Thursday, 27 August 2015

Return To Telos.

Oh cannot tell you how excited I am by receiving this copy of Return to Telos (The last story in season four of the big Finish Fourth Doctor and Leela Stories.) The previous story The Fate Of krelos ended on such a cliff hanger it beautifully played into that sense of expectation viewing the original series did. Well here we are; The Tardis is hurtling through the vortex back to a reunion of sorts. A place and a time where old friends and enemies wait and the past is about to very much become the present..I just do not believe we have reached the end of another season of these great stories. I know there is another season coming in 2016 with the wonderful Lalla Ward and Tom Baker recreating their much loved chemistry but when you live on the slow path six months is a long time.
            Just reread that last line.For shame, you see how greedy one can become when you get what you just want more..

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

The Mystery Of Doctor Fu Manchu.

"Imagine a person, tall, lean and feline, high shouldered with a brow like Shakespeare and a face like Satan" this was how Nayland Smith, late off Burma, describes Doctor Fu Manchu to his friend Doctor Petrie (who awe-struck can barely comprehend the existence of such a wicked being.) This was Nayland Smiths well intentioned attempt to capture the very essence of the evil they faced whilst not underestimating the brilliance of their nemesis. And it is a quite well worded and terrifying description as he makes for an excellent arch enemy does Fu Manchu at once exotic and brilliant. A master of sciences shunned by learned men the world over, Part evil alchemist part wizard of chemistry and master of medical and surgical skills beyond the knowledge of even the present day. So much smarter than any one who stands against him and possessed of an almost arcane determination to forward an agenda for world domination those who oppose him can only guess at.He is actually so much smarter and wilier than those who stand between him and his goals it is a wonder that his plans can be undone. Brilliant, exotic and ruthless he is unpredictable and fierce in reprisal.
              Enter stage right the venerable Nayland smith himself, chasing this fiend from the orient. It would be generous to say that he is the very embodiment of crumbling empire. To modern eyes and ears he comes across as little more than a swaggering colonialist stooge whose tawdry and mean spirited observations about the dangers of the" yellow peril" and other ethnic visitors to the shores of Albion make him sound like a bit of a  John Bull when he is actually a more layered character than that. I suppose you have to allow for the ignorance of the age and look with kinder eyes than that. (Not forgive, just understand and be glad it is over.Well, it should be.) and enjoy the rip roaring boys own quality of the writing and the home grown swarthy exuberance of Sax Rohmer. A one man tsunami of exotic adventures on the fog soaked cobbles of old London Town there is a lot to enjoy.One can only hope that in time he also saw the mind boggling scarlet inking that passed for racial understanding and appreciation of ethnic diversity within his stories as  the Stereotype Sax Rohmer helped create was reinforced by the success of the stories in this book. The stories had previously appeared elsewhere but were collected in this incredibly successful first volume. Their influence has bled down through the culture over the decades since the stories saw print coloring everything from pulp serials to other iconic dramas such as the adventures of the good doctor. Who could ever forget the absolute classic Talons Of Weng Chiang, a veritable tick-box of ripperesque phantasmagoria..
               You have heard Nayland Smith's words with regard to Doctor Fu Manchu now here are the Devil Doctor's words about himself; "Out of Fire I Came-The Smoldering Fire Of A Thing One Day To Be a Consuming Flame. Into Fire I Go.Seek Not My Ashes, I Am The Lord Of The Fires..."
                Blimey. Would not want to bump into him in a dark foggy alley in 1922  Limehouse ,as it were.

4.50 From Paddington.

Here is a Christie I was so looking forward to picking up and reading. Not least because it formed the basis of the first Margaret Rutherford Ms Marple Murder She Said. I have been hooked on the idea of catching up with this novel and reading it ever since I was first captured by the opening credits of that movie with Ms Marple making her way through that nineteen sixties railway station in all its Victorian grandeur. the tinkling keys of that fantastic theme as she makes her way onto the train where she will witness murder. Two trains pass each other and Ms Marple as witness sees the murderer dispatch his helpless victim by strangling her. A vicious and completely personal form of murder, one that requires a particularly wicked streak, doing the terrible deed with ones own bare hands. the movie departs from the book in this concern and is just one of the many script differences between the book and the film. Not just in terms of action but tone also.
              In the novel it is ms Marples old lady chum who witnesses the murder but for the movie they seem to have decided to shorthand this to Ms Marple herself. One of the surprising tone differences, and I suspect one that Agatha Christie herself was unhappy with, was the difference between the frail old lady on paper and the super old lady as played by the indomitable Margaret Rutherford. In the book old age has in fact caught up with Jane Marple and it means she is just physically unable to take on the strain of entering the fray. Her mind is as agile as ever but her aching bones tell a different tale. Margaret Rutherford comes across as a sort of female Doctor Who, a sister figure to the role as played by William Hartnell himself in high church fashion. She quite marvelously comes across as a Galifreyan eccentric. Even going as far as getting a companion in order to share the adventure(and tiring legwork,) This younger woman goes undercover as a maid in the remote manor house they suspect the killer has hidden the victim's body and hides himself. On screen it is Jane Marple herself who straps on an apron to become that house maid doing the work of a team of servants( Happy days at Downton Abbey; My Arse!). In time she must not only do all that work but she must detect and confront a younger and very aggressive ruthless killer who has already murdered a younger fitter stronger woman. Old in years but young at heart she must deal with all who stand between her and the truth. She is something of a Lionheart is old Jane Marple.
               In the novel, again with tonal differences, there are two posh school boys who make it their business to yomp their way into the great game of detection, whilst in the movie it is a singularly judged performance by a Rodger The Dodger type who also becomes a young set of eyes and ears for Ms Marple.  For all the tone and script differences both versions are by now very much the products of another age. Both seem as remote as the Edwardian or Victorian eras as so much has changed in the world of then and now. Yet time has been kind and there is much to like in both versions. Murder She Said and murder there was on the 4.50 From Paddington. Sometimes journeys end in lovers meeting but sometimes the outcome is altogether something very different.

