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Author Interview: Catherine Jinx  

Posted by Scott Wilson

Scott: Thank you so much taking the time to chat with us here at The Fringe magazine. I’ve recently finished reading your latest novel, The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group, and thoroughly enjoyed it. How has it been received it the market to date?


Catherine: I've had a handful of reviews, all of them good (save for one internet blog), but not many website messages as yet. One W.A. reviewer was very canny, picking up at once that the book was really about male adolescence.

Scott: Your novels are aimed at the YA market, but I know many adults that have enjoyed the storylines and humour in your books too. Do you write for a particular age group or try and included elements that span the various ages?

Catherine: Usually my ideas suit particular age groups - I wouldn't have tried to force 'The Reformed Vampire Support Group' onto the 9-to-12-year-old market, for instance - and I tailor my writing towards the age group I've chosen to target. However, if I CAN add layers that will appeal to older readers, I'll do that too. It just makes the final product more satisfying for everyone involved, I think.

Scott: A lot of new writers often ask about the amount of pages or words that a published author produces each day. How much time would you spend writing on a typical day, (if a typical day exists for a writer that is)?

Catherine: I try to get at least three or four hours in a day, but it varies, especially on the weekend. The other day I was having fun and must have spent about nine hours writing. Other times I'm lucky to get in an hour or two, what with all the conflicting demands of life. And you're not supposed to sit for hours on your butt. It's bad for you.

Scott: What was the inspiration for The Reformed Vampire Support Group?

Catherine:I was watching a vampire movie that featured some really repulsive vampires (it might have been 'Thirty Days of Night') and it occurred to me how mortifed I would feel if I was a perfectly 'normal' vampire watching that movie - if vampirism was a kind of disease that I'd caught, and yet I had to go through life putting up with that kind of portrayal.

Scott: What sparked your interest in writing and did you start off by writing short stories or go straight to working on a novel? What markets did you send your short fiction to?

Catherine: I've only written two short stories in my life, and they were published by a long-defunct science fiction magazine published in W.A. - I think it might have been called 'Far Out' - before I ever managed to publish a book. I wrote them specifically for that magazine, after seeing an advertisement. But my main interest has always been novels - I've been writing them (though not selling them) since I was twelve years old.

Scott: Have you been approached about making Evil Genius, Genius Squad, Living Hell or The Reformed Vampire Support Group into movies or a television series? I think the all have great qualities for being turned into this medium.

Catherine: Yes, I have been approached,several times. Nothing's ever come of it, though. I just keep hoping.

Scott: As a writer it is interesting to hear what other writers read in their spare time. It is often surprising to hear the genres and variety of books other authors read. Can you tell us what are you reading at the moment and what you five favourite books are?

Catherine: At the moment I'm reading Barbara Pym's 'Less Than Angels'. I love Barbara Pym. I also love true crime and really GOOD crime fiction (like Kate Atkinson or Ruth Rendell) and high-class journalism - like John Krakhauer, for instance, or Barbara Ehrenreich. Plus I'm a fan of Nick Hornby, Jane Austen, Nancy Mitford and George Orwell, to name a few.

Scott: There seems to be a lot more options available to authors to get published now compared to say a decade ago. What advice would you offer to unpublished writers in approaching publishers for the first time?

Catherine: Electronic publishing is the future. It's in a state of flux now, so this is the time to get your foot in the door. People are self-publishing and getting picked up by publishing companies on the basis of blog hits. Bloggers are on their way to becoming superstars. Publishers are becoming more and more flustered about what INTERACTIVE e-books might mean; if I had any kind of computer savvy, I'd be thinking about how to stretch the medium and distinguish myself in that field.

Scott: If you were stranded on a desert island, what five authors would you like to have as companions and why?

Catherine: Are you kidding? I wouldn't want writers at ALL (with the possible exception of my friend Phillip Gwynne, who's a really big, strong, ex-Aussie Rules player, as well as a fisherman and a good conversationalist). I'd want a horticulturalist, a builder, a sailor, a doctor and a cook.

Scott: Thank you very much for your time. I look forward to your next book.

Author Interview: AA Bell  

Posted by Scott Wilson

New, up an coming author AA Bell took some time out of her busy schedule to chat with Scott Wilson at The Fringe Magazine about her novel, Diamond Eyes, out this month.

Scott: Thank you so much taking the time to chat with us here at The Fringe magazine

AA: Hi Scott! Wow, this is my first ever interview for Diamond Eyes, so thanks for asking me!  Before we begin, big waves first please to Aussie artist, Darren Holt, who created the cover, including that amazing eye for the spine and back, and to my editors at Harper Collins Voyager and their typesetters, who turned the world upside down to find a Braille font that could make sense to sighted readers in a normal novel, for use in the headers. Amazing, and so appreciated for a major commercial publisher to go to such extra lengths!

Scott: Can you tell us about your novel, Diamond Eyes and the main character Mira?

AA: Mira is a reflection of me. Cliché but true. She’s strong when I’m weak, bold when I’m shy, and gutsy when I’m a chicken. She’s everything I’d like to be – aside from totally blind with an ability to see back through time. That’s her obviously, not me.

Seriously, we both have terrible sight, both congenital and can’t be solved by surgery (at least not yet). Mine can’t be fixed properly with lenses yet either, although there’s plenty of times I wished it could be, especially when people have tried to rip me off over the years. In my experience, many normally-respectable businessmen will often jack up their prices whenever they spot a customer as an easy mark, but I can see through them better than they think I can, which is where the original concept for the story came from way back in Feb 1999 when I first started to flesh out the idea, because it never took much imagination for me to guess what they’d really been up to. This also provides one of the main themes for the book and its coming series: That people are naughtiest when they think nobody is watching. The title came later that year when I was on my way to an eye specialist and my son, who was only 3 at the time, asked me how eyes worked, and I began by explaining that lenses are like crystals. He asked what a crystal was, so I showed him my diamond ring and Diamond Eyes sprang naturally from that.

Also, I love multi-layered psychological crime thrillers, sf, and fantasies, especially with non-linear time lines and/or revelations which throw a whole new light on different aspects, not just plot but also character insights – and Diamond Eyes gave me a chance to do all that with stacks of twists and in-jokes; arguably too many once you know them all, because aside from the ones that are easy to spot, there’s also plenty of subtle ones, some directed at fans for specific genres, while a small handful are still lurking until you’ve read other books in the series.

Scott: How much time would you spend writing on a typical day, (if a typical day exists for a writer that is)?

AA: That depends if you count all the time spent staring at the same sentence for hours, editing from the screen or printouts, researching, plotting or re-plotting. If you don’t, on average, it’s roughly an hour each day, seven days a week or more on weekends and holidays (and the first half of that is usually UN-writing the last page from the day before, sigh.). If you do, it’s closer to 30 hours a day, because thanks to dreams, we can live more than a whole day in a few hours. Without hyperbole, I’ve lived and slept this story every day since 26 Feb, 1999, a day in history for me when a scumbag salesman tried to rip me off on my birthday. (He’s fictionalised for a brief appearance in Diamond Eyes and dies horribly in Hindsight, which comes out in a few months from now.)

Scott: The plot in Diamond Eyes was very interesting, with the visions and time travel. It is quite a hard novel to pigeon hole into a single genre, how do you see your book?

AA: The short answer is fantasy. My response should end there… Please, somebody, tear me away from the keyboard! But you just nailed one of the biggest worries I had for the first six years because it’s not really a time travel novel at all - no actual time travel; just a heroine who can perceive two timelines at once while her stalker manages to stay one step ahead using his own gift/curse with “time perception”.

Step back and it’s really crime and romance with strong flavours from psychological thrillers, literary novels, action adventures and poetry. The sociopath’s scenes also employ techniques from metaphoric songwriting, and all this is built on the underlying sf aspects. But if I couldn’t nail a genre in three words or less, how could I nail a pitch with a publisher?

By studying other successes in the market. E.g. the scientific aspects in Diamond Eyes are mainly in the background as part of the social setting and plot developments – buried to similar levels as the 2005 TV series Numb3rs; (crime, drama and mystery), and The Big Bang Theory, (2007, comedy, despite being much heavier in theories and terminology.) These successes gave me courage to persevere in building fantasy upon sf, even through the gut wrenching moments when other stories surfaced that rubbed shoulders with my core idea, nearest of all and most recently, being Stan Lee’s latest comic with a fanciful super villain who becomes a different kind of “Diamond Eyes” through magic, and Deftones latest hit song and album of the same name. But remarkably, we’re still all unique.

Scott: With your manuscript taking a few years to become published, what advice would you offer to unpublished writers in approaching publishers for the first time?

AA: 1) Keep trying - especially if you believe your story is unique. Mine took 10 years to write, more than half of which was rewriting in different styles and voices in response to editorial feedback from rejection letters, plus an extra year of polishing after securing a contract. Ironically, it was the originality of my core idea which helped me attain valuable feedback, even from rejection letters, and yet much of the feedback from rejections included comments that the core idea was too complicated, twisted and cryptic for modern readers. And yet, nailing the style, voice and genre perspectives also helped to solve many of these issues, almost naturally; providing the intellectual after-taste of “sweet simplicity” without needing to “dumb down” the core idea.

