Fiction


The Blue Mountains Radio Players manifest two of my ghost plays, FISHER’S GHOST and SHAKING HANDS, in the ballroom of Katoomba’s Palais Royale Hotel on March 27. The Radio Players raise the spirit of the Golden Age of radio, performing as if going live to air. It’s truly a hoot but be sure to arrive in good time as it has been known to pack out.

Fisher’s Ghost concerns Australia’s most famous spectre, the alleged apparition of a convict, Frederick Fisher, in 1826. While sticking close to the known facts, the play imagines John Farley, who saw the ghost, being interviewed in later years by a paranormal investigator.

Set in a lonely bush hotel in 1877, Shaking Hands is the meeting of a scientist who’s utterly sceptical of the supernatural with an innkeeper who claims to have good reason for being anything but sceptical.

So happy to find the Twisting A Tale writing competition winner is my extract from the ghostly novel I’ve been busy materialising recently! The competition, open globally, was held by the Charles Dickens Museum in London for a tale in the Dickensian spirit, and we all know how the old master relished a ghost story…

You can find the story caught in the web here.

The novel in question (working title Magpie: A Bush Haunting) is a major expansion of my one-act play A Bush Haunting, which was staged in Australia in 2019, directed by Liz de Koster and with Robin Martin, Ralph Andrews and Josephine Pennicott in the lead roles. The play is only a small part of the story now.

Adding to my over-the-moonedness re the result is the fact that, to me, Dickens is the unsurpassable Bradman of English-language novelists. Many thanks to the Dickens Museum, indubitably a London must-see and the very house where he wrote his first three novels. As for his ghost stories, I particularly like The Signalman for atmosphere and The Queer Chair for humouranyway, let us raise a glass of negus to his spirit.

A Bush Haunting photos: above, cast and crew; below (left to right), Joshua Wolterding and Tibby McKenzie; Robin Martin and Ralph Andrews rehearse their fight; Liz de Koster and Ralph in rehearsal.

Inspired by the Books Are Essential movement, I shall sporadically post Interesting & Inspirational Books Of Any Era.

Here’s an excellent novel set in Australia’s early convict past:

THE PLAYMAKER by Thomas Keneally

The first play staged in Australia was a sitcom, The Recruiting Officer, in 1789, with an all-convict cast and a First Fleet marine, Ralph Clark, directing. Keneally brings this bizarre colonial footnote to life in a bewitching blend of fact and plausible imaginings. Clark is sensitively handled, and his relationship with convict-actress Mary Brenham proves quite touching. IMG_E3067

Satisfying splashes of myth and magic often involve the kidnapped Eora man Arabanoo and Cornish ‘witch’ Mary Bryant (later a famous runaway).

Keneally is naturally fond of the colony’s writers such as David Collins and Watkin Tench, to whom we owe much of what we know about those times.

But his synthesis of the play’s content and progress with contemporary colonial doings – such as Arabanoo’s bond with Governor Phillip, marines hanged for theft and a London underworld transplanted intact – is The Playmaker‘s greatest triumph.

 

 

Dimension 6 Annual Collection 2019 (now available from Couer de Lion publishing) features my story The Sirens’ Secret and other tales of wonder and imagination – science-fiction, the fantastique, etc. And sirens! Listen, can you hear them? You can’t resist…

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Issue 17 of online spec fic magazine Dimension6 has cyber-materialised to be read freely over at Coeur de Lion Publishing

I’ve a tale in this one called The Sirens’ Secret, revisiting the famous myth.

To introduce it, here’s an edited extract from my author bio in the issue…

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The Roman emperor Tiberius, whose vital interest was Greek mythology, enjoyed pestering scholars with obscure questions such as ‘What song did the sirens sing?’ His biographer Suetonius called this ‘foolish and ridiculous’.

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I disagree, partly because I share some of the emperor’s fascination for these old tales, but also because the nature of siren song must rank among music’s greatest mysteries. Unlike fairy music, of which brief examples have occasionally been written down, it has been entirely lost to posterity.

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The Sirens’ Secret grew not just from immersion in mythology, but also from a throwaway comment by a famous musician who said he never listens to his old albums because he makes them for other people, not himself. I hope that doesn’t give away too much plot…

PS: The Siren Vase (475 BC), Ancient Greek and in the British Museum, shows Sirens as bird-nymphs. The paintings are The Sirens & Ulysses (1837) by William Etty and below it, Gustav Wertheimer’s The Kiss Of The Siren (1882).

Mightily chuffed and honoured to have my supernatural/historical short story SHARK’S ISLAND swim into this year’s THE YELLOW BOOKE, the annual collection of “original horror, ghost stories and weird fiction” from US-based Oldstyle Press. Shark’s Island (pages 123-132) transports you to the wildest outer limits of Australia’s convict past. Follow the link to read The Yellow Booke (vol iv) free online, or buy a print copy from Amazon at an Amazingly good price.

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As well as putting out the annual Yellow Booke, Oldstyle Press publishes handsomely illustrated and annotated editions representing many of the great masters of classic weird and supernatural fiction – Poe, Shelley, Blackwood, Stoker, Bierce, Dickens, James, RLS and more. Well worth sinking your teeth into!