Thursday, 16 March 2017

The Unofficial Doctor Who Limerick Book!

So, the guys at Long Scarf Publishing have produced another fan-led Doctor Who book for charity. This one is called The Unofficial Doctor Who Limerick Book and it's raising money for MIND.

It's available now to pre-order.

Yes, it does feature some limericks from yours truly.
And yes, I could have written this blog post in limerick form if I'd really tried!

Details on the book and how to order it direct from the publisher are here:
Details on the charity MIND can be found here:
Please do purchase a copy if you can.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

World Book Day 2017

It's World Book Day - yay! This always provokes a mass of '10 Favourite Books'-type lists on social media. I can't pick ten, or twenty - or possibly even fifty. The best I can do instead is pick a favourite book per decade from the 1680s onwards, when my reading really starts. Yup... So here goes!

1680s Aphra Behn Love Letters Between A Nobleman and His Sister

1690s Nothing!

1700s Delarivier Manley New Atalantis

1710s Daniel Defoe Robinson Crusoe

1720s Jonathan Swift Gulliver’s Travels

1730s Eliza Haywood Eovaii

1740s Henry Fielding Joseph Andrews

1750s Laurence Sterne Tristram Shandy

1760s Horace Walpole The Castle of Otranto

1770s Frances Burney Evelina

1780s William Beckford Vathek

1790s Mary Hays A Victim of Prejudice

1800s Thomas Paine The Age of Reason

1810s Mary Shelley Frankenstein; or A Modern Prometheus

1820s Samuel Pepys’ Diary (the first proper publication of the diaries written in the 1660s)

1830s Charles Dickens The Pickwick Papers

1840s Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol

1850s Herman Melville Moby Dick, or The Whale

1860s Wilkie Collins The Woman in White

1870s Lewis Carroll Through The Looking Glass and What Alice Found There

1880s Robert Louis Stevenson The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll & Mr Hyde

1890s Bram Stoker Dracula

1900s Sir Arthur Conan Doyle The Hound of The Baskervilles

1910s Ford Maddox Ford The Good Soldier

1920s James Joyce Ulysses

1930s Aldous Huxley Brave New World

1940s Ernest Hemingway For Whom The Bell Tolls

1950s JRR Tolkein The Lord of The Rings

1960s Anthony Burgess A Clockwork Orange

1970s Douglas Adams The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy

1980s John Irving A Prayer For Owen Meany

1990s Irvine Welsh Trainspotting

2000s Audrey Niffenegger The Time Traveler’s Wife

Authors I love but couldn’t accommodate: Virginia Woolf, Arthur C Clarke, Tobias Smollett, EM Forster.
Hopefully there are some oddities and surprises in the list, along with the predictable crowd-pleasers. 

Also this list ignores all the Doctor Who and associated spin-off novels from the 1960s onwards, as choosing between those is just impossible. 

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Paul & Nessa's Happy Hour Show 43

Not posted a show here for a while - but then the guys at Cranked Anvil have been busy doing other exciting things in theatreland and not uploading their shows to Mixcloud. But here is Show 43, the next in line containing material by me.

With thanks as always to Paul Dunn, Vanessa Karon and Cranked Anvil Productions for using my material in the first place and then for letting me post these shows here on my Blog. For more information check them out at or follow them on Twitter @CrankedAnvil.

Show 43. Sketches written by Paul Dunn, Stephen Philip Druce, David Foster, Tim Gambrell, Michael Monkhouse, Matt Watson, and David Metcalf Jamie McLeish & Andrew Kirkwood as MKM Comedy. Performed by Sarah Boulter, Carole Cooke, Paul Dunn, David Foster, Harriet Ghost, Michael Grist, Vanessa Karon, Wayne Miller, Dolores Poretta, Adam Ramsey, Craig Richardson, Jay Sykes, Stephen Sullivan, and Jordan Todd. Script editor was Paul Dunn. First broadcast 22.06.16.

