Tuesday, 29 December 2020

Elephants enjoy poetry just like we do

It’s a little known fact that elephants – being gentle and refined creatures – thoroughly enjoy the odd poem or two, especially when they are composed just for them.




A case in point is Caligula. He was Baron Parzifal’s loyal pachyderm in Shadows and Pagodas, that zany Gothic adventure to find the lost treasure. We first met him in the Siamese port of Chanti Boon:

     “There you are, Peter!”

     “Good grief!” exclaimed Peter.

     Baron Parzifal was mounted on a huge elephant. The beast was led by a Siamese mahout and daubed in strange glyphs, and the howdah was a confusion of parasols, joss sticks and caskets. The Baron, wearing thick blue spectacles, was sitting on a tiger skin throne and cushions with a long curved horn of bronze – almost as tall as the baron himself – slung across the elephant’s shoulders and shining brilliantly in the sun. Vinkle was walking next to the mahout, swinging that incense of his much to the annoyance of the elephant – its trunk busied itself around Vinkle like a snake circling a mouse.

     “What on earth are you doing, Peter?” called down the Baron.

     “Er, buying a garland – souvenir.”

     “You’re not doing the Grand Tour, for Mendez’s sake! It’s bad enough with the men bartering away all their equipment for grog. Now get a move on, Peter. You need to start setting an example.”

     “What’s happened, sir?” said Peter, strapping on his shako.

     “It seems a large number of foreigners are heading this way,” said the Baron. “We can't take any chances and there's no time to lose. So it’s a short speech then we’re off to the Bamboo Mountains to fetch my treasure!”

     The Baron barked out an order in Siamese and the elephant turned and broke into a fast lumbering trot back towards the town with Peter, Vinkle and the mahout trotting alongside and the incense swinging wildly...


Later, as the expedition (and the Baron) unravel, Caligula is treated to poem after poem. All of them composed by the Baron and recited with tremendous and élan.

Almost as good as bananas.

By the way, it’s also a little known fact that the Baron’s poems may have inspired that master of the macabre, Edgar Alan Poe. For example, certain similarities between the Baron’s Miss Lee and Annabel Lee have been picked through like the carcass of a sacrificed goat and hotly debated in darkened chambers.  

What Caligula thought about this contentious literary connection is not recorded in the chronicles!

Pagodas and A Magical Cat

 

Dear readers, I finally bit the bullet (or should that be musket ball) and commissioned a professional to redesign the cover art for my books. Larch Gallagher lives in medieval Ely, Cambridgeshire – described as “one of England’s spookiest cities” – with her magical cat that morphs in the winter cold.


Larch has completed the commission for Shadows and Pagodas and we’re really pleased with the result. In truth, I never felt the earlier artwork quite managed to do the novel justice despite many valiant attempts. Just never felt right, somehow. But Larch has a real talent for this sort of thing (not to mention patience) and conveyed the gothick elements in Shadows in a way that is hopefully original and dramatic. Note the Grail Cross and the ghostly Siamese temple to the right. Oh, and we’re working on a distinctive Jack Fielding ‘look, too’. This is a bit tricky because I write across different genres but I’m confident that we’re on the right path.


By way of explanation, I discovered Larch after much questing. It was her cat, you know. I encountered her in a crooked and cobbled Ely street where she led me to an occult shop not unlike the one Isabella finds in the novel. 
Magical Cat Boat Melody Seal
 
Larch was in the shop and said, “I really enjoy coordinating with new and published authors to bring their ideas to life.


And that’s just what she’s done.

Here's where you can find out more about Larch and her work:

https://thebookcoverdesigner.com/designers/larch-gallagher-design/
https://ipn.upwork.com/o/profiles/users/_~01d3b72264bf15bc2b/



Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Vampires, vegetable tarts and a magical bookshop... Part Two


Have I mentioned Madam Sebottendorf? The forebear of real-life occultist, influential Thule Society member and proto Nazi, Rudolf von Sebottendorf. Madam S also becomes more of comic figure in Shadows and Pagoda’s final incarnation than first conceived. Now a zany aristocratic breeder of fine Lhasa Apso dogs as well as the owner of the magical bookshop in Paris. 


As an aside, Madam S’s bookshop was on Rue de Monsieur le Prince (see previous blog post). Amazingly, this singular Paris location still exists and has been a restaurant of one sort or another since 1947. It now serves very tasty Tarte fine aux légumes by a bloke with a lisp called Benjamin.

If you're ever in the neighbourhood:
https://bonjourparis.com/food-and-drink/buzz-monsieur-prince-coffee-time-seize-coq-rico/

Benjamin told me that one Solstice night the ghostly yapping of a Lhasa was heard beyond the chatter of the patrons.