Tuesday, 25 October 2016

The Age Of Brass.

                                                              (From my Sketchbook.)
                                              This is what robots looked like in the seventies.

Bernice Summerfield's New Adventures.

One of the biggest genre surprises for me of the last year was the Return Of Sutekh. Bernice Summerfield Boxed Set from Big Finish. Surprising in the sense of just how good it was.Bernice may not be a character who is faniliar to all bu I first met her way back in the days the Doctor only existed on paper(When it came to new adventures.That is where he literally turned up; in The New Adventures) It is amazing to think after ten years of New Who and so many different events and whatever that for a very long time many of us believed The Good Doctor would never return to our screens.He did however have a surprisingly engaging existence in the world of Virgin canon..er,so to speak.It really did feel as though that lovely old blue box was still spinning through a vortex far,far away.  Having adventures and picking up strays along the way. Benny being one of the most memorable and fondly remembered.Big Finish know a good thing when they see one so they have brought her along through novel adaptations and a long running series of her own books and audio adventures.I still remember looking forward to the boo kin which she got married.This was way before the Ponds and their rebooted universe wedding reception.Now there was an episode in which the title The Doctor Dances would have made a lot more sense to me.
             Lisa Bowerman is the actress who has brought Benny to life for the listener.Just check out the short video trailer for the Sutekh stories to see in a minute or two the levels of reality she brings to this fantastic character.She is in very impressive company in this quartet. It is only David Warner, David Bloody Warner himself, playing a version of The Doctor from another universe. An else world universe as D.C.Comics was so fond of calling them.The lovely Mark Gatis is also involved playing..Well, you will hear.
              The first story is a set up story which it does without any fuss or preamble. Barely an introduction but it is enough when your choice of transport is a time an space machine.You do not need more than this as your brain as a Doctor Who fan is already hard wired as to how to get on board.It is a great start, a mysterious library in deep space where pilgrims have traveled across vast distances to avail of its contents, shelves filled with the accumulated history and wisdom of hundreds of worlds some now long gone. This Doctors universe is that sort of universe. On its last legs after som terrible conflict.The two leads are fantastic with David Warner bringing a huge amount of gravitas and dry charm to the Doctor of this universe whilst Lisa Bowerman more than holds her own. She deserves to have her ame atop these adventures.The friendship between the two is very believable and not at all some contrived topsy turvy lop sided relationship as the two bravely face dangers together. The support cast is also spot on, nuns with guns and gloomy robots included. While sme one else new and yet familiar awaits his moment to step into the light.
                The second story continues as the two friends travel through space("but not time") to a world where..actually the situation on Planet X needs o heard and experienced as part of the narrative. I was reminded of the Pat Mills and Dave Gibbons Doctor  Who Weekly comic strip Planet Of The Damned. I am also reminded of when I loved Tom Baker as The Doctor and David Warner brings much of the same lived in charm as Tom managed. Only two stories in and I am waxing lyrically about this Tardis Team.
                By the third story we hear David Warner put the Who back into Who as he strides through The Very Dark Thing as though he is the only person who understands what is going on.
                Well we, the listener, knew it was coming.A showdown between the characters dramatically displayed on the cover of this box set. Poor Benny. As if she does not have enough on her plate she also finds herself the center of attention from someone she really would be better off avoiding. Lost in a different universe, kidnapped by a best friend she has never met, seperated from friends and family and dependent on the vagaries and good will of a brilliant but flawed time-lord.
                The whole proceedings have a very different tone to the box set before it, no Doctor or Ace. But it is a fantastic direction to take.Like the Tardis's travels through E-Space anything seems possible in a universe where things seem to be running down.
                 I for one will be running to keep up.

The Winds of Vulkan.

One of the production sketches from the animated Power Of The Daleks due out this November. It is just great. Capturing in a single piece of artwork one of the most fantastic situations which makes Doctor Who so great. You just never knew where that wonderful old blue box was going to end up next. From a fog shrouded alley in Victorian London to a snow capped Himilayan mountainside to an unfamiliar alien landscape like something from a dream. Or a nightmare.
              Oh please let this be waiting under  my  Christmas tree this year.
              I have done my best to be good this year and will strive to continue in that vein until Christmas morning.
              Mind you, all bets are off later that same day.

The Midnight Folk.

