Bastards I have met…..a book by Barry Crump.

Please forgive the use of the B word. 

Be advised that this post contains profanities and details of violent  crime. Those of sensitive demeanour should stop reading now.

Image result for barry crump bastards i have met

For those of you who are still reading, this is partly a look at a best selling NZ authors tongue in cheek book about “Bastards” and his rugged lifestyle and partly about the more serious subject of actual Bastards – murderers and the like – who I have come across during my lifetime. OK so back to the book and the writer …..Barry Crump – or Crumpy to those familiar with him or his books was a man who didn’t mince his words. He called a spade a spade and a shovel a shovel (whatever that means…). He was a straight talker. In this book – published in 1971 – he points out that for every true hero there are about 15,000 bastards and goes on to give anyone interested his A to Z of “bastardry”. Most of the “bastards” he talks about are in actual fact likeable rogues, or the type of annoying bastard that we’d all prefer to ignore and he gives us a run down on the various categories of bastard complete with fictitious latin names, including the Actual (Bastardus fairdinkumus), through Lazy, (Bastardus loafus) and Nasty (Bastardus notquiteniceus), to Literate (Bastardus bookwormus) and Stupid (Bastardus clottus). It’s all written very much tongue in cheek and it’s all a bit of nonsensical fun…he doesn’t get into talking about the real evil bastards that we sometimes come up against in real life. And be warned I will be talking about such people at the other end of this post.

For those who aren’t familiar with Crump’s work, he was a typical Kiwi (New Zealand) bushman who made a living hunting – in the main part, deer or possums on department of conservation land. Usually employed by DOC to keep an area pest free. He also did a stint in Australia shooting Crocodiles. He was always a lover of a good yarn – a story that is, not a ball of wool – and became a writer of semi-autobiographical novels. Many of the novels would have a central character who was the typical “Good Keen Man” – obviously based on his good self…..someone who was a bit of a scallywag…a rascal, but with a heart of gold.

The fame of his early books landed him a part in Toyota’s commercials for their rugged 4 wheel drive vehicles….and Crumpy got a new Toyota for his trouble. Link to the ad is below. He really punishes those Toyotas.

One of his books “Wild Pork and Watercress” was adapted into the movie “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”. It’s everything kiwi, it’s funny, well scripted, has some lovely shots of the New Zealand bush (wilderness) and is well worth a look. The link to the YouTube trailer is here…

Anyway…getting back to the subject of bastards….It got me thinking about some of the more unsavoury characters that I have had the displeasure to meet in my life so far. It also got me thinking that if there truly is a god, he or she must have been having an off day when they allowed such people to breathe the same air as the rest of us.

I don’t pretend to be perfect – I have my faults, some of which I am certainly not proud of – but compared to some of theses “Bastards I have met” – I am almost angelic.

There are people who are “bad” because of the way they have been raised – a combination of their environment and their family history never gave them a fair chance at being a “good” person. Unfortunately there are also people who are not only bad, but are evil to boot – by choice, because they want to be. They enjoy it and it gives them a feeling of power over the weak….and a feeling of mental superiority. I’m talking about the type of people who look just like you and me…they could be your neighbour, work mate….even a family member. They look ordinary….normal. BUT deep inside is a black heart and an evil – some would say insane – mind. They aren’t insane though. Everything they do is controlled and carefully thought through and when they get caught, as some of them inevitably do get caught, they profess their innocence, claim it’s a travesty of justice and that the world is against them because “no one in their right mind would do such a thing”.

I’m talking about people who – for example – pretend to be on a business trip far enough away from their chosen scene of the crime to put enough doubt in a jurors mind. They make sure that someone – preferably more than one person – has seen them in this place….and then speed home and murder their wife and child in the most brutal and violent way. Then later, when the bodies are discovered, by an unwitting relative, play the victim and publicly seek to avenge the deaths of his family – fully knowing all the time that his alibi is almost watertight and his chances of being found guilty minimal…..that is until DNA evidence catches up with him and firmly puts him at the scene of the crime in clothing contaminated by the victims blood and gore. This was an actual case here in NZ. Horrific.

Another undeniable “B” that I met is an extortionist – his victim was so traumatised that they committed suicide. He’s also a molester of young boys and he’s a murderer, having stabbed to death the father of a child he was molesting. He then escaped from prison at least once, taunting the police, the Department of Corrections and the government – yet thinks that HE should be given special rights and privileges over other criminals because he is of above average intelligence. He is also extremely vain and complained bitterly when the press showed photos of him without his wig. Again, a softly spoken, well read, intelligent person who can hold a pleasant conversation. Yet in an unguarded moment undeniably IS a very dangerous person….and a very nasty bastard indeed.