2) Stay focused on your characters and their lives from the angle of your favourite genre, while aiming for the voice, style and mood which leave the most powerful intellectual aftertaste.

3) Try to keep a rein on other genres which grow organically from interactions and plot developments, ensuring they don’t over-complicate the story, even if it means downplaying or submerging some things that you wouldn’t normally trim, downplay or simplify if your life depended on it. I also wrote and published over 120 short stories and articles under three other pen-names to help get them out of my system, while also developing my skills at story craft for Diamond Eyes.

Scott: Have you started work on your next novel yet, and what is it about?

AA: The next two, actually. Now that I’ve nailed my characters and the stylistic stuff such as voice, mood, mode, field, narratology and levels of interplay between subtext and metatext (i.e. how much the psychopath’s forecasts of the future through his Braille manuscripts interact and manipulate the heroine’s main story), I’m now flying through the writing, with each book in the series a stand-alone so readers won’t need to read one before reading any others - and for anyone who does, there’s also a few revelations which throw completely new and major twists over the others:

Hindsight is finished and in editing stages now, due for launch in 2011. The pitch line is:

Mira Chambers has an infallible gift for solving mysteries…

but using it comes with a price.

… while Leopard Dreaming, is my current work-in-progress; all launching roughly six months apart.

Scott: What are you reading at the moment?

AA: not much at the moment. It’s NaNoWriMo time, and I’ve hit 88,852 words in 25 days, striving for an even 90K by the end of the month – except for today, which involves a special break for my very first magazine interview. < wink wink> However, in various stashes around my home, waiting are;

• The Undying, by aboriginal author Mudrooroo, by my bedside; where I keep all the most amazing authors for inspiring the last half hour before sleep.

• 1864 edition of TC Donkin’s Dictionary of Romance Languages… In the kitchen to read while helping the kids cook dinner. Every entry worth the mini-moments.

• 1876 edition of The Young Lady’s Book (a tome that’s basically an instruction manual on how to be a young lady with original recipes, patterns, instructions etc on how to make anything around the house from clothes and stain glass windows to lace and home remedies, including growing the herbs etc. Invaluable for any fantasy or history writer.) This one’s in my office, to read whenever I’m on hold or downloading large files off the net.

Scott: Who are your five favourite authors?

AA: Oh, gosh! You can probably see right through me. The first three you must have guessed already, after reading Diamond Eyes:

• Baroness Orczy; The Scarlet Pimpernel, which is Mira’s favourite too.

• Brian Greene, The Elegant Universe (non-fiction), quoted by the scientists.

• HG Wells, The Time Machine, first successful novel to consider time manipulation.

I also adore:

• Tom Clancy, his first 8 spawned my love of military characters, politics and complex multi-viewpoints.

• J. Michael Straczynski, a king of genre writing for print and screen. He’s the creator of Babylon-5, written comics for Twilight Zone, Spiderman, Star Trek, Fantastic Four, Thor, Wonder Woman, Superman and others, over 20 novels for them too, and screenplays for Murder She Wrote, Jake and the Fatman, The New Twilight Zone, Walker Texas Ranger, The Real Ghostbusters and many more, including the upcoming adaptation of Max Brooks’ World War Z. He’s also right up with my favourite writer/director/producer; Sam Raimi.

Scott: Thank you very much for your time. I look forward to your next book.

Thanks again for asking me!

Stay tuned to youtube for an amazing video, coming soon.

Interview: Marianne de Pierres  

Posted by Scott Wilson

The Fringe Magazine recently caught up with legendary Aussie Sci-Fi author, Marianne de Pierres for a chat about her Parrish Plessis books and latest novel Transformation Space.

Scott: Thank you so much taking the time to chat with us here at The Fringe magazine. I’ve recently finished reading your latest novel Transformation Space and thoroughly enjoyed it. I am also dying for another Parrish Plessis book, is there any chance of that happening?


Marianne: Thanks Scott. I do have more Parrish Plessis books planned but it isn’t in my current publishing schedule. Only time will tell, I guess.

Scott: Your Parrish books were the most enjoyable cyberpunk novels I’ve ever read, the characters were well developed and the action was intense. Have you been approached about making a movie of these books?

Marianne: Yes I’ve had numerous film enquiries and several option offers but nothing that ever developed into anything concrete. At first I was terribly disappointed, but I’ve learned that the motion picture industry is mainly smoke and mirrors.

Scott: Your writer’s forum, Vision Writers, must take up a fair whack of your time. What was the motivation behind creating a group like this?

Just an aside here. I don’t run the Vision forum. But I have my own forum – Parrish’s Patch, run by readers so I’ve answered this question as best can.

Marianne: I’ve found the online component of my work increasing all the time. Currently I run three four websites (the MDP site, my young adult site, my crime site and a separate site for my short story collection, Glitter Rose). I’m fortunate to have some great people helping me on some of them, but I do a lot of it myself. I have to constantly monitor that it’s not eating up too much writing time. That’s a challenge because the blogging and sourcing of guest material is fun and stimulating. I have to be firm with myself sometimes!

www.marianndepierres.com

www.tarasharp.com

www.burnbright.com.au

www.glitterose.wordpress.com



Scott: How did the Role Play Game based on your Parrish Plessis come about and what sort of involvement did you have in the process?

Marianne: I was approached by the game developer via email. It took a little while to sort the details but we eventually worked things through. I approved the game’s handbook content but Cary Lenehan did all the writing and devised the game rules. However, being a small independent games publisher, they suffered from a lack of distribution. It was a beautiful product but didn’t get enough exposure.

Scott: You also write a crime series under the pseudonym Marianne Delacourt, which most fans know about already? What is the main reason for not writing the Tara Sharp books under your real name?

Marianne: My crime is humourous, light-hearted and contemporary. I didn’t want readers of the Sentients of Orion series picking it up expecting the same kind of socio-political drama with deep philosophical underpinnings. It was basically a clear, respectful signal to my loyal fan base that this is Marianne doing something quite different.

Scott: With the introduction of e-book readers, like Kindle and Sony Reader, there is a current debate about the piracy of e-books and the loss of the print media. How do you feel about e-books?

Marianne: I believe you can’t, nor shouldn’t, stop the evolution of things. The extent of E-books impact on physical books is hard to assess exactly. Maybe I’m being optimistic or unrealistic but I believe there’ll be room for both for a while at least. I love the transmedia opportunities opening up though. It’s quite an exciting time.

Scott: A lot of new writers often ask about the amount of pages or words that a published author produces each day. How much time would you spend writing on a typical day, (if a typical day exists for a writer that is)?

Marianne: I write between 500-1000 wds a day. If I slip, then I make up for it on weekends. Those numbers vary a bit when deadlines loom. But generally that seems to be a successful, productive enough quota for me. I’m not a binge writer.

Scott: At what stage were you able to concentrate on being a full time writer?

Marianne: Once I sold the Parrish trilogy I pretty much went to full time writing. I have three sons though, so I don’t ever really feel like it’s really full time!

Scott: How do you approach your writing? Do you tend to develop a story in your mind and then proceed to conduct some research or is more of an organic method where you write the story first and research any technical aspects later?

Marianne: I like to write first and research as I go. I’m too impatient to research for long periods of time and then start writing. The story always calls. Sometimes I’ll keep researching through each draft, making adjustments all the time. I always begin with an end in mind but know, and look forward to, the journey. That’s why I write, to find out how the characters reach their end.

Scott: As a writer it is interesting to hear what other writers read in their spare time. It is often surprising to hear the genres and variety of books other authors read. Can you tell us what are you reading at the moment and what you five favorite books are?

Marianne: I read fairly eclectically. My bedside table currently holds: Kitty Goes to Washington (UF) – Carrie Vaughan, Jonah Hex (graphic novel), John Connelly (crime) – Every Dead Thing, Nick Harkaway - The Gone Away World, and Jonathon Lethem’s latest, Chronic City.

Scott: There seems to be a lot more options available to authors to get published now compared to say a decade ago. What advice would you offer to unpublished writers in approaching publishers for the first time?

Marianne: The market is even more competitive than ever because the industry is changing and publishers are being careful. Concentrate on telling a story people need/want to read. NOTHING beats a good story. And make sure you read widely – non fiction as well as fiction. E-publishing now provides many opportunities to build you writing CV; reviewing books and writing fan fiction are a good way to cut your teeth in the writing world.

Scott: If you were stranded on a desert island, what five authors would you like to have as companions and why?

Marianne:

J.G. Ballard – to take me to other places

Ian Macdonald – because every time I read his prose I find new ideas and images

Sigrid Undsett – because everyone needs a family saga to remind them of humanities foibles

Carlos Castenada – just because its entertaining

Mary Gentle (specifically the novel Ash) – because I could read it over and over.

Scott: Thank you very much for your time. I look forward to your next book.

Thank you, Scott. It’s been a pleasure.