Felt like a change of pace and theme after HP Lovecraft, at least for one book.Found a lovely old paperback edition of John Masefield's The Midnight Folk.It is a story about a boy on a treasure quest in a huge rambling house in the country.It has talking, and scheming, animals in it as well as witches and mer-folk.So naturally it feels very much like real life to me.There are no chapters in it, it just rips along at a worldly pace and one never quite knows what is going to emerge from the woods.Which is a realistic quality in itself.I find life rarely unfolds in chapters.
              In real life none of the chapter headings would make any sense.
              Through ut the story the main character Kay drifts in and out of dreams. It feels like a real story from very long ago. The kind of dreamy summers that seemed so familiar so long back i the day. I know time passes at no greater a speed as we grow older but our perception o time and its passage does change. Masefield captures on paper so well that perception. Without belabouring it or painting it in the melancholy tones I just did.
              John Masefield was the Poet Laureate right up to his death in 1967.
              He never got to see Patrick Troughton appear in the telly adaption of The Box Of Delights.
              Unless there are televisions in the afterlife.That is not too much of a stretch is it?Heaven could quite probably look like Olympus in the old Harryhausen movie Jason And The Argonauts.Only with televisions.Wall mounted and flat screened.Or maybe retro-bakelite boxes. That would look cool.Might take the sting out of not being alive.
              Mind you it might not.
              Anyway this was a lovely read and well worth 3/6.

The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward.

Finished this novella by HP Lovecraft in the early hours of last night.It provoked some disturbing dreams. Before I read the book I had a notion that Dexter Ward was some sort of insane warlock who meddled in Necromancy or the Black Arts.He was actually a very likeable gregarious young man who just dug too deep and released Balrogs of the soul.It is chilling stuff. a slow burning unease builds as we are fed details and information that lead us all around the more esoteric areas of Providence. The isolated farm houses and huge mansions of fading gentility. Mad dogs howl in the night as ghouls prowl the local cemeteries digging for things best left to their eternal rest.Ward is corrupted by the thins he learns and unwittingly becomes the target for schemes set in motion long before he was even born.The evil in this book is ancient and patient and it does not play by any rules other than its own.
               I was reminded of one of my favorite MR James story A View From A Hill as an innocent young man falls victim to a device build by evil hands and a mind he could barely fathom.A lot of MR James stories involve antiquarians or bookish individuals who probe too deeply into areas where devilish entities wait. Never benign always twisted and cruel and merciless. I like the old world feeling of so many of his stories and the new worldliness HP Lovecraft brings to similar material. The view from America so to speak.True, the entities which inhabit his tales are older than time itself, birthed in deep time but a some of his narrators are our colonial cousins adapting to a world which changes but never fully steps from the shadow of the past.Something which is pointed out out as a failing on Lovecraf'ts part. Yet I suspect it is one of the things which help his work live on so long after his passing.
             I only mention it as a recommendation for winter reading.The time is just right.
             The dark deep time.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Comics Belfast.

                I was delighted to be part of a collab with Mark Mc Keown in "Debaser" as printed on an earlier posting. A spooky wee tale set in town regarding the confusion engendered by multi media platforms and the question not enough people ask themselves these days ; do you own your communication device or does it own you?
               Mark  has included it in this lovely collection of his work, his comics, the imagery he toys with and the world as he sees it. The book itself is a lovely object with the feel of a found artifact attempting "to put this moment here." There are some lovely photographs taken around and off locations well known to those who like to browse in the soft outre.It is a kindly and timely reflection of some themes, places and people who enrich my own life.It is almost like a familiar piece of music.
                Hope the locations found in it can still be found years from now.
                It is a new publication from Mark but it did touch me in a melancholy way.The past is the now waiting to happen and sometimes I wish I could slow down the things I enjoy and speed through the things I do not. I suppose that is why we have such things as art, writing and music.To help us keep track and make some sense of it all. And that is why I think Mark is such a creative person.
                He can do it.

The Trick Mister Potter Is Not Minding That It Hurts.

Back in the day having a smoothie straw blown in my face by Peter O Toole. Hardly the stuff of celebrity Biography I know but it was Peter O Toole. Cool fellow to boot. He signed a copy of My Favourite Year for me. A story that was surely close to his heart and a great coming of age story. I still have his boarding pass for his flight out of Belfast. Which is a kind of stalker thing to say I suppose...but it was Peter O Toole.
                For any age.

My Starry Wisdom.

                                          ..Actually this is more HP Sauce than HP Lovecraft...

Willy Wonka.

                                                              (from my sketch book.)
                                              What if Marty Feldman had played Willy Wonka?

