Saturday, November 26, 2011


I'm not sure that I added this sketch when I posted the ones of the developmental sketches of the magician, Plaucus, that I put up back in the summer. The illustrations are for 'Octave Finds a Voice' by Walter Harris.

Oh! Probably ought to say, I did the pictures.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Walter Harris

I've had a business meeting today with cult author and very darling friend, Walter Harris. He's the author of the novelization of the Creature from the Black Lagoon, as well as a whole raft of other works.

I have had the privilege today to draw his likeness... across a shared charcuterie platter and a very nice temperanillo... (thank you very much)... with a good seasoning of a lot of laughter.

We are relaunching Walter's books in the New Year on his website, but I couldn't resist showing you his portrait now.

He's recently turned 86 and jolly handsome he is too!

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Story of Newbury

The Story of Newbury

Long time friend and local historian David Peacock, is signing his new book The Story of Newbury in WH Smith, Newbury tomorrow, Saturday 19th November from 11am - 2pm and I urge you to get down there or buy a copy via any of the links on this page.

If you can't make it tomorrow, David will be doing another signing at Waterstone's, Newbury on Saturday 10th December 11am - 1pm.

The Story of Newbury will be a fabulous Christmas gift for anyone with an interest in our unique local history - which is everyone I know really! Here's the blurb:
In the 21st century, the bustling market town of Newbury is now home to a famous racecourse, a global telecommunications company, a leading pharmaceutical business, and a myriad of thriving enterprises. It has come a long way, then, from its pre-Roman beginnings, when it was little more than a group of huts beside the River Kennet. 
This excellent book sets out to tell the story of its journey through time and the colourful events which have helped shape the town. They range from the heyday of the cloth trade when much of Newbury's wealth was established; the turbulence of the English Civil War when two major battles were fought within its boundaries; to the recent anti-nuclear peace camps set up around the perimeter of Greenham Common airfield and the treetop protests against the building of a much-needed bypass to help keep motorists moving north and south of the town. 
Written by local historian, David Peacock, this brand new account of Newbury's past will inform and fascinate residents and visitors alike.
The Story of Newbury - David Peacock
Published by Countryside Books - Price £9.95
Available From:
Tourist Information Centre
1, The Wharf,
Newbury, Berkshire. RG14 5AS
01635 30267
Waterstones64 Northbrook Street,
Newbury Berkshire. RG14 1AE
0843 2908501
W H Smiths87/89, Northbrook Street,
Newbury Berkshire. RG14 1AE
01635 40013
The Family Bookshop
58, The Broadway,
Thatcham, Berkshire. RG19 3HP
01635 871777
The Hungerford Bookshop24, High Street,
Hungerford, Berkshire. RG17 0NF
01488 683480

Alternatively you can order online direct from the publishers:
Countryside Books, Highfield House, 2, Highfield Avenue, Newbury, Berkshire. RG14 5DS

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Lady Astronomer - a promising beginning

I am always interested to see work from new writers before it comes to market and have just had the opportunity to look at a sample chapter for a new book by emerging writer, Katy O'Dowd. This is her first fiction and looks to be an early foray into book publishing for Doctor Fantastique, publisher of a magazine of the same name dedicated to the 'steampunk' genre.

'Steampunk', as a term was coined as recently as 1987, but the characteristics of the genre are immediately recognisable in the works of Jules Verne, HG Wells and Mervyn Peake. Once coined it now seems bizarre that there is no antecedent for the label.
OED steampunk n.

Science fiction which has a historical setting (esp. based on industrialized, nineteenth-century society) and characteristically features steam-powered, mechanized machinery rather than electronic technology; (also) such writing as a subgenre of science fiction.

Unusually, O'Dowd's sample chapter is currently for sale on Amazon rather than available as a free download - but this is surely a mistake by a new publisher that will be rectified very soon.

The Lady Astronomer Chapter One, Katy O'Dowd gives us a tantalizing squint through the glass of her 'monoscope', letting us take a sneaky peek into her steampunk world. And the view from where I'm sitting looks pretty darn good.

The writer's narrative voice is particularly fine and if the dialogue comes across as weaker, it is worth considering whether this is apparent because of its proximity to such superb narration. The descriptive passages reverberate with the beautifully observed details of an imagined world, and these sections are bathed in a lyrical vocabulary that is evocative and innovative, yet accessible to a Young Adult audience. The characterizations of the human and animal protagonists are promising and look like providing sustained interest as the story unfolds; while the secondary characters appear to be stylishly sketched in order to offer comedic cameos.

If Katy O'Dowd's sustained storytelling throughout the full length novel is as good as her description in this sample chapter, then 'The Lady Astronomer' looks set to be a classic of YA culture in the making. My 'young adult' daughter and I are very much looking forward to the publication of the full text in 2012.


Siphonaptera jumped on to the flat roof, hidden by his tiny size and darkness of the still night. Though the stars peppered the skies with diamond dust, their light would no more have illuminated the predator than using a candle to see from one end of a particularly dank, gloomy tunnel.

He paused on his long hind legs, lifted his head and fixed a beady eye on his prey. Three warm bodies for him to gorge on. If his front legs had been longer he would have rubbed them together in glee at the thought of the crimson blood that lay in wait for him within his unknowing quarry.

Blood. His tube-like mouth parts fairly quivered in anticipation. He jumped again and came ever closer. His tiny belly rumbled and he stopped, before realising that the noise was so minute nobody could possibly have heard it.

Victory would be his! Just one more jump, two, three, the excitement of wanting and knowing that it was within reach filled him in a great rush.

And then he knew no more.

Lucretia turned her head towards Leibniz, who had startled her. Her left eye, hugely magnified behind her monoscope fixed on the ring-tailed lemur.

“Leibniz, how many times have I asked you not to make noise when I’m at a critical juncture?” she sighed. “What do you have there, boy?”

The lemur sauntered over to her, arms behind his back.

“Show, Leibniz, show,” she demanded, raising herself from the roof and brushing down her dress.

Leibniz reluctantly held his arm forward and opened his paw to reveal the smudged smear that had once been Siphonaptera. Lucretia peered intently until she could make out what it was. She stepped back and grimaced.

“Well, feel free to eat it, I hate fleas.”