Thursday, 20 November 2014

Noe Second Helpings.

A big shout out and resounding thank you to everyone who showed up for the Noe The Savage Boy#2 signing at The Forbidden Planet International Store in Belfast and for making the day such a memorable one. Thank you for having the patience to stand through the late start(flooding on the railway line between Dublin and Belfast delayed the arrival of one of the Noe crew and even the comics themselves. Yet let the storm winds blow and the Tempests rage The Coney Express always gets through.)Thank you for queuing with such good humour and good graces. It was nice to see friends old and new , to see those who had turned up for the first issue and came back for the second. Your good judgement and taste pleases no end. Thanks David who made Noe#1 the first comic he has bought in years I LIKED YOUR EARLY WORK.CAPTAIN SPUNKY!( He meant Major Power and Spunky off course by Sean Doran and myself. He said they always made him laugh. They always made me and Sean laugh too. They had such a life of their own and the dirty antics they got up to would have made a whore blush. Wonder where the good Major and his wee side-kick are hanging out these days. The Major was always hanging out, he was blessedly endowed.) And thank you for young Matthew for making Noe#1 and Noe#2 the first comics in his collection. I hope your new hobby enriches your life for years to come.
                 Thank you to all the guys at the store for making the event run so smoothly. You make juggling the many variables of a signing seem easy. Hours of nerves go into the build up to a signing and then it is all over in a flash. Like a Vietnam flashback only slightly less muddy.
                     Despite the misspelled promise on the original flyer for our signing there was in fact no singing. Just signing and a bit of sketching. I would have been more than happy to warble for the  pleasure of our attendees but my singing is not for the faint hearted. You ought to hear my rendition of Gonna Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair from the musical South Pacific. Palm trees have swooned and bent. I have always had a soft spot for South Pacific and who could forget Captain Sensible's version of Happy Talk. Check out the TOTP segment on Youtube. You will always associate it with good times...
                     And so, in just such a spirit,especially for you...ahem..
                    HAPPY TALKIN' TALKIN' HAPPY TALK,
                    TALK ABOUT THINGS YOU LIKE TO DO,
                    YOU GOTTA HAVE A DREAM,
                     IF YOU DONT HAVE A DREAM,
                     HOW YOU GONNA HAVE A DREAM COME TRUE?

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Wolf Hall.

Marmite, that is how a chum described this wonderful book by Hilary Mantel. "you know what I mean, it is a bit of a Marmite read.". He deduced from my face from space I did not get the inference. "You either love it or you hate it", he explained. I thought he meant if you smeared a copy of this book book on a white shirt it will leave a stain that is difficult to get off. I never questioned the likelihood of my friend wanting to rub a historical novel on any part of his apparel or his anatomy. He enjoys listening to English rap artists such as Professor Plum so nothing else he does registers as any less questionable. He is quite wrong and even a little lazy to dismiss such an accomplished piece of work as this with such brevity. As a critical response to this rightly lauded book it has as much weight as a bucket of Marmite.
            The book charts the rise to power of Thomas Cromwell  within the court of Henry Vlll (talk about swimming with sharks..) from his base roots to a position of undreampt off, then and now, unscaled heights. Yet the very name Cromwell has a certain resonance, one that history has not dimmed, if anything perhaps mis-shaped and muddied. Popular thinking has led to us thinking of Thomas Moore in saintly terms whilst we revile Cromwell and his like. Yet Hilary Mantel explores just how much of that is perhaps historical black-ops and the blackening of a name fallen from favor. As a thought exercise it entertains on that level alone. As Henry himself puts it;
The court of the king, the inner circle and the powers festering there, was a dangerous place for the unwary and even the cleverest of men and women were apt to find themselves fodder for the big fish they thought themselves swimming with. We guess at the personal motivations of men such as Thomas Cromwell but they rarely committed to paper anything which could at a later date be used against them. Wolf Hall is a wordy work of historical prose, a memory play, a remembrance of all things Cromwellian. Novels based on the lives of the long dead reverberate with Proustian intent; all being remembrance of things past. It is in the author's hands that history may come alive again and in Hilary Mantell's it does that with a gritty hand held humanity. The pock marked dialogue and the rough and ready lives certainly feel very real. The imagined character of  Thomas Cromwell carries with it many negative associations not just for his own actions but for he actions of others with the same surname. Those who admire his actions pat themselves on he back smug in the knowledge of the historical nature of his acts. The statute of limitations that history endows. Those appalled by his actions demonstrate a similar smugness in that they attribute the blood on the hands of others directly to his. Not that those hands were clean and yet certainly no dirtier than the hands of the monarch he served. The blood and dirt of history clings to every page of Hilary Mantell's book, her record of a period of English history whose influence bleeds through to this day. She really pulls it off too.
                 I have only ever read one other book by Hilary Mantell. Beyond Black; a novel full of troubled and restless souls, ordinary and extraordinary, murder and magic, real and imagined. A bit like this one. I think she has always understood that history is not something that happens to other people, It is something that weaves all off us into it's tapestry. In that book she wrote about people capable of speaking to the dead which is in a sense what writers of historical fiction do. Well, they at least attempt to speak for the dead, not in the sense of functioning as table wrappers or oozing ectoplasm, but in a bold sense speaking as authentically as aurally possible. In a sense forging fictional memories. Strangely I have no memory of the book ending, just that words and sentences wound down in the way that a conversation might.
                  One without a full stop.
                  But then life is like that is it not.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Treasure Everywhere.

