Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Hurry! Hurry!

Don't miss out on your chance to buy Sketchbook Volume 1 by Jonathan Edwards at www.jonathan-e.com. Just 100 printed. It's trad, dad!

Monday, 29 November 2010

Monstrous Monday

I've just started reading MS Bodley 764, the 13th century Bestiary in the Bodleian Library - er, in translation needless to say. The 2006 edition by Richard Barber (Boydell), set as closely as possible to mimic the original manuscript in dimensions and positioning of the illuminations. At first glance not as many monsters as I might have hoped, but here is a jolly manticore making off with somebody's leg.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Spooky Sunday

Finally reviving Uncanny UK (uncannyuk.com), although it still has some glitches. My boffin says he'll fix what's wrong with it now and then in January completely revamp into a whizzo site (hopefully). He designed and built the Paranormal Magazine website so should be cool. The latest posts are in regards to eerie tradtions involving crossroads. I couldn't upload an image (one of the glitches), so here is the one I would have used if I could.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Saturday Matinee

The Abominable Dr Phibes and Dr Phibes Rises Again - the last two great American International productions starring Vincent Price. Stylish, camp, full of black humour but also featuring some quite disturbing scenes, they are better than most of the Hammer films and all of the Amicus films of the period (early 70s), and Price is enjoying himself hugely. I love the top poster but it probably didn't draw the crowds.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Weird Wednesday

One more each from my books on Max Klinger and Alfred Kubin before I find space for them on my shelves. Each sinister image is on a similar theme - the exploitation of women by men. This is fairly obvious in the top image, Klinger's 'Caught', one of his 1884 cycle called A Life. Kubin, typically, goes much further in his horrible 'One Woman For All', dating from 1900-01, with those bestial sub-humans gloating over the bound and naked woman, who has apparently been offered to them.

Klinger was a big influence on Kubin and I noticed that another of the A Life series is entitled 'For All' - it shows the girl as a dancer on a floodlit stage, the admiration of all. Then she is 'Caught' (and ultimately falls into debauchery, poverty and a lonely death). Kubin appears to have combined the two concepts grotesquely, replacing the leering dandies with beast men who would out-Hyde Mr Hyde.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Monstrous Monday

For a few quid at a second-hand bookstall a few years ago I picked up a lovely book of Norwegian Folk Tales, published in Oslo in 1960 (but thankfully in English). These great illustrations of a terrifying tramp and some jovial trolls are by Theodor Kittelsen.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Weird Wednesday

Here are two etchings by Max Klinger. The top one is probably his best known image: it's one of a series telling the story of what happens to a lady's glove after she drops it while ice-skating. It's entitled 'Abduction'. When I first saw this picture I assumed it was drawn in the 1920s or 30s - unbelievably, it was actually done in 1881.

'The Glove' series in particular has a strong flavour of Max Ernst about it, so it was no surprise to learn from the book of 'Graphic Works of Max Klinger' (Dover, 2009) I've just bought that Ernst was greatly influenced by Klinger - as was, it would seem, every other surrealist. Notice how the two grasping hands have crashed through two panes of the window, but there is no hole caused by the pterodactyl - a proper paranormal monster!

I'd rather hoped the book would be stuffed with equal madness, but alas this is not so - not to worry, though, because it's all stunning stuff and further elements of weirdness are scattered throughout, such as in 'The Plague', reproduced above.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Monstrous Monday (belated)

There is the first of a two-part article going in Paranormal Magazine issue 55 (out at the end of the month) by Dr Karl Shuker on 'Frgotten Cryptids' - weird, as yet unidentified creatures that even most cryptozoologists seem to have forgotten about. One of the critters Karl highlights is an alleged giant, poisonous water shrew that used to live - of all places - Scotland! He writes:

'According to traditional lore in northern Scotland, certain deep pools and rivers in Caithness were once home to a small yet potentially dangerous mystery beast known as the lavellan.
Although likened in superficial form to a water shrew, it was said to be bigger than a rat and extremely venomous (interestingly, shrews are known to have a weakly venomous bite). Famous naturalist Thomas Pennant investigated reports of it in the 18th century while visiting Ausdale, and learnt that water in which the preserved skin of a lavellan had been soaked was popularly used as a cure for livestock ailments.'

As he points out, even if the tales were true the animal would certainly be extinct by now. Incidentally, Thomas Pennant lived at Whitford, near Holywell, Flintshire.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Spooky Sunday

Master of the Gothic Henry Fuseli with two illustrations of Shakespeare's plays: Hamlet's father's ghost and Richard III tormented by spirits, including the little Princes in the Tower. The latter was done in collaboration with William Blake, I believe, although how exactly I'm not sure.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Saturday Matinee

Blacksploitation at its most preposterous - and fun.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Weird Wednesday

Despite impending joblessness I have, of course, still been spending money on nice books. I decided I 'needed' a book of drawings by Alfred Kubin - and glad I did because it's fantastic, beautifully presented, stuffed full of plates I've not seen before and the artwork is stunningly insane. Hard to choose a couple of representative pix, so I chose these two just because they come under the bracket of 'weird' (and a bit disturbing): 'The Egg' from 1900 and 'The Hour of Death' from 1901-2.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Monstrous Monday x 2

