Saturday, 22 October 2011

The Politics of Farcing - Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit by PG Wodehouse

It's extraordinarily difficult to review a Wodehouse novel and finding something new or different to say.  And that applies on both the level of a single novel and his output as a whole.  It's de rigeur to note the immaculate nature of his story construction, the clockwork precision of  his farce. They're comedy symphonies, each note in the right place, each theme and instrument expertly foreshadowed and coming in at precisely the right time.  Farce has had a bad reputation in my lifetime, the sophisticates of the Eighties dismissing them as uncool and beneath them, primarily due to their associations with the seaside postcard humour of the Carry On films or the trouser dropping of Brian Rix.  Bawdy, unsophisticated and reliant on nudges and winks, they were as embarrassing as Eric Idle's character in the Monty Python 'nudge nudge, wink wink' sketch.  Arguably, given the decline of the farce through the Seventies and the desperation to avoid the label in subsequent decades you can trace the apparent decline of the genre back to that Python sketch, and perhaps to the satire boom heralded by Private Eye and Beyond the Fringe.  What one generation saw as sophisticated replacing the entertainments of previous generations.

Arguably that's down to a decline in the quality of farce during the Sixties too - it happens when a genre becomes popular, every writer cashes in, no matter how ill suited they are to writing it, or how tapped out of ideas they are.  Eventually you end up with the likes of Carry On Emmanuelle, an attempt to spoof soft porn via sex farce. My generation, the children of the baby boomers, grew up with farce as a dirty word.  Which might explain why I came to Wodehouse relatively late, subconsciously tarring him by association.  But on a nuts and bolts level there's little difference between Wodehouse and Talbot Rothwell, it's simply a matter of presentation and class.  Sex is too vulgar to impinge on Wodehouse's interwar aristocratic bliss, it's Rothwell's only trick - Wodehouse deals almost exclusively with the upper classes, Rothwell with the lower.  But the embarrassment, the characters only entangling themselves deeper in the web as they struggle to escape it, are common to both.  Wodehouse is simply classier, an exemplar from before it was debased by the inevitable lowest common denominator reintroduction of sex as a prime plot driver - a return to the roots of the form after its appropriation by the dilettante upper classes.

But then perhaps it's best to come to Wodehouse late.  It really wouldn't have said enough to the me of twenty years ago, it wasn't daring or angry about anything. Not on the surface anyway.   Instead he's content to be entertaining, to be light and funny.  And therein lies Wodehouse's brilliance.  Overtly there's no point to the stories but to entertain, to make people laugh with something of no real consequence.  But under the surface, whether Wodehouse meant it or not, it's scathing of the upper classes.  The whole series of Jeeves novels revolves around the idiocy of Bertie Wooster and similarly solipsistic upper classes. The boom of the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression of the Thirties - they have little effect on Wooster's world, perhaps only through the parodying of the British fascists in The Code of the Woosters.  If nothing else, Wodehouse's immediate reaction, to laugh at Moseley's Blackshirts, should tell anyone precisely why fascism never really took hold of Britain whilst it rose in other cultures.  Which might be precisely why we should worry about the prominence of the right wing press in Britain now, who seem to have had their sense of humour and perspective surgically extracted.  But anyway...  really, Wodehouse might be the first popular modern satirist, encouraging laughter at the aristocratic classes and providing the roots of the comedy form that eventually supplanted farce as the most popular form of comedy.  And all under the cover of perfectly constructed popular entertainment, where the satire is only an extra level to enjoy. It's there that the likes of Rothwell fell down, trying to apply farce to complex issues such as trade unionism.  Wodehouse is clever enough to be broad in his targets, so as not to offend, Rothwell too specific and engaging with issues beyond his capability to deal with.  It's the difference between a Da Vinci or Van Gogh and a child's drawing.

Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit itself?  It's a quintessential Wodehouse farce, Wooster amiably stupid and eventually rescued from his well-intentioned misdoings by Jeeves.  All done with typical Wodehousian charm, another trademark.  Unlike other authors Wodehouse never descends to contempt for his characters, no matter how much he writes for them.  That might be the best lesson to learn from these books, particularly for the less adept of the satirists that became the comedy establishment.  Simple contempt can be ill directed, an ill reasoned view based on one's own prejudices.  And it's unattractive.  Gentle ribbing, using characters who audiences can sympathise with work better, and endure longer.  Being inclusive can increase the audience, being caustic only erodes that audience.  Wodehouse was clever enough that the world he created, of feckless aristocrats, became timeless, transcending those times to become almost a bubble outside the times.    It's proof that satire's most effective when it's an iron fist in a velvet glove.  Spearing the targets of your time specifically is a quick way to ensure your work becomes dated, that it won't survive time's inevitable effect of altering language and context.  Wodehouse's amiability and way with a well turned phrase doesn't mean he'll necessarily survive forever, but it's given him a longevity beyond that of many peers.  Wheaton's Law* it seems, has always held true, even if you're dead.

* Don't be a dick

Pop Has Eaten Itself - Retromania by Simon Reynolds

Retromania feels like an immensely important piece of work - given Reynolds' track record, it almost couldn't be anything else. I'd go so far as to say it feels like a book his career's been building up to, and given the quality of his work to date I mean that as a high compliment. This isn't a simple genre history a la Rip It Up... or Energy Flash, it's a sustained piece of critical thinking drawing on his lifetime of listening to music and attempting to take stock, deliver a verdict on where we are, why we're there and where we might go next. A description of it as a 'state of the musical nation' is pretty close, though I'd argue that it does in places attempt to go even wider and talk about the state of the cultural nation in general. Hell, Ian Levine gets a whole boxout to himself here and not just in relation to his Northern Soul activities.

It's that attempt to address the entire state of pop music that's the book's big flaw. Reynolds admits in his introduction that this time the book is essentially being made up as he goes along, hence changing his usual working practice of writing the introduction last in an attempt to find some focus to his theory. It means the books a little looser than his previous work, flitting between ideas but essentially lacking a true narrative drive to present a bigger picture. I don't mind that though, to me that allows Reynolds' theories to be explored without imposing an ideology - I admire him for allowing himself to muse on whether his theories are correct or whether it's the product of advancing age and musical saturation. Lesser writers wouldn't have dared acknowledge that in fear that their ideas might be undermined.

Where I might draw issue with Reynolds (aside from him possibly looking in the wrong places) is in his view of music. I'm open to correction but up til recently Reynolds seems to have viewed music as an ever advancing wave of progress, moving inexorably forward. I couldn't shake the feeling that Retromania was him reaching the natural limits of that view. Maybe we are reaching an edge and instead of going forwards we have to look back and expand on the nooks and crevices we might have missed first time round. Or maybe we're waiting for a second coming of punk* so that we can, to wear out a phrase, rip it up and start again. Perhaps we need that energy of going back to basics so we can strike out in a completely different direction to the one we've been going in. Or hey, maybe we're all just getting old and haven't the innocence to hear music in a fresh way any more.

Do I agree with his thesis? I certainly wouldn't disagree on the general thrust of the book regarding auto-cannibalisation of the past. But then perhaps it's simply influences are more obvious than they used to be. It is, after all, near impossible to be completely original, every musical movement has grown from or in reaction to another. Complete originality is a difficult concept to quantify and I think perhaps the point Reynolds makes regarding the greater access to culture leading paradoxically to a shrinking pool of influences is more key than it appears. Perhaps pop culture's subsiding into a distinct set of niche ecologies with genres or aspects being thoroughly explored rather than interacting with each other in unexpected ways. Perhaps the future lies in twisting old ideas to new uses, retooling them so they're relevant rather than drive ourselves mad trying to think entirely outside the notional box of our cultural reference points.

I think it gives an important critical focus to this issue though - certainly if the number of music journalists who were tweeting or writing about it is anything to go by it's likely to prove a very influential piece of thinking simply by the way it'll feed into their writing. There's a certain irony about the possibility of a book about the fetishisation of the old seeding new ideas.

* by which I mean an ideological second coming, not simply borrowing the outfits and sounds of previous generations once more.

(originally posted as part of the Retromania thread on GallifreyBase, thoroughly recommended along with the thread about The Strokes' Is This It)

Friday, 21 October 2011

Ice Ice Baby - Doctor Who: The Silent Stars Go By by Dan Abnett

I confess to having a soft spot for Dan Abnett's writing.  Back in the dim and distant days of yore, when the show was being treated as an anachronism by a BBC management predisposed to try to quietly strangle it to death rather than rectify glaring production deficiencies, Abnett wrote a few DWM comic strips.  It was at a time when the comic strip was at a low ebb, when good stories were so thin on the ground that getting a single frame image of all seven Doctors was enough to win seemingly wild acclaim for one story.  Of course, I might have been suffering from post-Frobisher depression, but then I really didn't like Lee Sullivan's artwork at all, a problem when he was the main artist on the strip.  My kind disposition toward Abnett's work might have been due to his debut on the strip, Echoes of the Mogor, being drawn by John Ridgway, a reminder of what was arguably the strip's high water mark, the Sixth Doctor era.  Abnett's main contribution was the only story of the Seventh Doctor's comic strip that remotely approached the ambition of The Tides of Time or Voyager, The Mark of Mandragora.  Even then it depended partly on derivative thrills, but it was at least trying.

