Monthly Archives: February 2010

English Gods

 “Howdo, Bill.”


“Nice out.”

“If you say so. Peppermint cream?”

“Cheers, thanks.”

“You heard about her at number eleven, then?”

“The bungalow?”

“Yeah, the one with the red gravel on the drive.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

“Well, my Eileen was was on her mobility last week and she’s going down the pavement…”


“As it happens, yes. She was going to Sainsbury’s…”

“Don’t like their apples.”

“No. Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes. Eileen gets to number eleven just as she’s reversing out of her drive and they get chatting, like.”

“Oh, yeah?”

“Eileen says, you know, ‘how are you doing’ and that. Just neighbourly, like and she says to her she’s going off to Australia.”


“Yeah, nice. But then she turns round and says she’s going for six months!”


“Yeah. So Eileen says ‘that’s a long time to be away’ and she says that her sister lives out there and that she’s going to stay with her.”

“Six months?”

“Near Cairns. Well, once you’re out there, might as well stay for bit, mightn’t you?”

“I suppose.”

“And get this. She says to Eileen that she’s going to have a couple staying in the bungalow while they’re away. To house-sit for them, like.”

“Ah! New neighbours.”

“That’s what Eileen says. She says ‘Are they nice?’, ‘Do we know them?’ and guess what she comes back with?”

“I dunno.”

“She says, right –no word of a lie, she says ‘you don’t know ’em, they’re old friends of my Steve’s. Lovely couple names of Tiw and Ipona.’”

“Fucking hell!”

“That’s what I said!”

“So where are these from, then?”


“Fucking hell!”

“Gods, apparently.”

“Well, you know me, Albert. I’m an easy-going sort of chap, I can take or leave most folk –but Gods? I just don’t believe in ’em.”


(Written by D. Ribot. Not to be confused with American Gods by Neil Gaiman, especially in case of legal action)


Comic Book Classics #3


 If there was ever one comic book writer who should be a shoe-in for a Nobel Prize for Literature, it is Argentina’s Carlos Trillo. Not that I want to have a go at the Nobel’s (OK, so they never gave Jorge Luis Borges the main gong, but they can make up that insult to Argentine letters by honouring Trillo –so there!).


Trillo was born in the 1940s, Juan Domingo Perón was running the show. Bad, do you think? It’s just about to get worse. When Trillo begins to write professionally in the 60s, the political system is swinging wildly from democracy to dictatorship and back again. Political turmoil was perhaps the result of a steady economic decline. For authors it was a troubling time. Even if you could escape censorship today, that is not to say that a coup next week might look on your writing and/or politics differently. One early lesson was learning to write in censorship-proof language; a code to be deciphered by reading between the lines.

Argentina has always had amazing cartoonists and the 1960s were no exception. Trillo began his collaboration with illustrator Horacio Altuna and between they produced some truly biting political satires. One of the best is their first: Charlie Moon.

The eponymous hero of Charlie Moon is an adolescent growing up in the 1930s depression-era America. Charlie is a hobo, living by hitching rides on trains, taking short-term jobs and trying to make his way in a hostile, uncaring world. Charlie observes (usually in silence) the middle class snobbery, racism and barbarity of a society that despised its poor. On the surface, it is a devastating critique of the US and its economic system (There is some justification for this kind of a reading, given the ignoble US role in Latin American affairs). There is, however, another way of reading the text: Charlie becomes Carlos and the critique is not ostensibly about the US, but how the poor live in Argentina. Where Chekhov told writers to write about their own village to aspire to universal themes, in a dictatorship you have to use universal themes to talk about your own village. Charlie Moon is high art. Art produced under dangerous conditions.

The doors to Mr Lopez's fantasy world...

