Toby Venables is a novelist, screenwriter, journalist and lecturer in film, journalism and creative writing at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge.
For many years he worked as a journalist and magazine editor, launching magazines in Cambridge, Peterborough, Oxford and Bristol. For these he assembled and managed editorial teams and contributed regular reviews and features, interviewing subjects as diverse as Eddie Izzard, Gunther von Hagens, Ray Harryhausen and Kevin Spacey. He also helped develop the companies’ respective brands, writing ads for radio, print and the back end of a bus. Since turning freelance in 2003 he has worked as copywriter for a diverse range of clients, including the Olympic Torch Relay, Cambridge Film Festival, Cambridge Folk Festival and the RSPB. In 2001 he was the recipient of the Keats-Shelley Memorial Prize for an investigation into the origins of Shelley’s ‘Ozymandias’.
His first novel was The Viking Dead, a historical-zombie-SF mashup published by Abaddon in 2011, which Peter Tennant in Black Static described as ‘throwing a vividly realised assortment of threats at the page – zombies, Vikings, berserkers, traitors, flesh eating insects, a darkly brooding forest, and then something even worse than all of that…’
Having established a reputation for historical settings he was invited by Abaddon to write a series of books in which Guy of Gisburne, traditional nemesis of Robin Hood, was the hero. The first novel of the Hunter of Sherwood trilogy, Knight of Shadows, was published in 2013. It presented Hood as a dangerous lunatic obsessed with his own legend, and Gisburne as a genuinely heroic but misunderstood character – a sort of 12th century James Bond with echoes of Indiana Jones and The Dark Knight, battling his way through a grimy, bloody medieval world on the brink of chaos.
The second book, The Red Hand, in which Gisburne turns detective in medieval London, was published in 2015. The last volume, Hood, featuring Gisburne’s final battle with the crazed outlaw, appeared in early 2017. This trilogy is to form the basis of a PhD.
He has also contributed a chapter to the book Zombie Renaissance and delivered a random assortment of papers, mostly about the undead. Currently, he is working on a commissioned horror screenplay and planning a zombie novel set in Victorian London.
Venables, Toby, 2001. ‘The Lost Traveller.’ Keats-Shelley Review 15 (2001): 15–21.
Venables, Toby, 2011. The Viking Dead. Oxford: Abaddon.
Venables, Toby, 2013. Knight of Shadows (Hunter of Sherwood 1). Oxford: Abaddon.
Venables, Toby, 2014. ‘Zombies, a Lost Literary Heritage and the Return of the Repressed’, in: Laura Hubner, Marcus Leaning, Paul Manning (eds) The Zombie Renaissance in Popular Culture. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Venables, Toby, 2015. The Red Hand (Hunter of Sherwood 2). Oxford: Abaddon.
Venables, Toby; Finch, Paul & Sprange, Matthew 2013. The Secret Zombie History of the World 3: Tomes of the Dead Oxford: Abaddon.
Venables, Toby, 2015. The Viking Dead (German edition) translated by Andreas Schiffmann: Qala: Voodoo Press.
Venables, T. (2017) Hood (Hunter of Sherwood 3). United Kingdom: Abaddon Books
Seven Thieves – commissioned thriller feature screenplay for Starchild Pictures, completed January 2013.
The Welcome – commissioned horror feature screenplay for Starchild Pictures, due for completion March 2017.
Other research activity
‘Frankenstein into film” – one-day workshop examining the theory and practice of the novel’s cinematic adaptations, as part of the conference Mary Shelley: Parents, Peers, Progeny at Anglia Ruskin University, September 1997
‘Locating the zombie: landscapes of the living dead’ – paper for The Zombosium, Winchester University, 28 October 2011
‘Living the dream: loving the nightmare’ – paper for Cambridge University Festival of ideas, 25 October 2012
‘Bringing the zombie back home’ – paper for NAWE Conference, York, November 2013