• Get Bracknell | 27 September 2012 | Mike Pyle

    Zombie master Darren Shan is coming to Reading

    Reading is turning into something of a focal point for people who are interested in (or possibly worried about) zombies.

    The town has its very own corpse infested shopping mall in Friar Street and Reading Borough Council is putting on a special day of undead-themed events at the library later this year.

    The next arrival to our miniature zombie-nation will be self-proclaimed master of horror Darren Shan who will be signing copies of his new book and speaking to fans at Waterstones in Broad Street on Monday, October 1.

    Darren says his new book Zom-B - the first in a series of books - is more than just an undead caper and that he sees no reason why horror fiction can’t explore big issues.

    “It’s about a zombie attack but it’s a bit more than that,” he says. “The main character, B, is a teenager with a racist father. There’s a zombie attack and the two stories intertwine.

    “It’s about saying that zombies and monsters aren’t what we have to fear most in this world – things like racism and people using it to their own ends are the real things to fear.

    “It’s quite political even though it’s got brain munching in it.”

    When writing Zom-B Underground it was the issue of racism which was the starting point for Darren.

    “The zombie element came afterwards,” he says. “It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while. Post-9/11 and 7/7 I noticed this increase of fear.

    “People were afraid and others were trying to cash in on that. I wanted to write a story for teenagers telling them to be wary of people like that and to say that if you’re afraid you can’t just lash out negatively.

    “Zombies just felt like a fun way of expressing it. I didn’t want to preach because I attract a lot of reluctant readers and I think a book preaching about racism wouldn’t engage with them.”

    Darren comes from Ireland and has been writing horror books – and winning awards for them – since 2001.

    He thinks the genre has changed and grown in popularity since then.

    He said: “I wrote my first book in 2001 and we tried to sell it but we hit problems. One of the main reasons is that people thought it was too dark.

    “At that time we had Goosebumps and Point Horror but they didn’t go very dark. Nowadays I’m able to put in some dark characters, really tricky moral questions – the genre has moved on.

    “Someone took a chance and published my first book, Cirque Du Freak, and people looked at that and thought ‘If Darren Shan can get away with it...’

    “Now it’s all changed and children and teenagers love horror. It’s getting the chance it deserves and people are embracing it.”

    With Reading being home to Zed Events’ Zombie Shopping Mall experience – where teams take on a horde of the undead in the disused Friar’s Walk shopping centre – it would be remiss not to ask Darren, a zombie expert, for his advice on how to tackle brain hungry walking corpses.

    “Hole up somewhere,” he said. “Get somewhere safe and barricade yourself in.

    “Like in the film Dawn of the Dead, a shopping mall is a good place to be in terms of supplies.

    “Make sure you’ve got weapons you can use to mash their brains – that’s always been the way to deal with a zombie.”

    Darren will be at Waterstones in Broad Street, Reading, from 6.30pm on Monday, October 1.

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