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Thursday, 31 May 2018

Hereditary

There's a lot of buzz surrounding Ari Aster’s debut feature Hereditary - the movie is being called the best horror film in years and made a major splash at its Sundance Film Festival debut. I'm eager to see this movie - check out the review from The Independent HERE

Listen up

The second book in my widely popular Granny Smith series, that's Miss Marple on steroids, is now available as an audiobook  The book is read, though performed is a more descriptive word, by the talented Fiona Thraille. The audiobook can be purchased from Audible and Amazon and following this LINK will bring you to the product page where you can listen to a free sample of the audio.



There are currently four books in the Granny Smiths series, with a fifth coming later this year. The first two Granny Smith Investigates and Granny Smith and the Deadly Frogs are also available in the audio format, with the others due to follow in due time.

So who is Granny Smith? - well, I suppose the series fits most easily in the cosy crime genre, but these are cosies with balls. The books are quite a bit more earthy than standard cosy titles and readers seem to like the character, and the world she inhabits.

Here are a few samples of the reviews.

I knew from the first few minutes that I was going to enjoy this audiobook and I was right. The dry (yet sassy) humour was spot on and the narration was perfectly matched to the tone of the story. Highly recommended!  


The Welsh elements, the humour, the familiar characters and a well-developed plot combine to produce a better than average cozy mystery. What more could you ask for? Apart from the next in the series?

Wonderful! Reminds me of my mother. An outspoken, senior rebel who seeks to clear up the mystery she finds herself in. A simply delightful character who had me chuckling whilst she dealt with the clues surrounding her. An example of the best cozies around.

tunning! Granny is back with a vengeance. Another murder and she is set on solving it. Can she do so without upsetting the police too badly? She is simply a terrific character who isn't afraid of being herself. Regardless of whether it is politically correct to do so. A wonderful humorous read.

Once again the pipe-smoking granny is on a search for the truth after a 'Save our frogs' activist is found very dead, and yet again she leaves no stone unturned, and of course upsets the local constabulary. A great fun read.


 Audiobook sales are booming - have been increasing year on year for the past several years. They are so convenient and these days a lot of people listen to audiobooks on the smartphones  - they are great for long drives, when jogging, or even potting about in the garden. In fact they can be listened to  in any situation you can imagine - with a well concealed pair of earbuds you can even listen while having sex. Now here's  a way to get hold of the red hot Granny Smith and the Deadly Frogs audiobook for FREE - Simply head over to Audible and start your free trial, and then select Granny Smith and the Deadly Frogs as your first title. 

Happy Bithday Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood makes his 88th birthday today and the Archive would like to wish him many happy returns. The two-time Oscar-winning actor/director continues to push the envelope and shows no signs of slowing down even as he turns 88. A few months ago, Eastwood surprised both critics and audiences alike with his 15:17 to Paris where he got three real-life non-actors to portray themselves on screen and while the reactions ranged from awe to shock, the actor-director has already moved on to his next project. Eastwood is all set to feature both behind as well as in front of the camera on The Mule, where he will be playing a 90-year-old World War II veteran who becomes a drug courier for Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel. Arrested in 2014 in Michigan by the DEA for carrying $3 million worth of cocaine, Leo Sharp was sentenced to three years after his lawyer claimed that Sharp suffered from dementia, which was responsible for making the old man take the wrong path in life.

The Mule sounds really interesting but what I would like to see is Eastwood directing another western.

The Walking Dead now waiting for the fat lady to take the stage

Walking away
The Walking Dead, AMC's once essential show, has been on shakey ground for awhile and reports are that its rating are in free fall - the last episode wimped out on a big climax to the Negan storyline instead, keeping the character we all wanted to see beaten to death with his own baseball bat alive. The season also lost Chandler Riggs (reports later surfaced that he was fired) and now it has been confirmed that the lead star, Andrew Lincon is to leave the show at the end of the next season.

 Andrew Lincoln will be growling his way through the post-apocalyptic setting for just one more season before calling it quits. And while is is not known how the  founding character makes his exit, it has been reported  that fans can only expect to see Lincoln in half-a-dozen episodes of the upcoming season.

The show runners are hoping that pushing the popular Norman Reedus into the starring role, will save the show but I can't help feeling that someone should have trusted frank darabont in the first place and not replace him after a first season that has never been bettered throughout the show. This show will go down in history as one of the most promising shows on TV transforming into a mismanaged, boring, self destructive shell of its former self. It’s a sinking ship, proved by the fact that all of the remaining stars are leaving as fast as they can.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Granny Smith assaults your ears

The second book in my widely popular Granny Smith series, that's Miss Marple on steroids, is now available as an audiobook  The book is read, though performed is a more descriptive word, by the talented Fiona Thraille. The audiobook can be purchased from Audible and Amazon and following this LINK will bring you to the product page where you can listen to a free sample of the audio.

assaults

There are currently four books in the Granny Smiths series, with a fifth coming later this year. The first two Granny Smith Investigates and Granny Smith and the Deadly Frogs are also available in the audio format, with the others due to follow in due time.

So who is Granny Smith? - well, I suppose the series fits most easily in the cosy crime genre, but these are cosies with balls. The books are quite a bit more earthy than standard cosy titles and readers seem to like the character, and the world she inhabits.

Here are a few samples of the reviews.

I knew from the first few minutes that I was going to enjoy this audiobook and I was right. The dry (yet sassy) humour was spot on and the narration was perfectly matched to the tone of the story. Highly recommended!  


The Welsh elements, the humour, the familiar characters and a well-developed plot combine to produce a better than average cozy mystery. What more could you ask for? Apart from the next in the series?

Wonderful! Reminds me of my mother. An outspoken, senior rebel who seeks to clear up the mystery she finds herself in. A simply delightful character who had me chuckling whilst she dealt with the clues surrounding her. An example of the best cozies around.

tunning! Granny is back with a vengeance. Another murder and she is set on solving it. Can she do so without upsetting the police too badly? She is simply a terrific character who isn't afraid of being herself. Regardless of whether it is politically correct to do so. A wonderful humorous read.

Once again the pipe-smoking granny is on a search for the truth after a 'Save our frogs' activist is found very dead, and yet again she leaves no stone unturned, and of course upsets the local constabulary. A great fun read.


