Friday, December 01, 2017


The final days of the 18 Month Plan (tm) are now in full effect, and one of the things I need to accomplish to make our new adventure work is to simplify things as much as possible.

So, after nearly 15 years, and over 1650 posts, it's time to close the Battersblog. For the last year or so, I've been slowly moving operations over to my website at The Batthaim, and all my new posts will appear there from now on.

If you've been following me here for any length of time, my thanks, and I look forward to seeing you at The Batthaim for wine and nibblies. If this is your first visit here, feel free to look around and join us when you can.

Feel free to catch up at my Facebook and Instagram pages. And if you'd like to splash out a dollar or ten per month to help me continue to create art, and you're attracted by the thought of receiving exclusive stories, cartoon art, critiques writing exercises, and more, you might like to check out my Patreon page.

Either way, goodnight Battersblogians. On to the Batthaim.

Friday, November 24, 2017


I've uploaded the first exclusive, Patron-only, 500 word story to my Patreon page. Resurrection is a nasty little tale of betrayal, and revenge, with a lesson: if you're going to hurt someone, be very sure of just whom you're hurting. And the only place you'll read it is on my Patreon page.

Come February, all patrons pledging $2 or more will receive an exclusive story every month.
The page will feature 7 tiers of rewards, ranging from patron-only journal entries, to free stories, cartoons, the power to choose subjects for '5 for Friday' posts, writing exercises, WIP excerpts, and manuscript assessments (and more).

Check out Patreon to learn more about this arts patronage program. My page will officially launch in the last week of January. Isn't it all *terribly* exciting?

Thursday, November 23, 2017


I can't think of a single reason why I would have drawn this. Offered purely for a sense of completism. (It's a word: shut up)


"And in return, Management will commit to not shouting out 'Suckah!' in a (?) voice every time we pass a staff member in the corridors."

Friday, November 17, 2017


It's no great secret that I'm fascinated by murder. My bookcases are filled with True Crime books. My DVD collection is riddled with thrillers and biopics about infamous killers. I've written plenty of stories involving nasty people doing nasty things to people nastily.

One little sideline that escapes notice is the number of songs in my playlist that are devoted to murderers. Serial killers in particular. The truth is, serial killers may represent the basest and most disturbed corridors of the human psyche, but there is no denying that they are a fascinating sort of maelstrom for an artist to gaze into.

So here are five of my favourite songs about serial killers from the depths of my playlist.


Five for Friday: Serial Killer Songs

Jack the Ripper-- Screaming Lord Sutch.

Ah, what to say about Screaming Lord Sutch? True English eccentric. Founder of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party. Artist behind the album widely considered the worst album of all time. And the man who turned this obscure Clarence Stacy song into the beginning of his descent into National Treasure status. It's 2 minutes and 50 seconds of horror-psychedelia insanity, as out of tune with the early 1960's England that spawned it as Sutch would remain. But if you love Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, early Genesis, Marilyn Manson...... this is the Big Bang, the dawn of the Universe. It remains delightfully loopy, a schlock-horror masterpiece to be treasured in exactly the way we love 1950s monster movies.

John Wayne Gacy Jr-- Sufjan Stevens

He's the modern-day Donovan for the Bible Belt: a dipsy waif with a voice that trembles somewhere between Tori Amos and Emo Phillips and a catalogue of beautifully orchestrated ballads about the weirdnesses hidden like pearls inside the mundane. And then there's this. Part of Come On, Feel The Illinoise, the second (and final) stop-over in his ill-fated 50 States project-- an ambitious intent to record 50 albums over 50 years, detailing the cultural histories of each American state-- Stevens' gentle delivery and heart-rending intonations almost... almost... do the unthinkable and get you starting to feel...... is that sympathy?...... for this tortured, torturing beast. It is an emotional tour-de-force of bewildering bedevilment.

Night Shift-- Siouxsie and the Banshees

From their insanely good 1981 Juju album, this is the Banshees at their brooding, post-punk best. And at their most confronting-- it's a first-person point of view reference to the Yorkshire Ripper released less than a year after the man himself was finally caught. The music swirls and fractures in time with lyrics that get progressively darker and shattered, all underpinned by one of the most chillingly deadpan refrains in popular music: that robotic repetition of fuck the mothers, kill the others; fuck the others, kill the mothers just gets creepier and creepier every time you listen to it. It's brilliant stuff.

Suffer Little Children-- The Smiths

At the opposite end of the emotional spectrum-- a song from the most emo band of all time, direct from Manchester, expressing the despair and heartbreak left by the crimes that swallowed Manchester, at a time when the killers had yet to fully admit their guilt and provide some release. There's no dancing around the subject here: this is the Smiths directly addressing the Moors Murders. They name names. They remind their audience of the children who were taken. The refuse to dress anything in analogy or innuendo. There's always the risk in a Smiths song that Morrissey's internal drama queen will override the message. Not here. It's direct, it's tragic, and he keeps his vocal performance just the right side of Johnny Ray. Listening now, knowing that the song was released when-- and names-- only 3 of the 5 Moors murder victims were known, gives it that extra tinge of tragedy. It's not for the easily upset.

The Ballad of Charles Whitman-- Kinky Friedman 

Okay, so Whitman was a spree killer, rather than a serial killer. But after all the doom and gloom, I think we need to lighten the mood a wee bit, don't you?

Kinky Friedman is an acquired taste. Think of him as a particularly puckish, bad-taste evil twin of Tom Lehrer, and you're in roughly the right territory. Along with his band, the Texas Jewboys, he's made a career of poking fun at the pomposity and bigotry of the flag-wrapped American Gold Old Boy, usually using his own pompous, flag-wrapped stage persona as the easiest target. And, if you get the joke, he can be fucking hilarious. None so more than here: a darkly black humorous ode to the man who popularised shooting up schools an all-American pastime. The fact that Friedman was a student at the University at the time of the shooting only adds another layer of black to the humour.

Thursday, November 16, 2017


Da da da da da da daaaaaaaaaa-aaaaaahhhh, JOKE!

Sorry. I'm so, so sorry.


"I'm afraid the problem is simple. You're suffering from premature extermination."

Friday, November 10, 2017


I turn 47 tomorrow. There's no hiding it: I am well and truly middle-aged, and looking down the barrel of being old.

I'm worried about my future. I feel like I've not achieved the things I want to achieve in life, and with a mortgage, a family, and all the responsibilities that come with being a fat, middle-class, hairy man, many of those things are now, realistically, beyond me: I will never fly a fighter jet; I will never be a practicing paleontologist; there's a very real chance I will never join G-Force.

"Is he... dressed... as a flamingo?"

