Back in September I reviewed Harry Whitewolf’s novel The Road to Purification, Hustlers Hassles and Hash. Author, poet and traveller, Whitewolf’s writing is a fusion of observation, fact and speculation. I asked Harry about his work, travelling, the number 11 and gn****.
Guides to foreign travel tend to fall into two camps: Rough Guide/Lonely Planet hipster real-life travel; and posh folk writing idyllic memoirs of unrealistically tranquil settings, sometimes accompanied by tame wildlife.
Harry Whitewolf’s odyssey falls into a camp of its own. An autobiographical miasma of reportage, history lessons and ‘what to avoid’ advice you’ll never read in a mainstream published book.
This interview should have been posted here back in May (possibly 2015!), but thanks to a lethal brew of inertia and pre-occupation with a new job and duff car salesmen – excuses, excuses, they’re all just feeble excuses – indie author Leo Robertson has been forced to wait for his place in the pantheon of The Opening Sentence interviewees.
However, this is a big ‘un. Well worth the wait. So sit down with whatever it is you sit down with to drink and hear Leo’s take on self-publishing, world literature and selling out.
Wander from the surfaced path of terrestrial television and you soon find your feet trudging through the quagmires of cable, satellite and freeview broadcasting. There are so many channels, and thanks to a quirk of the universe, twenty-four hours in the day.
To any right-thinking person there simply isn’t enough content to fill the millions of hours of vacant broadcasting space. Apart from the BBC, most channels make a valiant effort by filling the space with adverts, but look hard enough and you will find televisual gems. One of them is Wheeler Dealers.
There’s a Golden Age of television theme tunes, from the mid-sixties to the mid-seventies, a time when the programme and the opening music became one in a perfect marriage. The Persuaders is a stand out theme, along with Van Der Valk, but there’s one more worth mentioning: The Champions.
Written by Tony Hatch, who had a run of hit singles writing for Petula Clark, the theme tune for The Champions encapsulated the glamour, the mystique, the internationalism of the programme’s premise. Three supergifted investigators working for Geneva-based crime unit Nemesis.
There was a time when Sweden’s reputation centred around Abba’s spangliness and Volvo’s lumpen reliability. And then a darkness befell the nation from which we ultimately tripped over The Bridge.
To those who aren’t interested in trivia, when the Øresund Bridge was built, connecting Copenhagen in Denmark with Malmo in Sweden, it was the first time human beings had travelled ‘overland’ between the two countries since the Ice Age. If the photography in The Bridge is anything to go by the Ice Age never went away.
Around about this time of year I meet up with a friend and we dish out our Annual Awards for the year. The awards are highly prized even though the recipients don’t know they’ve won. (That’s how exclusive these awards are)
Most people hold some kind of annual review, but I won’t do that. Instead, I’ll look back at the last twelve months to tell you what were the highlights and the lowlights. It won’t be in chronological order because I can’t remember when things happened. I should also warn you, there’ll be some blatant self-promotion in here too.
A few weeks ago I read How to Sew Pieces of Cloud Together by Greek writer Mary Papastavrou. The depth of ideas and quality of writing buried the accusation that self-publishing and indie authors don’t compare to those in the mainstream. I published my review on this blog back in November, but I always intended to interview the author to find out more about the writing process and how the novel was conceived.
And here it is. Give yourself time to read this interview properly and take away some of the thoughts and ideas contained within it.
Back in April I wrote this review of Au4’s second album And Down Goes the Sky. I’d like to do a catch up on Au4 for the 1st issue of Alien Noise magazine in January. (Yes, it’s gone from November to december to January.)
Problem is, it’s a bit difficult to get in touch with Ben and Aaron Wylie. So if anyone out there sees this and contacts them (which is what happened last time) I’d like to put some questions together to learn more about the musical process of Au4 work and progress on their third album.
The comments section is below and there’s a Contact Me link in the menu above. The Au4 website is reluctant to let messages through, Twitter hasn’t been touched since 2014. Get in touch guys. You’re too good to keep quiet.
I was saving this review for the magazine, but I’ll land on the moon before the magazine comes out, so here it is. In full. My latest discovery.
At the top of a futuristic tower a corporate Master of the Universe, armed with a couple of androgynous secretaries gets his comeuppance, courtesy of our pale faced loons in proto-Nazi uniforms. The bad versus the bad. Cue lots of gurning and psycho-grinning, writhing hands and a bit of thigh (a lot of thigh actually), and within a few seconds we are pitched into the high definition armageddon of All the Devil’s Toys.
‘Oh and she forgot to mention that she suffers anxiety attacks every time she steps on a certain type of wooden parquet.’
It takes confidence to write a line like that at the end of a chapter about suffering and suicide. But Mary Papastavrou’s debut novel How to Sew Pieces of Cloud Together is fearless in both style and content. Continue reading
A few weeks ago I read a novel so extraordinary it still resonates. anemogram by Rebecca Grandsen is a road trip, a fairy story, human drama and contemporary urban myth in one unusual package.