I haven't really followed Abnett's career outside of the strip (and the odd Torchwood novel) since - apparently he's quietly become a New York Times bestseller since, so he's certainly done well for himself.  Well enough that his first Doctor Who novel is the second of BBC Books' prestige hardbacks, following on from Michael Moorcock's The Coming of the Terraphiles.  It's a slight eyebrow raiser - for all Abnett's New York Times bestseller status he's not as respected a name as Moorcock (or even Alastair Reynolds or Stephen Baxter who're penning subsequent volumes in the series).  Nor does it demand extra space for the story to be told, as Terraphiles did - it's not a great deal longer than the standard NSA and could probably easily have fitted that length by having a set piece or two cut.  It does allow for some fine design work on the cover by Lee Binding though, an action pose by two Ice Warriors apparently viewed between close up snowflakes.  There's some thought gone into this, using the cover to feed  into the wintry atmosphere Abnett's trying to evoke with his story.  It helped, particularly given I started to read this on an unseasonably warm October day when it's clearly designed to be unwrapped and read on a freezing cold Christmas Day.

But beyond expectations the presentation might encourage, what do we get?  It's a perfectly competent story, the Doctor and companions in constant motion as they try to find out what the Ice Warriors are up to and why they're trying to wipe out the Morphans.  It's a decent translation of the style and pace of a TV episode to the page, right down to his spot on portrayal of the TV regulars, and it comes with a beautifully executed twist as to the nature of the planet.  Creditably too, he doesn't build up the appearance of the Ice Warriors as a big revelatory movement, instead playing with the expectations of the audience who know them (and those who don't know them but expect a Big Evil Monster).  They're well-worn tricks, and their deployment is well-timed by the author but again, it doesn't try and tell a different type of story or aim for an epic scale.  We don't get any big revelations about the Ice Warriors, although there's clearly great thought gone into their use here. 

So - it's not particularly innovative, the guest characters are pretty much cardboard, there's a decent but not mindblowing use of an old enemy.  I can't help but feel this would've made a decent, but forgettable typical NSA, but the expectations of something above and beyond a normal Who novel mean it seems overpromoted, blown up to a status it can never quite live up to.  It's perfectly acceptable, perfectly enjoyable if half forgotten the second you put it down.  But it's not the book the prestige format demands.

Ooh Ah... Just a Little Bit - Cantona by Philipe Auclair

If the deeds of footballers as related via their autobiography are all that survives of our civilisation, the future inhabitants of our planet might wonder why we chose such mediocre (though well toned) gods.  Over the course of my footie watching lifetime, footballers of the top echelon have gradually ascended from mere heroes to gods.  No longer are they perceived as mere mortals, men performing glorious deeds on a field of sporting combat, now, after a process of celebritisation, they're portrayed as distant deities with superhuman skills capable of acts beyond the ken of mere mortals.   They're more remote than they used to be, even mediocre players earning in a week or two what might otherwise be considered a very good yearly wage. They live in mansions rendered remote from the public by the kind of security a spectacular wage can buy.   Most of all, they're no longer someone we could become given the right training and opportunities (no, the best we mere mortals can hope for is Football League or, if you're spectacularly unlucky, you could wind up in Scottish or Welsh football).

Of course, it's easy to ascribe this entirely to the interlinked rise of the Premier League and Sky.  The moving of football from a relatively rarity to a weekly event was underway before Sky bought the Premier League rights, but the current status quo, where football saturates TV schedules even outside major international tournaments, would be almost unimaginable twenty years ago.  Thirty years back? Anyone told that live football would become common, with even foreign league matches routinely broadcast live, would have laughed in your face.  There are other factors involved beyond the excellent timing of Sky and the Premier League - English clubs had returned to European competition after the Heysel ban, England's run to the semi-finals of Italia' 90 had made football cool again (along with one of the few genuinely credible football related songs, EnglandNewOrder's World In Motion) and, post-Hillsborough, grounds were being made safer, encouraging the more timid of the middle class fans who'd been scared off by tales of hooliganism to return to grounds. And make no mistake, there were middle class football fans back then, though perhaps not as many. It was simply that football wasn't a topic of conversation, wasn't the social glue it is now.  The Premier League's great trick was in tapping into the support that saw going to an actual game as too expensive or too much trouble, making England's top league accessible to them week in week out without them having to leave their living room.  And in that situation, tapping into a market previously beyond football, the game's popularity could only grow. Sky built the pedestals for the stars of their new show, most of the footballers happily scrambled on to them.  Who wouldn't wanna be adored?

From the perspective of today, with rich owners and huge TV and commercial income allowing the league to be gilded by some of the finest players in the world, the lack of glamour of twenty years ago is a reminder of reality rather than SkySports rewritten history.  The reigning champions were the functional Arsenal side of George Graham, Graeme Souness was busy replacing the artists of an aging Liverpool side with expensive artisans and the side who'd take the title in 1991-92 was an unmemorable Leeds side, livened by the spark of Strachan and sublime passing of Gary McAllister but largely dependent on long balls and the head of Lee Chapman.  It was a brutal world in which the likes of Vinnie Jones prospered in midfield and the sheer physical presence of the likes of Mick Harford and Dion Dublin made them prized strikers.  An insular, almost agrarian environment where foreigners, particularly the skillful players, were largely distrusted - the likes of Jan Molby were glaring exceptions to the rule.  This was the point at which the eccentric career trajectory of Eric Cantona collided with English football and the seeds of English football becoming entertainment as much as sport were sown.  Cantona, with seemingly more charisma than the rest of the league put together, provided the glamour that SkySports had desperately tried to inject with desperate measures such as the SkyStrikers cheerleaders. 

Philippe Auclair's biography is far from a simple study of Cantona's time in the English game - it's only around halfway through the book that the account of his time in England begins. Neither is it a comprehensive biography which covers his post-football exploits including his acting and beach football (and, lately, management) careers.  Instead it concentrates solely on Cantona as a footballer,and his activities relating to that career.  It ends with his retirement in 1997, only briefly seeking even to contextualise what legacy he may have left in football or what legacy football left to Cantona.  This is the cliche of 'football being my life' being exploited to shape the story, with retirement attempts referred to as 'suicide' and 'death'.  That might sound overly dramatic, but it isn't, it's a conceit which allows Auclair to fully bring home the drama and intensity of his subject.  This is an exploration of how Cantona's style of play and his career in the game were an extension of his personality; as concerned with character as it is with narrative.   At one point Auclair makes the point that the tendency of football biographies to hermetically seal themselves from the real world is preposterous, that the actions of footballers are nothing without the context being given of what they mean to the fans. Not only does Auclair put events in the context of clubs and fans, he's always at pains to see the even wider context, both in terms of football and society.  For normal footballers who often appear oblivious to wider events, it may not matter, but in a biography of Cantona, a man often defined as much by what he was reacting against as what he was in himself, it's a stroke of brilliance.  It immediately negates the tendency of football writers to view events in isolation, the sort of writing which leads to a complete lack of understanding as to why things happen.  Auclair's approach allows the reader to delve behind the headlines of Cantona as a nomadic troublemaker and instead seeks to explain his reasons for moving on in each instance.   Whilst it's clear his sympathies lie more with Cantona than those he kicks against, he's not judgemental, allowing the reader to judge actions for themselves.  It's a proper journalistic approach that echews the tendency of footballing biographies to either sensationalise events or justify them.  Each stage of Cantona's career leads to understanding of why events happened, why he failed to fit in at so many clubs. After this you'll understand (if not necessarily agree with) his actions, from his departure from Auxerre, through to the Selhurst Park incident and his eventual retirement. It's a book length illustration of a character, a portrait in the truest sense.  Even for a Liverpool fan, with the painful story of the rise of United to the top of the English game (where the story told here ends) it's compelling.  Fittingly, for Cantona, it's a very different type of biography for a very different type of footballer.

Everything Picture 6 - Timey Wimey Remix

Even if you removed the cover images and the names and descriptions of the Doctor and his companions from the text, you could easily tell these books are based on Moffat's version of Doctor Who - all of them play tricks with time and all three take place in different time zones, although all three come up with very different variations on the timey-wimey theme.

Touched by an Angel comes across as an attempt to rewrite One Day as a Doctor Who novel via (I assume) the Highway to Heaven-esque US TV show from which the book steals its title.  Given that much of the best Doctor Who is stolen from recognisable stories, it's a matter of taste as to whether you think it's a good thing or not - many of the best stories have been openly based on obvious antecedents.  Morris opens the novel with the tragedy that forms the book's MacGuffin, a woman called Rebecca dying a meaningless early death in an accident on a minor country road.  Morris' way of integrating One Day into the Doctor Who format is to make the story about Mark, Rebecca's husband, being offered the chance to prevent the accident via a mysterious letter from a Magwitch style benefactor.  And the price of one man's happiness?  The end of Earth's history just to provide a feast for a band of Weeping Angels.  It's well executed stuff, with the Morris using the Angels as the omnipresent threat they were in Blink and Mark and Rebecca being as convincing as they need to be to carry the novel.  Morris perhaps overdoes the use of pop music as shorthand to show when the book's set, and takes a turn to the saccharine for the ending but the book retains enough charm to more than compensate for those faults.