Book Review: Crescendo By Becca Fitzpatrick  

Posted by Scott Wilson

Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, November 2010

Hardcover, 432 pages

ISBN-10: 1416989439

ISBN-13: 9781416989431

Grades: 9 and up

Description

The sequel to the New York Times Best selling phenomenon, Hush, Hush!

Nora should have know her life was far from perfect. Despite starting a relationship with her guardian angel, Patch (who, title aside, can be described anything but angelic), and surviving an attempt on her life, things are not looking up. Patch is starting to pull away and Nora can't figure out if it's for her best interest or if his interest has shifted to her arch-enemy Marcie Millar. Not to mention that Nora is haunted by images of her father and she becomes obsessed with finding out what really happened to him that night he left for Portland and never came home.

The farther Nora delves into the mystery of her father's death, the more she comes to question if her Nephilim blood line has something to do with it as well as why she seems to be in danger more than the average girl. Since Patch isn't answering her questions and seems to be standing in her way, she has to start finding the answers on her own. Relying too heavily on the fact that she has a guardian angel puts Nora at risk again and again. But can she really count on Patch or is he hiding secrets darker than she can even imagine?

About the Author

Becca Fitzpatrick's first book, Hush, Hush debuted as a New York Times bestseller. She graduated college with a degree in health, which she promptly abandoned for storytelling. When not writing, she's most likely running, prowling sales racks for shoes or watching crime drams on TV. She lives in Colorado. Find out more at beccafitzpatrick.com.


Review

Angels are the new vampires. Well if anyone likes the paranormal romance genre, then this book will keep readers satisfied if they are tired of the old conflicted vamp/normal girl storyline. Crescendo is the sequel to the brilliant novel, Hush Hush and full of fast paced action sprinkled with romance.

Everything was going perfect for Patch and Nora. For two months after the incident in gym Nora is in total bliss with her relationship with Patch. Nora tells Patch she loves him everything starts to spiral downward and nothing is even close to perfect anymore. Thinking that the intimacy of saying 'I love you' to Patch scared him away Nora begins to get upset, then she finds out about the archangels, and then about Patch and Marcie. If that is not enough, there is a new guy in town from Nora's past that her mother was trying to set her up with. And, Nora begins to think she is seeing her dad again! Nora's mom also sold Nora's only form of transportation so she is stuck getting rides where ever she can find them.

The plot and twist and waves of different things popping out at you were awesome is this book. Keeps you guessing, keeps you angry, keeps you wishing, keeps you hooked. The book ends on a really suspense filled high, leaving the reader wanting the third book in the series to be released sooner rather than later.


Gollancz

9780575093843

$22.99

Paperback - B Format

May 2010

400 pages

Fantasy



The third novel in the hit Argeneau vampire series.

When Terri flew from England to New York to help plan her cousin Kate's wedding, she didn't know what she expected - but it certainly wasn't the Argeneaus.Her new in-laws may seem a little strange, with the sometimes-chipper sometimes-brooding writer Lucern - Kate's fiancee - and Vincent, the wacky stage actor (she couldn't imagine Broadway casting a hungrier looking all singing, all dancing Dracula), but having just discovered how expensive New York hotels can be, suddenly their offer of accomodation looks much more attractive.And then there's Bastien. Even taller, darker and hungrier looking than the other two, just looking into his eyes is enough to make Terri admit she's falling for him. Surely she can put up with the Argeneau's odd habits for a few days - to stay in their luxurious penthouse apartment, with the lovely Bastien - if it lets her avoid New York's blood-sucking hotel prices!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lynsay Sands was born in Canada and is an award-winning author of over 30 books, which have made the Barnes and Noble and New York Times bestseller lists. She is best known for her Argeneau series, about a modern-day family of vampires.



Previous Books:

Tall, Dark and Hungry (Bfmt 9780575095700 May 10);

Single White Vampire;

Love Bites

Review

Tall, Dark and Hungry is the fourth novel in the Argeneau vampire series and another true to form hilarious and entertaining read by author Lynsay Sands. Once again, the book is quite funny and a good read as a standalone book, but the full enjoyment in reading this novel really comes from following the storyline of the ancient family of vamps from the first book through to this latest instalment.

Bastien Argeneau is a vamp in the grumpy version of his hermit brother Lucern and his lovely curmudgeon ways was going to be put to the test, with the upcoming wedding of Lucern and Kate, who we met in the previous book, Single White Vamp,



Bastien has been living in the penthouse over the Argeneau offices, quite happily alone since Lucern had moved in with Kate. Kate pressed Bastien into picking up Terri at the airport, since the loving couple had other business. Bastien has no problem with that request.



Ever the responsible brother and gentleman, Bastien takes it upon himself to show Terri the town while her cousin is away and soon they realize how much they like each other. Their romance Terri and Bastien evolves slowly, sweetly, and tenderly.



Cousin Vincent, the misunderstood actor/vampire who has to feed the old school way, is absolutely hysterical and I can't wait to read his book.



The books plot is very well developed, with characters who are amusing, intelligent, and sexy.

Gollancz

9780575093836

$22.99

Paperback - B Format

April 2010

384 pages

Fantasy



The second novel in the hot new Argeneau vampire series.

Roundhouse Publishing editor Kate C Leever's first letter to her new author was meant to impress upon him the growing demand for vampire romances. And even though he'd expressed little-to-no desire for any publicity, book tours, or similar, it was clear this was an author just waiting to be broken out - despite himself, if necessary. When she suggested attending a romance convention his response - unusually quick to arrive - was succinct: 'No. ‘But Kate was adamant: Mr Lucern Argeneau was going to attend a romance convention and meet his fans. By hook or by crook, despite his reclusive nature and odd sleep patterns, the surly yet handsome author would attend. And she was sure that, once there, he would reveal himself to be a true charmer. Of course, that was before she realized that his 'romances' were more like biographies and it's literally her neck on the line...

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lynsay Sands was born in Canada and is an award-winning author of over 30 books, which have made the Barnes and Noble and New York Times bestseller lists. She is best known for her Argeneau series, about a modern-day family of vampires.



Previous Books:

Tall, Dark and Hungry (Bfmt 9780575095700 May 10);

Single White Vampire;

Love Bites

Review

Single White Vampire is the third in the Argeneau series and follows Sands’ format of romance with a touch of humour that will keep her readers happy. You can read this novel as a standalone book without too much trouble, but to really enjoy the full flavour of the characters, I’d recommend reading the first two books in the series before you sink your teeth into this one, sorry about the corny pun.

The book tells the story of Lucern “Luc” Argeneau. Luc is a famous author who writes romance novels about vampires, this in itself is quite funny when you think about it. Does Luc hate the multitude of paranormal romance written by the un-undead? Especially when Luc is actually writing true stories about his family and not some teen fantasy. Luc’s life changes when his new editor Kate C. Leever arrives on his doorstep without warning, determined to drag him to a book signing to drum up publicity.

This novel is written to the formula that we’ve all come to know and love by Sands and won’t disappoint constant readers.


ISBN: 9780747591832

Australian Pub.: October 2010

Edition: 1

Publisher: BLOOMSBURY

Imprint: BLOOMSBURY

Subject: General & World History

Edition Number: 1

Availability: Available

Format: Hard Cover

Pages: 832



AUD $59.99 inc. GST



The first - and only - history of the Secret Intelligence Service, written with full and unrestricted access to the closed archives of the Service for the period 1909-1949.

Description

A groundbreaking book, this unprecedented study is the authoritative account of the best-known intelligence organisation in the world. Essential reading for anyone interested in the history of espionage, the two world wars, modern British government and the conduct of international relations in the first half of the twentieth century, MI6: The History of the Secret Intelligence Service 1909-1949 is a uniquely important examination of the role and significance of intelligence in the modern world.

About Keith Jeffery

Keith Jeffery is Professor of British History at Queen's University, Belfast, and a Member of the Royal Irish Academy. In 1998 he was the Lees Knowles Lecturer in Military Science at Trinity College, Cambridge, and in 2003-04, Parnell Fellow in Irish Studies at Magdalene College, Cambridge. Jeffrey is the author of fourteen previous books. He lives in Northern Island.



Review



Keith Jeffery accepted the task of writing the history of MI-6, the SIS (Secret Intelligence Service) from the SIS itself, who wished to "commission an independent and authoritative volume" on the anniversary of their centenary. I’m not sure how independent an author can be when commissioned by the very body they are documenting though.

The book only covers from MI6 beginnings in 1909 to 1949. Unfortunately, the story stops here as we are told in the well written forward and preface is that the facts are still too sensitive and current to make available to the public. There are also explanations of how and why the agents and people who have worked for the SIS are protected. 

If you are expecting a thrilling novel-like book similar to a James Bond novel you will not find it here. This book is very much a textbook for historical records and accuracy, documenting accurately the multitude of operations.

The book contains vivid accounts of SIS successes in the First World War such as the secret agent organisation, “La Dame Blanche”, responsible for providing invaluable information on enemy troop movements; secret reporting from inside Germany, and the daring exploits of Lieutenant Augustus Agar VC, during the Russian Revolution, who sank several Soviet warships in attacks using fast motor boats.