These people do exist. I have met them. Talked with them. The terrible thing is that if I hadn’t been aware of the details of the crimes committed I could easily have liked the person responsible for such vile actions. You see they are controlled, measured, normal, “reasonable” people – on the surface. They can be pleasant and behave in an acceptable way for 99.9% of the time…..and yet commit the most horrific atrocities. That’s why they are so terrifying. That they then, once caught and convicted – despite the mountain of evidence against them and the guilty verdict in one or more trials, tie up the justice system and spend thousands if not millions of dollars of public money on appeals and re-trials (because they know the system and how to manipulate it) makes me incredibly angry. This much needed public money would be better spent on the sick, the hungry and the homeless.

These criminals….the murderers and rapists are sometimes (but not always) put away in prison for lengthy periods because we no longer have the option of the death sentence. Capital punishment was last used in 1957 in New Zealand. Was abolished for murder in 1961 and was totally abolished – even for treason – in 1989. Here in New Zealand it costs around $100,000 per year to keep one person in prison. That’s just for your run of the mill ordinary prisoner…without the costs of any special treatment or appeals factored in. $100,000 each prisoner, per year – no wonder there’s no money for housing, hospitals and schools!

Back when I was working at my first “real job” after leaving school in England I saw a guy – a truck driver – who would regularly pick up and drop of goods at the depot where I worked. His name was Peter William Sutcliffe aka The Yorkshire Ripper. On the surface a quiet, almost shy, truckie who kept himself to himself….oh yes and just happened to be a serial killer. In 1981 he was found guilty of murdering 13 women and attempting to murder 7 others. Lord alone knows how many more….other potential victims he’d scoped out. He was given 20 concurrent life sentences so will never be released from prison. He will die behind bars. He’s already served 37 years and is only 72 years old….so could live for quite a few years yet…getting 3 meals a day, a roof over his head, the option of books from a library, education etc. all at the public’s expense.

These are just 3 examples of – to quote the title of Crumpy’s book – “Bastards I have met”. There are more, many more just like these men – unfortunately.

I consider myself to be a pacifist…..very much a live and let live type of guy who believes that criminals should be given a chance to rehabilitate and prove that they are worthy of a place in society….once they have paid their dues.

In a recent blog post…or was it on FaceBook?… I suggested that the USA may be an uncivilised country because they still have the death penalty. BUT men like that – like the ones I have mentioned above….I should say PEOPLE like that to be politically correct, (but they are usually men), people who are so devious and deviant and can’t be trusted to truly reform – have me thinking that maybe the death sentence should still be an option – even in so called civilised countries, in this day and age.

It’s a controversial subject and I know that any two people can be poles apart in their opinions about capital punishment. This is simply my opinion based on my own experience.

Again, I apologise if I have offended anyone with what I have written about in this post.

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A visit to the library….

A visit to the library was called for after an on-line chat with an author friend of mine who lives in the Czech Republic. We’d been discussing the “Lost Generation” of writers – they include Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Eliot, Stein etc. and he had asked me if I had read anything by Max Brod.

Brod (1884 – 1968) was a prolific writer in his own right, but is mostly remembered as the friend of Franz Kafka, who, when requested by Kafka to destroy all his writings at his death….refused to follow the writer’s instructions and had the works published instead. So it’s thanks to Brod that so much of Kafka’s writings saw the light of day.

Brod was a German speaking Czech Jew – who later moved to Israel to escape the Nazi take over of the then Czechoslovakia. He died in Tel Aviv in 1968. He was an author, journalist, translator and a composer of music. A very talented man. He first met Kafka, at Charles University in Prague where they both studied, in 1902. The rest as they say is history.

Naturally my friend’s insistence that I read Brod had me intrigued so I set off for my local city library feeling for sure that they would have at least one of Brod’s books. How wrong could I be? Not a single book written by Brod on their shelves. Deciding to check out on-line book sellers when I returned home, I set about searching the library’s catalogue of books for anything at all mentioning Brod.

The only book I found at the library with any mention of Brod, was a novel by Australian based writer Marija Pericic called The Lost Pages – which is a fictional story about the relationship between Kafka and Brod. I picked it up anyway and will have a read of it later. I also picked up 2 other books. One about New Zealand writers who – although not as famous as the main members of “the lost generation” of writers – were New Zealand expat writers living overseas during the same period of time – called “The Expatriate Myth”, by Helen Bones.

