About George Bastow

Greetings dear reader and welcome to Books, Films and Random Lunacy. I’m George Bastow, a writer, journalist, hat-connoisseur and blog-keeper. I’ve been an inhabitant of the Earth for 20 years now, and for as long as I can remember I’ve had a passion for the written word, movies, comic books and anything else that could fuel my hungry imagination. Books, Films and Random Lunacy began life quite simply as a place for me to ramble at length about whatever I was reading or watching at that time, but over the years it has grown into the online home for all of my eccentric tales and random writings. From reviews and articles to interviews and short stories, it can all be found on the pages of this very blog. Outside of blogging, I’ve had my work published in several online and independent magazines, I’ve been a guest on the incredibly-talented Ben Davis’ podcast The Vault of Awesomeness. I also have the pleasure of being the Assistant Writer at the Polesworth branch of Writing West Midlands’ Spark Young Writers Group. I’ve even dipped my toe into the waters of event organizing when I was given the role of producer/programmer for the first-ever Teen Takeover Day at the 2016 Birmingham Literature Festival. I live in Warwickshire in a house full to bursting with pets, including five bald sphynx cats, an elderly moggy, a pampered English Setter called Bailey and a scruffy Goldendoodle named Tolkien. On the rare occasion I’m not doing anything creative, you’ll find me rolling around the Midlands in my pimped-up electric wheelchair on various wondrous pursuits or just chillin’ with my loved ones. If you want to know a bit more about what I’m up to, follow me on Twitter @GDBastow Well, now the introductions are out of the way, come with me dear reader, and we'll explore my mind…

Skulduggery Pleasant, (My Grandad) and Me

Allow me to tell you a story; a true story about my Grandad, Skulduggery Pleasant and how those two incredible entities combined to have a profound impact on my life.

Before I delve too deeply into my love of Derek Landy’s dead famous bestselling series of books, I must first fill you in on the kind, hilarious clever wizard of a man who I had the honour of calling my Grandad.

Pete Bastow was so much more than a grandfather to me he was also a wise and supportive father who was always there when I needed him and a mad best mate who taught me to find humour in every aspect of life.

I am blessed to have thousands of amazing memories of him tucked snuggly away in the treasure-trove of my mind, but out of all those reminiscences the ones that remain most vivid are the countless hours we spent reading.

I’ve always loved stories and the intoxicating joy of immersing myself within their worlds, but as much as I adore books, the act of reading has proven consistently difficult for me. As regular readers of this blog will know, I have a condition called Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy which affects all four of my limbs and means I am a fulltime wheelchair user. One of the most unfortunate side effects of my disability ensures that I am a painfully slow reader, which for someone with my voracious appetite for fiction is most uncool. So unlike most Grandads, mine didn’t stop reading to me as soon as I was out of nappies, he continued every evening and weekend until reading became one of our things, along with quoting movies, watching sitcoms and taking the Mickey out of life in general.

Now the background to this yarn has been sufficiently filled in, let me take you back to what would become a very memorable day in 2007. I was rolling past my local branch of Waterstones when I was stopped in my tracks by the display in the shop’s window, a poster that read Skulduggery Pleasant: The new novel by Derek Landy accompanied by an enticingly placed stack of hardbacks.

I know they say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but come on, have you seen it? The now iconic image of the skeleton detective in his exquisitely tailored suit and fedora with a magical flame emanating from the fingers of his gloved hand, I was hooked before I’d even finish the blurb.

I took the tome back to my own partner in crime and the very next day my granddad and I ventured into the Skulduggery Pleasant universe for the first time. We loved it. This new title was laugh-out-loud funny, relentlessly fast-paced and delightfully violent with some of the best dialogue I’d come across in any work of fiction. Derek Landy’s gorgeously sharp prose not only introduced me to his quirky, crazy and truly original cast of characters, but it also made me discover YA literature as a medium which in turn inspired me to become a writer.

Over the next 7 years and 12 books (if you include two spin-offs and a World Book Day short story) Mr Pleasant, his fiery young protégé Valkyrie Cain and their badass band of associates became like old friends to us. We’d read about their latest adventures over cups of tea on lazy Saturday mornings, or with an ice-lolly on the back yard on bright summer days. We’d howl at the exploits of Scapegrace and Thrasher as my ol’ man slurped back his red wine and we’d spill biscuit crumbs between the pages, as we hurried towards the next mind-melting plot twist.

We finished book 9 Skulduggery Pleasant: The Dying of the Light in mid-2014 and as the cover slammed shut, an era ended.

I’d grown from a geeky 10-year-old with an overflowing imagination to a still geeky windswept and interesting 18-year-old with blazing creative ambitions. Just a few months later my mad wizard of a Grandfather had left this mortal coil and those memories of Skulduggery and crew became more poignant than ever.

Then came the recent release of Skulduggery Pleasant: Resurrection and the subsequent Molotov cocktail of emotions that exploded within me. In one way I was ecstatic at the prospect of re-entering the realm of magic, mayhem and mischief that had inspired me so much and in another way I was heartbroken that my Grandad, Dad and bestest mate wouldn’t be here to narrate this new edition to the series and share in its thrills and twists.

