Monthly Archives: January 2010

Guest Post #2 Keith Large

Officially, this is now a series of guest posts (two months in a row, what more do you want, eh?). The irrepressible Keith Large sends us a recent interview (the interviewer’s name escapes me) which details a number of events that have put him on the map in the past few months.  In fact the ADC theatre are reading another of his plays (see my review of Carrot Nappers on this very blog). And yes, he has roped me into playing a werewolf. For LOROS. Bloody hell! All yours, Keith:


Keith. Musing about something...

If I asked you what Britain’s first female fast jet pilot, Princess Diana’s brother and the fastest man in the world all had in common…apart from they’ve written books… answer they’ve all been speakers at events organised by Leicestershire writer Keith Large.

You might have thought for a man who’s enjoyed two sell out plays of his own in the last 3 months he might have retired from promoting his famous friends.

‘Not a chance,’ he tells me. ‘ I love promoting other people. Nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing people I really believe in do well.’

‘So what forthcoming events have you lined up?’

‘Two I’m really excited about. As much as any event that’s gone before. The first is

on Saturday 30th January at the Leicester Guildhall at 6.30p.m. It’s to raise money for LOROS, The Leicestershire and Rutland Hospice. I first became involved in the marvellous work they do when I introduced Earl Spencer to representatives of LOROS at a writers evening I organised with him at Althorp. The following year he was guest speaker at their annual LOROS Ladies Luncheon which raised £9,000 for the hospice. I also got some more of my writing friends to help with raising money for them in other ways including the very successful book tour with Northants authors Judith Allnatt and Sue Moorcroft. The event at The Guildhall is the biggest yet in terms of how many writers are involved. It’s primarily an evening of writers performing their work but we’ve a couple of very special guest actresses involved.’

Knowing Keith maybe someone from the recent Golden Globe awards.

‘Better,’ he replies. We’ve film and stage actress Genevieve Cleghorn who appeared in Keith’s highly rated comedy ‘Carrot Nappers’ and Marisa Spiteri from LOROS making her acting debut as part of her ‘Challenge Marisa series’ for LOROS.

Genevieve Cleghorn.

‘What about the writers?’

‘Some you will have heard of and some you’ll be hearing a lot more about in the future.’

‘Shall we start with the big names?’

‘Every writer is a big name to me. I love writers and anybody who’s got the courage to produce work and get it out there for the world to judge has got my respect.’

‘So you’re not going to give us any clues who’s appearing?’

‘I know Dan you’re trying to get me to name drop. Stephen King is he a big name?’

‘You’ve never got him to come?’

‘No, but there’ll be an author there on the night who’s won The World Fantasy Award as many times as him. There’ll also be a lady there who’s books last year were the most borrowed in Northamptonshire libraries and a man who won The Daphne Du Maurier short story competition when it was the biggest short story competition in the world.’

‘And you’re not saying who they are?’

‘No, you’ll have to come along to find out.’

‘It sounds like a great night full of talent.’

‘And fun, It’s not about egos and people taking themselves seriously. It’s for a vital charity and we want to put a smile on people’s faces. Especially Dan when you have a go at acting.’

‘I know somehow I’ve landed a part of playing a Werewolf on the night.’

‘There’s also a chance for some audience participation on the night. as well as some pre-event participation.’

‘What does the pre-event involve?’

‘We want people to send a spooky/horror poem along with a £2 donation by cheque payable to ‘LOROS’ and the best three chosen will be read out on the night by Graham Joyce and will receive a prize as well.

Entries to Marisa Spiteri,

c/o LOROS,

Groby Road,


LE3 9QE.

‘Also we’ll be launching a post event short story competition for LOROS. Can’t you tell we love writing competitions. Top Leicestershire writer Keith Morley has kindly agreed to donate a first prize of £100 to the competition winner with cash prizes also for second and third. More details on the night.

‘So how do people get tickets for this night?’