The other book – the one I decided to read first – is by another Czech Jewish writer who went through the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, the short relief of the end of the second world war and the subsequent take over by the communists under Stalin – by the name of Ivan Klima. It’s his autobiography titled “My Crazy Century” – with the C and Z of the word Crazy highlighted in Red – giving you a red Cz – I assume symbolic of the many years that the Czech’s were under communist rule. I’m about a quarter of the way into this 534 page memoir – enjoying it, but horrified at how people were treat – first by the Nazi’s and then by the Communists. I will probably do a review of the book once I finish it.

Back at home I googled Bron’s books and was surprised at how few were available in English. It seems that the ones concerning the diaries of Kafka are available in English, but little else. The two main books of Bron’s that my writer friend recommended were only available in German. One called “Prager Kreis” (Prague Crisis or Prague Circle) printed in 1967 and the other “Streitbares Leben: Autobiographie, 1960” (literal translation being – Quarrelsome Life: Autobiography, 1960 – although there may be another meaning). I may try to get them anyway and struggle through with my basic schoolboy knowledge of the German language.

Whilst at the library, much to my wife’s dismay, I was perusing the discarded books on the “for sale” table. Four books caught my eye, so for the princely sum of $2, my own library has grown by 4…..even though – as my wife was quick to point out…..my shelves are already overflowing. Those books were – “Now and Forever” by Ray Bradbury which is a collection of 2 novellas – “Somewhere a band is playing” and “Leviathan ’99”. Bradbury is of course best known for the novel Fahrenheit 451. “Extreme Rambling” by Mark Thomas – a travelogue about hiking through troubled areas of the world. “New Scottish Writing” – which is a collection of short stories by writers from Scotland – printed in 1996, so not in actual fact all that “New”. The final book was “Afterlight” by Alex Scarrow which is a post apocalyptic/dystopian story – set in Britain in 2010…. after the oil ran out. I must say I do like a good dystopian novel….hopefully this one won’t disappoint.

So there we have it. The library failed to deliver on what I went for in the first place, but the books I chose – both to borrow and the ones I bought -should expand my knowledge and entertain me. I do love the library!

Please do make use of your own local libraries. In these days of belt tightening and reduced budgets, city councils will cut funding if they think the libraries are not being used by sufficient people. So please get out there and borrow some books. And I’d like to say a little thank you to all librarians and library volunteers who keep the libraries staffed and open. Well done, you are appreciated, and thank you very much.

Ernest Hemingway – love him …or hate him.

I have a love/hate relationship with Hemingway. I have tried a number of times to read his novels. Every book of his has frustrated me and I’ve put them down unfinished. There’s just something about his style of writing that grates against me….like fingernails down a chalk-board.

It was therefore with some trepidation that I picked up “A Moveable Feast” in our local library, vowing to give Hemingway one last chance to redeem himself. I’m already half way through and to my surprise and delight I am actually enjoying it…..so what’s changed? Frankly I have no idea. The writing style is the same so perhaps it’s the subject matter….my beloved Paris.

Ah Paris! City of Lights, City of Love and Romance, City of Style and Fashion, City of Art and Literature. Home of many of the writing greats of the past and present…for some permanently for others a temporary home. And no doubt she…Paris…will continue to inspire writers and artists for years to come.

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

It should be noted that this particular book is not a novel….but more a collection of essays about Hemingway’s time spent in Paris. According to the all knowing oracle Wikipedia – “A Moveable Feast is a memoir by American author Ernest Hemingway about his years as a struggling young migrant journalist and writer in Paris in the 1920’s. The book, first published in 1964, describes the author’s apprenticeship as a young writer while he was married to his first wife, Hadley Richardson.” Possibly it is just my time to find enlightenment in Hemingway’s words. Unlike my wife who had to read Hemingway’s “The old man and the sea” at school and proclaimed it “possibly the most boring book in the world” – I only ever thought to pick up one of his books after seeing Woody Allen’s 2011 movie “Midnight in Paris” – which I have touched on in an earlier blog post.

In the movie Hemingway is seen rubbing shoulders with other literary and artistic greats such as Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, T.S. Eliot (all members of the Lost Generation of writers), Pablo Picasso, Degas, Man Ray, Cole Porter and many others. I initially thought that it was simply Allen taking poetic licence in placing all these legendary people in the one place at the same time, but reading Hemingway’s book – it confirms that he knew and mixed with many of these people and more. He was also friends with Ezra Pound and James Joyce and politely suffered the company of Ford Madox Ford – who was, it seems, invariably – in later years – the worse for drink. Ford was a fellow writer and novelist, a champion of literature – established, new and experimental, and a publisher. He even published some of Hemingway’s work.

