Review: Adventures in Dementia

Image via Creative Review

Adventures In Dementia is a collaboration between the ex-Auters frontman Luke Haines and artist Scott King which tells the fictionalised story of Skrewdriver’s lead singer crashing his car into the back of Mark E Smith’s caravan – with actors playing both parts, and is being performed as part of King’s Festival Of Stuff on July 10 and 11 as part of the annual Foreign Affairs festival in Berlin. The festival, which takes place at the Haus der Berliner Festspiele, features live music, actors and visuals, as well as contributions from Russell Haswell and artist Jeremy Deller.’

As I was unable to be in Berlin earlier this month and in fact did not know about this 20-minute ‘mini-opera’ until today I shall have to base my review of the proceedings on nothing more substantial than the gossamer threads of my imaginings, which I have been led to believe have every bit of weight as true facts in this internet age. Those who object may take it up with the management by means of written outrages on the back of postage stamps mailed to the Outer Hebrides.

After the jolly fun of the previous entertainments the mood of the crowd suddenly turned more serious as the lights came down to signal the beginning of the rock opera, as is only right. One oblivious audience member, who continued chatting away to a friend who was live tweeting the event for him in Tokyo, was first hissed at then finally suppressed (in the traditional Carrollian manner). When that proved insufficient for this hardened scofflaw, the surrounding crowd tore his flesh to bits and consumed it meditatively as the mini-opera commenced.

A hint of orange light sparked on the horizon of the stage, reminding the viewers perhaps of the burning of Atlanta sequence from Gone with the Wind or the horrible conflagration of Grave of the Fireflies. But this was only a hint as action turned to the Fall leader took his leave of the band in order to seek the quiet of a country place in his caravan. The chaffing humour of the farewell song sent a ripple of laughter across the enrapt audience, although a few discordant notes hinted at the tragedy which lay ahead.

Somehow the key of F suggests the peace inherent in the caravan’s idyllic location, though suggested by a bare set of potted plants, the attendant soundscape rendered an England as green as any Blakean Jerusalem and gave those present a honeyed taste of that lost paradise, the return of which we may ever hope. The character of MES seemed to blossom in that paradise, singing with regret of the harsh conditions in which he kept his band working (indeed, he had locked them in pantry cupboard prior to taking off with the caravan, worried that they might fall afoul of Radio 6 DJs while he was absent). Although the trope of a tussling angel and devil may have become so cartoonish as to have little impact, the creators brought something fresh to the imagery as the two characters literally tussled with the MES actor, leaving him bruised and battered. One hopes it was merely stage blood that he wiped from his mouth.

The dark boom of the timpani signaled the arrival of the true villain of the piece, the Skrewdriver car appears on the horizon with all the menace of Robert Mitchum’s tattooed Harry Powell, who barrels through Laughton’s Night of the Hunter like an avenging angel. Skrewdriver’s lead singer gets a brief tune which swiftly dismisses any talent (or sobriety) and pitches the hateful rhetoric of the National Front, familiar to any internet troll. Like a fireball in Eden, his Ford slams into the caravan. The audience gasps audibly, not only at the horror of the moment, but also at the surprisingly effective pyrotechnics which surely must have caused from grief to the Health & Safety crews.

Although aghast the MES character quickly recovers equilibrium, rescues his collection of Donovan LPs from the conflagration and even attempts to rescue his attacker. Alas, he is unable to save the Skrewdriver lead singer, who perishes in flames even as he recognises the devil who has come to collect his due from the outcome of living a hate-filled life. The heartbreaking song of forgiveness and love which swells then may have been slightly over the top (the nigh on angelic chorus was just a tad too much) but there was no doubting the effect on the audience, who rose en masse and joined in with the repetition of the chorus.

There was dancing in the streets of Berlin that night, as if at the end of a long war. Music and art once more had meaning: there was a reason to live!

Likewise from Creative Review

FFB — Wodehouse: A Life

”I never want to see anyone, and I never want to go anywhere or do anything. I just want to write.’

Before I get to my entry for Friday’s Forgotten Books, I want to point you to my interview with Ravello Magazine in Italy which came out this week, one I’m particularly happy with. If you are not quite up on your Romance languages, Kemberlee made a translated link here (my publishers are so great). It’s not often that an interview leads to discussing trepanning with Jamie Delano on Twitter, but that’s my life in a nutshell…

There is never a time that reading Wodehouse is not a delight, although somehow summer seems particularly perfect. There’s such a lightness of touch to his humour that feels so effortless that you want to pick up this hefty doorstop tome and find that ah ha! He did indeed sell his soul to the devil to achieve that perfect élan. There are moments in this biography where you despair that McCrum has hidden the truth because after two years struggling as a banker by day and writer by night, Wodehouse made a splash that ebbed at times but never really has subsided. It’s a bit discouraging for us mere mortals.

The truth of course is much more complicated; Wodehouse reacted to one of those remote sort of childhoods by shutting down an awful lot. If his carefree Edwardian bachelors provided wish-fulfillment and his terrifying aunts some sort of Freudian window, we can not really know because even with his best, life-long friend he rarely let slip the real feelings inside. Perhaps he did his best to never hear them himself. He loved his fictional worlds where everything went according to plan.


When he did let himself go — tellingly, not so much in marriage but in loving his step-daughter — he did genuinely adore. When she died he seemed completely stunned, saying ‘I thought she was immortal.’ He retreated even further into his ordered life and non-stop writing routine. Even the war did not stop that — not when he was taken as a prisoner, not when he was released and living in Berlin and made those stupid radio appearances. The understandable (but also Daily Mail-fanned) flames of outrage raged back in Britain (especially amongst those who had not heard the broadcasts) and stunned the writer. He had been persuaded to do them to let his American readers know that he had indeed survived the war. Idiocy to not realise how he was being manipulated. While at times I wish I could be totally disengaged from the world around me, this is the cost that brings.


He never went back to Britain, although it was often suggested. Even when he was knighted, the mountain came to Mohammed because he was too frail to travel from his Long Island home. By his death he was once more popular and celebrated. I first came to his work when PBS broadcast Wodehouse Playhouse (part of my oddly British-shaped youth, filled with Python, the Goons and of course Peter Cook). I loved the humour; as a writer I admire even more the exquisite ease of his writing. I know the work behind it now, but it makes the magic no less sparkling.

Reminds me: I have edits for the next Constance & Collier adventure to get to –

Check out the other Friday Forgotten Books over at Todd’s.

Harrogate 2014

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Harrogate — or to give its proper name, Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival — is always full of shenanigans. Put a bunch of writers together at a vintage pub in a spa town in Yorkshire when it’s far too hot and well, what would you expect? While usually I’d call the cheeriest writers either romance writers or horror writers (yes, really and if you’ve sung showtunes at dawn on a Rhode Island beach, you’d know that) this is the year dubbed #happygate because there was no happier place to be (in your face, Disney).

A big part of that is due to the surprise proposal Scott made to Jo at the end of the “In Space, No-one Can Hear You Scream” panel — but the screams were all of joy. Sly boots all: a happy couple even before the surprise, and it was pulled off with aplomb, champagne arriving on cue and a speechless Jo quite overwhelmed. Since Scott made it the last question from the audience, I think people were looking expectant at the end of every panel when the moderators queried, “Are there any final questions?” Congratulations!

Just after la Tour

Just after la Tour

The panel itself was an interesting one, hosted by program chair Steve Mosby and discussing with Lauren Beukes, Sharon Bolton, James Smythe and Lavie Tidhar the mixing of other genres with crime, which always seems to get sneers — yet also seems to enliven the genre each time there’s another cross-genre hit (I may be biased here). Since we no longer have to face the tyranny of the genre bookshelf, why stick to one label?

The interview with Denise Mina had kicked off the morning. I never get tired of hearing her speak. She’s funny and frank, and so inspiring. I loved how she talked about the pull of politics as someone who adamantly fights for change, but also realising the cost of political work — and the horror of the people who are often drawn to that life. She called them men with “suits too expensive for their faces” which seemed perfect. Politics will eat artists alive.

Martyn Waites hosted a panel of folks who represented the range of publishing paths out there: James Oswald (without his coos), Mark Edwards, Mari Hannah and Mel Sherratt. The upshot of the discussion is what William Goldman wrote long ago: Nobody knows anything. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket because we’re still in the midst of change.

I went to see ‘Robert Galbraith’ better known as J. K. Rowling because I figured I’d not get another chance to see her in quite so intimate surroundings. Although the event was held ‘off campus’ the town hall was still rather small and I was in the 4th row. Val McDermid had us laughing from the start (as usual) by teasing her about the name and declaring she would call her Bob. Although Rowling seems quite polished these days, the eager enthusiasm remains plain. She loves what she does — and she loves her audience. And she says there’s no limit to the Galbraith books.

Although out late, I steeled myself to get up early to see Lynda La Plante and I am so very glad that I did. Like Rowling, here’s someone who’s had a lot of success and yet the thing that came through was how happy she is to know people read her and watch her stories. Her RADA training shows in her seasoned persona, though she made sure to play down her acting as “lots of prostitutes” and of course that appearance on Rentaghost. La Plante is a hoot and a half; if you get a chance to see her, do. Someone asked what she does when she procrastinates, but she said she can’t wait to write. I think she felt the air leave the room then, but before all the writers could faint she added that she knew herself to be in a very fortunate place where people were waiting on her words. “I keep a sign over my desk that reads ‘Rejection does not mean NO!'” Nobody knows anything: to seize luck, you have to be in a position to do so.

Mmmmm chips

Mmmmm chips

Sophie Hannah and S.J. Watson talked a lot about the mysteries that other people are to us (and we to them). The film of Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep looked rather good. The new blood panel with Val McDermid was fascinating to see just how different all the new stars she’d picked were — from a Chastity Flame-like secret assassin, to migrant workers in the UK to a novel on the Axeman murderer in New Orleans and a dead child in a Irish convent school (which won the Dundee prize).

As usual, most of the fest was spend wandering around and chatting, passing out promo things for my own books (the Extricate chocolates went very fast) and apparently missing more people than I found. Some of that may have to do with disappearing to eat and play with Adele, Vince, Kat and others because they had a flat across the road.

The town was still full of Tour de France decorations — everything rather yellow. Harrogate’s a pretty town. I think I saw more of it last time, at least the lovely gardens. I always mean to try the Turkish baths. I did have a quiet lunch at the pub where P. G. Wodehouse used to drink on my way out of town.

The only problem with going away is trying to catch up again with all the things. Bit by bit…

Bound for Harrogate

For the next few days, this is where you’ll find me: Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. Loads of writers will be there including that Galbraith fellow. I’ll try to tweet from the panels or share any interesting (or blackmail-worthy) photos I get. The good news is I’ll also be seeing friends like the fabulous Adele, so skulk magic will doubtless happen. If you need to occupy yourselves in my absence, try reading my story “The Bride With White Hair” that was inspired by my first visit to Harrogate and the fest. It can be found in either of the two fine tomes below (click on the picture to see more).



Out Now: Girl at the End of the World, Volume 1

Another Fox Spirit triumph and one very close to foxy hearts: the first volume of The Girl at the End of the World is out now! Before there was a Fox Spirit, there was UnBound, home of wild conversations about zombies and bug-out bags with Dana and Jack and all, which led to The Girl’s Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse. That girl lives on in this volume — and so much more! Here’s the table of contents:

Volume 1

1,1 Antichristine James Bennett
1,1 Change of Address Rob Harkess
1,1 Coming Back Tracy Fahey
1,1 Skin James Oswald
1,1 The Borrowed Man James S Dorr
1,1 The End of the Garden Catherine Mann
1,1 The Ending Plague Andrew Reid
1,1 The Wife of Watsorous Nathan Lunt

1,2 A Sailor Girl Goes Ashore Margret Helgadottir
1,2 Blueprint for Redwings Ruth E J Booth
1,2 Demon Runner Dash Cooray
1,2 Little Daughter Dayna Ingram
1,2 Rolling in the Deep Cat Connor
1,2 Sophie and the Gate to Hell Carol Borden
1,2 The Glaciers Stone Alexander Danner
1,2 The Last Rushani Jonathan Ward

1,3 In the Absence John Perkins
1,3 Only So Far Adam Rodenberger
1,3 Saint Salima Alex Helm
1,3 Somebody to Play with Geraldine Clark Hellery
1,3 The Beast Within Christian D’Amico
1,3 Zompoc in Nashville (anonymous) discussed by Dr. K. A.Laity
1,3 All things Fall Chloe Yates

As you might guess, mine is a bit unusual. I analyse a handwritten sheet of lyrics and a scratchy recording found in the rubble after the apocalypse. Who wrote them? What could have prompted this outpouring — and did it make the charts?

