Horror, The Fall & other news

Mark E Smith of the FallOut now:

Over on the Fox Spirit Books blog I get to kick off Women of Horror month with a piece on The Haunting of Hill House, one of the finest novels ever written. Go read it (my piece and the novel).

I have a piece ‘The Three Rs’ over at 3AM Magazine. I had written for another thing that fell apart but it suited as a kind of encomium for Mark E. Smith. More to come doubtless as there are many things floating around in my head.

Chapter 4 of Madonna of the Wasps is out: chapter 5 at the end of the month. If you want to have a print copy, I have good news coming soon.

You listened to the radio show, right? Feel free to let WGXC know you liked it.

UPDATE: I am always forgetting to share my History Witch posts: most recently Sounding Out the Water Elf (another bit in my thinking about the sound of charms which I’ll be talking about at the Harvard conference in April).

NEXT WEEK: The SpeakEasy dames and I will be guest hosts at Ione’s Annual Dream Festival next week. If you’re on Facebook, join us talking and thinking about dreams and how they affect our waking lives. Some of the posts will be here as well. Starts on Monday!

Forthcoming Publications:

Twice Reviled: Medieval Fact & Fantasy.’ Out of the Cloister: Lone Medievalists Making the Middle Ages Matter: forthcoming piece on what it’s like to be the lone medievalist in a department as well as a fiction writing-lit prof (hint: even people in academia like you to stick to one category or the other).

The Unlikely Milliner & The Magician of Threadneedle-Street.” Mythlore: A Journal of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Mythopoeic Literature: forthcoming essay on the use of tarot in Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell — yes, yet another piece on that book so I suspect I may well end up writing a book about it.

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Travel: after a break of [cough] years, I’ll be heading to Kalamazoo for the annual Medieval Congress. Looking forward to my first paper on Rauf Coilyear, one of my new obsessions. I feel a little sad because I think the last time I was at the ‘Zoo was when I got to hang out with Kathryn Fernquist Hinds, who died suddenly this week. Her husband Arthur has asked those honouring her memory to make donations in her name to Planned Parenthood or the ACLU. You might also want to read her books.

I hope to go to MAMO as well: this year it will be in Rome. We shall see. Finances always questionable — and of course, I need to get accepted! But a scheme afoot to catch up with Alexandra Bava naturally and Dan Curley who I think might be there as well in November.

[Fill in the elventy thousand things I have forgotten to mention or haven’t finished]

Oh, and I have more Edinburgh pictures to share: must remember to do so!

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I shared my Inspirations Song List today as I’d updated it (Songs that Inspired Stories), then joked that I should make a list of stories that started from collisions. Not literally — although I do have one or two of those — but collisions of ideas.

Example: later this month Empty Mirror will publish my essay ‘Chaucer and the Art of the Grift’ which came from a collision in my head between The Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale and David Maurer’s The Big Con. It makes perfect sense to me but maybe this is why I have a hard time getting people to follow my thoughts. Possibly they seem random and incoherent!

But they seem reasonable to me. Here’s a random selection of things what I have written and the collisions from which they sprang:

The Mangrove Legacy: Peter Cook & Jane Austen

White RabbitBlue Sunshine & Seance on a Wet Afternoon & certain London pubs

How to Be Dull: academia & Jerome K. Jerome

Airships & Alchemy:  <— exactly that

Owl Stretching: The Descent of Inanna & Spike Milligan

‘Elf Prefix’: The Maltese Falcon & The Fairy Melusine

‘Headless in Bury’: The Big Sleep & vikings

‘Wordgeryne’: Lovecraft and medieval charms

‘Losing My Religion’: REM, Tony Hancock & social media debates

“Domus inferna Sancti Guthlaci: A Rediscovery of the Twelfth-Century Narrative of The Saint and the Money Pit”: my Pseudo-Society talk that sprang from rearranging the Harley Roll illustrations of the life of the saint so they became a sort of DIY disaster

…and of course there’s a whole random Fall song + whatever random obsession has fired in my brain this week which covers most of my crime writing that isn’t currently inspired by Robyn Hitchcock.

