Sunday, 15 September 2019

London Particular - Review

The latest poetry pamphlet from Cardinal Cox stems from work he produced while poet-in-residence for the Dracula Society (2015-17). In thirteen poems he draws on 'the lore of an alternate London, while in the background a mounting horror looms'.

Well, I like a good looming horror, and this one does not disappoint. As always, the poet's notes to each poem are as entertaining as the work itself. We begin at 'Thutmoses III Needle', and a concrete poem in the shape of the obelisk (more or less). This needle 'sews memory into future'. In the note we read that Fun Manchu had a doctorate from Mistakonic U., among other fine institutions. The spirit of old London - the London of mystery and horror, often linked to exotic outsiders - is nicely evoked.

The next two poems concern a book Cox found entitled London Scene and London People. The mysterious volume inspires two sonnets, the first concerning 'The Old Devil Inn, Fleet Street', the second on 'Temple Bar'. Mentions of Shakespeare and Ben Jonson, Tellson's Bank, and Wren stress the interweaving of London actual and London imagined. 'The Templar's Gate' looks further back, to the Templars themselves, and their enduring legend. Two more sonnets muse on two lesser-known subjects, Mrs Salmon's Waxworks and St Dunstan's Giants, some of the many large-boned characters found in the capital.

'Dance the Paddington Polka' is a grimly jolly poem about Tyburn, and the dance performed by men suspended from the gallows for public entertainment and - supposedly - for reasons of justice. The roughest of rough music accompanies the final polka 'upon the wooden stage'. 'Chicksand Street' brings us up to date with Banglatown, the vibrant London that is always changing, yet constant.

'S.O. 23' introduces a secret section of Scotland Yard that deals with the weird - Hobbs Lane Tube Station, for instance, and the plague pit under Albert Square. A playful poem on the 'tube route killer' considers serial murders inspired by the names of stations - 'Turkey Street - corpse stuffed and roasted'. Finally, we encounter the literal underworld of London, where 'all rivers become one beneath the earth'.

If you'd like a copy of this enjoyable pamphlet, you can get one by emailing the poet at or sending an SAE to:

58 Pennington
Orton Goldhay

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Splendid in Ash - Review

This new volume from Egaeus Press collects seventeen stories by Charles Wilkinson. Two - 'Absolute Possession' and 'The Ground of the Circuit' - first appeared in Supernatural Tales. In his  introduction John Howard rightly observes that Wilkinson was a published author (of short fiction and poetry) in the Nineties but seemed like a new arrival a few years ago when his weird fiction started to appear. These stories show the polish and finesse of an experienced writer, replete as they are with sound detail and well-turned phrases.

Before I go on to look at some of the stories, though, I should not that this is a beautifully produced volume. The cover and endpapers are adorned with details from a Breughel painting, Children's Games. On the fact of it is, a rather cheerful subject for tales of the disturbing and uncanny. But in fact Breughel's approach has some parallels with the author's, as there is something rather odd and uneasy about the faces and postures of the figures here.

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Themed issues

Image result for ghosts victorianDo you think themed issues of ST might be a good idea? Just mooted the idea with a friend on Facebook, and came up with the following themes - curses, witches, monsters. Obviously ghosts are another possibility. Would a theme be too restrictive, or might it stimulate authorial creativity to re-examine familiar tropes, ideas, imagery etc? Also, might themes be extended to include more general terms like 'islands' or 'travel'?

Over to you.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Woah! ST author (and long-serving assistant editor) shortlisted for sci-fi award!

Old-time science fiction fans like me may recall James White as the author of the Sector General books - tales of space medicine that were way ahead of their time.

Image result for james white award

Well, I've just been informed that there's a James White award for stories by non-professional writers, and Stephen Cashmore has just been shortlisted! Stephen has served heroically as proofreader for many issues of ST, and deserves some kind of campaign medal. But a literary award would be nice, too.

The winner of the James White Award - and let's hope it's Stephen - will be published in the prestigious UK magazine Interzone. Congratulations to Stephen on this well-deserved accolade. You can find out more about the James White Award and see the shortlist here.

Image result for james white sector general