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Kim J Cowie Author Posts

Blue Monday Diaries

The Blue Monday Diaries – in the studio with New Order, by Michael Butterworth. (Plexus Books)
One for the fans.
In a day-by-day, minute-by-minute diary, Michael—who was there at the invitation of the band and their manager Rob Gretton—documents the making of New Order’s second studio album and the 12-inch single it spawned.
Other people and subjects meander through his narrative including Ian Curtis, Michael Moorcock and Linda Steele, PJ Proby (lots of him), Peter Saville, Malcolm Whitehead, Claude Bessy (who used Savoy-supplied visuals, from comic books to hardcore weirdness, in his role as official Haçienda video jock), Fenella Fielding, Michael Johnson, Open Head Press, the Altrincham music scene. Most of all, the Savoy bookshops themselves—purveyors of literature, comics, bootlegs and independent records in the 1970s and 80s to the Factory and Manchester music scenes.
(Savoy news release)

Eduardo Paolozzi at New Worlds

Eduardo Paolozzi at New Worlds
Science fiction and art in the sixties. David Brittain, Pub. Savoy Books, Dec 2013, 184pp, rrp £17.00

I have a complete set of the large format New Worlds – #173 to #200, which were published from 1967 to 1971, so I was particularly interested to see a book about the magazine and its art.
Michael Moorcock took over editorship of the science fiction magazine New Worlds in 1964, and began changing it from a genre SF magazine to a ‘new wave’ magazine of “speculative fiction.” In 1967, Moorcock obtained a modest Arts Council grant that enabled him to change the format from a paperback to a monthly magazine with half-tone reproduction.
Both Michael Moorcock and leading contributor JG Ballard knew Paolozzi personally, and were interested in modern art, as were other people who worked on the magazine. The purpose of changing to a larger format was to include art that complemented the radical fiction content of the magazine. Paolozzi’s science-fiction tinged art was thought to mesh with this. In the event, very little of Paolozzi’s art appeared in the pages of New Worlds (there was a review article about his work in #174, and an illustration in #178), but he was listed as ‘Aeronautics Adviser’ and was clearly an influence.


David Brittain’s book examines the magazine during it’s prime period, throwing light on the interactions of the art of the time with what Judith Merril and Harlan Ellison called ‘the new wave of science fiction.’
It places Paolozzi’s ‘science fiction’ art of the late ’60s in the context of the new SF and offers fresh insights into the way images and a fragmentary, collages approach to writing informed the controversial prose of Ballard, Moorcock, Brian Aldiss, Norman Spinrad and others.
The book contains rare and unseen images from the archives of New Worlds and the Eduardo Paolozzi Foundation, together with excerpts from what is thought to be an unpublished science fiction novel by the artist. There are also new interviews (by Brittain) with Moorcock and key members of his circle about the magazine and others.

New Worlds covers

The book contains many illustrations in monochrome and colour, including many colour images from Paolozzi’s ‘Moonstrips Empire News’, and most of the New Worlds covers from this period. Footnotes and bibliography are included. David Brittain is a senior lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University.
If you are interested in Paolozzi’s science-fiction inspired art and his influence on the magazine, or merely in this exciting period of the magazine’s history, this is a book well worth acquiring.

Invictus Horror

Invictus Horror by David Britton (Savoy Books, 2013, 134pp, HB)

In Britton’s books “Lord Horror” is a fantastic character inspired by William Joyce, Lord Haw-Haw, of wartime infamy. The principals of Invictus Horror are Meng and Ecker, twins subjected to “scientific” experiments by Josef Mengele. They’re not nice – Ecker is rational but violent and Meng is a mutant with a huge cock and tits. In this novella, the terrible twins are celebrating Christmas at Lord Horror’s residence in Manchester with some unsavoury violent and anti-Semitic activity.
Would-be readers should be aware that, as in his previous Lord Horror novels, Britton counters the ghastliness of Fascism with a ghastly ironic satire. The irony has sometimes been lost on those offended by Britton’s works, his first Lord Horror novel being the last work of fiction to be banned in Britain.

