“It’s All in the Mind” : Julie Warren. Another ‘Kind of’ Book Review

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This is another Unbound book, it’s not the first, nor will it be the last, that I would have bought if another publisher had taken a chance on it. You may be saying, Larry Who? By the time you finish this book you should be saying ‘Why hadn’t I heard of Larry?’. All I knew of Larry Stephens before reading Julie Warren’s meticulously researched book was that he had some writing credits on the old vinyl recordings of the Goon Show I used to have and on the CD notes of some that I still did.

Post-war humour was utterly changed by the young men who returned from the battlefields of Europe, North Africa and the Far East. The Goons changed what we thought comedy was. All of the Pythons, saving Terry Gilliam will have grown up listening to the Goons.

The author divides the book in half. The first half details Stephens’s Black Country childhood, youth and subsequent call up to the Army. I recognise some of the lunacy prevalent in Military Life, myself. The author is able to point deftly at certain events which reappeared or were re-imagined for Goon Show scripts.  The second half leads us through Larry’s career as a radio script-writer for the Goons and Tony Hancock.

Appendix One,entitled “Goonopedia”, contains a list of all the show’s episodes and will be invaluable for the Goon enthusiast.

This book will appeal to both the military historian and students of British humour. It is a fitting tribute to a talent lost to comedy, far too soon.

Available from Jeff B’s monolith here.

Or at a more book-friendly website here.

Alternatively, you could support your local bookshop.

 

 

‘A Very Unbound Book’ Another ‘kind of’ book review. Happy Family by James Ellis

davPart essay on existentialism and defining art, part sci-fi exploration of the future of gaming and  – occasionally – part farce, James Ellis’s Happy Family is as enjoyably thought-provoking a read as I’ve had for a while. The author skips easily between deft description of the real and augmented reality worlds. Most of the real-world action takes place in Galicia in the North of Spain and if the author hasn’t been there it’s a miracle of imagination, instead of just high-quality writing, the sense of place is so firmly nailed on.

Happy Family is complex, with meaty themes including grief and how to deal with it, the nature of being – “are we what we are, or what we do?” – and the big ones, what is art and who does it belong to? It is a mark of the author’s sure touch that we don’t feel lectured by any of the characters in the novel.

If this weren’t enough, the central character, Germaine, is an accurate depiction of a survivor of hideous abuse  and the damage it can do.

The petty but savage rivalry of two niche actors provides a leavening of humour and I’m sure I won’t be alone in hearing The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band’s classic ‘My Brother Makes The Noises For The Talkies’, whenever Charles appears.

This is a quality book and I much prefer books like this – say – to the best-seller about two extremely shallow friends-with-benefits currently being dramatised on the BBC.

So, bravo James Ellis – and bravo Unbound, yet again.

“Killing Beauties” Pete Langman: Another ‘Kind of’ Book Review

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‘Forgive me Father, it has been almost a year since my last book review.’ There, confession out of the way, it’s time to tell you about this terrific book. This historical novel negotiates the precarious tightrope over the twin pits of too many archaisms and total anachrony with a deft skill that is a great credit to the author, Pete Langman. Set in the 17th Century during the Protectorate, the author conjures a real flavour of the times and stitches real and fictitious figures into a rich tapestry of a novel. It is no exaggeration to say that this world is as skilfully evoked as that in Mantel’s work on the other Cromwellian Era.

The Killing Beauties of the title are members of a secret society of female spies in the cause of the royalists. Susan Hill, aristocratic and decent and Diana – well let’s just call her Diana AKA as that’s how it is –  are very different she-intelligencers. Both are constantly underestimated by the members of the Black Chamber – a sort of Cromwellian Counter Intelligence Unit- and by the leader himself, the villainous, yet human, Thurloe.

The novel gallops along at a cracking pace, whilst creating and maintaining a believable version of a distant past. Easily as good as CJ Sansom, I thoroughly recommend Langman’s book to you.

Published by Unbound Killing Beauties is available at all good bookshops and the one
run by Bezos on-line.

Whilst we’re locked down, why not try and source it from your local independent, if they’re doing deliveries?

Killing Beauties: Pete Langman ISBN 978-1-78965-065-5

No Good Deed, Moffat II, on sale September 2020.

Coronavirus permitting, No Good Deed will be available to the general public in September 2020. This should mean that supporters of the book will receive their copy in time to pack it as holiday reading, if the United Kingdom has finally pulled down the Yellow Jack from the national flagpole by then. I have recently recieved the go-ahead to share the artwork for the book, so below is a mock-up produced using the artwork by Mark Ecob.

tnspbk3mockupIt’s a lovely thing and it will look beautiful alongside Gibbous House on a shelf, don’t you think.