It’s not just me, right?

[Image from the Cosmagraphia Scoti MS. Canon. Misc. 378 via Bodleian Library]

Get Howling!

Act quick and you can get the new edition of Drunk on the Moon for FREE!

This brand-spanking-new edition of Drunk on the Moon: A Roman Dalton Anthology is FREE! for a limited time, thanks to Mr Brit Grit himself, Paul D Brazill, who created the werewolf detective and the crazy City he prowls. Take a gander at the contents:

Drunk On The Moon by Paul D Brazill

The Darke Affair by Allan Leverone

It’s a Curse by K A Laity

Insatiable by B R Stateham

Fear the Night by Julia Madeleine

Back to Nature by Jason Michel

Getting High on Daisy by Richard Godwin

Silver Tears by John Donald Carlucci

A Fire in the Blood by Katherine Tomlinson

Broken Bicycles by Graham Wynd

Great fun to play with Mr B’s world. Of course of course of course the title’s inspired by a Fall song. What’s that you say? It should have been inspired by a Tom Waits song? Well, that’s okay for normal people. Oh whatever! Just go get it and read all the stories including a new one by Graham Wynd.

Click the cover above to get it or just click here.

Magic & Moonlight

Drunk on the MoonThere’s a blue moon tonight: won’t be another for three years. If you can, get out there and howl a little. The full moon brings a little magic out in everyone — and maybe the wolf, too.

I have a piece up at the Cultural Gutter: Strange Men and Magic looks at my new obsession, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. I just finished reading the novel and have begun Susanna Clarke’s short story collection The Ladies of Grace Adieu. Wow, if someone had mentioned it’s illustrated by Charles Vess, I might had snapped it up faster. And I just got the blu-ray set because Mark read a review that said how much more you could see on the BR discs (oh god, the American version makes it look like a superhero film [insert moue of disgust]). I have a feeling I’m going to be writing more on this topic, perhaps in my History Witch columns — recent ones have been influenced by the series, like Disreputable Magic and The Great Conflation, though there’s also bee charms (who doesn’t love bees?). Also, the Gutter is currently running a fundraiser so they can pay their writers. If you have surreptitiously enjoyed their coverage of disreputable entertainment, cough up some money so they can continue to bring you the gold. I’ve ordered one of the sweet Gutterthon posters and I’ve donated a perk: genuine handwritten medieval charms! Donate: even $1 can help.

I *love* this image from topofthemuffin on tumblr! I want it in a poster. She’s also doing an amazing tarot set.

My alter ego has been reviewing: finally getting around to writing up Una Baines’ comics memoir I’ll Be Your Mirror which I highly recommend for anyone who likes stuff (music, Manchester, women, growing up, rebellious jukeboxes, etc.), and the doco It’s Not Repetition, It’s Discipline, which I recommend to people who are already Fall fans (the rest of you may find it a bit bizarre — then again, you to may become obsessed with the mad man, Mark E. Smith.

Oh, also I made a little tune.

Also check out The Neon Moon, the second collection of Roman Dalton tales. Mr B AKA Paul D. Brazill has put together a bunch of belters from folks like Matt Hilton, Vincent Zandri, Carrie Clevenger and many more. You will love this collection. I guarantee it with a howl of delight. But wait, as they say, there’s more — let me just whisper the title: The Neon Boneyard. All Brazill, all Dalton, plenty of bite. Out soon — I just have an early peek at it, so I can tell you, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

While You Were Out

blue sky eggOr I suppose, while I was out and about in the Big Easy with Miss Wendy and other folks (yes, write up to come) I neglected my blog. So a hasty round up while I get caught up —

Hector D Jr interviewed me for Sliver of Stone magazine and I natter on about all manner of silliness and William Blake because I seem not to be able to avoid mentioning him whenever I am asked about living the creative life. And in the same issue, a great interview by Hector with Mr B. We all met up at the Crime conference in Poland, so no surprise. If we can’t hang out in person, we’ll do so virtually because it’s always a pleasure. Oh and this Friday I’m interviewed on the Speculative Fiction Cantina. You can listen live and call in with questions.