I'm also worried that my achievements are all in the past. As I've aged, and responsibilities have multiplied, I've lost space and time for the selfishness that seems to be a requirement of the single-minded pursuit of excellence. It's not like I come from a family of high achievers, either: I can't think of single thing of lasting importance that the generations of my family before me have contributed to the world-- and my Father's side of the family has been traced back over 500 years, so you know, I'm not exactly riding the crest of a wave here.


Seriously, this is about as good as it gets.

So, with this uncertainty accounted for, and with a determination to rail against the fortunes of wilting capacity, it's time to take stock and consider five things I've done that set me apart from centuries of familial mediocrity. And, given it's my birthday, to lay out a set of markers to keep me moving forward into my onrushing dotage.

Five for Friday: 47 Not Out

Five for the Highlight Reel

1. A Degree of Separation. 

I come from working class stock. Both strings of my family are good, old-fashioned working-class folk. Higher learning, as I was informed in, literally, these words, "is not for people like us". When my father left us in my early teens, he consigned us to genuine hardship. Even with 'free' education, I had to scratch and fight just to finish High School. To then spend three years studying an arts degree with no guaranteed job advantage at the end of it was, depending upon your point of view, an act of extreme self-interest or my first great statement of independence: I was not, no matter what, going to end up breaking my body and mind on the same shop floor as my father.

I spend my professional lives (I have two. Sue me: I'm greedy) surrounded by Masters and Doctors. A mere Graduate Diploma is nothing to these people. But in the context of what I escaped, and what I had to do to get out, this was my first real achievement in life.

2. Don't Applaud, Throw Money

I spent three years, in my early 20s, working as a stand up comedian. I wasn't a great one: indeed, after developing a bad case of the yips in my final 6 months, I wasn't even a good one. But, for a short while, I was a professional performer, pitting my words and talent against a room full of strangers for the right to choose what I ate that week. The lessons I learned-- about brevity, about construction, about pacing and timing and how to work a crowd-- have been invaluable in my professional career. I speak well in public. My writing carries the same voice I was developing on stage. I can use a microphone, a stage, my voice, my presence. I can ad-lib. I can adapt. And I've been a practicing artist ever since: 25 years and counting since I first took to the stage.

3. Let Me Show You My Doodle

For a long time, it was a toss of the coin as to whether I was going to pursue writing or cartooning as my creative career. In my early days, I set out to do both, before my natural economic cowardice took over and I opted to settle into a day job and accept food instead of risk. My drawing skills weren't brilliant in those pre-internet days, where the ability to create and foster your own ongoing webpage was not an option, and selling to magazines required a combination of drafting, writing, and drawing skills that could compete on the open market. But I was working on it, and I was improving: I sold a few, here and there, and it was definitely something I could have pursued.

I was partway through the first semester of a Design diploma when I met the woman who would become my first wife. And I faced a choice: I couldn't manage a day job, a relationship, and two art careers. My writing was slightly more advanced: I dropped the cartooning. But, for a while, I was selling cartoons, and following in the footsteps of some of my artistic heroes. Readers of my Thumbnail Thursday series will know that I still have my sketches, and still value them. And with my upcoming change of circumstance, and the greater freedom to build an audience on the artist's own merits that the internet affords, a return to developing my skills may just be on the cards.

I had my moments. 

4. Take a Town and Change It

I've lived in Rockingham, on and off, since I was 8 years old. There's something about this place: I've never lived anywhere that offers the same combination of beaches, cosmopolitan living, country lifestyle, accessibility to major conurbations (You can reach Perth, Fremantle, Bunbury, and the Darling Ranges all in under an hour), services, and recreation. It's perfectly placed. The Rockingham foreshore is the only North-facing beach south of Way Up North (tm). Rates are reasonable. The City boundaries are 25 kilometres apart, North-South, and something like 15 kilometres West-East.

There's 37 kilometres of coastline, numerous islands and bays and beaches to suit everything from paddling toddlers to diving to sailing to hard-core surfing. Plenty of bushland for horse riding and motor-cross. There are market gardens and art galleries, thrombolites and little penguins. I love this City. It's part of my psyche, and part of my blood. I've moved away three or four times over the years-- and I'm about to do so again-- but I always come back.

And I may be about to leave a job that has soured on me, but I'll do so knowing that, having been responsible for the installation of several pieces of public art among all the things I've done in the last 8 years, I have changed the physical nature of the City in a very real way. Public statuary comes with an expected lifespan-- there are pieces I've placed in front of buildings that have been in constant use since I was a child that have lifespans that ensure they will outlive me.

Here's one example. This is Safety Bay Library. It's been a library since 1972, seven years before I arrived. But that sculpture in front of it has only been there for three years.

I visited this library when I was a child. There are children visiting it now who will never know it without the sculpture I've placed there. They'll also never know I existed, but for the rest of their lives, when they picture the library, they'll see the sculpture. I've changed the physical nature of that building for generations. It's a small, secret egotism, but I love this city, and there are parts of it that will be forever changed because I was able to do this. That means something to me that I can't yet articulate. But there it is.

5. The Writing of the Words Down on the Paper

Yeah, so it's a bit obvious: let's be honest, it's the reason why most of us are here, reading all this self-indulgent nonsense. But the writing industry has done so much more for me than enable me to put out bits of paper with my name on them.

I met my beloved Luscious because of writing.

It's taken me to two continents as well as Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne, the ACT and (oddly) Parramatta; made me innumerable friends (and critics and people who hate me: *waves*); been my ticket to festivals and conventions in four states. I've been gifted original art works (and a jar of pickles). Been drunk while dressed in nothing more than a "Padme's handmaiden" costume. Danced to a lone bagpiper in an underground LA carpark at 7 in the morning. Lost a shoe to the La Brea tar pits. Practiced forging the signature of a long-dead artist on a footpath with a twice-World Fantasy Award-winner. Launched the works of people I admire. Ridden a Dalek through the foyer of a museum. Experienced camaraderie and collegiate friendship in a way I've never done anywhere else.

Watched friends soar.

Writing has given me a world.

Future Five from the World of Tomorrow

Well, that's the past taken care of. But I plan to be a long time dead (I don't want to have to go through all this again) so here's five things I want to do before the ghosts of future past claim me.

1. Learn to play a musical instrument

When I was a teenager, I scratched together enough money for a cheap guitar and some lessons. I'd managed a few simple songs (I remember one of them was Love Me Tender, but not what the others were). Then, one day I came home from school, and: no guitar! Turned out, my brother had overreached himself, and finally stolen something too big for me not to notice. My loss was his drug money. Kind of kicked the stuffing out of me, to be honest, and I never had the heart to pick the hobby back up.

