Thursday, 6 April 2017

Fallen Angel by Matthew Blakstad

Sean is a computer genius, Jon is an artistic 'man of the moment' and together they are in more than a bit of bother.

Told in flashback between the mid 1990s and the 2000 Dot Com Crash this E-novella is good fun (if a little 'tech confusing' at times). It is 'book zero' in Blakstad's Martingale Cycle and I've had my eye on 'book 1', Sockpuppet, since it came out last year and Fallen Angel has just pushed it further up my tbr pile.

Matthew Blakstad is certainly one to keep an eye on

4/5 stars

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Thoughts on Adrian Albert Mole

So, this week (April 2nd 2017 to be precise) sees what would have been the 50th birthday of one of my favourite fictional characters - Adrian Albert Mole, Diarist Extraordinaire and voice of a generation.

I've been a fan of the Mole diaries since they first came out in 1982. Maybe the fact that I was only 6 weeks older than the fictional Mole made him seem more believable, I don't know, but there was certainly something there that 'clicked'. With each subsequent volume I would be eagerly waiting to see what our 'hero'  would be up to this time around, what scrapes he would get into and even now, all these years later on, if I need something to cheer me up a little the Mole diaries are often my first port of call.

The life of Adrian Mole was never easy (but that would have been boring) . Right from the beginning his family was an awkward, tangled mess .His mother left for Sheffield with their neighbour early in the first book, his dad took up with Doreen 'Stick Insect' Slater then his mother came back, Doreen was dropped and the family was back together - but not for long. Trying to keep track of the family relationships should have been difficult but Sue Townsend, somehow, made it all quite easy.

Mole was very much the social commentator, always seeming to have something to say or advice to offer on the events of the day. He wasn't always right and his advice, although well meant, was often wide of the mark but, bless him, he tried. With his letter writing, poetry writing, play and novel writing (unpublished) he sees himself as an intellectual but isn't as sharp as he thinks he is (entry Monday January 18th 1982 - 'School. First day of term. Loads of GCE homework. I will never cope. I am an intellectual but at the same time I am not very clever).

As time went on he did eventually get published (an offal cookbook) but the things he worked on his whole life still remain unpublished. I guess if Sue Townsend was still with us he may have tried the self publishing route but would have got himself in the usual kerfuffle.

And that brings me to the end of Mole.

I remember quite clearly when I heard the news that Sue Townsend had passed. I was, as you would expect saddened by the news but also remember thinking 'Adrian Mole is dead' too. And, for some reason, that hit harder. No more Adrian Mole diaries.

I heard later on that Sue Townsend had been early on in the process of a new volume before she passed on but that it would now never see the light of day. I would have given anything for those pages and it gave me an idea that has sat in my head ever since...

Picture the scene... Glenn, Adrian's son is going through some boxes in his dad's room and comes across one filled with diaries. The last one is short, finishing abruptly. As he reads a tear drops from his eye. After the last entry he goes to the next date and starts to write...

'My name is Glenn Bott-Mole, son of Adrian Mole. My dad passed on last night (details?). He was a good man. These are his diaries of a life lived...'

That would have been the forward which would have been followed by the final entries. The rest would have been 'Memories of Adrian Albert Mole' by other major characters from the series, written by fans/comedy writers. Any proceeds would go to charity of the Townsend Estate's choosing.

Thank you Adrian Mole for a lifetime of chuckles. You were only a fictional character but I think of you as a friend.



Thursday, 30 March 2017

Warm, Dark Places Are Best by Mike Duke




Times are not good for Carl and Jessica. He's already on disability payment and finances are 'stretched' at best. When they move into a new, cockroach infested apartment block they are surprised to find the only roach free apartment is theirs. When they find out why they may just wish for roaches...

Warm, Dark Places is an unsettling, at times grotesque and totally squeamish story that reminded me of the stuff Shaun Hutson used to write. The nasty just keeps on coming and, yeah, I could guess what was coming but it didn't make things any easier when it did.

All in all I thoroughly enjoyed this. It's nice to read something that will make your skin crawl every now and again.

