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Showing posts from September, 2021

Gawain and the Green Knight (1973)

Inspired by the new David Lowery film , I went looking for the version of Gawain and the Green Knight which I remember enjoying on telly back when I was young and impressionable. And I found it on YouTube for free! This was good, because I’m not convinced it would be worth paying for. But it was interesting, and my word, what a cast -  Anthony Sharpe, Ronald Lacey, Pauline Letts, Robert Hardy, Geoffrey Bayldon, Murray Melvin - the cream of mid-tier 1970s British thespery, all slicing it thick and serving it raw. Nigel Green is on particularly fine form as the titular jolly green giant, despite being lumbered with a second rate panto costume and a beard-and-bouffant combo that would make a Bee Gee blanch. The opening scene, where he arrives at Camelot to deliver his challenge, feels very close in spirit to the King Arthur stories I encountered growing up. But the plot quickly veers off-piste. The great Rosemary Sutcliff is credited (mis-spelled) as Script Consultant, and perhaps we have

The Green Knight

I’ve been waiting a long time to see David Lowery’s The Green Knight. It’s been forty years since there was a serious attempt to put Arthurian legend on the big screen, and this one’s release has been delayed several times by the pandemic. Now it’s finally here (in cinemas, and streaming on Amazon Prime). And maybe it’s a case of expectations running too high, but I was a bit underwhelmed.  I’m not entirely sure why. The photography is beautiful, the costumes impressive, the score haunting, the acting strong. When it wasn’t being determinedly artsy-fartsy it reminded me of  Barry Lyndon  (there are some deliberate references, I think - a long tracking shot as Gawain rides away from Camelot along a raised moorland road, an encounter with robbers, the candle lit interiors of Sir Bertilak’s castle). When it  was  being determinedly artsy-fartsy it was more like the dreamlike grail quest sequences in Excalibur : Dev Patel’s Gawain stumbles around on a lot of Irish mountainsides in very mu

Kevin vs the Unicorns

I’ve been so busy trying to point people in the direction of Utterly Dark recently that I’ve forgotten to mention I have ANOTHER book out: Kevin vs the Unicorns . It’s my eighth book with co-writer/illustrator Sarah McIntyre and our fourth story about Kevin, the Roly Poly Flying Pony, and the various goofballs he encounters in the town of Bumbleford. Kevin vs the Unicorns sees Kevin and his friends Max and Daisy discovering the existence of a Magical Pony Club, consisting of snooty unicorns and their even snootier riders. Goaded into entering their steeplechase, Kevin looks set to be humiliated… But, as so often in Bumbleford, SHENANIGANS are afoot, in the form of a cunning attempt to steal the club’s valuable Periwinkle Cup. Can Kevin save the day? Well, he probably can, but the RPFP books are more about how the day is saved, and what stupid jokes we can cram in along the way. I think the stories have been getting funnier, from the quite gentle humour of The Legend of Kevin to the man

Utterly Dark: Building a World

  This is the map of the Wildsea that I worked from while I was writing Utterly Dark. As you can see, it’s a considerably smaller world than the galaxy-wide rail network of the Railhead series , and I think that was part of the appeal: to focus in on a tiny little world in great detail.  Like most of my stuff, it probably goes back to Tolkien. I didn’t consciously base Wildsea on the Shire , but it’s a similar idea - a slightly idealised rural England of the Olden days, but with wild magic lurking just beyond its borders. Here’s a quick tour of some points of interest, starting 1/3 of the way up the west coast at Sundown Watch and moving clockwise.   SUNDOWN WATCH This is the house where Utterly lives, and where much of the action takes place. There’s always something evocative about a house on a cliff top, I think. I remember seeing one at Rinsey in Cornwall many years ago that instantly suggested a story, so that got filed away till the time was right. Around the same time, my fri

Utterly Dark: Welcome to Wildsea

My new novel Utterly Dark and the Face of the Deep is set on the island of Wildsea, in the Autumn Isles. Which is completely made up, of course. OR IS IT? Until a few hundred years ago the Atlantic Ocean was full of islands which gradually turned out not to be islands at all. Antillia (AKA Seven Cities), Buss, St Brandan, Hy Brasil, and Mayda were all thought to exist, and crop up on early maps. In 1498 Spain’s ambassador to London reported that ‘the people of Bristol have, for the last seven years, sent out every year two, three, and four caravels in search of the islands of (Hy) Brasil and the Seven Cities’. But gradually, as sailors began making regular crossings of the Atlantic without bumping into any of those places, cartographers lost confidence in them, and they began to shift their positions on the maps, to dwindle in size, and eventually to vanish completely.  Hy Brasil, on a 1572 map by Abraham Ortelius   Unfortunately the Autumn Isles have suffered the same fate - although

Utterly Dark - Blackwell's Book of the Month

Utterly Dark and the Face of the Deep is here at last, and I'm very honoured that Blackwell's bookshops have made it their Book of the Month for September. Here's a link to their Utterly Dark page , and there's a video of me talking about the book here .  Cover art by Paddy Donnelly