I've always regretted that loss of heart, particularly as Master 12 has occasionally flirted with taking seriously the guitar he picked up at a garage sale some time back. It's possible that the 18 Month Plan might have to accommodate some Father-Son finger picking.


This is me. This is who I am, now. 

2. Travel through Europe

There's nothing terribly deep about this. I left England when I was five. I've never been back. I want to see Europe before I die. All those museums. All those famous landmarks. All that history.

3. Exhibit in an art exhibition

As mentioned above, I was just beginning to develop my visual art skills when Real Life (tm) took me in a different direction. I've been playing with Lego (see what I did there?) as an art material for the last couple of years, and have exhibited at a couple of community Lego displays. I'm keen to see if I can marry my various visual interests together and exhibit in a general exhibition.

4. Work for myself

I've long been obsessed with determining my own destiny: a by-product, I think, of striving so hard to raise myself above a family history of willing servitude, as well as certain amount of leave-me-alone-ishness in my character. I have frequent bouts of desperate desire to get off the grid-- to raise my own vegetables, herd wild solar panels, and knit my own yoghurt. With a decade of arts administration behind me, a couple of years away from the traditional work place, and the time and space to set up my own arts consultancy, this might be the put-up-or-shut-up moment I've been looking for.

5. Support a living wage through arts practice

And, ultimately, this is what it's all about. Of all the things I've ever wanted to be-- pilot, paleontologist, football player-- being a full-time artist is the one that has burned most brightly, and for longest.

Writing, consulting, visual art, cartooning, my upcoming Patreon account...... it all adds up to one thing: to create, to contribute to the financial well-being of my family via my creations; to change the sum total of the Universe.

To be an artist would be a fine thing indeed.

Cutey Boy Apr06

This is me. This is who I am, now. 

Thursday, November 09, 2017


It took me a few moments to work out what was going on in this one. That's a giant speaker on the right: the guy in front has played a chord, and it's blown his skin right off his skeleton. A perfect example of something that would have looked great when it was fully drawn, if I had the skill, but the thumbnail shows I wouldn't have had the skill to do it.

Stick to writing. Stick to writing.


"We'll take it."

Monday, November 06, 2017


I've just realised, as I was writing an upcoming Five for Friday post: I took the stage for my first stand-up comedy performance in 1992.

A few fevered, and not particularly serious, attempts at publication in my University years aside, that performance was the start of my continuous arts practice: after that night, via cartooning, theatre, and writing, I have been a practicing artist in one form or another for 25 years.

Bloody helllllll.......

Friday, November 03, 2017

Review: Wicked Beyond Belief: The Hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper

Wicked Beyond Belief: The Hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper Wicked Beyond Belief: The Hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper by Michael Bilton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Forensically detailed and exhaustive study into the reasons why the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper went so spectacularly wrong, with first-hand accounts from many who were involved in the search, and a compassionate stance towards the victims of his crime. Bilton chooses not to focus on the Ripper himself, in an effort not to afford Sutcliffe any more notoriety than he already has. Instead, he shows us the other side of the mirror-- something closer to the truth of life during that period, without the dark glamour that tends to accumulate around the cult of serial killers.

If there is a flaw with the book, it is that her is, perhaps, too lenient on the senior officers who mangled the case so badly, and gives too great an allowance to the pressure and scrutiny they were under as reasons for their errors. But the sheer weight of research and verisimilitude that comes from the page gives the reader the opportunity to believe that this allowance is genuine: it all feels incredibly real, and makes for compulsive reading.

View all my reviews


Unless you're terminally non-observant, or have just ended up here because you accidentally googled "Billie Piper's nipples", (It's true, and no, I don't know why), you'll be aware that one of the careers I came very close to following was drawing single-panel cartoons. (Go on, admit it. You've only just come back after googling "Billie Piper's nipples" to see whether it works, haven't you?). I mean, I've only dedicated about a million Thursdays to posting thumbnails I've scratched out over the years.
Put simply, there came I time where I had to concentrate on either writing or cartooning if I wanted to make a career in the arts, and writing won.

Still, cartooning remains very close to my heart, and if the 18 Month Plan sticks, who knows? I might find the time to invest some real energy into resurrecting that particular dream in the interests of my ongoing artistic diversification. Weirder things have happened.

In the meantime, for those of you who've enjoyed catching up with my half-realised ambitions, here's a list of 5 single panel cartoonists who have influenced not just my cartooning, but my approach to all my artistic material over the years.

Five for Friday: Single Panel Cartoonists

Charles Addams

Creator of the immortal Addams Family, but that doesn't begin to cover the full spectrum of Addams' dark, ghoulish and gleefully devilish sense of humour. My first glimpse of an Addams cartoon was love at first sight. A prized possession is a pair of CDs containing every panel he drew for The New Yorker, attached to a giant hardcover celebrating that magazine's 75th anniversary. Amongst all my creative heroes, he sits at the very top table. It's not just the darkness that makes me love him, it's the delight.

"Death ray, fiddlesticks! Why, it doesn't even slow them up."

Gahan Wilson

Another dark angel with an imagination built for shadows. Where Wilson gives me the giggles is not just the content of his work, but the style: where Addams based his work in a realistic tableau to give his ideas weight, Wilson unfetters the anchors of reality. His grotesqueries are grotesque, delightfully so. To enter his world is to commit to the back side of the mirror. Wilson is Puck de-bowdlerised, full of mischievous glee and murderous jollity.

Gary Larson

Larson broke into the mainstream consciousness just as I was beginning my artistic journey. For many years he was the Lord of Surreality, the latest avatar of a viewpoint that went back through Dali to Gilbert & Sullivan, to Yeats, to Blake and all those who saw beyond the veil to the true absurdity of the shared consensus. And he's still bloody funny. The Far Side was required reading for my friends and I, and his work still straddles that line of familiar insanity I reach for. Plus: the Thagomizer. Now that's immortality.

"You're sick, Jessy!... Sick, sick, sick!"

B. Kliban

Without Kliban, there is no Larson. Cartooning's great surrealist, he set many of the rules and references that cartoonists are still plumbing today. He was the first to make me realise that it was not so necessary to make sense as it was to hint at a greater, unknowable sense beyond what was seen. He was the first cartoonist I read who really explored the unavoidable schism between the drawn image and the tag line: in many cases, the only thing that connects them is the ability of the reader to make a connection. He disturbs and amuses in equal measure, and in many cases, without the viewer necessarily knowing why. He's hypnotic.


I have loved the cartoons from Punch magazine since I was a kid. Collections are a purchase-on-sight item, and I have uncounted numbers in my bookshelves. And at the centre of my love is Larry: nowhere near as dark as the others on this list, there's a quintessential English whimsy to his work that delights; a sense of ordinary frustrations and bamboozlement at the absurdity of the every day world around him. His 'Rodin' series is legendary, and hilarious. I've loved his elevation of the mundane for over 40 years.