My previous encounters with George Mann were both via short story, one in the Short Trips collection Transmissions and the other from Obverse Books' Iris Abroad. It's a rarity for me to say that I enjoyed both as Doctor Who can be a difficult format to condense into a short story.  Mann's short story experience isn't quite as irrelevant as it may seem, as with the other two books here it's shaped around one main guest character who the author spends plenty of time establishing.  Angelchrist is an Edwardian adventurer in the literary lineage of Professor Challenger or Allen Quartermain, a one man forerunner of UNIT.  As such, he couldn't really fail to be thoroughly entertaining and you can easily imagine a veteran British character actor making a memorable success of the part were he ever translated to screen.  The antagonists of the book are the Squall, a hive mind creature that resembles a gargoyle and feeds on minds.  Of course, if they manage to spread their infection beyond the confines of the part of London we meet them in they'll suck the Earth dry and irrevocably change galactic history.  They're an ingenious and effective race, and I wouldn't be sorry to see them make a return appearance.  The major paradox is perhaps a little too straightforwardly resolved for my taste, but again, it's a flaw overcome by some good prose and excellent characterisation.

The final book in this batch is easily the best to feature Matt Smith's Doctor, perhaps even the best of the NSAs full stop.  Doctor Who's previous satire about the monetary system, The Sunmakers, was something of a sour attack by Robert Holmes on the tax system of the 1970s, the usual profusion of droll lines not concealing an ill disguised ire on the part of the writer which blunted the satiric intent.  Naomi Alderman's satire is equally as unsubtle, perhaps less, but as it's less judgemental it works much better.  Alderman uses the notion of a satirical portrayal of the banking practices to underpin the whole novel, letting it feed into everything from the nature of her villains to the settings, characters and resolution.  The temptation offered by the villains - more time - is one few people could refuse, a desired convenience out of our current technological reach.  And as it's one you can imagine normal humans falling for in a heartbeat, there's already a note of verisimilitude to characters that, say, everyone in the world having the same satnav system doesn't really provide.  You can sympathise with the characters because they're acting in a believable way from the start.  Alderman's use of the regulars to take a sly poke at corporate culture is ingenious too - it uses our familiarity with them, and Amy and Rory's normality, to point out the little idiocies that build up in any workplace, particularly high powered ones.  Alderman delivers a solid gold idea wrapped up in a rollicking adventure with a soupcon of wit.

In short then, easily the best batch of books the NSAs have yet delivered.  The future's bright... unless, of course, it's destroyed by dastardly aliens...

Sunday, 14 August 2011

These Important Years - One Day by David Nicholls

The world probably isn't short of blogs about One Day - it is, after all, one of 'those' books that publishing houses dream of, that makes it to the shelves of supermarkets and just keeps on selling. And selling. And selling And selling until Hollywood picks it up for a lucrative movie adaptation with a famous star in one of the lead roles, no matter how ill suited she may seem for it from the book and how much she goes on about how much she fell in love with the character when she read it. It's a 'chattering classes' novel, one that simply everybody's read daaaarling. And it comes emblazoned with hugely complimentary quotes from the likes of Nick Hornby and has a couple of pages dedicated to journalists and authors telling you just how wonderful it is. Which is always enough to set my Hype Bullshit Radar off and usually enough to make me steer clear as I tend to think that anyone trying to convince me of how wonderful something is before I even start on it is trying to hide some serious flaws. I'd mention the likes of Be Here Now (seriously, check out the contemporary reviews which visibly overcompensate for giving the previous album a kicking when it went on to become one of the best selling British albums of all time). At this point I turn into a contrarian and start looking for flaws. It's apt that much of the praise on the cover of the book is between the two faces that adorn the covers - it's a nice little metaphor for my relation with book PR.

But then again, occasionally there are books which upset those prejudices and prove that there's a lack of value in blanket dismissals.

There really is no secret to One Day's success. It simply makes you care about the central characters early and never lets you stop caring about them. That's no mean feat when the male lead, Dex, is required to be an absolute cock for much of the story, drinking, snorting, shagging and spending his way through the London of the Cool Britannia era. It's Em, the female lead, who's the real heart of the novel, who keeps you caring even when you're reading about someone who's become deeply unlikable. She's a wonderfully flawed character whose dreams keep drifting beyond her reach, or become corrupted by reality. She wants the one she can't have, but settles for a marriage to a good hearted man, but one who's wrong for her, drifts into a job where she ends up shagging the boss just because... and yet, she still cares about the guy she hooked up with for one night at the end of university. Because of the travails she endures you warm to her, fumbling her way through life like the rest of us. She's well meaning, but right out of luck. By contrast, Dex lucks into fame and fortune, displaying none of the redemptive qualities of Em. Good things happen to bad people, and bad things to good people for much of this book.

And by having strong central characters Nicholls can then get away with his ambitious premise. Essentially this is a story told via snapshots, temporal postcards from one day of each year from 1988 to 2004. It could feel fragmented, or disjointed but instead Nicholls works hard to make it cohere, and succeeds to the point where you ignore that significant events happening on each day for 20 years strains credulity a touch. Like Cloud Atlas though, it's an ingenious solution to shortening attention spans, essentially being made up of many short stories about the same characters making up one longer story. If you're not enjoying where the characters are, don't worry we'll be moving along in just a minute. And Nicholls also sells this with subtly yet convincingly reminding the reader that time passes - jobs change, relationships change, family members pass away, friends get married. There's the usual signifier of change, the moving on of pop culture, but in conjunction with the changes in the characters' lives it feels natural and not a cheap device.

Sympathetic characters and a strong central idea would be for naught though if the story wasn't right. Nicholls' skill at plotting means the story never feels less than organic - all the progress comes organically from decisions by the characters, it never as if they're puppets dancing to the author's tune. That it eventually leads Dex and Em back to each other never feels forced. There's no feeling of star-crossed romance, instead it's a modern love story between two characters who care about each other too much to not be together. And if the story had an outright happy ending then One Day would still be a worthwhile read. But a good storyteller knows that it's a passable ending, but not a memorable one. A good storyteller knows when to give the story one little last push. It's in Nicholls' willingness to go one step beyond 'they lived happily ever after' that marks this book out as something special. And honestly, given this is a book about being human, with all the bad choices and randomness that life entails, it wouldn't have quite worked perfectly. Instead the twist, when it comes, it brutal and random. It's something that builds skilfully over the last entry, taking me from 'no, surely he wouldn't do that' to 'damn, he did.' If by some chance you've avoided spoiling yourself I won't spoil it here but it'll be fascinating to see if the makers of the film will retain it intact. It's not milked, if anything it's written with a degree of understatement. But in retrospect it's absolutely right, an ending written by the random hand of circumstance, a fitting conclusion to the story of two flawed, human characters.  It makes it feel like a story about two human beings rather than two characters from the inside of the author's head.

No secrets to success then, instead it's simply a fine storyteller at the top of his game with all the elements of success in place - interesting characters, good writing and a damn good story. This feels like the mature work Nicholls had been progressing toward.  And unlike Dex and Em for much of the story, the real secret of its large scale success is that it's in the right place at the right time.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The Attic Inside Out Inside Out - Time Unincorporated 3 (ed Graeme Burk

Something slightly different here. I think it'd be ever so slightly pointless to review a work I'd contributed to; naturally I'm going to tell you it's seven shades of wonderful and recommend you but a copy at the first available opportunity (even though I can declare makes no financial difference to me as to how many copies it sells). I'd tell you that if I wasn't in it given Instead I thought I'd discuss the piece I wrote for it, The Attic Inside Out about The Sarah Jane Adventures; a 'Making Of' feature for the never-likely-to- exist DVD of my life.

There's no real unconventional story as to how it all came about. I've known the editors of the book for the better part of a decade, although I tended to see either of them at most once a year at the Gallifrey convention in Los Angeles. And I'd been writing for fanzine for a long while though I hadn't done anything more than dabble until I started writing for Shooty Dog Thing.

It pretty much started for me at the beginning of 2010. Graeme asked me to write an article for the fanzine he'd been editing for ten years, Enlightenment. He needed a thousand word article about the Beginnings box set, which had won the DWIN best DVD poll, inside three days before the issue went to press. So a quick rewatch of the special features as many episodes as I could fit in later I sent the article over. Graeme returned it with some excellent notes and I rewrote and resubmitted it as quickly as possible. Ten years as an editor meant that Graeme's very perceptive about what works, what doesn't and what was needed to make sure it fitted the brief he'd given me that I'd omitted. It was a brief but throughly enjoyable experience and, as Graeme was departing the fanzine, I thought no more of it.

And then six weeks later I got another message from Graeme. He was putting together Time Unincorporated 3, a collection of fanzine writings on the new series and as the numeral on the end might suggest, the third in the series. He asked if I'd be interested in writing about the Doctor Who spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures - everybody else writing in the spin-off section had chosen to write about Torchwood and though there were articles about the Who spin-offs in general, there was nothing specific about The Sarah Jane Adventures in there. Since I happen to enjoy The Sarah Jane Advenutures far more than I do Torchwood, this wasn't a problem.

So given I had a free hand, what exactly should I write about? I had a look around to see what critical writing was out there to check I wasn't stepping on anyone's toes. There are a lot of excellent reviews, both of individual stories and seasons, but very little general critical writing on aspects of the show. But then given that this is a children's show why should there necessarily be? With the lack of general writing on the show and fact that this would be the sole SJA focused essay in the volume I thought I'd try as much of an overview of the show as 2,500 words would allow. Not a basic introduction - I was writing for a fan audience who knew what this show was. Instead I thought I'd try and explain why I thought it was so remarkable that the series was even being made and why it was worth investing 25 minutes each week to follow it. I'll tap dance past the next piece as it's the dull research stuff, which essentially involved watching a lot of Sarah Jane episodes (and when I say Sarah Jane episodes I include Sarah Jane episodes of Doctor Who in that). I say dull, dull in terms of process of sitting watching episodes with a pen and notebook in hand, not in terms of the episodes themselves. Not to put any prospective writers off but in terms of research you can't really bypass that. Years of Doctor Who and Sarah Jane watching had given me a head start but it didn't give me a free pass.