 Audiobook sales are booming - have been increasing year on year for the past several years. They are so convenient and these days a lot of people listen to audiobooks on the smartphones  - they are great for long drives, when jogging, or even potting about in the garden. In fact they can be listened to  in any situation you can imagine - with a well concealed pair of earbuds you can even listen while having sex. Now here's  a way to get hold of the red hot Granny Smith and the Deadly Frogs audiobook for FREE - Simply head over to Audible and start your free trial, and then select Granny Smith and the Deadly Frogs as your first title. 

Strangers on a Film

'By 1950 I had almost pulled myself free from this primordial swamp that is Hollywood.' Raymond Chandler.

Chandler was no fan of the Hollywood machine and the way it chewed up writers in order to churn out scripts to keep the cogs turning and deliver product to the silver screen.


'If actors are cattle then writers are thoroughbred horses,' Alfred Hitchcock

Chandler and Hitchcock would work together on the movie, Strangers on a Train based on the book by Patricia Highsmith. The result was a disaster with Chandler's script being tossed aside, but the writer still received a writers credit. The BBC Radio play, quite excellent it is too, embedded below tells the whole story. Star Trek's Patrick Stewert plays Chandler, while Clive Swift is Hitchcock. The play was First broadcast at 14.15 on 29/09/2011 for Afternoon Drama





Tuesday, 29 May 2018

She's back - larger than life and pushing against political correctness.

The second book in my widely popular Granny Smith series, that's Miss Marple on steroids, is now available as an audiobook  The book is read, though performed is a more descriptive word, by the talented Fiona Thraille. The audiobook can be purchased from Audible and Amazon and following this LINK will bring you to the product page where you can listen to a free sample of the audio.

There are currently four books in the Granny Smiths series, with a fifth coming later this year. The first two Granny Smith Investigates and Granny Smith and the Deadly Frogs are also available in the audio format, with the others due to follow in due time.

So who is Granny Smith? - well, I suppose the series fits most easily in the cosy crime genre, but these are cosies with balls. The books are quite a bit more earthy than standard cosy titles and readers seem to like the character, and the world she inhabits.

Here are a few samples of the reviews.

I knew from the first few minutes that I was going to enjoy this audiobook and I was right. The dry (yet sassy) humour was spot on and the narration was perfectly matched to the tone of the story. Highly recommended!  


The Welsh elements, the humour, the familiar characters and a well-developed plot combine to produce a better than average cozy mystery. What more could you ask for? Apart from the next in the series?

Wonderful! Reminds me of my mother. An outspoken, senior rebel who seeks to clear up the mystery she finds herself in. A simply delightful character who had me chuckling whilst she dealt with the clues surrounding her. An example of the best cozies around.

tunning! Granny is back with a vengeance. Another murder and she is set on solving it. Can she do so without upsetting the police too badly? She is simply a terrific character who isn't afraid of being herself. Regardless of whether it is politically correct to do so. A wonderful humorous read.

Once again the pipe-smoking granny is on a search for the truth after a 'Save our frogs' activist is found very dead, and yet again she leaves no stone unturned, and of course upsets the local constabulary. A great fun read.


 Audiobook sales are booming - have been increasing year on year for the past several years. They are so convenient and these days a lot of people listen to audiobooks on the smartphones  - they are great for long drives, when jogging, or even potting about in the garden. In fact they can be listened to  in any situation you can imagine - with a well concealed pair of earbuds you can even listen while having sex. Now here's  a way to get hold of the red hot Granny Smith and the Deadly Frogs audiobook for FREE - Simply head over to Audible and start your free trial, and then select Granny Smith and the Deadly Frogs as your first title. 


Friday, 25 May 2018

Book Review - Darkness on the Edge of Town Brian Keene

I really enjoyed this book, got sucked into the apocalyptic story but the ending just threw the whole experience for me - it was a cold ending that didn't offer any payback for the time spent with the characters. It's a pity, because the story itself was compelling.

Comparisons to Stephen King are inevitable - Darkness on the Edge of Town is  similar to some of King’s works, including The Mist and Under the Dome - In fact at one point in the novel the characters take a device - that of forming a human chain to enter the dark - used in Stephen King's, Mist. The author is aware of this and has one of the characters say, 'I got the idea for this from that movie, The Mist.'

I liked that; it made me smile.

And to be honest writers borrow ideas from other writers all the time - Stephen King's The Mist for example owes a lot to James Herbert's, The Fog. In fact I could make a long list of books that have used similar engines to drive their plots, and maybe that's a subject for a future post.


  The plot is - one day the inhabitants of Walden, Virginia wake-up to darkness. The world as they know it is gone. All communication outside the town of roughly 11,000 has ceased, and an inky blackness has settled across the sky and near outskirts. The residents do not know what has happened or why. They don't even know if there is still a world outside the darkness, and it soon becomes clear that Walden may be the only town left on the entire planet.

The working class characters are superbly realised and the sense of dread drips from each and every word - the scene in a pet shop is particularly effective and if not for the ending I would have given this book full marks. Maybe the standard of the book was so high that delivering an ending that doesn't really go anywhere and wasn't really satisfying was even more galling. Still, I loved the book for the most part - this is the first I've read by this author, and I'll certainly be reading more.


Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Stephen King still seething over The Shining

Stephen King's dislike of Kubrick's acclaimed movie based on his book The Shining is well known, and in his new book, The Outsider King takes a pop at the director. A character in The Outsider is watching Stanley Kubrick’s, Paths of Glory. The reason for this is  because she thinks it’s better than The Shining.

The Shining is widely considered one of the best horror films ever made, but King has never been shy about expressing his disdain for it. He’s referred to Shelley Duvall’s Wendy as “one of the most misogynistic characters ever put on film,” Kubrick as someone who “thinks too much and feels too little,” and the film itself as “a big, beautiful Cadillac with no engine inside it.”


Cheyenne, will your heart stay free and light

Clint Walker, a true western icon, died this week at the age of 90. His death was confirmed by his daughter, Valerie Walker, who said the cause was congestive heart failure. Mr. Walker lived in Grass Valley, about 60 miles northeast of Sacramento.

For seven seasons from 1955-61, he played Cheyenne Bodie, a rambunctious wanderer in the post-Civil War West, on the ABC series Cheyenne.He also reprised the character in an episode of  Maverick.