Its effect on me meant that I had to invite Rebecca to answer a few questions and offer some insight into the creative process, imagery and concepts that lie behind anemogram. Here is the interview.
I promised to give y’all a sneak Halloween preview and I think this little episode sums up the dark and light and frivolity of The One Rule of Magic. The novel is out now, a Halloween release, and expect to see a couple of reviews in the future from a couple of stout yeomen who agreed to put aside some time for it. (If you want to review it after reading this, let me know; there’s a free voucher code for Smashwords to the swift footed amongst you.)
In this section, Frieda Schoenhofer, believed by her parents to be dead, is in Prague where she has met Tomas Druba, a ventriloquist who adds the voices to puppets created by his wife Natasha. With time to kill, Frieda finds herself in the puppet theatre and decides to use her magic for a bit of nocturnal entertainment…
Many of you who blog on WordPress will be familiar with Nicholas Rossis’ blog. It’s a deep mine of information on all aspects of writing and publishing. But what about Nicholas’s novels? In this comprehensive interview we find out Nicholas’s writing process, inspiration, and the state of affairs in Greece concerning the publishing industry. It’s a fascinating read and my thanks to Nicholas for taking up the challenge. . . .
Many thanks for the interview! It’s great to be here 🙂
Being Greek you come from a culture of storytelling. Of all the mythologies in the world, why do you think Greek Mythology still has so much presence in modern culture?
That’s a great question. I guess it has to do with how much the Latins were influenced by Greeks. When they conquered, well, pretty much everything, they spread their love of anything Greek throughout Europe. Alexander had already spread the culture eastwards all the way to India, so…
In my recent invite to authors KS Ferguson was swift to respond and provided an insight into her writing methods, novels and views on publishing. There’s a lot to chew on, so I won’t take any more of your time. Dive headlong into a world of creative ideas and characters who are very much outside the box…
You write sci-fi with fantasy elements. Where does the inspiration for ideas come from?
Actually, I write mystery thrillers, some with sci-fi elements, some with fantasy elements, and some that have both. No matter how hard I try not to include them, there are invariably dead bodies dropping left and right and puzzles to be solved. I see mysteries in everything. If there’s a poorly written news piece on Yahoo (no shortage of those!), I’m immediately imagining what the rest of the story might be.
According to anecdotes, the Inuit have fifty words for snow. Jack Flacco has a similar number of words for zombies. You’ll find them all in Ranger Martin and the Search for Paradise: chewers, gut grinders, belly rippers, rot suckers…
The third and final instalment in the series throws Ranger into another bout of munchers’ mayhem and maggoty misadventure. Followed by a gaggle of kids and teenagers who would normally be doing their homework if it weren’t for the inconvenient fact that society has collapsed.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before. I can’t remember if I’ve blogged this subject, but even if I have it’s worth seeing again.
A few years ago, the BBC in the UK held a poll to find Britain’s favourite comedy moment. The winner was the Four Candles sketch by the Two Ronnies. But I’ve always thought there was another sketch that, with the wind blowing in the right direction, was even better.
Many years ago, and I’m talking decades, like, last century dude when everything was in black and white, my Uncle George convinced himself we, the Harrisons, were related to another set of Harrisons at Samlesbury Hall in Lancashire.
His proof, which probably wouldn’t hold much water in court, relied on the portrait of a man with an uncanny resemblance to Uncle Jimmy. Uncle George and Uncle Jimmy are currently occupying clouds in the same celestial vicinity as the Harrisons of Samlesbury Hall, but it makes you think.
There was a moment, a few years ago, that struck like a harbinger of death; I should have recognised it at the time. In a record shop I asked for the new album by Rush, Test For Echo, and the shop assistant and I both agreed that more people should listen to Rush.
It turned out to be the last Rush album I would ever buy and a twenty year appreciation teetered on the brink.
The publishing world is awash with romance, erotica and young adult dystopia. Every day another 400 million novels are published. With this in mind you’d think only a madman would consider writing a short story anthology dealing with none of the above.
Rupert Dreyfus isn’t mad. At least I don’t think he is, but in The Rebel’s Sketchbook he manages to write thirteen short stories without a single tall dark handsome stranger, bursting corset or sword wielding teenager.
If I mentioned the phrase folk music, you might think of bearded men with one finger stuck in their ear singing songs about wassailing, with lyrics like ‘Oi ‘ad one lassy in the dewsoaked ‘ay, and we went with a way and a hay ninny nonny…’
Jake Thackray wasn’t like that. Unbearded, fingers focussed on a nylon stringed guitar, Thackray sang songs that were wistful, hilarious, sensitive or acidic. Sometimes all four in one song. He was, in short, one of England’s greatest troubadours.
This post was written a couple of days before the sad news of George Cole’s death. I hope this is a fitting tribute to the actor and his greatest character…
There are few people whose names enter the lexicon of a language. If you hate the thought of spending money you’re a Scrooge. Block progress with bureaucratic excuses; be prepared to be called Sir Humphrey. And if you like to do a bit of crooked wheeler dealing, you’re an Arthur Daley.