And then I sat down, and tried to fit everything I'd loved about the show into 2,500 words and make it coherent. And after the usual hammer and tongs of writing, after several drafts and finding the opening hook and closing line I wanted it was ready to deliver. And so began the editing process, where the editors asked for nips, tucks and additions and very generously allowed me to exceed the original word count. Dangerous thing to let a writer do, so I was conscious of the need to make every extra word worth it. And after a couple of weeks Graeme and Robert declared themselves happy with it. Mad Norwegian announced that it would be available in the summer of 2011 and I thought no more of it until Gallifrey next year when I got to spend quality time with Graeme, Robert and a lot of fellow contributors to the book. Oh, and rather excitingly got to sit on the book launch panel. It's damn good for the ego to sit on a panel with a lot of very talented writers with plenty to say.

But there was one last pre-publication twist. On 19th April, unexpectedly, Lis Sladen died. It was the second death in a few months of a fan favourite and someone who gave plenty to fandom as well as the show. It was the kind of moment that you remember vividly, watching the news suddenly breaking across Twitter, then Facebook, then the BBC News... it even made the BB's main news broadcast at ten o'clock. Unthinkable even five years earlier, before Russell T Davies revived the character with characteristic verve and flair and made everyone fall in love with her all over again. If you want your heart broken, you can see how deeply a new generation of fans fell in love with her. I'm heading downhill to 40 and even I had a tear in my eye reading all that, even more so because my three year old son was insisting on watching School Reunion a lot. There's a whole new bittersweet beauty to watching that story now, particularly in the Doctor's speeches about everything having an end. Thematically, and just as a damn great story, it's a perfect celebration of her and the Doctor.

And I was glad I'd had the chance to pay a small tribute to her, however small. Thanks Lis.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

This Girl I Used To Know - Single White Who Fan: The Life And Times of Jackie Jenkins

I only knew Jackie Jenkins for a couple of years - appropriately, fannishly we only met once a month, where she told me about what had gone on in her life. We laughed about the little things that we did, that all fans do. And then, suddenly she was gone. Upped and left one summer day in 1999, running off after another man. I could've told her he'd be no good for her. She blew back in briefly on a winter's night in 2004 before disappearing again. I thought she'd gone for good.

And yet she didn't. She came back one last time for a few days of good company, letting me know what she's been up to and how happy she is now. An old friend returning, laughing, finally happy and lighting up the room again.

This is a series of postcards from the inter-series years, when we had to make own entertainment. We began being hopeful, but ended up jaded and cynical about any official pronouncement, even when we had the show back for one night in 1996. I was there when the New Adventures began, and for the publication of the last BBC book. I was there for BBV and Big Finish. And I was there for DWM all the way, from the days of David Burton's claims of being the new Doctor to Christopher Eccleston actually being the new Doctor. When the BBC took the toys they gave us away, we made our own entertainment.

DWM was simply magnificent during the wilderness years, adapting to the absence of a parent show with wit and style. It became effectively a professional fanzine, given as much to new fiction (the comic strip and NA previews) and opinion pieces as the interviews, news and making of pieces that had always been its staple diet. The magazine shamelessly hired the best fan writers, becoming by the fans and for the fans as the novel and audio ranges also became. That's primarily due to the editorships of the two Garys, Russell and Gillatt, who had the foresight to realise that the magazine needed changes with a lack of new material from the parent show. That it survived, prospered and eventually became the world's best-selling SF magazine after the launch of the new series is to their eternal credit.

The Jackie Jenkins column was part of Gary Gillatt's vision for the magazine. The natural comparison would be to Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones Diary, then a novel based on the columns Fielding had written for the Independent and Daily Telegraph. I'll freely admit that I couldn't stand Bridget Jones then and I can't now, reading through the odd column in the university library copies of the paper and wondering with the callow naivety of youth who the hell read this rubbish.

And then along came the Jackie Jenkins column to educate me.

The problem with me reading the odd Bridget Jones column was that it wasn't anything I'd experienced and frankly, given the subject matter, was pretty unlikely to experience. Jackie Jenkins may have been of the opposite sex but as re-reading the columns reminded me, often managed to nail the foibles of fandom precisely as well as providing a story to reward anyone paying attention. Going back to them over a decade later they seem even wiser, funnier and truer than I'd remembered them being. I think it's because I can look at those fannish eccentricities now and see them for what they are rather than cringing and falsely denying that I'd ever done anything like that. Incompetently hacking away towards attempting to get published? Recording any snippets with actors who had a speaking part in the series? Searching Ceefax for vague rumours? Such was the lot of the 90s fan, and Jackie reminds those of us who were there for Doctor Who's 1990s of all our yesterdays almost too painfully.

But such a series of observations alone would be nothing more than the written equivalent of a Tim Vine routine - a series of jokes which might be funny by themselves but don't necessarily relate or build to a greater whole and therefore don't really satisfy. Instead, by giving Jackie a life outside fandom the series gets a depth and coherence that's held up surprisingly well over the years. It's a simple but classic boyfriend-girlfriend tale spiced up by the presence of a bad boy. Yeah it's very Bridget Jones but it's better because it's lensed through the prism of Doctor Who and it's a scientific fact that any story can be improved by introducing a Doctor Who element. How much better would Bridget Jones have been if her bessie mates were fans and the Hugh Grant bad boy was comparable to the Master? It's have been halfway watchable anyway... There may be the odd continuity smudge about when she became a fan but hey, what's a Doctor Who related book without some finer continuity points to argue about? And can we argue about which dates are canon please?

The new diaries are a mixed bag - those related to the show itself coming back don't fascinate anything as much as the ones which continue Jackie's story. The 2007 entry which apparently resolves the Darren storyline (for at least four years anyway) and the 2010 entry, which strikes an appropriate note of hope, are the highlights for me, almost certainly because as the story's gone on I found myself far more interested in Jackie and her life than the Doctor Who content.

So thanks Jackie. Thanks for coming back one last time and reminding me of the good times. You were fantastic. And you know what...?

Nah, I'm not going there.

Football Is Really Fantastic - The Blizzard Issue One (ed Jonathan Wilson)

Football writing in the UK has a bad name. It's always traditionally been looked down on by their counterparts in features sections and in the newsroom, perhaps partly due to the hurried nature of having to compile match reports and the interviewees not necessarily being the smartest or most fascinating people. Even in the Premier League era, when football's become fashionable and a wealth of intelligent blogs about the game ranging through nostalgia, tactics and football's finances have exploded online, it can't quite shake off the stigma. Even FourFourTwo's stuck with the need to make money by having its main features on the biggest stars of the day and needing to sell advertising space.

Which is where The Blizzard comes in. It's a simple idea this. There's a wealth of great football writers out there, so why not gather as many of them as possible in one place, untainted by the need to pander maximising hits, or to fans who simply want to read the latest club approved platitudes from players. I first became aware of it through Paul Tomkins' tweeting of his potential involvement in the project. Tomkins has achieved a certain level of fame amongst Liverpool fans with his in depth reviews of the first few seasons of the club under Rafa Benitez, which included in depth tactical analysis and application of stats to analyse different facets of the game. He has his fair share of critics, but I've always enjoyed his writing which tends to be thoroughly researched and backed up with as many facts as possible. It was soon followed by other writers I follow on Twitter mentioning their involvement, the higher end of football journalists such as Sid Lowe, the blogger Swiss Ramble and especially editor Jonathan Wilson. Wilson, again, would command respect if he'd never written anything but Inverting the Pyramid, a book which manages to breathe life into the potentially deathly dry subject of prevalent footballing tactics.

So when they offered a test issue as a PDF the decision to sample it was a no brainer. And it hooked me from the first article, Uli Hesse's study of the German club St Pauli. Whilst we all think there's something special about our own clubs (hell, we Liverpool fans will continually let everyone else know exactly what's so special about our club) this articulated precisely the reasons for the passion of the fans, why the story of the club was so compelling. Sold, subject to the first signs of encroaching technological Luddism of my preference for a print version.

Unfortunately the original publication of Issue One coincided with the twin embuggerances of a shortage of cash and the brief biannual sabbatical I take from football to keep me sane. It's largely down to my preference not to get sucked into the riot of speculation, planted stories and wishful thinking that tends to make up the fervid transfer speculation that fills summertime sports sections. I was much quicker when a limited reprint run was announced, snapping up a copy immediately.

Wilson's stated aim of high quality football writing was reflected in the perfect bound book with a pleasingly textured cover which dropped through my letterbox. It's a reassuringly hefty 196 pages long, a mere eight of which are dedicated to advertising and five of those are for the magazine itself plus related merchandise. It comes in eleven sections, each prefaced by an apt cartoon and a tantalising quote from an article in the section. Simply out of interest I initially chose not to work my way through the book but picked out the article which initally caught my eye, Rob Smyth's look at Manchester United's 2-3 defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League Quarter Finals. It simply caught my eyes as it contained one of my favourite football moments, Fernando Redondo's backheel past Henning Berg which led to a simple tap-in for Raul. I recall the men in our office talking of nothing else the next day. And it's a terrific piece which puts the match back into context, reminding that United were the overwhelming favourites and Madrid millions of miles (and Euros) from the Galactico force they'd become over the next few years. It shows how what was initially perceived as a good result for United, a 0-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu in which they had good chances to win, was actually nothing of the sort. Instead it donated self confidence back to Madrid, making them believe that they could compete with Ferguson's 'we're gonna score one more than you' European champions. And it explains concisely how an insane tactical gamble by Del Bosque paid off thanks to Casillas, McManaman, Roberto Carlos, Raul's finishing and probably the performance of Redondo's career. Smyth finishes by explaining why it's such an important match in European history, and particularly in terms of United's style. And, as with Smyth's day job at the Guardian, he brings across just how thrilling that second leg match was. It's a stunning piece of writing which proves the value of a long term perspective over the hastily compiled match reports of the day and quietly explains just why the match is *even better* than you thought.

