Friday, April 22, 2022

New TV appearance: Cursed Films - Stalker

Cursed Films, season 2, episode 3, on Tarkovsky's Stalker, premiered yesterday on Shudder. The film tells the story of the troubled production of Tarkovsky's legendary 1979 science fiction film, and the myths that have grown up around the film. The episode features a great cast of informants, including the late Tarkovsky scholar Robert Bird, cinematographer Roger Deakins, photographer Arvo Iho (all of whom, at one time or another, I've met - gents all). Oh, and me.

My contribution was shot - after some discussion about where to actually do the interview - in New York State, somewhere in the Sleepy Hollow/Ossinning region. I was actually in Boston at the time, and after deciding against shooting in the UK, I agreed to go down to NYC to meet the guys and do the interview in what I originally thought was going to be somewhere uptown. This meant getting up at 0500, and going down from Cambridge where I was staying in a very nice AirBnB on Prospect Hill in Somerville to get the 0700 MegaBus from South Station. I got into NYC late, due to the bus getting stuck in traffic in the Bronx/Uptown. I met the crew at the Met, and then we then went back uptown - more Manhattan traffic - but carried on into the countryside, where it transpired we had the use of a very nice house somewhere around Sleepy Hollow (as in Legend of...). 

But it was far from a sleepy interview. We were now very behind schedule: not only had I to be back on the 7pm MegaBus back to Boston, but Jay, Brian and the guys had to get to La Guardia to fly to Chicago to interview Robert Bird. The interview was done at breakneck speed, all shot in about 45 minutes or less. And then we ran back to the van, and got on the road again. They dropped me at the Cotton Club, and drove hell for leather to the airport (they made the flight), while I got an Uber downtown to the Madison Square Garden area and got the bus. I remember the air con was broken, and the driver couldn't switch it off. We arrived back at South Station in Boston absolutely frozen. I got the T back to Cambridge, and was in bed around 0200. A 21-hour day.

Anyway, luvvie story aside, it's a great episode, and I recommend it. A pleasure to have been part of such a great project.

Monday, January 03, 2022

Now on Patreon


I've decided to launch a Patreon, which can be found here: If you're interested in my work and would like to support me, I'd be very grateful. Subscribers can expect patron-only blog posts, videos, drafts of works-in-progress, and probably other things as well (when I have anything else!). I'll try posting every fortnight to start with, and see how we go. I've never done this king of thing before, but I'm hoping that it will be a worthwhile thing to do; it should certainly remind me to keep writing!

This week's update: I am working on updates for A Short History of Disease, which will be published in the spring. I hope to get those done by the end of this week, so that next week I can get on with the next book, which has been on the back burned for far too long.

I hope you had a good Christmas and New Year, and let's hope this year is better than the last two...

Monday, November 15, 2021

A Short History of Disease: New Edition 2022


A new edition of A Short History of Disease will be published spring 2022. The book will contain an afterword on COVID-19, and the systemic and political failures worldwide, with a special focus on the UK, where tens of thousands of people died needlessly.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Poem in new anthology

Lost, Looking & Found, an anthology of writing by the Edinburgh Literary Salon, has just been published. My contribution is a poem, 'Louvain Epiphany.' Available from all good bookshops (ISBN: 9781911524014).



Friday, August 20, 2021

Happy Birthday, H. P. Lovecraft


Happy Birthday, H. P. Lovecraft! HPL was born on this day in 1890, at the family home on Angell Street in Providence, RI. He has a lot to answer for, being one of those figures who seem to lurk in one's imagination for years after you've first read their work, or heard about them. I first came across the name Lovecraft in the Jim Morrison biography No One Here Gets Out Alive (the first, but not the best, bio of JDM). Jim's poetry was compared to Bosch and Lovecraft. I knew who Bosch was, as I'd discovered 'The Garden of Earthly Delights' in an encyclopaedia we had at home (Bosch I suppose is another figure who's haunted my imagination for years, but I'll leave that for another post). Intrigued, I set out to track down books by this Lovecraft fellow. At that time, Lovecraft was out of print in the UK, so I had to frequent second-hand bookshops. I used to trawl all of them in my home town. (Back then, we had about half a dozen places to try for second hand books. All those shops are gone now.) The first one I ever found was The Tomb, the late 60s/early 70s paperback from Panther (pictured above). 

   It's a collection of minor stories, culled from the larger collection Dagon and Other Stories (Arkham House, 1965). Despite being minor, it did contain a few gems, principally 'The Festival', which has always remained one of my favourite Lovecraft stories. When the things fly out of the darkness at the end, I could see the connection with Bosch. (I won't say any more, in case you haven't read it. I don't want to spoil the ending!) The other Lovecrafts I got from this period were all stories in anthologies: 'The Colour out of Space' and 'The Haunter of the Dark' came to me this way; they remain possibly my two favourite Lovecraft stories for their haunting depictions of rural and urban environments respectively. (Indeed, there is a 'Haunter of the Dark' church a ten-minute walk from where I'm writing this.) When Lovecraft was republished in the UK by Grafton/Granada (AKA HarperCollins), that was tremendously exciting, as it meant I could get to read the bulk of his work, but it kind of spoiled the book-hunting in obscure bookshops. (For a while, at least.) 

   Another key book for me was Philip Shreffler's H. P. Lovecraft Companion, which explained that many of Lovecraft's stories were set in actual places that still exist. That set me off on a long trail of research and, to cut a long story short, I shot a documentary about Lovecraft - inspired by Shreffler's book, and Lin Carter's Lovecraft: A Look Behind the Cthulhu Mythos, from which I got the phrase 'The Last Disciple', which became the film's title. We managed to track down Frank Belknap Long, who actually knew Lovecraft (as opposed to being one of Lovecraft's man correspondents), biographer L. Sprague de Camp, Colin Wilson, Ramsey Campbell, Stuart Gordon, and the lady who was married to the real-life Charles Dexter Ward. Despite this roster of stars, the film was never fully finished for want of funds (sanity was also in short supply. The work-in-progress received one screening, at the Lovecraft Centenary conference in Providence, and has never been screened again. I have been wondering whether my recently-completed PhD in filmmaking might somehow enable me to finish the Lovecraft film in some way... 

   The film's real theme, perhaps, was why do people read Lovecraft? What turns us into fans? Despite the trauma of making the film, I still reread Lovecraft, and am working my way slowly through the Collected Letters. And to this day, certain churches - especially those with blackened brickwork, and/or looking deserted - always remind me of 'The Haunter of the Dark'. It's become a reflex. Maybe that's what writing that really chimes with you does: it becomes not just a story that you've read, but a part of your life, a part of the way you experience the world.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Tarkovsky: 3rd edition out in September


The new (third) edition of Andrei Tarkovsky is published on 21 September by Kamera Books. It's revised and updated, and has a slightly different cover. You can pre-order a copy here.

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

The Dream in the Mirror -- Released Today

Our documentary, The Dream in the Mirror, is released today as part of Criterion's new Blu-ray and DVD of Tarkovsky's The Mirror (1975). Our film features interviews with Tarkovsky's sister, Marina, and her husband, the late Aleksandr Gordon; composer Eduard Artemyev; critics Mark Le Fanu, Dmitri Salynsky, Vladimir Golstein, Stephanie Sandler, and Vida Johnson; and translators Kitty Hunter-Blair and Layla Alexander-Garrett. You can order a copy here.

This film is part of our ongoing series of films, Andrei Tarkovsky: Cinema of Dreams, more details of which can be found here.

The next chapter of the film, due for release in 2022, will be on The Sacrifice. I'll post more details here when I have them.