Thursday, 30 August 2012

Mirabilis on the NOOK

Thanks to the good digital comics fairies at Graphicly, the whole of Mirabilis season one is now available in NOOK Books. Issues 1 and 2 are free, and the others are $1.99 each.

Graphicly are also converting these issues to iBooks and Kindle formats, so watch out for updates on those shortly. And in a few weeks we'll have news of a stunning deluxe edition collecting all of season one and a sneak preview of season two, in a single full-colour volume at a price that'll make your jaw drop. Stay tuned.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

"Ghostly Goings-On"

If you live in the United Kingdom, you'll probably agree with me that the funniest thing about BBC radio comedy shows is that you can listen to them for half an hour and not laugh once. Oh yes, I know there are exceptions. Count Arthur Strong is a hoot, The League of Gentlemen began on the radio, and The Goons - well, maybe not as hilarious to us today, but still recognizable genius. But three swallows doesn't make a summer, and the rest of radio comedy is like listening to a bunch of am-dram performers who've been told they have to improvise a comedy sketch to avoid the firing squad.

A couple of years ago, Martin and I were planning a trip to Chillingham Castle (way up in Northumberland, where the north turns nice again). Turns out we were essentially planning a long weekend in the car, as I live in Battersea and Martin lives in Nottingham, but that's a detail. It was the castle's reputation for ghosts that attracted us - not the ghosts themselves, as neither of us is that credulous, but the possibility of sighting some choice fruitcakes on the midnight spooky tour.

It may seem like I'm rambling, but to pull these two strands together: I invented an imaginary BBC radio comedy show called "Ghostly Goings-On" to liven up that long, long car journey. Here is a fragment:

And this Sunday lunchtime we have a brand new series of "Ghostly Goings-On", starring:
Angus Deayton as HECTOR PLASM 
Also starring: 
David Tennant as MANNY FESTATION 

[Sound of knitting. A door opens.] 

HECTOR: Hello, Madame Blavatsky. You look as if you've seen a ghost.

MADAME B: Why you no go bake you' eayd?

[Audience laughter at silly foreign accent.]

HECTOR: I think you mean boil my head.

[Audience laughs again, not having realized that was what she meant.]

HECTOR (contd): Unless we get a case soon, I won't have to. My head will just fall off for lack of money.

[Cautious tittering from surrealist contingent in audience.]

MADAME B: Wait! I senses a presence tryin' to communicate...

[Clatter of letterbox flap. Thud of letter dropping onto mat.]

MADAME B: It ees a message from da other side!

[A knock at the door.]

MADAME B: Rap once for-a yes, twice for-a no!

HECTOR: Oh good grief.

[Sound of door opening.]

MANNY: Hello you spooky people. Did I just see the postman?

HECTOR: Kevin Costner will be delighted.

[Single laugh from sole audience member who recalls the movie; he turns the laugh into a cough.]

[Sound of letter being ripped open.]

HECTOR gasps.

MANNY: What is it, man? You've gone as white as a sheet.

[Long, tense pause. ]

MANNY: Sheet, Madame Blavatsky. Not shit.

MADAME B (with relief): Oh-kay doke!

[Audience roars with loudest laughter so far.]

HECTOR: It's a laundry list from Chillingham Castle! Oh no, wait...

[Sound of paper rustling.] 

HECTOR (contd): On the other side - a note scrawled in very red sticky ink.

MANNY: Give it here, let me see.

[Sound of paper being snatched.]

MANNY (contd): That's not ink, it's... Oh no, it is ink. I've got a pen like that. They're rubbish.

MADAME B: Ze note, what does eet say?

MANNY: "Help, I have been given a fatal poison and have only minutes to live."

HECTOR: You look perfectly fine, old chap.

MANNY: Not me, you fool; the note. And there's a P.S.

MADAME B: A peees?

MANNY: "Come at once and catch my murderer!"

HECTOR gasps loudly.

MANNY: What?

HECTOR: I left the teabags in the pot. It'll be stewed!

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Tall stories

I've blogged before about A J Alan, radio raconteur of '20s and '30s Britain. Think of an English Rod Serling, only on the wireless instead of the TV and with considerably less formulaic a cast to his storytelling.

That era was the Burgess Shale of broadcasting, when interesting experimentation trumped genre, ratings and tribally narrow tastes. A J Alan's tales of the odd, the quirky, the (mildly) racy and the (sometimes) supernatural were definitely perfect for long winter evenings by the fireside with tendrils of grimy London fog pressing up against the window panes. Not "the Twilight Zone" so much as "the Velvet Hour" - which, I know, some say is dawn, not dusk, but I think of it as the time when cocktails may be respectably mixed and drunk and one might start to think about dressing for dinner - at least, in the world that Mr Alan and his listeners inhabited.

I mention this now because Spark Furnace Books have just published a paperback edition of But That's A Detail, my collection of A J Alan stories. So if you want something different, and really rather good, I'd say it's an absolute snip at £3.99.