Friday, July 29, 2005

No Help?

No one knows who did the song "Imagination"? Or are you just all holding back to punish me, because I quoted Dire Straits?

In other news, this post means I have posted every day this week. Which isn't bad going, considering, like Duane S, I never talk about day-to-day writing here. Anyway, I'm off to celebrate with a Forfar bridie.


Thursday, July 28, 2005


In the early 80s there was this song called "Imagination". It was nothing to do with the camp trio called "Imagination", but was in fact by a completely different set of people. My question is, who were they?

Just to help you a bit, the chorus sort of went: "Imagi-naaay-shun". Remember it?

This is not a quiz or anything. Ever since someone put the question into my head at the weekend, it's been driving me insane. I'm starting to see flashy lights in my peripheral vision, and hear voices... Imagi-NAAAY-shun... Please help me.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

You play the guitar on the MTV

These days authors need to diversify if they want to survive, which means looking for other ways to make a buck. One way I found, being crafty, was to use my website to sell books through Amazon, thereby skimming off a nice chunk of commission. Well, I just got a quarterly statement from them and my total income for last quarter was 34p. This is great, because the previous quarter I only got 26p. That's a 30% increase, guys. SERIOUS performance. I'm off to celebrate with a packet of Doritos (if someone would just lend me 6p...)

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Peculiar Billingham

Ah, almost missed this one (being cut off from the world in a noir isolation chamber for the past while)... Congrats to Mark Billingham for winning the first Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award, for his LAZYBONES. Couldn't have happened to a more worthy recipient (except, possibly, Cal de Fed).

Mark wins ten pints of Old Peculier, a kebab, and a taxi home.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Port Eliot

Had a great time at the Port Eliot Festival at the weekend, even though it was rained out. First thing we did when we got there was spread a few flyers around the place, seeing as no one would know who we were, and we were hoping for an audience of at least two (other than my wife and Rob's girlfiend). We put the flyer together the night before at about 2am. Credit must go to Johnny Walker (both Red and Black Label)...

Anyway, the flyer (or more likely the fact that it was pissing it down outside) seemed to work, and the marquee was packed out at showtime minus five minutes. The act onstage before us - some rapper poets I forget the name of - seemed to be rocking the house, so that would have got a lot of bums on seats too. Anyway, all of these matters conspired to pile the pressure on us big time, as we paced around backstage... roaring, shadow-boxing, and chest-thumping (each other's). Also it didn't help that I couldn't find our "backing" CD, which meant Rob would have to make his entrance unaccompanied by his Survivor theme tune. Luckily I found the thing with literally five seconds to spare. I threw it across the backstage area like a frisbee. It sailed through the air as the MC shouted: "Ladies and gentlemen, a big round of applause for... er...". The sound engineer caught it as Rob thumped his chest one last time and jumped stageward. Just before he landed and started doing his thing, the first crunching blow of EYE OF THE TIGER hit home. Phew.

Anyway, after that it was a bit of a daze. I went on and did my nutty Mangel-esque professor routine, explaining about the roots of noir, paying particular attention to film, music, and the roman noir (invented by Julius Caesar in 266BC). I had course notes to hand out and everything...

I dunno. To be honest, it was a miracle we managed to get through the thing. We tried to knock it all together as best we could, but what with one thing (laziness) and another (drunkenness) we never got around to rehearsing it. I've never done anything like that before, and I don't think Rob has either. And believe me, neither of us knows anything about performing. But I'm hoping the audience knew this, and let us off a bit. They were great anyway, and clapped and laughed enough to make us feel like we were doing something right. Hey - if you were there, thanks. And if you are the woman I hit in the face with the flying book (BILLY MORGAN by Joolz Denby) - my sincere apologies. Some flowers are on their way to the hospital.

Dr Charlie Williams lectures while Rob Lewis does his John Inman impression

The fest itself was great. Wish I could have seen more of the place, but even with mudslides and lightning blowing up trees and torrential flooding, everyone seemed happy. And I met Jai there, who I know online from way back. And... AND... we saw this big giant wickerman running alongside the motorway on the way home:

"If I heard a cackling, I would have shit in my pants"

Anyone care to guess which film the above quote comes from?

Friday, July 22, 2005

Hoff Academy

Hi. This is The Hoff, and my pet eagle, guest-blogging for Charley Williamson. Charley has gone off to the Port Eliot Festival now, where he will be doing his "noir academy" thing at 9pm Saturday. But you know what I'd rather be doing at that time on a Saturday night? I'd rather be sitting in a high class restaurant with a beautiful woman, gently singing one of my many ballads into her ear. Or I could be straddling the Berlin Wall, ripping it down brick by brick while singing "Looking For Freedom".

