Thursday, March 31, 2005

You Want Pulp Covers?

Check out this baby:

Hey, that's nothing. Take a look at the Russion cover:

It's usually the crime guys that come to mind when we think of the glory days of pulp, but those cheap pages were filled with a fair bit of horror too. For Black Mask, you've got Weird Tales. (Still going. I used to have an ambition to get a story in there. Probably still do, if I let myself think about it.)

Hey, here's another great horror cover:

No idea what era that one is. (It's a Polish version, so for all I know it could be from last year.) Thing about horror, the covers remained "sensational" (polite term) well after the days of pulp. Or perhaps the days of pulp lasted longer for horror. So you got things like this in 1981:

You could say I'm using the term "pulp" a bit loosely here. We don't tend to bracket Hammett and Chandler with Guy N Smith and those 70s/80s goldrush horror guys. But pulp, for me, is the churning out of cheap, hastily-written, sensational, mass-market novels written to exploit a demand. Oh, sorry - that's publishing in general.

Anyway, here's to pulp.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005


I love them. Big ones, small ones, dark ones, light ones - as long as it's a cake, I love it. You just cannot beat them. Even the word "CAKE" makes me lick my lips.

I don't really like icing though. You know, the fancy white stuff on a wedding cake. I just peel it off and chuck it away (taking care not to discard that lovely marzipan). But icing is not cakes, really. The cake is the bit in the middle. And I love it. Come to think of it, what is the deal with wedding cakes? They cost god knows how much, and taste like shit (by general cake standards. I still eat them though). Why not just get someone to do a huge Victoria sandwich? Much, much better. And you don't get all that icing all over the floor.

So, let's hear it for cakes.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

DVD Blues

Why can't I make my region 2 DVD player play region 1 DVDs? I've found half a dozen so-called "secret codes" that go something like...

  1. take your remote
  2. press Setup
  3. press 1
  4. press Yes
  5. press 5
  6. press 3
  7. press Off
  8. press On
  9. flip the thing in the air and let it spin three times before catching it
  10. spread it thinly with honey
  11. stare at it for exactly nine minutes, concentrating really hard
  12. punch it
  13. punch yourself. Hard. In the face
  14. chuck it in the river and stand there, hopping on one leg, for 45 seconds
  15. get pissed on cooking sherry
  16. get on a train to Huddersfield and sing "We Don't Have to Take Our Clothes Off" by Jermaine Stewart 18 times
  17. get pissed on cherry wine
  18. remove all your hair with a Brillo pad. ALL of it
...that sort of stuff. But none of them work. And believe me, I've tried all of them. So it looks like I've got to buy another player.

OK. I go down the local DVD player shop that will remain unnamed for legal reasons (Dixons) and say, "Can I have a DVD player that will play.... etc"

She looks at me for a while and says: "etc? I've never heard of that one." OK, boom boom. No, she takes in my beaten-up, strangely hairless appearance for a while and then points to this nice little number in matt grey on a display shelf.

"So that plays region 1 DVD's, right?" I say, flicking a bit of Brillo off my ear.

"Yes," she says. "All you have to do is enter this secret code, that you can pick up on the web..."

Anyway... to whom it may concern (and you know who you are): I'm trying to watch the fucking film. Honest I am. And I really, really want to watch it. But I may just have to hop on a plane and come over to your house before I can do it.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

"Have a good Easter"

That's what people are saying today. Have a good Easter. And it's driving me nuts.

Don't get me wrong - I know they just mean Enjoy the break from work in a very offhand way, but the phrase just jars the hell out of me. They're trying to be nice, but as soon as I hear those words I get very, very graphic images in my head.

Have a few beers and take it easy, they're saying. But by then I'm thinking about massive, fatal injuries inflicted on a guy who can't even get his elbows down to protect his ribs. Maybe do a bit of gardening, the friendly acquaintance is saying by now. Meanwhile I'm picturing a world in turmoil, cast into the agonising flames of spiritual struggle on a massive scale. You really need a rest, mate, they're saying, noticing my sudden pallor. And I'm picturing a poor dead guy kicked out of his cosy tomb by his old man, after only three days to get over the mother of all beatings.

And you know what the stupid thing is? I'm not even religious.