Yes, volume two is coming! This girl has a future — though it might not be what you think…

Exiles Guest Blog:How I Wrote ‘Eating the Dream’ by K. A. Laity


Hey, that’s me –

Originally posted on PAUL D. BRAZILL:

Exiles cover preview (1)I’m trying to remember where this story came from. I know the title came first, but not really because before that came William Blake and the Red Dragon, but before that came Springsteen and songs of escape, but even before that came cars.

I grew up in a factory town where automobiles were the trade. Most of my extended family worked for the auto industry in one way or another. The reality of the auto industry hasn’t matched the promise of its sleek machines for some time; the ruins of it still smoulder in the hometown I left long ago. But romance of the open road has fueled the dream of freedom for as long as I can remember.

I still feel it when I hit the highway. I spent so long afraid I would never escape that the sight of a road stretched out before me buoys my spirit…

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Writer Wednesday: Bear-Baiting

We live in interesting times. By which I mean we live as ever in difficult times; given the state of the planet we can be forgiven for a penchant for weaving apocalyptic narratives. It can be comforting to think that it’s only because we know so much more about what’s going on thanks to the internet and all its social media. You’d be a rara avis indeed if you’ve not seen at least a couple of petitions to save something or someone today, usually with a heart-rending photo.

We have a lot of information at our fingertips.

Of course, having information and managing it are two different things. Some people shut off, leave Facebook and retreat to a lower-tech life. As a writer, that’s a bold choice to make unless you’re already famous (and your publisher will probably want you to be on social media anyway). While giant corporations tussle over who really controls publishing (note: when corporations battle we are not the winners), most writers I know are still reeling from the thought that people on the whole would be glad to give their time and attention to potato salad.

Understandable: the cri de coeur of every artist is to be noticed. Now you may be in the camp that thinks there should be standards about who gets to call themselves artists, or you may be the sort who feels that people should be able to call themselves whatever they like. It’s not as if it matters, anyhoo — because we’re all fighting for the attention of those readers/listeners/sharers of experience and that slice is getting thinner.

Here’s a pie chart from a Slate story about the crushing weight of work days (American; Europeans may adjust accordingly, though the differences are getting smaller):

See that red slice? That’s what we’re all competing for. “We” meaning all us creators and our creations: books, films, television, online videos, social media, etc. All of it. Reading is a high bar to get folks to jump over. It requires more effort than a lot of other entertainments: time, engagement, imagination and the will to sort through the millions of books out there to find one they might like — an increasingly daunting task.

We remember Shakespeare because he was good enough to consistently snag a good number of people away from the lure of bear-baiting. ‘Such a horrible sport!’ I hear you cry. Well, yes, but we can always harden our heart to things we’d rather not think about. But it provided simple, reliable entertainment as far as Elizabethans were concerned. It asked little of them but showing up and letting the spectacle make their pulses race. If it sounds like a Michael Bay film, you’re on the right track.

Our challenge is the same: there’s more bear-baiting than ever. There are more Shakespeares and his sisters, too (or should we call them Aphra Behns?). The small blip of time ( a few decades) where a small number of writers made a great deal of money may not return. The slightly larger blip of many people making a living from writing (about a century) may also have passed.

If you have stories in you that want to be told, don’t let anyone discourage you from telling them. Make money from them when you can, don’t sell yourself short, keep striving, and most importantly keep working – honing your skills, failing, learning and working harder. Because William Goldman is still right: “Nobody knows anything.” That’s why blockbusters tank, television series get axed and people give money for potato salad on a whim. Nobody knows.

The golden age is before us, not behind us. William Shakespeare – See more at:

The golden age is before us, not behind us. ~ William Shakespeare

If you desire something lighter, try: Ten Steps to Inner Peace