Still time to get your name in the front or the back as a patron of the arts – or at least this book here

Until there is more news, or a book review or just another blog post. Keep well.

 

Sunday Papers

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Around 16 years ago, when I moved to Spain, I began a ritual. Every Sunday morning I’d go out to buy the Sunday papers and have a cup of coffee at a local café. It was a five minute drive. I’d usually wait ’til about 10 when the papers were delivered from Malaga airport in a little white van. Maybe: sometimes they were late. Sometimes I cut the banding round the bundles of papers and put them out on display for the owner. I’d buy a broadsheet, usually the Sunday Times. These British papers were printed in Madrid, so, in The Times, there was a digest of all the supplements and there were no annoying advertising inserts.

In general, I’d buy my paper in the Estanco Santiago Carnero on the corner of the Calle de Coín and the Avenida de Mijas. Then I’d have a brew in the Caféteria Castillo which was cater-cornered opposite. Sometimes, I’d go into Coín instead and have a look at the flea-market, though I can’t say I ever bought much. Eventually, in cafés in both towns, people would say hello to ‘Professor Longhair’, although it was Profesor* they were really saying, of course. For me, these little excursions became less and less about buying the newspaper (we all know what has happened to The Sunday Times in those intervening years) and more about the coffee and watching the world go by.

Now, I live in West Yorkshire. I still go to a café most Sundays. People say hello, though it’s only a few months, and perhaps they do recognise me. What I like best about the café in what’s now my town is that it has a map of the world the length of the wall inside. In my head, I think of the café as La Cafeteria del Mapa del Mundo†. I stare up at the map and look at all the places I’ve been; all the places that have been called home, but which maybe haven’t really been that, or all the places I’ve stayed for a week or a month – or three – flying over fighting or at cruising height over conflict, or just the places I went on holiday in an effort to say goodbye to all that, if only for a few days.

It’s funny, though,  every week, I lift my cup and toast the map, before I take my last sip of coffee.
cmotw
* Teacher

The World Map Café

Poetry Review: Crown of Eggshell, Rachel Deering. Pub. Cerasus Poetry

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Divided into four parts, the titles of which are poetry in themselves, Rachel Deering’s collection ‘Crown of Eggshell’ will leave you dizzy. I am acquainted with some of Rachel’s work, so I held on for dear life as I started the first poem in this magnificent collection, ‘The Return’, expecting to read potent and original images. However, the power of the imagery and the strong emotion conveyed throughout really did rock my soul, bear or donkey’s. I found this particularly resonant:

I returned, as though I had risen

clay-footed from the mud.

Old women sucked their teeth

at the sight of me;

those witches saw deep into the stain of glut of blood –

The Post-Trauma of Jupiter’ is an extended planetary metaphor for isolation and loneliness. I defy any reader not to be moved by its ending:

I orbit in toxic shame,

on the outskirts of this solar system.

I rotate in my gigantic pain,

encircled by many wordless moons.

Nature, sickness, death and occasionally survival are strong themes throughout. It is very difficult to write that one poem stands head and shoulders above another, the quality, the craft and the language are an example to all aspiring poets. That said, I can single out personal favourites, they may not be yours when you read this collection, but you will have your own: that at least is certain. I loved ‘Survival’ for its combination of the cosmic and the countryside, for example. Whether you read ‘Jellyfish’ as description or metaphor, it is a fine piece of writing.

‘Thoughts of Revenge’ is a mini-epic and the use of a minor mythological figure reminds me of Eliot in some ways. This is a compliment, though it may not be considered so in present-day academe. Ms. Deering’s collection’s use of animals and birds throughout is reminiscent of Hughes’. The fox, the hare, the bear and an entire aviary of birds, exotic and otherwise recur to excellent effect.

Do Come In’, I had read before. I had thought it quite brilliant in an earlier draft. However, the polish Rachel has given it, has made it shine still more.

Mind your step on the carcasses

What a way to start a poem!

There are so many gems scattered on the path through these poems. Making complex ideas so easy to read is a true gift:

– with bee-sting words

and nettle promises,

you become a thorn.

The splendid, sinister and gothic conceit of Victorian Egg Collectors expresses the essential conflict between men and women:

maternally abandoned to,

these barbed wire men.

I have been in the clutches

of too many of these Victorian

egg collectors.

Therapy’ almost made me want to try it. Flippant though that sounds, it is no back-handed compliment.

‘Confessional’ contains lines I wish I’d written myself. In the spirit of confession, I wish I’d written all of them.

And I do not know why

I have done half the things

I have, so why should you?