Anyway, have a good long weekend.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Mangel Informer

New "Mangel Informer" online, at All-new content, all-new design (now green) - the full works, mate!

Friday, March 18, 2005

"Would you mind not placing that directly on the table, sir?"

I'm not actually blowing my own trumpet here, because it wasn't me who "made" this wonderful beermat. It was the fabulous people at Serpent's Tail...

That's right, the FAGS AND LAGER promotional gimmi... er... strategy is finally here. (This is what I was talking about here.) Personally I think it's a great idea, and as far as I know it has never been done before (for pushing books). Great idea or not, the beermats are awesome - they soak up the ale like no other beermat I've ever come across. Seriously, I've been trying them out!

So, I'll phrase my earlier desperate plea a little more clearly now: can anyone help with getting these things into pubs, in the UK? (The book will be out Stateside later in the year, so the coasters are a bit premature for them just now.) I'm obviously going to be "visiting" a lot of pubs myself before May 10th (mostly in the Worcestershire area) trying to get the mats in. But if anyone can help in other parts of the country... what can I say - it would be priceless. All I'm talking about is bringing a couple down to your local pub and asking the landlord/lady if (s)he'll leave them out.

Interested? Drop me a line.

I'll send beermats (and eternal gratitude) to whomsoever is up for it.

The End of the Affair

I used to love Iain Banks. (When I say that, I don't mean "love" as in I Wanna Know What Love Is by Foreigner, or The Power of Love by Jennifer Rush (or even Frankie Goes to Hollywood)... I just mean love as in... hmmm.... a pint of cold beer on a warm summer late afternoon, say... or finally locating Coup de Torchon on DVD (for 5 quid). No, it's more than that (my former love for Iain Banks, not the DVD price). But you get my drift.).

But now I don't.

It's not a sudden thing. We went along fine for a while, our relationship - sparked initially by the sublime THE WASP FACTORY - bolstered by COMPLICITY, THE BRIDGE, THE CROW ROAD. I was smitten, so much so that I could forgive him for spending so much time in the arms of others (his SF novels - sorry, I just don't get them). But then he wrote this shit, and the rot set in.

I started looking at him differently, wondering who he really was beneath that bearded, enigmatic exterior. I thought I knew him, but the embarrassing shower of shite that was THE BUSINESS proved how wrong I was.

Still, my love endured. I was prepared to forgive and forget, as long as I could see at least some of the old Iain shining through. As long as he made an effort, rather than flailing around with imploding plotlines, or using his narrator to rant about his own political bugbears rather than tell a story. But then... But then...

But then I read RAW SPIRIT.

Now, don't get me wrong. This is a good book in publishing terms, and I can see folks liking it. He goes on and on about malt Scotch whisky. He drives around Scotland, talking in detail about how great all his cars are. We get to see how witty and earthy all his great friends are. We find out that 99% of Banks' driving (and there's a lot of it) is purely for pleasure. We see that he opposes the Iraq invasion, and a lot of other things (all left wing). We are told countless drinking stories, and find out that Iain once jumped off a 10' high wall and was caught by his madcap (but eternally loyal) pal. For a laugh.

Iain, you have a great life. You have worked hard at your writing, have put out some of the best novels of the past 20 years, which have been published properly and have sold well. You have had the breaks, yeah, and probably been in the right place at the right time. But none of that takes away from the fact that you are a fucking marvellous novelist who deserves the rewards of fame, fortune, and happiness. But do you know what?


I'm sure lots do. I'm sure there are plenty more fish in the sea - fish who will gasp at your descriptions of distillery visitor's centres, and your hilarious tale of how you wrote off that Porsche 911. But I'm not one of them. And that's it between you and me.

It's over.

Needs? You want to talk about my needs, now? OK, I need:

flickers of hope
more trouble and strife
blood (spiritual if not biological)
(preferably both)
mental illness
dirty sex
laughing in the face of certain death
sudden violence in pubs
searching searching searching (but for what?)
bodily fluids
more conflict
and finally, resolution.

Or at least some of all that.

Maybe you can find it in you to give me some of that, in your own way. Maybe, just maybe, we can get back together again one day. They say an old flame never goes out.