Walker was also a singer. He sang a number of tunes on a 1957 episode of “Cheyenne,” issued a Christmas album in 1959, performed on an episode of “The Jack Benny Program” in 1963 and sang in the film “Night of the Grizzly.”

Next to his iconic role in Cheyanne he was probably most famous for his turn as one of the convict soldiers in Robert Aldrich’s star-packed 1967 classic The Dirty Dozen.

The Dirty Dozen were:

Charles Bronson - Joseph T. Wladislaw
Jim Brown - Robert T. Jefferson
John Cassavetes - Victor Franco
Trini Lopez - Pedro Jiminez
Telly Savalas - Archer J. Maggott
Donald Sutherland - Vernon L. Pinkley
Clint Walker - Samson Posey
Tom Busby - Milo Vladek
Ben Carruthers - Glenn Gilpin
Stuart Cooper - Roscoe Lever
Colin Maitland - Seth K. Sawyer
Al Mancini - Tassos R. Bravos

Rest in Peace, Sir...an impressive body of work is left behind.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Shing light on Universal's Dark Universe

I'm a massive fan of Universal's  horror movies of the 30's and 40's - those halcyon days when Karloff, Lugosi and Chaney ruled the silver screen. And it was dissapointing when last year's The Mummy,starring that annoying hobbit Tom Cruise, intended to kick start the monster series again under the Universal Dark Universe banner flopped.

This was not the first time that Universal have tried to kick start their famous monsters for a modern audience - way back in 2014 the studio released, Dracula Untold but that too went belly up at the box office.

It seemed that Universal's monsters would remain a fond memory - though there may be hope for Dark Universe after all - this past week the  artist, Robert Vargas  posted on his Instragram account.


"Great meeting this morning with the amazing #DarkUniverse team. Thank you #Universal Exec, Holly Goline and Crash for the hospitality. Looking forward to contributing to the Universal Pictures legacy with my work. Monster things in the works ;) Stay tuned!"

So are Universal still interested in getting their shared universe series off the ground?

 It certainly sounds like Universal is still trying to get their monster-fueled franchise up and running. The nascent cinematic universe was slated to kick off with The Mummy in 2017, but the movie was a critical and commercial dud. It was reported recently that Universal would try to salvage Dark Universe with a movie based on arguably their finest moment, the Bride of Frankenstein.

I do hope that Universal stick with their plans for the Dark Universe. I don’t think having these monster movies star Hollywood’s A-listers was the right way to go. These monsters have persevered for decades now on the popularity of their characters alone. Fuck, Tom Cruise and cast  unknown names – that's largely what Marvel did with their cinematic universe. People like Tom Cruise bring baggage with them - he's no Jack Reacher and he's nowhere near Boris Karloff.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Fangoria returns from the grave

Some kids want to grow up to be star athletes, I wanted to be a horror novelist. That was the dream. I always knew I wanted to be some kind of writer but then, when I was thirteen, my mother bought me a paperback of The Shining from the drug store. I’d read those “Great Illustrated Classics” all throughout my childhood, but The Shining was the first unabridged, uncensored, honest-to-goodness adult book I read and when I was done with it I knew for sure, yeah, I want to be a horror writer. And now it’s happening.” Preston Fassel told Dread Central regarding the forthcoming publication of his first novel. Not only is he to see his book in print, but he is to have the honour of being the first author published under the new, Fangoria Presents imprint.

The book in question is Our Lady of the Inferno and although it was previously available as a eBook, the Fangoria edition will see it in the mass market.

Fangoria of course is the American horror magazine which was first published in 1979 and is arguably the most prominent horror title of them all. Over recent years it looked as if the title would vanish from print all together - It's last print issue, number 344, hit the stands in October of 2015, and .that it seemed was it for the magazine. However the news recently broke that the print magazine will return this coming October as a luxury quarterly publication. The Fangoria brand has been purchased by the Texas-based entertainment company Cinestate, and they have confirmed that the magazine will now be published quarterly, beginning in October of 2018, with subscriptions available at fangoria.com.

There is more exciting news from the Fangoria camp - it seems  that not only are they coming back as a quarterly magazine but they’re also launching Fangoria Presents, a label dedicated to releasing branded books and films! To kick off this new venture, the label has announced Fangoria Presents #1 as Preston Fassel’s Our Lady of the Inferno, a novel that will be released this September.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Book Review: Lair by James Herbert

Lair is a sequel to Herbert's 1974 debut novel, The Rats and although it is more of the same it is very much a far more assured book than the excellent first novel. Between writing The Rats and Lair, Herbert published four other novels and his development as a writer is evident in the way Lair is structured.

The Rats simply powered along with no space for the reader to breathe but whilst Lair is also paced at a breakneck speed, it does offer several quieter character building moments. The slower build up to the mayhem is very effective, and the author teases the reader in several scenes in which characters glimpse the rats but they don't attack. Much more is made of the creatures intelligence this time around and it makes them all the more terrifying.

This time the action is moved from the London slums and takes place in and around Epping forest - there's a sub plot in which the forest gets the Amnity Island treatment when the authorities try to avoid closing down the forest to tourists when the mutant rats are first discovered, but as things escalate they have no choice and the forest is evacuated.

What follows is a tour de force of horror storytelling, leading to one of the most thrilling climaxes I've ever read. Excellent.


The Sickest Writer on the planet - Shaun Hutson interview


Shaun Hutson has always bucked the system - he's still doing it. After being expelled from school he fell into a number of jobs, none he could hold for too long - shop assistant, cinema usher and a barman. Indeed if he hadn't taken the plunge and become a full time author in 1983 then Shaun would probably still be on that treadmill of job after job. He's writtern in every genre imaginable westerns, war, crime and he's still bucking the system and where most of his contemporaries from the horror boom period of the 80's have vanished he's still here, alive and kicking and selling books.

Biographical details are scarce but there is some information on Shaun's official website.

According to Shaun's website.

He is a reformed alcoholic with diagnosed psychotic tendencies, is very unsociable and likes to shoot pistols for a hobby, he has appeared on stage with his rock band idols, Iron Maiden on numerous occasions, has received death threats in relation with his work, supports Liverpool and never misses a home game and a quote on one of his books once said, he (Shaun) has done for literature what Hitler did for Poland.

Before starting the interview Shaun was pleased to see I am published by Robert Hale and informed me that he started out with Hale many years ago.