Cover Story.

                                                                   "Oh hes A-coming.."

Sunday, 16 August 2015

The Nutty Birds The Nutty,Nutty...

                                                        "..Anoint My Head, Anointy,Nointy."
                                                     Steve Martin.The Man With Two Brains.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

The Holmesian Menace.

Here is a wee slice of Holmesian memorabilia you may not have come across. A Dennis The Menace and Gnasher story from the 1973 Beano annual in which Dennis dons a deerstalker and a cape to solve the mystery of Lady Maude Pye's missing diamond tiara. Dennis and his trusty Watson Gnasher use an old garden shed, pup Patrol central, as their base of operations.
Dennis and Gnasher have an almost holistic approach to crime solving(perhaps they were even an influence on a young Douglas Adams in the creation of his own holistic detective Dirk Gently?). There are much comedic and anarchic situations created by this approach to crime fighting.Oh yes, with dennis and Gnasher the game is more of a dander than a foot.
Above is a very helpful monologue by Gnasher as he tries to describe the process he and his master Dennis use in the deductive process.Probably better to write it down and put it through a universal translator or a tardis telepathic circuit. They do off course manage to solve the mystery(Spoilers!) and all is well that ends well. Lady Maude Pye was so grateful for the return of her tiara that she had a portrait of Dennis and Gnasher painted for her private gallery. Since it is not a public gallery I have never been able to visit Lady Maude Pye's mansion to see the finished piece. To see with my own eyes. As it were.

The Mystery Play.

                                                              (From my sketchbook)

Snail Princess.

                                                                (From my sketchbook)
Was working on an idea for a story for my niece about a little kingdom ruled by a little princess. A sort of medieval Faerie land which is actually just someones back garden. The Princess liked to go out into her kingdom riding on the back of a snail. A nice slow journey where the sky is always blue and the sun always shines. Like the summers of childhood which exist now only in memory.


                                           Do'nt You wonder sometimes about sound and vision?

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Sax Rohmer's Chinatown.

First published in hardback in 1922 by Cassell books this lurid collection of tales by Sax Rohmer must be approached with eyes wide open to the life and imagined times of its author. From the fog enshrouded cobbled red brick streets and opium dens of Limehouse to the Jabba The Hutt palaces of old Shanghai come a series of tales concerning inscrutable(yes, One does cringe) orientals ,disembodied vengeful talloned hands, grotesque giant spiders guarding forbidden treasures and lethal madames with mischief on their minds. It is a caution off course and it is to be almost expected that the creator of Fu Manchu would have similar tales percolating in his inkwell. The work of Sax Rohmer is probably the single most persistent source of the cliche of the inscrutable oriental villain and his women swing between absolute femme fatales and delicate eastern flowers. Fearsome vixens abound in these tales as well as a peculiar breed of English gentlemen one comes across very rarely in fiction today.It seems one never left home without a hat and cane and the swarthiest of facial hair and always readily equipped with an eye for adventure.
             This wee volume feels like one of those Conan Doyle Holmes anthologies of cases and stories with some being better than others but all adding to the overall sense of curiously English Noir with an oriental flavor. Some with recurring characters, good and bad, and situations that bleed into each other. Well, they are all occurring in the same area of London, Limehouse, in the same time frame which really adds to the sense of place.The collection contains a story Tcheriapin which has appeared in other anthologies. It is one of those stories the reader might feel he or she has read before or is vaguely familiar without being aware that is a Sax Rohmer story.
             The foggy air is cold and damp and the streets resonate with the tap tap tap of well shod heels upon cobbles.Oh the game is afoot once more (as the Great Detective himself put it.) as night falls over Chinatown..

Remembering Things I Never Knew.

                            "Blimey!That's how you make a mummy?You have got to be kiddin'!"

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Who The Dickens.

Simon Callow's wonderful account of the author who's very presence he has channelled on more than one occasion. He has appeared in Doctor Who as the character a couple of times and makes it appear so effortless one cannot help but wonder if he is in touch with something beyond our kin(actually I would imagine he would do something as casual as grocery shopping with a degree of otherworldliness.)Yet this book is written with a degree of authority and earned knowledge on the subject matter and if it is possible for prose to twinkle then this does.twinkle like a starry starry night.
                                       (A beautiful shot from the BBC archives from the episode.)
Callow keeps the spirit of the great man alive.He writes with sympathy and wit and I would love to hear him perform a reading of this work in much the same way Dickens himself entertained his audiences. Keeping them enthralled as though wondering through a world of Dickensian characterisation and insight, funny,moving,scary and the absolute full gamut of life;Dickensland.
The Unquiet Dead is a great doctor Who story which epitomises everything which is good about the show.The storytelling, the acting and the craft that went into its execution.display a creative energy that is akin to catching lightning in a bottle(or measuring artron energy with a screwdriver.)It was written by Mark Gatiss and was only the third televised outing for the newly regenerated and much missed television show.It was Rose' first journey into the past and approaches even the notion with a charm and sensitivity I have not really seen since.Yet it is Somon Callow's Dickens whose is at the heart of this wonderful story.A traveller unable to find rest in his own skin.A man troubled by growing older with a fear of the future and a sense of futility that s pell in the Doctor's company soon dispenses...Just look at that strut as he walks through the snowy streets of Victorian Cardiff.
                 That is the dander of a man reborn.

Elizabethan Joyride.

                                                               (From my sketch book.)

The Crown Rests Uneasily.

                                                              (From my sketchbook)