The novella is illustrated by a riot of colour and monochrome illustrations by Kris Guidio, which evoke the fantastical world of Lord Horror but have no direct connection with the text.
Although published this year, and after David Britton’s illustrated Lord Horror novel ‘La Squab’ of 2012, this short novel is a riff on the ending paragraphs of Britton’s ‘Motherfuckers’ which ends with Christmastime in Porchfield Gardens, Lord H’s Manchester residence where the Twins are holidaying.

“Invictus Horror” was fun in its gruesome way. I liked the illustrations a lot, though they’re not matched to the text (there’s no La Squab in the text, for instance.) Not sure if it really develops the Horror opus any further than the four previous books did, but with the artworks it’s a nice book to have.
Savoy Books

The Worm Ouroboros

The Worm Ouroboros by E.R. Eddison (1922)
This is a pre-Tolkien fantasy classic that I read recently as an e-book. I’m not going to attempt a full review, as plenty of others have done that (notably Georges T Dodds at the SF Site), merely point you in its direction. Classic Fantasy novels were written in the 19th and early 20th century by Eddison, Morris, Donaldson and others, but their works have mostly fallen into relative obscurity. I’d heard of Ouroboros and Eddison from time to time but recently realised that I’d never actually read this book, so downloaded a pdf version (it’s out of copyright).
It’s the sort of book that you’ll either think is great, or dismiss as unreadable. It does have its faults: the prose is very ornate, written in an archaic style, and includes occasional quotations, it’s set on Mercury for no good reason other than having it not set on 20th century Earth, the nations are called Demons, Witches, Goblins etc for no good reason, since they’re all essentially human, and the book starts with a framing narration which the author then seems to forget about. (There is also an invasion fleet which the author seems to have forgotten about.) The uncritical glorification of warfare may offend some readers. On the other hand, the story of intrepid adventure and valiant deeds is just brilliant, and has rarely been equalled anywhere.
So if you are intrigued by the idea of reading a fantasy book that isn’t influenced by Tolkien, isn’t a trilogy, and isn’t 7000 pages long, and has a great story, check this out.

Return from the Wild

Return From The Wild by John Roberts Warren (Michael Butterworth, 2012, 306pp, £9.99)
As a youth in the 1950’s, John Warren adopted a puppy born to a collie dog that had gone wild before being shot for sheep-killing. The puppy had been dug out of a fox earth after its mother was shot. John named the red-coated puppy Lassie. The pup turned out to be very wild and unapproachable, but John was determined to keep her on the farm, and was allowed to do so because Lassie did not harm any of the livestock (apart from one gander) and proved her worth as a working dog on more than one occasion, becoming for instance an expert rat-killer.
John became strongly attached to his dog and determined not to let her return to the wild.
Various experts came to look at Lassie, and there was much dispute about whether she was a fox-dog cross. On one hand, this was thought to be impossible, but on the other hand Lassie looked like a fox and behaved like a wild animal.
Some years later, Lassie ran off and gave birth to two fox-coloured pups, which turned out to be much more tameable.
Because of Lassie’s wild nature, John never allowed her to be subjected to the trauma of a DNA test, but a good case is made in the book for Lassie being a fox-dog hybrid. These days scientists should be able to get the DNA from a few dog hairs but not then, I suppose.
The book is illustrated with drawings by wildlife artist Philip Snow.
The glimpses of country life in the 1950’s and 1960’s, and of Warren’s own life, are interesting.
Return From The Wild should be of particular interest to people interested in dogs, country life or social history.

It can be ordered via booksellers or direct from the publisher:
Michael Butterworth

Sieg Heil Iconographers

Sieg Heil Iconographers by Jon Farmer

Savoy Books, the most banned publisher in England, presents the history of their house, part III

Mike Butterworth, co-founding publisher of one of the UK’s most notoriously iconoclastic publishing houses, Manchester-based Savoy Books, has been in touch to let us know about the latest title from Savoy: Sieg Heil Iconographers, by Jon Farmer.