" I used to be published Robert Hale (I’m sure I mentioned it). I did eleven war novels for them when I first started writing and will always have a soft spot for them as they published my first ever novel BLOOD AND HONOUR. Anyway, enough of that, on to your questions… "

AND SO THE TAINTED ARCHIVE IN CONVERSATION WITH SHAUN HUTSON - This interview was first posted in 2010



TA: I've often heard you called the sickest writer on the planet. How does this make you feel?




SH: I have no objection at all to being called the sickest writer on the planet, just as I never objected to the other nicknames like The Godfather of Gore, the Shakespeare of Gore and stuff like that. I suppose it’s better to be remembered as something. It depends on your definition of sick really. Writing horror all these years I suppose I’d have been more pissed off if people had labelled me “a really nice writer”. So, feel free to call me sick.




TA: You're sick - seriously you have survived the horror boom years of the 80's when so many of the other once familiar names have vanished. Why is this do you think?


SH: It’s just a pity those horror boom years ever went away. I’ve said it many times before and I’ll keep saying it but I think horror is a dead genre (it certainly is as far as publishers are concerned). Stuff like Twilight has been successful but it all seems to be vampires and werewolves. The shelves are covered with shit that looks like it was inspired by the Underworld films which were bad enough anyway. There’s no traditional horror being published anymore, not by big publishers anyway. They’re all too busy with crime and serial killers. It’s almost as if they’re saying “see we were right all those years ago to turn our noses up at horror.” Bastards. I haven’t a clue why I survived and some other authors fell by the wayside. Probably because my fan base is so loyal. My readers are different. A cut above the rest and they’ve always supported me no matter what I’ve done and I’m grateful for that.


TA: In recent years you seem to have branched out into crime. Do you prefer writing crime or horror?


SH: Lots of people have told me I’ve been writing crime but I can’t say as I’ve noticed. I just write my new book every year, I never think which category it’s going to fall into. I write about what interests me at the time, what grabs me as a writer. I never think about current trends or stuff like that. I just do what I want to do and hope that people will like it. That’s what I’ve always done. If I had any sense I’d be trying to write fucking detective novels or books about forensics and serial killers because that’s all publishers seem to want but I’ve never made that cross over into the thriller genre because bookshops are too intent on putting authors into their ready made categories. The book business is so regimented as far as defining authors goes. Once you write two books in one genre that’s you stuck there for all time in the eyes of the book business.

TA: One of your most successful books, Slugs was turned into a movie. It was dire and I'v
e heard you've disowned it. Why?


SH:
I don’t think I ever disowned SLUGS the movie but I always made sure that people knew I had fuck all to do with it. The thing is, when you sell film rights you know that what turns up on the screen is going to be nothing like what you originally wrote (unless you’re fucking J.K. Rowling) so you just accept it. Or you should. It makes me sick when I hear authors moaning about how bad adaptations of their books are. I just think, they paid you shit loads for the rights, shut the fuck up and enjoy it. Having said that, the company that made SLUGS didn’t even pay me enough to soften the blow but what can you do?


TA: During the Eighties you cut quite a flamboyant image for a writer, what with appearing on stage with rock icons, Iron Maiden. Are you still Maiden's biggest fan?



SH: I’m pretty sure that Iron Maiden have got lots of fans more devoted than me. I love their music though. I have since their very first album and getting the chance to meet them and work with them on and off over the years has been wonderful. We’re all about the same age and they’ve managed to survive all the trends that have come and gone, just doing what is so recognisably their style and I’d like to think that there are similarities between the two of us (apart from the fact that they’re multi-millionaires…) in as much as they’ve remained faithful to their audience and never sold out.


TA: When I was in my late teens, the Eighties again, shops were full to the rafters with horror novels but these days the genre is far less visible. Where do you see the future for horror?


SH: I’m not sure the horror genre has got a future to be honest. Not with big mainstream publishers. It’s weird because there are so many horror films at the cinema and yet, for the only time in my life as a writer, that trend hasn’t been adopted by the publishing business. Horror films appear by the dozen every year and yet the publishers still cut back on their horror and bookshops stock less and less of it. It’s very depressing. They obviously need more shelf space for all the crime novels and the truck loads of ghost written fucking celebrity books that now pollute our bookshops. When Jordan can have the number one selling novel and Chris Moyles autobiography is a best seller then you know how deep in the shit the book business is. And how bad a state society in general is in for that matter…but anyway


TA: Writers you yourself admire?


SH: I don’t read fiction so I can’t really say. Well, not new fiction anyway. If I read new books then it’s non fiction but as for fiction, other than Thomas Harris, I can’t be bothered (as he only writes one every seven years it’s not too much of a stretch). I’ve just re-read LEGION by William Peter Blatty who was a wonderful writer and I’m reading a novel by Jim Thompson at the moment (written in about 1954, I think). I read Raymond Chandler sometimes and occasionally some older short stories but other than that I don’t read fiction unless it’s something that really leaps out at me, like something I notice in the review pages of the paper (I started reading a book called The Chatelet Apprentice around Christmas but never finished it) I never, if I can help it, go in bookshops either so most of the stuff that’s on my shelves is about seven or eight years old.




TA: Slugs is a total gross out novel, great fun and at the time it was published we had already been terrorised by rats, crabs, cats and seemingly every creature under the sun. What made you chose to write about slugs?



SH:To be honest, it wasn’t me who chose to write about Slugs. I wanted to do it about leeches (because of the vampire possibility too) and my agent of the time who’d read a novel I wrote called Deathday that featured a giant slug said why not do a novel all about slugs. I couldn’t see the mileage in it until I started researching and, happily, as usual he was proved right and I was wrong. The slugs novels were great fun to write and Slugs will always be very dear to my heart because it is the novel I’ll always be remembered for. I could win the Booker Prize (well, not really, I’m joking but you know what I mean) and I’d still be known at the bloke who wrote slugs but like I said before, it’s nice to be remembered for something. I’ve got nothing against them in real life by the way but I do find them pretty revolting. But so do lots of people. Maybe that was why the book worked.


TA: And finally will the mutated slugs ever return?


SH: I can’t imagine there’ll ever be another Slugs book. Not unless we could all get in a time machine and go back to the 80’s (not a bad idea…). It was always intended as a trilogy…(sorry..) but I can’t see the third one ever being done now, certainly not with the demise of the horror genre in general but I must admit, it would be nice to do it. I think I’ve still got the plot lying around somewhere….Or maybe I will get around to doing that one about leeches eventually…Actually, I wrote a scene in my new novel the other day about a guy having a nightmare about slugs…maybe it was an omen….


