Archive | July, 2014

‘The Outbreak’ by Colin M. Drysdale: Free Preview – Prologue

18 Jul

The Outbreak Cover DesignGeneral McDonald burst through the door without bothering to knock. ‘Sir, that was the Americans; it’s official: Miami’s been overrun.’

‘I know. I’m watching it happen.’ The Prime Minister nodded to the large television on the wall of his private office, a grim look on his face. On the screen, CNN was showing grainy footage from a security camera on what seemed like a permanent loop. ‘I don’t think they’re going to be able to contain it. If this thing can bring down Miami, imagine what would happen if it reached London.’

The General turned to the TV. On it, hundreds of people were surging through downtown Miami, attacking anyone they could catch. The footage froze for a second and then the mob stormed down the street again. After watching it a third time, he turned back to the Prime Minister. ‘The Americans, they’re sure all this is down to this new virus?’

‘They’ve not made it public yet, but they’re 100 per cent on it.’ The Prime Minister puffed himself up. ‘I heard it from the President himself.’

‘And there’s no cure?’

The Prime Minister rose and walked over to the General. ‘No.’

‘No treatment?’


A thin layer of perspiration started to form on the General’s forehead. ‘There’s no vaccine?’

‘I’ve got people looking into it, but it doesn’t seem like there’s anything viable.’ The Prime Minister strode back to his desk. ‘And even if there was, people probably wouldn’t take it: they’d be too scared of what it might do to them. You’ve got to remember … it was a vaccine that caused the virus to mutate in the first place.’ With a sigh, he slumped into his chair. ‘Anyway, it’s all academic. At the rate it’s now spreading, there isn’t enough time, even if there was something promising we could work on.’

General McDonald moved over to the window and leant on the sill, gazing at the people walking along the street several storeys below. ‘In that case, we need to start thinking about ourselves. We need to close the borders; we need to do all we can to make sure the virus doesn’t get in.’ The General turned back to face the room. ‘And we need to do it now.’

The Prime Minister sat silently for a full minute, hands together in front of his face, the tips of his index fingers touching his lips, before he spoke again. ‘You’re right, it’s our only choice. How long will it take?’
The General glanced at his watch. ‘It can be done within the hour.’

‘Right,’ the Prime Minister placed his hands on his desk and levered himself to his feet, ‘I’d better make an announcement before everyone starts to panic.’

He was halfway to the door when the General cleared his throat. The Prime Minister froze as General McDonald started to speak again. ‘There’s something else we need to discuss …’

The Prime Minister turned, the anger clear on his face. ‘You really think this is the time to be discussing anything else?’

‘Yes.’ The General stiffened. ‘We need to decide what to do if the virus gets in.’

The Prime Minister took a pace towards the General and bellowed, ‘But you said closing the borders would stop that from happening!’

General McDonald had to stop himself taking an involuntary step backwards. ‘No, sir, I said it’d minimise the risk. There’s a big difference between the two.’

The Prime Minister remained where he was, his face contorted by fury and confusion as he tried to work out how best to respond. After a few seconds he gave up and walked back to his seat. When he spoke again, it was in a resigned tone. ‘So what are the options?’

The General swallowed nervously. This was the moment he’d been dreading. He knew what they’d have to do, but he wasn’t sure he could convince the Prime Minister to agree to it. ‘There’s only one viable option, sir.’

‘If there’s only one bloody option,’ anger rose in the Prime Minister’s voice again, ‘why do we need to discuss it?’

General McDonald did his best to sound self-assured, but inside his stomach was churning. ‘Because of what it would mean we’d need to do.’

‘And what would that be?’ The Prime Minister spat the words out.

‘If we get an outbreak …’ The General’s eyes flicked subconsciously from the Prime Minister to the television and back again. ‘If we get an outbreak, we’ll need to seal the area off. We let no one in.’ He locked eyes with the Prime Minister. ‘And no one out.’

‘No one?’ The Prime Minister sounded incredulous.

‘Absolutely no one.’ There was a steeliness to the General’s voice now. ‘No matter what.’

The Prime Minister closed his eyes momentarily, almost as if he was readying himself for the answer he knew was coming before he even asked his next question. ‘People aren’t just going to sit there quietly while something like that,’ he jabbed a finger towards the TV, ‘happens. They’re going to try to get out. What will you do then?’

The General leant on the desk, bringing his face close the Prime Minister’s. ‘We treat them as unfriendlies, sir’

‘What on earth does that mean?’ The Prime Minister shot back.

