Books by Simon Maginn


James and Adele, with their eight year old Sam, move to Wales for the winter, to do up a dilapidated farmhouse, Ty-Gwyneth. They are still reeling from the death by drowning of their daughter, Ruthie: the time in Wales should be a chance for them to recover, regroup, come together as a family.

But James starts to dig up some rather curious bones, Sam has a screaming fit in which he seems to be speaking to a previous occupant of the house, and Adele’s paintings become odd, disturbing, wrong.

A sheep is found, mutilated. Another. Sheep are found lying on the rocks below the cliff, torn open. The destruction of the beasts has begun…

‘The best debut novel I have read since The Wasp Factory. Wonderful original writing glittering with savage imagery, the pages breathe the tough, dark texture of a real world, of real inescapable fears, blurring the boundaries between nightmare and reality…’ Peter James

‘Maginn sifts the novel’s truth from its mystery like an expert archeologist, meticulously exposing deeper and darker strata that underlie even the most innocent events. Oscillating between the bleak thoughts of his emotionally tortured characters and the stark, moody Welsh landscape, he creates a thick atmosphere of dread that forces the weight of the past inexorably down on the present, yet never impedes the brisk momentum of the tale. This is the rare example of a novel of subtle horror that should appeal to lovers of the fast-paced modern horror thriller.’ Publishers Weekly

‘Sheep is a novel that conveys a real sense of dread. At times I was afraid to read on.’ Ramsey Campbell

‘What a fierce, dark, energetic imagination Simon Maginn has. The book has everything for the aficionado – terror, suspense, madness – but it also has style and vigour.’ Campbell Armstrong

‘Yet another undeservedly obscure classic! This novel, the first by a noted English writer, is widely considered (by the five or so people who’ve read it) one of the finest genre debuts of the nineties. I can understand the adulation, as it’s a stunningly written and imagined account of supernatural horror and all-too-natural anxiety. Simon Maginn has fallen silent in recent years (following VIRGINS AND MARTYRS, A SICKNESS OF THE SOUL and METHODS OF CONFINEMENT), but SHEEP remains a stand-out entry in the horror field, and is well worth tracking down… A simple plot description cannot convey the eccentricity, descriptive brilliance and horrific menace this novel exudes… At its heart, however, SHEEP is genuinely dark and unnerving. Maginn has a gift for true-to-life description, lending the proceedings a powerful air of authenticity that makes the later passages, particularly those detailing Adele’s insanity, all the more upsetting. Maginn’s descriptive power also lifts the final pages into an altogether unique realm of poetic sadness and nail-biting terror.’

‘The novel might be the only thing I’ve ever read that actually scared me…’ Simon Strantzas

Virgins and Martyrs

Daniel, a graduate student struggling to finish his dissertation, moves into a house in Hove owned by a polite and inscrutable skinhead. Wendy, the former occupant of the room, has vanished, leaving few traces: some shredded paper, a hank of hair. But gradually Daniel begins to feel Wendy’s presence all around him, to realise that she is showing him things he’d rather not see, guiding him to shelves in the university library where crumbling books about decomposing corpses and sacrificial virgins are kept. And curiously, Daniel finds himself unable to eat, even to buy food. As he becomes thinner and weaker, his mind is dominated by sinister visions of a starving Wendy and of his own hand, wet, dead, and with a neat hole piercing his palm…

‘One of the most magnificently bleak horror novels ever written’ St James Guide.

A Sickness of the Soul

When Robert, an investigative journalist, tunes into a phone-in programme while driving through the Midlands, he immediately realises he is on to something. He goes undercover to infiltrate a bizarre bikers’ cult, The Sons of the New Bethlehem, led by the charismatic Teacher. It is Teacher whom Robert has heard on the radio, giving advice to distraught callers and praying for their salvation. Teacher’s ministry is a fully-fledged crusade, in leathers. Spider, Loverman, Stroker, Biceps and the rest gather in shopping centres and car parks on their Harleys and Hondas to witness their leader healing the afflicted.

But Robert gets closer to the story than he ever intended, and the price he pays is a shockingly high one.

Methods of Confinement

Anna and Luke, young, lively and upwardly mobile, are unable to have children. No medical procedure has been of any use, and the situation is now putting considerable strain on their relationship. Enter Declan, a homeless man, endearing and amenable. Gently he insinuates himself into their lives. Fascinated – even obsessed – by a story that Luke is writing, Revenge of the Crab People, and confused by his feelings towards Anna, Declan’s uncertain sense of self becomes deranged, and his eagerness to please morphs into something altogether odder and far more dangerous…

Nominated for the British Fantasy Society Novel of the Year, 1997.