Just how difficult the conditions were to become, was typified by the fate endured by cartoonists Hector Oesterheld and Enrique Brescia, murdered by the bloodthirsty Videla dictatorship. Many of their relatives were murdered too. Trillo had collaborated with Brescia and others. As many cartoonists, he had to find refuge in fantasy and SF to escape the censors. With Altuna he invented the doors of Mr Lopez (a humorous fantasy). And the SF cosy catastrophe, The Last Playtime.

The Last Playtime --Trillo & Altuna

Mr Lopez is a fat, middle aged pen-pusher who is bullied by his wife and pushed around by his boss and work colleagues. He does, however, have an escape. Every time Lopez goes into a toilet cubicle, he goes into a parallel dimension. In that parallel dimension, he will go through adventures that relate to and comment on his own experience and society’s attitudes. The Last Playtime is set in a world where all the adults in the world have died as a result of biological warfare. The children are left to sort out their own lives and soon fall into the same patterns as their elders: The children of soldiers have access to guns and can control the food supply –everyone else works for them. Eventually the biological agent wears off and some of the children become sexually mature. This maturity, which leads to love, becomes a way to liberate the young from self-imposed dictatorship.

 In his latter years Trillo has seen his work translated into English. His masterwork (and for this alone he should be ‘Nobelled’) is his writing on The Big Hoax (artist: Domingo Mandrafina). It is a work that is hard to describe. It is at once a magical-realist fable, a filmic noir thriller and an evocation of Bolero music. It is the tale of Donny, a PI who gets involved with the niece of the dictator of an imaginary Latin American island. Their story is told/manipulated by the Island’s writer of radio soap operas. Its Garcia Marquez meets The Maltese Falcon. (With Robert Mitchum in a starring role). A truly amazing piece of storytelling (its sequel, The Iguana is in the shops too!).

 So that’s my nomination. Did he do more fun stuff? Yeah. With the Catalan Jordi Bernet he wrote Clara De Noche (a Belle du Jour spoof) and his most recent work, Spaghetti Bros. is a fun tale of New York Italian mafiosi It’s all good stuff. Maradona may have the ‘ Hand of God’, but not the one he uses to write comic-books. Another Argie has that one..

Da Spaghetti Brudders


 ** A fab LOROS fundraising evening on January 30th! A Spooky Night At The Leicester Guildhall gathered a wealth of local writing talent to entertain the local cognoscenti. Here’s the Roll-call: authors Graham Joyce and Judith Allnatt, actress Genevieve Cleghorn, Scriptwriter Stephen Loveless, Speculators Damien G Walter, JW, Maria Smith and myself, up-and-coming writers Sheila Kondras, Krys Wysocki and (all the way from Shropshire) Nicola Vincent. Promising young talent Brian also shone. Great credit must go to the organizer of the event, Keith Large and LOROS’s Marisa Spitieri (incidentally you can challenge Marisa to do things for charity. If anyone has a tin bath, I’ve got half a packet of custard powder in the cupboard. We could make her sit in a bath of custard beside the Clock Tower).

L-R Brian, Marisa Spitieri and Keith Large at the Guildhall

I read out a short little story of my own called “Life In Film” I also unleashed my werewolf mask on the Leicester public. In an uncanny twist of fortune, I also won the raffle. A big thanks to all my fellow performers, to Keith and Marisa, the really helpful staff at the Guildhall who even cleared up for us after the event and to all of those who attended. You were all outstanding.

Me. Reading

** A rumour is going round that Graham Joyce is to come and visit the Speculators. I am a late convert to his writing (I’ve just read the Tooth Fairy –which only came out in 1996 – and I’ll never go near a carp again…), but it is truly top notch stuff.

** My computer died this month. In Nomines Patris Et Filis Et Espiritus Sanctus, Amen. May my hard drive rest in peace.

** I am attending the Writers Industries Conference and an evening with Jane Wenham-Jones in March. Both are great events which allow ample schmoozing time with other writers. I’m down for the lamb and the chocolate cake at the JW-J evening. At last, a decent meal.