It must have been marvelous to have been in Paris back then.
In the movie, Midnight in Paris, Gil Pender – played by Owen Wilson refers to 1920’s Paris as being the Golden Age – something refuted by another character Adriana, played by Marion Cotillard – who insisted that the Golden Age was during the Belle Epoque period, which of course ended in 1914 with the start of the first world war. It seems that everyone has their own individual ideal nostalgic period. In the movie, Gil Pender is transported magically back from present day Paris to 1920’s Paris. Here is a short YouTube trailer of the movie showing the scene where Pender meets Hemingway. And Hemingway speaks the way that he writes. No one else talks this way….no one!

I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in the cafes that they frequented. To listen to the literary discussions and friendly, often drunken banter

Hemingway’s early years in Paris were as a struggling writer and he and his wife would live in the cheapest part of town in an apartment which shared a bathroom on the landing with other apartments on that floor, would sometimes miss meals and rarely bought new clothes in order to afford the little luxuries of life. Money it seems would always find Hemingway just at the time that it was most needed. He professes to have had a fairly carefree…almost worry free existence, where finances were concerned. Something always turned up to save the day, whether it be an against the odds win on the horses, an overdue royalty payment from a magazine or publisher, or even simply being able to borrow books from Sylvia Beach’s Shakespeare & Company – rather than having to buy them.

I guess it’s a reminder that every writer has to start somewhere….and in a way it should give all of us “struggling writers” hope.

I’d love to hear from you….please tell me if you love or hate Hemingway….and if you love his writings, which book you consider to be his finest piece of literature.

“And what do you do…?”

I really hate it when people ask me this – because what they really mean, what they are actually asking me, is “How do I make a living?” – and in all honesty, at the moment….I don’t!

I hate it because I don’t have a straight forward answer. I’d like to be able to say “I’m a Writer” – but I don’t actually make any money from that, at the moment anyhow. Some years ago I had a regular travel column with one of the local papers – but at that time I had a full time job (which had nothing to do with writing), so the travel gig was more of a hobby than a job.

There is the age old question to consider – when does one “become a writer?” At what point could I, in reply to the question …”and what do you do?” – give the response “I am a writer”…..and be able to feel comfortable saying it.

By definition I write, therefore I am a writer. But even as I write those words – and there’s no doubt that the words are true – by definition….. I feel like a phony. Then again I also spend time taking photographs – so does that make me a photographer? But I probably spend a good portion of my day tending our garden…..growing much of the food that me and my wife eat…and then again, since my wife is the one who is currently bringing home the bacon – by which I mean that she’s our income earner, I also play the role of housekeeper. So what do I do? Am I a writer, photographer, gardener, housekeeper – all of them…none of them? And sometimes I paint or draw – but I wouldn’t call myself an artist.

I don’t feel entitled to call myself a writer. Am I being paid to write? NO! Have I had a book or article published by anyone reputable? Er… NO! The only writing I currently do are my blog posts and of course I am working on a book…..or two. Aren’t we all working on a book…or two? So why oh why do I yearn to be able to call myself a writer and yet feel afraid to do so? And why does it concern me so much about how I am perceived by others?

I could take solace in the words of the “good and the great”…..

It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.
– Ernest Hemingway

If you can tell stories, create characters, devise incidents, and have sincerity and passion, it doesn’t matter a damn how you write.
– Somerset Maugham

Any man who keeps working is not a failure. He may not be a great writer, but if he applies the old-fashioned virtues of hard, constant labor, he’ll eventually make some kind of career for himself as writer.
– Ray Bradbury

The only thing I was fit for was to be a writer, and this notion rested solely on my suspicion that I would never be fit for real work, and that writing didn’t require any.
– Russell Baker

Writing is its own reward.
– Henry Miller

I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged.
– Erica Jong

The Slacker returns.

Forgive me father…it’s been 2 weeks since my last Blog post. The Chaos of Christmas and New Year are finally behind me and I can get back to some serious….and some not so serious blogging.

I’ve been reading a book called “Armageddon in Retrospect” by Kurt Vonnegut and it’s got me thinking about things. What sort of things? Well civilisation for one thing. Looking up the meaning of civilisation (I’m using the English spelling rather than the American) – I’m told it means the following:-

the stage of human social and cultural development and organization that is considered most advanced. Or the process by which a society or place reaches an advanced stage of social and cultural development and organization. OR the society, culture, and way of life of a particular area.

And of course is derived from the word Civil – meaning courteous and polite.

I’d like you to really think about those definitions and consider if it applies to how we treat our fellow human beings and how we are as a society today.