Two shots of the amazing Christmas window display for Selfridge's Wonder Room in London: a Jonathan Edwards' designed giant dolls house stuffed with Felt Mistress's monsters. I chose the second picture because I love the Doorman - I saw him in the formal furry flesh at Jonathan and Louise's house just before the exhibition was assembled - and, despite there being tough competition, I think he was my favourite. See more pix at: http://feltmistress.blogspot.com/

Monstrous Monday 1

Two images from The Purple Terror, a short story about a man-eating plant in Meso-America by a very interesting writer, now largely forgotten, Fred M White. The story appeared in 1899 in The Strand. There's a surprisingly big sub-genre of killer plant stories, including one written by children's author Edith Nesbit (who had a nice sideline in horror stories) and Sapper, of Bulldog Drummond fame.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Spooky Sunday

Jonathan Edwards's spiffing double-page spread for an article by Nick Redfern on a growing idea among loony American Christians that so-called 'aliens' might be demons in disguise; plus the magazine it appears in, Paranormal issue 54. Jhnathan called his picture '666 Squadron', which I think is great. More stuff at his IHeartPencils blog (see links to the right).

Friday, 5 November 2010

Found Friday

Now that I've - ahem! - joined a gym, I've had recourse again to my drawers stuffed with T-shirts. Most of the good ones disappeared ages ago but at least my Bugs And Drugs tee is still going strong. I could probably still wear it, even with my belly. Bugs And Drugs was the mag that followed on from the legendary Skate Muties From The Fifth Dimension and was almost as much fun. It dates from 1993. I recall walking through Mold high street wearing it and it getting a long hard look from a policewoman. I smiled an ingenuous 'Don't worry, I only sell soft drugs' kind of smile through my beard she wandered past looking very dubious. I wonder what the chaps who put Bugs And Drugs together are doing now?

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Wordy Thursday: Sidelined

Another example of work I did for my MA in Creative & Critical Writing at Chester Uni. We had to write a piece of reportage about where we lived. This is an extract about where I lived at the time.

For forty-two years, Alice Thomas has lived in the same little house in Llong, the last in a row of red brick cottages built in the 1860s for workers on the railway line along which, for twenty of those years, goods or passengers were ferried six yards from her door. Six times a day, trains from Chester would call at Bretton, Broughton, Penyffordd and Padeswood, then Llong, before continuing to Mold and on to Denbigh or the coast. Six times a day they would rush or trundle past in the opposite direction.

For two decades Alice lived her life to the rhythm of passing trains: more than 87,000 of them over the years (if we calculate twelve trains every day with the exception of Christmas and New Year). They rumbled comfortably in the background, conforming to a timetable she had not set but which she welcomed as a framework for her day. At 8.35am she would wave a friendly duster to the children on their way to school; at 4.10pm, she would wave an oven-glove as they passed back. At 3pm everything stopped, not for tea, but for the quarry train. On its way to the cement works at Padeswood, a diesel engine would grind past, pulling gargantuan wagons laden with blocks of limestone. The vibrations would rattle her windows, her false teeth and the ornaments she had placed for safety in the sink.

Twenty-two years ago, the line was decommissioned and taken up. The station was closed and Llong shunted into obscurity. The familiar rhythm regulating Alice’s day has now been replaced by a continual, arrhythmic drone of cars. The hamlet is bisected by a lane which too conveniently links a trunk road with a quick route to the A55. Despite being narrow and full of twists and turns, it has become a rat-run.

Thanks to this constant passing through without stopping, Llong seems a transient place, lacking in identity. This ephemeral character is underscored by its history. No more than a dozen or so people have lived in Llong at any one time, but many more have gathered, temporarily, in order to go on to other places. The station and its neighbouring inn thronged with life, but only periodically, according to the railway timetable. In those days Llong had a purpose.
Today all it is able to boast is an ex-this and a former that. Alice and her three neighbours live in former railway workers’ cottages; the disused railway line and level crossing are just outside their door; the ex-railway station, now the grand but poorly maintained home of 80-year-old George Lloyd, is over the road; and behind it is the former Railway Inn, now a more upmarket private residence owned by a commuting couple with matching 4x4s.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Weird Wednesday

The frontispiece of Harry Price's 1945 book Poltergeists Over England, an old aquatint dating from (I'm guessing) the mid-19th century. Referring to the tormenting imps, Price asks: 'Are these poltergeists?' Well, no, obviously they're not. They represent the tormenting doubts, self-loathing, despair and hunger of a man in abject poverty.

A couple of imps dance round a plate with a fish skeleton on it, his last meal for some time; one smokes a cigarette because he's run out; another holds open his empty pocket and takes the piss with a 'To let' sign, and etc. But the most sinister thing about this picture is the imp trying to urge a cut-throat razor on him: 'Give up, end it all now,' the smiling fiend seems to be saying. Not polts then, but weird enough. And is it just me or does that poor bloke look a bit like Patrick Troughton?

Monday, 1 November 2010

Monstrous Monday

Many thanks to Ciaran, my friend in Singapore, for tipping me off to a further collection of weirdness for Monstrous Monday: a series of illustrations by Japanese artist Tatsuya Morino of classic horror stories. Shown here in order from the top are: The Fly (wearing slippers!) by Frank Langelaans; The Sea Raiders by H G Wells; Murders in the Rue Morgue by Poe; A Voice in the Night by William Hope-Hodgson (good call!); and The Call of Cthulhu by Lovecraft. You can see the set at: