Friday, June 23, 2017

ETERNAL CHAMPIONS

Michael Moorcock

Back in the 1960's I was a big science-fiction/fantasy fan, well, to be honest, I leaned more towards fantasy. I first encountered the work of Michael Moorcock through his Elric of Melnibone tales in the pages of Science Fantasy Magazine. I loved them and read everything I could by the writer. Of course Elric, the albino with the mighty sword Stormbringer was one of many heroes that Moorcock created : Corum, Dorian Hawkmoon, von Bek, Oswald Bastable etc - although, actually, as his many readers will know, they are actually all the same person - Moorcock was probably ahead of his time in using the multiverse theory which allowed his characters to sometimes encounter alternative versions of themselves. While I enjoyed all these books I eventually moved on to other writers and fictional genres and my Michael Moorcock collection, or most of it, was sold. I did keep, however the books feature my favourite incarnation of the writer's "Eternal Champion" - the English Assassin : Jerry Cornelius (THE FINAL PROGRAMME, the first Cornelius novel was an alternative of the first Elric story, THE DREAMING CITY - or vice versa, I can't remember which) who swaggered through a warzone that bore a remarkable resemblance to swinging pop culture London. I always suspected that Moorcock took the name Cornelius from a Notting Hill greengrocer shop called "Cornelius O'London" which was near to his London home. I used to pass his house, then in Ladbroke Grove, on a regular basis and once peered down through the basement window to see a large model rocket-ship (tin plate, I believe) on a table top.. Over the years I've had three encounters with Moorcock. The first was a brief meeting at the World Science Fiction Convention in 1965. The second was a book signing at the Dark They Were and Golden Eyed bookshop in Soho when, presenting a book to be signed, Moorcock asked me if I wouldn't have much rather had one of the rarer unsigned ones!


The third meeting was the most memorable as far as I an concerned. During a break from work my friend Colin and I visited The Fantasy Centre at 157 Holloway Road. As we browsed the door opened and in walked Michael Moorcock and a man who I recognised as American fantasy author Karl Edward Wagner. I knew the owners of the shop and before long we were all chatting away happily. My friend, Colin, was most impressed to meet Moorcock but, as an Edgar Rice Burroughs fan, more impressed to be meeting Edward P. Bradbury (one of Moorcock's pseudonyms), author of a trio of Martian pastiches in the style of Burroughs. I actually grabbed a book by Wagner of the shelves to get it autographed. Both writers were extremely friendly and happy to talk to a couple of fans.

Karl Edward Wagner

Michael Moorcock's work has brought me great pleasure in the past and although my taste for science fantasy or speculative fiction has waned over the years I still occasionally read his books and have tremendous affection for his back catalogue. A career which encompasses Tarzan comics, Sexton Blake, editing the ground-breaking magazine NEW WORDS, writing novels, literary criticism and being a rock musician is pretty impressive.


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A MESSAGE FROM SERENA CAIRNS


Thank you so much, for your review of FATHER OF LIES. It is so difficult for Indie authors - and those with small publishers, as in my case - to get known. Sometimes positive reviews are all that keep us from giving up. Yes, I am currently working on SET IN TIME, the sequel to FATHER OF LIES. I hope it won't disappoint.  www.serenacairns.co.uk

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

ONE FROM THE CRYPT...



Deep in the crypt of an old Norfolk church something very ancient and very nasty is stirring. A young Anglican priest finds herself being drawn inexorably into a world of dark, eldritch secrets hidden from the world by organised religion, testing both her own faith and, indeed, the faith of millions of believers. Yes, with Serena Cairns' first novel, FATHER OF LIES, we are, once again, in the field of religious conspiracy. It is a field well ploughed in recent years thanks to Dan Brown. But whereas Brown simply recycled the exposed hoax of HOLY BLOOD, HOLY GRAIL, Cairns goes for something more original and creepier. Brown's DA VINCI CODE had conspiracy but FATHER OF LIES has conspiracy, supernatural horror and sex. Serena Cairns is a good writer whose stories have been anthologised. She lives in the West Country and is currently working on a sequel to FATHER OF LIES.


Serena Cairns

It is at this time I must declare an interest in FATHER OF LIES. Serena Cairns has been a friend for more years that either of us care to remember. I have watched her novel grow from an idea into what it is today. I gave some background information in the early stages of writing and was privileged to read an early draft of the book.



Saturday, June 3, 2017

DANIEL STASHOWER - THE SEQUEL.......