The General could feel the warmth of the Prime Minister’s breath on his face. All the nervousness he’d felt about raising his plan with the Prime Minister was now gone, replaced by something closer to confidence. He looked the Prime Minister in the eye once more. ‘We take them out.’

The Prime Minister pulled back in disgust. ‘You’re talking about killing people? British citizens on British streets?’

‘Yes.’ The General straightened up. ‘It’s the only way to contain something like this.’

‘Bloody hell!’ The Prime Minister put his head in his hands and rubbed his eyes. This wasn’t why he’d gone into politics. He might have expected to send troops to keep the peace in a far-off tropical jungle, or to keep the right people in charge of a strategically important scrap of desert, or maybe even the illegal detention of some would-be terrorist or other, but never this.

He thought about it for five minutes, wrestling with all the possible outcomes, knowing that if he made the wrong decision it would dog him for the rest of his career. If he agreed to the General’s plan and it turned out things weren’t as bad as they seemed right now, then he’d always be the Prime Minister who’d ordered the shooting of British citizens. Even if it didn’t actually happen, it would still get out that he’d given it the green light and his career would be over. Yet, if he vetoed the General’s plan, and things went wrong, he’d be responsible for everything that happened as a result, and his opponents would never let anyone forget it. Finally, he spoke. ‘Okay, get it set up. Do whatever you need to do.’

The Prime Minister got to his feet and strode towards the door once again. When he reached it, he turned and addressed the General one last time. ‘But it’s your head on the block if anything goes wrong.’

‘Bloody politicians!’ the General muttered under his breath, as he pulled out his mobile phone and selected a number. When it was picked up at the other end, he said only four words and hung up. He leant against the desk, staring at the TV screen, hoping against hope they’d never need to implement the order he’d just given.


‘Ladies and gentlemen, we’re starting our descent into Glasgow International Airport. If you’d like to fold your tables away and return your seats to the upright position, we should be on the ground in about twenty minutes.’

Michael did as he was told, but as he shifted in his seat, he could feel his shirt, soaked with sweat, sticking to his back. Despite the dryness of the air in the cabin, his skin felt clammy: he hoped he wasn’t getting ill, that this wasn’t the first sign of the infection. He glanced down at his arm. Even though he couldn’t see them, he could feel the scratches burning underneath the makeshift bandage. If the homeless man who’d attacked him had been infected, then he would be, too. Yet, there was a good chance that the man hadn’t even had the disease. After all, there were only a few pockets of infection here and there in the US, and the Government was managing to keep a lid on it, unlike the situation in Haiti or the other islands to which the disease had spread so far. Maybe the man who’d attacked him had just been drunk or high; there was no way to know for sure. He’d simply sprung out of nowhere and lunged at Michael as he’d tried to get into his car. Michael had managed to push him away and scramble behind the wheel, but the question lingered in his mind: why had the old man attacked him?
He pushed these thoughts from his mind because it didn’t matter; he’d be on the ground in a few minutes and then he could see about getting some treatment for whatever was going on. Michael glanced at his watch. It was just over twelve hours since the man had attacked him and if he was infected, he didn’t know how much longer he’d have before it was too late. Maybe there was someone at his work he could call who would know what to do: they’d created the disease after all, so they might know how to cure it, or at least stop it getting worse; that was if he even had it.

Michael had always known running a field trial so early in the development phase of the vaccine was risky, but they’d heard rumours that one of the major pharmaceutical companies was working on something similar. Even though they were a multinational business, they still couldn’t compete with big pharma. If they didn’t get their vaccine on to the market first, they’d be pushed out, meaning years of research, and more importantly, millions of dollars, would have been wasted. That’s why he’d given the go-ahead for the trial in Haiti, despite the inherent risks he knew it would bring.

No one could have foreseen this, though; that the vaccine would cause the rabies virus to mutate, to become more virulent, but less pathological. It no longer killed; it just drove people mad, made them violent: all they wanted to do was to attack others, kill them, tear them apart. It was the virus doing its best to ensure it was passed on; the virus was taking control of people, turning them into machines, to make as many copies of itself as possible and then infect others. It was no surprise — that’s what viruses had evolved to do — only their vaccine had somehow caused it to change. They’d thought the siRNA molecule they’d created would make the virus more susceptible to the immune system, allowing the body to fight it off on its own. Instead, it had made it stronger, almost indestructible. This hadn’t happened in the lab mice, or the monkeys, or the pigs; it had only happened when they’d tried it for real on humans. There was no way anyone could have predicted this, and by the time they’d realised what was going on it was too late: the mutation had happened and it had started to spread.