Thursday, November 02, 2017


Change the sign from 'poker' to 'porn' and I'm pretty much Yuri Geller......

Friday, October 27, 2017


One of the better exercises I run during my workshops is also one of the simplest: I give participants a list of final lines from stories already published. Participants pick one and use it as the opening line of a new work. Once the story is completed, simply delete the (un-original) opening line and voila, complete story!

It often prompts participants to ask which of my own closing lines I would use, or which is my favourite. So here's a list of five of my favourite closing lines. do the exercise yourself. See what you come up with. Then show me: I'd love to see where it takes you.

Five for Friday: Closing Lines.

Leaving the sounds of the living world behind, Marius the King descended into his Kingdom.
Marching Dead, Angry Robot Books.

I began crying when the first bombs fell.
Silk, All-Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories

We entered without looking, and closed off the past.
Father Muerte and the Joy of Warfare, Aurealis 37

We marched out, and he led us, singing, back home through the ashes of our dead.
Europe After the Rain, After The Rain

They laughed, until the only sound in the entire world was the pounding of waves in his ears.
Disciple of the Torrent, Tales of Australia: Great Southern Land

Thursday, October 26, 2017


My one and only ever thumbnail about Halloween. I just find it hard to joke about sweeties.... (sob)...... sigh...... I need a licorice all sort......

Halloween 001

"Excuse me? Do I come to your house on your special day and demand candy from you?"

Friday, October 20, 2017


I love a good soundtrack album. A good soundtrack album highlights the narrative of a movie, and provides a beat-by-beat visceral reminder of that movie's significant moments, while simultaneously bringing a contributing artists out of their self-enclosed zone and forcing them to create something to service a wider narrative, or at least to define a visual moment within their own, unique sound.
At their best, soundtrack albums can transcend the movie itself and provide a listening journey all their own, akin to a concept album of the highest water. The very best, for me, become an entity in their own right: you don;t have to watch the movie at all to appreciate the nuances, the narrative, and the emotional impact of the music within.

Here, then, are five of my favourites.

Five for Friday: Soundtrack Albums.

1. The Crow

A thunderous slice of industrial darkness to accompany one of the best comic book movies ever released. The movie is a shadow-drenched revenger's tragedy filled with gallows humour and an overwhelming sense of despair highlighted by one, small, story of light and hope, with brilliant visuals from a director who has never been better. The soundtrack, curated with loving care by Emo poster God Trent Reznor, is a superb combination of covers, re-recordings and originals by bands that were close to the creative process of the original comic book. The Cure song Burn was the lead from the album, and the one most remembered, but I'm going to highlight the song that opened up a whole new fandom for me: the mad-as-fuck industrial After The Flesh, by the mad-as-fuck My Life With the Trill Kill Kult.

2. Purple Rain

Not only one of the best soundtrack albums ever recorded, but I doubt I'd get thrown out of any room for suggesting this is one of the best pop albums ever recorded, period. This is Prince at the height of his pop-funk fusion power: sexually intense, soulful, lyrically ambitious, and with a band so tight and perfectly attuned that every song on the album is a perfect slice of pop brilliance. The movie itself isn't bad, but without this album it would be lost in a sea of mid-80s boy-meets-girl-in-an-electro-synth-teen-haze movies. The album will outlive memories of the film. It really is an utterly brilliant work from an artist at the height of his powers. When Doves Cry, the stand-out track, sat at number one on the charts for something like 486 years. I could highlight any of the other songs off the album, (Darling Nikki is a favourite) but fuck it: it's too brilliant not to share.

3. Tank Girl

I make no bones about it: I love this glorious, B-grade failure of a movie. I love the original Tank Girl comics. I love Jamie Hewlett's visuals. I have a crush a mile-wide on Lori Petty (this movie is the reason why I watched Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn and went, "Meh".) Hiring Courtney Love to put together the soundtrack was simply the most Tank Girl thing anybody could have done. And truth is, it bangs. Songs by Bjork, Devo, L7, Portishead, and more give it an absolute shitload of indie cred, and the great centrepiece of the album, as indeed the movie, is a cynical, fuck-you reworking of Cole Porter's Let's Fall in Love by my lifelong-time rock crush Joan Jett,and Paul Westerberg. It's wonderfully, psychotically loopy, just like the movie and the album producer who spawned it.

4. Rocky Horror Picture Show

It may not be the greatest movie of all time. But for those of us who have raced up and down the corridors of a midnight screening, covering our heads with newspaper and firing water pistols at each other; who have hurled buckets of confetti at the screen and time-warped out into a deserted car park at 3 in the morning dressed in fishnets and sou-westers, it will be remembered as one of the greatest movie experiences of all time. It's the movie that defines cult, and the soundtrack-- filled with perverse show-tune brilliance-- is eternal. Think about this movie. Think about what goes on in it-- the cannibalism, the gay sex, the transvetitism, the braniwashing. And then think that almost every wedding since the mid-70s has featured the guests doing the Time Warp. That's when we started to win the culture war, my freaky friends.

5. Blues Brothers

Full confession: I think the movie is overrated. But the soundtrack. Oh, the soundtrack. Ray Charles, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Cab Calloway, all blasting out career-defining songs (for many of us, this was our first taste), and all backed by a genuinely brilliant blues band, made up of the spine of Booker T & the MGs with some very choice additions, including the vastly underrated blues voices of Belushi and Aykroyd. There's nothing fancy or tricky about this album. It's just top-notch performers doing what they do best, on brilliantly penned numbers, with an unrestrained love and joy. And it swings. Hard.

Thursday, October 19, 2017


God's a psycho. The Bible is the greatest fictional work ever to feature an unreliable narrator. And Jesus is a member of the cartooning Death Panda fraternity: always funny. Always.


Experiment 1. Experiment 2: 2016-2049. Experiment 3: Late 3100s?
"Dad, can I borrow...... what the hell?"

Friday, October 13, 2017


Way back when I first started out to be a writer-- no, not back in 2001. Before that. Nope, before that. before that-- yep, back in the late 80s, when I began University and first set out to myself the idea that I might do this writing lark for actual monies, I was a simple boy from a working class background with a very mainstream and staid set of cultural influences.

Except in two regards: one was music, because I had my own boombox and could absorb the late night programs on the FM channels that were still fighting for ascendancy with my parents' easy listening AM mainstays, and using progressive programming and an aggressively contemporary-- still mainstream and radio friendly, but at least up-to-date-- playlist aimed at attracting a younger audience.

