I need ya, Deck…I need the old Bladerunner, I need your magic Read the rest of this entry »
From the opening lines Ray’s autobiography is imbued with a personal touch which contrasts Mick Wall’s cynicism. Read the rest of this entry »
Delphi Edition of the Complete Works of Bram Stoker Read the rest of this entry »
Classic History of Tragic Events
As the centenary of Gallipoli approaches I return to this famous account of the beginning of the First World War. Here’s my review as posted on Amazon.
I’ve recently read a number of recent accounts of the prelude to World War 1 and decided to compare these to my old, cheap Bantam Books 1980 edition of The Guns of August. I dusted it off and began.
And found it hard to put it down. Tuchman’s work may have its deficiencies, as other reviewers have suggested, but her writing is far and away the most dramatic and exciting. She has the novelist’s power to bring events and characters to life in the reader’s mind and to give her writing the thematic richness of a great and profound narrative. Reading this book again after many years reminded me of the tragic texts of war, such as Zola’s The Debacle. Tuchman’s prose leaps from the page and she imbues her writing with her views and values. The title of one of her other books, The March of Folly, is consistently brought to mind as Tuchman is unsparing in her criticism of those who she sees as playing a part in bringing Europe to disaster. Almost every page contains a memorable quote or example of razor-sharp writing, but here is just one example, on Czarist Russia: “The regime was ruled from the top by a sovereign who had but one idea of government – to preserve intact the absolute monarchy bequeathed to him by his father – and who lacking the intellect, energy, or training for his job, fell back on personal favorites, whim, simple mulishness, and other devices of the empty-headed autocrat”. Read this depiction of Nicholas aloud to hear the sharp, incisive voice of condemnation, the harsh rhythm of contempt for an appalling ruler.
Tuchman is simply indispensable to your understanding of the Great War. I’ve not studied History academically for some time now so I do not know where Tuchman’s book stands among specialist scholars. But for the general reader and amateur historian of the First World War, it is the best introduction to the period it covers and will likely inspire you to read further. As a companion volume, by the way, Tuchman’s The Proud Tower is equally fascinating.
For more reviews I’ve posted go to:
As well as reviewing dark fiction, I review music, including biographies of iconic musicians. One of my recent blogs reviewed: Love Becomes a Funeral Pyre (Biography of The Doors by Mick Wall)
Watch this space for more reviews, include: Steampunk Erotica and Bram Stokers (stories include alternative endings).
Not to be missed DVD for Doors fans and a worthwhile watch for those who appreciate great music.
This DVD is essential for any Doors fan. Even casual fans should buy it as it may well inspire them to investigate the band’s music further. The restoration of the film of the Doors’ 1968 Hollywood Bowl concert is a triumph of modern technology and a credit to the original cinematographers. The video and audio is now so good that the concert could have been filmed last week. The process of restoration is covered in detail in one of the excellent Extra features on this DVD. The mini-documentaries are well worth watching and there are some bonus television performances included.
The concert itself shows the band at their peak in a live setting. At the time much of their best music was still to come, particularly the albums Morrison Hotel and L.A. Woman, but this performance is a good representation of their work up until this point. Later in their career live performances would become often shambolic and unpredictable as Jim’s erratic behaviour took increasing hold over him, and the band. This performance is tight and professional. The richness of their music works well in the live setting where their improvisation and extended versions of songs are developed and explored musically and lyrically. The impression we get watching is of a well-rehearsed band with an intuitive understanding of where each song is going.
The concert takes you back to a time when bands just came on stage and played. Unlike the garish and tacky antics of some modern performers, the Doors grab you and hold you with musicianship and the power of their music. There is not much theatricality, except in The End and The Unknown Soldier. Jim is the brooding presence you’d expect, but with boyish smiles and charm, he is also an engaging frontman, and expressive vocalist. Robby is never less than tasteful and astute in his playing. Like the others, he makes it look easy, until, in one of my favourite shots, we see him close up, breath condensing in the cold night air, sweat pouring down his face. Laid back, but intense. Ray is perpetually smiling, hunched over his keyboards with his head cocked sideways, absorbed in the music, playing brilliantly, giving the band so much of their unique sound. The revelation for me was John Densmore. His work is powerful and expressive, subtle and complex. He is easily the equal of any rock drummer, including Baker, Bonham or Moon (and considerably more sane!)
Great concert, but I was saddened when it finished. Ahead lay trouble with the law, controversy, and for Jim, decline, and a squalid death three years later. That we know how the story ends makes this wonderful concert also quite poignant.
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.
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”.
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.
Beware the Editor
Whether you self publish your work, are preparing a manuscript to send to a publisher or the publisher has your manuscript beware of the sloppy editor. I engaged an editor to do a proofread and light edit of my next novel Who’s Watching Samantha due for publication early 2015. The first 60% percent of the work was properly done; 40% was amateurish revealing many missed proofing errors. More alarming the editing style differed suggesting that the editor had passed the work onto someone else for completion. Doing business with this person was frustrating as she was difficult to communicate with and very touchy. When the work was completed she solicited for further work even though my brief was clear. Beware publishing services providers and treat them as a necessary evil until they prove otherwise – at least this has been my experience. The publishing industry is full of self-appointed experts. For my previous works I engaged a reliable, experience English teacher who provided a much better result.
If you would like more information you can contact me by personal message.