FFB: The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper

dark-is-risingAlthough a classic I’d not read this novel before, but stumbling across it at the Oxfam Bookshop this winter, I found the combination of the title and the folk horror revival vibe in Michael Heslop’s cover irresistible. Will is the seventh son of a seventh son, which he did not know as one of his brothers died very young. He’s been born to a special task, uniting the forces of light against the darkness:

‘It is a burden,’ Merriman said. ‘Make no mistake about that. Any great gift of power or talent is a burden, and this more than any, and you will often long to be free of it.’

It’s full of history, pagan symbols and eternal struggles. The struggle of dark against light is rather simplistic as many myths are. The contempt for women is striking within the narrative: ‘typical females’ are silly. There are maiden, mother and crone for symbolic purposes, but the maiden has to be rescued by Will, the mother falls and sprains her ankle to provide emotional ammunition and the crone has to be brought back by Will as well. Not that any of the characters are especially well drawn: they’re just pegs to carry the narrative forward, and it moves at a good clip.

This sounds more negative than it is in sum. The vivid scenes of magic and myth really leap off the page. The mysterious mask, the snow that falls for days, the almost sentient fire Will discovers in the past all offer a thrill. Her poetry sings:

Fire on the mountain shall find the harp of gold
Played to wake the Sleepers, oldest of the old;
Power from the green witch, lost beneath the sea;
All shall find the light at last, silver on the tree.

The Wild Hunt at the end that awakens Herne is truly magnificent. We all need inspiration to fight the dark that is rising now. There’s much to inspire here.

See all the overlooked gems at Patti’s blog  make that Todd’s blog.

#FolkloreThursday Freebie: Hard Boiled Witch 3

I’m running with the idea! Get the third Hard Boiled Witch story for free today as part of the Folklore Thursday fun. They’re getting a lot of good buzz. Drop over on Twitter to catch the madness and bring your giants, witches and fae.

Hard-Boiled Witch: Charms O’erthrown

Hecate Sidlaw finds herself in a wild storm of shady folks all looking for a priceless artifact that’s gone missing. With all the double dealing and surprising murders, it’s a wonder she and Henry can find out what’s really going on — and what this precious treasure could be. An ancient alchemical text may hold the answers if only Hecate and Henry can live long enough to get to the library!

This 23-page ebook single is the third in a new series from the author of WHITE RABBIT, OWL STRETCHING, and the CHASTITY FLAME thriller series.

“Laity has been proving for quite some time now that her noir prose ranks right up there with the likes of Meg Abbott, Dorothy B. Hughes, and Sara Paretsky.”
~ Vincent Zandri

“Laity knocks your socks off with the language and also with the dialog.”
~ Les Edgerton

“Laity is probably a figment of her own imagination, and what an imagination that is! A witty and inventive wordsmith. A natural storyteller. A one off!”
~ Paul D. Brazill

“Laity mixes genres in ways that are always rewarding… a compelling writer who is utterly readable.”
~ Richard Godwin

Meanwhile I’ll be making like Patsy and Edina in NYC with the QoE. Cheers, sweetie darling!

Red Clover Dew

Soak your boots

“Polish your boots with red clover dew before Mabon and you will not put a foot wrong all winter.”

(taking no chances)

(taking no chances)

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 —

INTERVIEWS
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.

NEW STORY
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).

PAGAN
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.

VONNEGUT
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…!

FICTION / FOLKLORE

Review: Furia by The Fates

Buy from Finders Keepers Records

FURIA

The Fates

Blurb:

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.

Review:

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:

 

TOA/V: Äppelkriget/The Apple War

TheapplewarmpA couple of news items:

Tuesday’s Overlooked Audio/Visuals

I have an old DVD transfer of a video of Äppelkriget. Even when my Swedish skills weren’t as rusty as they are now, it was tough going without any help, but I was charmed anyway by the magic of this story, as the small town folk try to fight off the corporate ‘Deutschneyland’ monolith.

