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......