We in the western nations consider ourselves to be civilised and have in the past, and some would even today, claim that we are more civilised than the communists of Russia or China and certainly more civilised than those who ran Nazi Germany before and during WW2. By the way these days the word Nazi is taken to refer to those who express extreme racist or authoritarian views or behaviour. But are we actually any better? Have we learned anything during those 74 years since the end of WW2 to today? Are we a more civilised society…..can we even claim to be civilised at all in view of the various definitions above? Judging by the number of wars and armed conflicts that the western nations have been involved in in the last 74 years, I don’t think that we can.

Let’s take the USA for example – I don’t like to pick on one country when many are guilty, but the USA is a prime example of what is wrong with the world today. The USA was built around immigration. It’s not known as the “Alien nation” for nothing. The early settlers had a chance to live peacefully with the first nation peoples, but as more outsiders arrived land was taken by force and the original American people were pushed on to reservations and even today are still struggling to be heard by the all conquering uncle Sam. Now we have President Trump in charge (who going by the earlier definition of Nazi …… you finish the sentence, you know where I’m going with this…..) – who’s pledged to make America great by stopping immigrants (particularly Mexicans) from entering the country and kicking out all illegals. He knows that this doesn’t make any sense because it’s the illegals, doing all the low paid jobs, that white Americans don’t want or can’t be bothered to do, that keep the country running. Currently he’s not paying “unnecessary” government employees – this includes the likes of air traffic controllers – who among many others are hardly unnecessary (think about those pissed off air traffic controllers next time you fly somewhere in Air Force One Mr President) – and his actions are putting many families to the wall. There’s a standoff between the 2 major parties who’s leaders are trying to prove who can piss the farthest up the wall – the one that Trump wants to build presumably. BUT meantime, while others suffer and are expected to work unpaid, those making the decisions in Congress and the White House are still being paid. The powers that be are simply looking after number one and sod the rest of you. This is hardly civilised behaviour.

But I’m not here to bash Trump and his rich political buddies – there are plenty in line before me to do that. The USA still has the death penalty (is that civilised?) – does it work? No it doesn’t – how many of those executed by lethal drug injections last thoughts were “Well I guess that will teach me a lesson?” Probably none. Has the threat of the death penalty stopped people committing crimes that will mean that they will get the death penalty? Does a mugger worry about death row when he shoves a gun in your ribs, is prepared to pull the trigger, and demands your wallet? Nope. Is it civilised for one human to kill another by hiding behind “the law” to administer a lethal injection? Is it civilised to spend a trillion dollars on arms and armaments and go blowing up and destroying thousands of people in foreign lands each year just because they are the “wrong colour” or follow the “wrong god”? A civilised society would insist on that money being spent on things like health, education and welfare for its own people, who are in desperate need – instead of on war. But America, like the majority of western nations, is a capitalist country and will always put big business and profit for shareholders over the needs and well being of its own citizens. These are not signs of a civilised country. The USA still tortures prisoners of war and “suspected” terrorists – something banned by the Geneva Convention but being the strongest military might in the world, rules don’t apply to them. No proof of terrorism is needed, just suspicion. It’s a very slippery slope folks. Kind of reminiscent of the days of witch hunts and witch trials – suspicion of being a witch brought you the death penalty. Have we made any progress since the Salem witch trials? Don’t we know any better……really?

They – the USA – are backed up by the members of Nato and the United Nations. Surely all who support the acts of criminals are themselves as guilty as those committing the acts. Warfare is not something that civilised peoples subscribe to.

We as citizens of these countries, we who vote in the idiots who make the big decisions, could be deemed equally guilty of being uncivilised. But what can we do to stop the insanity? Sign a petition? Take to the streets and protest like “we the people” have done in the past – marching against war, marching for peace, marching for equality of race, gender or sexual orientation? I’ve done it all. Sometimes we make small gains, but mostly it’s like throwing custard pies at an advancing enemy armed with tanks…..(to paraphrase Kurt Vonnegut when referencing the futility of protest marches against the Vietnam War). Peaceful protest seldom works, violent protest as with the Yellow Vests recently in Paris also doesn’t work. Hey we’re pissed off with the government – let’s burn some poor schmuck’s car or trash their shop – oh yeah that’ll work! The entire system as it stands doesn’t work.

As capitalists, as fully signed up members of the consumer economy, we endorse unlimited growth and to hell with the environment, to hell with the planet. We allow the corporate’s to lay waste to the planet, to destroy habitats of other species simply to provide more stuff for us greedy humans and to make money for company shareholders. Our support of this system is definitely not civilised.