‘Tickets are £10 including wine and nibbles and are available by contacting LOROS fund raising on 0116 231 8431 or by e-mailing

‘And finally Keith your own writing is going great at the moment. A new play called ‘Every Vote Counts’ starring American actor Steve Kantor who I believe has been e-mailing some of his famous friends including Billy Zane to promote your play and you’ve recently won a national short story competition with ‘The Tisbech Terror’.

But do you think it will always be ‘Carrot Nappers’ that people will remember you for?’

‘Whatever happens in the future, ‘Carrot Nappers’ will always be special. I remember listening to an author who had one really famous book moaning that all people wanted to talk to him about was that one book and none of his other work. I’ll never tire of ‘Carrot Nappers’ because on stage a great cast made it the very thing it was to write…FUN!

‘Talking of fun, you’ve an author visiting Loughborough College on Wednesday 24th March 2010 for an evening guaranteed to be full of laughs.’

‘That’s another night I can’t wait for. We’ve the brilliant Jane Wenham-Jones travelling up from Kent for an after dinner speaker evening. We’ve already sold tickets to writers from as far as Peterborough and South Shropshire for this event.

We’ve ladies staying overnight in hotels for this night, but that might be because they’ve found out who the compere is.’

‘Have you read many of her books?’

‘ Yes, my fave is One Glass Is Never Enough, closely followed by Perfect Alibis. She’s my kind of writer. Like ‘The Carrot Nappers’… she’s full of FUN!

‘A night not to be missed.’

‘Only the sober and boring won’t be there. Check out the what’s new link on her website it has details of how to book.’


Comic Book Classics #2 Sambre

  Sambre by Yslaire and Balac


If comic books have a spiritual home, Belgium is the place. Ok, so press cartoons first appeared in Germany with Max und Moritz and were fitted with speech bubbles by Outcault in New York, but it was in Brussels where Georges Remi (Herge) elevated the newspaper strip to high art. Here began the art form known as Bande Dessinee –or BD– which took the cartoon into the realm of the album: a full-colour, hardbound book of 48 to 64 pages, printed on quality paper. This shift from newsprint to album, (a Belgian invention) allowed the cartoon to emerge as a true narrative art.

Sambre is an exceptional example of the sheer power of BD storytelling. It is not available in English translation and the whole story is as yet unfinished, but it still packs the kind of narrative punch that is hard to find in any other medium. Anyway, to the story. Set in 19th century France, Sambre tells the tale of a wealthy family and their tragic decline. It begins in 1848. Hugo Sambre, patriarch of the family, is dead. Hugo has spent his last years in a state of delirium, writing a book of prophecies entitled “The War Of The Eyes” (La guerre des yeux). In this book he warns that people with red eyes shall cause the downfall of all others with blue, brown or green eyes unless they unite against their common enemy. At his funeral, we meet his children. The idealistic Bernard, in his earl teens, shares the common view that his father was a raving lunatic. His elder sister Sarah, however, thinks of her father as a genius and takes it upon herself to finish her father’s manuscript. At the funeral, the siblings argue and Bernard runs off into the countryside to get away.

Bernard and Julie: Star-Crossed Lovers

A storm erupts. Sheltering under a bridge, close to the Sambre family estate, he meets Julie a girl poacher with crimson eyes. She is achingly beautiful. He falls for her and she for him. Unable to express his feelings, he challenges her over a stolen goose (taken from his estate). Julie removes a ruby hatpin from her hair and stabs the goose through the eye, killing it. As the blood fills the eye socket, she declares that as both she and the bird now have red eyes, the goose belongs to her.

The potency of the imagery used adds a level of richness to the narrative that only comic books can deliver. Red circles (eyes, windows, rising suns and cherries) signify a forbidden love, and are lurking on every page. The goose also has a significance. Back at the Sambre home, they find one of the geese screeching. She is crying out for her partner, taken away by Julie. We learn that geese pair for life and find the absence of their partner unbearable. The geese thus become a cypher for loss and longing. There are many such instances of narrative invention. As a story it brings together a melodramatic tale of doomed love, madness, jealousy and the 1848 Revolution in an intricate narrative which pays homage to the spirits of Zola and Balzac. It is this richness in the storytelling that makes Sambre such a tour de force.

