Saturday, 30 May 2015

New from Sarob

Romances of the White Day is the new volume from Sarob, consisting of three long stories paying tribute to the manifold worlds of Arthur Machen. The authors are John Howard, Mark Valentine, and Ron Weighell. Each explores a different aspect of Machen's fiction, ranging from London to Wales in simple geography, and much further afield in terms of the supernatural. Expect a review shortly! 

Friday, 29 May 2015

Q - The Winged Serpent (1982)


Imagine a monster movie in which Aztec ritual sacrifice conjures up a flying monster that snatches New Yorkers from high buildings. Well, we don't need to imagine it, because it was made by a chap called Larry Cohen. And it's every bit as weird as it sounds.

Q is one of those exuberantly daft films that marked the temporary demise of the cheap-and-cheerful(ish) horror/monster movie that was actually intended for movie release. The rise of VHS meant that, in a few years' time, films with such absurd (and bloody) premises would go straight to video.

But Q (the Winged Serpent bit was added later, and doesn't appear in the opening credits) was seen as your local fleapit, in all likelihood. As such, it commanded some decent production values and a starry cast.

Rather than just review it, I found an old MP3 recorder and decided to test it out by recording my brilliant observations. It's been  many, many years since I saw Q on late-night telly. In fact it's quite possible that I've never seen it all the way through till now, just caught bits when rolling in from the pub in my misspent youth. Well, it's time to rectify that as I give you my scintillating insights, as recorded during the actual movie when I'd been drinking.

This may go on for some time. It's all free, folks...

Thursday, 28 May 2015

An Extra Shadow

Here's a poem fresh from the pen of Cardinal Cox, whose latest pamphlet is reviewed below...

An Extra Shadow We count an extra shadow on drawing room floor There seems to be no moral to this sorry tale As you fall asleep there comes a knocking at the door It causes the young chambermaid an extra chore 
We thought our round uncle had imbibed too much ale We count an extra shadow on drawing room floor At meals the bright cook prepares enough for one more Slime on scullery flags we blamed upon a snail As you fall asleep there comes a knocking at the door
Creak upon the empty landing chills to the core No known previous resident was sent to gaol We count an extra shadow on drawing room floor When the sweet vicar kindly called we heard he swore What, we wonder, could have ripped the eternal veil As you fall asleep there comes a knocking at the door A nervous niece had vivid vision of gore We await the inevitable midnight wail We count an extra shadow on drawing room floor As you fall asleep there comes a knocking at the door

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Steam Driven Oi

I am deeply ashamed. It took me literally days to figure out the title of Cardinal Cox's latest pamphlet. Days. And I actually have in my possession a worn paperback of John Sladek's collection The Steam-Driven Boy. I blame this virus I've had for weeks, I really do.

Any road up, what makes the Cardinal's latest effusion all more the interesting is that it is not a poetry pamphlet, as such, but consists of a short story with poetry trimmings. I'll reveal the delights of the former in a moment, but first, let us peruse the poems.

First up is 'An  Address to the Citizens of Middlemarch', its signatories 'General Ludd and Brother Enoch of the Military Council of the Invincible Army'. George Eliot meets Shelley's 'Masque of Anarchy', here, with its ominous warning to the toffs that if they push the plebs too far regrettable things may occur. It recalls (for me) O-level history on the Corn Laws and Peterloo, but also the lousy state we're in today, with food banks and zero hours contracts. Thus the first line, putting bankers before 'landlord and parasites upon the poor', jumps across the eras like a spark.

Still riffing on Eliot's classic, the second poem is 'Mr. and Mrs. Ladislaw Call'. We find the worthy philanthropists twenty years on, fervent Chartists and supporting mass education. It ends on a question, as is reasonable. The jury is very much out on whether noble spirits can 'cure societies many ills'.

Staying with the theme of progress and its pitfalls, there follows a faux-obituary of Plantagenet Palliser, Trollope's great statesman who died loaded with honours as Duke of Omnium and Earl of Silverbridge. There's a wonderfully surreal and yet bitterly felt tone to this one, especially in lines like 'Early in Palliser's career (...) Plantagenet was responsible for the removal of the right of sunlight from children'. If that recalls a certain milk-snatching stateswoman, well, it's supposed to. Any doubts on this point are settled by 'the Breathing Tax riots that spelt the end of Palliser's term in office'.

Having got this far you might be able to deduce that 'A New Prince for the Royal Family' does not exactly overflow with royalist sentiments. In marked contrast is 'Ode to the Steampunk Girls', a heartfelt tribute to 'the Princess of dirigible maids', though I'm not sure if dirigible is a word to use when praising a woman. Still, the Cardinal was ever bold in his lyrics.

We return to the theme of Victorian squalor and violence in the short story 'Soho Leaves'. This is one of the best original Gothic tales I've read this year. The narrator reveals that 'the doctor found me amidst his drugs' you'll probably guess. Suffice to say that in this reworking of Stevenson's classic tale, a supposed monster is revealed as a hero, while the virtuous gentlemen of the establishment (including one who stays mysteriously young) are shown to be monstrous. It's clever but also an example of intelligent rage against injustice, and again the parallels with our own times are clear, if not laboured.

Finally comes 'Anime Mash-up', an exuberant retrospective that in a few lines ranges over much early horror, mystery, and science fiction as re-imagined by Japanese animators. Van Helsing stalks the Golem in Prague, Verne plans lunar expeditions, and Laputa is our destination. Amazing adventures, fascinating people, strange notions, and a passion for truth and justice. What more do you want?

If you would like a copy, follow the usual rigmarole:

Send a C5 SAE to

58 Pennington
Orton Goldhay
Peterborough
PE2 5RB

You can also email the Cardinal at cardinalcox1@yahoo.co.uk