My alter ego Graham Wynd has a new story out in Near to the Knuckle’s new crime anthology ROGUE, “Bonkers in Phoenix” which is of course a title stolen from a Fall song. Crude, rude and lewd! Also very funny if you don’t mind those other things. I’m almost thinking the story might go on from where it ends. You tell me. Pick it up at Amazon — and you will because it’s also got folks like Mr. B, Godwin, Tess Makovesky and more. Graham has been busy: Ham on Heels, Toy Monkey and 30 Versions of Warm Leatherette still getting hits over that fabulous Pulp Metal Magazine. Yes, I am writing too, but mostly non-fiction at the moment (and revising).

I’m not sure why I never seem to remember to add my History Witch pieces here. I’ve got a review of a cool grimoire, Rún that I got from Strandagaldur (The Museum Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft). Also there’s a musical version of An Anglo Saxon Chant and a bit about mud and spring in Solmōnaþ, which finally seems appropriate.

Somewhat disconcertingly, I keep hearing my name on the radio as they’re advertising the talk I’m doing Saturday on Kurt Vonnegut quite a bit. So now I’m thinking ‘gosh, better polish this really well!’ I’ve been re-reading Player Piano and rediscovering the novel all over again.

DREAM BOOK is almost here…!


Review: Furia by The Fates

Buy from Finders Keepers Records


The Fates


Originally scheduled for release on Halloween 1985 this privately pressed all female post-punk/broken-folk collective concept LP was resurrected from the ashes of the original line-up of The Fall and Velvet Underground singer Nico’s Blue Orchids backing band at the command of pioneering Manchester female punk icon Una Baines before disappearing into the annals of UK punk purgatory.

Comprising all the DIY traits and snarling attitudes of Manchester’s smartarsed punk retaliation, with haunting mechanical folk, pastoral drones and a back story that unites sleeve artist Linder Sterling (Ludus), Spider King, Martin Hannett, Tony Baines, Martin Bramah and John Cooper Clarke with the 16th Century Pendle Witches, this virtually unknown LP is a vital missing piece in Manchester’s self-help anti-pop industry.  Lost in the ether, lauded by collectors and likened by Mark E. Smith to the Third Ear Band this unclassifiable arty-fact renders tags like Pagan punk utterly redundant.


I had heard of this LP but until I discovered Baines online I didn’t know it was getting a new release. What a pleasure! As the Quietus covers in their far-ranging review-cum-history, the death of Baines’ mother had a huge impact on the recording, including the song ‘Brigit of Ireland’ which cements the link to the mythic that runs throughout the album. The Fates manage to draw on the two major figures from the past — both Mark E. Smith and Nico cast heavy shadows — without ever feeling derivative. You can hear echoes of the Velvets in ‘Ceaseless Efforts’ and elements of the Fall’s earlu Casio-fueled repetitions in many of the tracks, but the voice of the new band, while at times tentative, is strikingly definitive. Like the invocation of a ritual, Furia develops organically from pop to more outré experimentalism. The influence of Graves’ White Goddess is strong in the musical evocation of a lost pagan past (liner notes of the original LP apparently also made more of a link to the Pendle Witches). The track actually called ‘Ritual’ receives its power from “our will so strong it shapes the nature of things” and the persistence of this ‘lost’ recording suggests that power itself.

Pagans will definitely enjoy the album, but it works as chill music too, sort of experimental folk. What’s truly amazing is how contemporary it sounds. Yet also ripe for some interesting remixes, too — I can almost hear them in my head already. Incredible grace and power here. Check it out. Click the image below to listen/buy:


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