Watch this space as they say - The Tainted Archive thanks Shaun for his time.

Shaun's website can be found HERE

Duffle Coats, Double Features and Dracula invades South Wales

Duffle Coat Manor doesn't have that much of a ring to it and yet that was the locally used name for the manor house that Hammer films turned into Bray Studios.

The house had been used immediately following the war to store duffle coats -  but the roof leaked and the coats took in so much water, swelled to blob like propotions, that the weight caused the entire inside of the building to collapse, and when Anthony Hinds visited the building it was little more than a shell.  The film company  took over residence of the manor house in 1951 - Initially the building was rented for studio space but a year later it was purchased and became world famous as the home of Hammer Films. The colourful nickname of Duffle Coat Manor has now been largely forgotten, a footnote in the history of this remarkable studio.

When I was growing up - I was ten years old in 1975 and during this period the movies were regularly shown on late night television, usually as a double bill - my parents took their parental responsibility seriously and I was never allowed to stay up to watch the movies. Maybe they considered the movies too scary, too graphic for my young mind. Though I think the real reason was that they didn't want me staying up after they had retired and munching  all the chocolate biscuits. The reason matteres not but it resulted in the movies taking on the status of forbidden fruit. And we all know that forbidden fruit taste better than any other kind.

BBC2 was the channel and  usually on a Saturday night they would start a horror movie double bill - the channel regularly ran a double bill horror season from 1975 until 1981. The show would start somewhere around 11pm and go on until 1am - then we would get the test card as the station closed down for the night - I shit you, not. TV used to close down in those days. The days of 24 hour TV were still some years away. Often it would be a double bill of the old black and white Universal horrors, and I loved those too, but on times they would select films from studios such as Hammer and Amicus. These two British studios produced films where the blood dripped impossible red and the heaving breasts were bared. I reckon I saw my first pair of tits in a Hammer movie and believe me that leaves a lasting impression - thank you Ingrid Pitt.

'Critical opinion doesn't really concern us at Hammer. We judge our films at the box office. We're a perfectly commercial company. We turn out films we think are fairy tales.' Michael Carreras, Hammer Films.


Hammer movies were my faves - the company had started out during the Thirties, and produced a spooky thriller, The Mystery of the Mary Celeste in 1935 which starred Bela Lugosi - in a sense this was the studio's first brush with Dracula given that Lugosi was Hollywood's best known Count Dracula.During the war Hammer were largely inactive. The company was reformed in 1947 as the production arm of Exclusive Pictures. There's an interesting story there, of how Hammer transfomed from a low budget studio, producing cheap comedies and thrillers to a name that became synonymous around the world with horror movies.

That's a post for another day,though - for now let's go back to those double features.


This LINK will take you to a You Tube video from 1977 of Kenny Rogers talking about the Horror Double Bills.

Now I vividly remember sneaking downstairs one Saturday night after everyone else had gone to bed, and switching on the TV. I kept the volume low and didn't dare turn on the lights and this was my first experience of Christopher Lee as Dracula. Checking back in BBC listings I think this must have been the 14th September 1976, I was two months aways from my 12th birthday, and I think the movie was Dracula: Prince of Darkness. This was the first Hammer movie I'd ever seen and I was transfixed to the screen, which often ran blood red. The reason this sticks so clearly in my mind is because that night I had the most vivid nightmares and my father had to run in when I woke up screaming, pointing, yelling - 'He's behind the door.'  True story that, not a word of a lie and I'm sure my father remembers it. After all he went bat shit crazy the following day when he discovered the dent I'd made in the packet of chocolate biscuits.


Of course today the films have dated, but there's a certain something to a Hammer film that makes them so watchable. Horror films today are far more graphic, the special effects more realistic but give me a Hammer movie over the adventures of Jason or Freddy any day of the week.

Monday, 14 May 2018

The Return of the Sea Monkeys

Me yearning for sea monkeys
I’ve talked about some of the more outrageous classified AD’s in old magazines before but this week I saw a Sea Monkeys set  – seeing the creatures (thingies) on sale reminded me of how they once seemed almost magical to me.


You see I was brought up in a small town called Gilfach Goch, which was three miles and the next left,  after the back end of beyond. Now as a kid growing up in the Seventies I had the usual boyish interests of the time. I wore t-shirts , flared trousers, bumper training shoes, and rode a Chopper bicycle while sucking on a spangle.Back then I had a mania for comic books. In those days the British comics – Battle, Action, 2000AD were my favourites but I would also buy the American titles when I had enough pocket money left over.

Now one thing that was always advertised in American comics at the time were a mysterious thing called sea monkeys. They looked so cool - little creatures that lived in a fish bowl and set up elaborate societies - least that's what the adverts suggested.  These guys looked so cool but it was frustrating as hell because there was nowhere for a British kid to get hold of them - it seemed that America had all the best tricks.

Man, having some sea monkeys of my own was a dream but alas, one that was tragically out of reach.

They looked so cute on the packaging and I know that, even as a kid, I should have known better but that was exactly how I imagined them to look. The AD's only cemented this delusion.




"Sea-Monkeys® are a true miracle of nature. They exist in suspended animation inside their tiny eggs for many years. The instant-life crystals, in which the eggs are enclosed, preserve their viability and help to extend still further their un-hatched life span! Sea-Monkeys are real Time-Travelers asleep in biological time capsules for their strange journey into the future!"
 
Anyway the years went by - hairstyles changed, flared trousers vanished, my Chopper was replaced by a drop handle - by this time I had acne and a new found interest in girls but still in the back of my mind I had this unfulfilled desire for some sea monkeys.


I eventually came across some in a joke shop in Blackpool when I was about sixteen - far too old for that sort of thing. But I bought them and couldn't wait to get them home and place them in a tank for the creatures to hatch. I started thinking up names for them and all of a sudden I was that young kid again.

Anyway they eventually hatched, were too small to see unless you held them up to the light and squinted and I quickly got fed up of them. Turns out they are actually a species of brine shrimp and they do not look like the illustrations on the packets. They're kind of boring and merely looked like tiny specks floating in water. I think I got drunk one day on booze stolen from a friend's parents and actually drunk my small bowl of water, sea monkeys and all.

