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Showing posts from December, 2012

'The Queen of Spades'

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Farewell to 2012, and a Happy New Year to all our readers for 2013. Here's a stylish radio drama for the turning of the year, based on a classic weird tale from Russian literature. And the moral of the story is - do not wager anything on the turn of a card. As if you would.

'The Haunted Dolls' House'

The Haunted Dolls House from Stephen Gray on Vimeo . Excellent zero-budget adaptation of a classic. Check out Stephen Gray's M.R. James site .

Nights of the Round Table

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The Christmas season is traditionally a time for tales of the supernatural, and this year I took advantage of some time away from the distractions of blogging and Facebookery to re-read one of the true classics of the genre. Margery Lawrence  came to prominence in the decade after the Great War as an author of shorts stories, most of them weird or ghostly in nature. Her first collection, Nights of the Round Table, was reprinted in the Nineties by Ash-Tree Press in 1998. Richard Dalby edited and introduced the volume, heaping praise upon Lawrence for the diversity and originality of her work. The dozen stories in the collection purport to be those told to the author by members of a select club that meets once a month. Thus January's tale is the first to be told, while December's is the last. Lawrence is in fact a bit erratic about the introductory matter, offering quite a build-up in some cases, while in others she plunges straight into the narrative. There's a slight touc

Christmas Spookitude

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Thanks to Sam Dawson for the excellent image.

The 5.6.7.8's - Rock and Roll Santa

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Review: Selected Stories, by Mark Valentine

The stories gathered here have all been published before, but many appeared in hard-to-obtain volumes. The unifying theme is the collapse of empires in the wake of the Great War. Europe, once 'the mighty continent', has been torn apart by years of brutal conflict. The vast majority of people found their lives disrupted, sometimes fatally, but often in bizarrely unpredictable ways. This much is fact. What Mark Valentine adds is his remarkable erudition as he offers us glimpses of the lives of aristocrats, villagers, aesthetes, and wandering visionaries (or charlatans), during a time when that fabulous phenomenon called balance of power is swinging wildly this way or that. Indeed, the first story is entitled 'A Certain Power', and takes us among the various social classes and factions of Petrograd during the doomed attempt by the Western Allies to assist the White Russian cause. But the power in question is not an earthly one, and its emissaries have a most unusual mis

The Bells (1926)

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In my informal list of 'weird films to watch at Christmas', why not try this screen adaptation of the play that made Sir Henry Irving the first theatrical knight? The original play in which Irving became a Victorian sensation was by Erckmann-Chatrian, one of the great writing teams in horror/supernatural fiction. The film was made by a rather small firm and might have vanished without trace. We're lucky it's still around, because it's a fascinating historical time capsule, and quite entertaining in itself. Set during a bad winter in 1868, the story concerns Mathias, a leading citizen of a small town in the mountains of southern Alsace. Mathias harbours ambitions to become burgomaster, and is thus keen to extend credit to the customers of his tavern and his flour mill. This upsets his wife, but does indeed guarantee him the support of the townsfolk. Unfortunately for Mathias, he is no position to be generous - he is deep in debt to an unpleasant local bigwig who w

The Yellow Leaves

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A bit of blatant advertising, now, for the noble cause of publishing poetry on that stuff called paper that's still apparently being made somewhere. The Yellow Leaves series offers 'tantalising glimpses of a reality beyond our comprehension', and I'm sure we're all down with that. The third leaflet in the series features work by the excellent Cardinal Cox. And this is what one side of the 'paper' looks like... Click to make it bigger so you can read the various bits. Note the reference to Ambrose Bierce's fictional medium, Bayrolles, who was always sticking his oar in to tie up a few loose plot strands. Also note links etc allowing you to contact D.J. Tyrer, editor of the series, and of course the cardinal himself.

He's making a list...

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The Japanese horror movie boom launched a number of TV series that sought - quite reasonably - to cash in. One interesting series, which can be found in fragmentary form on YouTube, is entitled Kazuo Umezu's Horror Theater . Umezu   is a very popular manga writer, and I think the TV adaptations of his work are pretty good. The Diet, in particular, manages to pack a lot of disturbing stuff into a mere sixty-odd minutes. The reason I'm mentioning this in mid-December is simply that one of Mr Omezu's tales is a Christmas number entitled The Present. Here's how it starts - an object lesson in the need to be very careful what you tell children at this time year. I'm also impressed (though of course to the intended audience it would be unremarkable) by the juxtaposition of Shinto images with trad Christmassy stuff.

Christopher Conn Askew

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Do you like this sort of thing? Find out more about the artist here .

The Silent House (2010)

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I've watched precisely one Uruguayan horror film so far, and I quite enjoyed it. The premise is simple - shy teenager Laura and her amiable old dad, the rather oddly-named Wilson, move into a remote, rather ramshackle house to do some gardening and generally tidy the place up. We first see them approaching the property through fields, climbing through fences and so on, establishing that, yes, it's kilometres from anywhere. At the house they meet the owner, an old friend of dad's, who helps them get settled in and promises to pop back with some food later. So far, so familiar. We are expecting Something Sinister to happen. Sure enough, when Laura and her father settle down for the night, the girl hears someone outside. Her father is already asleep, of course, and when she wakes him up he tells her not to worry - there's nobody about. Then, when he nods off again, she hears someone moving about upstairs. They have been warned not to visit the upstairs rooms because of s

Of a book and its cover

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The unexpected arrival of a beautiful book is always pleasant. In this case I know the book's contents will live up to its cover. Or rather, covers. Selected Stories by Mark Valentine, newly published by Swan River Press , has a rather splendid blue and gold dust-jacket, but beneath it we find this: A slightly inept scan, but you get the picture, so to speak.  A much cleverer person would see this beautiful, antique oil lamp as an apt metaphor - one that illuminates the stories gathered in this volume. According to the flyleaf, these stories 'are about individuals caught up in the endings of old empires - and of what comes next'.  This is familiar territory for Valentine, one of the most intellectually accomplished authors of what is loosely termed weird fiction. I've long admired his work. Many authors have tackled the decline into chaos of Europe, once dubbed the mighty continent by someone or other (probably a Frenchman), now apparently far gone in s

'A Recluse'

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One of Walter de la Mare's typically subtle stories. Recognise the reader?

Some Weapons-Grade, Gibbering Cosmic Horror

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Talent Show

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