I sucked the marrow from the bones of the rest of the book over the next week. I returned to the conventional style of back to front, including a re-read of Smyth's article. Wonderfully the book largely avoids the default Anglocentric viewpoint of much British footballing journalism, covering Israel, Spain, Argentina, Sweden and India amongst others. If part of the remit is to be expansive in terms of coverage, it's admirably fulfilled. By the next World Cup they may even have done enough to render a certain BBC pundit's shrugging lack of knowledge of the likes of Algeria even more redundant than it already seemed to be. Certainly the likes of Wilson would be able to articulately explain what to look for in games without dumbing down in the way the inarticulate ex-pros who tend to comprise British pundits can't.

The real highlights of the book for me were the interviews. Anthony Clavane's David Peace's interview as part of the Leeds section is wonderfully unafraid to be literate, quite unlike anything in mainstream football writing. But it's the other two interviews which are real highlights of the book. One is with a figure familiar to Premier League fans, the other more obscure but equally as interesting. David Winner's interview with Bergkamp has the breathtakingly simple premise of letting a genius with the ball explain simply the how and why of his decisions on the pitch. What's striking is how even now Bergkamp displays a razor sharp mind and memory for detail. It's remarkable for how Bergkamp makes his most revered moments of skill sound so simple, things that almost anyone could do if they had the vision to do them. And then you remember the speed at which he did these things. Essentially it's an extended reminder that the most crucial attribute for a footballer is speed and clarity of thought and, peripherally, an indictment of British football and coaching. The other interview is from the Guardian's Spanish football expert Sid Lowe, who's in-depth knowledge of his subject renders the notion that the only clubs that matter in Spain are Barca and white half of Madrid an absolute farce. His subject is Juanma Lillo, the youngest ever coach in La Liga and ostensibly an itinerant coach. More pertinently, he's the big hidden influence on the Barcelona side currently making a good case for being the best side ever, inventing their 4-2-3-1 formation and being cited by Pep Guardiola as a big influence along with Cruyff. It's captivating stuff which manages to capture the complexities of one of football's more innovative and unusual minds, covering such matters on the sicknes of society and why it's bad when it comes to constructing a football team, why there's no such thing as attack and defence, and why in football the match should matter more than the result (inadvertently, or perhaps advertantly, providing a fine critique of Jose Mourinho's methods though he's never named). It fully justifies Lowe's build up of an innovative coach and thinker who loves a dialectic debate and owns over 10,000 volumes including complete runs of the world's foremost football magazines. As with any interview, the interviewer's role shouldn't be underestimated and Lowe's intelligent and informed enough to ask questions that provoke Lillo into clarifications of thought and further insights into his philosophy. It's not only educational, it's thought provoking and makes you wish that we had football coaches in this country that were even half as articulate. Instead we have the likes of Sam Allardyce regarded as an innovative thinker (which, for the UK, he actually seems to be to some degree). Lowe doesn't fail to note the irony of Lillo currently being unemployed partly thanks to the pupil becoming the master, Guardiola's side beating his Almeira 8-0. I ended hoping that Lillo would find employment again soon, in the hope his sides would be as fascinating as the man and his philosophy.

Elsewhere there's fine variety of article. There are a host of lesser known but fascinating stories, ranging from lesser known stories such as that of the first Israeli football team, through the jawdropping tale of Alexandre Villaplane, France's first World Cup captain who pretty much defines the term 'psychopathic bastard' and puts the tabloid howls about the misbehaviour of Premier League footballers in context, Jock Stein's short spell at Leeds, London's Romanian Sunday league teams through to the story of Vassilis Hatzipanagis, possibly the greatest footballer you've never heard of and certainly the finest never to be capped. There's editor Wilson himself, explaining how Victorio Spinetto injected a certain ruthlessness into the Argentine football mentality. There's a report on the almost unreported over here African Nations Championship and the story of the Danish triumph in Euro 92, amusing and amazing in equal measure in light of the preparations teams make for matches these days. And there are some fascinating think pieces from Simon Kuper and Kieron O'Connor on the possibility of the Premier League boom being nowhere near bursting and the financial legacy of the 2010 World Cup respectively.

This might all make it sound a high minded, serious endeavour, but the cover of a dog balancing a ball on its nose should tell you otherwise. I admit to writing up match reports from my football computer games as a youngster, but McIntosh takes it to a level of art with The Ballad of Bobby Manager, an account of his Football Manager game as West Ham. There's a comic brilliance in his portrayal of West Ham's owners and chief executive Karren Brady, the latter's portrayal as a Bond-esque villain in particular promises some wonderful future comedy. I can only applaud McIntosh for living the dream and getting paid to write about playing Football manager all day. If they ever want the tale of how I beat Chelsea in the Champions League Final with two goals in injury time of extra time, or the tale of Fredy Guarin's swerving 40 yard thunderbolt away at Birmingham earning a Liverpool team reduced to ten men for over 80 minutes a crucial win to edge the title race, or even my turning of Fabien Brandy into a 50 goal a season monster at Crewe, then I'm always available. We'll gloss over the joint Football Manager game where my mate Phil was unbeaten for 36 games before my Liverpool team whupped his lot 5-0 at Anfield to ruin his unbeaten season though.

The only slight disappointment is probably the final article, a series of pen portraits of Scottish players from before the Second World War. The flaw's not necessarily with the article itself, which is as educational about forgotten heroes as anything else in the collection (though by nature, not as in depth as some). It's something of a lightweight article to finish on though, like finishing on a comma rather than a full stop.

The Blizzard may well be catering to a niche market, one that takes its love of football beyond simply watching their team and demands more intelligent coverage. But that's something you can do with modern technology and economic models - catering from a niche is easier to do than it's ever been. I'll freely admit though, that I'm part of the niche it caters to and intend to subscribe come payday. It's intelligent, passionate and funny about a subject that shouldn't really matter in the grand scheme of things, but somehow matters above everything to so many. And it's well worth the investment of your time and money.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Tonight We're Gonna Party Like It's 1969 - The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century: 1969 by Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neill

It's always slightly awkward to review middle volumes of a story. Whatever you do it'll be somewhat imperfect - themes and storylines will have emerged but you won't be seeing the full picture by any means. Nevertheless Alan Moore's stated aim with the Century trilogy is for each one to tell a self contained story as well as form part of the overall tale. So it's fair game.

What we get is a story rooted firmly in 1969, the end of the hippy dream. The main elements of the story, aside from those introduced in Century: 1910,are drawn from two contemporary films that indicate the darkness that (by conventional interpretation) crept in at the end of the peace 'n' love hippy era. The first is the 1970 film Performance, which featured Mick Jagger as a dissolute rock star, the second Get Carter. From the moment Moore and O'Neill open with a recreation of the death of Brian Jones it's clear we're going to see a lot more of the League universe's version of the Rolling Stones,the Purple Orchestra. And by that extension one of the main characters is based on Jagger's character in Performance. Except now we're in the minefield of the copyright era it's Terner rather than Turner. It's not the only time a crafty copyright dodging wink is used in the volume either, the rich fictional background that could be freely employed in the volumes up to now largely reduced to almost cameo spotting. I'm still not quite sure as to whether it robs the League of a large degree of its charm. It doesn't bode entirely well for the final volume in the series, particularly when coupled with Moore's murmurings about finding 2009 a barren cultural wasteland. Perhaps the frontier of pop culture of today has simply moved beyond his interests, as it must eventually move beyond us all. Certainly his pronouncments on the state of comics (however valid you find them) indicate a certain degree of alienation from modern fictions.

Moore's discomfort with modern culture is perhaps best reflected in an emergig theme, shown in a division between the two core characters of Allen Quartermain and Mina Harker over their attitude to effective immortality. Mina attempts to embrace the social changes of the era, seemingly not entirely successfully whilst Quartermain remains uncomfortable with change, mired in Victorian values to a degree. Moore is ambivalent about both approaches, showing them as both being ineffective as neither approach really deals with the major problem of living beyond your era. The longer you live, the less you understand of an ever changing world, and that seems to be the real problem at the root of the contrasting approaches. It'll be fascinating to see how that's resolved in the final volume.

As usual though, what makes the story work is the synchronicity between Moore and Kevin O'Neill. Once more there's a wealth of devils in the detail, a blizzard of references salted away in the artwork (including at least three to Doctor Who, something almost certainly pure O'Neill given Moore's oft stated distate for the post-Hartnell Doctors). As ever this means it requires multiple reads to catch the references, and even then you can't be certain of catching everything without recourse to Jess Nevins' ever excellent annotations. It certainly flavours what might otherwise be fairly dull exposition and journey scenes, but as usual he references are an added bonus and not really essential in understanding the tale at hand - maybe it helps to know that the song soundtracking the Hyde Park sequences is based closely on Sympathy for the Devil but that's pretty much it. It's not just the enhancement of Moore's stories with all sorts of detail that distinguishes O'Neill's work though, it's the shifts in style and tone to reflect mood and time that enhances the story here. Indeed, the psychedelic sequences that provide the backdrop for the climactic battle of wills is probably a highlight of O'Neill's work on the series. And I say that as someone who's absolutely adored O'Neill's previous work on the series.

