Archive for February, 2015

Another review and recommended read

February 18th, 2015  |  Published in Dark Tales, music biography, music criticism, music history, Reviews, Self Publishing, Writer and Research

Love Becomes a Funeral Pyre: Biography of The Doors by Mick Wall


Misunderstood genius and lost soul – couldn’t put it down 

This biography of The Doors, America’s version of the 1960’s Rolling Stones, is brilliant, engaging and sometimes difficult to read. Wall paints an evocative portrayal of the path to self-destruction Jim Morrison paved for his short life. Tragic and intense, Wall captures the essence of how the band’s singer, young lion and iconic sex symbol, packed thirty years into three. Wall aptly foreshadows Morrison’s demise as tortured, often misunderstood genius, musician and poet. Along with his downward spiral he pulled his band down with him. Despite the open anarchy Morrison inflicted on his entourage and society the band seemed to miraculously resurrect itself. What makes this read even more compelling is his how Morrison College educated, awkward and overweight with no obvious musical talent became an accidental rock star.

Wall’s criticism of Morrison and the band’s keyboardist, Ray Manzarek, is often harsh. But it is easy to read against the flow of this and to see Morrison’s story as a tribute to the poet and social critic he wanted to be known as. Despite being comfortable as a misfit, he initially couldn’t resist the adulation he gained. However, it didn’t take long for the gloss to wear off and him shunning fame and the power it wielded it was always going to be too late for Morrison. Wall captures the decent of a lost soul so destroyed by drugs, alcohol and fame that he resembled the living dead. Even when Morrison was at his lowest points and inebriated he was still able to capture audiences with his poignant lyrics, unique voice and thought provoking philosophy.

I read this as a tribute to Morrison and The Doors regardless of what Wall may have intended.

Review of Fifty Shades of Grey

February 15th, 2015  |  Published in Reviews, Self Publishing, Writer and Research

Handcuffs and whips and orgasms…Oh My!


I was in a bookstore a week ago and a middle-aged woman came in and asked the assistant for the second Shades of Grey book. “I never read books but I couldn’t put this down,” she said. I thought that if this book is getting adult non-readers into reading it can’t be too bad, so took the plunge.

Pretty much every negative comment about the novel here is true and I am bewildered as to how anyone could have the patience and tolerance to finish and enjoy it. The prose is flat and tasteless, for example: “Curiosity kicks in big time”. This is lazy writing. The characters are cardboard cut-outs. Grey is too good to be true, excellent at, like, everything, and so hot. Ana is dim, spraying repetitive clichés all over the place and blundering about carelessly. The supposed big attraction, the sex scenes, are cookie-cutter depictions that might have been lifted from porn fiction or video sites. Other weaknesses are more minor irritations, such as the English vernacular that James uses, e.g. “Laters, Baby”. Or, my favourite, the lengthy list of rules set down for their relationship and her role as a submissive.

However, the book is also disturbing, unintentionally, as I cannot believe that James has the capacity for subtlety or thematic depth. Grey is morally not much better than a paedophile, using power, wealth, status and influence to get what he wants, which is control over Ana. He flatters her, buys her expensive gifts, overwhelms her with his accomplishments, so he can possess her. This is an abusive relationship. He tells her at one point that she is the one who has power over him, a predictable and egregious abuser’s rhetorical gambit. Everything he does for her he really does for himself. He is a creepy stalker. He preys on Ana’s naiveté and uses his sexual experience and her attraction to him to manipulate her. He gives his actions a veneer of fairness and consensuality with his agreements and rules while binding the girl to him. Yes, she is an adult and a willing participant, but I found his insinuation of himself into her life and his exercise of power to be distasteful. Although Ana eventually leaves, her subjugation to him has been profound; her small rebellious acts of questioning him about his past simply highlight how little agency she has. I do not know how female readers can be okay with a woman who trades sexual exploitation for…well, it’s hard to see what she gets from the relationship apart from lots of orgasms (these are hilarious) and a great deal of distress. The car and the other gifts are simply part of his manipulation – he’s rich, they mean nothing except to enforce gratitude. He does other exciting things to make her happy, but it’s always a big deal, a stunt to be impressive, and thereby coercive.

Surprisingly, at times I thought there might be a real novel lurking within Fifty Shades of Grey. James might have explored dark eros and given us some meaningful insights. But this novel is too self-important and humourless. The sex scenes are not erotic or exploratory, but grindingly mechanistic and Ana’s responses increasingly mind-numbing and risible.

The last word comes from a young woman serving in a café who I mentioned the book to: “ I tried to read it but I couldn’t finish because it was so boring”.

Another review and recommended read

February 12th, 2015  |  Published in Dark Tales, Horror, Reviews, Social Issues, Writer and Research


Professor Challenger

I thoroughly enjoyed each of these stories as they are all as well written and dramatic as the best known of the collection, The Lost World. Arthur Conan Doyle’s writing here has stood the test of time; modern readers will find his prose engaging and accessible, not dated or impenetrably dense.

These stories are generically interesting too – fantasy, romance, adventure, thriller mixed in with a kind of early science-fiction. What also struck me was that there is a strong thread of social criticism implicit in some of the stories, most notably in Land of Mist, which I’ll return to in just a moment. Doyle has a social conscience; although it may seem elitist, his decrying of his period’s general scientific ignorance and closed-mindedness is just as relevant today. Another example is in The Disintegration Machine, with its trenchant condemnation of the amoral development and sale of weapons of mass destruction.

Arthur Conan Doyle is sometimes mocked for what some take to be his naïve credulity in matters of the occult. The story in this collection, Land of Mist is criticised by another reviewer as merely an apology for the author’s spiritualist beliefs. Rather, it is a study of how society may ruthlessly crush those it deems heretical, and its focus on institutional authoritarianism, police duplicity, the corruption of the law and the exploitation of the helpless is quite moving. Some of the scenes recall Dickens’ depictions of poverty and squalor.

For the price you cannot go wrong with this collection. Reading these stories has inspired me to seek out other examples of the author’s lesser known works.

Literary Vampires

February 4th, 2015  |  Published in Dark Tales, Horror, Self Publishing, Writer and Research


I’ve been over-whelmed by the task of undoing the damage an Editor has inflicted on my work. I have self-published a novella and two novels. My next novel a supernatural horror, Who’s Watching Samantha is due for publication in the first quarter of 2015. As I go through this final draft I am finding approximately one error for every hundred words. Some of these are missed proofing errors; others errors the Editor has imposed on my manuscript.

The lesson here is writer beware. It’s a travesty that in the arts the creative person is the beginning of work that flows from them. Unfortunately, the money flows the other way so the artist is the last person to see anything if at all. As part of my research I read prolifically, and am currently reading a biography of The Doors, titled Love Becomes a Funeral Pyre. Even a group as famous and iconic as The Doors often stared poverty in the face.

In the past three years I’ve engaged a number of publishing services. Some have been exceptional, others average and sadly some appalling as with this Editor accredited by Editors Victoria. Regardless of their quality these people have to be paid and it’s the old story of everybody making money before the artist. I accept that these services are necessary, but I am galled by how many self-appointed experts there are in the publishing industry seeking to ride on the writer’s coat-tails. Just as anyone can buy a truck and some tools then call themselves a tradesman, I have discovered that the publishing services industry is replete with those who make claims about their expertise and craft with nothing more than hollow promises. I remain sceptical of any publishing services provider until they prove themselves otherwise.