack Sparks

The Final Judgement Of Jack Sparks

The Damnation Of Jack Sparks

The Final Reckoning Of Jack Sparks

The Final Revelations Of Jack Sparks

The Fall Of Jack Sparks

The Secret Life And Death Of Jack Sparks

The Dying Words Of Jack Sparks

The Final Decline Of Jack Sparks

The Unravelling Of Jack Sparks

The Disintegration Of Jack Sparks

The Obliteration Of Jack Sparks

The Destruction Of Jack Sparks

The Epitaph Of Jack Sparks

Jack Sparks: The Epitaph 

All things considered, I think we went with the right title. The Last Days Of Jack Sparks is kind of understated, but intriguing at the same time.

Jack’s name had gone through a few changes during the creation of the novel. At one point, I had a completely different name for the character – first name and surname, entirely different – until I Googled and discovered that the name had also belonged to a murdered journalist. Had I remembered his name, on some subconscious level? Either way, that was a troubling moment. And then I settled upon Jack. His surname was Strike for a while! Not bad, but Sparks felt so right and made his surname sound like a verb. Jack Sparks. Yes, he does.

A few people have marvelled at the novel's complex plotting, especially given the way that the end of the book dovetails into the start. Believe it or not, though, all of that time travel stuff was relatively easy to plan and execute, compared to the middle. That whole section, when Jack takes part in The Hollywood Paranormals’ ill-fated Mimi Experiment? For some reason, that took AGES to get right. I had index cards blue-tacked to the walls and windows, swapping them around every single day. Why was it so difficult? I think because this second act was building to a grand climax, during which several threads would be explosively resolved. An explosion is easy enough to write - but the events that lead up to, and cause, the explosion? Way harder! What you're seeing in the image below are the index cards for that whole Paranormals section alone, stuck to a window in my flat! Sadly, I shot them from behind, but you get the idea. I think the small white pieces of paper may have been chapter numbers. I also remember marking the scary moments, to make sure these were suitably well spaced. Gotta keep the scary comin'!
Throughout the writing of the book, I was very conscious of walking a tightrope when it came to making Jack too unlikeable, or indeed likeable. Some readers still ultimately found that his character ruined the novel for them, but generally speaking I think the balance ended up about right. I never wanted Jack, for instance, to be one of those terrible right-wing social media zealots. If anything, Jack’s more into social justice, but is such a broken drug addict that you’d hardly know it. One early draft of the novel had his monstrous alter ego killing his best friend Bex in a Hollywood hotel room, but that’s a good example of where I drew the line. Even though it would have been brutally fitting for ‘Ego Jack’ to kill Bex, I strongly suspected that readers would never have forgiven him and might have tossed the book over their shoulders in disgust. Mind you, of course, a reader might also argue that this version of events would be preferable to Bex’s actual fate. I still can’t quite believe I did that.

Sherilyn Chastain, the Franco-Aussie combat magician, was a blend of two of my friends. Her forthright but lovable Aussieness was heavily inspired by photographer Dijana Capan (check out her Division Images photography site), while much of what emerged from Sherilyn's mouth was heavily inspired by retired combat magician Cat Vincent (follow him on Twitter). I interviewed Cat on Skype, and some of Sherilyn’s utterances in the book were his own, pretty much verbatim. Thanks Cat! Always nice to have an actual combat magician to hand when you’re writing a combat magician.

So many great authors and celebs enjoyed the novel enough to give us a great testimonial. I won’t even attempt to list them, for fear of forgetting someone awesome. But I do have to tell you about the day I came out of the shower (apologies for that imagery) at home, to find a voicemail message from Alan Moore. Yes, this was Alan Moore of Watchmen and V For Vendetta fame, telling me how much he had enjoyed the novel. Christ! Thanks to my author friend John Higgs (whose spellbinding William Blake Vs The World book hit paperback this summer), Alan had received a copy of the novel and felt moved to call me on the telephone. Mad! I phoned Alan back and we had a surreal conversation. He gave us an amazing testimonial for the book, which he described as "a magnificent millennial nightmare". I also later met him in Brighton, again thanks to John, and had a lovely afternoon with the great man. What a gentleman!
One of the most extraordinary things about The Last Days Of Jack Sparks has been receiving emails from people who credit the novel as having helped them get through a difficult patch in their lives. One reader told me that the book helped him get through a terrible tsunami on the islands where he lived. Another reader said that the book had kept her sane while her partner had surgery for cancer. I can especially relate to the latter story right now, because July has been terrible for my family and I am currently self-medicating with old magic magazines like the Magigram and The New Pentagram. We all seek different forms of solace when times are tough, and I’m so happy that Sparks has provided that kind of escape hatch for others.