The turning point in Jeffery's story, the making of a secret service with a truly international range, was the Second World War. This was the golden age of SIS. The budget tripled. Personnel soared from fewer than 100 to almost 1,000. But it was also the beginning of the end. Philby, Burgess and Maclean were all in place by 1941, the former an object of admiration respect.

At over 760 pages, this is a mammoth book to read, especially with the mundane aspects of bureaucracy, but for a solid historical look at the organization, it is a comprehensive and well documented book.

Book Review: Impractical Jokes by Charlie Pickering  

Posted by Scott Wilson

ISBN: 9781741757262

Australian Pub.: August 2010

Edition: 1

Publisher: ALLEN & UNWIN

Imprint: ALLEN & UNWIN

Subject: Memoirs

Edition Number: 1



Three toilets, a deceased poodle and some sadly depreciated real-estate ... a rollicking, laugh-out-loud memoir of how a practical joke went too far from one of Australia's brightest young comedians.

Description

'A diabolical ping-pong game of prank and counter-prank across the generations. Hilarious and warm-hearted, Impractical Jokes is both a comic evocation of the Australian larrikin

spirit and an ode to a loving father. Don't just read the jacket blurb - buy it!' - Shaun Micallef

In 1986, Charlie Pickering's dad, Ron, was pushed into a pool by his best friend, Richard. What followed was an all-out water pistol ambush in a five-star restaurant and then ten years of

tit-for-tat payback and near fatal hijinx that eventually involved the State Emergency Service. When maturity is the first casualty of war, things tend to escalate.

Impractical Jokes is the true story of two seemingly responsible, middle-aged men who opted out of having a mid-life crisis and instead gave themselves permission to be silly. It

is also the tale of how Charlie finally learnt something from his dad - that being grown-up shouldn't mean losing your sense of humour - a lesson he lives to the full as one of Australia's

leading comedians.

About Charlie Pickering

Charlie Pickering is a comedian, writer and presenter. After throwing away his career as a lawyer, Charlie toured the world performing stand-up from London to Bahrain, earning a nomination

for the prestigious Perrier Award for best newcomer at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Upon his return to Australia, Charlie and fellow comedian Michael Chamberlin created and starred in The

Mansion on The Comedy Channel, before going on to host Toast, a weekend breakfast show on Triple M and rocketing to national popularity on Network Ten's The 7pm Project and Talkin' 'bout

Your Generation. He now lives in Melbourne in a small house with a West Highland Terrier named Waldon and a Scottish Terrier named Kennedy.

'Charming company and a natural raconteur' - The Scotsman

'Australia's best' - The Adelaide Advertiser

'More than witty - side-shakingly funny' - The Age

Review

Charlie Pickering is one smart, witty and intelligent guy. I’ve enjoyed watching him on Talking About Your Generation since it started and couldn’t wait for this book to come out. Pickering’s humour is very intellectual, with no low brow or profanities to fill the gaps like other comedians these days.

These memoirs are about the friendly rivalry and practical jokes between Pickering and his father, starting at a BBQ in 1986. The two take practical jokes to whole new levels and have no bounds; being at five star restaurants, lesser humorous novelty ties, numerous visits to casualty, old toilets, glitter and the SES. Yes that’s right ... the SES. For those who have only seen him on Talking ‘bout Your Generation or The 7PM Project, this is your opportunity to witness Charlie’s comic genius .

You will laugh out loud and roll on the floor with laughter with each turn of the page in this book. The antics of the two over a ten year period are extremely funny and well worth telling to the nation in Pickering’s memoirs.

Book Review: Insurrection by Robyn Young  

Posted by Scott Wilson

H&S Fiction

9780340963654

$32.99

Paperback - C Format

November 2010

512 pages

Historical Fiction



First book of a captivating new trilogy about the ever-popular Robert the Bruce.

The year is 1286 and Scotland is in the grip of one of the worst winters in living memory. Some believe the Day of Judgement has come.The King of Scotland is murdered by one of his squires, a deed pre-meditated by his own brother-in-law, the King of England, a thousand miles away in France. The Prophecy of Merlin has decreed that only when the four relics of Britain have been gathered will one man rule a united kingdom, and Edward I is determined to fulfil it. The murder of Scotland s king is thus just the first in a chain of events that will alter the face of Britain forever. But all is not destined to go Edward s way. Out of the ashes of war, through blood feuds and divided loyalties, a young squire will rise to defy England s greatest king. His name is Robert the Bruce. And his story begins in INSURRECTION.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Robyn Young was born in Oxford in September 1975, the only child of a civil engineer father and an artist and folk singer mother. She grew up in the Midlands and Devon and has worked as a festival organizer, a music promoter, an investment advisor and as a teacher of creative writing. She has a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Sussex and she now lives and writes in Brighton full-time.



Previous Books:

BRETHREN (9780340839713), CRUSADE (9780340839744), REQUIEM (9780340921425).



Review

Insurrection is a historical fiction novel with many liberties taken to fill the gaps between the facts. Bear this in mind when you read this book otherwise you won’t enjoy this book at all. Those who like their historical fiction to be 100% factual will find many points to complain about. Once you have this established you will know if this is the kind of book you want to read. My wife likes historical fiction and could not get into this book because of this. I read it as a pure piece of fiction and enjoyed it.

Insurrection is the first in a new trilogy, centring on the adventures of Robert the Bruce, and it follows on from the same author's outstanding Templar series The Brethren trilogy. The book is well-paced, with visceral and believable battles scenes, and the characters are well enough rounded to make it thoroughly believable.

Robert Bruce is interesting because he equivocated so much over his support for rebellion against the English occupation of Scotland, notwithstanding his own claim to the throne. The story is set in the winter of 1286, and Scotland is in the grip of the worst winter ever known. The King rides out into the night and is murdered by one of his own men, and thus the story begins.

It’s a very personal story of one man’s journey towards self-realization, played out against a background of family conflict, political rivalry and dynastic ambition.

Young’s Bruce is a thoroughly human figure, battling various conflicting emotional ties and material interests to try and figure out just where it is he wants to go, never mind how to actually get there.

Young creates a world where the ties between the two countries are deep and often genuinely felt. The complex politics of the period are quite intricate and discussed in detail, with clan feuds and politics rife.

Book Review: The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group by Catherine Jinks  

Posted by Scott Wilson

ISBN: 9781742373638

Australian Pub.: October 2010

Edition: 1

Publisher: ALLEN & UNWIN

Imprint: A & U CHILDREN

Subject: Young adult fiction

Edition Number: 1

Suitable for ages: 14-18



The brilliant companion to The Reformed Vampire Support Group follows the trials and adventures of Toby, whose life changes after he is found in a dingo pen with no memory of the night before.

Description

I still hadn't fully absorbed the terrible possibility that I might actually be a werewolf. A werewolf. I kept stumbling over that word; it made no sense to me. How could I be a werewolf? Werewolves didn't exist.

When Tobias Richard Vandevelde wakes up in hospital with no memory of the night before, his horrified mother tells him that he was found unconscious. At Featherdale Wildlife Park. In a dingo pen.

He assumes that his two rambunctious best friends are somehow responsible, until he discovers that they're just as freaked out as he is. Then the mysterious Reuben turns up, claiming that Toby has a rare and dangerous 'condition'. Next thing he knows, Toby finds himself involved with a strange bunch of sickly insomniacs who seem convinced that he needs their help.

It's not until he's kidnapped and imprisoned that he starts to believe them - and to understand what being a paranormal monster really means.

About Catherine Jinks

Catherine Jinks was born in Brisbane in 1963 and grew up in Sydney and Papua New Guinea. She studied mediaeval history at university and her love of reading led her to become a writer. Her books for children, teenagers and adults have been published to wide acclaim all over the world, and have won numerous awards. Catherine's most recent books include the bestselling Genius series.

Catherine lives in the Blue Mountains in NSW with her husband, Canadian journalist Peter Dockrill, and their daughter Hannah.

Review

The books starts right in the middle of things, Tobias has woken up in the hospital and is informed he was found in the Dingo cage at the zoo. Nobody is more shocked then Tobias himself who last remembers falling asleep in his bed at home, before waking up in the hospital. Toby is approached by a strange looking man and a priest with a controversial message, Toby is a werewolf

The Abused Werewolf Rescue has a tempo and a life all its own. They are straddling conflicting worlds in which the paranormal exist, and where certain people refuse to accept that they are real.

Toby, our young protagonist and narrator, has a hard time coming to terms with his newly discovered werewolf "condition".

Reuben had a thankless and intensely difficult job with Toby and he had to make some hard decisions and take serious action. But he was more than able to step up for all the abused werewolves in the series!

Fiction: A Plea from the Cradle By George Wilhite  

Posted by Scott Wilson


Darkness falls and I am alone.

This metal tray not much longer than my body, and only a few inches deep, is the only home I know. There is a hole in the bottom where the fluids drain.

I am used to the dark and prefer it to the blinding light, and there has never been anything in-between here.

It must be hot “out there” because cold air is being pumped through the central air system. I am never comfortable here, in my metal cradle, it is always too hot or too cold. I shift about but my body cries out in pain.

