Showing posts from December, 2008

Crooked House

I still like a good ghost story. Yes, my years editing a magazine chock full of the things has not put me off, the way people who work in sweetie factories are said to come to loathe bonbons. So I'm rather pleased that this year the BBC has come up with not one but three new ghostly tales. Crooked House is a bit like the portmanteau horror movies produced - with varying success - about forty years back. You get a linking narrative, with the archetypal Sly Old Chap telling the equally familiar Eager Young Chap a story, in this case about a house with an evil heritage. Mwa -ha-ha, etc. Crooked House has the advantage of a very strong cast and a good script, by Mark Gatiss . If it has a weakness, it's that historical ghost stories, while quaint and fun, do tend to keep the action at a bit of a distance. That said, the historical bits have enough to hold the discerning viewer's interest. The first part, 'The Wainscoting', is set in the 1780s, pretty much M.R. James te

Christmas Poems (That Won't Make You Throw Up)

Mistletoe Walter de la Mare (1873-1956) Sitting under the mistletoe (Pale-green, fairy mistletoe), One last candle burning low, All the sleepy dancers gone, Just one candle burning on, Shadows lurking everywhere: Some one came, and kissed me there. Tired I was; my head would go Nodding under the mistletoe (Pale-green, fairy mistletoe), No footsteps came, no voice, but only, Just as I sat there, sleepy, lonely, Stooped in the still and shadowy air Lips unseen - and kissed me there.  The Oxen Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock. "Now they are all on their knees," An elder said as we sat in a flock By the embers in hearthside ease. We pictured the meek mild creatures where They dwelt in their strawy pen, Nor did it occur to one of us there To doubt they were kneeling then. So fair a fancy few would weave In these years! Yet, I feel, If someone said on Christmas Eve, "Come; see the oxen kneel, "In the lonely barton by yonder coomb Our ch


While not strictly supernatural - though there's a bit of hocus-pocus in the novel, as I recall - Frankenstein remains one of the great Gothic tales. An excellent blog exists, which is well worth checking out. Apparently someone is making yet another movie based on the book. It's still got legs, as they say. Big, stiff legs ending in clompy square shoes. Though, as the above illustration shows, the monster was not originally conceived in that way. Slightly M.R. Jamesian, if anything. 

Kay Fletcher

Kay is a jolly good writer who ought to be looked at (in a good way) by all right-thinking people, and quite a few wrong-thinking ones. Her site is here . I am also bunging it into my link list, so there.

In Which I Receive a Nice Poem

I sent an electronic Yuletide card to all the nice people I know. Well, all right, I may have missed out a few through incompetence. But it's the thought that counts. And Kay Fletcher, writer and artist, sent me a nice poem! Well, actually a spooky poem, but that's the point.  Vampires on the Moor Scripted at this point surely when the grouse explodes from the heather the tall shadow of the standing stone flicks from its dark cuff creeping fingers.   My spectacles pebbled with tiny fish eye lenses I say ‘we’re lost,’ as on the flimsiest of walks leaflets fangs of rain bite down.

A shamefaced acknowledgement

I've just realised that the spiffing new illustration above, giving a bit of style to my otherwise not-exactly-stunning title, has not been acknowledged. The wonderful Ro Pardoe of Ghosts and Scholars sent me (some time ago) two images she created by digital tinkery means. Unfortunately she is laid up with flu at the moment, according to her husband Darroll, and I haven't actually been able to get her permission to use the image.. I picked the one that was less scary (the other one had a big spider). If you notice this, Ro, please do not pass me the runes! I'm just sort of assuming you wouldn't mind. 

Many thanks

Thanks are multiplying in my brain for Nomis, who has fixed my bizarre blog title problem. I would offer him a biscuit if were on the same continent. Now all that remains is for me to find a title illustration that doesn't screw it all up again. Hmmm...

Witticisms? Moi?

I received an email from writer Stone Franks, who lives quite near me. So I must tread carefully and publicise everything she wants... Dear David,   Can I get some 'local girl done bad' publicity on the ST blog for my new (lesbo)erotic short story 'Taught' which is set in Newcastle and comes out on December 29th? It is available only from eXcessica Publishing who can be found at You can read the first paragraph on my MySpace page at As usual it an epic narrative of angry muscular young women with very short hair tearing each other's clothes off. STONE --------------- Er, okay. Should I just post the email as written? I'm sure it would attract some attention. I love your use of the phrase 'as usual', there, by the way.   All the best David --------------- Yeah, unless you have some of your own witticisms you'd like to add. STONE My work here is done.

Can Anybody Help Meeeee?

Note the title thingy at the top there, just above this. It has a flippin' Google thing in it rather than the pic I want to use to illustrate my lovely blog. I can't figure out how this happened. Can anyone suggest how I can get rid of this annoying incursion? I've tried but lack the aptitude with modern technology, as I live a solitary existence in a book-lined tower on an island inhabited by talking puffins. Well, very nearly. 

Schalcken the Painter

One of the best stories of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu was adapted by BBC TV in 1979. It's a bit too slow for my tastes but I tend to be outvoted. It is certainly a visually beautiful piece, and the ending is genuinely horrific. The major problem is that the characters aren't especially sympathetic. But what the heck, the first ten minutes or so are on YouTube so I thought I'd put it out here. 

I'm now famous for about twenty minutes, setting a new blog record

This is from Britblog Roundup at Redemption Blues : 'Guest-blogging at Heresy Corner , the magnificently-pseudonymed Valdemar Squelch (I agree that Dave, his real name, doesn’t have quite the same ring to it), provides the uninitiated with an excellent and thoroughly enjoyable introduction to the fiction of Montague Rhodes James in The Hairy Claws of the Vengeful Dead, placing the stories within the wider cultural context: "James could hardly have been unaware of the prolonged intellectual ferment that followed the publication of Darwin’s ideas. The great debate spanned the early decades of James’ life. As a Christian by upbringing and inclination, M.R. James believed in the immortal soul. Yet as a man of his time - and a very intelligent one - he could not have been untouched (untainted?) by the materialistic outlook of the new science of biology. Disraeli said the question was whether Man was an Ape or an Angel and famously came down ‘on the side of the Angels’. James d


No, hang about, I mean Upcoming! Rather than just maunder on about stuff I thought I'd give a quick preview of some of the throbbingly exciting stories I'm publishing next year (if I'm spared). First up is a new writer to ST, Louis Marvick, and a remarkable debut story, 'Pockets of Emptiness'. This is a traditional ghostly tale, recounted by the fire to an attentive audience. But the setting - the post-war Netherlands - and the plot are both unusual, and the writing is elegant and elegiac. Wonderful stuff: 'When I turned out the pockets of my new jacket I made a surprising discovery. A flash of orange caught my eye; I investigated, and found that the insides of both pockets were lined with silk—and what silk! Not sober panels in a congruent shade of blue or grey, but finely-worked mosaics of small, grosgrain pieces, each vividly coloured and stitched to the others with great skill—by “the ladies of the town”, I realized, remembering the words of my Tsjerkesl

In Which I Become Famous...

... for about 15 minutes, if I'm lucky. The Heresiarch, owner of a prestigious political blog I sometimes comment upon, invited me to write a guest post. Media tartlet that I am, I decided to contribute my fascinating views on M.R. James to the wider world. You can read all about it here . The obvious downside to this is that I am now firmly in the government's sights and may be made to 'disappear' when the inevitable crackdown finally begins. But, hey, look on the bright side, it could generate a bit of interest. So, swings and roundabouts.