Sadly, the series has suffered a number of problems which detract from the overall genius of the work. Mainly this is down to the main artist and writer, Yslaire (Bernard Hislaire) who seems to have got sidetracked into a number of other projects and never got round to finishing the series (Balac only appears as a co-author in volume one). The first four volumes are exceptional. A fifth volume, which follows Julie some twenty years later, takes the story in another direction. Three volumes of a “Prequel” have also appeared, telling the story of Hugo Sambre and Julie’s mother, Iris. Yslaire has ceased to be involved in “Hugo et Iris”and ghost-writers/artists seem to have been employed to finish off this series. Another irritating feature of the Sambre series is that Yslaire has redrawn or updated the first four volumes on at least two occasions (I suppose as a kind of ‘directors cut’ of the whole series).

Sadly, there is nothing the we the true fans can do about this. We wait patiently for Yslaire to get his mojo back and finish his master work. We can only return to gaze at his earlier genius, falling in love, as Bernard did, with the ravishing Julie and muttering Hugo Sambre’s warning under our breath.


The War of the Eyes is eternal and without mercy.



War of the World-Builders

No-one remembers now how The War began; a conflict that swept through the multiverse all those aeons ago.

What madness could overtake both people and Gods in such a way? Who indeed started the whole thing off? Did Fantasy turn on Science Fiction –or Scyfy launch an attack on their fellow travellers in the Fantastic… What old and ancient enmity could give rise to such antipathy? Still it continues. A struggle without end; a war where no quarter was given, no peace declared, no coherent argument marshalled. They fought on, over a dwindling readership, as two bald men over a comb.

"I beseech you from the bowels of Christ..." An SF roundhead tries to persuade a fantasy Cavalier to give up magic for a talking squid.

The 21st century had reached its second decade and it was the turn of the Fantasy camp to be jubilant. Their fortifications were impressive; walls buttressed by seemingly endless vampire novels, boy wizards and door-stop trilogies. They jeered at their opponents from their high ground, watching their enemy destroy itself from within.

“Come and have a go, muggles!” they shouted.

“Not another f#@?ing elf!” came the expected retort.

Despite their bravado, the SciFi camp was in a desperate state. Already their more capable commanders (Ballard, Vonnegut, Atwood) had defected to the mainstream. The rest of the troops were coalescing into factions: Hard SF boys were engaged in a battle for control with the partisans of Soft and Fuzzy. In a corner of the camp –rusting– the Steampunk engines lay, waiting for a decision to be made. Trekkies sulked. Every year their ranks dwindled even as the number of fan events and conventions rose.

“But it is all about the science, it’s even in the bloody title!”

“No! How can you be so witless? It’s all about characters and emotions and…”

“Piss off and write romance stories for Woman’s Realm, then!”

“Ooh! That’s just typical that is! You and your endless regurgitations of quantum theory, mundane science and global bleeding, bloody warming. Why can’t you just dream a dream?”

“I almost did, because you’re sending me to sleep.”



The Eternal Champignon. Spreading tasty omelettes throughout the myriad plains of the multiverse.

In the middle distance the neutrals prepared for the battle to come. They were the mercenaries, belonging to both camps and none: The Warhammer 40,000 novels, the Young Adult Fiction and the other shiftless flotsam of the continent of Literata. It was a land with no Borders, a voracious Amazon and a lot of tumbling Waterstones.

Warhammer 40000: Substituting plot for dice-rolling since 1983

“Will they ever sort out these pointless arguments about the nature and intrinsic character of their genres, daddy?” said a cute little blonde-headed child, looking with big, saucer-like eyes at her genetically designated adult. Some distance away, the battle raged.

“No, kid. I don’t think so. Not until the fantasy camp realise they’re just peddling magic realism with it’s brains kicked out and the SciFi gangs find a way to be friends again.”

“Oh. And daddy, does Pukka Tukka: Jamie Oliver’s Story go with the cookbooks or the biographies?”

“Now, let’s not start that one again…”

TO BE CONTINUED (ad nauseam)

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