But as it reads on Resurrection’s cover, ‘You can’t keep a dead man down.’ And if magic exists which if Derek’s musings are to be believed, it most certainly does, then I’m sure my ol’ man will be reading it alongside me from behind this earthly veil.

Thanks for the memories, Derek.

Love and miss you every day, Grandad.

 

A Comic Book Review: The Axeman Cometh by Darrell Smith & The PXD

The Axeman Cometh is a Southern Gothic Noir comic book by writer Darrell Smith and illustrator the PXD. The story chronicles the journey of Robert Flint, a private investigator who is hired by the influential southern debutant Virginia Westmire to track down the man who murdered her family.

When the comic opens Flint’s been on a quest to catch the Axeman for months, has followed his blood-soaked trail to Jacksonville Mississippi and as Flint begins to recount the chain of events that led him to this point the reader is treated to an exhilarating tale of mystery and horror.

Smith’s precise and sharp writing approach makes for a pacy read; while his easy-flowing conversational style transports us back to 1920s America, his exquisite plotting allows him to subtly drop in clues and plot twists right under the readers nose. The tale has a thread of intrigue running straight through it which is only enhanced by the PXD’s beautifully rendered illustrations.

The artist’s work on this title is nothing short of breath-taking, his depictions of the characters and settings have a cinematic flare that puts the reader in mind of a Hitchcock thriller but it is the attention to detail in every page that gives the project it’s visual depth. Expertly concealed within the backgrounds of each panel is an individual shout out to everyone who backed the book’s creation on Kickstarter. Some are understated, some are humorous and others are gorgeously innovative.

From a visual perspective hats must also be tipped to Rob Jones of Madius Comics whose clear and skill full lettering aided the narrative’s smooth flow. A considerable creative salute is also in order for the story’s colourist Saad Azim whose addition of a vivid and unique palette works on multiple levels.

The Axeman Cometh is a darkly powerful Southern American yarn full of inventive techniques; it shall doubtlessly prove to be a refreshing addition to the independent comics industry and will keep you guessing ‘til the very end.

 

A Few Words for Manchester

In the wake of the evil attack in Manchester on Monday the 22nd of May 2017, the whole nation stands together in shock, heartbreak and solidarity for the victims and their families. There are no words that can truly sum up the senseless barbarism that caused this tragedy or do justice to the bravery of the people affected by it. But as I am a writer,  language is the only currency with which I can pay my respects to all those lost and suffering: allow me to share with you these few words.

Only light can conquer darkness

Only courage can transcend fear

Only unity can heal division

Only love can vanquish hatred.

Manchester, we love you.

The Blog Post of Awesomeness

Greetings dear reader, ‘tis I, your humble blog-keeper and hat-sporting wordsmith back once again to inject a long-overdue dose of Random Lunacy into your consciousness. It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything on this here blog because I’ve been on what I like to call a creative excursion.

The last few weeks have seen me fly into an almost constant state of artistic alchemy, exploring ideas, genres and mediums that have interested and enthralled me for a long time.

I’ve been working like a madman on several bits and pieces including an incredibly exciting, top-secret project that is shaping up to be one of the coolest things I’ve ever produced, if I do say so myself.

I can’t wait to tell you more about it in due course but for now, allow me to share with you another fine project that I’ve been a part of during my creative excursion…

 

The Vault of Awesomeness podcast is the latest brainchild of Y.A. author Ben Davis.

Ben is the vastly talented and hilarious writer of The Private Blog of Joe Cowley series and the stand-alone novels Danny Dread and My Embarrassing Dad’s Gone Viral. He is also the Lead Writer at the Polesworth branch of Writing West Midlands’ Spark Young Writers Group, the very same branch where the Assistant Writer is some fellow named George Bastow. I’ve been co-running our Spark Young Writers’ group alongside the aforementioned Mr Davis since September and it’s fair to say that our creative minds operate on the same frequency, so when he asked me to be the first guest on The Vault of Awesomeness, my answer was a swift and definite “Yeah alright, then.”

I’d be lying if I told you interviews and public speaking were inside my natural habitat, but with a concept that was pitched to me as ‘the reverse of Room 101’ how could it be anything less than… well, awesome.

In the course of our interview Ben and I slid from the deep to the downright daft as we discussed such diverse topics as disability inclusion and black pudding.

If you’ve ever wanted to hear about how I started writing, became truly inspired by the work of Darren Shan or just listen to two yampy Midlands lads messing about, this is the show for you.

The Vault of Awesomeness: Episode 1

The Tamworth Lit Fest has Arrived

The 2017 Tamworth Literary Festival is almost upon us and I thought I’d take this opportunity to tell you about some of the marvellously creative events that will be taking place throughout the town from the 3rd to the 11th of March.

As my regular readers or anyone who has ever glanced at this blog will know, I have a deep-rooted passion for the written word and love to support as many of the brilliant Midlands-based literary events as I can. So when I heard about the Tamworth Literary festival I rushed over to their Facebook page and eagerly perused their programme of events.

They have a truly diverse and interesting line-up with something for everyone from a multitude of author talks and panels to live comedy and theatre performances.

