Archive for We Used Dark Forces

Hard Copy

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 24, 2023 by dcairns

I now own my own book(s) in physical form: We Used Dark Forces (Dennis Wheatley + HP Lovecraft + Agatha Christie rendered as WWII SF whodunnit black comedy) is joined by Is Your Journey to the Centre of the Earth Really Necessary? (Jules Verne + Edgar Rice Burroughs + Sax Rohmer + Robert E Howard rendered as WWII SF epic fantasy black comedy). You can see above how much chunkier the new one is than its predecessor, but you can’t see that the print for some reason is both larger and more spacious which makes it hard to tell how much longer it really is.

One reason it’s long is that I decided to follow the genre requirement, as I remembered it from childhood favourites like JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH, THE LOST WORLD and (the wretched) ISLAND AT THE TOP OF THE WORLD — it should always take a frustratingly long time for the characters to actually get started on their voyage. This sense of an endless wait was probably a function of my being a kid when I saw these films, and thus much much more interested in the dinosaurs etc than the people who were going to meet them. I wasn’t unique in this: when Spielberg made his first JURASSIC PARK sequel, he followed the advice of kids who had written to him saying Please don’t make us wait so long for the dinosaurs this time. Following their advice helped make the second film worse.

In fact, I think the characters failing to get started is some of my favourite stuff in this book, though it’s possible it could have benefitted from pruning. I’m a bit embarrassed about how fat the book is — like Paul Thomas Anderson when he realised MAGNOLIA was gonna be three hours.

Being sick for almost three weeks has allowed me to make excellent progress on volume 3, which seems to have a more robust structure than the first two — either this is because I’m actually improving, or it’s an illusion caused by the time travel theme, or it’s an illusion caused by me not being quite finished yet. I may be speaking too soon.

I’m a bit concerned that Amazon still hasn’t realised that the Kindle version (here) and the paperback (here) are the same book. Amazon admits this can happen but claims that it always gets sorted out in a week or two. Waiting.

Your complimentary extract: mad scientist camping anecdote.

I hadn’t been camping since boyhood, when I had briefly moved out of the rambling family abode at Bolventor (not far from my present campsite, actually) to observe the local fauna’s reaction to the special feed I’d been leaving out. That adventure had led to a hair-raising encounter with a mutated badger, which, nourished upon the special nutrients I’d supplied, had grown large as an ox and was as a consequence ravenously hungry. Our faithful groundskeeper, Couch, eventually found me, treed by the snorting behemoth, and felled the black monster with his twelve-bore, but not before it had wrenched off his left arm.

I learned to be wary of Couch’s hook after that.

The paperback lives here on Amazon UK. The US version is here. And here’s the Australian.

My Page Seventeens

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 18, 2023 by dcairns

I was bound to do this eventually, I suppose.

(Don’t worry, we’ll get back to MONSIEUR VERDOUX soon.)

On page seventeen of We Used Dark Forces, my first novel, we find this upsetting and mysterious passage:

“I think, either way, his career as physicist is at an end,” said Whitsuntide, as the concentric ripples faded. “The more urgent question seems to me whether you can peal him from the walls and ceiling without getting yourselves enveloped in his skin. I don’t fancy the job and I think I’ll leave you to it. I believe breakfast is served.”

I don’t yet have my author’s copies of the second book, Is Your Journey to the Centre of the Earth Really Necessary?, but I’m fairly sure the seventeenth page will turn out to offer this enticing nugget:

“I want the two of you to get your three collective arse-cheeks to London,” commanded Saucy Cuthbert, as I call him behind his bulky back, “The A.E.I.O.U. is back in business!”

One thing slightly troubles me: the title of my first book riffs on/steals from Dennis Wheatley’s novel of wartime black magic, They Used Dark Forces. I turn the tables on the idea, appropriately for a novel about a species of table-turning, and accuse our own side of wickedness. If the Whitsuntide books have any serious idea at their core, it’s probably that war makes everybody do awful things.