Anyway, if you're not going to this Port Eliot Festival, I suggest you entertain yourself with this fun David Hasselhoff Pac-man game. It's great.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Cuss Count

You can now "search inside" DEADFOLK at (page down a bit). This means you can search the entire text for specific words, and Amazon shows you the bit of text where the word occurs. Plus you can discover interesting facts like the word "love" appearing eight times, whereas "hate" appears not at all. Meanwhile "Mangel" is in there a whopping 77 times, which has got to be a record.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


I should say a bit more about what this is. I have mentioned KING OF THE ROAD once or twice elsewhere, but anyone chancing on this blog wouldn't know what I'm talking about. It is the final instalment in a trilogy which started with DEADFOLK and went on with FAGS AND LAGER. This will be the last one with Royston Blake and Mangel. I said I'd do three when I first spoke to Serpent's Tail, and I'm sticking with it.

You know, I do feel a bit uncomfortable using the word "trilogy". I think it's been hijacked by a certain type of fantasy novel over the years. You think "trilogy", you think "Tolkien". I've got nothing against the old duffer, but I just don't write that kind of stuff. If the word doesn't conjure up images of goblins and wizards, it makes you think: Uh oh, this guy's up his own arse. He'll be talking about his "work" next, and referring to himself in the third person. Well, I promise I won't do that. Charlie Williams is not pompous at all about his work.

Nevertheless, I still say that what I've written is a trilogy. There's no other word for it. It's not a series. A series, in the novelistic (and TV, and movie) sense, is a device where you pick up the same character(s) or setting time and again, and use them as tools to construct some new story. I have no interest whatsoever in that. What interested me, from some moment during the writing of DEADFOLK, was progression. I wanted to take Royston Blake and Mangel and see what would happen with them over a period of time. The world moves on and certain types of folks get left behind, while others have their moment in the sun. This is what I've seen over the years, and this is what I wanted to write about. But you can't do that and go on forever. I think you have to put a cap on it, otherwise the sense of progression gets severely diluted. And for me, that was three books tops. Start, middle, end. Intrigue, crisis, catharsis. Acts 1, 2, 3. A trilogy.

Shit, that turned into one self-absorbed post. I only meant to say "Er, that's KING OF THE ROAD - Mangel book three and final." I guess what I'm trying to say, in my convoluted and arse-about way, is that I am very excited at the prospect of having this trilogy out there. Until I had KING OF THE ROAD written and edited, I was worried that I might get run over by a bus. Now it doesn't matter, so I guess I'll stop looking both ways.

I still hate the word "trilogy" though.

(Mind you, it's better than "quartet".)

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

"Well then in quick succession we had babies, one, two, three"

(A glittering prize to whoever gets where the above quote is from.)

Browsing on Amazon, as you do, I found this winter baby. Makes me cold just thinking about it.

Other news... the pigeons have gone away now. I think they must have defeated Captain Howdy, because I feel lighter on my feet and that Mike Oldfield music is no longer in my head (cheers Jim). Well done pigeons.

The pigeon of Christ compels you

You know pigeons?

You know that bit towards the end of The Exorcist where the two guys of the cloth are really going at it, spraying holy water everywhere and shouting "The power of Christ compels you... The power of Christ compels you... etc"? You know that bit, yes?

And you know pigeons?

Well, I've got a bit of both. I'm sat here at home, doing some work, and outside the window there's these two pigeons doing their hooty mating call thing, or whatever it is. And it's exactly like "The power of Christ compels you... etc".

Do you think this means something? What are they compelling me to do, these pigeons and their power of Christ? Are they trying to make me come out there with some bread? Or do they want me to shoot the cat, or something? I don't know. They want something, and it's starting to get to me.

Are they trying to exorcise me? Maybe I'm really a human spirit, inhabiting the body of a pigeon? Or maybe I am physically a human, but I'm playing host to a little pigeon spirit, and those guys out there are after him with incantations and holy pigeon water? It's possible.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Idiot

"The Idiot" is three things:

1. A great novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky.
2. A great album by Iggy Pop.
3. A great description of me.

Why? Because I left the link off that Mr T post yersterday. So please, go back and review it again.

I must not leave the link off
I must not leave the link off
I must not leave the link off
I must not leave the link off

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Should we pity these fools?

"When I met Mr. T, I cried. It was at an autograph signing, with Mary Lou Retton, of all people, and I got my arm signed and my photograph taken with him. Then I just went outside and I cried."

