Friday, 22 August 2014

Hello from Rouen...and two more videos.

Bonjour mon amis.

I am in Rouen at the moment, having taking a month(ish) away to finish my eighteenth century blockbusting novel and then do a little sightseeing.

Unfortunately for all those eighteenth-century-philes out there, there hasn't been a lot of our favourite hundred years to look at, but I have had fun nonetheless. I have seen 13th century clockwork; stood to hear the bells ring from inside the belfry walked along a route of 15th century waterwheels, seen a few impressive churches and the final resting place of some Dukes of Normandy.

As for writers; I had a visit to Arras in rather better circumstances then when Cyrano de Bergerac visited (he was besieging it), I have visited Pierre Cornielle's place and today went to Flaubert's childhood home, which was also a hospital (because his dad was a doctor).

I'm halfway through (and enjoying) Marx's translation of Madame Bovary and have read Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes, so I have a small idea about him and his work. What impressed me most was the medical part of the museum, mainly the funny or icky stuff that appealed to the eight year old inside.

Included in the museum are; an eighteenth century do-it-yourself enema stool, some badly stuffed severed heads, a toy guillotine, a stuffed parrot, a cuddly toy, a collection of fake used baby's nappies to aid the doctor in diagnosing from the poo and some lovely old books.

The cuddly toy is an eighteenth century forceps training doll, designed to help trainee doctors to safely navigate a baby out. It looks like this.

As for the writing, I have been making some good breakthroughs and this massive, complex, intertwined novel I am working on will be finished before the year is out...honest.

As for the book I am trying to sell, here are two videos about the processes I used to try and shape the piece from all the disparate elements and how I tried to get into the role of Eve Lewis.

Until next time... A Bientot.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Locations..Locations...(you know the rest).

Hello all.

Crowdfunding keeps on going, yesterday my Dad and I buttonholed people outside of Waterstones in Piccadilly Circus where we got a lot of nice comments and not all that many sniffy ones.

I had do buy a new laptop, the old one served me well but gave up the ghost, I am typing this on a laptop I have nicknamed 'The Major', due to the goggly eyes and moustache I have fixed to it.

Tomorrow is my birthday, It'd certainly be a better one with a few orders to perk things up.

The last batch of videos have all been about the locations used in the book, they start of very short and plain but get longer and more complicated culminating in a lovely little song. I hope you enjoy 'em.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Review: The Governess or Little Female Academy by Sarah Fielding

It's not rock 'n' roll but I like it.

The cover sleeve and introductions make large claims for this book, written by Sarah Fielding in 1749. It calls it the first school novel, the first educational book and the first children's novel in English. I am not convinced it is a novel, there isn't enough plot or general happening for that.

The plot, such as it is, is about a school on nine little girls who have an argument and a fight over a basket of apples. As part of the reconciliation they takes turns to read a tale each, discuss it and then to give their life story up to that point, paying particular attention to their previous faults. Thus allowing the reader to hear a number of fairy tales and fictional life stories of petty vice.

All if the tales and life stories have one didactic aim, to encourage the readers, young girls themselves, to achieve true happiness through moral conduct. Good conduct being a control and grounding of one's own bad feelings and an empathetic partaking in other's pleasures. It has a very Johnsonian bent, that happiness will never be achieved through a person's ambitions or wealth but in the ease they have in their own company and the company of others. 

The point is not subtly made and re-inforced by repetition but to be honest, it was a message I needed to hear. Since starting this crowdfunding for 'Death of a Dreamonger' my mood has been completely and utterly linked to the small box on the website that records pre-orders. Delighted when the figure goes up and distressed when it stays the same. My happiness has been completely out of my control and in other people's hands. I have grown unable to appreciate those who have ordered or the phenomenal support I have received from family, friends and acquaintances. So I enjoyed the message in the book and am trying to take it to heart.

Although there isn't much of a plot, the characters, though simply drawn, are engaging. I grew quite tired of Sarah Fielding's 'David Simple' and put it down half-read but in this book she has such a choice for the telling detail that many of the little girls came to life.

Sukey was one of my favourites, she was a sparky, feisty girl who fights and argues because she doesn't want people thinking she lacks spirit. I also liked Polly Suckling, the youngest one, whose main job is yo say or do whatever would be cutest at that moment - sort of like Mara Wilson in Mrs Doubtfire but without the annoying lisp.

Jenny Peace, our heroine was not a very good character though. Her moral perfection, mildness and goodness made her a rather dull and unengaging person to follow. As for The Governess herself of the title, Mrs Techum, she had some progressive pedagogical notions which would not have been out of place in a modern primary school. I bet she was the teacher everyone hoped they would get. Though I was uneasy about the closeness of the name Teachum and that of Peachum.

This book is very safe. It's very nice. It's polite and well-mannerd and passionless. It teaches pleasantness and mildness - and sometimes that is a good thing in a book. Though as much as I enjoyed it, I'm reading Sweeney Todd next.


For my own, possibly moral but not very mild book, order here..

Just because I don't want the sales of it to dictate my mood, doesn't mean I don't want people to get it.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Review: Tristram Shandy: Conception Cock & Bull

A little break from 'Death of a Dreamonger' to talk about something I went to see on Friday at the studio of St James Theatre.

First, I have to say, I don't like the St James Theatre. It was built last year and is as anonymous as anything else, could as easily be a travelodge or one of those luxury flats they are busy sticking in any spare space in London at the moment.

I must also admit that I didn't like the price. £17.50 seems a lot to pay for a one man show with simple staging which lasts for just over an hour. I later found out that the profits from the show went to a charity, which is fair enough but I'm sure the £5 they were asking for half a pint of beer was not. Then they asked me if I wanted to pay a donation to the theatre on top.