There is treasure everywhere if you know where to look. I do not know if that is true but I do know that Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island seems to have been with us always. Endlessly adapted and brought back to life generation after generation. Although it now seems to our thoroughly modern minds little more than dreamy escapist fantasy imagine it through the mind's eye of the equally modern eighteenth reader when the sequence of events between the covers seemed entirely plausible. Would you not have dreamed of putting to sea to have your own adventures beneath the mast?
            In writing Noe The Savage Boy I have tried as much as possible to portray the pirates in the story as realistically as possible and avoid the temptation to run with the stereotype embedded in our culture by the continuing success of Stevenson's book That one had it all; a one legged one eyed pirate with a parrot on his shoulder, a treasure map that leads to betrayal and murder, a world where X does indeed mark the spot and let us not forget the black spot itself. There are double-dealings and mutinies, heroes and villains and even surprisingly well developed characters rich in ambiguity and with nuances of good and evil.
              The above Disney version of the book released in 1950 with Bobby Driscoll and Robert Newton has in itself proved most influential on pirate lore and the perceived visual shorthand for what it is to be a pirate. Particularly Robert Newton's exaggerated west country accent which has become the stereotypical speech pattern for on screen pirates the world over ( To my ear it sounds like the modern Northern Irish professional golfer trying to casually affect an American accent which always sounds like an eighteenth century Cornish tin miner. )
              Both the book and the movie are a joy and I am presently trying to obtain a copy of the Big Finish audio version with Tom Baker as Long John Silver (YOU HAVE A WOMAN'S LEGS MY LORD!).  I am swashing my buckle as I write this.
               Hope to see you on Saturday at The Forbidden Planet International Store in Belfast where we can discuss Noe The Savage Boy,Good Craic, Tom Baker and pirates in general or any other buried treasure you might wish to dig up.
              Remember X truly marks the spot.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

The Two Pertwees.

Will you look at this. Felt my heart skip a beat. Sean Pertwee in costume as Jon Pertwee in costume as The Doctor. Just amazing. I want to see this on television some time soon. Capaldi and a Pertwee. It has to happen.( Still have not come down from Saturday nights episode. Not even the big reveal more the truly horrible underlying ghastliness of the three words.) Sean Pertwee posted this on twitter on Halloween. He is such a good actor in his own right there must surely be a way to use him in New Who. I still remember his Hugh Berengar in Cadfeal(With Derek Jacobi as Cadfeal, another Who connect).
                  The cover iff the 1975 Who annual is my own from back in the day. My poor old ma bought it for me as a Christmas present in 1974. I remember her taking me into this old shop called May Browns in Ardoyne and telling me YOU CAN PICK ONE THING. My family did not have a pot to piss in and May Brown would let trusted customers have things on lay over which they could pay off. I picked this annual and counted the days til that Christmas morning.
                  Best Christmas annual ever. I never had my nose out of it. Protected it like it was the rarest thing on the earth. Still have it as you can see. Hoped some day as a grown man to have a purple suit and a ruffled shirt like the most elegant Doctor of them all.
                   Still hoping.
                   To be a grown man that is. Got the suit and shirt long ago.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

The Sack Of Baltimore.

There is a superb and very moving poem that recalls this event in some detail but also never loses sight of the fact that it was very ordinary families and people who were caught up in this extraordinary event. The poem tells the story of that terrible night  in a lyrical and moving way. My sister cleans the house of a lady in the country, a retired ex-school teacher whom she told about her brother writing a story based on the raid by slavers on the small fishing village in Cork. She remembered a junior grade book from 1917 that she owned a copy of, one that contained this quite brilliant piece of poetry detailing that very subject matter. She loaned my sister the book so that I might see it with the effect of fleshing out the events for me, bring them alive as poetry can and in this case magically did.
              The poem moves from tranquil to tragic. It mirrors that dark night so long ago I suppose. My own scribblings pale in comparison to the poetry that dripped so readily from the pen of Thomas Davis.
              Why not have yourselves a wee adventure in poetry and do the same. Try a bit of detective work and try tracking a copy down for yourself.  You have to read this work. You will find yourself transported by the power of a powerful poem crafted by a gifted word-smith. One that never loses sight of the reality of the situation, the horror that overtook the people of Baltimore, Cork, Ireland.  it is a story of a community , of families ripped from hearth and home.
              Please try and track a copy down for yourself. Before returning the copy I was leant I copied it out by hand and will always treasure it. You might well feel the same. In two weeks time we will be having a signing at the Forbidden Planet International Store in Ann Street Belfast to celebrate the release of Noe the Savage Boy#2, our comic loosely based on what history has come to call The Sack Of Baltimore. If you have had a chance to read the poem please come along and tell me what you think. I would love to hear and to relay your thoughts to that kind lady who was good enough to lend me her own time worn copy book. To let her know know that even though she is retired she is still teaching people, all these years later.
                Do please come along.
                It would not be the same without you.