Biography


I remember my first guitar with some fondness. On a visit from South Africa, my uncle asked before returning home what I would like for a present. It was a straight choice between a drum kit or a guitar – quite why, I've no idea because I don't ever remember showing the slightest interest in music at that age, which was somewhere around ten. Anyway, he bought me the guitar and a strap and I remember my dad hanging it on one of the walls as a centerpiece, and that was where it stayed – never tuned, never played.

At school, I still had no aspirations to become a musician and even when we had music lessons, I would stand at the front of the class during choir practice and mime. I'm sure the music teacher could tell but maybe she thought I was a lost cause.

When I left school I was playing football one Sunday morning for a local team where I met up with a friend I hadn't seen for some time and we made arrangements to go for a drink in a local pub in Sutton. That particular night they had live music featuring one of Hull's legends, a country singer by the name of Barry Richards. He sounded like Elvis and played guitar like Duane Eddy. That was the push I needed.

My musical career started in 1980 at the tender age of eighteen, where I cut my teeth on Hull's bustling clubland circuit, working under the name, Ray Stewart. But I couldn't have done that without help and I owe any success I've ever had to two people. One was a man named Brian Farr, an extremely talented musician who took me under his wing. But because I didn't have natural timing he enlisted the help of one of the best drummers I have ever seen (and worked with) in my life, Ken Opie. Between them, they made me what I am and I owe them both a big thank you.

Once established, I broadened my horizons by taking on what was known as Yorkshire's toughest circuit, notably the miner's welfares of Sheffield and Rotherham. In the early nineties, I continued travelling the length and breadth of the UK, before going further afield and trying my hand in Europe, both as a solo artist and with a number of groups, working live and in recording studios.

Thinking back on my younger years I must be one of those hard to get through to people because I remember my teachers telling me that I had a really vivid imagination and that I should really do something with it. It took a long time before that one sunk in. I remember very clearly the book that did it. Graham Masterton's, The Manitou, a tale about the rebirth of a Red Indian Medicine Man, who had chosen to make his reappearance in the modern day world in the body of a lady called Karen Tandy: not in the normal way, Misquamacus started out life as a cist on her shoulder. The doctor certainly got that one wrong. That book for me, turned reading and writing into a love affair.

But it was 1995 before my first break materialized. The British Fantasy Society, and their in house editor, David Howe (now of Telos Publications), asked me to pen a 3'000 word essay on Graham Masterton. I'm not sure why, but I think David was very well aware of how much I admired the author's work. In 1996 however, a chance meeting in a London docklands hotel at a BFS Convention with Matt Williams (and Graham Masterton himself later in the same evening) eventually led to a publication I was so pleased to be a part of, and will never forget: Manitou Man: The World of Graham Masterton, released in 1998 and nominated for both the World and British Fantasy Awards in 1999.

I thought the world was my oyster and from that point on I would be the new literary sensation. I was wrong. Success did follow, but only when a number of short stories were accepted and published by a variety of free press magazines, including a very early version of Purple Rain, an apocalyptic tale that eventually picked up a nomination for the best short story of 2007 by The Writers Digest in the U.S. Between 1998 and 2003, magazines including, Unhinged, Sackcloth and Ashes, and Dark Horizons all published my short fiction.

Following a break from music during those early writing years made me realize how much I was missing it and I was given the opportunity to front a local band called Stagefright. We were together for about eight years, working exclusively for Lincoln Management. Working with those guys were perhaps the best years of my music life: Jon Whalley on the drums and John Bird on keyboards. We never had one cross word in all those years.

My first collection of short stories entitled The Lord of Misrule and Other Stories, hit town in 2007, published by an American company: essentially it was self-published. I soon followed that with another self-publication, a stand-alone horror novel entitled Calix, a terrifying psychological, rollercoaster ride into the unknown using the Salem Witch Trials as its backdrop. I was fooling myself into thinking I was enjoying some success, but I wasn't. Neither of those books made any money.

Another breakthrough a couple of years later proved interesting. I'd written short story entitled Promises To Keep, which made the final shortlist for the best short story award from The Tom Howard Foundation. It was predominantly a ghost story based around what happened to Glenn Miller, and was only written because my neighbours had been to a 1940's recreation weekend at Twinwood. They told me all about it but what stuck in my mind was the description they gave me when walking through the woods to reach the stage for live music was so realistic that I felt I had to do something with it. On a high from that, I rather foolishly self-published Misrule 2: The Next Generation, which featured both award nominated stories.