And I tell you another thing those X-ray specs that  allowed you to see through women's clothing didn't work either.


Sea monkeys are still available - in fact a bowl full of the critters are currently residing on my kitchen windowsill.

Check out the web site
 

The Horror of Sherlock Holmes

So suitable for the British horror studio was Conan Doyle’s, The Hound of the Baskervilles that it could have been written with Hammer Films in mind. Indeed following their success with revamping the Dracula and Frankenstein franchises Hammer turned to the most famous fictional detective of them all, Sherlock Holmes for this movie which was intended to be the first in a new series with Peter Cushing in the title role. Alas the movie didn’t perform as well at the box office as expected and plans for the series were scrapped while Hammer concentrated on more gothic material. Pity really – I would have loved to have seen Hammer tackle The Giant Rat of Sumatra.

The film looks like a Hammer movie – the colour is excellent, garish in places with all that over saturated red and the gothic elements that the studio did so well, are brought out in Doyle’s story like never before. Of course they were always there, even in the original story but Hammer emphasise these parts of the storyline without really altering the original. There are some differences to the original story – Stapleton’s webbed hands for one thing, the tarantula attack for another but these work well within the story and indeed the  webbed hands carried by one line of the Baskerville clan is inspired and is a nice little macabre touch.

Peter Cushing here gives an excellent performance as Sherlock Holmes – the actor was a Sherlockian himself and he brings his knowledge of the character to the role. Andre Morell is a more than suitable Watson. It is also nice to see Christopher Lee playing a romantic lead role and one wonders what would have happened had he played more such roles. He is certainly convincing here. All in all this is a great Sherlock Holmes movie and under the direction of Terence Fisher the ponderous middle section so obvious in most productions of this story moves along at a great pace.

Why wasn’t it a big box office hit then? Well the blame for this lies with Hammer themselves. They promoted the movie as a big horror flick in the style of their successful Dracula and Frankenstein movies, with hardly any mention that this was in fact a Sherlock Holmes movie. The advertising posters suggested a kind of werewolf but when we see the hound on screen it is nothing more than an over sized Great Dane. Movie fans back in the day may have been disappointed – after all, they were going to see a film starring Hammer’s two biggest horror icons with a large slavering hound in the advertising posters and what they got  Sherlock Holmes adventure. A damn thrilling one nonetheless but word of mouth could have harmed the movie after its strong opening weekend. 

Still the movie’s stood the test of time and this is a great version of the much filmed story – it’s also nice to see the current DVD version showing such an impressive looking cut of the movie. The colours are vibrant and the sound booming. It is only a pity that it is a full frame 4.3 version on the UK release when I believe the American market get a true widescreen version.

Peter Cushing would of course go onto play Holmes for the BBC, but his performance as the detective here is perhaps his definitive stab at the part. Christopher Lee also got a stab at playing both Watson and Holmes in future Holmes movies but the less said about them the better.

Vintage Movie Review: The Nanny (1965)

 Made in 1965, Hammer Studios made a good choice in deciding to make the movie in old school black and white – there are some effectively blocked shots here, shadows dancing over Bette Davies’s face, caressing and highlighting her bone structure, that just wouldn’t be the same in colour, especially the blood red tones Hammer are known for.

The movie is not the standard horror picee that Hammer became famous for, but rather a clever psychological thriller that will keep new viewers guessing right up to the very last reel.
“Is it Master Joey who is actually mad? Or is he right about his seemingly gentle nanny? Is she actually a barmy fruitcake with murder in mind?

When I placed the disc in the player, I was of the impression that I’d never seen this movie before but a few minutes in and I realised that I had seen the film before, though long ago on a TV viewing and I’d not realised the film was done by Hammer who I associated with Dracula, Frankenstein and other gothic chillers. Mind you I didn’t really remember that much, just had the vague impression that I’d seen it somewhere. sometime. And so I was not sure how things would turn out and then cleverly laid aura of mystery completely enveloped me.
the nannyWhen we are first introduced to Master Joey (William Dix) we are shown a troubled, though clever little boy who has a very black sense of humour. He scares one of the teachers at his home for disturbed children, by rigging up a device that makes it look as if he has hung himself, within the first few minutes of the movie. And as soon as he returns home to his family he is shows as cheeky and incredibly naughty, while his nemesis, the titular Nanny, comes across as all sweetness and light. If anything the old woman, played by Bette Davies, comes across as having the patience of a saint in the way she deals with the boisterous  Joey.
The movie contains a commentary from Jimmy Sangster,  Marcus Hearne (author of The Hammer Vault) and Rene Glynne and for a commentary recorded  41 years since the film was made, the anecdotes come thick and fast – it seems both Sangster and especially Glynne who possesses an incredible memory. Sangster tells us that Greer Garson was Hammer’s first choice for the role of the Nanny but when the actress turned the role down, Bette Davies was approached.
Wendy Craig The Nanny



Besides the Hollywood weight of Bet Davies, we have British actress Wendy Craig as Joey’s mother. I found it unusual to find Craig in such a dramatic role since I was brought up watching her playing variations of a dizzy middle aged mum in sitcom after sitcom. And although her part isn’t that substantial, she seems to spend most of the movie lounging about half wasted, she certainly comes across well – through subtle use of her eyes she clearly shows the anguish of the woman who is still mourning the accidental drowning of her daughter. The young actor playing Joey is William Dix and the Internet Database tells us that he made one more film in 1967 and then didn’t make another until 2001. The rest of the cast are made up those familiar British faces that often turn up in old movies or TV shows.
joey and creepy doll
I really enjoyed this movie – Bette Davies and her young co-star William Dix are particularly good, and the plot is paced so the suspense runs right up until the final denouncement.
A creepy movie, excellently directed, written and acted…and you can’t really ask for more than that.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

It's time to discover BookTube

BookTube is an incredibly vibrant community of people who vlog (that’s video blog for those of you who are unfamiliar with the lingo) about books on YouTube. There’s something for everyone on BookTube, from hilarious reviews of Fifty Shades of Grey to far more serious reviews. The one thing all reviews have in common is a shared passion for their subject.