As ever with Moore though, there's an edge to his story I don't particularly like. Sometimes it manifests in extreme violence (as in, say, Watchmen), but more often in a creepy sexual elemen. Here, if you can catch the references to identify Mina's companion in the Hyde Park scenes, then I'd be surprised if that character fingering a tripped out Mina wouldn't have one of the biggest selling authors of the past ten years activating her legal magicians. Certainly, it fits with the souring edge of hippydom that the Orchestra's gig represents (and which the Stones' Hyde Park gig represetned in our universe) and I'm certain such thins happened, but I'm not sure it's entirely necessary to the story.

Century: 1969 certainly ends up functioning as a story in its own right, ending not on a direct cliffhanger but instead in an intriguing position with the shade of Haddo escaping to continue his moonchild/Antichrist plans and Mina missing, possibly dragged off to a madhouse but possibly to another, more nefarious fate. And the final punk song is as ominous as the ending of Century: 1910, foreshadowing nothing but misery. Satisfying then, but as to whether it's the second course of a gourmet meal we'l have to wait another year or so to find out.

Wildthyme After Wildthyme - Enter Wildthyme by Paul Magrs

There's a wonderful sense of the familiar on picking up a Paul Magrs back. Not the type of familiarity that induces contempt, but he familiarity of pleasure, the cosiness of sinking into the comfort of your favourite chair or your own bed after returning from holiday. It's partly to do with his reuse of familiar characters and concepts,(though never in quite the same way), and partly to do with his reassuring though slightly querulous, wonderfully Northern voice.

Enter Wildthyme is another pleasure. Most of what we see here is familiar, particularly if you've been keeping up with Magrs' Doctor Who work or his Iris adventures. There's a return visit to the Great Big Book Exchange originally seen in Exchange, a return to Valcea last heard of in The Blue Angel, Hyspero from The Scarlet Empress (as well as an appearance by a Scarlet Empress), Brenda the sentient vending maching who originally appeared in Sick Building, a cameo from Horror of Glam Rock's Tomorrow Twins, the transdimensional Blithe Pinking Shears from Mad Dogs and Englishmen... and probably more that I could go on with all day. Combined with the obvious presence of Iris and her faithful Panda and it looks like the Magrs equivalent of The Five Doctors, one big party with everyone he knows invited and the emphasis on fun rather than story. And there's a certain amount of truth in that, with the screwball plot involving the chasing of a relic halfway round the universe. But that would be to miss the point completely. Like the aforementioned The Five Doctors this is meant to be fun (one of the back quotes delights in describing it as a sci-fi pantomime, which'd no doubt bring a smile to those of us who remember how 'pantomime' was turned into an insult for Doctor Who stories of that era). It's the key element for me that Russell T Davies remembered that was lost to the show sometime around 1980 and only returned towards the end of the original run. There's a generous spirit here, the author having fun but also remembering to make it just as much fun for his readers. All that's not to say there's not some quite lovely concepts introduced - the sentient wardrobes who... ah, no spoilers. But they're a melding of three or four separate idea that work because they fit perfectly with Iris' universe.

Iris, is of course as splendid/irritating (delete as applicable) as ever, the character's voice equally clear whether Katy Manning's speaking or if Magrs is simply bringing her to life with words.

If there's ever a point to climb aboard the No 22 to Putney Common this is it, accessible enough that references to previous stories anren't essential and quite obviously intended to be the first in a series. And above all that, it's the perfect gateway to Magrs' ever growing body of work.

A Good Walk Redeemed - The Clicking of Cuthbert by PG Wodehouse

I confess in my time to having disgraced the game of golf with my feeble attempts to bash a white ball more than a hundred yards in a straight line. The addiction's obvious to me, at my level the majority of shots will dispirit and darken my soul but just once or twice per round there's a shot that makes you think that there's a glimmer of hope in keeping at the game after all. It's sporting crack, and just as ruinously expensive if you're capable of losing as many games as I. It's always good to know one of your favourite authors was a fellow sufferer, and if he never picked up a club in his life, The Clicking of Cuthbert demonstrates PG Wodehouse had the invaluable quality in a writer of being a convincing fibber.

It's near pointless describing what I love about Wodehouse, mostly because it's liable to be much the same as everyone else does. I could bore for hours on his genius at constructing literary farce with an incredible lightness of touch. I could say how it's the construction and maintenance of a perfectly realised little world with laws bordering on the inevitability of physics relating to how things will turn out, particularly when aunts are involved. An England that probably never existed, but along with early Waugh, seems the default image of the English inter-war years. And even his willingness to take a chance on writing for Mills & Boon. No matter the characters - Psmith, the inhabitants of Blanding or Jeeves and Wooster - you know roughly what you're going to get. A perfectly constructed story from a man whose style defines literary elegance.

Wodehouse's golf tales do benefit from a certain knowledge of the sport, but it's not absolutely essential, particularly when the golfing slang he uses here had changed so much over a century. Golf is merely the backdrop to the usual sort of story Wodehouse wants to tell, uniting couples against unlikely social odds in the titular story and The Rough Stuff, providing a solid chap with a triumph over a blackguard in Ordeal By Golf and an upstart getting his comeuppance in The Heel of Achilles. Only the last story, The Coming of Gowff, varies from Wodehouse's usual themes, telling a golf story in the style of the Arabian Nights.

It wouldn't do to fail to mention the Oldest Member here, who narrates all but that last story. He's undoubtedly a stereotype of the type of old member who'll happily bore fellow members over a snifter in the bar, but in Wodehouse's hands he's another well rounded comic gem, albeit not as likable as Wodehouse's better known characters thanks to his garrulous nature. Like listening to the Oldest Member then, it'll pass some hours but it's hardly essential and best left until you've exhausted Wodehouse's better known works.

Building The Perfect Beast - The Genius by David Harris & The Catch by Gary Myers

It all started for me at what's generally considered the nadir of American Football coverage in the UK, in 1987. Back then we were fed a mere half hour per week of highlights during the regular season (I remember it as a half hour, if it was an hour I apologise), and one dreary Tuesday night I came across a strange looking sport played on a field that looked like a knitting pattern. And the teams I saw in the main highlights played in some seriously good looking uniforms, one in gold and black, the other in white, red and gold. I didn't understand a second of it, but big athletes hitting the crap out of each other looked like fun. Unfortunately this was halfway through a season and Channel 4 were using the comedy duo The Vicious Boys to present, neither of whom offered any insight as to what the hell I was watching. I had to figure it out myself. But it intrigued me enough so that I was back the next week, and every week until I couldn't watch the Superbowl as it was a school night and we didn't actually own a video recorder. But with the help of the estimable Ken Thomas' Touchdown magazine I educated myself. Unlike The Vicious Boys I was back for the start of the 1988 season and the beginning of Channel 4 expanding its coverage with British former NFL player Mick Luckhurst and Gary Imlach, who enlivened the live reporting from the US with an unfailingly dry wit.

And thanks to that first game I'd found my team, chosen simply on the basis that they'd won that first game. I was insanely lucky, thanks to Channel 4's choice of game I'd lucked into supporting one of the all time great teams, in the middle of an NFL record number of winning seasons. It was the Team that Walsh Built, a side that ended up redefining how NFL offences played, a team rich in talent and (unknown to me at the time) rich enough to pay for the best. Montana, Rice, Craig, Lott... they were thrilling to watch and never knew when they were beaten. I'd love to claim discernment, but no, sneaking a two point win in Louisiana was my entire criteria for unconditional support.

With the lack of information available to me, I knew very little about my chosen team, except that they'd won a couple of Super Bowls, and were one of the powers of the conference along with the teams who'd succeeded them in winning the big game, the Bears and Giants, with their fearsome defences, and the Redskins. Midway through the season I'd found a short book in the school bookshop which detailed the Super Bowls themselves, so I acquainted myself with the great names like Lombardi, Namath and the fabled Steel Curtain. Being young, and thousands of miles away they had mythlike status, heroes performing great deeds in the name of sport. It's always good to have heroes at that age, before awareness of the complexities of real life creep in. And I found out how Walsh had built his team, toppling the Cowboys, the NFC's then dominant team and then going 15-1 and beating the favoured Dolphins and their big armed QB Dan Marino in the Super Bowl. But at that point they weren't the dynasty, only one of that host of NFC teams, any one of whom was capable of forging a reputation as the team of the decade. They hadn't become the Team of the Eighties yet.

The first book here is the story of the game in January 1982 that went such a long way to establishing Walsh's team as contenders. It's really an insane story. Walsh had taken over a team rock bottom of the conference, handicapped in the draft by a duff deal for the by then knackered out OJ Simpson, had two losing seasons and gone into the season with three rookies in his secondary.

Yeah. Sometimes fairy tale endings happen.