Rattus (novella)

David is a lonely man. His uneventful life in Hove, though, is rudely interrupted by a dead rat in his toilet. It’s only a baby, but it is enough to start a malevolent and destructive sequence of changes that put David, fatally, into the hands of his sinister new neighbour, a bouncer with a perhaps too-strong sense of order.

When does protection turn into control? When does neighbourliness turn into predation? This short, quiet but powerful urban fable investigates.

‘Creepy as a warehouse full of vermin’ Gary Fry.

‘…grounded convincingly in the real, workaday world…Maginn’s elegant, street smart prose is a joy… subtle and suggestive… and all the more powerful for that.’ Black Static

Published alongside Gary Fry’s novella, The Invisible Architect of Psychopathy.

15 thoughts on “Books by Simon Maginn

    • Hi Syreeta. I’m glad you liked The Dark. I feel it’s only fair to warn you, though, that it has almost nothing to do with the book. There’s no Welsh ‘mythology’ in the book, the characters are different, the story is completely different and the film just basically takes one or two key scenes from the book, wrenches them out of context and then puts in some kind of impossible-to-understand plot pudding in place of the storyline. I don’t mean to sound negative about the film – it’s good-looking and lots of people like it. It’s its own thing. But it isn’t ‘adapted’ from the book, except in the sense that a pile of rubble could be said to be ‘adapted’ from a house. I hope you like the book: it’s very dear to my heart. I made my feelings known about the film ‘adaptation’ here:

  1. Kate says:

    Dear mr. Maginn,
    first of all i’m very sorry for my bad english, that is not enough to read your books in original language(
    Some years ago i saw “The dark”, and later i found the book “Sheep” (it is translated into russian) – so now it’s one of my favourites.
    The thing i like most of all in “The dark” is the role of Sean Bean . I’m upset by the fact that the film is a different story: I wish I could see everything as you wrote it . Your book is too deep and intelligent to make just a scary movie from it. But it’s also good to read and use my own imagination 🙂

    I’m especially interested in the line of James & Lewyn relationship. All the small signs, that these guys could be very happy together, make the story to a real tragedy (even more than all other things).

    • Hi Kate. I’m thrilled you’ve got the Russian edition, and thanks for all your kind words. The Lewyn/James relationship strand caused quite a few raised eyebrows – it’s not ‘done’ in the horror genre, apparently – but it was always a very important element as far as I was concerned. I’m delighted you liked it anyway, and thanks for taking the time to contact me. Simon x.

      • Guess I will be the first to commend you on aunorhitg a terrific book. It was an adventure of mystery, suspense, horror, good vs evil, and heroic people fighting against the evil that truly does exist in this world. I could see this making a great movie. Has all the bells and whistles. Most of all it reveals Satan and his minions that exist and temp each one of us daily. So many try to say there is no Satan. They might think twice after reading this novel. Congratulations. Hope many get the word and read it.

  2. Hey Simon. ***Loved*** Sheep! I didn’t care much for The Dark but the premise intrigued me enough so that when I saw ‘based on the novel by…’ my unshakable faith in books trumping movies spurred me into tracking it down. So glad I did! Can we get some of your other work on Amazon’s US site soon? Pleeeeeeze!

    • Hi Denise. I’m thoroughly chuffed* you liked it, and thanks for taking the trouble to tell me so. I’ve made peace with The Dark now: it’s its own thing, and has its own fan base – I have had the odd complaint that the book wasn’t enough like the film…:0) Sheep came out almost exactly 20 years ago to the day, so I’m designating your copy a ‘Special 20th Anniversary Edition’. Hope you manage to track down some of the others: there are plenty of old print copies around, I think. I’m a bit slow on the Kindle-front. But I’ll get around to it. Great to hear from you. Simon x

      (*chuffed, adj – pleased, happy, delighted…)

  3. Steve Bailey says:

    Hello Simon

    I read your ‘Simon Maginn’ novels when they first published – you were one of my favourite writers at the time; your stuff really got under my skin. I found your writing so fluent and compelling but also (don’t take this badly) really unpleasant and disturbing.
    I’ve always wondered why you’ve had so many years of inactivity (in the ‘Maginn’ guise at least).

    So … without wishing to be intrusive, could you ‘spill the beans’?