“…. it’s a new and alternative opus on all things Savoy to follow its two prequels, A Tea Dance at Savoy by Robert Meadley and A Serious Life by D.M. Mitchell.

“Perhaps the most eccentric yet, this split-personality manifesto has a text that exalts the intense and the neglected, and a parallel story of rare and arresting visuals scintillatingly designed by John Coulthart.”

Mike tells us that the book is a gatefold trade-paperback, weighing-in at 600+pp, which contains “the usual wide range of eclectic personalities: Moorcock, Mr. Punch, Cervantes, Cawthorn, Ruskin, Mosley, Lash LaRue, The White Stripes, Nietzsche, Adolf, Borges, Ian Brady, Guidio, Eliot, Colette, Butterworth, Fenella Fielding, Harrison, Orwell, Nicholas van Hoogstraten, Lord Horror, P.J. Proby and many more.”

For more, see

Fantasy novel round-up 2

The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gollancz SF) by Scott Lynch
Fantasy novel, about thief and conman Locke. 1 of 3 vols. I liked this; it has interesting characters and has many totally unpredictable plot twists.

The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie.
Vol 1 of a series- this features three entirely different characters, a barbarian fighter, a conceited nobleman and oficer, and a crippled torturer, tells their stories and brings them together. Clearly a set-up for further joint adventures in the following volumes, this is exciting, has interesting characters and is often wryly funny.

Winterbirth by Brian Ruckley
Set in a fantasy world with medaeval types fighting each other, this failed to arouse my interest in any way, and I couldn’t be bothered to finish it. A miss.

The Bone Doll’s Twin by Lynn Flewwlling.
Book 1 of a trilogy.
In a world of magic, a murderous king has usurped a tradition of rule by warrior-queens. Wizards try to protect a royal princess from the fate of other female royals by disguising her as a boy – and stifling her twin brother at birth. The disguising part works, but otherwise things go rather wrong. Sometimes unflinching and with vivid characterisations, sometimes earthy, this is totally absorbing. Recommended.

Fantasy Novel Round-up 1

Shadowfall by James Clemens. (Book One of the Godslayer Chronicles)

The hero, Tylar, has already been crippled and thrown out of the order of Shadowknights. Now his luck gets even worse as he is in the wrong place at the wrong time, when a half-seen sorcerous entity kills the local goddess, and Tylar is blamed. He goes on the run and tries to find out what is really happening, unearthing treachery and corruption among the Shadowknights and the local gods.

Clemen’s world has technology replaced by magic for many things such as flying machines. The plot, unfortunately is also full of mechanisms, and seemed very contrived as the hero runs from one threatening situation to another.

Verdict: not bad enough to cast aside, but not good enough to induce me to read volume 2.

Spirit Gate by Kate Elliot (Book One of ‘Crossroads’) 630pp.
The Hundred has no central government but was formerly ruled by the unearthly Guardians. Now the Reeves, patrollng the land slung under giant eagles, are the only authority, an authority that is slipping as violence and disorder creeps across the land.

The novel follows the stories of Joss, a reeve who has lost his lover, killed by violent insurgents a decade earlier, and two outsiders, Anji, and his wife Mai, fleeing dynastic struggle in an adjacent empire. Anji, a prince of the Qin, has command of two hundred trained warriors. We also follow the tales of other, lesser characters.

Elliot skilfully evokes the settings and the contrasting cultures of the different countries, and does not spare us on the beastliness of medieval life, especially as it affects women. The years of unrest provoke no effective response, nor any grasp of the situation. There is a decent plot as Joss struggles with his own demons and starts to uncover what is going on. Various characters are well drawn, and I began to care what happened to them all. The novel only jars when fantastic things are inserted too abruptly into the story.

Horror Panegyric

Yes, I had to look it up too… Panegyric, a eulogy, panegyrise, to praise highly.