Until then, there's the memories.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Great Novelisations (no. 3 in a series)

"Michael Knight's surgically reconstructed face was not the result of random choice or accident. It was a replica of the face of Garthe Knight, Wilton Knight's son, whom both Wilton and Devon thought had been permanently put away in a remote prison in Africa. After many years in captivity, Garthe managed to escape, washing up in Hazzard County. He blackmails the local doctor (who he caught redhanded performing a perverted sex act) into performing reconstructive surgery on him, leaving him looking exactly like Sheriff Rosco Coltrane. Then it's a simple matter of bumping off the real sheriff and taking his place. Meanwhile he uses further blackmail to force local mechanic Cooter Davenport (perverted sex act) to build a huge pickup truck utilizing the same molecular bonded shell used by KITT. All is now set to enact his a plan to destroy Michael Knight, whom Garthe views as an insult to his very existence. However, his suspicious behaviour is noticed by the good old Duke Boys - Bo and Luke - who give Michael a call and get him to come down and catch his mortal enemy off-guard."

Great Novelisations (no. 2 in a series)

"When the carnival comes to town, The Fonz has a minor problem - how to date all the hoochie-coochie dancers while they're in town for the week! But soon he becomes concerned with a major problem - his life - when the Muskogee Mauler challenges him to the fight of the century. On the sidelines, Madame LaZonga, the fortune-teller, and her tantalising daughter, Lola, have other plans for The Fonz - marriage! Find out how The Fonz evades the clutches of Madame LaZonga and escapes the crunches of the Muskogee Mauler!"

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Great Novelisations (no. 1 in a series)

I've got to get this book...

"...No Mickey funeral scene, no faltering self-confidence, no "Eye of the Tiger," no getting back to basics, no final conflict between good and evil, just one fight that's over in two pages! It's terribly distressing to see truly great works of art butchered in this manner. Even the cover features Clubber Lang (played in the movie by the great character actor of the 80's, Mr. T) instead of Rocky himself. Are they telling us that Clubber Lang is the hero here?"

Far and Away

Happen to be in New York today, around 7pm? Why not pop along and check out the man Ken Jameson, er... I mean Ken Bruen doing his thing?

Yes, just like Tom Cruise in that crap film starring Nicole Kidman (no, not BMX Bandits), the Irish noir-meister has cadged a ride across the ocean and will be waving at the Statue of Liberty any minute now. As long as he gets through immigration OK (no simple task) he will head for the Black Orchid Bookshop (303 E. 81st St., New York, NY 10028; Tel:212-734-5980), and set about launching his new book, THE MAGDALEN MARTYRS.

You would be rubbing shoulders with the great and good of the crime fiction world, including Charlie Stella (pronounced "Stey-lla"), Jason Starr (pronounced "Sta-arr"), Duane Swierczynski (pronounced "Smith"), Jim Winter, Patrick Lambe, Reed Farrel Coleman, David Hasselhoff, Laura Lippman, Dave White, and many, many more.

So, are you going to be in NYC today, around 7pm? If so, all I can say is this:


Monday, March 14, 2005

Live from Broadcasting House...

I have been "recognised" by the BBC. Sort of. They've done a little review of my Mangel website on their web guide thing, describing it as "odd". Other author websites reviewed: Neil Gaiman and William Gibson (who offers a nice theory as to why authors waste their time blogging). Gaiman's "online journal" is already rightly famous in the web world (and I recommend his SMOKE SND MIRRORS to anyone who wants to see what you can do with a pen and a few sheets of A4).

It's probably time to overhaul the whole thing, making it a bit more FAGS AND LAGER and a bit less DEADFOLK.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Going all Balaam on your ass

Hello. Professor Bruce Telford here (from the linguistics dept. at University College, Barkettle) guest blogging for the usual chap.

At some point in the past few years, the phrase "going all [something] on your ass" has crept into our colloquial idiom. Our journalistic idiom also. Worryingly, I have even seen it once or twice in student assignments I have marked. The time has come to examine this figure of speech, before it crops up in the Bible itself.

In short, it is an extention of "...on you" (as in "sorry if I'm going all mawkish on you"). Obviously the "on you" there is entirely redundant. But does the addition "r ass" make it viable?