** I’m also attending some cool writing courses at the Leicester Writing School. Apart from the Saturday Manuscript Clinics, where I’m polishing my new Vampsov-1938 from a Toyota hatchback into a chrome-finned sexmobile, I am in the last week of Polly Tuckett’s course on writing prose for performance. The course Writing Out Loud is great and full of really awesome writers. Polly runs the Shortfuse evenings at the Y Theatre for prose performance. They are always a good night out.

** Off to the new Phoenix soon. Never been before, but the prospect of seeing “Jesus Christ, Vampire Hunter” is about to tempt me from my lair. It’s on on the 19th at 11 pm, if anyone else fancies going.

** They are “restructuring” Leicester’s libraries. What this means is that the Central Library will close. The Records Library will now become the Central Library. Both collections will have to share one building and the music collection will be buried in a library nobody can get to without taking three buses and crossing into a parallel dimension where the City Council gives a shit. The vacated library building will now be used to train job-seekers in finding non-existent work (So at least there will still be plenty of fiction going on there).

** In contrast, Northampton’s main library is celebrating it’s centenary. Last year it was renovated and now looks amazing. Let’s see if Leicester’s changes result in anything half as good.

My Top 60s Tunes

Just thought I would share some of the music that makes me tap my feet and rock my little heart out. OK, it’s weighted to the Psychedelic/garage side a bit, but that’s the stuff I keep going back to: the bands no-one has heard of. I guess rarity and obscurity add value to a lot of these songs. Before Youtube, they were really hard to find. Anyway, enjoy my top 100.

An Album That Changed My Life...

1) The Kinks — I’m Not Like Everybody Else

Always loved this plaintive, teenage, angst-filled rant about individuation. Yeah. Ray Davis knew the score…

2) Johnny — Cash Drums

Johhny Cash was always proud of his Native American heritage. Here he tells it like it is to all the white Usian invaders; “In our loosing we found proudness / in your victory, you found shame.”

3) Love — Signed DC

Best song about drugs ever. Best band ever. I was lucky enough to see Arthur Lee performing in the UK in 2004 as he went through the whole Forever Changes album with his new band. His death was a sad blow.

4) The Third Bardo — Five Years Ahead Of My Time

Ah, those Usian teens and their electric guitars… You can forgive them anything (almost) when they deliver such killer tunes. Fifty years ahead, man!

5) The Chocolate Watchband — In The Midnight Hour

Soul classic delivered by the psychedelic/garage masters of California. Aguilar’s vocals are, as usual, superb.

6) The Byrds — Old John Robertson

The kings of folk-rock delivering a wayward wistful wondertune. Good message too: don’t cheek your elders.

7) The Beatles — Don’t Pass Me By

Love this. Sounds so laid-back. One of the mop-tops best ditties. And it was written and performed by Ringo as well.

8 ) Wimple Winch — Save My Soul

What a song! What a baseline! Liverpool’s 2nd coolest band ever, let rip with err.. whatever the song’s about. Girls, probably.

9) The Who — Can’t Explain

The Who’s first single. Set a standard even then. Classic Townshend/Daltrey/Entwhistle/Moon.

10) Shocking Blue — Venus

Sultry Dutch masterpiece. Great vocal by Mariska Veres. Disco music’s dodgy old uncle who visited it’s mother when dad was out.

11) Jethro Tull — Living In The Past

12) The New Seekers –I’ll Never Find Another You

13) Joan Baez  — We Shall Overcome

14) The Burgundy Runn —  Stop!

