Saturday, 6 July 2019

Torchwood The Green Life.

Jago And Litefoot, Iris Wildthyme, The War Master, UNIT and Missy; Big Finish have expanded the Extended Whoniverse to the point where their on-going collective is an embarrassment of riches. Just so many great things to chose from and yet they continue to innovate and surprise. One of their latest excursions into the darker corners of the worlds of Doctor Who is a mixture of nostalgia and eco terror. Actually make that commerce-terror as it is really about the monster that market forces have become in this funny old so called modern world of ours.
             When I first heard that Jack would be meeting Jo ( "Jack And Jo" now that has the ring of a joyous spin-off.) my first thought was "Sparks will fly, Barrowman and Manning will mix like dynamite and fireworks, I could already hear the saucy laughter in the Green Room extras on the disc. and by Jove, this proved to be the case. They were fantastic together. I remember how buzzed I was to see Sarah Jane and The Good Captain interact on screen and this is more of the same delicious serendipity of personality.
              The story is just as timely as the original was way back in the day. The Green Death addressed so many of the genuine concerns the ordinary man, woman and child in the street had for their environment. The terrible waste produced by industrialization had to go somewhere so why not down into the mines were the working classes toiled, poisoning them and turning natures little cleaners into fearsome horrors. Yet it was more than just a cracking script that made that story so memorable. the UNIT Family was starting to break up and this story ended with a major schism. Jo Grant, the beloved companion of the Doctor was about to take her first steps into the world without her wonderful mentor. They were assembled together in The Nut Hatch in Wales, a military who leaned towards defence of the people not only from the horrors of what lay beyond this world but also from the monsters we produced ourselves. Be they mad scientists, their Frankenstein experiments gone awry, crazy computers and now the horrors spawned by man made pollution. As I said, its as timely now as it was then, given the situation has actually worsened. We stand at the edge of an abyss of global extinctions and the ledge is crumbling beneath us...
               All our own work, too.
              Big finish bring all the elements that made The Green Death a classic of Whovian proportions together once again. Katy manning and Stuart Bevan are reuninted, if not both as the characters they played oh so long ago, the spirit of familiarity is at play to great effect.
               Its touching and thought provoking and laugh out loud funny on occasions.
               Although a little disgusting at times.
               It was perhaps not the wisest choice on my part to be eating a hamburger luch as I listened to this. For reasons that will become apparent when you get a chance to listen to it yourself.
               Nature, especially when it rebels, is not for the faint hearted...
               Or the squeamish.
               The Green Life is a joy. It brings closure to a classic era of doctor Who and perhaps signposts a whole new era.

The Final Solution.

Came across The Final Solution by Michael Chabon on the same day I found Ritual by David Ritter, what a great find. Two blooming excellent reads for very different reasons. Is that not the trick of life?
           And as if to intensify my good fortune, in terms of a successful book hunt anyway, I then also found this very touching super hero book by Mr Chabon.
            Sometimes the book gods smile down upon us.
            The Final solution (Grim title with horrific associations.) concerns a retired great detective, who spends his days raising bees in Sussex, drawn back into the world of mysteries and out of a somnabilistic waking slumber. Hes not named but that is a bit like writing a book that refers to the central character having been the first man to walk on the moon and you not getting who the central character is. (and that is off course making the massive presumption , on my part, that you believe event actually occurred. Which it did.). He is old and perhaps his mind, and his reflexes and the joints of his knees are not as whip smart as they were in their heydays. But surely every day is a heyday when you are a fictional character. Anyway, one day the strange figure of a little boy refugee and his parrot walk into his life and mystery ensues....
             It is a beautifully crafted novel, as you would expect from the man who wrote The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier And Clay. Well, you have no right TO EXPECT but you would not have to be a great detective in order to hope this is the case. It is lyrical, melancholy and ultimately inspiring.
              Grab yourself a comfy chair, find a secluded but pleasant spot and read....

Time Traveler Lost In Fog?

I was scrolling through some old photographs of foggy old London when I came across this very striking picture. Upon a closer examination I thought "Is that some one using a mobile phone?".
Check out the chap next to the dustcart, or whatever that wheeled vehcile is. It looks as though he is having a chat on a portable device.
                A Time Traveler lost in a London fog?

Penny Dreadfuls.

I was doing some on line browsing, looking for clues regarding the origins of Sweeney Todd, the Sweeney Todd myth which many, if not most, people believe to be true. Was there ever a demon barber of Fleet Street who slashed throats and provided the tasty fillings for Mrs Lovett's  pies, er,yum,yum. Or was it just an urban legend which took on the trappings of historical events, repeated so many times it became the trope of penny Dreadfuls and the more outre stage presentations, saturating the London Dreaming Brain. In many ways London is such a constantly shifting and evolving entity its history, real and imagined, emerges like memories.
              Anyway, I got my answer, but in looking around for the sources of the story I came across so many other great tales that had their roots in the same festering barrel of nightmares. Here are a couple of the covers of the publications such nightmares were birthed in. feast your eyes...
              And be sure to check you have locked the front door before bedtime.
              Spring Heeled Jack might be about.

Noe Men.

Whats not to smile at. Being in a photograph with this handsome young man. Stephen is still working on issue three of Noe The Savage Boy which we are doing for Rob at Atomic Diner. A new issue might seem rarer than Spanish Gold at this point but he is working on it (I have seen a most beautiful page and I cannot wait for other people to see it.).

Starve Acre.

"I do not know if "enjoy" is a word that one could use when describing the experience of reading starve Acre by Andrew Michael Hurley. It is not that sort of read. Bleak and disturbing and tragically human, yes, full on English Folk Horror, yes, but "enjoyable", I think perhaps not. Fantastic and nightmarish by turns the reader experiences the heart breaking lose of a child as seen and felt by its parents, the precision of that grief, the level of detail it engenders to the reader, the autopsy of loss, it is pretty uncomfortable but it also conveys a mounting sense of dread, as dark forces surround the family and overwhelm them. Scary stuff.
            I have not read either of Andrew Michael Hurley's other two books; The Loney or Devil's Day. I am aware of them though and after reading Starve Acre i will make a point of tracking them down on a future book haunt. If you enjoy folk horror, as I do, you would do yourself a great service by picking this book up for your collection. I my mind's eye I saw the dark skies over Pendle Hill and heard the creaks and moans of an ancient hanging oak with the gentle tinkle of boot lace hung offerings dancing from its skeletal limbs.
There was a familiar dark shadow thrown by the events in the book. I thought back to ghostly Christmas offerings by the BBC back in the day. With classic MR James adaptions such as The Ash Tree or A Warning To The Curious. It also reminded me of a series by Nigel Kneale called Beasts. And in particular a disturbing slice of Olde Englishe Folke Lore called Baby, a story about a young city couple who move to the country and who discover something dark and other worldly buried in the wall of the cottage they have moved into and the nightmare that follows. I say reminded in the sense of mood and theme and atmosphere. That series is available on DVD and is so well worth tracking down with a really gripping series of stories about mankind's skewed relationship with the animal kingdom and our collective hubris and lack of understanding.
Actually, this book and that DVD would sit quite comfortably on the same shelf.

The Book Shop.

...this movie was gifted to me recently by a close friend who said"I think this was made for you.", which was an intriguing thing to say. For me anyway as the last time someone said this to me it was Magic Mike...Ahem,
                And although the conceit that this was made for an audience of one is a misleading one I did understand what they meant, as in "this is one I think you will really enjoy." and on that level they were entirely right. It was a fantastic piece of work and one I will never forget. I felt myself gripped by this poignant work which was by turns funny and sad and always engaging. It is so wonderfully performed and beautiful to look at. Set in a remote village with a population stepped straight out of an Agatha Christie or E.F. Benson novel, it is glowered over by very Northern Irish clouds (I believe it was filmed somewhere in Northern Ireland, Strangford Loch or somewhere like that.) and there are scenes on wind swept beaches with lonely grasses waving like melancholy blooms. They are the sort of beaches where if one was to find a whistle, best to just throw it in the sea. The kind of wind they would whistle up would not be a welcome one. just check out MR James to understand what I mean by this.....Oh Whistle And I'll Come To You.
              The story at the heart of this movie concerns a woman, a widow, who attempts to make a fresh start for herself in life by following her dream of opening a small bookstore in an old neglected house which sits on the main street of the village. This simple and quite inspirational act attracts the ire and jealous spite of the local queen bee, a soulless aristocrat who vomits faux culture over anyone unfortunate enough to come near her. This Ice queen summons her wingless monkeys and they set about undermining and wrecking this courageous woman's dream and so doing rip the heart and soul away, by increments, cruelly and maliciously.She has her friends, she has her supporters, she has people who genuinely love her but it is a bullies game and they hold all the cards.
               As I said, this is a beautifully crafted piece of work with all involved giving a hundred and ten per cent. I know it was based on a novel by Penelope Livesey but it all felt so real and entirely plausible I thought "This has to be true.". For those book lovers out there watch a story about a dream confounded and for those story lovers out there here is something special.


Hero Worship.

My nephew Ryan did this lovely drawing of tom Baker for me., He has asked me who my greatest hero was and I said The Fourth Doctor as played by the Liverpudlian actor Tom Baker. That is a no-brainer, off course. Which is also how a lot of people have described me, actually. A bit of Whovian serendipity or human tragedy? Which, oddly, is another way people have described me.
That, and also looking like a tree that has been struck by lightning.