Afterthought

I checked out the 'nasties' on google while reading this and they do actually exist... sweet dreams 😉

Monday, 27 March 2017

The Legion of Regrettable Super Villains by Jon Morris

It is a fact of life that every Superhero needs a Supervillain, or preferably a whole host of them, in order to keep them in the business of, well, being a Superhero. It is no good being a mild mannered reporter, reclusive millionaire etc by day and Guardian of Justice by night if you don't have a Machiavellian schemer to pit your wits against. Unfortunately, for every Joker, Lex Luthor, Magneto and Green Goblin in the history of Comic Books there is also the lesser known Supervillain, a Captain Black Bunny, a Doctor Cesspool...the list goes on.

These other, lesser known Supervillains may have gone forever unnoticed and forgotten if it weren't for Job Morris and the folks at Quirk. What they have produced here is a glorious tribute to the lesser known criminal geniuses and hero-botherers from 1938 to the modern era. The book is split into 3 sections, The Golden Age, The Silver Age and The Modern Age and each gives, on average 2 pages to each of the selected Supervillains, one page of text and one example of comic strip or a comic cover. You get a brief history of the character, where and when they appeared, who they were pitted against*.

It is easy to see why these failed to become household names as most are laughable, fairly incompetent or just plain rubbish but this book does them a service by celebrating their general rubbishness.

As always with Quirk this is a beautifully put together volume and something all fans of the genre should look at. It is more of a 'dipping into' book than a straight read but you may well find yourself reading just one more page as you lose yourself in the inept machinations of The League of Regrettable Supervillains.

Very entertaining reference book and well deserving of 5/5 stars.

*Such Superheroes as 'Power Nelson, The Future-Man', ' The Wizard and Roy the Super-Boy' and 'Granny Gumshoe' - I know, I've never heard of most of these either but I'm guessing they could be found in the companion volume to this, The League of Regrettable Superheroes (Quirk 2015, same author).

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Nigel: My family and other dogs - pre review thoughts

It is not often that I read biographies and even rarer that I read ones that heavily feature animals. The last was probably Marley and Me, and that absolutely wrecked me.

With 'Nigel' though, I feel I am on fairly safe ground. I know he's had injury problems by I also know he has recovered so I know this will have a happy ending. How do I know this? For those who don't know him, Nigel is the star of Gardeners' World* (BBC2 Friday's) where he is ably assisted by his friend and owner Monty Don. That 1/2 an hour on a Friday evening is pure tv gold, watching Nigel poddle along in the background as MD advises viewers on all things gardeny. And that's what drew me to this book. Seeing the way Nigel and MD interact together you know that here is a devoted pair. I'm already a few chapters in and already the mutual love between man and man's best friend is obvious.

I'm pretty sure I'm going to enjoy this (and hopefully the tears will be few and far between).

*although we rarely refer to it as Gardeners' World, it's usually "Nigel's on at 8"

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

C21st Gods by David Tallerman

If I'm being honest I don't usually bother with comics and graphic novels just because they go by so fast. This one has the name of David Tallerman on the cover so I decided to give it a go - and I am glad I did.

While investigating a series of gruesome murders discovers links to The Old Ones. Things are bad now and they aren't going to get better any time soon.

As you would expect from this kind of story a lot is owed to H P Lovecraft, the father of the Cthulhu Mythos so if you know HPL you know what to expect here. This is dark and gruesome stuff and Anthony Summey's art does a really good job of bringing the story to graphic life on the page.

The only complaint I have is that, as I said earlier, it is over too soon and I want the next volume NOW! (So I guess that's a good thing really).

Certainly worth a look as, for something so short it got me hooked straight away.

4.5/5*

Friday, 10 March 2017

The Hammer and The Goat by Peter Newman

This short story is set during the timeline of Peter Newman's debut novel ' The Vagrant' so before you read this you really ought to read that. The story works as a backstory to one of the novel's characters, The Hammer Who Walks, with The Goat...well, The Goat is just being The Goat really. If you've read The Vagrant you'll know what to expect I guess.

What this tale did for me, more than anything else, is remind me what a bloomin' good author Mr Newman is. The Vagrant had a lead character who doesn't speak, The Hammer and The Goat has a lead who mainly speaks in single syllable words but the power of Newman's storytelling is such that the speech (or lack of) makes the characters even more alive and believable.

If you haven't read this author before, you really ought to give him a try... and get ready to meet the coolest, most scene stealingest goat in fantasy fiction

5*