Michael lay on the bed in his hotel room, staring at the widescreen television, watching the disaster in Miami as it continued to unravel before him. For once, rolling news was living up to its billing: things were happening so fast that new reports really were needed every hour. No one was quite sure how it had happened, but somehow hundreds of people infected with the disease had suddenly appeared near the port. They’d rampaged through the city, attacking people; not killing them, just bringing each one down long enough to infect them before moving on to the next fleeing target. The infection had reached a tipping point and was now spreading like wildfire. The Governor had sent in the National Guard, but there was nothing they could do, not with so many people being infected so quickly. Michael knew diseases; he knew this disease: there was only one way this was going to go now and it wasn’t good.

Despite the air-conditioning in the room, Michael was still sweating heavily; the scratches on his arm still burned and his body was starting to ache. He tried to tell himself it was just a reaction to what he was seeing on the television, but deep down he knew it was the infection. The only question left now was what was he going to do about it? If he’d still been at home, he could simply have taken his gun and blown his brains out; messy, but quick. But he wasn’t, he was in Scotland. He’d only ended up in Glasgow because it was the first flight out of the US he’d found when he arrived at the airport the previous afternoon. He was hoping for somewhere more exotic, but he figured Glasgow would be a start. He knew people would come looking for him as soon as anyone outside of the company found out he’d been the one to ignore the risks and give the okay for the trial. He knew he had to get out of the country before that happened. By the looks of things, it was just as well he did or he’d have still been in Miami, watching all that was happening there in person, rather than on TV from half a world away.

As he was leaving Glasgow airport, Michael had passed a convoy of armoured vehicles heading towards it. He’d heard on the cab driver’s radio that Britain was closing its borders and sealing itself off in the hope of stopping the disease getting in. Now, in the safety of his hotel room, he wondered how many other countries would follow suit. He laughed grimly to himself: little did they know it was already too late; the virus was already here; he could feel it coursing through his veins. It had been almost eighteen hours since he’d been infected and Michael knew he didn’t have much time left. He knew he had to kill himself before he turned and infected anyone else. That way, at least he’d do some good.

He thought about how he could do it. He didn’t want to cut himself; that would be too difficult. Hanging was off the cards; there was nowhere in the hotel room he could suspend himself from. He went over to the window and considered jumping, but he was only two storeys up and that wasn’t high enough. Then it dawned on him: an overdose. Quick, painless and it would be easy enough to get hold of the drugs to do it. He could leave a note saying he was infected, warning people to dispose of his body properly. That would work. All he had to do now was to go out and purchase the painkillers, and hope that he had enough time to return to his room before the disease finally overwhelmed him.


The mounted policeman nudged his partner and pointed down Argyle Street. ‘Effin’ drunks,’ he looked at his watch. ‘Just gone midday an’ he’s aff his heed already.’

‘He’s better dressed than your average Jakie, though,’ his partner replied.

‘Bein’ rich don’t stop you bein’ an alkie, does it?’ He watched the man stagger a few yards further and then collapse. A knot of people quickly gathered round to gawk. ‘I suppose that’s the cue for one of us to get involved.’

‘Usual way?’

Rock, paper, scissors had been their way of deciding who got to do any unpalatable tasks ever since they’d first been teamed up. ‘Yep.’

‘On the count of three.’ They held out their fists. ‘One, two … three.’

‘Bugger! That’s the fifth time in a row you’ve won. How the feckin’ hell are you doin’ that?’ Still grumbling about his run of bad luck, the policeman slipped from his horse and gave the reins to his partner. He spoke into his radio, calling for an ambulance as he walked towards the small crowd. When he got there, he knelt down beside the man; he was unconscious, but still breathing … just. The policeman put a hand on the man’s neck: his skin was red-hot and his pulse was racing. Then the policeman noticed something unexpected: there was no smell of booze. Usually drunks reeked of the stuff, especially when they’d had enough to pass out. As he stood up, a thought flashed through his head: maybe the man was sick rather than drunk. It couldn’t be the disease the Prime Minister had talked about on the news that morning, the one from Miami, could it? He hesitated for a moment and then reached for his radio again; better to be safe than sorry.