Sunday, 2 October 2016


The wind howled about the house and rain splattered against the panes of my rooftop bedroom window as I lay in the early hours of last night gripped by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's tale of erotic compulsion and sly vampirism: a beautiful killer insinuates herself in the home of her victim and steals life from the innocent. It might well be an old tale but it feels fresh and right for this time of year. I have been immersed of late in Le Fanu's work and world. Until I read Carmilla I found no sense of eroticism in his writing but it is here in Austian doses. Which is to say it is not full on, more a  mannered terror to be sure, but one that will translate well in the telling because it is so perfectly formed.
              At some point in the night I heard the tap tapping of wind bare branches against the rain slick window pane of my room. It was only as I finished the novella and turned over for sleep I realised the branches of the tree outside my house were nowhere near tapping distance.

The Return.

After reading the Sheridan Le Fanu collection I had a look around on line to see if I could find if any of his work had been turned into films or telly shows and in the search I found this wee gem written by Le Fanu contemporary Ambrose Bierce and A,M.Burrage. A short movie made in 1973 that serves as a fantastic atmospheric mood piece that also delives a knock out tale of supernatural longing and heart breaking loss. Basically a two-hander with riveting performances from the always interesting Peter Vaughan and a deceptively mousy turn by Rosalie Crutchley, the atmosphere of remote and lonely longing builds to a haunting denouement.
                A late evening viewer arrives at a house that has sat empty for twenty long years and is shown around by the sitting house keeper. A tale of murder and madness unfolds.
                It also has a very haunting sound track by Marc Wilkinson. A fragile presence itself it makes itself felt at certain points in the narrative, sign posting oncoming tragedy.
                It seems like this an obscure and quite forgot about piece that deserves to be seen.
                An absolute treat foe forthcoming Halloween.

Sheridan Le Fanu.

Jim at Atomic Collectables gave me a copy of this collection of stories by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu thinking I might enjoy it as it had been edited by MR James.
              And how on the money he was. My da used to tell me ghost stories when i was a boy. Long rambling stories told in front of the fire. This is not a cliche to me it is a memory. Story telling is an art form and ghost story telling is an especially crafty one. Sheridan Le Fanu was a great teller of tales and his stories work so well on paper it is almost as if you have joined him on a chair before a crackling hearth on a windy wintery night. A few of the stories are collected versions of yarns told in a similar manner through out the Irish countryside. Mysterious figures that draw ever closer with no good intent. Stories that begin with an aged person relating the experiences of their youth. Fateful and terrifying experiences that change the course of the tellers life. There are encounters with chilling half real entities with talon like fingers that close around a bodies throat or come staggering judder man like out of dark places. There is very little whimsy present in these stories. They do not shy from the hardness of life particularly lives lived without love. Old Ireland could be a tough place to be weak and vulnerable I suppose it still is. Depending on the kindness is a lottery and there are way too many losers.
               I thought of the band from Dublin The Virgin Prunes and their macabre sound. I thought of old empty buildings where something stirred the dust and cold breath from undead lungs. Some of these stories should just be read out loud. To an empty room if need be.

Explorations Of The Marvellous.

Found this fantastic collection of essays on all things marvellous published by Fontana books way back in 1978. Just loved the cover which reminded me so much of the old Rojaws and Hammerstein stories in 2000AD back in the day. It is like an open All Hours episode where a robot takes the place of the long suffering Granville.
          I could see the Fourth Doctor popping in here for some jelly babies.

Basil's Tea Party.

Basil has invited three peg dolls round for tea. It is all terribly civilized off course despite the absence of a chaperone. One has to think of a ladies reputation even in these more enlightened times. this was a lovely annual with some great artwork and stories including one when Basil is trying to keep an eye on a neighbours house while they are on holiday but actually drives to actual house sitter crazy with his good intentions.All comes good in the end. As all Christmas annuals did back in the day.
              My favourite Christmas Annual remains the Doctor Who annual 1975.
              It was just the right book for the right brain that Christmas morning all those years ago.I will never forget my poor old cash strapped ma taking me into May Brown,s Emporium and saying "you can pick one thing for Christmas" which she then paid off on the run up to the big day. Working class families survived on tick. I suppose many of them still do.Although May would just tell you off and complain if you could not keep up prepayments.I believe the money lenders that exist these days are altogether more ruthless in their pursuit of unpaid debts.
              Like The Judoon.
              Only actually frightening.

We Are The Diddymen.

                                                   "We are The Diddymen Who Come From
                                                                       Knotty Ash."
Look at what my chums Frank and Steph found at the airport market There is treasure everywhere,                                                                            Tatty filarious!

Metabelus Rex.

The Doctor decided to give Metabelus Three another chance. This time trying a an earlier period than his previous visit. Turned out to be just as hostile only more...prehistoric. Big Blue dinosaur..
                Sounds familiar.