But we also claim to be the most intelligent species here on earth – how can that possibly be true? We are the only species on the planet capable of wiping out of existence not only ourselves, but every other living thing on planet earth, thanks to our “superior intelligence” – and we’re the only species stupid enough to allow the people in charge to put us all in this position in the first place. The system is broken, it doesn’t work and we need a new plan.

Getting back to Vonnegut’s book – Armageddon in Retrospect.

Image result for kurt vonnegut armageddon in retrospect

It’s a book made up of selected essays/short stories all centred around war. Some of the stories are based on his own personal experience as an American soldier – prisoner of war in Germany. One of the stories concerns the bombing of Dresden toward the end of WW2. Although many other major German cities had been bombed by the US and British throughout the war, Dresden was not considered to be a target because it had no military, industrial or strategic purpose – did not manufacture steel or armaments. It was a city of universities, churches, hospitals, theatres, museums, libraries, the arts and beautiful architecture. It had become a haven for the weak and displaced. BUT someone high up in the US military decided that the rail-yards at Dresden needed to be bombed. It should be pointed out at this time that every able bodied male aged between his mid teens and late 40’s had already been conscripted into the German army and were fighting on the various “fronts”. The city of Dresden was populated by the very old, the very young, the infirm and women. In bombing the rail yards, what actually happened was that the entire city was flattened. Up to 200,000 ordinary people were murdered by the bombers during that time. And if the massive loss of life is not enough, so much history, art and heritage was also lost for ever. The rail yards however were repaired and up and running again in two days. Two days! Was it worth it? Was it the civilised thing to do?

Vonnegut and his fellow prisoners of war had the gruesome task of pulling the bodies of those dead children, wives, mothers and grandmothers out of the twisted wreckage of what had been the beautiful city of Dresden. This very much turned him against war and warfare. War should at best be an absolute last resort when everything else has been tried to keep the peace – not the first consideration, nor should it be a way to settle a political argument, or to simply prove who is strongest, or as a means to take what “we” want from other, weaker nations. The murder of innocents and the destruction of beautiful things is not what a civilised society condones.

Like I said earlier I am not bashing America in particular – just using it as an example, as did Vonnegut in his book. I know many Americans – even have some as family – and they are wonderful, warm, kind people…..but the decisions of those leading them….!! NOR am I bashing the military or those who serve or have served. Many of my own family have served in the military including my father, uncles, cousin and grandfathers. They were fighting for what they considered to be a just cause. It’s not usually the military who bring one country into armed conflict with another – they just have to go where they are told and do what they are told to do – it’s usually politics and political leaders who are at fault…..and those who provide finance to the political parties. Big business runs politics by financing political campaigns and therefore buy and own the politicians. It shouldn’t be allowed. As I said before, the system is broken and does not work – certainly not for the average Joe. The gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen. The system is rigged that way.

I don’t have the answers. I don’t know what the silver bullet is. But we could start by being kinder to one another. We can start by trying to reconnect with our neighbours, our community. We could start by simply smiling and giving a friendly greeting to a stranger. Welcome people instead of shooing them away. Offer the hand of friendship instead of holding up the fist of fury. We could bring back things like trust, integrity, understanding and peace. We could, and should, be civil and civilised. But do we want to be?

Christmas is over for another year…

I’m not going to go into depth about what I do or don’t believe in about Christmas…..except of course that Santa really does exist….(cough cough). Christmas is a magical time of you have little kids to share that magic with……..otherwise, it does all seem to be a lot of work for one day of stuffing our faces and damaging our livers.

At our home, in the build up to Christmas, my wife had reeled off a list of things that “needed to be done before Christmas” and we sweated and toiled in order to get most of them done before the big day. We live in New Zealand so Christmas falls in our summer-time meaning that usually we can bask in sunshine with temperatures in the high 20’s or low 30’s Celsius. Christmas lunch is taken in the garden…..usually…..which is why a lot of the tasks tended to centre around the garden and lawns – making everything as neat as a pin and putting up an awning for a sun-shade and of course fairy lights – although with it being a lunch time feast, no one will see the lights against the bright daylight. BUT they were on the list so had to be put up and switched on.

So after a week of hard work and fraying tempers, completing our garden tasks, of course it absolutely poured down the day before Christmas and on the day itself. Oh JOY! As the front lawn gradually became a shallow lake, we dined inside and it was a bit of a crush squeezing 11 around the tables in the dining room. We had to arrange the tables diagonally – corner to corner – in order to fit everyone and everything in, as a rather large Christmas tree occupied much of one side of the room.

We all ate more than we should – naturally. AND one or two of “us” definitely drank more than was sensible….but we survived the day.