But no-one believed in the 49ers until they played the Cowboys in the Championship game in 1982. They turned the ball over to the opposition six times, and yet were good enough to keep themselves in the game with one last drive left. And with two plays left before the Cowboys got the ball b Joe Montana, yet to acquire the aura of the finest quarterback every to throw a pass, threw it so high only his receiver, at the limits of his jumping and stretching ability cold catch it. The 49ers defence barely held the Cowboys and they went on to beat the Bengals in the Super Bowl. The Catch isn't specifically about the 49ers, instead it's a fascinating portrait of how one spectacular play meant one team was on the rise and one team went into a tailspin that lasted a decade. Author Gary Myers was a reporter for the Dallas Evening News at the time of the game, so you'd expect the Cowboys to receive their fair share of coverage. It's beautifully structured, each chapter detailing a play, or sequence of plays before focusing on the key men involved in those plays and what happened to them since. Naturally it tends towards a melancholic streak for the Cowboys entries - how effectively it sent the careers of quarterback Danny White and coach Tom Landry on a downward slope from which they never recovered. And then there are genuine heartbreakers, Drew Pearson's involvement in a fatal car accident which killed his brother and Everson Walls' noble but ultimately doomed donation of a kidney to ex-teammate Ron Springs. And in two chapters at the end it covers the career of head coach Bill Walsh and how the 49ers dynasty rose thanks to The Catch.

The Genius covers Bill Walsh's life in more detail, specifically the time he was in charge of the 49ers. It covers his background, including his time in Cincinnatti which came to a bitter end and in college football at Stanford. David Harris isn't afraid to explore his subject's flaws and the often fiery relationship he had with owner Eddie DeBartolo Jnr. Harris does his subject the credit of not trying to simplify him, instead presenting him as a complex, insecure character initially capable of fooling around to attempt to relax his players before their first Super Bowl but who became tighter and more nervous as they attempted to repeat their successes, again in part due to their impatient owner. And how he was capable of misjudgement and indecision, mainly seen in the QB controversy of his last season when he had two Hall of Fame QBs in Young and Montana. It essentially shows how he burned himself out over ten years trying to prove himself the best, but even regretting his decision to leave the 49ers once he'd retired. Walsh comes across as less and less likable the longer he's in the 49ers job, but what Harris effectively conveyed is the intolerable pressure that comes with having to maintain a successful sporting team. carrying the dreams of millions. It's easy to say it doesn't matter in the light of wars, diseases or other life or death situations, but then carrying the dreams of passionate millions brings its own pressure. Whilst Walsh might have been a genius to the point of revolutionising the way the game was played, he was only human. I don't tend to enjoy too many books dedicated to specific sporting personalities these days, but this is an exception, a sympathetic but clear eyed portrait of probably the most influential coach of the modern NFL era. And I got to witness that Walsh team, and the legacy he left from a distance - that dull Tuesday night in October 1987 I got very lucky indeed.

Everything Picture #5 Time Lord Redux

Once more unto the breach in my tragically completist quest to own all the Doctor Who novels... these are the third batch to feature Matt Smith's Doctor and his companions.

James Goss proved himself thoroughly on the Torchwood novel series before being allowed a go at the parent series. He's responsible for my favourite books in the series, making Torchwood in print as witty and thrilling as it only rarely is on screen. Dead of Winter is his second published Doctor Who story after an entry in one of Big Finish's Short Trips collection, Snapshots. It's set off the beaten historical track and, to a degree, prefigures the Gangers two parter from the 2011 season. The humour's only slightly toned down, but it's as clever a tale as you'd expect from Goss with what initially seems like mischaracterisation being a deftly executed plot point. And it also has a heartbreaking twist in relation to one of the narrators along with some wonderfully spooky imagery. Early spoiler - it's my favourite of the batch.

Una McCormack returns with her second Who book, The Way Through The Woods, following last year's The King's Dragon. It was a promising debut, with a fine premise perhaps only falling apart slightly when explanations were needed. The same problem rears its head here - the set up is fabulous, with inexplicable disappearances linked to an area everyone mysteriously avoids. The scenes with the Doctor in the police station are beautifully executed, as perfect a depiction of Matt Smith as you'll find in print. The trouble is whilst they're funny, they only serve to stop the Doctor from getting to the heart of the trouble early as it'd be a much shorter book if he wasn't somehow held back from the action. Again though, it's the prosaic SF explanation for what's going on that lets things down a little. That aside, it's another good, if not quite outstanding, effort from McCormack.

Hunter's Moon is the sort of Doctor Who adventure I don't tend to have much time for. Doctor Who can do pure SF, much as it can do historical drama, loves stories, high fantasy and pretty much anything else. It just tends to fall down when writers interpret the show as straight SF. I've not heard Finch's other Doctor Who story, an adaptation of his father's unmade script Leviathan, so I don't know if it's a misconception that dogs other stories. Hunter's Moon is certainly competently executed and exciting enough (though personally I think it would've been more effective had the prologue and first chapter been swapped round), with effective bad guys who might well have been memorable on TV if cast well. As I say though, it's a type of Doctor Who story I don't find overly engaging, having little to mark it out from other stories set on Earthlike colonies. But if you do like Who as an out and out SF show, it's perfect for you.

Overall then, a nicely balanced set of books covering historical, contemporary and SF settings and maintaining a good standard for Eleveth Doctor books. Trouble is, the next batch are a mere two months away after this release, so there's little time to savour them. Unless, of course, you've got a time machine.

American Idiots - An Epic Swindle by Brian Reade

If you've paid the slightest bit of attention to English football over the past five years it's liable you'll know about the ownership problems at Liverpool. Sold by David Moores, whose family funded the club's rise under Shankly, to a pair of American businessmen, because he could no longer fund Liverpool's attempts to match the inordinately wealthy likes of implacable foes Manchester United and arriviste upstarts Chelsea. And as the credit crunch struck, those businessmen, whose fortune was built on debt became not only unable to finance Liverpool as Moores had been, but unable to finance them at all, crippling the club to the point that they dived from a perennial top four club who were regulars at the business end of the world's more lucrative competition to seventh place also rans. The club hadn't finished so low since Graeme Souness tried to rebuild an aging side too fast and with entirely the wrong players. The better players had begun to depart already and the quality of players was gradually falling. Fan attitudes declined from a warm welcome, through unease and eventually, into open revolt and protest. A club who'd prided themselves on doing things behind closed doors turned on itself, sinking so low as to hire a PR company to badmouth their own manager.

An Epic Swindle is the story of those four and a half years Liverpool suffered at the hands of Tom Hicks and George Gillett. It's unashamedly partisan, casting Hicks and Gillett as the sort of evil hearted, black hatted bad guys you rarely get outside fantasy film franchises. And speaking as a Liverpool fan I can't say I disagree too much with that - I'd argue for a little fairness in that whatever their original intentions, they were caught out by the credit crunch so had their plans irretrievably disrupted early on. It's their actions subsequent to that which destroy and benefit of doubt though, and those are thoroughly chronicled here. Not only are they shown to be only interested in the money they can make out of the club, they demonstrate an astonishing ignorance which they don't have the wit to correct by hiring people who did know what they're doing. There was a reason they were bottom of a list of American sports owners compiled in 2009. The book's essentially a forensic dissection of their actions during their ownership and repeatedly it finds them wanting against standards set at Liverpool over the previous fifty years, let alone the standards of what ethics might remain in business. Gillett comes out of it marginally better than Hicks, but only by virtue of coming across as bumbling and incompetent where Hicks is tenacious and malicious. Hicks is shown as continually undermining the club in private whilst putting on a down home, doin' mah best for the club image out in public. And in that process he alienates everyone involved with the club not related to him.

Elsewhere Brian Reade writes with a commendably fair attitude. Fans who do their best to oust the owners are obviously praised, but the book really shines when discussing the major figures in the dramas at Anfield. Reade admits to past antipathy with Moore, one that even got the mild mannered former chairman riled enough to yell at him across a packed room, but gives him a fair hearing for his aims and actions after selling the club, though rightfully skewers him for putting Liverpool way behind Manchester United in exploiting commercial opportunities at a crucial time and the lack of research done into Hicks in particular. Rick Parry, former chief executive and a man repeatedly criticised by the writer and fans alike in the past, is another who is given sympathy thanks to the almost impossible workload his post imposed upon him. It does give rise to the one positive point Reade has to make, the bringing in of Ian Ayre to exploit commercial opportunities for the club (which had already begun to pay dividends before the October 2010 court date which forced Hicks and Gillett out). Even Christian Purslow, a man reviled by a large number of fans for his part in undermining Rafa Benitez, bringing in the out of his depth successor Roy Hodgson and buying and selling players without consultation of the manager, isn't condemned outright but has his sins weighted against his role in removing the owners. And finally there's Benitez himself, presented neither as the angel operating against the owners not the incompetent fool of polarised debate on Liverpool messageboards. Instead he comes over a good manager with a weakness for club politics who became too embroiled in the club's dirty business to do his main job to the best of his ability, particularly when the squad was being thinned by Hicks and Gillett's need to bring money in to attempt to pay off their loans.

Really this book should be the account of a footballing tragedy, one of the great institutions of British sport being immolated in an attempt to bridge the gap money was bringing about in the Premier League. But it didn't quite work out like that, like all the best stories it ends with heroes victorious, the villains vanquished with all plans in ruins and the club looking to the future, going from the 19th place in a 20 team league and most embarrassing Anfield defeat in club history to sixth place, new owners making the sort of signings Hicks and Gillett were supposed to make and possibly the only man who could unite the club after all the in-fighting in the manager's chair. What it ends up as is a tale of people power, the tale of Spirit of Shankly . It proves the wisdom of Joe Hill's old song There Is A Power In A Union. And in the words of a more famous song now indelibly associated with Anfield that at the end of the storm, there's a golden sky.