Paul & Nessa's Happy Hour - the end

September 28th was a very sad day for me, and it's taken me nearly three months to get round to writing about it which I think is rather telling.
I received a tweet from my mate Paul Dunn on that day, asking if I (and actor / fellow writer David Foster who plays Murgala in my sketches) was going to tune in that evening to Paul & Nessa's Happy Hour - those of you who follow this Blog however fleetingly will know that this is the local radio show in Sunderland to which I have contributed comedy sketch material since mid-2015.
I replied in the affirmative - I'd made it a habit to tune in online each week, not just to hear my material performed but also because I really enjoyed the whole show. I rather facetiously tweeted to David that I reckoned we'd be sacked live on air. As it turned out this was almost true! September 28th's show was, very suddenly, the final edition of Paul & Nessa's Happy Hour on Spark FM and we didn't know until Paul announced it live on air.

I was, quite simply, gutted.

That's not me being selfish or egotistical by any means; I wasn't paid for any of the sketches, nor did my involvement earn me any particular kudos or further opportunities. But I did feel massively proud to hear my material performed and broadcast regularly - and even repeated (material must be half decent if producers want to use it more than once!), and Paul & Nessa were very generous with the thanks and credits on air. I always looked upon the whole endeavour as a collaboration: we were all doing it for the love of it, and if it helped bring light to someone's evening then that was a job well done.

No, I was gutted because I really loved the show each week and really felt a part of the team. I understand perfectly Paul & Vanessa's reasons for putting the show on hold; I assume it was a relatively quick decision, since plans were already in place for a Christmas Special with a return for Murgala and some new material which I'd started working on. We remain firm friends (as firm as anyone can be when at opposite ends of the country!) and I hope further opportunities may arise to collaborate again in the future.
There are about fifteen other unused sketches already written (not Murgala), which may see the light of day eventually, we'll see. In the mean time I'll continue to post the Mixcloud editions of the shows as and when they are uploaded so people can follow things through to the end.

Paul & Nessa have very publicly thanked me on a number of occasions. I'd like to thank them, and Cranked Anvil Productions again here for using my material in the first place and bringing a huge smile to my face every Wednesday evening from 21:00 - 22:00.

Thanks guys - and a Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Stuck for Christmas gifts..?

These publications raising money for Charity are still available, to which I have contributed thus far:

All raising money for good causes.


Review: Evil UnLtd. Vol 2: From Evil With Love, by Simon A Forward

Evil UnLtd. Vol.2: From Evil With Love, by Simon A Forward

This is a solid sequel and, if I’m honest, a much better read that Volume One. Where the first book could be accused of having an over-enthusiasm of zany ideas, in places, From Evil With Love is much more tempered and restrained – and potentially funnier, where it needs to be funny; it punches where it needs to punch only, rather than constantly slapping you lightly. But also in its favour the hard work of setting up Evil Unlimited had already been done in Volume One, so the narrative is able to start off pretty much in full stride where the former book had left off. 

A note to begin with: not that I would expect anyone to start with Volume Two, but should that happen I don’t think the reader would get anything like as satisfactory an experience if they hadn’t already read volume one. So… 

This time Snide’s group are faced with a growing collection of ‘goodies’ who have decided that they need to be taken down after the culmination of events in Volume One: Salmon Templar from the Piscapalian Secret Service (*cough* Simon Templar, The Saint), Captain Semper Finion Arcoban of Sysfleet (Captain  S(weet) F.A. – look it up if you have to, don’t make me lower the tone). Unlike with Rolph Stengun in the first book, in Volume Two the author actually makes these goodie characters attractive to the reader - engaging and fun to read in themselves, be that Templar’s obvious James Bond-esque skill with women or Sysfleet’s reliance on email communication for everything (to provide an audit trail), which in the latter case creates some moments of purest comedy gold. 

The title From Evil With Love sets the tone of parody from the start; chapter headings pun further on James Bond films, and the book is merciless with the trappings of the franchise as well – natty vehicles, Miss Geldpfennig, gadgets, sexy women dancing in silhouette in the opening titles, ridiculous amounts of bullets wasted by henchmen who can’t aim for toffee…But the book is not dependent on its reader knowing or picking up on these puns and parodies, as with other victims such as The Saint, Doctor Who, Star Trek and others – they are there to raise a wry smile or even a chuckle if known, but otherwise they can be taken at face value and the story still works perfectly. 