Daniel Stashower with the Anthony Award he received for his book HOUR OF PERIL.
After writing my previous post about writer Daniel Stashower I was delighted to receive the following comments from him:

"This is very kind of you -- thank you! And all the more flattering when I see that your previous subject was the great Irwin Shaw! I came to him late, long after he was gone, and I thought The Troubled Air -- about an era in which I take a particular interest -- was outstanding. Hope you're well, and thank you for the kind words -- you've made my day." - Daniel Stashower.

Always good to pass on recommendations so :  Irwin Shaw's novel about the McCarthy era is definitely worth a read.



                                                                                                        

Friday, June 2, 2017

DANIEL STASHOWER

Daniel Stashower

                Daniel Stashower, born 1960, is an American author of mystery novels, biographies and historical non-fiction. He is also the man responsible for my fascination with the magician, escape artiste, Harry Houdini. I had, of course, been aware of Houdini since the 1950's when I saw the Tony Curtis film HOUDINI but I'd never really thought that much about him. Then, a couple of years ago I discovered Stashower's mystery novels that featured Houdini and his brother Dash as the central characters.

Houdini and his brother, Dash Hardeen


About five years ago I was thrilled by Glen Gold's novel CARTER BEATS THE DEVIL which shared a similar background to Stashower's Houdini books and this led me to appreciate both  novel THE PRESTIGE and the subsequent film version and to a lesser extent the film THE ILLUSIONIST, so it was probably inevitable that I would eventually turn my attention to Houdini, albeit in fiction. I liked the Houdini mysteries so much I did a rare thing (for me) and wrote to Stashower via his Facebook page. I even had the cheek to correct the author's knowledge of London geography as it appears in one of the books. Much to my surprise, Stashower answered personally and with good humour and also recommended to me his non-fiction book, THE BEAUTIFUL CIGAR GIRL : MARY ROGERS, EDGAR ALLAN POE AND THE INVENTION OF MURDER, which again was right up my street as I am a big Edgar Allan Poe fan.

I recommend without reservation all Stashower's books both fiction and non-fiction. The titles of the Houdini mysteries alone must encourage murder mystery fans to seek them out. Sadly, I expect Daniel Stashower's career has moved on and he won't be doing more books about the egotist young Houdini.

The Houdini Mysteries:

THE DIME MUSEUM MURDERS (1998)
THE FLOATING LADY MURDER (1999)
THE HOUDINI SPECTRE (1999)




There is also a stand alone mystery, THE ECTOPLASMIC MAN which features both Harry Houdin and Sherlock Holmes.

Other works include non-fiction about C0NAN DOYLE and ABRAHAM LINCOLN. Stashower has also written Sherlock Holmes pastiches short stories.



Thursday, October 27, 2016

MORE ADVENTURES AMONG THE LITERATI........




1963. I'm a year out of school and working as an assistant in the publicity department of Columbia Pictures in London's Soho. Columbia are about to release a film called IN THE FRENCH STYLE starring Jean Seberg. A romantic comedy about an American girl living in Paris, nobody expects it to make a big splash. It is directed by Robert Parrish, a former assistant to John Ford, whose career has been competent without being particularly outstanding despite a few highlights (his colour Western, THE WONDERFUL COUNTRY, is worth checking out) and based on short stories by Irwin Shaw.


Irwin Shaw
Now, young as I was, I knew that Shaw was a big hitter, a writer of novels and short stories, scripts, a producer of films. He was part of that post-war generation of American intellectuals who muscled their way into the film industry after World War II. Shaw produced the Kirk Douglas film ULYSSES and wrote the novel THE YOUNG LIONS which was made into a major film production starring Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift and Dean Martin. I had read THE YOUNG LIONS and I was in awe of meeting its author when, prior to the release of the film, Shaw set up camp in the Columbia press office. This would later happen with both Richard Brooks and Stanley Kubrick - but more of those in a later post. As an office junior I was nervous about approaching Shaw, especially as it was somewhat frowned upon to bother the many celebrities who passed through the office. Of course, when you get a chance to actually meet somebody that you admire, caution in often thrown to the wind. I did get a chance to speak to Shaw and tell him how much I admired his book and he seemed genuinely pleased. Today, Shaw is probably best remember as the author of the novels RICH MAN, POOR MAN and BEGGERMAN, THIEF which were turned into enormously successful television mini-series. Irwin Shaw died in Switzerland in 1971.

Shaw asked me if I had seen the film
of THE YOUNG LIONS. "No" I said.
"Don't" he said.