I do not really communicate with my fathers. I have not acquired the necessary skills of speech, since I am all alone here most of the time, but my mind intuits much.

Most of what I intuit comes from listening to my fathers and those that visit them. I love my fathers, for they created me, but I intuit that most created ones have more rights.



The blinding light comes and I am with my father’s again.

Suddenly, many machines surround me and then I hear the familiar cacophony of all the blips and beeps of the equipment. When my father’s come, it is all light, noise and pain. The snake-like arms slither down from above, and the needles enter me again, filling me with all the fluids.

I intuit some of the fluids are what keep me alive, but I am not sure of the reason for the others. They often burn as they travel through my body and make me feel very sick.

I often scream when I am with my father’s because I do not know how to use their big words. I heard them telling one of their little people one day to use big words and I watched in envy as the little man made the father understand why he was screaming. I long for this, but all I can do is cry and scream.

Sometimes one or more of the fathers loses his “patience,” with me and will scream back at me, very angry. Patience is a word I do not intuit yet but I am working on it. I want to make them like me and not be mad. Then, maybe someday, I can leave the metal cradle.

Today I did not scream or squirm. I was good and the fathers smiled a lot.



Darkness falls and I am alone again.

Lying here, trying to sleep, I think of the little people again. The fathers let the little people run around freely and never stick them with needles or make them lie down in the metal cradle.

What have these little people done to earn the favour of the fathers? The only thing I can intuit is that perhaps speech makes them get along better. If I could learn to speak, to express all these thoughts in my head, maybe they would treat me like the little ones.

Another difference I have long ago intuited between me and the little ones is more basic—I don’t remember ever being little. I have only seen my own body a couple times in the glass, but I seem to be the size of the fathers, and I don’t remember ever being any smaller. This is hard to intuit.

The other day I heard one of them speak a word I had never heard before: “mother.”



The blinding light comes and I am with my father’s again.

Today does not go well at all. They do something to me for the first time and it is very painful and, though I know they will be displeased, I cannot control my response and I scream and scream. They become angry. It does not take long at all and they leave me much sooner than normal and then darkness falls.



And in that darkness, while I try to sleep, I remember the other day how another mystery of the little people arose, and I have still yet to intuit its meaning. This time, one of the little ones called a “girl” was in the room with us. She was running all over the place, having fun, screaming, but not that way I scream, in a way that I intuited as pleasurable since her screaming made the fathers smile and laugh.

The little ones, like the fathers and unlike me, wear clothes. On this particular day, the little girl lifted up her shirt and showed her naked stomach. “Look at my belly button!” she yelled at on the fathers, and then she called him a name I never heard before: “Daddy.”

“Yes, that’s your navel, honey.”

More new words. Navel. Daddy.

“That’s how your mother fed you before you were born.”

There is much to intuit here. All three new words somehow seem associated. Mother, Daddy, navel, also called belly button by the little one. Though I still do not intuit, I do know one thing. When the girl was so excited about the navel under her shirt, I looked down at my own belly and learned a truth about myself, another difference between me and the privileged little people. I have no navel.

Speech, a navel, a mother, and the meaning of Daddy are the keys.



The next day, the blinding light returns with the fathers, but only two of them this morning.

I have decided to use all my strength to try and attempt the big words today. I want to leave the steel cradle and be one of the little people, but I know I must first have a navel and intuit the words Mother and Daddy.

Mustering all my might and intuition, knowing it may be nothing more than screams and cries to the ears of the fathers, I make a desperate attempt to cross the boundary from screams to words.

The horror of it doesn’t strike me all at once, but very gradually, as I try again and again, each time more intently, until, by degrees, I intuit the latest in the long line of differences between me and the blessed little ones—I am mute.

In my mind, I scream at them all I want to say but cannot. How can you take this away? If I do not learn to speak I will never have a naval, never understand “Daddy,” never make you favour me as you do them! I cannot intuit this latest cruelty! Why have you done this?

I hear the two fathers speaking, though their words are far beyond anything I can intuit, especially in my current state of terror and hopelessness.

“Obviously, the procedure is a success, but it’s not going to help matters if he struggles like this.”

“I tried to tell all of you. It isn’t going to help to just sever the vocal cords. It’s not just that he’s screaming from some primal response to pain. There is something behind this struggling.”

“I know. I know. You’re right, of course. Have been all along. They told us the Deltas would be different, but they were wrong. They still haven’t figured out how to create vegetables instead of humans. No matter what we do, the damn things develop a consciousness.”



Darkness falls again and I am alone.

I have no navel.

I need to speak, or at least to scream, but I am mute.

I will never be one of the little blessed ones.

All I want is to speak one time and tell the fathers to please, please I beg you, make this steel cradle a coffin instead. Please make the next blinding light my last.

Fiction: Volume 24 by Adam Hofbauer  

Posted by Scott Wilson

I first encountered Cody Colt one night in Hawkins County, Indiana. I was lurking beneath my bed sheets with a flashlight propped against my shoulder and my open window letting in the smell of storm. I found Cody Colt and the Bullets in the Dust in the back corner of the new Ben Franklin store, at the bottom of an apple barrel filled with used Bibles and arithmetic primers, all covered in saw dust and water stains, missing the front cover and costing fifteen cents.

In those days, The Ben Franklin was the last building for miles in two directions, and if you stood in one corner and looked out the window in the middle of summertime it looked like you were standing in a glass booth at the centre of a limitless cloud of dust and grass. Sometimes I’d be so excited about Cody’s next adventure that I would plant myself on the curb right outside the store and read until it got too dark to see.

The Ben Franklin got new books on the second Wednesday of every month, and every month there I was, as the new stores grew up like teeth out of the gums of dust, through the days when they put down the first paved streets in Hawkins County, right there through the centre of town.

Cody was born on the back of a moving stagecoach as it was being attacked by Apache warriors. He was broken in fighting for the confederacy during the war, and when the war was lost he stole a horse and made his way west, until the land flattened out and the jaws of the sky opened wide.

Through those early books, everything was simple for Cody, and he met it all with a smile and tip of his hat, a stark “evening“ as he threw down silver and ordered his whiskey. The villains all wore black hats and had names like Mad Cat Jack and Black Heart Boone. The cattle all had a market to get to and every town had a few rough characters with hearts of gold. And somewhere out there, waiting by a window in the quiet frontier, was Cody’s girl, his true love, holding on to his promise to return.

I’m not sure when it was that things took a turn. If I had to pick a moment, it would come at the end of Volume seven, Cody Colt and the Blood on the Buzz saw, when Cody squares off against Six-gun Walt in the belly of the Montgomery Company Saw Mill. He ends up pushing Walt into an enormous oven, and you’d think that would be the end of it. Only Walt doesn’t go down. He dances through the fire, his guns melting in his hands and his body turning to bones, all the while laughing and screaming, taunting Cody to join him in the fire, until he finally turns to ash and sinks into the coal.

The books start to get names like Cody Colt and the Train of the Burning Circus and Cody Colt and the Cannibal Apache, until by volume eleven the hero’s name isn’t even in the titles anymore, just typed out real small on the bottom of the front cover, the title written out in black across the top. The villains go from being run of the mill outlaws to psychotic carnival freaks and the denizens of ghost trains borne steaming out of Mexico. Cody goes from rescuing school marms to trying to uncover the identity of a man called the Ancient Rider and seeking vengeance for the killing of his true love.

I was terrified that my parents were going to find volume twelve, Old Man Joe’s Ironclad Murdercade. That was the first mention of the Fiery Trainman, a demonic train conductor dressed all in red leather, who always seems to be one step ahead of Cody until they finally meet in volume fourteen, The Red Hot Guns of the Fiery Driver. By the end of volume fifteen, The Twelve from Hell, Cody has watched an entire Indian tribe slaughtered by the Trainman, followed the swathe of destruction of a dozen murderous bastards who are burning towns across the west, and ended up gut shot at the bottom of a ravine.

I’d realized by the second or third book that no one else in town had any idea who Cody Colt was, and to me that made him even more real, like the books about him were really secret biographies culled from some hidden stretch of western history. I felt l could have been Cody in a past life, and now he was sharing his camp fire with me, stopping on his ride through time. The books felt dangerous in my hands on my way home from the five and dime, like the kind of things my father told me not to go near, the kind of things I was warned about in church.

By volume sixteen, The Tree of Revenge, the German family who ran the Ben Franklin all knew to keep my book behind the counter until I came along with my fifteen cents first thing Wednesday afternoon. The downtown had sprung up by then, all noisy and clanking and choked with cars, and it wasn’t really possible to read on the curb anymore. I missed the dirt roads and the quiet that was so quickly being driven out by big cars and new houses.

By time of volume twenty three, The Dusty Guns of the Ancient Rider, I was fifteen and more concerned with tits than cattle runs, but Cody had grown with me, from an honour bound steer wrangler fresh out of the civil war into a bullet ridden bastard trying to save the west from the claws of a dark hearted Trainman.