The other was reading. My mother was a keen reader, and although we didn't have many books in the house, she was an avid user of the local libraries, and our house had pretty much an 'if you can reach it, you can read it' system in place. Consequently, I was exposed to a wide range of what passed for literature in Rockingham libraries in the 80s (lots of Zane Grey and Jackie Collins, maybe not quite so much Don De Lillo and Jorge Luis Borges...) So I read Lord of the Rings at ten, was openly reading Erica Jong before I finished primary school, became a lifelong fan of Dick Francis and Robert Ludlum at a time when my peers were still reading Roald Dahl and John Marsden, and generally had the run of the local libraries. At a time when you could get a maximum of 2 books out if you were under 15, and 4 if you were over, I had a "how many this week?" relationship with the staff at the little library in Safety Bay that worked wonders for both my imagination and my biceps.

And then there was science fiction. SF was the genre that gave me the hunger, the one that opened my mind to not only what was being done in literature, but just what could be done. When I first started to write, seriously, with intent, in those early years of University, when all my horizons were limitless and my ambitions stretched light years beyond my abilities, I wrote science fiction. And when it came to influences, these were the gods I carried in my back pocket, whose words shaped the style of writer I wanted to be. Earlier on, I discussed 5 writers whose work I love and who influence my current ambitions. Now it's time to look backwards, and talk about those who influenced my early steps.

Five for Friday: Earliest Influences

1. Isaac Asimov

For readers of my vintage, it seems that Isaac Asimov was a nearly ubiquitous gateway drug. It's hardly surprising: he wrote umpty billion books, and his straightforward prose, liner plotting and classic structuring make his short stories particularly easy to assimilate for a reader still learning the dictates of the genre. By the time I reached University I was an avid collector-- the second-hand bookstores were thick with well-thumbed, cheap copies of his work. I soon moved on to more sophisticated exponents, but for a while his industry, work ethic, and ability to mine seams of thought were a template for what I wanted to achieve.

2. Ray Bradbury

I first read Bradbury in primary school. The Golden Apples of the Sun was the book that captured me, A Sound of Thunder and The Golden Apples of the Sun the stories that sank their hooks into me and refused to let go. Bradbury was SF's first great poet, with a style and lyrical simplicity that has rarely been equalled. No other writer of my youth could entrance, frighten, seduce and horrify me simultaneously the way he did. Even now, very few writers can. There was something special about him, something I could not define but that I wanted to capture. Several of my published stories (Murderworld-- about a man trapped in a murderous reality show who chooses instead to walk naked amongst the heavily-armed combatants and persuade them to help him plant a garden-- is the one that springs most immediately to mind) have tried.

3. Harry Harrison

I've blogged before about the SF collection I received for my 8th birthday, and which changed my life. One of the stories in that collection was an excerpt from The Stainless Steel Rat. Once I understood what an excerpt was, I sought out the book. And the next. And the next. Because, dammit, while they were simply told stories, and never pretended they were nothing more than good old-fashioned pulp fun, they were fun. Those stories were the first time I understood the power of voice, of having a distinct and understandable style that could provide a context greater than the simple progression of words on the page. I've dabbled in humour all my life. This was one of the earliest of my influences in that direction.

4. Roger Zelazny

I read Eye of Cat when I was thirteen, and I was never the same again. Zelazny was one of those rare writers whose works never seemed to duplicate what came before. Isle of the Dead and Lord of Light are masterpieces. His collaboration with Philip K Dick, Deus Irae, is delightfully insane. And his short stories, particularly A Rose for Ecclesiastes and The Doors of His Face, The Lamps of His Mouth blew the lid of my mind. To my unformed reader's mind he was a fucking wizard, and he remains a seminal influence-- looking back, my Father Muerte stories, in particular, owe a lot to his ability to meld different influences into a narrative. When my story, The Glow of His Eyes, the Depths of his Gaze was published, a friend sent me a text that simply said "Zelazny wannabe :)". It was the nicest compliment I received that day......

5. Brian Aldiss

Very early in my University days, I discovered the extensive collection of New Wave SF works in the Uni's library. I fell in love with the works of Harlan Ellison, in particular, as well as Spinrad, Lafferty, Rucker, and Sladek, amongst others. But it was Brian Aldiss who inspired me as a writer: Ellison's looping, hyperactive anger was such a singular voice that I could never hope to recreate it. The others had shades of what I was looking for (particularly Sladek, who could easily have made this list). Aldiss-- more reserved, more analytical-- produced works as equally outrageous, but there was meat on the bones that I could study. Hothouse and Barefoot in the Head were particular favourites-- I still, in fact, occasionally use the latter title as a way of describing someone I think a bit off-kilter. His peak is shorter and less flamboyant than Ellison's, less intensely personal than Sladek's, less outright loopy than Lafferty's. But for giving me a framework in which to start critiquing myself, and tying outrageous flights of imagination to a clear narrative structure, I have Aldiss to thank.

Thursday, October 12, 2017


Not a straight line in the whole thing, not an angle that matches any other, but I have an overwhelming fondness for this cartoon. It's one of the first truly good ideas I ever had, and one that requires more than an appreciation of nob gags to get. I've been writing these sort of righteously-deluded characters ever since.


Time was quantum, as Professor Smedley well knew. It didn't matter if he got dressed now or later, he would still be dressed...

Friday, October 06, 2017


The International Youth Library is the world’s largest library for international children’s and youth literature. Founded in 1949 by Jella Lepman, it has grown to become the internationally recognized centre for children’s and youth literature.

Each year, the Library awards the White Ravens – an annual book catalogue of book recommendations in the field of international children’s and youth literature. This year’s White Ravens catalogue contains 200 titles in 38 languages from 56 countries.

The print catalogue will be launched at the 2017 Frankfurt Book Fair, and all 200 White Ravens books will be on display at the International Youth Library’s stand at the 2018 Bologna Children’s Book Fair.


So, if you read my post earlier in the week, you'll know that big changes are afoot in the New Year. You'll also know why my writing world has been so moribund lately, and how my career has slowly diminished to the point that its sliding off the rails looked pretty much exactly like the train set fight in Ant-Man, with about as much impact on the surrounding landscape.

This is also a partial explanation as to why Five for Friday posts have been on hiatus for the last 3 months: Real Life (tm) has pretty much eaten everything away.

Still, here we are. With the revelation that, all being well, I'll be full-time Batthaim admin staff come February next year, it seems only fitting that the first Five for Friday post since that particular discussion be on the subject of just what I'll be aiming to achieve in my two-year tour of duty amongst the housebound of outback Western Australia.

