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Coffin Nails



Available now from Ash-Tree Press

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The filmmakers who unleash a curse from an ancient abbey…

The teenager who murders the sister he never had…

The care home whose attic harbours a monstrous secret…

A schoolbook of poetry that means death for its readers…

The witch’s familiar unleashed by church organ music…

Welcome to the sinister, scary and sometimes outrageous world of John Llewellyn Probert. A place filled with troubled schoolchildren, overbearing theatre producers, brilliant surgeons and nervous billionaires. Where a walk in the country can lead to a mansion filled with beautiful women, or a trap from which you can never escape. Where a picture on the wall of a primary school classroom can come to life with appalling consequences, and a rugby match can be the scene for a burned witch’s revenge. Meet the parents who think they know what is best for their son - until he returns from the grave to show them otherwise. Learn about the girl who found solace in a burial chamber near Prague, and discover the real reason why West End musicals succeed or fail.

Ash-Tree Press is proud to present award-winning author John Llewellyn Probert’s ‘Coffin Nails’ - eighteen tales designed to make you gasp with horror and shudder with delight with a volume so gripping that as you read it you may well fail to notice the twisted, taloned creature that escaped when you opened the cover creeping up behind you to do its dreadful work. Once you’ve satisfied yourself that there’s nothing there please feel free to read the rest of the book, but remember- we never said it was visible.


  • Introduction
  • The Moving Image
  • Nefarious Assortment
  • Of Music & Mayhem
  • The Brook
  • The Ossuary
  • Final Act
  • Between the Pipes
  • The Sacrifices We Make
  • The Measure of a Man
  • Keeping it in the Family
  • Taking Over
  • Don’t Look Back
  • Maleficarum
  • NewLands
  • Guided Tour
  • A Matter of Urgency
  • The Topiary Patch
  • An Absence of Malice
  • Notes on the Stories

Reviews & Comments

Seven Honourable Mentions in Ellen Datlow's 'Year's Best Horror' series for:

The Moving Image

Of Music & Mayhem

Final Act

Between the Pipes

The Sacrifices We Make

Don't Look Back


I've admired John Probert's fiction for quite some time now. He produces stories which on the surface possess an almost lighthearted sense of nasty fun , yet beneath this there beats a heart of pure terror. Probert brings to his fiction the two things I look for more than anything in the field: integrity and soul. This is fiction written by a man who knows the genre, and who seeks to show the truth of the characters and events he so carefully portrays. And with Coffin Nails, I believe he has produced one of the finest collections of 2008.
Probert's prose style is deceptively simple. He constructs tales that appear easy on the eye but at the same time his elegant voice conveys images and ideas that are impossible to forget. Believe me, that's a hard trick to pull off: it's incredibly difficult to make it all look so easy.
These stories are haunted by shades of nostalgia; demons of childhood brush up against contemporary scenes of dread. Never one to flinch from the horrific, Probert is as good at describing a hideous murder as he is adept at offering us a glimpse of poignant childhood A monster trapped between scenes in a horror film. A box of confectionary that serves as a vessel for supernatural horror. A vampiric poem that sucks the life from schoolboys.
Probert also takes great delight in taking seemingly familiar genre tropes and giving them an almighty twist; his shear audacity and willingness to challenge himself are to be admired.
Many of his stories are set in Wales, and Probert has managed to turn the place into a deeply haunted realm in his fiction, where shadows lurk in every home and valley. He does for the region what Stephen King has done for Maine, and lifted the rocks to show us what ancient evil lurks beneath the tourist traps and cultural stereotypes.
A sense of the author's intelligence seeps through every page: when you read a Probert story you feel brighter, as if you've learned something (and you probably have). This is an aspect he shares with writers like Fritz Leiber and Reggie Oliver. I mention the latter on purpose, as I believe that Oliver and Probert share a table at the same feast of horror: both write in cultured voices and celebrate the history of the ghostly tale while driving it onward into the future.

Gary McMahon
Author of 'Rain Dogs', 'Dirty Prayers' and 'How to Make Monsters'

These are highly accomplished, skilful tales, with fine attention to detail and an impressive emotional range. (The) work, like that of Paul Finch and Mark Samuels, can be described as neo-traditionalist: informed by a profound sense of the genre’s traditions, but not constrained by pastiche or formalism. (It) draws on a palette of influences rather than being driven to mimic a particular voice.

What in particular it brings to the table, apart from a restrained and mature sense of style, is a distinctive focus and gravitas where medical, surgical and psychiatric issues are concerned. (JLP) handles difficult subject-matter with insight and grace. This gives (him) access to themes that, in less capable hands, would  likely to result in total absurdity.

Joel Lane
Author of ‘The Lost District’ & ‘The Earth Wire’

Quite marvellous and deliciously wicked. You certainly know how to put on a production

Simon Strantzas,
Author of 'Beneath the Surface'

These tales really do the business. I sincerely mean that it's a genuine pleaure to read a story (amid so many other ineffectual pieces I plough through in our field) that really gets under the skin.

Gary Fry,
Author of 'Sanity & Other Delusions' and 'The Impelled & Other Head Trips'


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