The book opened with the Trainman making off with Cody’s soul, and most of it is a long chase up into the Colorado Rockies, up into the snow and the sheer cliffs. Cody chases the train higher and higher, until he gets ahead of it and camps out in a deserted mining town at the top of Colorado. There, he finally takes on the Ancient Rider, and the book ends with Cody out of bullets, freezing to death with the enormous engine of the Trainman getting closer and closer, carrying with it an army of demons and the fateful words “to be continued.”

That was the last I saw of Cody Colt. I was in the five and dime every week for the next six months, asking the clerks for my copy of volume 24, asking if he had sold it to anyone, asking if there was any word from the publisher. But it never came.

Eventually I stopped asking about the book, but I never stopped looking, dropping in every once in a while to poke through the back of the store, hoping to find volume 24 wedged under a shelf or hidden somewhere at the bottom of a dirty apple barrel. But eventually, I even stopped doing that. I moved away, and when I came back for the holiday, driving in through the centre of town, I saw a brand new red metal gas station sitting where the Ben Franklin should have been. My father told me that one day a bulldozer came, and just like that no more five and dime.

Even after I stopped re-reading the other twenty three books, I never forgot about Cody Colt. When I moved out to the city, I would look in every store I could find, until I started looking at Garage sales and used book stores, then finally Antique stores. Sometimes when I was feeling lucky I would hit a random library, until one day I walked in and asked for the card catalogue, and the librarian smiled and pointed towards the computer.

In the centre of a labyrinthine Flea Market somewhere in Ohio, surrounded by an organism of cigarette butts and all the forgotten something’s of the world, I once saw a near perfect copy of volume three, Cody Colt and the Banditios, sitting beneath glass and selling for seventy dollars. I asked the dealer if he knew anything about volume 24, but he just told me he’d never heard of Cody Colt. To him, it was just another book, just another sale. But to me, Cody was still out there, clinging to life while the snow piled up around him and the train closed in.

My children never played at being cowboys. They wanted to see space, to dance across the surface of the moon. While I had wandered the endless fields around my father’s farm, my children ran back and forth across the tiny yard behind our house, zapping each other with imaginary ray guns, gazing upwards instead of out.

My wife and I didn’t talk about the book much. There was a lot more to life than some old cowboy dying in the mountains. But every year, she would look for the book for me, and every year on my birthday she would say “Sorry honey.” I told her once about my idea for the ending. She listened, half asleep but still smiling, and when I was done told me she couldn’t think of a better way for Cody Colt to see me off.

And decades of birthdays went by until the day she said, “I just couldn’t give it to you.”

Gazing into my own image reflected back at me in my new silver watch, I said “Couldn’t give what to me.”

“I read it,” she said. “I know I hadn’t read the other 23, but I think I understand.”

It struck me. The book had been in this house. I had probably slept within a few feet of it. My wife had held it in her hands. “Where is it?” I asked, expecting her to reveal it to me and say “Happy birthday sweet-heart,” and then leave me alone with my cowboy hero.

“When I finished it, I knew what you would think of it. Your ending was so much better. So I lit a fire in our stove, you know the old wood burning one we got before we bought the electric one. I fed the pages into the fire, one by one, until only the cover was left. And then I burned that too”

I thought about all the days when I had come home to warm myself by the fire of our stove, and that I had probably rubbed my hands together in the heat straight off the ashes of volume 24. “What was it called,” I asked.

“I don’t remember,” she said.

I left my silver watch on the counter and left the house without a word. I walked four hours, down out of our little house and into town, where I stood and watched a gang of men in city works orange tilting a phone booth onto its side and lifting it into a truck. I was still angry a week later when my wife gave me the address of an enormous book warehouse up in North Dakota. She’d found it on the computer somehow, two copies of volume 24. She said “I know I can’t stop you. I just want you to remember, when you finally find that book, that I warned you.”

We could have ordered it through the mail. But I was feeling ready for a long drive to North Dakota.



The highway goes on, towards the place where my hometown once stood, then past it, out into massive skies and roads lined with barns half eaten away by the rust and termites of too many growing seasons. The farms have gotten smaller since last I drove the long highway between the towns.

The storm hits just outside of North Dakota, and I drive until the road disappears beneath the snow and my speed gauge creeps below thirty, as the lights of the car ahead of me get sucked into the white and its stupid to go any further.

I end up a in a rest area somewhere just shy of the state line. I’m half tempted to leave my car behind and walk the rest of the way. But Cody Colt would never leave his horse, so I walk hunch backed from the heat of my car to a glass shielded building with solar panels on its roof and snack machines along the walls.

The snow is so thick around the glass canopy that I can’t even see the sister rest stop across the high way. As I stand making ugly patterns against the glass with my breath, I can feel volume 24 waiting for me beyond the storm, beyond the flat slab of endless land.

My ending is so clear that it just plays out in my head without me having to think about it. I see Cody Colt dying in the mountains, the train of the dead getting closer and closer. I see the west going on forever below him. And then he sees a skull buried in the snow, bones reaching up out of the ground, and he realizes where he is. The Ancient Bastard was helping him all along, leading him here, to the bone-yard of the entire world’s dead cowboys.

I see the Fiery Trainman getting nearer, shovelling coal into the furnace of his iron horse. Cody finally finds the will to stand, and he calls upon the spirits of the west. The bones all around him grow to life, rallying behind him. There, in the frozen wastes upon the spine of America, Cody leads his army against the fading of the frontier.

I can almost see it play out right in front of the rest stop, right across the icy highway, the final flash of revolvers, the final war to save the west. I see Cody lift the fiery rider out of his flaming engine and cast him down from the highest icy peak, as the ghosts of the cowboys rage across Colorado and Nevada, ripping up cattle fences and railway track. They grab the edges of the west and stretch it out until the world is nothing but desert and prairie all governed by the unwritten code, until finally they lie down among the soil, seedlings of a new and endless frontier.

And Cody, finally, snatches his soul from the gates of hell and rides up towards heaven, where his true love waits. And he puts down his guns and his bullets turn to sand, and he finally sits down on his porch to watch the endless sunrise of the immortal new world.

If that’s the ending I can think up, I can’t imagine how amazing the real thing is going to be.

I can’t see my car anymore, but it feels like I can see the warehouse, waiting just over the horizon, past just a few more crumbling barns, just another mile or two until my journey ends. I step away from the windows and sit down on a bench beside the vending machines, and I watch as the white closes in, and everything disappears.

A pair of tiny yellow headlamps appear nearby, it seems. But then they grow bigger, closing in from down the highway, not small and nearby but distant, huge and nearing. They are, for an instant, the lights of the Fiery Rider’s train, and I feel his armies cackling as, Cody’s soul reclaimed, they finally come for me. Even knowing I don’t have one, I reach for my revolver.

The whiteout hides the shape of the train, but I can see it leaving its rails and coming down the asphalt, throwing up chunks of ice, melting the snow with the fire of the engines in its metal cavities.

I back up against the vending machines as the lights flare in the storm. The wind is blowing the snow across the parking lot faster than it can fall, driving it in gusts which make it look like the train is moving at top speed even as it slows to a stop outside my glass enclosure.

I hear the screech of brakes as the lights cut off and the train skids across the ice. A muffled sound comes through the storm and my car’s alarm blares, the tiny lights flashing on and off.

My wife. I have to get back to my wife.

I see a man climbing down from the invading vehicle, his hidden form stopping at my car before turning towards me and coming for the door. The alarm blaring, the lights flashing.

He emerges from the white blindness with a sincere “Buddy, I’m sorry.” He wears flannel and snow, and trails cold in from the storm. “The ice,” he says. “It was the ice.”



The man’s diesel engine lumber truck smashed in the back corner of my trunk, shattering the rear head light and popping the tire. I called my wife on the truck drivers’ portable phone as the storm cleared and he me out insurance information. The world emerged out of the snow, the sun having set behind the storm; moonlight as bright as day reflecting off the inches of new snow.

“It's going to be tough,” I said. “The truck driver’s only going as far as the packing plant in Denton. But I’ll make it home to you.”

“Yeah,” I said. “I got my ending.”



.

[1] The American Animation Society (AAS) is a non for profit organization designed to preserving and protecting the unique culture of animation in America and the equally unique fictional and real people who are involved in its production and creation. It is involved in conducting interviews with significant figures in the history of animation as well as in promoting educational programming related to the animation industry’s history and ongoing projects. By allowing this first of a planned ongoing series of oral histories to grace its pages, this publication joins the AAS in acknowledging the uniqueness of animation as an American art form as well as one requiring unique means of understanding and preservation which we hope to provide.


INTRODUCTION

Punkin Pye, for those of you not familiar with him, is a small, rabbit like creature with elongated ears, red fur and an almost permanent scowl on his face. He has been a persistent, if marginal, figure in the field of animation for nearly a century, taking advantage of the near immortality granted to most animated cartoon characters by their particular physiological construction. He has worked in advertising, theatrical animation, and television animation, but has spent much of his later career serving as an informal advocate for fellow members of his species of “’toon”. He is persistently outspoken, taking controversial stands on issues when most members of his species would prefer to remain silent. This is perhaps why, unlike so many others, his career has lacked consistency, due in part to a long and embittered exile from the film and broadcast media.