Horror Panegyric by Keith Seward, published by Savoy Books. 125pp.

This short volume is an introduction to the three “Lord Horror” novels Lord Horror (1989), Motherfuckers, the Auschwitz of Oz (1996) and Baptised in the Blood of Millions (2000), also published by Savoy. An essay by Seward introduces the books, and is followed by lengthy excerpts from “Lord Horror” and “Motherfuckers”

Of the three, Lord Horror is mainly known for its un-availability, the result of a vigorous campaign of persecution by the Manchester police (the few extant copies are worth several hundred pounds each), while Motherfuckers was available via Amazon for a time. As you may surmise from the titles, they are not everybody’s cup of tea. The author, David Britton, chose to savage anti-Semitism by means of a brutal and gory satire that was too much like its object of attack for some to see the difference. Mimicking the homophobic rants of the then Manchester chief of police was not a prudent move either. Britton was sent to Strangeways jail for four months.

In the books “Lord Horror” is a fantastic character inspired by William Joyce, Lord Haw-Haw, of wartime infamy. The principals of the second book are Meng and Ecker, twins subjected to “scientific” experiments by Josef Mengele. They’re not nice – Ecker is rational but violent and Meng is a mutant with a huge cock and tits. There’s also a talking Volkswagen car called Herbie Schopenhauer. Auschwitz meets Oz.
Seward hails Motherfuckers as a masterpiece, and argues his case well. The reader can make up his (or her) own mind on reading the excerpts that follow at the end of “Horror Panegyric”. I used to find the three novels just too nasty to read, but after reading the panegyric and the excerpts I am inclined more to think that Seward has a point. He suggests that, just as it was said that it was impossible to write poetry after Auschwitz, a response to Auschwitz is to write in a deliberately barbaric way. The provocativeness of the books is perhaps a measure of their power and importance. Despite their extreme content, the books clearly have not provoked any rioting in the streets (only among police, judges and censors).
In any case, if you are interested in strong, cutting-edge writing, or radical literature, you owe it to yourself to obtain first the Panegyric and then Motherfuckers, and check it out for yourself.

Keith Seward lives in New York.

The Rape of Nanking

“Tokyo” by Mo Hayder.

The Good German of Nanking – the dairies of John Rabe, edited by Erwin Wickert

Two books concerned with the notorious “Rape of Nanking” by the Japanese forces in 1937-38.

The first is a fictional thriller, in which the socially dysfunctional heroine, Grey, has been obsessed since childhood with the tale that a movie film record exists of some of the Nanking atrocities. She travels to Tokyo to interview an aged Chinese survivor of the massacre. She becomes convinced that this man has the film. While trying to persuade him to show her the film, she also gets involves with a nasty Yakuza gangster. The Nanking atrocities as depicted in the novel are also very nasty.

Over to the non-fictional diaries of John Rabe, who was a German businessman who worked in Nanking, running the Siemens office there. When the Japanese invaded, he felt obliged to stay on to protect his firm’s interests, and protect the Siemens Chinese staff and their dependants as best he could. He was also involved, with other foreigners, in setting up a “Safety Zone which they hoped would protect the Chinese civilians from the Japanese soldiers, not to mention the disorderly retreating Chinese troops. He also kept a diary.

One should recollect that at the time Germany and Japan were allies, so there is every reason to accept Rabe’s account as accurate. The Japanese troops killed all Chinese soldiers they could find, and also Chinese men whom they suspected of being soldiers, and broke into buildings looking for women to rape, killing any Chinese who resisted. They looted and destroyed throughout the city, and killed all livestock in the surrounding countryside, and embarked on a systematic looting and arson that eventually left much of the city in ashes. The Chinese were killed for resisting the ravages of the disorderly Japanese troops, or for no reason at all. In total, the number who died is thought to run to around a quarter of a million, though at the time nobody was counting the dead. Rabe’s efforts, though continually frustrated by Japanese indifference, are thought to have saved a similar number.