Sysfleet, rather wonderfully, reads like The Federation from Star Trek as if it was run by the Vogons from Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy. Everything is mired in procedure and regulations, and budgets have to be accounted for – biting a thumb at Star Trek: The Next Generation’s claim that humanity by their time had risen above monetary greed in its own particular cosy futuristic utopia.

What all this Sysfleet and Piscapalian Secret Service background does, alongside providing laughs, is add a lot of depth and texture to the book. One thing flows on from the next, and at no point does the action or plot feel forced or contrived – which is very much to the book’s credit. Forward is clearly growing in confidence as a writer and storyteller; From Evil With Love contains instances of non-linear narrative, or narrative that jump cuts without apparent explanation; this toys with and challenges the audience in interesting ways, adding a lot to the ‘readerly’ experience. 

If I had a grumble it would be that the Evil UnLimited crew are rarely gathered together in this story; instead they are split into smaller groups or operating individually. I felt that this diluted the effect of the team – or rather diluted the impact of the team. Having said that, it’s a more domestic setting for them this time around, largely in or about their headquarters on the great tree. There’s plenty for them all to do though - splitting them up allows for better character interplay and development, and means that some characters are less likely to be standing around idle as the more verbose ones hog the limelight. But I still found myself missing the group scenes. You don’t necessarily need four stories all going on concurrently, for example, but if you have four strands of action feeding the main story then it makes sense to split the group’s focus accordingly, if not evenly. 

The book is again split into three episodes, however unlike the first book where the respite from the chaos and humour was a relief the split here feels much less of a necessity. There is continuity of narrative and generally continuity of setting throughout and as the narrative is much more focussed on telling a great story rather than telling it through gags I never felt as fatigued as I occasionally did whilst reading Volume One. 

I should like to remind readers that these books are all written for charity – that’s a considerable creative investment on the part of the author and they deserve to raise as much money as they can for Cancer Research. 

Find out more about the range, plus purchase copies here:

You can follow the author Simon A Forward on Twitter on @prefect4d
I’m looking forward to volume 3…

Friday, 25 November 2016

A Time Lord For Change - unused Drabble for 'Alien Bodies'

As I mentioned in another recent post, I submitted a couple of Drabbles for Chinbeard Books' A Time Lord For Change that weren't used for one reason or another. Here then is the second of those. I had the temerity to propose one for Lawrence Miles' brilliant EDA Alien Bodies. The editors decided in the end they weren't going to go down the route of spin-offs or novels, to keep the book focussed on the TV adventures - which is a fair decision and probably makes the book generally more accessible. Including areas such as the original novels of the 'Wilderness Years' would most likely open a can of (Time)wyrms anyway.

You can find out more about Chinbeard Books and A Time Lord For Change, plus links to purchase it here:

Proceeds from the sale of this book go to the mental health charity MIND

You can follow the editors and publisher on Twitter on @cliffchapman, @eltownendjones; @BarnabyEJ; @ChinbeardBooks

My thanks go to Cliff for conceiving the project and allowing me to contribute, and also to Elton and Barnaby for picking up the baton when needed and pushing the whole thing through to fruition. I sincerely hope the book does well and raises lost of money for such a good cause.

So here then, for your perusal, is my other unused Drabble:

Alien Bodies: ‘Don’t Try The Slurry’

Scientific unit Delta reporting. Meteor F7 found unsuitable, mining resulted in breakup. No loss of resource, but structural damage to saucer. Emergency repair landing on planetoid designated K120t0Ω. Crystalline slurry discovered on planetoid surface. Substance inert, but exhibits high energy potential. Siphoned into hold for further investigation.

Report ends.

Supplemental: Substance shows signs of activity post-launch, bubbling and solidifying at edges. Operatives observing. Behaviour contradicts accepted change of matter states upon injection of energy. Unit leader advises caution.

Supplemental ends.

Further supplemental: Assist! Urgent assist! Slurry has invaded several Dalek casings and-