I don't know. Is this guy genuine or not? Is he a real T-man, or just a prankster? The tattoo on his arm suggests a mild degree of commitment, but what's this about a "Dolce & Gabbana trucker hat, the bill pulled slightly to the left"? Is a Dolce & Gabbana anything truly in the spirit of T?

I think not.

Be that as it may, if you're in New York go along to the Orchard Street Art Gallery on the Lower East Side, where you can see these guys' exhibition of T action figures, entitled "I Pity the Dolls."

Cheers to Ms W for the link.

Monday, July 11, 2005

The Very Decent Horror Film

People have been heralding the return of horror movies to the mainstream for years. You had the likes of The Blair Witch Project, last year's Dawn of the Dead reworking, and the odd quirky little one like Dog Soldiers. But, you know, I think it's bullshit. I think the studios have wanted horror to come screaming and roaring back into the multiplexes because it's capable of hooking the biggest market - teens. And it's probably been doing OK at that, with things like Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, The Haunting remake, The Ring remake, The Remake remake... etc. But you can see where I'm going with this, right? The bucks might be rolling in (to some degree), but the product is not exactly going to be remembered fondly.

Some of it will, of course. Far as Blair Witch goes, I'm in the "impressed" camp. A breathtaking piece of film (or video), all the more incredible considering the production limitations. Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead last year was just full-on. He seemed to be giving us a new type of horror film, and I'm not sure how he did it. Whatever... in that cinema, with those zombies up there running around chasing everyone, I did serious damage to the arm of my multiplex seat (and my brother actually shit his pants). And there was Neil Marshall's Dog Soldiers, which was sort of like an old 80's-style horror - full-on gore, siege, and jokes aplenty. But the rebirth of horror cinema? As I said back there: bullshit.

Until last night, when I went to see The Descent - Neil Marshall's new one.

Suddenly it's not quite so bullshit anymore.

Quite sensibly, my brother thought better of coming to see this one. And boy, was he ever right. Shit his pants? He would have shit his whole digestive system at this one. (Nice image, huh? You ought to see the movie.) Dog Soldiers might have made good use of humour, but there ain't a joke in sight here. Marshall has the confidence to make a proper horror film - one that horrifies. And for that I applaud him. For too long, horror films have been post-modern and knowing, directors only feeling justified within the genre if they can cock a snook at it, just to say "hey, I'm dabbling". Fuck that. I wanted to see real horror, and here I got it.

You know what? I can't be arsed to tell you what it's about. Go look it up here. (I'd make a great movie critic, eh?)

One bit I must tell you about: all the characters are female. This is a female buddy movie, a bunch of crazy danger loving birds going off into the great outdoors, the whole expedition centred around helping out one of their number who has gone through great loss. I found it interesting that a male director should choose to do it this way. But hell, does it work. I'm not sure if it works because it's all women, or in spite of it. And we're not talking a bunch of flappy victims here (when was the last horror movie when the women were just flappy victims?) It's about the quiet, slow-burning tensions that go on for years between women, without ever getting resolved. It's about helping out your friends. It's about finding new uses for mountaineering axes.

That's enough of an outline for you. Just go and see it. Experience cinematic terror in all its glory. (And I can't urge you enough - watch it in the CINEMA. This kind of stuff relies so much on atmosphere.) But just do your fellow viewers a favour, OK? Try not to shit your pants.

(Apologies to brother Hugh, who didn't shit his pants really.)
(He just pissed himself.)

Some Very Hard Questions

Ray Banks - the acclaimed Tyne-exiled Scottish noirist - has called me out, or something. I've got to say, I hate the word "meme". (Unless it's got a funny hat in the middle, making it the French word for "same".) But twenty questions (or four) I can do.

Anyway, I think the idea is that I have to spout some answers, and pass them on to some others on the web, thereby perpetuating one of these meme things. Anyway, lets roll...

(1) Imagine it's 2015. You are visiting the library at a major research university. You go over to a computer terminal (or whatever it is they use in 2015) that gives you immediate access to any book or journal article on any topic you want. What do you look up? In other words, what do you hope somebody will have written in the meantime?

Ah, come on. How can I answer that? Too hard.

(2) What is the strangest thing you've ever heard or seen at a conference? No names, please. Refer to "Professor X" or "Ms. Y" if you must. Double credit if you were directly affected. Triple if you then said or did something equally weird.

Never been to a conference. Next question.

(3) Name a writer, scholar, or otherwise worthy person you admire so much that meeting him or her would probably reduce you to awestruck silence.