15) The Sonics — Boss Hoss

16) The Fugs — CIA Man

17) Dusty Springfield — Son Of A Preacher Man

18) Van Morrison — Gloria

19) The Rolling Stones — Satisfaction

20) The Kingsmen — Louie Louie

21) Pink Floyd — Arnold Layne

22) Robert Parker — Twist In Space

23) The Litter — Action Woman

24) Creedence Clearwater Revival — Bad Moon Rising

25) The Bonzo Dog Band — Canyons Of Your Mind

26) The Spencer Davis Group — Keep On Running

27) The Ronettes — Baby Love

28) The Human Beinz — Nobody Like Me

29) The Velvet Underground — Heroin

30) Joni Mitchell — Chelsea Monday

31) The Archies — Sugar Sugar

32) The Easybeats — Gonna Have A Good Time

33) The Moving Sidewalks — 99th Floor

34) Mouse And The Traps — A Public Execution

35) Leonard Cohen — One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong

36) Count Five — Psychotic Reaction

37) Stevie Wonder — Uptight

38) The Bohemian Vendetta — Enough

39) Fairport Convention — Matty Groves

40) Simon & Garfunkel — I Am A Rock

41) Desmond Dekker & The Aces — The Israelites

42) Gonn — The Blackout Of Greetly

43) The Small Faces — Itchycoo Park

44) Los Bravos — Black Is Black

45) Chuck Berry — No Particular Place To Go

46) The Pretty Things — Walking Through My Dreams

47) The Heart Beats — Cryin’ Inside

48) The Outsiders — I’m In Pittsburgh (and it’s raining)

49) The Haunted — 1-2-5

50) The Honeycombs — Have I The Right

51) The Stoics — Hate

52) The Jimi Hendrix Experience — Voodo Chile

53) The Leaves — Hey Joe

54) The Incredible String Band — Witches’ Hat

55) Bob Dylan — The Times They Are A-Changin’

56) Steppenwolf — Born To Be Wild

57) Juicy Lucy — Who Do You Love

58) The Four Tops — Bernadette

59) Fire — My Father’s Name Is Dad

60) Serge Gainsburg & Jane Birkin — Orangutan

61) The 13th Floor Elevators — You’re Gonna Miss Me

62) The Amboy Dukes — Journey To The Center Of The Mind

63) The Royal Guardsmen — Snoopy vs The Red Baron

64) Marvin Gaye — Sittin’ At The Dock Of The Bay

65) Screaming Jay Hawkins — Yellow Coat

66) Peter & Gordon — World Without Love

67) The Dave Clark Five — Glad All Over

68) Sarita Montiel — ¡Que Viva España!

69) The Doors — Break On Through (to the other side)

70) Herman’s Hermits — No Milk Today

71) Manfred Mann — The Mighty Quinn

72) The Electric Prunes — Try Me On For Size

73) We The People — In The Past

74) Elvis Presley — Return To Sender

75) Smokey Robinson & The Miracles–  Tears Of A Clown

76) Los Beatniks — Tampico Twist

77) The Monkees — Last Train To Clarkesville

78) Lonnie Donegan — The Big Grand Coolie Dam

79) Prince Buster — Al Capone

80) The Castaways — Liar Liar

81) The Ruins — The End

82) Larry & The Bluenotes — Night Of The Sadist

83) The Checkerlads — Shake Yourself Down

84) Sandie Shaw — (There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me

85) Kim Foley — The Trip

86) Nobody’s Children — Good Times

87) Aretha Franklin — Respect

88) Englebert Humperdinck — Release Me

89) The Crazy World of Arthur Brown — Fire

90) The Rumors — Hold Me Now

91) Richard & The Young Lions — Open Up Your Door

92) The Seeds — Pushin’ Too Hard

93) Bubble Puppy — Hot Smoke And Sasafrass

Bubble Puppy, Looking Good (for a bunch of Texans)

94) Donovan —  Sunshine Superman

95) Louis Armstrong — What A Wonderful World

96) Henry Mancini — The Baby Elephant Walk

97) The Fallen Angels — Bad Woman

98) The Barbarians — Are You A Boy Or Are You A Girl?

99) The Hombres — Ya Ya

100) Bobby Boris Pickett & The Crypt-Kickers — The Monstermash

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