I’m delighted to find a subbed version with annotations available online! In much better quality than that video transfer, too. The environmental, anti-corporate message might seem a little heavy-handed now, but it remains a delightful film in so many ways. Beautiful, too — the Swedish countryside indeed looks like the land of the angels, as legendary singer Evert Taube sings of it (he has a small cameo in the film, too).

The cast is excellent of course: von Sydow especially, but I love Monica Zetterlund’s Pippi-esque wackiness. I love the humour and the zanyness of the inventions. There’s a serious side to showing how the myopic thinking of the small business people allow them to throw their lot in with the rapacious industrialists (I love the pig farmer who thinks he might be able to sell piglets to tourists, then when they abandon them as they head home, supposes he can round them up again). As we continue to denude our forests and ‘develop’ wilderness, we lose so much.

Terrific characters, a sense of fun, gently strident, just the right amount of magic — and hard cider!

Check out all the overlooked gems at Todd’s blog.

— and happy birthday, George Harrison 🙂 AKA Pirate Bob.

FFB: Ritual by David Pinner

The library's only copy: large print edition!

The library’s only copy: large print edition!

David Pinner’s novel Ritual is probably best known for inspiring the classic film The Wicker Man, which counts as horror or comedy depending on your religious alliances (or maybe a little of both — those poor animals!). Having come up in conversation on Twitter (I think? Rod McKie I believe can refresh my memory), I figured I should finally check it out (despite having several other books on the go, as usual — I am given to whims).

Pinner wrote this initially as a treatment for an occult film in the same vein as his recent play, the vampire comedy Fanghorn. He was also starring in Christie’s The Mousetrap (“Keeping New Plays out of the West End for decades!”), so combining the procedural with occult seemed cool. Director Michael Winner (according to Wikipedia, take that as you will) liked it and thought to make it with John Hurt but dithered too long about it. So Pinner turned it into a novel and then Robin Hardy read it and the rest is history — insofar as the film was made but it was scripted by Anthony Shaffer. Good choice.

I won’t say Pinner’s novel is bad, but it was a slog. Major problems are headhopping and purple prose. The dialogue would work to better effect on stage in the right hands to give it readings that might tread the line between parody and satire. There are moments that work beautifully — the death of the girl at the start has a dreamy quality. I like that the detective names his inner Puritan as Oliver Cromwell. Anna’s understanding of her own sacred sexuality fits the fevered verbiage well.

David Hanlin comes to a remote Cornwall village to investigate what he thinks is a ritual murder; he has a bit of a Satanic Panic going on, but as in The Wicker Man the villagers (or islanders) seem to be up to something dodgy as well. There’s a down-at-the-heels peer in the novel who’s rather less dramatic than Christopher Lee’s legendary turn as Lord Summerisle. There’s even the seduction through the wall scene, though without Britt Eklund’s body double (I think). But it doesn’t at all add up to the same thing.

Hanlin is bonkers and gets more so as he goes along. Though you jump unexpectedly at times into other people, there’s no real sense of the other characters. His would-be seducer Anna is just your patented woman-as-sexual-temptation, she’s not a person. The Reverend is just the impotent hypocrisy of the church, etc. Like a script the focus is on the diaolgue (inner and outer) and not so much on the character development. He does make nature seem evil and cruel, but it’s mostly a reflection of Hanlin.

Can’t say I’d recommend it. I far more enjoyed Hardy’s novelisation of Shaffer’s script, which made an effort to add a little background and context to the story as scripted. This was a curiosity and I skimmed as much as I could after getting frustrated with it. Time is my most precious commodity. If I’ve saved you some, all the better.

See the round up of Friday’s Forgotten Books at Patti Abbott’s site.

Update: some cool pagan news from Finland – official recognition for the Karhun kansa (Bear People). Thanks, Byron!

NB: I have put up my first story at Medium, the new blogging site set up by one of the founders of Twitter: Getting Medieval on Love, a little bit about the medieval creation of Valentine’s Day celebrations. Take a poke around the site to see what it’s all about.