Things started to fall into place the following year (2010), when the independent publication of the award nominated story, Purple Rain appeared in Vol 3, Issue 2 of the Carpe Articulum Literary Review. And then another short story, A Twist In The Taste was accepted and published by The English Heritage Trust in the anthology, Whitby Abbey: Pure Inspiration – all proceeds from the book going towards the Abbey restoration fund.

Taking another break from music I ploughed all my efforts into writing and two years later, I finally discovered the delights of finding a publisher. Eternal Press/Damnation Books published the acclaimed horror novel, The Priest's Hole (a rampant story about the dangers of Ouija Boards and the trouble they can land you in, later republished by Endeavour Press as Resurrection). November of the same year saw the re-release of Calix by Double Dragon Press in Canada.

The following year I wrote a stand-alone crossover novel entitled Seven Secrets, a crime novel with a supernatural background set against the backdrop of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, running between Whitby and Pickering. I struggled once again with a publisher because of the length of the book, but Damnation came to my rescue. Hot on the heels of that success, Double Dragon published a short story collection, A Devil's Dozen, and another entitled A Detective's Dozen.

For quite a number of years I'd been toying with the idea of writing a crime series but I wasn't quite sure where to go with it. At the same time I'd also been trying to come up with a successful idea for a Christmas horror novel, when someone suggested that maybe I should combine the two and write a book about someone killing department store Santa's which, to be honest, I thought was a pretty good idea. The competition in the crime fiction market is huge, so I knew had to have it right. I paid very particular attention to the protagonist during the research stage, because I didn't want a downtrodden copper whose marriage had failed because he was never home, and because of that he took to drink, and then piled on the weight because the only place open at four in a morning was McDonalds: someone who wore rumpled suits and never combed his hair (sounds a bit like our PM). I wanted someone completely different, someone who could respected for being different, and that's when D.I. Stewart Gardener was born.

2013 was successful for me because Damnation took book 1 in the IMP series, Impurity. It had a little success but sadly, Damnation went out of business before they could take the second. Which led to another uphill struggle. But Matthew of Urbane Publications stepped in and we saw the second and third novels in the series, Imperfection and Implant. Sadly, my friendship with Matthew didn't last and after a difference of opinion, the rights to books 2 and 3 were returned. With Book 1 now out of print, where to turn was yet another challenge. Just when you think you have it right...

By 2013, Stagefright had split. None of us actually wanted it but Jon Whalley, better known as the Reverend Jon Whalley was offered another parish about 180 miles away. Being as we all got on so well we adopted a three musketeers attitude: if one of us couldn't play, none of us could. I continued to work solo but only in the UK, and I cut down on the live performances.

As we're almost up to date, I'm really pleased to announce the future of the IMP series has now also been secured. I recently signed a 6-book contract with Erik Empson of The Book Folks, which will see the entire IMP series to date finally published. These days, I divide my time by working live on the music scene and writing books. I recently found a new lease of life for my music when I met a young lady by the name of Fiona Wade (Priya Sharma in Emmerdale) at a charity function she had organized called Dressed To Kill in Birmingham. She told me about her work with the Oesophageal Patients Association (OPA), and I was really impressed by the charity, so much so, that I wanted to spend some of my time fundraising for them, and I did it the only way I knew how, putting on concerts. Most of the reviews, photos and videos are n a separate page on the site, as is the link to donate.

I also recently met a bunch of young film-makers who wanted to work with me, producing trailers for my books, which takes my work into another dimension. Hopefully, next year (2021) we will be bringing something new to the world of audio books.

When recently asked about what I felt were the contributing factors to my current position, I realized there were quite a number, but the most important of them the friends I met and made along the journey. I owe a huge debt of thanks to Iain Ross for taking care of my website: Will Hill and Harry Baker of Edge Waes for their stunning trailers and excellent photography, and my editor, David Johnson, who sadly doesn't get to any of our meetings, or company meals throughout the year because he lives in Seattle. Maybe one day, David.

Finally, I would like to pay my respects to an author who has been a bit of a rock to me over the years, always supplying very sound advice, despite the fact that I am direct competition for him. Hard work and perseverance is probably the main ingredient for anyone to succeed, but a helping hand from a leading name carries a lot of weight. Manitou Man gave me the chance to work very briefly with one of the world's biggest names, Peter James. We've remained good friends ever since, but it wasn't until 2006 that Peter started to take notice of my determination and underlying talent. To this day, I believe I owe much of my success to the good advice and the hard work that Peter has put in on my behalf.

Ray is available for talks and conferences on his writing experiences and expertise.

For more information, photographs, interview opportunities or review copies, contact Ray on 07709 820886, or email on manitou_man@hotmail.com

Details of all Ray's work and appearances can be found on his website.

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Ray Clark - 2020

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