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Things have been happening in The Smoke this week…

2016-02-17 01a Don Letts

Things have been happening in The Smoke (that’s London) this week. Paul made a flying visit and met up with almost-legendary musician, film-maker, and DJ Don Letts in the unlikely setting of Willesden Green Working Man’s Club. The issue of the day was the filming of a documentary for BBC4, tracing the roots of ‘skinhead’ culture back to the late 1960s. Don remembers those days well, and wanted to set the record straight. The documentary is being made by the 7Wonder production company, and it is due to be screened some time around September this year.

2016-02-18 01a Kings XBefore setting off back to the glens, Paul also called in on publishers Oneworld to drop of a book there for Jenny Parrott, who is handling their POINT BLANK series. And there was a moment of magic at Kings Cross Station – no not on Platform 9-and-three-quarters, but out in the concourse, where someone was flying a Harris Hawk. The lovely bird swooped low over travellers’ heads, perched on top of the Departures Board, returned to the falconer’s hand, and suffered itself to be the subject of photos and selfies.

 

 


Pitlochry, as the dread hour approaches…

theatre

Brightly lit though Pitlochry Festival Theatre might be at night, buzz though festival-goers might around such visiting celebrities as Ronnie Browne, Gregor Fisher, and Charlotte Green, there comes a time when a hush falls over the handful of brave ones who stay behind for the storytellers’ lock-in. Collars are turned up at the suggestion of icy fingers at the neck, and there are anxious glances over the shoulder at the hint of a presence walking through the River Room. Attention is then fixed on the storytellers – actors Dougal Lee and Helen Logan – as though to draw comfort from them. But there is no comfort there. They have us under their spell!

article2This is how it is at every ‘Fearie Tales’ event during Winter Words. Eight chilling tales are read to us in four late-evening sessions. The stories themselves are selected from submissions by contemporary writers from Scotland and beyond. On Friday 12th of February I was there myself. I spoke above of a lock-in, and indeed one of the stories told to us was set at a remote inn after drinking hours, where a stranger told the small company of the nightmares that had beset him since he was a child, as we feared for his mortal safety. The scene in the cold morning light, however, was a plot twist that stunned…

To an extent you never know what to expect at ‘Fearie Tales’. I was there in anticipation of hearing client Marie Marshall’s ‘The Ice House’ – was that you, Marie, lurking by the door of the River Room, flitting away when the applause came? Really you are too shy.

article1‘The Ice House’ was read by Helen, who put layers of character into her reading. The story itself was a tribute to M R James, arguably the greatest writer of ghost stories in the English language. James himself makes an appearance in the story, as an avuncular mentor to the narrator – a young, female, law student at the time of the action – and provides, though he doesn’t realise, the denouement in the form of a letter. The story takes us, via a discussion about humankind’s deepest terrors, a sense of dread in a lonely place, and the delirium of a fever, to the revelation of a brutal crime. The construction of the story is very Jamesian – a typical Marie Marshall emulation – and the sense of period and place is perfect. I do hope there will be some way in which this story can be read more widely, whether Marie places it on her web site, where she does showcase a handful of her stories, or in a collection.

I shall be back in the River Room at Pitlochry on Saturday 20th, when another client’s story is due to be performed. This time it will be by Lucy P Naylor, the Queen of Quirk, and the action will range from a Dundee ‘pletty’ to the city’s ancient Howff graveyard.

The canny short-story-writer knows to pen and submit something written with Dougal’s or Helen’s voice in their ear, to structure their story to suit reading aloud, and to consider each actor’s strength in characterisation. Nothing facile gets through the selection process at Winter Words, and you know that by the time each ‘Fearie Tales’ session comes, that you will hear what is probably la crème de la crème of the Macabre. The festival as a whole is worth a winter break here in the Scottish Highlands.


Client’s book reviewed

fmcuhHard on the heels of news of our client Marie Marshall’s success at Winter Words comes a review from an enthusiastic reader of her YA vampire novel From My Cold, Undead Hand. Here’s an extract:

“… Marshall does a fantastic job with creating an alternate world for us, where the action happens at a breakneck pace. From using technology that isn’t developed yet, to using weapons not designed yet, to using language and phrases not spoken yet, she creates a universe that is strangely familiar to us, yet it’s a place where you have to watch your back or you’ll be dead. Vampires aren’t glamorous, it isn’t romantic to meet a vampire in the alley behind the school, and they most certainly don’t sparkle. Marshall also does a remarkable job of tying in the classic vampire novel, Dracula, but makes you believe that it’s all real. This is a book that will leave you breathless for more!

You can read more about it here.


An evening of chills in Pitlochry

Ice House

Well, more a series of evenings, as the ‘Fearie Tales’ stories get under way at the Winter Words festival in Pitlochry, on Friday 12th February. The Friday and Saturday evenings of each Festival weekend are rounded off by a brace of macabre or ghostly tales, the winners of an annual competition run by the festival organisers.

One of the most consistent story-writers in the competition is our client Marie Marshall, whose weird stories have been amongst the winners almost without a break since 2008. Her stories, each with a Scottish setting, have included:

Chagrin – in which an elderly man is haunted by the memories of an old love every time he sees anyone with red hair.
Vae Victis – the testimony of a Roman Legionary on the Empire’s northernmost frontier, of a nameless terror that comes in the midwinter night.
Place of Safety – the tale of a young man who loses his love to a magician.
On The Platform – waiting, waiting for morning, but who is the ghost and who the ghost-hunter?
Da Trow i’ da Waa – a writer, having taken a remote cottage in Shetland, finds truth in Carnacki’s saying, “There can be no safety when the monster breathes through wood and stone.”
Voices – the audio diary of an Australian academic on a Highland mountain-top, listening for Random Voice Phenomena.

This year’s winning entry from Marie is The Ice-house, in which a young woman awakens an old evil in the dunes of Tentsmuir. If you want to hear it read aloud by Scottish actor Helen Logan, make your way to the Pitlochry Festival Theatre and grab a seat in the River Room for 9.30pm.

Marie hopes to have a collection of her short stories published this year, so watch this space!