Punkin first emerged into the public consciousness as the mascot of the Yutz Bread Company of New York City in the mid-1910s. The company went bankrupt in the stock market crash of 1929, forcing “Punk”, as he was informally known, to seek alternate forms of employment. Several attempts at work at the major New York area animation studios of Fleischer, Terry and Van Beuren failed to earn him steady employment, in no small part due to his controversial socialist politics. By the 1940s, he had traveled to Los Angeles in search of work, but his reputation preceded him and he was unable to get work. He concentrated instead on advocating for “’toon” rights, which lead to several increasingly bitter run-ins with the LAPD across the 1940s and 1950s.

Television seemed to offer a better opportunity for employment for him and, in the mid-1960s, he was able to obtain a supporting role on an independently produced animated program called The Buddies. This opportunity, too, ended up slipping through his fingers. Not only did politics once again get in the way but his repeated use of violence on camera, in the form of an ever present and oft-used sledgehammer, on camera got him into trouble with the censors. In an angry confrontation, he refused to disavow his use of violence as a comedy tactic and has since been blacklisted from television, a condition that, despite support from others in the animation industry, has still been enforced. Meanwhile, films and videotapes of The Buddies, sometimes altered to overemphasize his use of violence, have become a hot “underground” property.

It was at this time that he began concentrating on advocacy and, due to his vast experience and understanding of animation and “’toons”, he has become one of the leading commercial advocates for their rights. He has been a constant supporter of, among other things, gaining the right to vote for “’toons”, obtaining commercial royalties for past and present performances, and allowing them to become members of the Screen Actors Guild, Writers Guild of America and Directors Guild of America, on the grounds that their roles in these fields have been repeatedly overlooked.

I talked with Punkin Pye at his apartment in the Toontown district of Los Angeles, where he has lived since his arrival in the city since the 1940s and where, despite his advocacy, “’toons” in the city’s animation industry are still forced to live if they work in the city. (A word of caution: there are words and opinions in this interview that may be offensive to others.)



INTERVIEW :
[1] Based on a tape recorded discussion originally recorded April 5, 2008.


DP: Where were you born?

PP: In New York City, around the garment district, about 1908.

DP: And how, as a ‘toon, were you born?

PP: You aren’t so much born as drawn. Somebody just takes a pen or pencil and sketches a doodle of you. If they happen to like you, you live. If they don’t, you die. I’m actually quite fortunate since most of us end up dying on the drawing board, if you know what I mean.

DP: I understand. So you spent your early years in New York?

PP: Yeah, and I still consider myself a New Yorker even though I’ve been living in L.A. all this time. Ties like that are strong with us ‘toons. Our home towns are always strong with us even though most of us don’t have the kind of things that would tie them strongly to us. Like families and stuff.

DP: So you don’t have a family in the normal sense?

PP: Yeah. It’s only been fairly recently that they’ve started making ‘em with families. Most of us, unless we got really popular, had to do without.

DP: Did you suffer from prejudice as a child?

PP: Hell, yeah! There’s no ‘toon that doesn’t if they’re particularly “out” with it. Look at us. Most of us are fairly ugly to start with, and then there’s all that crazy stuff we do. Expanding limbs, taking our heads off, cutting holes in the sky and the ground so we can escape people. And all in the name of entertainment! That’s what I don’t like- that they think we’re purely entertainers! That we just turn on the charm when the camera comes on and then bottle everything up until the next go round. That is no way to see other people! They don’t see blacks, Jews or women like that now, so why us?

DP: In other words, people don’t understand animated characters and they don’t want to try.

PP: Correct! That’s what I dig about you and those other AAS guys! You care about us! That’s why I wanted to talk to you. Lot of other people wanted to talk to me but I turned them down- they just couldn’t take me seriously, see?

DP: Yes, of course. So when were you first employed by Yutz Bread?

PP: I can remember that like it was yesterday. When you’re a six year old ‘toon kicking the can around the Lower East Side ‘cause you got nothing else to do, you pay attention when a guy comes up to you and offers you sixty bucks a week just for posing for an artist ‘cause they like your looks!

DP: So it was your looks that attracted them?

PP: Yeah. ‘Course I was a lot more attractive then. (Laughs). And that was it. I sat down and they drew some pictures of me. So I was their public face. I was on their billboards, in their magazine ads and on the bread wrappers themselves. I was just a kid and here I was, a star! You don’t know what that does to a kid.

DP: Many child stars have issues with addiction and an inability to adjust to being out of the spotlight. Did that happen to you when the company went bankrupt?

PP: I would say yes and no. I had a life with Yutz. Stability, a home and everything, you know. But I was wise. I kept my cash in my mattress at home, you see? None of that banking crap for me. And also, by the time of the crash, I was an adult. I’d grown up. Some ‘toons that start out as kids ended up staying that way for the rest of their lives, but some of ‘em grow up pretty quickly. I was one of those. So, between that and my savings, I turned out all right.

DP: But despite your status as a salaried commercial spokesman, you were and have always been a committed socialist. Is there some sort of disparity in that?

PP: I wasn’t a socialist when I started out in life, but it was Debs that turned me right on that.

DP: Eugene Debs, the presidential candidate? I’m just asking because some people may not have heard of him.

PP: More’s the pity for them not knowing about him. He had more guts that half the politicians around today- or then, even. I mean, who else would run a presidential campaign while he was in jail? That takes real chutzpah. And there was the Triangle disaster.

DP: You mean the fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in 1911? I only ask because…

PP: Yeah, because the people don’t know about it. Then they’re dumb! That thing didn’t need to happen. I saw the whole thing go down ‘cause it was only a short distance from my apartment. The fire and the screaming and the jumping off the side of the building. Didn’t need to happen. And it happened because the guys who owned the place got greedy and wanted more money. See, that’s what attracted me about socialism. A lot more fair to everybody, not just the guys with money. Everybody cares about each other. We’d all be better off with it, I think. A lot of my friends think the same way about it, but we can around to that later on.

DP: Sure. So after the crash, you started into your animation career…

PP: Not so much a career as a dabbling, I would say (Laughs).

DP: I should note here that there is a difference between animation and the ‘toons themselves. Animation refers to the medium and ‘toons to the people who appear in those films.

PP: Yeah, only “’toons” was and always has been a pejorative. We generally prefer to be called “animated characters” or “animated beings”. This is for the audience again, right?

DP: Right.

PP: Okay. On to my dabbling. Not as much here as you would think. At Fleischer’s and Terry’s I was basically an extra. No speaking parts. I was just in a couple of films for them each and then they let me go. Problem wasn’t my appearance or presence; I filmed good in black and white. It was the political thing. I’d go around handing fliers for socialist meetings and everything during lunch hours. So I got fired.

DP: Both of them were anti-union as I recall. That was one of the reason the Fleischer Studio went on strike in 1937.

PP: You nailed it. If I’d still been there then I would have been right in there.

DP: Then you went to Van Beuren. Were you more successful there?

PP: If you mean getting bigger parts, then yeah. But that didn’t help me none. You gotta remember that Van Beuren was the bottom of the barrel then. Crap! I mean, half the time the vocal track and the film weren’t even synchronized properly. I’d see the stuff later on and I’d be embarrassed. It didn’t do much for my career except I met Joe Barbera there.

DP: Of Hanna-Barbera.

PP: Yes. We’ve been friends for a long time, up until he died. He always had a great rapport with the ‘toons, which is why he and Hanna were able to stay in the business so long. Didn’t help me professionally, though. He went to bat for me later on, after I got blacklisted, but no one would touch me then. Not even Jay Ward, and he seriously needed a hit series by then. But anyhow, I stayed around Van Beuren for a few years until they went out of business in 1937.

DP: Because RKO, their distributor, started distributing Walt Disney.

PP: Exactly. Like going from turnip to tulip.

DP: This was around the time that you decided to go to Hollywood.

PP: Well, I had no other choice, really. There was nothing left for me in New York. I mean, nothing. I’d burnt by bridges with the studios, and my looks had started going, so advertising was definitely out. All the other studios were in Hollywood so I had to go if I wanted work. So I packed my grip, got a train ticket, and went out here. End of story.

DP: Yet nobody wanted to hire you when you arrived in Hollywood, despite the reputation you had built up in New York.

PP: That’s putting it mildly. They thought socialism was the plague, and I refused to bend. That cost me a lot of work. Nothing at Disney, Warners or MGM. The best I could do was a few bit parts at Universal and Columbia; you can probably see me if you look close enough.

DP: You did work more extensively with UPA during that time, didn’t you?

PP: Correction: I tried working with them. This time it wasn’t the politics; some of those guys were redder than I was, and it cost them dearly when HUAC came calling. It was the way they drew. That whole “limited animation” stuff might have been more “artsy” and all, but it didn’t work for me. Gosh! When they were through with me, and they tested me, I looked like a doodle on an oil painting. And besides, I looked like a total butt ugly putz. I didn’t need none of that, so I walked out.

DP: Did you consider work in non-commercial filmmaking?