Honestly – next year I wouldn’t mind just disappearing to a Pacific island for the week instead – to chill out and recharge the batteries. My wife even suggested flying to Norway for Christmas…..about as far as you can get from NZ – where we would be completely off the radar….not to mention freezing cold.

It’s now 2 days later – the 27th and finally I am kicking back, chilling out. I’ve just had a coffee with a large chunk of Christmas cake and am contemplating either opening a beer…..or finishing off one of the many bottles of wine that were opened and left unfinished on Christmas day. Why do people do that? Why open a new bottle when there is already another one of exactly the same wine already opened and has only one glassful missing. Does anyone else find that frustrating or is it just me?

Anyhow…getting back to chilling out – I’m reading a book put together by a lady called Penelope Rowlands of 32 essays / short stories by 32 different writers, of a variety of nationalities, who have all lived, or been seduced to stay longer than they should have, in the European City of Lights – Paris. It’s called “Paris was Ours” and I picked it up second hand. It’s in very good condition and I was drawn to the book by the beautiful moody black and white photo on the front of a dimly lit, rainy street with people walking -mostly wearing raincoats and carrying umbrellas – lots of shadows but also reflections and rain spattered glowing pavements. By reading the inside back cover of the book it appears that the photo is from flickr by a Julien Brachhammer. Who-ever you are Julien, I love the photo.

Awesome photo on the cover and an interesting and entertaining read inside.

Inside the book the essays range from 3 pages long up to a maximum of around 16 or 17 pages, so it’s very easy to pick up and put down when you have spare moments…..or you can sit and binge read the essays – much like I was trying to do until I had the urge to share my experience of the book with you all – on here…WordPress.

All of the writers had been seduced by “the city of love” and all or almost all profess to still love it although some also claimed to have a love/hate relationship with a city that they found both passionately alluring, yet also one that theft them feeling lonely and blue. As one writer put it “Paris is a good place to be young and melancholy.” Another says “Paris steals in on you like fog.” Others refer to it as “the world capital of memory and desire” or insist that they were seduced by …”that siren, Paris.” I just love all these quotes – most are so poetic and I wished that I had written them first.

But living in Paris even for a short time – as a resident rather than a tourist – has been beneficial to the inner writer in all these essayists. As one put it “to be a writer you MUST come back to Paris.”

In her introduction to the book, the editor Penelope Rowlands speaks for most of the writers in this enthralling collection when she professes, “We hated Paris and loved it all at once.”

As writer and journalist Walter Wells wrote in his essay “I knew already that living in Paris would not be like visiting Paris, but I hadn’t appreciated what that really meant.” OR as Marcelle Clements attested – “Paris is a great place to fall in love, to eat, drink, and be merry. But it’s also the perfect city in which to be depressed or, even better, melancholy……You don’t have to be French to smoke a Gitane and notice the falling leaves drifting by your window.”

More than half of the essays have never appeared in any other publications and were written especially for this book. Some are well known writers, others – if you’re like me – you will never have heard of before, but all are intrepid men and women writing about their personal encounters with a magical yet uncompromising place – one that changes them indelibly and will stay with them forever – PARIS!

Most of these essays left me wanting to read more by each writer – to delve deeper into their backgrounds – and of course made me yearn to live for a year or more in that seductive city of lights, love and melancholy.

I’m not really a giver of stars to recommend books, as a book is a very subjective thing – what I love – you may hate. BUT if pushed….I would give this at least 4 out of 5.

Four fantastic, freaky, fanciful, frightening, fiendish, fables of fiction from the psychotically perverse pen of Richard Laymon.

The freaky Four books in question.

“When I get a little money,
I buy Laymon books;
and if any is left,
I buy food and clothes.”

On the covers of Richard Laymon’s books, you’ll find tributes by the likes of Dean Koontz and Stephen King. Koontz saying “”No one writes like Laymon and you’re going to have a good time reading anything he writes.” Where as King stated “If you’ve missed Richard Laymon you’ve missed a treat”. Another quote reads “In Stephen King books, the blood drips….in Laymon’s books it splatters!” and “Stephen King without a conscience”. SFX magazine said “This is an author who doesn’t pull his punches….A gripping, and at times genuinely shocking read.”

Quotes for and about Laymon’s books indicate that he is a larger than life author, and yet if you look on the all knowing Wikipedia, there is very little about the man, other than a list of the books that he wrote….information of pseudonyms or pen-names he used and that he died on Valentines day 2001 – supposedly of a massive heart attack. And that there is a back catalogue of manuscripts in the possession of his wife, to keep the publishers busy for a few more years to come. Add to this the “fact” that his “daughter Kelly” who just happens to do a bit of writing herself, has pieced together yet another old manuscript of an earlier Laymon book – The Woods are Dark – and had it re-released in 2008. How convenient! All of which makes me very suspicious that Laymon himself is actually someone else’s pseudonym.