There are also some incredible stop motion  videos such as the example embedded below




Find the BookTube network HERE and explore, explore, explore, because once you start browing there's no telling where you'll end up, or what you'll discover on your journey. You may even find something  totally crazy such as the example embedded below


Saturday, 12 May 2018

Phillip Marlowe is on the way back to the big screen

Liam Neeson is to don a fedora and walk the mean streets for a new movie based on Chandler's writings - well, actually the forthcoming movie, Marlowe is actually based on the novel, The  Black-Eyed Blond written by Benjamin Black, the pen name of the Irish writer William John Banville. The highly praised book continues the adventures of Chandler's tarnished knight

"It was one of those summer Tuesday afternoons when you begin to wonder if the earth has stopped revolving." So begins a new novel featuring Philip Marlowe--yes, that Philip Marlowe. Channeling Raymond Chandler, Benjamin Black has brought Marlowe back to life for a new adventure on the mean streets of Bay City, California. It is the early 1950s, Marlowe is as restless and lonely as ever, and business is a little slow. Then a new client is shown in: blond, beautiful, and expensively dressed, she wants Marlowe to find her former lover. Almost immediately, Marlowe discovers that the man's disappearance is merely the first in a series of bewildering events, and soon he is tangling with one of Bay City's richest--and most ruthless--families.

The book has received praise from none other than Stephen King who wrote, “Somewhere Raymond Chandler is smiling, because this is a beautifully rendered hardboiled novel that echoes Chandler's melancholy at perfect pitch. The story is great, but what amazed me is how John Banville caught the cumulative effect Chandler's prose had on readers. It's hard to quantify, but it's also what separated the Marlowe novels from the general run of noir (which included some damn fine novelists, like David Goodis and Jim Thompson). The sadness runs deep. I loved this book. It was like having an old friend, one you assumed was dead, walk into the room. Kind of like Terry Lennox, hiding behind those drapes.”

William Monahan, writer of The Departed, will be adapting Benjamin Black’s The Black-Eyed Blonde  for the screen.

Full Terror Alert


Independently published books need reviews - please please do so

Wales Book of the Year Shortlist Announced

Shortlists have been announced for this year's English and Welsh-language Wales Book of the Year Awards.Two independent judging panels have selected nine works for each language in categories for poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction.

The shortlists include works by award-winning author Horatio Clare, former national poet Gwyneth Lewis, and Prof M Wynn Thomas, an expert in the literature of modern Wales.
The winners will be announced in June.

The Roland Mathias Poetry Award

  • All fours by Nia Davies
  • The Mabinogi by Matthew Francis
  • Diary of the Last Man by Robert Minhinnick

Fiction Award

  • Hummingbird by Tristan Hughes
  • Light Switches Are My Kryptonite by Crystal Jeans
  • Bad Ideas \ Chemicals by Lloyd Markham

The Creative Non-Fiction Award

  • Icebreaker by Horatio Clare
  • David Jones: Engraver, Soldier, Painter, Poet by Thomas Dilworth
  • All that is Wales: The Collected Essays of M. Wynn Thomas

Welsh-language Poetry Award

  • Llif Coch Awst by Hywel Griffiths
  • Treiglo by Gwyneth Lewis
  • Caeth a Rhydd by Peredur Lynch

Welsh-language Fiction Award

  • Gwales by Catrin Dafydd
  • Fabula by Llyr Gwyn Lewis
  • Hen Bethau Anghofiedig by Mihangel Morgan

Welsh-language Creative Non-Fiction Award

  • Meddyginiaethau Gwerin Cymru by Anne Elizabeth Williams
  • Blodau Cymru: Byd y Planhigion by Goronwy Wynne
  • Ar Drywydd Niclas y Glais by Hefin Wyn

Who is the best Batman?

Over the years there have been many animated Batman adventures with scores of voice actors taking the part - HERE at 109 they have ranked the best Batman voice actors.

Rise of the Robot Scribes and the George R R Martin Droid

Artificial intelligence is already being used in newsrooms across the country to write straightforward news stories and unearth data trends. Does that mean that eventually, as machines become more intelligent, robots will replace reporters?

John Wihbey, who is writing a book on the future of news in a networked world, doesn't think so. But journalists are going to have to refine the concept of what is compelling news.

'My hypothesis is that even as computers are able to do more of what we now consider news, capital-n ‘News’ will move up the value chain. It will become more analytical, more critical, and potentially increasingly opinion-oriented.” John Wihbey

However Artificial intelligence is already changing newsrooms. The Washington Post has used artificially intelligent technology to spit out short reports on the Rio Olympics, congressional and gubernatorial elections, and high school football games. The Los Angeles Times, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Reuters are using it to parse through and synthesize huge amounts of raw data to look for trends.In 2014, the LA Times published a massive investigation into police records, revealing that the Los Angeles Police Department had misclassified nearly 1,200 violent crimes as minor offenses. The paper’s reporting included the use of a machine learning algorithm that combed through eight years of crime data from reporters’ public records requests for indications that a crime had been misclassified. Reporters then manually checked the results.

There is also the news that in Japan Artifical Intelligence was used to write a novel that came very close to winning a major literary prize.  The novel the AI created is titled, The Day A Computer Writes A Novel. It was entered into a writing contest for the Hoshi Shinichi Literary Award. The contest has been open to non-human applicants in years prior, however, this was the first year the award committee received submissions from an AI. Out of the 1,450 submissions, 11 were at least partially written by a program.

Here's an excerpt from the novel to give you an idea as to what human contestants were up against:
I writhed with joy, which I experienced for the first time, and kept writing with excitement.
“The day a computer wrote a novel. The computer, placing priority on the pursuit of its own joy, stopped working for humans.”

And recently a fan got so fed up with George R R Martin not being able to finally deliver winter, that he wrote a computer program to take over. The artificial intelligence system just wrote the beginning of the sixth book.

Zack Thoutt, a  software engineer, created a type of AI, known as a recurrent neural network. Thoutt fed the machine all 5,376 pages of the five current books and it generated predictions on what will happen next.

While the AI’s effort is definitely not a Martin novel, the sentences are mostly easy to understand and the predictions reportedly align with some popular fan theories. The machine also started each chapter with a character’s name, just as Martin does.