This brand new creative extravaganza begins tomorrow with highlights including an evening of comedy with Litchfield’s First Lady of stand up and award-winning writer Carol E Wyer alongside The Ministry of Improv. An event with bestselling novelist Mike Gayle, a superhero and pop culture enthused workshop lead in collaboration by the good folks from Papercraft Heroes and Custom Comic Guitars and a Thriller Panel featuring Rob Sinclair and A.A. Abbott.

Other standout events of this year’s programme are a Crime Panel with writer/actor Hugh Fraser (Captain Hastings from Poirot) Chris Collett (author of The Worm in the Bud) Stephen Booth (author of The Cooper & Fry Mystery series) and Gordon Low (author of the Black Panther: The Trails and Abductions of Donald Neilson) as well as talks from prolific local wordsmith and Tamworth Literary Festival chairman Anthony Poulton-Smith.

Not to mention the Festival’s two Book Blasts featuring an outstanding array of authors, publishers and poets including Tamworth’s own Simon Goodwin, Birmingham’s New Street author collective and many more.

 

For more info and dates check out the:   Tamworth Lit Fest Facebook page,

Follow them on twitter:   @TamworthLitFest

 

Alternativley email the Festival at: tamlitfest@gmail.com or telephone 07562653565

 

RIP Sir John Hurt

I was truly saddened to hear about the death of Sir John Hurt. He was without doubt one of the best British actors ever to appear on the big and small screens, lending his vast talent and distinctive voice to everything from warm and cosy animations to heart-shattering biopics in the course of a career that spanned six decades. Hurt didn’t simply portray the characters he played on film, TV and stage, he transformed into them, pulling on their flesh and slipping into their minds as easily as you or I would slip into a pair of trainers. It was this extraordinary gift that enabled him to bring us so many diverse and memorable roles, from his earliest performances in ‘A Man for All Seasons,’ and ’10 Rillington Place’ to his iconic role as John Merrick in ‘The Elephant Man’ and his profound embodiment of the legendary writer and activist Quentin Crisp in the TV biopics ‘The Naked Civil Servant’ and ‘An Englishman In New York.’ He will be remembered by sci-fi  connoisseurs across the globe for playing Kane in Ridley Scott’s classic ‘Alien’ and Winston Smith in the silver screen adaptation of ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four.’ He also managed to solidify his place in the consciousness of a new generation of film and television fans as Mr Olivander in the ‘Harry Potter’ franchise and the War Doctor in the 50th anniversary episodes of ‘Doctor Who.’

Hurt’s prolific and unpredictable career saw him flit from gritty dramas to popcorn movies, constantly reinventing himself with each new picture. An outstanding actor whose passing has affected thousands of film-buffs, TV-lovers and theatre-goers the world over, but the sorrow we feel after his loss can be instantly soothed as we remember the great man’s amazing body of work that will render him forever immortal.

A Book Review: An Other Place by Darren Dash

I recently had the privilege of receiving an advanced copy of Darren Dash’s new novel to review, it has been a true thrill to be one of the first people to cast an eye on the latest work from the talented Mr Dash. Here are my thoughts.

 

An Other Place is the third novel by Darren Dash the adult alias of bestselling YA author Darren Shan. Darren’s tales of vampires, demons and the un-dead have chilled the spines of millions across the globe and earned him the title of the Master of Young Adult Horror. But although a healthy helping of gore and scares are guaranteed in his books for younger readers, all of the author’s adult works have taken the reader in a multitude of diverse new directions and An Other Place is no exception.

 

The novel tells the intriguingly bizarre story of Newman Riplan, an excessive self-centered I.T. wizard whose world is turned upside down when a weekend-long drink and drugs binge charts the course for a bewildering journey.

 

When we first meet Newman Riplan, the self proclaimed King Kong of troubleshooters (or I.T. Engineer in plain English), he is in Amsterdam vanquishing viruses from corporate computer systems. While the pretentious Mr. Riplan is at the top of his industry, he has always played harder than he’s worked and the lure of the city’s red light district and his penchant for ladies of the night soon draw him away from his desk.

 

As he’s enjoying the sights and sensations of the city, Newman discovers his old mates Hughie and Battles are in town, and they quickly resolve to meet-up for drinks. As the pages turn, a few pints swiftly transform into a narcotics-fuelled spree, and when Newman finds himself on a plane full of seemingly inanimate wax mannequins, things take a disorientating turn that would leave Hunter S. Thompson scratching his head in disbelief.

 

 

An Other Place is a deliciously quirky novel that is surreal and powerful in equal measure. In the pages of the book Dash has crafted a meticulously detailed alternate reality complete with its own folklore and societal eccentricities. Another standout feature of the story is how well the author amalgamates genres, mixing together sci-fi and horror with fantastical elements to create a wonderfully weird cocktail.

 

Its immersive storyline drags the reader back and forth between light-hearted scenes underscored by black comedy to morally questionable sequences that hit with the impact of a locomotive.

 

This is by far Dash’s best work to date. It is challenging and absurd, artistically brave and politically conscious, but this abstract painting of a novel is one thing above all else…

completely original.