Five for Friday: Full Time Writing Projects

1. More Children's Books

A bit of a no-brainer, this one. With Magrit doing well, and Ghost Tracks on the way to being submitted by the end of this year (all the issues I've had in the last 18 months having dented, but not destroyed, progress on this project), it makes sense to dust off some ideas I've had kicking around since my first post-Magrit-sale flush of enthusiasm and see them through to completion. In particular, I'm looking towards the following two:

The Boy From G.O.B.L.I.N.-- a runaway and perpetual troublemaker is forcibly inducted into the Guild Of Beings the Lurk In the Night, a society of monsters tasked with ensuring the supernatural and the ordinary remain separate; and

Antimony Lavage: All Antimony wants to do is drive the train that clatters past the back of her house every day; the one that takes the newly dead and their grieving families from the Necropolis to the magnificent garden cemetery at the edge of the City. But the job is hereditary, and the family who owns it isn't sharing.

2. Bear Hunts

A crime novel. Edward 'Bear' Burrage got out of the game when his mother fell ill. He moved them away from the city, settled in a nice, harmless, seaside town, and dedicated himself to keeping his nose clean and looking after her as the dementia slowly claimed her. When he loses his licence after foolishly celebrating a lottery win, he's blackmailed into helping with a heist on a local Council. And when it goes wrong, and the pieces of his carefully constructed safety start shattering, Bear starts hunting down those responsible.

3. Tales of Nireym

Many years ago, I sold a fantasy story about a young scribe in a strongly patriarchal society, who stumbles across the story of a girl called Nireym, and how she escaped her role and started an underground movement of resistance among the women she met. It's an okay story, and it makes a few points along the way, but I always felt there was more to it than the 4 or 5000 words I committed: the world-building had greater depth than the narrative, and I always felt it deserved more-- there are stories and themes to be explored, cultures to be compared, a deeper and wider narrative to be unearthed. It would take a novel, and now it might just be time to write it.

4. The Canals of Anguilar

Similarly a story I wrote a couple of years ago for the Review of Australian Fiction, featuring a city entirely inhabited by cowards, which could only be reached when all other bolt holes had been dug out. Part dark fantasy; part crime story; part examination what exactly counts as cowardice and bravery, and how the two can be confused, the original story ran a shade over 8000 words, but never really explored the themes and setting to my satisfaction. Like Tales of Nireym before it, I came away feeling that I could have done so much more, given a longer framework. The difference is, I made a start on this one, before everything when splooey-- there are nearly 12,000 words waiting for me to return to them.

5. The Claws of Native Ghosts and Other Stories

I've been chipping away at this one for a few years now: a linked collection of short stories, connecting events throughout the history of Western Australia by revealing a hidden, supernatural  history running alongside, and affecting, European occupation. To date, 3 stories have seen print in magazine format: the titular tale, which concerns itself with the Pinjarra Massacre; Comfort Ghost, which intersects the current Fremantle Arts centre with its past as an asylum; and Disciple of the Torrent, about the Batavia Mutiny. A further story, centred on CY O'Connor's suicide, is in the editing stage. Two years of uninterrupted research and writing should be enough to put together the 8 other events I have listed to work with, as well as any others my research might lead me towards.

Thursday, October 05, 2017


Not funny, but there's a louche attitude I like in this one. If I were Luc Besson, I'd make this panel last 14 hours and it would lose $300 million at the box office. Aren't you glad I didn't?


Wednesday, October 04, 2017


It's July 2016. Every morning I park my car in the car park at work, and give myself five minutes to cry before I get out and face the day.

Today is no different. what was a dream job when I started has become a nightmare I can't bring myself to face, but can see no way of escaping. 2 years under a manager who was psychotically work-obsessed to the point where the three co-ordinators who worked under her (I am one) would take turns in being the first to talk to her, so we could report back which personality we were dealing with that day, have taken a toll. She left some months ago, but has been replaced with someone even worse-- a career money, utterly disinterested in the welfare of her staff and of the projects being worked upon in the name of her section. She ignores vital paperwork, distributes blame in buckets, throws her co-ordinators under buses on a daily basis, is untrustworthy, cowardly, and is ruining everyone around her. Already, of the two co-ordinators with whom I've worked for the last 4 years, one has left to take up a job with another City. The other will soon fall pregnant and take a year's maternity leave. Me? I've cracked under the stress. I'm seeing a work-appointed therapist, and I'm on a work-management program. I can't sleep. I'm eating every piece of badforme in sight. I'm drinking. I've used up all my sick leave. Writing is out of the question. There's no hope.

Today is a therapy day. My therapist asks me a simple question: What would you be doing, if you had the choice?

I'd be at home. Writing. But it's impossible.


I have a mortgage. I have a wife who studies. I have children who have to attend school. I need to feed everybody, clothe them, give them a better life than I had. It's this new thing called 'the real world'.

Yes, he says. I've heard of it. But why you?

It has to be me. My wife studies. She needs that support.

Have you talked to her about that?

What's there to talk about. This is just the way it is.

Why don't you find out?

So I go home, and tell Luscious that I can't take it anymore. She knows what's happening at work, but this time, I unload the full deal. everything that's been happening. All of it. I can't take it anymore, I tell her. I've been at this game for almost 25 years. I'm depressed. I'm burned out.

I don't know what I'm expecting: sympathy, reinforcement, a bit of 'screw your courage to the sticking-place'. After all, this is just the way it is. I'm the income earner. Everybody else has their own things they're trying to achieve. What I'm not expecting is for her to point to the house around us and reply, "Well, I've been doing this for 25 years, and I'm burned out, too."

I hate my job. But Luscious hates hers, too. Yes, she's studying, and she loves it. But she wants it to lead to something. She doesn't just want to be a housewife with a degree. She wants to be out in the workforce, making a difference to the world at large.

She wants to work. I want to be at home.

I look at her. She looks at me.

And that's when we sit down and start to put together The 18-Month Plan.

Put simply, it's this: if I can hang on for 18 months-- through to January 2018-- Luscious will graduate her Bachelor of Arts and enrol into a post-graduate teaching qualification. She'd love to be a teacher. It's something she's thought about doing on several occasions. She's had to fight for a long time just to get to the point where she can contemplate completing a degree, and now that she's about to, she'd love to keep going for another year. Give her that year, and when she graduates, she'll take a job in the country. She'll do the standard two-year tour of duty, re-enter the workforce, and be the primary income winner for the family.

As to me, I'll stay at home. I'll cook the meals, do the cleaning, run the household, and write.

And that's what we set out to do.