“It’s obviously not perfect. It isn’t building a long-term story and the grammar isn’t perfect. But the network is able to learn the basics of the English language and structure of George R.R. Martin’s style on its own.” Zack Thoutt told Motherboard Website

You can read the first five chapters of the AI created Game of Thrones HERE


So will AI ever replace the human creative touch? - We think not and to prove how unique true creativity is here's an headline from the created by humans newspaper, The Sunday Sport


Friday, 11 May 2018

Black Panther gets his arse kicked

The Black Panther seems to have fallen foul to either film critics or rampaging DC fans in South Korea. Apparantly a 32 year old man has been arrested and charged with hero abuse or some such.

The Walt Disney Co. sent two statues of the superhero to Busan to celebrate Marvel Studios’ filming along Korea’s southern coast. But on March 17, according to The Korea Herald, a 32-year-old drunk man was arrested after he vandalized the statue in the Gwangbok-ro shopping district, and on April 21, the statue near Gwangalli Beach was toppled and part of its head broken off.

An official from the Korea Film Council thought someone had probably tried to climb the statue, despite numerous off-limits signs.

Like father, like son

Father and son writing team, Stephen King and Joe Hill are to see their 2012 collaboration, In The Tall Grass  (about a brother and sister who become separated while investigating a young boy crying for help in a Kansas field.) is to be turned into a mini series by Netflix.

King's fiction has been frequently adapted into television and film, and projects inspired by the horror master show no signs of slowing down.

John Lithgow and Jason Clarke are slated to star in a new film adaptation of King's 1983 horror novel "Pet Sematary," which was previously made into a movie in 1989. Additionally, Universal Pictures won a bidding war last month to obtain the movie rights to "The Tommyknockers," King's 1989 science fiction novel.

Other projects based on King's work in development include a film version of his 1979 novel "The Long Walk" and a yet another limited series based on his 1978 novel "The Stand."

Joe Hill, on the other hand, is still a reletively new name in the genre, but is gathering much criticial and fan respect for his own work. He must be applauded for casting aside the looming shadow of his world famous father and developing into a unique voice.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Remembering horror author, James Herbert

It may have been his ghoulish sense of humour, or then again it maybe just that it was just his favourite song, but when horror author James Herbert's coffin was carried into the church for his funeral, Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles was playing. John Lennon's, Working Class Hero would have been just as  appropriate because that's very much what Mr Herbert was. No matter how big the  riches that came his way, he remained to the end that same old East End boy.

The author had died at the relatively young age of 69, but he'd packed a lot into his years. From humble beginnings in London's East End with the Kray Twins counting amongst his neighbours, he came a long way. He had sold over 54 million books worldwide by the time the of his death, was awarded an OBE in 2010 and he left an estate totalling more than £8 million. His first book, The Rats published in 1974 sold out its first 100,000 copies in three weeks. Even now, several years after his death, his works remain in print and are strong sellers.

Herbert was one of the few British novelists to become a multi-millionaire from writing almost exclusively in the horror genre. Stephen King is the only horror writer who has exceeded Herbert’s total sales, but whereas King has received respect from the literary establishment, Herbert never did. King once described Herbert's first novel, The Rats as being like the Sex Pistols, Anarchy in the UK - And maybe King is right, maybe Herbert was too punk for the mainstream. He was adored by the reading public though, and that was enough for Herbert who was as unpretentious a man as one could meet.

If The Rats, with its scenes of gruesome horror and its blasted East End landscape, is not a literary version of ‘Anarchy in the UK,’ what is?” Stephen King

I used to write to the author whenever he had a new book out, and I always got a letter back - you can't say the same about all of the authors  I've written to over the years. I never met Herbert personally but I did in the pre-Internet days correspond with him a few times a year. This started when I was a book obsessed teenager and it made me feel closer to the author's books. It also felt great to get a letter from such a literary superstar.

I guess Herbert would have known how I felt since as a boy, he was inspired by the American comic book Casey Ruggles, which he found on the market stalls in Petticoat Lane.

"That's where I learned to write. For a cowboy comic, it was incredible. The only time I wrote a fan letter in my life was to [its writer and artist] Warren Tufts and that was when I was 30. I rang up Hanna-Barbera because somebody told me he was working there as an animator and got his address, wrote a letter and got a cautious reply back."  James Herbert.

 That first letter  led to Herbert and Tufts becoming penpals.

Enough to make a rodent retch, undeniably, and enough to make any human pitch the book aside.” Martin Amis reviewing The Rats

And so to cast aside pretension here, in true tabloid style, are some facts you may now know about James Herbert.

1. Herbert was afraid of the dark as a child, but his only fear in later life was of spiders.

2. He named his youngest daughter Casey, after his comic-book hero "Casey Ruggles", an 1850s Californian cowboy.

3. While never losing his own East End accent, he once commented that his brother John became a “very, very middle-class” broker for Lloyds.


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4. In 2010, he was made Grand Master of Horror by the World Horror Convention. He was presented the award by his friend Stephen King.

5. His favourite party trick was to challenge guests at his Sussex home to sit in two chairs that once belonged to satanist Aleister Crowley.


6. He would finish writing at 6 o’clock each evening in time to pour a large vodka and watch The Simpsons.


7. Fearing that the Krays may read his books in prison, Herbert’s mother once told him off for branding the brothers animals in his fiction. They were childhood neighbours.

8. He grew up around the corner from Petticoat Lane in Whitechapel, once a haunt of Jack the Ripper.

9. He "hit the roof" when his publishers printed his fourth novel Fluke in Times Roman typeface and ordered that it be reprinted in Palantin.

10. His mother arrived in London from Manchester aged 21. The first person she would meet after getting off the tube was his future father.

11. His first novel, Rats, published in 1974, features mutant man-eating rats take over London. It was inspired by the hordes of rats that would attack his parents’ supplies of fruit and vegetables.

12. Although the manuscript was rejected by five out of the six publishers that Herbert sent it to, the first 100 000 copies of Rats sold out within three weeks.

13. In the guise of “Henry Tilney”, Martin Amis was the first critic to review Rats (for the Observer). He was not impressed.

14. He wrote 23 novels which have been published in 34 languages including Russian and Chinese. He has sold over 54m copies worldwide.

15. After school and art college he worked as an art director at an advertising agency alongside Salman Rushdie.

16. He designed many of his own book covers.

17. He abhorred violence and didn’t plan to write horror but he explained that it just poured out of him.

18. In a famous scene in his second novel, The Fog, the entire population of Bournemouth walks into the sea.

19. Five of Herbert’s novels have been adapted for the cinema, television and radio.