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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Frighteners

(* I'm pleased to welcome back Jeremy Briggs with a new piece on an old horror mag that I remember buying back in the Nineties...)

FRIGHTENERS
by Jeremy Briggs

The recent Bear Alley piece on artist Oliver Frey mentioned the horror magazine that he illustrated, Frighteners, a magazine that had a short but eventful life.

Oliver Frey along with his brother Franco and long time friend Roger Kean had set up the magazine publisher Newsfield Publications in 1983 to publish computer gaming magazines beginning with the Sinclair Spectrum based Crash, the first issue of which was launched on 13 January 1984. The three men were equal partners in the company. In 1988 they expanded their publishing into the horror and video market and in June of that year released the first issue of a monthly horror based magazine entitled Fear. Fear was edited by John Gilbert and was based along the lines of the successful science fiction movie magazine Starburst with news, features, interviews and reviews of films, videos and books. Oliver Frey was Editorial Director of Fear and provided many painted front covers for the magazine.

In June 1991 Newsfield launched a monthly sister publication to Fear entitled Frighteners, a horror based text story magazine for which Oliver Frey provided both the painted colour covers and the internal black and white line art. This line art consisted of an internal title page on page three of each issue and spot illustrations to go at the beginning of each individual story. He signed the front covers with his full name and the internal illustrations with his initials. The first issue of Frighteners was dated July 1991, was priced at £1.50 and featured a short story entitled "Eric The Pie" by established horror writer Graham Masterton as its headline piece plus three other complete short stories by other writers and the first part of Oliver Kean’s story "Blood Of Satan".

Searching the internet for information on Frighteners you will find that there are different versions of what happened next based mainly on memories of the magazine’s readers. What is presented here is based on the information published in Frighteners issue 2, Fear issue 33 and the report by the liquidator who wound up Newsfield in 1991.

Graham Masterton
’s story "Eric The Pie" involves a boy who, as he grew up, discovered that he derived pleasure from eating animals whilst they were still alive and the story culminates with what happens on his first date with a girl. Even seventeen years on the story remains very gory and includes a graphic scene with a dying calf. In a 1996 interview used as an introduction to the Greek edition of his book Black Angel, Masterton was asked if he had had problems with censorship of his writing and said, “I have only once had trouble with censorship, with a short story called "Eric the Pie", which was the cover story for a new British horror-fiction magazine called Frighteners”. He goes on to say about the story, “On reflection, I think it was probably too extreme”.

The liquidator’s report on the closure of Newsfield states “a Menzies customer found offence in a Graham Masterton short story and the news trade pulled issue one out of circulation, which meant that Newsfield had to virtually write the first issue off.” At the time John Menzies and WH Smith were the two big newsagent chains in the UK and the loss of their custom could have spelt the end of the magazine. Issue one did have an obviously horrific image on its cover and its tagline was “Top International Fiction To Chill Your Bones” however there was no written indication that it was for adults or mature readers only.

The title did survive to a second issue with a cover date of August 1991 which, according to the liquidator, was approved by the firm’s lawyers before release. The cover illustration this time was for a Brian Lumley short story entitled "The Statement Of Henry Worthy". The second issue had the following note printed on its contents page, “Due to complaints from the public about the contents of the story "Eric The Pie" by Graham Masterton, issue one of Frighteners was removed from the shelves of most newsagents, virtually killing all sales”. This note goes on to offer readers the chance to get issue one direct from the publisher for its original cover price, post free. The second issue reprinted the first part of Oliver Kean’s "Blood Of Satan" story since the vast majority of readers would not have had a chance to read it and reused Oliver Frey’s internal title page.

Issue 33 of Fear also covered the problems encountered by Frighteners issue 1. The news piece describes the magazine as being “withdrawn from sale after legal advice” and Fear editor John Gilbert spoke to author Graham Masterton who describes "Eric The Pie" as “a satire to show the grisly realities of the human diet” while maintaining that the story “is no more disturbing than the meat counter at Sainsbury’s”. Describing the story’s strongest scene Masterton says, “There is nothing in the scene that tends to deprave or corrupt, but it should rightly evoke outrage. "Eric The Pie" is a serious story with a serious purpose. I hope very much that it will be taken as such.”

Fear 33 was dated September 1991 and was the last issue of that magazine. Newsfield had not shown a profit during summer 1991 and, with unrealisable financial projections for the following six months, the company auditors advised that the company should be put into voluntary liquidation which began on 17 September 1991.

The final issue of Frighteners was therefore issue 3 which was also dated September 1991. Guy N Smith’s story "The Executioner" was the cover story with Oliver Frey’s art for it showing a man’s face staring through a noose. This issue (along with the last issue of Fear) gives no indication that it was to be the final issue. Indeed the back cover promotes issue four which was due for publication on 26 September 1991 which would have included the third part of Oliver Kean’s "Blood Of Satan" and "Gina’s Arms" by Steve Harris.

Today Frighteners is all but forgotten save for a few fans of the horror genre who remember the title’s artwork covers and the problems that issue one caused at the time. The story that provoked all the controversy, Eric the Pie, is available to read on Graham Masterton’s website. It is not for readers of a delicate disposition – don’t say we didn’t warn you.

The story contents of each issue of Frighteners are as follows:

Frighteners Issue 1
Dated July 1991; published June 1991
Eric The Pie by Graham Masterton
Yatterjack by James Allison
Blood of Satan (Part One) by Oliver Kean
Mud by Rand Soellner
I was A Middle-Aged Werewolf by Michael Armstrong

Frighteners Issue 2
Dated August 1991; published 25 July 1991
The Statement Of Henry Worthy by Brian Lumley
A Stranger Calls by Phillip Anton Gardner
Blood Of Satan (Part One) by Oliver Kean
Frightshift by Colin T Nicholls
Family Ties by Rick Cadger

Frighteners Issue 3
Dated September 1991; published 29 August 1991
The Executioner by Guy N Smith
Blood Of Satan (Part Two) by Oliver Kean
A Gathering Of Dreams by Simon Barton
Adaddon by Cliff Wallace
The Mouth by John B Rosenman
Inheritance by Tony Lee

(* Fear and Frighteners illustrations © Oliver Frey; with thanks to Bill Lindsay.)

2 comments:

MattoftheSpurs said...

Excellent min article which deserves to be expand and the history of the now defunct, and lamented (by me at least) "Fear" included.

Thanks for that synopsis of the 3 "Frightners" issues though. I have all three and enjoyed their brief stay on the shelves.

Kudos for the article.

ARCHAVIST said...

I too loved Fear magazine and I'd forgotten Frighteners. I must have submitted half a dozen stories to Fear all those years ago - they never bought any of them. Swines.