We've had some good fortune. Luscious' graduated her degree with marks so high that she was invited to undertake an internship at a school, giving her invaluable 'live' experience that will place her at the head of the graduate queue when she graduates. The hated manager fell pregnant, and her maternity leave replacement is a brilliant, experienced manager who understands what my team and the department we belong to is about. The atmosphere in the office has improved immeasurably. Work is enjoyable again. But I'm over it: I feel no loyalty, anymore. I'm counting down the days. And there aren't that many left.

Luscious has one more term left. After that, assuming she isn't successful in the job applications she's already making, she'll be appointed from the graduate pool in the time-honoured fashion. I'll hand in my notice. We'll leave. By the end of February, we'll be in a town somewhere in the Western Australian countryside. Luscious will be a teacher. And I'll be at home. Writing. Looking after the house. Putting my twenty-five years experience in the arts industry towards setting up a consultancy and curation business. I have a completed novel that I couldn't bring to edit because of the depression. I'm 2/3 of the way through a children's novel that's taken far too long to complete. I've got a list of incomplete projects running to nearly 60,000 words in total. Over the next 2 years I'll get the chance to resurrect my career, and watch my beloved wife achieve the recognition and respect she has long deserved. We're one phone call away.

We're 15 months into the 18th month plan, and I've gotta wear shades.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017


Sad news today with the death from a heart attack of Tom Petty. Petty first came to my attention in the late 70s, just before punk hit the mainstream radio stations I was about to listen to in my bedroom when I could escape my parents' AM tastes. Rock and Roll had been over-produced into a bland melange of easy listening tripe in which the likes of Chicago, Boston, and Steely Dan brought the elevator into your living room.

Petty represented a form of American rock and roll where voice was still important, where an individual sound could be identified, where an artist could have a look that stood him or her out from the beige, bearded multitude. He was at the crest of an awareness in my pre-teen self, a coterie that included the likes of Bob Seger, Suzi Quatro, Joan Jett as part of my musical awakening.

I would never have said that I was, outright, a Tom Petty fan. Yet every playlist I've ever created has used his music as a cornerstone. He's one of those artists who has always just been there. His music has been a consistent part of the tapestry of my life. It's not until you isolate him from the rest of the iPod and play him, one song after another, that you realise just how many great songs he recorded, how they've always been with you, and how, somehow, without ever really concentrating, you know every single word of every single damn song. And you sing along. You always sing along. 

 So here, by way of saying thank you for the music, for being part of my tapestry, and for giving me so many joyous riffs and rock and roll moments, are 5 of my favourite Tom Petty songs. They may not be the most famous, or the acknowledged classics, but they're 5 of the many that loosen my vocal chords. I bet you sing along.

1. Don't Come Around Here No More. 

My absolute favourite Petty track, and one of my favourite songs by any artist. A swirling, defiant track, it's the perfect combination of Petty's unique vocal delivery, guitar style, and quirky arrangements. The accompanying video is, without a doubt, one of the greatest music videos ever filmed.


2. Billy the Kid
This is a broken song. Petty's voice has diminished to a croak. The guitar layovers are discordant, and loose. Nothing fits. Where Petty's arrangements were always as tight as William Shatner's corset, here they're all over the place, rambling and mistimed. And that's why it works. It's a portrait of a beaten fighter, rising for the last time, whispering "You never knocked me down, Ray" as he's carried from the ring, defiant to the last. It's wonderful stuff.

3. Last Dance With Mary Jane

Petty's stock in trade was a dark Americana that played like a shadowed counterpoint to Bruce Springsteen's more obvious work-- filled with hopeless characters that accepted their fate and rolled the taste of failure around their mouths, savouring it. Springsteen's characters went down to the river. Petty's smoked dope and had desperate, doomed sex. This is a slow, despairing love song to a girl that escaped his dreams, but we all know that where she escaped to was just another version of where she had escaped from. It's darkly delicious stuff.

4. You Don't Know How it Feels
The later you go into Petty's career, the more his slides from pure rock and roll into an electrified country sound that was the perfect primer for my discoveries of Steve Earle and Todd Snider. This is a great example, full of fuck-you false humility and a love of poking at the pain centres in the artist's own psyche.

5. Two Gunslingers

Two gunslingers meet in the middle of a deserted street. The ultimate symbol of Americana. Then Petty does what Petty does: twists the image into a story of loneliness, and despair, and ultimately, the rejection of a story that was written by others with the hero as unwilling and un-consulted victim. There's hope at the end: battered and damaged hope, flickering only because the characters reject their assigned roles in favour of a sort of despairing unknown.

Tom Petty was a unique voice, a dark jester who picked apart the false nostalgia of the Bruce Springsteens and John Cougar Mellencamps and laughed at its pretensions. He coloured my sense of what a rock and roll song could do, without me ever really noticing or valuing it as I should. He will be missed.

Thursday, September 28, 2017


No other bear would have made this work. None. Pandas are the Death of cartooning. Funny every damn time.


Adoption Agency.

"We want a sun bear."

Thursday, September 21, 2017


I loved Time Team. It tickled every archaeological pipe dream I ever had (I should have listed it higher on my Uni options, I know I should.) But just once, wouldn't it have been nice for them to dig up something really cool? Like an unknown Roman Legion, or a Harrier jump jet?


"Now get out there and give us a battle Time Team will be proud to dig up!"

Sunday, September 17, 2017


And while we're at it, the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre has posted the interview I conducted with members of their youth holiday program Press Club on Youtube.

So now you can hear more of my fatuous, deluded self-idiocy, but with added vision!

The whole thing is h'year.


I've been interviewed over at Horror Tree about many things, including why.... uh... I'm not really... you know... a horror author...


Well, here we are. The 29th, and final, Precious Things post. And I can't think of anyone better to round off the whole thing than the woman I call 'Luscious', Lyn Battersby.

Lyn is a talented author and editor, with a writing voice I think is utterly unique. Her writing has taken a back seat over the last couple of years while she finishes a University degree. She's currently in the final stages of a post-graduate teaching internship, and as one of the top two or three students in the state, she'll have her pick of assignments when the adverts are answered towards the end of this year. Once she's settled in her new job, she'll be back amongst the pages where she has made her home over the last 15+ years.

For now, however, with thanks to the 28 friends, colleagues, peers, and artists I like and admire who have created this series, it's time for the artist I love to speak.


Dedicated to Lee and Connor.

And Rebekah Holyoake.


This is my prized literary possession. It’s not a book, or a poem, or a letter from an author. It is a piece of jewellery created for me by fellow Perth author Stephanie Gunn in honour of a story I wrote in the early 2000s. Called “The Memory of Breathing necklace”, it has pride of place in my jewellery collection and is one of the few pieces I own that is mentioned by name in my will.

So, what did I do to deserve such a beautiful gift?