Putting all that aside and talking about the performance, it was written and performed by a man called Stephen Oxley and he did brilliant things with it.

My favourite part was when, in the middle of telling a story he suddenly ducked down and crawled before 'emerging' and standing up. We were then told he'd drawn a curtain over the previous scene and the audience realised that he had just wriggled his way out from under that curtain.

The digressive nature of Tristram Shandy was played brilliantly for laughs, the joy and eagerness with which 'Tristram' as the narrator kept getting sidetracked. He promised to tell it straight in the second half but could not resist a few digressions, especially when going through his chest of props and goodies.

The bawdy in the book was well represented. From the spirited impersonation of his conception (followed by a comment that he wouldn't tell us about his birth till we were better acquainted) to a whispered aside to an audience member that so shocked her she gasped. He played that Shandian game of informing us that a nose is definitely a nose, whilst making it abundantly clear it probably wasn't.

The representation of some of the minor characters was quite pantomimish but it added to the fun and Parson Yorick was played by a skull. Alas, we didn't have Yorick's death though (I thought maybe a blackout to represent the black page). Nor did we have the eternal curse or the business with Obadiah's knots but there was a lot of the good stuff there with proper and due attention paid to Uncle Toby.

So, I did enjoy myself, but I'd have liked it more for a tenner in the Dictionary Garrett in Dr Johnson's House...notwithstanding Johnson's own opinion of Tristram Shandy.

All yours

Oh... and if anyone does wish to be in on something special and preorder my book, click the picture below.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

The Horse's Mouth

So, I launched my little barque upon the seas and the seas have been fairly kind. Five days in and I approach fifty. I am worrying a little in case this is the rush as sales have slowed right down in the last two days.

Before I started this process I made a number of videos as something new to show every few days. This is video number two, a plain affair where I just read the first few paragraphs. I was going to be especially jazzy with the words all bouncing around but it took me so long to do the ones you see here that I mixed in me reading with it. Given the subject matter, I pull some pretty coquettish faces.

 Are you sitting comfortably? This is how the story begins....

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Here it comes!

Much of the eighteenth century emphasis of this blog is going to be on the back burner for a little bit as we prepare for a proper Grub Street party to celebrate the publication of my mystery/thriller 'Death of a Dreamonger'.

But that is not all, the possibility of the book's publication will rely on securing 250 pre-orders, so head over to britain's next bestseller and get pre-ordering.

Here is a little video about the main characters in the book. New videos will be uploaded each week.

Happy pre-ordering.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Review: Pompey the Little

I recently read ‘Down and Out in 18th Century London’ by Tim Hitchcock and although I was sometimes lurched about by the anecdotal style, I enjoyed it and was pointed to a number of other interesting works.

One of these was ‘Pompey the Little’ by Francis Coventry. How could I resist a book centring on a Bologna lapdog?

Coventry makes his allegiances clear, dedicating the book to Henry Fielding. Although he doesn’t have the same delicious and all pervading irony as Fielding, nor does he have Fielding’s ability with an understatement, a similar spirit runs through this book.

Pompey is a Bologna lapdog who finds his way from owner to owner, sometimes by luck and sometimes by his own actions and as such is not dissimilar to Fanny Hill (who gets a walk on part). Owners include people in the high-life with such wonderful names as Lady Harriden and the Lord Marmozet; children who play a little too rough, a Cambridge fellow, a few shopkeepers, a destitute poet and a blind beggar.

The pattern of owner, satyrical gibes, new owner should have become boring but Coventry nails the different characters and situations so well that each change is a delight. I pretty much galloped through the book and enjoyed it throughout. 

Naturally my favourite owner was the impecunious scribbler Mr Rhymer. The chapters featuring him are the perfect representation of a Grub Street life I have yet read in print and I reckon it should be as well known as Hogarth’s famous image of the distressed poet.

‘In one corner of these poetical apartments stood a flock-bed and underneath it, a green jordan presented itself to the eye, which had collected the nocturnal urine of the whole family...Three rotten chairs and a half seemed to stand like traps in various parts of the room, threatening downfalls to weary strangers; and one solitary table in the middle of this aerial garrett, served to hold the different treasures of the whole family.’ Needless to say, the treasures are meagre indeed.

Mr Rhymer’s wife is not happy to see that he has had a useless lapdog foisted on him by a Lord as a ‘gift’ and berates him for selling his chandlers’ business to take up writing. He argues that she should be pleased to have married a man so above the petty mechanics of life. We get the feeling this is an argument the two have had a number of times. After a dinner of weak broth, Mr Rhymer untroubled by ‘any of fumes of indigestion’ works on an ‘epic poem which was then on the anvil,’ before going out to a meeting of other writers, accompanied by Pompey.

The meeting of writers is torn apart by argument and Mr Rhymer walks home ‘in a pensive solitary mood, wrapped up in contemplation on the stars of heaven, and perhaps forgetting for a few moments that he had three-pence half-penny in his pocket.’ I find this a wonderfully poetic moment and typical of little character moments in the book.

Pompey’s fortunes change again when a couple of hooligans spy Mr Rhymer, ‘smoked him for a queer fish’ and duff him up. Pompey is quite pleased with this reversal as he was afraid he may ‘have fallen sacrifice to hunger, and been served up on Mr Rhymer’s poetical table’.

‘Pompey the Little’ is obviously a first novel and doesn’t reach the heights of a ‘Tom Jones’ or a ‘Tristram Shandy’ but there is much good about it. I think the success of the book lies in a statement made right at the beginning in the dedication to Henry Fielding. ‘The characters of a novel principally determine its merit’. I believe this is the case today and was the case then, and on those merits ‘Pompey the Little’ succeeds admirably.

Pompey's breed today.