Crown of Eggshell’, as you will read, provides the title for each of the four sections. The poet makes of herself her own myth, opaque and ambiguous. Perhaps that’s why it provided the title for the collection and its four parts.

These poems stretch from the loamy earth, via the less common-place Breton and Gallic myths which take root in it, to the further reaches of Saturn, taking in death, emotion, love and the loss of it along the way. This poetry is beautiful; sometimes stark, sometimes succulent and always thought provoking. Intelligent, personal and universal all at the same time, as good a collection as I’ve ever read.

Amazonians here  

Direct from the Cherry Tree here

 

 

MOFFAT III? Why? (ohwhyohwhy)

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A)            Because I can.

B)            Because No Good Deed was fun to write, so I reckon 3 books of Moffat-ery is about right.

C)            The mystery of who and what Moffat is, is not yet resolved.

D)            Because I enjoy his company.

E)            Why not?

Moffat III’s working title is ‘At the Back of the North Wind or The Last of Moffat’. I have about 5250 words at the moment and some of them aren’t in Gibbous House or No Good Deed. If you want a taster of Moffat III (1000 words, approximately) you’ll find it here. If you haven’t had the pleasure of Moffat’s company before, Gibbous House is here. If you are already acquainted with the magniloquent murderer, you can pre-order the sequel, No Good Deed here.

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Son of Mr Green Genes- Dweezil Zappa 10 December 2019, Leeds Town Hall

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A trip to Leeds, Memory Lane, also known as Leeds Town Hall, on The Headrow. Some trepidation, I knew DZ had worked with dad from the early 80’s, but… Hot Rats? An album the same age as he is?

The audience was predominantly male (go figure), the ladies there were all smiling wryly at the reversal of the norm for the toilet queues at the interval. But…

This concert was fantastic. OK, Leeds Town Hall’s acoustics may not be the best, but with the huge organ pipes in the background, I can’t have been the only one to say ‘hope no-one pushes Dweezil off the stage’. I’d like to think he’d have laughed too. Hot Rats was delivered as promised, if in somewhat idiosyncratic order (a good thing, BTW). Quite a lot of You Are What You Is was performed (very well) by the band, no surprises with what’s happening in US politics now.

There was plenty of chat between the music, and it was good to hear something from Lowell George’s days with the Mothers, “Here Lies Love”. AND… something I wasn’t expecting – it will only mean anything to die-hard Zappa fans – the “secret word” was “Scunthorpe”. How’s that for conceptual continuity?

Highlights were I’m the Slime, Mr Green Genes, Twinkletits, Carolina (Scunthorpe) Hard Core Ecstasy and many, many more.

The band were all terrific and managed the varied vocal parts with skill (even the doo-wop-ery of Tears Began to Fall), but I have to give a shout out to multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Sheila Gonzalez. Wow.

So the apple doesn’t fall so very far from the tree, Dweezil led this band well and the guitar playing was sublime.

Still UK dates left, Leeds wasn’t full. GO!

Others Ed. Charles Fernyhough. Another “Kind of” Book Review.

davThis is a fine book. I’d say it should be on the Civic Studies curriculum in what old people like me used to call the VIth form, except in those days we studied things like British Constitution. If I’d known how important that would be nowadays, I’d have done that at A Level, instead of English, French and Latin.

The writers all bring insight and passion to the matter of being “other”. I got something from every piece, regardless of whether I’d heard of the writer or not.  The only problem with this wonderful book is that it is very unlikely to be read by the very people who need to read it most; politicians of every bent, non-centrist people over the age of 50, everyone who’s ever said “I’m not racist but…” or “I don’t mean you, mate/darling…”, or just some of your friends and mine.

It’s not the sparks that fly upward, it’s the rogues, the liars, the exploiters and the opportunists, that’s the real reason the centre cannot hold.

A really important book, just a pity it will most likely be ignored by those who need it most.

One more “another kind of book review”: Obsidian by Suzie Wilde

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The Book of Bera part II with Part I on the screen in the background…

It’s sometimes difficult to get a sequel right. I’m pleased to say Ms Wilde pulls off this trick with some style. Once again she (re-)creates the Viking world with vivid description without laying on too much artifice in the dialogue. Judicious use of archaic words like “skep” (it means a basket or container for carrying/storing plants, and may well be related to the modern “skip” – must look that up) help rather than hinder understanding whilst still giving us the feeling that we are most definitely in another time and place.

Bera’s quest, mission or expedition is tense and exciting and causes her to encounter once again the splendidly villainous and extravagantly body-morphed Serpent. I certainly kept turning the pages quickly.

A taut, well written sequel to part I and a splendid addition to the The Book of Bera Series. I look forward to part III

PS Isn’t that cover fabulous?