Suddenly, the man’s eyes snapped opened. His breathing was now slow and steady: something had changed. The man sprang to his feet and lunged at the policeman, clawing at his face and throat, sinking his teeth deep into his neck. The policeman punched his attacker as hard as he could, sending him staggering backwards into the surrounding onlookers. A woman screamed as she jumped out of the way and the man seemed to notice the bystanders for the first time. He leapt onto the nearest one, pushing her to the ground and biting savagely at her face. In an instant, there was pandemonium, with people tripping over each other as they tried to scatter. Distracted by all the movement, he broke off his assault on the woman and went for a middle-aged man who’d fallen and was now scrabbling to get back to his feet. He was only on him for a moment, just long enough to bite and infect him, before he went for another, then another, bringing each one down before moving on to the next.

In all the confusion, nobody noticed the injured policeman slump to the ground, his wounds searing with pain as the infection took hold. Suddenly, he was burning up, his heart was pounding, his breathing growing shallow. He tried to work his radio, to get a warning out, but he was losing coordination in his fingers; his eyes drifted out of focus and slowly his world faded to black.


‘Sierra six-one to base. Sierra six-one to base. Man down, I repeat, man down. We need backup. We’re on Argyle Street. There’s a man, he’s gone berserk; he’s attacking everyone.’

The voice on the radio crackled with a mix of panic and confusion, and it was clear to all who were listening that something serious was happening. ‘Scott’s down. He’s been injured. I think he’s unconscious. Hang on, no it looks like he’s okay. He’s getting back up.’

The voice sounded relieved, but only for a moment. ‘Shit! He just bit a woman … Now there are more of them. People are just attacking each other.’

Fear replaced panic in the voice. ‘It’s just like on the news; it’s like what happened in Miami!’
Those listening heard the transmission key being released, only to be pressed again a fraction of a second later. ‘I’m getting the fuck out of here!’


Part two of this free preview will be posted tomorrow (19th July 2014). If you wish to download a PDF of all three parts to this free preview, you can download it from here.


***The Outbreak by Colin M. Drysdale will go on sale on the 21st of July 2014 in both paperback and Kindle eBook formats. To purchase, click here.***

One Week To Go …

14 Jul

The Outbreak Cover DesignSo, it’s now only one week to go until The Outbreak, the follow-up to For Those In Peril On The Sea, is finally released. In the run up to the publication date, I’ve been running around like the metaphorical headless chicken, doing all those little things which always seem to get left to the last possible minute, like getting the website which acts as a companion the book set up and running, and finishing all the Google Earth layers which allow readers to see the real-world locations where the events in the book are set.

The Outbreak will officially go on sale on the 21st of July 2014, and from Friday of this week onwards, I’ll be posting the prologue and the first two chapters here to give people a taster of what’s to come. I’m also currently running a competition on Goodreads where people can win a signed copy (this will end on Sunday – so enter while you can).

Once all this is out of the way, I’ll be back to posting my usual mix of writing advice, survival tips, short stories and zombie-inspired articles of all kinds, with the occasional competition thrown in here and there for good measure. So, if you’re missing that, don’t worry, all will be back to normal soon.

From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

Tartan Gore: An Emerging New Fiction Genre?

7 Jul

I’ve been noticing a trend recently towards the publication of quirky books which most would probably classify in or around the horror genre, but which seem to go beyond that easy categorisation. Rather than being the run of the mill shock and gore stories, they are, instead, complex stories immersed in Scottish landscapes and history, adding deeper layers to the narrative. I don’t think this is a coordinated effort, rather it seems that there’s a new generation of writers discovering that Scotland provides a near perfect backdrop for these types of stories. Not only is there a wide variety of scenery to set stories against, ranging from 1960s high-rises and crumbling concrete housing estates to remote islands, rugged mountains, ancient castles and Georgian buildings towering over tightly winding medieval streets, there’s also a rich and lurid history which can be drawn upon. After all, Scotland was the home of people like of Burke and Hare, the notorious grave robbers who got tired of waiting for their victims to stop breathing before selling their bodies to the local medical school for students to dissect, and Aleister Crowley, labelled as a Satanist by some and a prophet by others, as well as countless ghost stories, pagan rituals, bloody battles, unsolved murders and heartless betrayals.

There is also something about the people of Scotland which invites them to become characters in such books. They tend towards the no-nonsense end of the spectrum and few take themselves too seriously. Add to this a propensity towards gallows humour and you can see why they fit into books where few characters are the stereotypes you’d expect.