Not A Number: Patrick McGoohan - A Life by Rupert Booth

You have to applaud the bravery of anyone attempting a biography of Patrick McGoohan. Leaving aside the impossibility of interviewing him for the book - he died just over two years before this was published - he preferred not make to many interviews, and to make as few public appearances as possible. It's thin material to attempt to fashion a biography from, inevitably reliant as it will be on research and interviewing those who worked with him who are still alive and happy to go on record.

First off, a declaration - I've known the author for ten years or so, to the extent that I had a cameo in what was planned to be the first in a line of Prisoner novels. On the plus side it means I can declare he's got an exceptional knowledge of The Prisoner, not only that he's highly eloquent on the themes and ideas of the show. And he's also well versed in archive television, having a large and wide ranging collection of shows. In terms of knowledge of the context in which McGoohan's star rose in the late 50s and early 60s, he's well suited to the task in hand. And McGoohan's career is excellently researched, from his time on a farm, through rep in Sheffield, through career highlights Danger Man and The Prisoner to his subsequent flight to Hollywood. It's only natural that the largest section of the book is dedicated to The Prisoner. Booth captures McGoohan's obsessive nature here very well. It's a theme that runs through the book but is most evident here where he's got almost carte blanche from Lew Grade.

Where it falls down a little is the speculation Booth's often forced to make to explain McGoohan's decisions. It's informed by extrapolations of what we know about McGoohan, and other career choices, but it's still speculation nonetheless. Although it might be said to be in keeping with the themes of The Prisoner, with the way society imposes perceptions on the individual...

Booth though is scrupulously fair in his portrayal of his subject. Whilst it's always evident that he's an admirer of McGoohan, he doesn't shy away from mentioning the flaws that obsession brought on. Whilst there's no womanising or 'my drugs hell' secrets to come out, the penalties of having drive and obsession aren't shirked from, nor is McGoohan's propensity for heavy drinking.

There was a remake of The Prisoner a couple of years ago. They even got a lot right, updating some themes to reflect today's society and maintaining relevant ones. Where they went wrong was that as good an actor as Jim Calviezel might be, he's got nothing of McGoohan's cryptic intensity; nothing of the driven investiture McGoohan had in his own project. It's almost inconceivable that anyone in modern times would give the freedom to McGoohan that Grade did - that's why The Prisoner ended up an idiosyncratic, compelling modern fairy tale; an allegory for McGoohan's view of society. The modern version smoothed the edges that made the original so fascinating away and lacked the engine McGoohan provided to the original. What this biography gets so right is to show what a fascinating, complex character McGoohan was. In the end that's probably all you can ask of any biography.

The Revolutions Will Be Recorded - 33 Revolutions Per Minute by Dorian Lynskey

There are two ways to write about rock music. The first is the easy way, buying into and reinforcing the self perpetuating myths about musicians. That way lies anecdotes of TVs through windows, groupies and red snappers and Rolls Royces in swimming pools, the music of The Dirt and Hammer of the Gods. With the PR machines of record companies becoming ever more controlling it's the way the majority of rock journalism in the country seems to be heading, even if the ever more intense gaze of tabloids and internet bystanders makes it harder for personal foibles and excesses to be hidden. Entertainers and musicians become deities to be places on pedestals rather than human beings who find ways to communicate on a mass level; miracle workers performing sonic alchemy rather than simply humans doing something anyone could do to a remarkable standard. This way lies the likes of heritage rock magazines and Q's slack-jawed admiration,complete with fawning reviews.

And then there's the type of writing that understands how preposterous it all us, and reminds us there's a fallible human element in the middle of it all. No matter if they've achieved on the levels of the Beatles, Bowie or Bob Marley they can still be questioned, criticised and mocked. Mockery is the cheap way of doing that, one that only really works when the writer doing it also loves the art form - reminding you at the same time that it's all simultaneously brilliant and utterly ridiculous. It's best exemplified in the likes of Danny Baker, the casually brilliant swagger of Smash Hits and its alumni or Alex Petridis in The Guardian. It's a wonderful art form, at its best it has the effervescence and sparkle of sunlight catching bubbles in champagne. But even that art form comes with the great writing safety net that you can get yourself out of trouble with a decent joke. And that humour can allow musicians protection, a couple of witty lines allowing themselves to demonstrate that they're human whilst avoiding too much troublesome soul baring. The other, more difficult way of demythologising music and musicians is ultimately the more rewarding one - analysis and deconstruction, pinning the butterfly to the wheel. This way lies the very best writing about music - Ian Penman, Ian McDonald's Revolution in the Head, Simon Reynolds' Energy Flash or (especially) Rip It Up And Start Again, Nick Kent's The Dark Stuff or Greil Marcus' Lipstick Traces. It's even there, albeit with a breathtaking lightness of touch which merges the highbrow and Smash Hits approaches, in Caitlin Moran's account of her meeting with Lady Gaga in The Times. There's little recourse to humour and no myth for subjects to hide behind here. The seriousness of the approach jars somewhat with the way music's sold by the industry in Britain so it tends to be confined to books and the magazines aimed at the older music fan. It's to this school of writing that 33 Revolutions Per Minute belongs, an almost academic attempt to study the use of popular music as a form of protest.

It's almost deceptive to call 33 RPM a book about music. Instead it's a Trojan Horse, sneaking a book about popular protest in the twentieth and early twentieth centuries using music as the hook. There's a brief contextualisation with an appendix covering previous forms of protest music but Dorian Lynskey's focus doesn't lie with the spirituals of slaves and left wing songbooks but rather how the advent of a mass market for music meant that one voice could now make itself widely heard - radio and records meaning a message could be spread far more easily than in previous years, and direct from the originator rather than via pamphlet or third hand through the performances of others. The point where there's no process of chinese whispers diluting or bowdlerising the message.

Probably the only obvious choice Lynskey makes is in where he starts. There's probably never been a protest song as startlingly effective as Billie Holliday's Strange Fruit; even today it retains an eerie power, long after the specific issues it highlights are... well, not dead by any means, but certainly somewhat defused. Lynskey's long term background as a politically engaged music writer means he's eloquently able to explain what gave the song such effect, both in terms of the music itself and also in the context in which it was released. It summarises the approach he takes throughout the book in that the song the chapter is ostensibly about is merely a point by which he engages with the issues the song raises. In that way this is really a work of popular history via music. Where the approach gets more interesting is at the point the protest song becomes more popular, around the rise of the folk movement eventually headed by Dylan in the late 1950s and early 1960. Lynskey doesn't stick to the point of view presented by his chosen song but more often contrasts it with other works on the same thing - contrasting Dylan and his actions with Phil Ochs for instance, or presenting James Brown's Say It Loud, I'm Back and I'm Proud coming in the context of the approaches of Martin Luther King and the Black Panthers. As a result it's a much more rounded and informative work than a book than a book which concentrated simply on the songs in question, bringing both sides of an argument. For example Country Joe and the Fish's I Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die Rag (and the whole peace movement) makes a lot more sense when it's understood against more conventional and patriotic songs of the late 60s such as The Ballad of the Green Berets.

That's not to say that individuals get lost in the great sweep of history - it'd be an interesting but repetitive experience if this was all political movements and ideology. Lynskey never loses sight of the human element at the heart of the work, where this is really strong is how it presents the songs as an understandable human reaction to conflicting political pressures. One of the themes that recurrently emerges throughout is the price of sticking to political ideals - ranging from tragedies such as those of Phil Ochs and Victor Jara to the frustrated idealism of Crass. It's that latter chapter that's probably the most affecting in the entire book, with their growing realisation that their music can't change the world, swept away in the capitalist tidal wave of Thatcherism. I genuinely wouldn't have thought it possible that a chapter on a relatively politically extreme band could come across as such a tragedy that could make me simultaneously angry and sad.

All this wouldn't matter though if Lynskey was simply presenting essays on thirty three different songs and thirty three different movements. There are a few songs which don't conform to a simplistic timeline of cause, effect or influence, but Lynskey's able to justify the 'history' in the subtitle by finding common threads and influences - no small task given he's ambitious enough to attempt to cover not only a divergent range of music including gospel, folk, funk, rock, rap, ska, country, disco, pop and punk but also a range of political movements as well as bringing in a more global context. Relating the protest music of Jara and Fela Kuti to the more obvious American and British movements is no mean feat, but it never feels gratuitous and gives the book a better global context.

There's no way anything short enough to be contained in a book - even a book such as this which runs to 800 pages including appendices and indices could be comprehensive but that's a problem Lynskey is clever enough to know and deal with. Not only does he deal with it in his approach to the book - essentially history via a series of thirty-three snapshots which are then contextualised, but in then providing room for further investigation. There's the already mentioned pre-history of the protest song as we understand it, a list of the songs included in the text, however peripherally, and a hundred further songs which didn't fit into the overall story. The sign of an intelligent author is that he's not arrogant enough to think of himself as a definitive authority on a subject, more a far-better informed expert. The leaving open of further avenues for investigation, and active encouragement to explore them, is entirely to the author's credit. I guess that my favourite type of rock writing is one which encourages the reader to share the author's passions by demonstrating (not explicitly explaining) what's so great about them. Revolution in the Head encouraged me to go back to listen to The Beatles with fresh thinking, Rip It Up And Start Again sent me careening through the dark corners of post-punk I didn't know about and encouraged me to return to the familiar areas I knew about. 33 Revolutions Per Minute? Let's just say that my hard drive is much fuller than it was before I started. And so was my mind.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

You Turn Around And Life's Passed You By..

Bloody hell. Nine months. Where did that go?

Catch up time soon then...