    • Hi Steve. Thanks for your kind words. I got a review in The Observer once that, basically, said I must have been mad to have written the thing. So you need have no concerns about ‘unpleasant’. ;0)

      No beans to spill really: sales of all four, Sheep included, were ‘disappointing’. I’d ‘failed to find my readership’. The last two of the four appeared to no reviews at all, not a whisper: silence. Combined with low sales, and a growing unease that I was perhaps not on the most commercially appealing of trajectories, there was a sense I was floundering. My editor had fought to get me onto a more prestigious imprint, to try to shed the ‘horror’ tag completely, since it really was no longer applicable. But the marketing (such as it was) carried on as horror, and the disparity was growing. It was only years later I discovered one of the novels had been nominated for a prize: had I known that then, I might perhaps have continued. But as it was, I started to feel like a man shouting at no one on the bus. It felt undignified.

      I had, in any case, come to the end of what I wanted to say. I’d made my point, I think. Whatever it was.

      There’s a coda – a novella, Rattus – which I wrote because a publisher asked me to. Sales were – guess what! – disappointing.

      I don’t mean to suggest that authoring a novel is a mercantile project with a sales target attached to it. Of course it isn’t. But, after the thrill of being accepted for the first time and published for the first time and feted for the first time, after that, it becomes important that you’re writing TO someone, not just writing. I lost the sense there was anyone at the other end.

      I’m hugely proud of the novels. Who can say there might not be more? I wanted to write a great haunted house story, and I still want to. Maybe I will.

      Thanks again.


      • Steve Bailey says:

        Thank you for your reply Simon, which I read with real interest.

        I’m sorry you felt that way about your career path at the end of the four books ‘Maginn’ cycle (and I have to say, almost as confirmation of your thoughts that I only knew about and had only read 3 of them).

        I would say that, possibly, even a writer with a massive readership might feel the kind of alienation that you described – that kind of ‘storyteller on the bus’ validation is, I think, linked to an audience that ‘gets it’ rather than a mass audience.

        I think you’ve shown integrity in the re-invention as ‘Simon Nolan’ (strangely I almost bought ‘Whitehawk’ about a month ago without knowing it was authored by the writer of ‘Sheep’ and ‘V and M’). It wouldn’t have been difficult for a writer of your ability to tone it down, churn it out and ‘broaden’ your appeal – but that wasn’t you and I’m pleased about that (and so pleased by the fact that you’re still writing).

        ‘Simon Maginn’ had long been on my (6 long) personal list of terrific writers who few know about but I’m so pleased you’re still doing it. If you ever write the haunted house book I’ll be there – I’m sure you’d bring something original and disturbing to it; in the ‘Maginn’ books you never take the easy option, or allow the reader to.

        I’m going to track down ‘Rattus’ and your Nolan books (I’ve always only seen ‘genre’ as a shorthand for publishers and marketing).

        Many thanks for taking the time to reply and all the best.


      • An impromptu search regarding a horror movie led me to read IMDB reviews of “The Dark,” which led me to Amazon, and then here, to your site, Simon. I feel compelled to say something, because of what you wrote: “I don’t mean to suggest that authoring a novel is a mercantile project with a sales target attached to it. Of course it isn’t. But, after the thrill of being accepted for the first time and published for the first time and feted for the first time, after that, it becomes important that you’re writing TO someone, not just writing. I lost the sense there was anyone at the other end.”

        As a fellow novelist nobody has ever heard of, I can relate to this just a touch too much. It’s terrifying to feel like you’re putting your soul into your writing, only to hear silence echo back to you when you are finished. It’s so easy to want to give up when this happens.

        But from one struggling horror writer to the next, I really hope you continue. Most of your books are out of print, and yet here you have fans finding you, seeking you out, wanting to pick your brain, and tell you just how much they enjoyed your work. There is a sense of loyalty here with your fans, and I hope that makes you proud of yourself, because it should.

        Please, please write a story about a haunted house. Write it for yourself. Write it for the people who are here, waiting patiently. It is not too late for the idiots of the world to realize your creative talents, and your artistic visions. Don’t let the mediocrity win. We have faith in you.


  4. Ib Seward says:

    I too read the Maginn books early. Loved them. Strangely I never cared much for horror, but these I found reached beyond the genre… Much like I never read science fiction, but still got all the Iain M Banks books on my shelf. Like Steve here I wondered where you went and will now seek out the Nolans and the Rattus.
    Thanks for a big role in the start of my reading life.

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