Anyway, the new book takes its title from Jules Verne and also from this British wartime propaganda campaign:

Anyway, what bothers me very slightly is that the third book ought certainly to take its title from H.G. Wells (it has to do with time travel). Though it also has a heavy Moorcock influence. (Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius character, and Robert Fuest’s Cornelius film, THE FINAL PROGRAMME, which Moorcock detests, found its way into the character’s DNA when I first thought of doing a kind of Harry Flashman does Frankenstein thing, and when I showed TFP to Freddie Fox, who played Whitsuntide in my short film, THE NORTHLEACH HORROR. He got obsessed, and rightly so, with Jon Finch’s performance.)

Anyway, the third book does NOT reference Wells or any other fantasy writer in its title, which is Kill Baby Hitler! I just think that’s too good a title not to use, and might actually sell books in significant numbers, providing everyone is down with infanticidal comedy novels. It’s a much better title than Time Machine Washable.

It will, I sincerely hope, still have a pastiche Penguin cover designed by the mighty Danny Carr.

As usual, I have the links for UK and US editions to share:

UK Kindle for WE USED DARK FORCES. UK paperback.

UK Kindle for IS YOUR JOURNEY…? UK paperback.

US Kindle for WE USED… US paperback.

US Kindle for IS YOUR JOURNEY…? US paperback.

I’ll post some other territories next time, on the assumption that if I make it really easy, some Canadian will buy one of the things on a misguided impulse.

(Big thanks to Donald Benson for the awesome image at top.)

Whitsuntide Two

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , on January 13, 2023 by dcairns

My new novel, Is Your Journey to the Centre of the Earth Really Necessary?, is rolling out from Amazon Self-Publishing. The UK Kindle version is here. Soon it should be available elsewhere in the world and in paperback also.

Oh look, here’s the Kindle edition on US Amazon.

Sorry for the price hike, but this one’s longer — much longer. I was kind of appalled to find it clocking in at 595 pages. I’ll get the next one down shorter than that. I’m writing it now and it’s looking good — hopefully the best of the series, and it ought to see print quite soon, unless I hit a wall.

As you can see, this is another Whitsuntide Science Adveture, a direct sequel to We Used Dark Forces (and the short film THE NORTHLEACH HORROR). WWII/sci-fi/horror/comedy, and in this case, the whodunnit angle of the first book is swapped out with (un)heroic fantasy — Edgar Rice Burroughs and his ilk, plus a bit of Sax Rohmer for good luck.

Cover quotes from Sean French and Martin Millar, who were very generous with their time and praise. The splendid cover art is by Danny Carr, featuring actor Steven McNicoll (as McWheattie) photographed by Sue Osmond.

Here’s a quote, to give you a flavour:

Chapter Sixty-Four: The Throgmustard Party

From the Memoirs of General Cuthbert Shillingway

I was at a party at old Orlando “Rollo” Throgmustard’s townhouse when I got the word. Quite a few of us from the various secret services used to attend Rollo’s soirees. I recall Ernest “Boffer” Sash-Panda of B.O.S.H. (Bureau Of Strange Happenings) being present, along with Dominic “Tiddles” McPocalypse of P.O.O.P.O.O. (Paranormal Office Of Psychical Overseas Operations). Webster “Pogo” Staines-Visby was there, the man from T.U.C.K. (Teratological Unpleasantness and Creative Kabbala), Holofernes “Stiffy” Tentwhistle (Secret Quaint Undercover Agent Bureau), Rudiger “Rudder” Bludjoy (Bureau Of Necromantic Conjurations & Esoterica), and good old Jim “Rumpo” Stove-Naseby (Gigantic Robot Ant Branch), all of us involved in top-top-secret doomsday devices, killer bacilli, apocalyptic scenarios and such. A gathering of what some anonymous wag once called the obliterati.

I was a bit of a black sheep at the time, thanks to the unfortunate affair of Captain Beakhead, by this time some thirty foot high and amuck, positively amuck in central London. Fortunately he’d taken root in Trafalgar Square and so posed less danger to traffic, but he’d wrapped his barky form around Nelson’s Column and showed no inclination to shift. Negotiations via megaphone had broken down, the Captain being essentially all-tree at this point and either unable to comprehend or respond to the Queen’s English. One or other of our boffins attempted to get a specially modified tomato plant to translate, but it was nothing doing.

The usual kind of thing, as you can see. You can buy the book(s) for reading pleasure, or think of it as the Shadowplay tax, your contribution towards the continuing free material here.