In many ways, these books seem to draw very heavily on the influence of another Scottish genre, Tartan Noir. These are the hard-boiled police procedurals starring the brilliant but flawed anti-heroes you can’t fail to end up rooting for, best illustrated by the Inspector Rebus books written by Iain Rankin, which are tightly woven into the Scottish landscapes and cultures. These books showed many writers that novels set in Scotland could go beyond the traditional shortbread tin vision of the country and open up its dark underbelly for all to see. Tartan Gore seems to have taken this basic premise and pushed it further, exploring even darker elements and alternate pasts, presents and futures, while still keeping the complex characters and iconic settings. Just as with Tartan Noir, those writing Tartan Gore aren’t writing to conform to a specific genre, instead they are writing what they want in landscapes they know and love, and creating new and though-provoking fiction along the way. It just so happens that they can be drawn together by the common elements of their Scottish settings, the characters which inhabit them and the dark subjects they encapsulate.

This contrasts sharply with how it was when I growing up, where almost all novels seemed to be set across the ocean on the distant and alien shores of North America or the less distant, but equally alien, south of England, and those who inhabited them weren’t really characters I could recognise from my daily life. Yet, that seemed to be what was expected and to have something resembling anything like the reality of Scotland would have somehow seemed wrong. Now, it seems, there are an increasing number of writers willing to accept their Scottish roots and experiences, and write stories which draw on their knowledge of life here while exploring ever-darker themes and avenues. Just as Tartan Noir allowed Scottish detectives to shoulder their way into a genre dominated by their American counterparts, Tartan Gore seems to be doing the same within the horror genre, and bringing with it a deeper complexity which relies less on shock value and more on thought-provoking ‘what ifs?’. Because of this, and the reality of the landscapes in which they are set, they seem more plausible, even possible, making them ever more terrifying.

As I said, I don’t think that people are necessarily setting out to write Tartan Gore books, but rather that there seems to be a growing confidence amongst writers that such books not only can be set in Scotland, but that their Scottish setting can positively contribute to the story being told to the extent that the landscapes almost become a character within their own right. Just as you couldn’t imagine Inspector Rebus stalking any other streets than those of Edinburgh, in Tartan Gore, the stories cannot necessarily be removed from Scotland because of the way they are woven into the real world locations in which they are set.

Within this genre, I would include books like The Edinburgh Dead, Halfhead and Under The Skin. None of them are your typical horror book (indeed some might classify Halfhead as Sci Fi and Under the Skin as a thriller rather than horror), but all of them make the most of their Scottish settings to tell troubling and disconcerting stories which make you stop and think as well as engaging you in the intriguing tales themselves.

Does classifying a book as Tartan Gore make any difference to it? Probably not, but as with all genre classifications, it provides a useful handle for readers to grasp and to bring books together in their minds. It also provides a certain level of expectation as to what they’ll contain and this helps potential readers connect with writers and books which they might not otherwise have found. In this respect, I hope that this genre continues to expand as the stories which fall within it tend to be very different from the standard fare currently available. They might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but they are amongst some of the most unusual books which I’ve read in the last few years.

From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

How To Build Zombie-proof Defences: Lessons From History

3 Jul

In the event of a zombie apocalypse, one possible survival strategy is to build some sort of defensive structure and hunker down behind it. In fact, you could almost argue that this would be an innate human response because ever since the dawn of time, we’ve used defensive structures to protect ourselves and our belongings.

At the most basic level, we have things like the corrals made by thorny bushes which are still used in Africa to keep people and cattle safe from lions, or small forts mounted on hilltops. More advanced are structures like the walls built by ancient Chinese and the Roman forces to protect their borders from hostile forces seeking to attack their empires. These often covered hundreds of miles and took many years to build, but they serve exactly the same function, and, indeed, they have many of the same characteristics, as the defences used to protect individual families or villages from wild animals.

In the event of a zombie apocalypse, we’d need to build defensive structures with these exact same characteristics, so we can learn a lot from history about how to build zombie-proof defences. In view of this, I want to consider four examples of structures built by our forebears and what we can learn from them when trying hold back the zombie hordes.

1. Hadrian’s Wall: Hadrian’s Wall was an ancient wall built by the Romans which effectively cut the island of Great Britain in two. It was 73 miles long, and almost 2000 years after it was built, some bits of it survive to this day. The key thing we can learn from Hadrian’s Wall is how to use natural features in the environment to enhance our defences. This is because Hadrian’s Wall was built, in part, on top of natural escarpments. This allowed the wall to tower above the surrounding countryside, giving those guarding it a view for many miles across a flat, wide valley and making it impossible for any attackers to creep up on it undetected. Just like ancient Roman walls, for zombie-proof defences, placement will be everything, and selecting just the right location to build them will determine whether it succeeds or fails. In particular, it would need to be placed in such a way that zombies can’t sneak up on it unnoticed. The greater the field of view, the better the chance of being able to kill off any zombies before they get close enough to mount an attack.