In early 2004, I began work on a story called The Memory of Breathing. Set in a post-apocalyptic future, it centred on the execution of a child, brought back to life after being put to death for murder.
The story was a hard one for me to write. I was in the midst of a fierce custody battle for my first three children and facing the loss of my pregnancy. The day the story was bought (by Sally Beasley for Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine), I had lost the battle with my ex-husband (he used my ill-health and threat of miscarriage against me) and started to bleed heavily.

No, I didn’t lose the baby and now I have Connor, a highly spirited child who is the life and joy of our entire family. I have a close and loving relationship with all my children and I feel I actually won the war with my ex.

And yet.

And yet.

And yet.

I still struggle with the memory of that loss. The ramifications of the custody battle have taken a battering ram to my psyche and I don’t think I will ever heal from the wounds. Connor is a beautiful child, but his health is never great and I still live in fear of losing him. I don’t take his existence for granted because I know it doesn’t matter how wonderful you are as a parent, fate can easily rip your children from you.

This is why the necklace is so important to me.  The twisted stand of beads represents the double-helix of human DNA and it is this which ties me to each of my five children. At the centre of the strand is a large stone, which I see as the relationship that Lee and I have forged. It is my strength when I feel I can’t go on.

I’ve had many moments in my life when I’ve found it hard to breathe. I feel so overwhelmed by life and how quickly it all changes. And yet, there is Lee and with us are our children, the most precious things I have in my life. I wear this necklace quite often, because it grounds me and reminds me what really matters in my life.

Today I don’t write as often as I used to. I have many other things going on in my life and I barely find the time to create fiction. The Memory of Breathing remains my best-known story and even now it sits with a production company awaiting development into a movie. I love that story and I’m proud of it. It reminds me that loss is always with us, but that we go on because of the love we receive from our friends and family.

Thank you, Stephanie, for the gift of my Precious Thing.

Thursday, September 14, 2017


An example of my gag writing being infinitely better than my drawing skills: this looks like I tried to get it to completion but gave up when I couldn't get what was in my head onto the page.

Damn good gag, though.


"It looks like some sort of ransom note."

Sunday, September 10, 2017


Cat Sparks has done pretty much everything there is to do in Australian speculative fiction. She's been a publisher, illustrator, and editor. These days, she's expanding her long-standing writing repertoire: she's just released her debut novel, Lotus Blue, and is putting the finishing touches to a PhD in climate fiction.

Here, she takes us back into the depths of her childhood, and goes some way to answering what so many of those of us who call ourselves her friends have wondered: how did she get like that?

Ghosts cover

I had thought this particular gem lost to the mists of time – or the travails of practical adulthood at least, but when Rob and I moved house last August, a process by which so many peculiar things went missing (including our Optus set top box and half my winter smalls), at the other end when we unpacked, there it was, a book I swear I had not seen for decades, the book that freaked out my living ghoulies back in the day when I was a 70s preteen.

The introduction to Aidan Chambers’ Book of Ghosts and Hauntings explains that such things fall into four distinct groups: experimental ghosts, crisis ghosts, post-mortem ghosts and ghosts who persistently haunt the same place. The book contains everything my nine-year-old mind could possibly have wanted to know about ghosts, mediums, séances, haunted houses and things that went bump in the night.

The pages were peppered liberally with fanciful black and white illustrations of things people really might have seen: The ethereal ghost of Lady Hoby; a redcap brownie jigging on the tiles; young men tumbled from their bed by a poltergeist; witches cavorting around headstones; a lubin bewitching a ploughman; evil spirits lifting cows by their tails.

The book also featured stern photographs of old stone buildings in which supernatural incidents reportedly took place. Other more interesting photographs of spiritualism in motion included: psychic energy table turning, the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall, an infra-red light séance room photograph in which a medium levitates a table. A section on fake spirit photography: the (paper cut out) witch on a broomstick, the loving (cotton wool) ghosts, a ghostly figure on the stairs -- the product of photo-montage and transparent tissue.

And there, nestled in innocently amongst all the rest of it, sat chapter four, page 27, The Hideous Face with Flaming Eyes. No photographs were offered as accompaniment, instead a rather fetching ink illustration.

Ghosts sketch

The story was excerpted from In My Solitary Life by Augustus Hare, set at Croglin Grange in Cumberland. No date was offered, only the fact that the Grange had been owned by the Fisher family for hundreds of years. The Fishers, so we were told, moved out, renting the house to two brothers and a sister. And then one fateful night…

… the sister still felt the heat too great for sleep, and sat up in her bed, still watching the moonlight through her window, for she had not closed her shutters…

She became aware of two lights flickering in a nearby belt of trees… The lights belonged to something moving closer…

Suddenly, she could never explain why, the terrible object seemed to turn aside, and to be going round the house, instead of straight towards her. She sprang from her bed to unlock the door, but at that instant she heard scratch, scratch, scratch at her window, and saw a hideous brown face with flaming eyes glaring at her. She took comfort in the thought that the window was securely locked on the inside, but all of a sudden the scratching ceased, and a kind of pecking sound took its place. The creature was unpicking the lead! A diamond shaped pain fell onto the floor, and a long bony finger came inside, and found the latch of the window, and turned it.

Cutting to the chase -- eventually one of the brothers shot the window-scratching creature, which limped off into a vault in the nearby churchyard. Next day, they found the thing, wounded leg and all, inside a coffin!

 My spongy, susceptible nine-year-old mind believed every word of this account. Every. Fucking. Word. And the knowledge that such a creature had been discovered in the everyday world slid beneath the surface of my comprehension, forming an impermeable layer. That thing was out there somewhere, which meant it might come after me some day.


A couple of years later my parents decide to take me & my younger sister on a trip through Europe by way of the Panama Canal and Italy. We eventually wound up in the UK to visit a bunch of relatives.

 One of the aunts we met had been making Wombles to sell at a local fete. You remember Wombles? They were everywhere at the time. For no good reason that I can recall, I decided to make myself a doll out of leftover scraps of Womble fur. First I made a skeleton out of pipe cleaners, then sewed on the fur and gave the thing big round sewn-on eyes. I named this doll Miss Fuzzy Wuzzy and my mum made her a little outfit out of denim scrap. Mum was good at making clothing for our dolls.

 But Miss Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn't like other dolls. She was an absolute hairy-scary fright. So frightening, in fact, that I then went on to make a magic talisman to hang around her neck to stop her coming alive in the middle of the night and murdering me. Miss Fuzzy Wuzzy was so much like that scratching thing with the hideous brown face and flaming eyes at Croglin Grange. The talisman was a bright pink plastic bead with multifaceted sides, like a dewdrop crystal. I guess it worked because I'm still alive to tell this tale…