Another example:

"Now, I'm about to go all linguistic on your ass."

What the person here is saying is "Please be forewarned that I am about to embark on an extended monologue regarding the technicalities of language, which may or may not fill you with feelings of oppression." Clearly the colloquial version is more succinct, but this does not explain why "ass" is chosen to represent the whole. Why not "head"? Or "navel"? Indeed, the choice of "ass" suggests a vague anal fixation on the part of the speaker. He is looking at and addressing the face, but his thoughts are of the anus.

The literal meaning sheds some light on this area:

"Now, I'm about to seize your anus and write a two page essay on linguistics on it, scrawling ink across the buttocks and using the central cleft as a page demarcator."

Could this perhaps be an indicator of true desire: to forego face-to-face communication and deal henceforth solely in facio-anal?

Another possibility: that of "ass" in the zoological sense. The speaker is making the bold assumption that his interlocutor possesses a donkey, and that the interlocutor will permit him to mount said donkey, from which perch he will commence lecturing. However, the figure of speech in question is now in general usage in the Western world, whereas donkeys are not. Again, this could be a latent desire on the part of the speaker.

My conclusion is that the phrase has no worthwhile value, other than to reveal character traits in the speaker best left hidden. If allowed to continue flourishing in the general idiom, my biblical warning will become a depressing reality. In which case Numbers 22:28-31 (King James Version) will look like this:
27 And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she fell down under Balaam: and Balaam went all angry on the ass's ass, and he smote it with a staff.

28 And the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, "What have I done unto thee, that thou hast gone all angry on my ass, smiting it three times?"

29 And Balaam said unto the ass, "Because thou hast mocked my ass: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thine ass."

30 And the ass said unto Balaam, "Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? Was I ever wont to do so unto thine ass?" and he said, "Nay."

31 "Well then," said the ass. "There you go."

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Beer, Bath, and Bugs

The Bath Lit Fest was great. I had a great time anyway, even if the whole audience had left the theatre before I'd finished my reading. Actually no, that's not true - one stayed, the lady in the third row with the loud snore.

Charlie, just shut the fuck up and be serious for once? What's wrong with you? OK, OK, I didn't see anyone leave (and there were people there). I did have a great time, and I think the punters did too (a top quality crowd - knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and extremely good-looking). Of course, this is largely down to Niall Griffiths and Desmond Barry - two hardened, seasoned pros. (James Hawes was a non-starter. He had a very good excuse though, sent a note from his mum and everything.) Actually I had flu at the time (and still do, Lord help me), and didn't really think I could put on the ritz like you have to. But we found a nice little pub beforehand and I managed to get a few pints down me, which is the best medicine and no mistake.

What, you think I'm lying about the flu? You think I'm pulling your plonker, right? Well check this post-event photograph (in the pub, left to right: me, Niall Griffiths, Desmond Barry) and tell me the guy on the left isn't suffering:

Feeling guilty now, eh? Yeah.

Friday, March 04, 2005

S'no fair

They promised us snow. All week they've been saying "Hey, watch out for the snow, folks. It's coming alright. And boy, are you gonna get it!" And you know what happened? Of course you do.

It didn't snow.

Actually it did. It snowed like a bastard in the parts of the country I've been in. But none of it settled. Don't you hate that shit, snow not settling? What is all that about? Do we have underground heating in this country, or something? I wish they'd turn it on when I've got to stand on a fucking station platform for an hour, freezing my balls off (and feet), waiting for a mythical chariot to convey me homeward. But there ain't no underground heating.

And there ain't no snow.

I like snow, you know. I like looking at it, walking in it, lying in it, driving in it, clipping my nails in it, flipping pancakes in it... You know all these people who start whining when there's a bit of snow on the roads? I stick my finger up to them. I show my arse to them. I climb on their roof and piss down their chimney... er... to them.

"Snow on the road kills people," they say. They're right. Snow on the road kills people who don't realise they have to slow down and turn gradually, thereby removing themselves from the equation and making our roads safer for the rest of us who have brains. Well done, snow.

"Snow on the pavement makes old people fall over," they say, too. OK, so what are you gonna do? Ban snow? Shit happens. Snow happens.

But not this week it didn't.

You know what I'm gonna do, in response to all this non-snow?