The audiobook version of The Last Days Of Jack Sparks is a must-have item for anyone who really likes the book… and who also likes audiobooks, obviously. Actor Joe Jameson was in his early 20s when he recorded this, but was already a voice maestro! My tremendous editor Anna Jackson and I travelled by train to somewhere an hour outside London to visit the recording studio where the audiobook was being laid to rest. When I marvelled at Joe’s ability to capture so many voices, he told me that Sparks was an easy job, compared to door-stopping fantasy novels with 100-plus characters apiece! The real reason for our visit, though, was to create a rather unusual and distinctly meta piece of promo. We recorded an interview in which I, as myself, quizzed Jack's brother Alistair Sparks, as voiced by Joe! The whole thing was scripted by me and ended up online in a couple of parts, which you can still hear on the official Jack Sparks site. Remember what I said earlier, about how we initially made out like Jack was real? The site Orbit created was the real hub of that approach. All credit to them for, once again, having gone those extra 666 miles - and for keeping that site up and running, six years on!

Yes, here’s that bonus thing I definitely told folks about before… but not for years! Orbit Books threw a wake for Jack Sparks himself in the Hachette building. I squeezed myself into a suit to give a eulogy for Jack in front of an audience of publishing folk, with my face swamped with distinctly unruly hair! Relive a clip from that moment right here.

What would YOU like to know about The Last Days Of Jack Sparks - or about any of my books? Simply reply to this email to ask the question, and I may well answer it for you in the next newsletter! 

YouTube updates: Daleks in 4K (again) and metal cassettes!

All the latest on my two YouTube channels...
In my latest video for this retro-scary channel, I compare and contrast the two different versions of StudioCanal's new Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 AD 4K/Blu-ray set.

Which do you need in your life - the all-singing, all-dancing box set or the beautiful steelbook?

Find out my views on the matter in the video here

In my latest video on my metal channel, I share with you a bunch of super-rare metal advance tapes - promo delights that were sent to me as a journo for Kerrang! magazine, back in the day. 

Among the bands whose advance tapes I revisit are Death, Type O Negative, Fear Factory, Trouble and Nuclear Assault. Take a look and say hello in comments!

I recently enabled YouTube channel memberships, which is a Patreon-style community embedded within the architecture of YouTube. So if you want to support me and gain perks, but are not quite feeling the Patreon site, then YouTube channel memberships are for you! 

As a general rule, YouTube channel memberships are the best fit for those who are primarily into my YouTube work, while Patreon feels best for those who are into the bigger picture, including my fiction work and journalism. 

You can currently sign up as a YouTube channel member at one of four tiers. Each of these is named after characters in the classic Doctor Who story Pyramids Of Mars, and they each grant you cool perks such as early access to videos, onscreen credit and extended editions of videos!

Hit the Join button beneath any of my videos to watch five minutes of me giving you the full details, or simply click this link to watch

Look out! It's a link flood!

Thanks to July having been a pretty vile month, I don't have too much new to tell you. My big plans to make my flat toddler-ready have been waylaid by family illness and I haven't felt able to do much in the way of work, besides the two YouTube videos above. You'll notice that both of these are hands-only videos, easy enough to accomplish.

Before July went wrong, though, I did manage to shoot, edit and upload the July edition of my Walking With Patrons vlog series, which is exclusively for the eyes of Patreon backers at any level. You can see a happy, swimming dog in a clip from that vlog in my recent tweet, here.

I have also been jotting down ideas for a new story. My patrons know what this is, and we shall see if it ever comes to pass! The ideas have been making me laugh, though, and that's a good sign. 

Do feel free to reply to this newsletter to tell me what you'd love to see in the September 2022 edition of The Necronoppicon. As I said earlier, if there's a burning question you'd like to see me answer, then reply to this and let me know. 

Thank you so much for subscribing and for reading this far! Here are some excellent resources and offers to see you off into the online universe...

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LINKS FOR YOUTUBE CREATORS: Disclosure: some of the above links are affiliate links. This means that when you buy something through them, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. And I shall spend that money on shoes for small boys. :)
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