This is a tough one, but one I will try to answer (seeing as we're halfway through and I haven't answered any yet). I'd like to think I wouldn't be awed into silence by anyone. But who knows? The problem is, some of best writers seem to be such nice people, when you read interviews with them and the like. So you wouldn't be shitting your pants at the thought of meeting them. But to stand next to someone and think... my god, this is the mind that created... Hmm, I think some horror authors would probably stun me into silence. Trouble is, most are dead. Steve Rasnic Tem - he's alive. There you go, a nice obscure one for you. (Er, is he alive?) Go and look him up anyway. If you can, find the short story called "City Fishing". There is a mind that knows darkness.

Thought of another - Nick Cave. He qualifies as a writer through AND THE ASS SAW THE ANGEL. But it's probably his other output that would have me silenced.

(4) What are two or three blogs or other Web sites you often read that don't seem to be on many people's radar?

(Another hard one. Why are all these questions so hard?) I dunno, how about Jenny Davidson's? Sure, it's linked well enough, but do people realise what a great blogger she is? Also there's one by the horror author Tim Lebbon. I used to be in on the horror fiction scene, and he is one of the big up-and-comers. Americans might know him, but sadly horror novels just don't sell over here in the UK. Anyway, I check his journal now and then to see what he's up to.

That was a hard, hard set of questions. Now I'm knackered. Thanks a lot Ray.

Right then, this is the bit where I have to call out other people. Not so easy, as I hardly know any blogger-type people (save ones who will already have done these questions). How about Jai Clare, Jenny Davidson, and um... Neil Gaiman (looking at his blog, seems he's on a world tour - but I can still call him out, right?). (Oh, he's never heard of me and would never have seen this blog... but I can still call him out, right?)

Friday, July 08, 2005

Green Man

I am v.happy to announce that I'll be at the Green Man Festival once again this year. John Williams has asked me along, and I guess I'll be reading from FAGS AND LAGER. This is a great festival, if you like Green Men. Actually it's a great festival no matter what colour of men you like (or women). Great beer, great music, great people walking around in strange costumes. Just great.

And it's even greater this year: Will Oldham (aka Bonny Prince Billy) is headlining.

Will Oldham, if you don't know, wrote (and originally recorded) "I See a Darkness", the incredible track on Johnny Cash's AMERICAN 3: SOLITARY MAN album. Do yourself a favour and buy this, let it sink in, and realise his version is even better.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Mother London

Bloody hell, what do you say to this? Mind you, having spent most of my working in life in London, I know she'll just be getting on with it. Those worthless fuckers can bring down the tube and murder dozens, but still she keeps going. Bombs, terrorists, orchestrated hatred: she's seen it all before.

Take it easy and get home OK.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Power Station

No, not the "supergroup" starring Robert Palmer and those two out of Duran Duran. I'm talking about a real power station - a station that makes power. (Or made power, in this case.) The one at Battersea, which dominates the South Bank of the Thames.

Anyway, the old place has been earmarked for a big shopping complex. This is really great news, because as we all know, the people of London have been cruelly deprived of places to shop for far, far too long. So, thanks to the efforts of Bob Geldof and the Live8 people, emergency supplies of consumer brand-name goods are being airlifted into SW8.

Meanwhile, let us glory at the splendour of Battersea Power Station one last time.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Aspects of NOIR

As I mentioned elsewhere, I'm booked to appear at the Port Eliot Festival in a couple of weeks, alongside Rob Lewis. We're supposed to do something other than a reading, something creative or off-the-wall, or something. Anyway, we (OK, Rob) thought up a great idea:



because remember:


Two crime authors - Charlie Williams (Deadfolk, Fags and Lager) and Robert Lewis (The Last Llanelli Train) host a basic training and evaluation session for NOIR BUFFS and RANK AMATEURS alike. Including:

DRINKS and foodstuffs to avoid
Living under a VOICE-OVER
Cinematic, real life and literary crime TRIVIA

Drunks welcome. No gats.

Sponsored by: Serpent's Tail, Penderyn Whiskey, I don't know, some other people we can blag.

That's not the definitive flyer, but it's close. Any suggestions, please let me know! What other apect of noir could we examine, dissect, and totally bastardise?

Monday, July 04, 2005

The Collected Emails of A.N. Author

Are we going to see this book one day? I dunno, maybe it's been done already?

I've no idea how they manage to get together all the snail letters an author wrote, so this could be tougher, but just as meaningful in terms of material. Mind you, isn't everything that was ever sent over the net archived somewhere?