In 1979, riding on the success of The Sweeney, Dennis Waterman was given his own television programme: Minder. He was to play the role of Terry McCann, a former guest of Her Majesty’s prison service, McCann leaves gaol and becomes an associate of local businessman Arthur Daley. However, the series didn’t quite go in the direction the producers had planned.
In the third Toten Herzen story Raven has lost her mate, Rob Wallet, and suffered a second setback when Susan Bekker does the dirty on her promise to turn Raven into a vampire. After a brief meeting with an Interpol investigator Raven lets off steam in a phone call to a friend back in Britain.
Raven is questioned by Interpol investigator Pierre Dremba…
“Why are you called Raven if you have blue hair?”
“Because the only bird I know with blue hair or blue feathers is a peacock, and I’d sound a bit stupid calling meself Peacock, wouldn’t I.”
“I suppose so. . . .”
“Rob told me about blue tits, but that’s even worse.”
I’ve got a suspicion my fondness for all things German happened in 1979 when Barcelona defender Miguel successfully managed to kick an important Fortuna Dusseldorf player off the pitch during the opening minutes of the Cup Winners’ Cup final in Basel.
Johan Cruyff had retired, I’d eaten the last of the Edam and my peculiar juvenile leanings towards continental Europe began to shift. A sort of geopolitical wobble that landed on West Germany. But in spite of the excellence in organisation, engineering, Adidas and Puma, three World Cup finals and perfecting the bicycle kick, one thing Germany was not noted for: popular music.
I feel terrible. I feel as if I have instigated a great wrong. When I wrote Toten Herzen Malandanti and Who Among Us… I portrayed witches and Satanists as violent criminals, hell bent on selfish pursuits and ‘removing’ anyone who got in their way. But the thing is, they’re not really like that.
My excuse is that there are bad apples in every religious barrel, and there’s no reason why witches and Satanists are any different and can’t be portrayed in literature as criminals and wrongdoers.
When I was at school at the turn of the decade, a number of sinister forces roamed free. From 1979 to 1981, hormones ruled, self-image was more important than the Cold War and if you weren’t into punk or the New Wave of British Heavy Metal you were the lowest of the low. An absolute maggot. And you were made to pay.
The cruelest people on earth are teenagers between the ages of fourteen and sixteen. At school I watched people I once knew turn into monsters over the summer holidays. I left them at the end of the fourth year cheery and innocent; when I saw them again at the start of the fifth year they had regressed to grunting savages hell bent on murder and pillage whenever the opportunity presented itself.
“We’ve been reading through this mountain of inanity, boring ourselves senseless.” Not the sort of line you’d expect from a ghost, but this was one of many violent outbursts from the foghorn mouth of General Sir George Uproar (KCMG), self-appointed leader of the Ghosts of Motley Hall.
Between 1976 and 1978 the Ghosts of Motley Hall provided a half hour of phantasmagoric mayhem every Sunday afternoon. Written by Richard Carpenter, who wrote Catweazle several years before, the Ghosts of Motley Hall managed to squeeze a quart into a pint pot with tales of exorcism, headless knights, doppelgängers and malicious mediums.
‘Electoral democracy, for pretty much the entire nation, is nothing more than a spectators’ sport.’
Rupert Dreyfus’s debut novel Spark explores the individual in the face of big business and reacting against a system geared towards a select self-interested few. In this author interview I asked Rupert about writing, self-publishing and a worldview that led to the events outlined in Spark.
Q: Spark is your first self-published novel. How did you find the process?
A: The writing process was liberating. Prior to Spark I’d written a lot of stories but they were completely different in style and message. They were more personal and less satirical. I suppose I tried to take a more literary approach which, looking back, didn’t really suit me. I eventually got bored and tried something in the transgressive/ satirical style. Once I found a voice I was happy with and realised that I no longer have to obey literary conventions, it became an all out war.
However, the process of getting Spark read by people has been about as much fun as counting bum warts at a pig farm.
Coming home from the International Motorbike Show one evening in 1991, my friend sat in the passenger seat of the car said with unrestrained disgust: ‘can we turn this shit off?’
‘This shit’ was The Fall and I think his patience evaporated when he heard the line ‘the chief elf Norman jumped about on all fours.’
Timothy Spall, Dorothy Atkinson, Paul Jesson, Marion Bailey
Dir. Mike Leigh
If you’re going to make a film about the life of JMW Turner you’re under pressure to get the cinematography right. (How else will you do justice to the art of the subject.) In this respect Ken Loach’s Mr Turner delivers.
And it’s not just the cinematography that is exceptional about this film. Timothy Spall’s extraordinary performance in the title role is a cross between a Dickensian character and Mr Toad. To prepare for the part Spall had to learn how to paint, and then learn how to paint like Turner.