PP: There wasn’t much I liked, other than maybe Jam Handy, but they were out in Detroit and I didn’t want to move. So mostly I just hung around the house and cursed my bad luck. Or I tried other things.

DP: That was when you first got arrested by the LAPD.

PP: Yeah. I’d gotten involved in a plan with some other ‘toons to knock over a bank. Just ‘cause we thought our cartoon abilities could let us do the job without leaving much evidence. Didn’t work. And then because we were ‘toons, they roughed us up really bad, aside from leaving us in the clink for a longer than average time. Rather not go into more detail about it, if you don’t mind.

DP: I understand. Can you give me your impression of the Toontown Riots of 1949, in which you participated?

PP: How could I forget that! Man! That happened because of Paramount v. United States. You know that, right?

DP: That was where the Supreme Court ordered the film studios to sell off the theatres that they owned. And they did. They apparently had violated some arcane anti-trust legislation or something like that.

PP: Yes. And one of the repercussions was that they started cutting back on what they considered to be “non-essential” stuff, like cartoons. So a lot of my people found themselves out of work, with very little explanation. They just showed up for work one day and the studio cops just said, “We don’t need you any more. Get the hell out of here.” It took time for some of those studios to shut down, of course; I mean, Walter Lantz, God love him, was still making films in the ‘70s, but they were starting to look pretty cheap by then. But most of them said point blank that they were either getting out of the business entirely or cutting back to just a few each year. Toontown exploded. It was like what happened here in town in ’65 and ’91, or what had happened with the zoot suiters a few years before. But nobody talks about it, ‘cause, as I said before, apparently nobody gives a shit about us ‘toons.

DP: Was there an inciting incident, like the murder of the Latino teenagers at Sleepy Lagoon that set off the zoot suit riots in 1943?

PP: Yes, there was, but you never heard about it ‘til now ‘cause I’m telling you about it. There were these ‘toons on the corner of Hollywood and Vine, hanging out. Just like normal guys. This would have been around January of ’49, by the way. Cops pull up, call them loafers and all sorts of other dirty names, and then the nightsticks come out. Couple of them fight back. They tear off the street lamp at the corner and use it to bash in the skull of one of the cops. Strictly self-defense, understand? Next thing you know, they’ve called in reinforcements; half the LAPD, it seems. Toontown organizes its own citizen brigades, one of them led by me, and we fight it out with them. We lost some people, but they lost more, ‘cause they couldn’t deal with the way we played ball. Dropping pianos and rocks and such. Went on for a couple of weeks, and then they finally left the neighborhood. But it scared all of us in that neighborhood real bad. Not just that we became even more pariah types than we were before. There was a lot of shell shock. The establishment didn’t have to deal with that ‘til Vietnam, but it hit us first.

DP: Then afterwards came television, around the same time.

PP: Uh huh. What the anti-trust didn’t do to the movie business, TV did. Nobody wanted to deal with TV in the Hollywood crowd; it wasn’t until later, when they got to be neighbors in the corporate hierarchy, that they really got to understand it better. That was especially true in Toontown; you worked in TV and word got ‘round about it, it was like you had the Scarlet Letter around your neck. Believe me, the worst violence in Toontown wasn’t what the human cops did to us; it was what the movie ‘toons did to the TV ‘toons. Horrible stuff!

DP: What do you mean? Were there murders? Or was there more subtle prejudice as well?

PP: Sometimes it was like that. Sometimes it was less serious, like practical jokes and whatnot. It moved back and forth between those extremes. But there was a lot of bad blood, and it stayed that way at least until the TV ‘toons finally started outnumbering the movie ‘toons, about the mid 1970s. It wasn’t very comfortable, but I stayed ‘cause it was my home and I had nowhere else to stay. I kept my nose out of that movie/TV debate if only just to save my skin.

DP: And then you started your own brief career in television with The Buddies . How did that come about? ([1] Despite continual advocacy on the part of Punkin and others, The Buddies has yet to see a DVD release, though, as noted earlier, it has been circulating underground for many years.)

PP: Well, it was just a matter of my neighbors nagging me to get work. Didn’t matter that nobody would hire me- they wanted me to work so I wouldn’t be lying around my house all day. Anyhow, one of my friends recommends me to Sheldon Abernathy, the creator of the show, and I get an audition. I did that thing I do with my ears, the “wiggle waggle”. And he digs it. So I get the part. They give my fur a touch up with some new red paint, and give me the hammer, and I’m set.

DP: Did you get along with your cast mates?

PP: Sure. That wasn’t the problem. Bernie Bear and I are still pals- talk to him if you don’t believe me. Polly Poodle and I went with each other for a long time; she stuck with me during the unpleasantness. We had to break it off ‘cause I’m not the family type and she wanted kids, but that’s all right. Jerry Monkey, though, had a huge dope problem that we noticed even then; we tried to get him off it but he wouldn’t listen. He blew his brains out a few years ago, unfortunately. Casualty of the business.

DP: The problem, as you suggest, though, was that the show was violent and that you specifically were violent, too violent for television.

PP: That was bullshit! Serious bullshit! It had to do entirely with us being ‘toons, and doing ‘toon like stuff on a national television network. We were “violent” in a time when everybody was “violent”, that’s all I can say about that. What they did was say that nobody could act in a way they wanted children to imitate. That covers a lot of stuff. And besides, I think a lot of children- most of them, in fact- are considerably more intelligent than the network suits and the advertisers have always thought of them as. The dumber they are, or they think they are, the more they can manipulate them into thinking the way they want to them to think. Nobody should be made to think like that.

My using the hammer was simply part of the schtick that we were doing as part of the show. It had nothing to do with who I really was- it was my character. The angry emotions were real, given what was going on then, but I was not and have never been that cantankerous. I love being around my fellow ‘toons and the humans who care about them, and I always will. That stuff was just in the scripts; I was being paid to do it, and I did it. And then, when half the scripts are in the can, they suddenly say that using a hammer or any so called “violent” weapons on air is out. Way to tell us, idiots! So I throw my script down, say I’m quitting, and walk off. I refuse to work on any more shows unless I do it my way.

So finally the network calls in we members of the cast and crew and we hash things out. They think they know what children and audiences want ‘cause they run the network. I have been in this business for over half a century by this time, and I am not going to let some pencil pushing idiot call me out over what I can and cannot do. So I strike out. I scream bloody murder and read the riot act. I call them every single name I know what to call them, and I know plenty. Then I walk out of the room. They blacklist me. They say I’m unapproachable and uncooperative. They say I will not work within the prescribed settings, i.e. that sanitized pre-packaged garbage they call “pro-social values”. Everybody all lovey dovey and throwing flowers in the air and saying how the world is great and all. I cannot do or say any of that because it is NOT REAL. I mean, it’s not real in the sense of the cartoons I worked in. Those network morons just DESTROYED the world I knew. The cable people, thank God they know how to make cartoons, ‘cause the network people knew their ass better than they knew cartoons!

DP: And you haven’t worked in television since.

PP: Nor anywhere else. But I found a way to work that was much more in line with who I really was.

DP: This was your work as an advocate.

PP: Again, my friend, you are right.

DP: How did that begin?

PP: By accident, mostly. There wasn’t anybody handling ‘toon issues in union arbitration. The major unions wouldn’t let them in as members, and the cartoon characters were unable to form their own union. So cartoon characters were and are treated like crap when it comes to negotiating residuals and stuff. I became one of the first to arbitrate mainly because some of my friends asked me to help them out.

DP: I noticed that around your apartment you do have a number of signed photos from your friends, and not all of them traditional animal type ones either.

PP: Yeah. I knew most of them when they first started out. So I went into a meeting that one of ‘em had with Hanna-Barbera and Joe Barbera was there. He says, “What are you doing here, Punk’?” I answers, “I’m the advocate. I’m dealing with representations and rights and all. So you should know what I want. You know me, Joe.” And he says, “Yeah. I do.” And it goes well enough that I start being the rep for a lot of the characters in town, right up to today. Especially the ones who live in their own little towns who don’t know L.A. and what goes on around here.

DP: So what specifically do you do?

PP: I’m generally called in during contract negotiations and negotiations for continuing on for another year and that. I generally speak for the clients even if they’re in the room with me. I say that the clients want this and that, and the network or channel says we can only afford this and that and the other thing. Most of the time it goes well. Sometimes not. In really bad situations we end up yelling at each other for hours on end, ‘cause I can keep it up as long as they can. And some of them know about me now. They’ve seen The Buddies, or they’re grandparents are from NYC and they know about Yutz. And we get deals with the people done.

DP: You have worked with some high profile performers, yet you rarely make the news yourself. How do you account for this?

PP: They’d much rather pretend they didn’t have to deal with me. But, as you can see from the photos, those who know me certainly care. And when you know that they spend a lot of time risking their asses to help the whole world on their shows, they’re pretty relieved that somebody who knows Hollywood is going to help them settle their hash there. That kind of thing gives me as much pleasure as performing, I’ll tell you. I wouldn’t give it up for anything.

DP: It’s been a pleasure talking to you. Thank you very much.

PP: Charmed!



END OF INTERVIEW