2. The Antonine Wall: The Antonine Wall is another ancient Roman wall built about 200 miles or so north of Hadrian’s Wall. The chances are, though, if you don’t live in Scotland, you’ll never have heard of it. This is for two reasons. Firstly, it was only occupied for a few short years before the Romans retreated back to Hadrian’s Wall, and secondly, because it wasn’t made of stone. Instead, it was made of turf and this means little trace of it remains. Why did the Romans choose turf over stone for this wall? Because it locally abundant and easy to work with. This meant they could build it much more quickly than if they’d tried to use stone. This was important, given that they were working in what was at the time hostile enemy territory which would only be secured once the wall was finished. What can we learn from this? Well, build your defences from whatever materials to have to hand and which allow you to throw them up as fast as possible. In this respect, I’d argue that a simple wall made of turf and earth pushed into place by a bulldozer would make much better zombie defences than concrete and bricks simply because of the speed you could construct them. Similarly, bales of straw might seem so much less secure than rock, but you can use them like massive building blocks and throw up high, secure walls in hours rather than the weeks or months it would take to build the same structures out of stone.

3. Crannogs: Crannogs are interesting little structures from the Iron Age. They consisted of an artificial island on which a single home or a small group of houses was built. What, you might be asking, can we learn from this? You might be thinking that it’s to use water as a defensive barrier, and that’s definitely one lesson worth remembering, but the more important one can be learned from how the people constructed paths out to some of these island strongholds. You see, they didn’t necessarily build causeways to link their islands to the shore. Instead, some built paths just below the water consisting of a series of stepping-stones. These stepping-stones weren’t laid out in a straight line or a regular pattern. Instead, they had dog-legs and sudden bends in them so that only those who were familiar with them knew the exact path. This meant those living on the island could race along it to the safety of their buildings, while any one attacking it would suddenly find themselves stepping into deep water and disappearing from sight. This exact same strategy is the key to making good zombie-proof defences. You have to accept that you’re going to have to leave your stronghold at some point, and if you do, you need some way of making sure the zombies can’t follow you home. I would argue that using this type of unpredictable and invisible pathway across water would be the perfect way to ensure that any pursuing zombies can’t easily chase you right up to your front door.

4. Masada: Masada was an ancient fortress built in what is now Israel. When it was built, many thought this fortress was impregnable, as it was sited on the top of a massive rock plateau which could only be climbed using one of three narrow, winding paths. Any would-be attackers trying to storm this fortress would have to travel in single file along these paths and so could easily be picked off by those defending it. Then came the Romans, who saw this problem and worked out a way round it. They took their time and built a ramp out of local stone which they could simply march straight up and attack the fortress itself. By now you’re probably wondering what this has to do with zombies, after all zombies can’t think or build ramps, can they? No, but get enough of them together in one place and they’ll start piling up against your defences. With enough zombies and enough time, they’ll build a ramp to the top of your defences made out of their own bodies up which those coming up behind can clamber and make it into your stronghold. What can you learn from this? Simply this: no defences will be truly zombie proof unless you have way of clearing away any bodies to prevent pile ups. If it were me, I’d probably do this using fire to cremate any undead whenever it looked like a pile up might be starting, either using something like a flame-thrower, or just a flammable liquid poured over them and set on fire. However, you’d have to remember you can only use this if your defences are made of something what would burn – like the straw bales I mentioned earlier. Other options might be to use an armoured bulldozer or snowplow to physically remove any pile ups before they get too high, but such things might not be easy to come by.

So, from these examples from the past, we can see that the best zombie-proof defences will be those which use natural features in their environment to enhance their defensive capabilities, that use whatever local materials that are abundant and quick to work with so you can build them in a hurry, that have an entrance way which is not easy for zombies to follow you in, and that you have a way of clearing away bodies to prevent pile ups. If you follow these pointers, it’s likely that you’ll be able to hold the zombies at bay for as long as you need to. If not, it’s likely that your defences won’t last long and you’ll be overrun in no time at all. These same rules will apply regardless of whether you’re trying to defend a single building, an entire town, or even half a continent.

From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.