Thursday, March 03, 2005


Hello there. Danny here from FrotSoft. First off, that's bollocks about Engelbert Humperdinck and "The Last Waltz". Keith must have started that rumour, and it don't surprise us one bit. It is true that I have a couple of Engelbert records in the cupboard at home, but they ain't mine. They're me mam's, and sometimes I gets em out and gives em a spin or two. I sit back with a glass of Baileys and close me eyes, thinking about her. She used to play that Last Waltz song all day she did, right up until her liver packed up on her. So what d'you say for yerself now, eh Keith? What d'you say now you knows why I had that song on when you walked in (without knocking) the other week? Proud of yerself, making out like I'm a poof?

No, me actual favourite song, since yer asking, is "Please Release Me", by Engelbert Humperdinck. But I ain't got time to talk about the whys and wherebys of why it's me favourite. I got bloody shedloads of work to do. Always the same it is - Keith dumps the work on me desk and off he fucks. Aye, muggins here does every bit of it. You know what? I don't even reckon he's ever even touched a fucking keyboard in his life. I tell yer, if I called in sick he wouldn't know what to do. Actually I knows what he'd do - he come round with the computer and set it up next to the bed for us. He's a right bastard, I tell yer. And one of these days I'll show him. I'll fucking show him I will.

And it ain't even like he's bringing proper web desining work in. I can't even remember the last time I desined a web. Course, you knows why. It don't take much head work to notice that no one in Mangel has actually got a computer (besides us), and so putting up a site for Gromer Wines & Tobbaco won't actually bring in much custom. Even Keith clocked onto that in the end, thick though he surely is. I reckon our web site desining days is over.

But do you know what he's gone and done now? He's only gone and changed our sign out front to FROTSOFT INTERNET MARKETING. Aye, so what he does is he goes round shops and businesses and that, telling em he can increase their rollover by hundred percent, or summat, by harnessing the unharnessed harnesses of web harnessing, or summat. Course, they just tells him to fuck off.

So what's this shedloads of work I'm doing, if we ain't got no punters?

"Internal work", is all I can say to you.

It's a bit fucking clever actually. And a bit secret and all. If I telled you about it you'd start doing it yerself, thereby diluting our market share. So I can't tell you nothing about it. Not even a clue, mate. But it's fucking great though. This could be our road to riches, I'm telling yer. What it is, right, is that Keith's got his hands on this compact disc wossname. And on it there's all these flipping email addresses of fellers out there on the outside (meaning not in Mangel). And he's got me working on this program thingy that sends em all messages trying to flog em gear, with subjects like MAKE YER COCK BIGGER IN THREE DAYS. And this is where I'm using me marketeering skills, Keith says. Coming up with slogans and that whereby a feller who receives it can no way pass it up, if he knows what's good for him.

Fuck knows what half the gear is though. (What's VAGRIA, for fuck sake? Ain't that like, you know, a woman's... you know, between her...) And he won't get none for me, will he? Says "a salesman never samples his own wares" when I asked him last week.

A salesman never does no actual fucking WORK, more like.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

"Where's the fuckin beak, Dean..."

Lately I have been learning A LOT of Scouse slang.

This book is ACE:

WRECKAGE stars Darren and Ally, the two scallies I mentioned here. Griffiths picks the story up from the very moment STUMP left off, which for some reason I consider a hugely bold thing to do. Did I describe Darren and Ally as "straight out of Central Casting at Brookside" in my earlier post? Shame on me. Actually no, shame not on me. They were a bit of yer typical scally in STUMP. But he's fleshed them out big time here, in WRECKAGE. And Darren... ah, Darren is a piece of work as nasty as any that Charles "nasty-piece-of-work-meister" Willeford came up with. And I'm a BIG Willeford fan.

Griffiths paints Liverpool like I've never seen it. He takes massive narrative liberties in order to show you what the city is like and why it's like it, even dipping back a couple hundred years to show you a wretched, starved Irish family trying to get across the water. True, he's interested in the characters above all else, but the payoff is that you get the whole city - smells, ghosts, menace and all. It ain't nice, but you get it alright. And you WANT it.

Nice one Niall.

Now, where'd I put me fuckin bugle?