His stories are of a sub-genre known as “Splatterpunk” – possibly a genre that more established and accepted writers would rather not be associated with….in their real names. His stories are filled with sexually perverse and violent themes – again something that more established writers would want to avoid tarnishing their good names with and yet may feel the need to write about in order to “scratch an itch that needs a very good scratch”. He tends to write like a horny teenage horror fan….over-dosing on Viagra.

However, real person or not, he has turned out a long list of titles and I am here today to give you my fabulous 4…..four of the best from Richard Laymon…..and why I have selected the following books.

Body Rides published in 1996 is my first choice because it was the first Laymon book I read and I was so taken by how different it was to everything else I’d read. It’s one of a few books that I will never part with. ( Actually that’s a great idea for another blog post….12 books that I will never part with). The story follows a guy who does a good turn by rescuing a woman from being assaulted (or worse)…and as a reward she gives him a bracelet with strange powers that enables him to feel, see and hear what someone else is thinking or experiencing….like hitching a ride in their body and mind. The person you’re transported inside of has no idea that they are being eavesdropped on in the most intimate manner possible. But it can only be done for a certain amount of time and over a certain distance until, like a piece of stretched elastic, you’re pinged back into your own body and consciousness. The thing is, until you are inside the other person you don’t really know who they really are. They could be an innocent choirboy or a crazed mass murderer, or anything in between. Of course in this story you’re going to bump into more murderers and perverts than choirboys. And while you are away from your own body – your body is vulnerable – unguarded. It makes for an exciting and unusual story.

Endless Night published in 1993 was the second book of Laymon’s I read and was recommended to me by a lady I used to work with. To look at her, (she looked like a prim and proper senior librarian) – she was not the type to read the likes of Laymon’s stories….but she did, and loved them. In this one the perverted murderers like to dress themselves in the skins of their victims while killing yet more innocents. I found it both disgusting and yet strangely fascinating. While murdering and skinning their victims….not to mention a little rape on the side for good measure, Simon and his friends get their perverted kicks, until Jody Fargo, a cops daughter witnesses their murderous rampage and rescues the 12 year old brother of a murder victim…killing a man in the process of making their escape. Simon’s friends make it his responsibility to track them down and tie up loose ends. Can’t have witnesses blabbing to the cops! And so begins an endless night of terror.

Island published in 1995 – I’ll let the blurb on the back of the book speak for itself. “When eight people go on a cruise in the Bahamas, they plan to swim, sunbathe and relax. Getting shipwrecked is definitely not in the script. But after the yacht blows up they end up on a desert island. Lucky for them, their beach camp location has fresh water and firewood, and enough food to last them out. Just one problem remains as they wait to be rescued – they are not alone. In the jungle behind the beach there’s a maniac on the loose with murder in his heart. And he’s plotting to kill them all one by one…”  What it doesn’t warn you about is that the maniac in question also tends to run around half naked with a boner the size of a canoe….and when he sees the female shipwreck survivors he wants to do more than murder them. Does he succeed or do they scupper his evil plans? It’s a fast paced read.

Quake also published in 1995 is about…yes you guessed it an Earthquake. Our hero, Stanley or I should say our antihero as he possesses none of the morals of the white hatted hero’s of old – where the good guys wore white hats and the bad guys wore black – is ogling a pretty female jogger, Sheila, through his living room window, 20 minutes before the quake hits. He has some very perverted fantasies about what he’d like to do to Sheila – who just happens to live near by. When the quake hits, she is naked in her bathtub, in her bathroom, as the building comes down and she’s trapped pinned in the tub by falling debris. Her husband and daughter are away from home for the day with no way of getting home quickly. The power lines are down, roads and bridges are wrecked and emergency services are stretched to the limit. The evil and lawless are already in the streets plundering and pillaging. Will someone rescue Sheila before the fat pervert Stanley gets his hands on her….pretending to come to her rescue? He won’t let anything stop him…..even if it means killing anyone who gets between him and his prey.

So that’s my selection of 4 of the fiendishly freakiest of Laymon’s works. Not for the fainthearted. If you can get past the apparent rush that the writer seems to get from fantasizing like a rampant horny teenager….they are fast paced horror / adventure stories that will keep you up all night (no pun intended!).

A few more of my collection of Richard Laymon books.