Monday, 16 April 2018

Who Should Play Jackson Lamb?



As any advertising executive knows in his shrivelled heart, no marketing campaign, however swish and expensive, will ever be more effective than good old Word of Mouth. A glowing recommendation from a friend is worth more than a thousand billboards. That's how I found out about Mick Herron's Jackson Lamb series anyway (thanks Sam!), and if you've not come across them yet, consider this my glowing recommendation to you. (If you want another, Val McDermid says "Mick Herron is the John Le Carré of our generation.")

The series began in 2010 with Slow Horses, and a publisher and trade dress redesign or two later, has really started to reach critical mass with the the fifth book London Rules, just out from John Murray, with a new novella in time for Christmas and the as-yet-untitled sixth novel proper already scheduled for June 2019.

I've bought copies of them all, including a signed first edition of London Rules: a snip at £12.99 from Waterstones while stocks last folks. It's a sign of Herron's skyrocketing profile that first editions, let alone signed ones, of the first few books in the series have rapidly become as scarce as the fabled chicken dentition, and copies will now set you back comfortably into three figures. I've inhaled the first two books, and enjoyed them so much that I intend to ration the rest...

The set up is simple: Slough House is a shabby office block in London, where MI5 sends its problem officers, its screw-ups, to do menial filing work, until they get bored enough to resign (which avoids any messy employment tribunals that might arise from actually firing them). Overseeing these 'Slow Horses' (Slough House/Slow Horse, geddit?) is Jackson Lamb, once a formidable spook in Berlin Station, now a fat, flatulent slob of a man, weak on personal hygiene, but still sharp when it counts, and a black belt in Combat Sarcasm. A has-been leading a team of no-hopers he may be, but Jackson Lamb nevertheless still has fingers in many pies, and it is not wise to underestimate him...

Frankly I'm counting the hours until a screen adaptation of these wonderful books is announced. One imagines that Mr Herron and his agent are currently sifting offers from movie producers, the Beeb, Channel 4 and Netflix/Amazon/etc. The BBC would be the best fit IMHO, but if someone at one of the streamers decides to throw money at it, Auntie will be left in the dust I fear.

So to business: who should be cast to play Jackson Lamb? Well, in the first two books at least, Herron helps us gain an image of his hero by comparing him to "Timothy Spall gone to seed", and "Timothy Spall, but with worse teeth." Spall's agent is surely forewarned and waiting excitedly by the phone, ready to hike up his client's price (rather like Robbie Coltrane's agent after J.K. Rowling said she couldn't imagine anyone else playing Hagrid), but it's worth keeping in mind that when Herron wrote that back in 2010/2013, Spall looked like this:





... whereas these days, he looks like this:





This is great news for Mr Spall's health and general quality of life, less good for his chances of accurately portraying Jackson Lamb on screen. But they cast Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher, so hey. Spall would actually be a great choice, and would be able to pull off the necessary combination of looking like a soft incompetent on the outside, but underneath being steel.

Mick Herron has been asked by this blog who he thinks should play Lamb. Interestingly, he avoided any mention of Spall, and said, “If we went right through anyone who ever lived, it would be Orson Welles in Touch of Evil (1958). Physically, I think he looks like Lamb in that film; and his voice tone would also be about right.”

Here's Orson in that film:



... and you can watch and hear him in action here.

That's quite a presence (and voice!) to match with a present-day actor. My mate Sam says he had The Sopranos' James Gandolfini in his head as a physical match for Lamb, but of course that fine actor is no longer with us. Vincent D'Onofrio is still very much alive, and has even played Welles a couple of times. He could certainly being Lamb to life, but ultimately it would be favourite, surely, to have a Brit actor. The aforementioned Robbie Coltrane would probably be on any casting director's list, though at 68 he's arguably a little on the old side for the character now, especially if the adaptation was planned to run to several series (let's face it though: he'd be wonderful, he always is).

Before I read Herron's Orson Welles comments, I must admit I had the actor Geoffrey McGivern in my mind as Lamb. Here he is:


He's not an especially famous face; in fact he's best known as a voice: the original (and of course best) Ford Prefect in the radio version of The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. He's also been seen on screen in loads of stuff over the years, more recently including Peep Show (as Uncle Geoff) and the incomparable Toast of London. I'd certainly buy him as a clapped-out spy in a mac covered in curry stains, and I can hear him delivering such withering Lamb put-downs as, “That is quite possibly the worst cup of tea I’ve had anywhere. And I’m including France in that.”

Who else might be in the mix? Thinking along the lines of a casting director for a British TV production, then there will presumably be some usual suspects: Bill Nighy, for example (because what British TV production would not want Bill Nighy in the lead?). Much as I love Nighy, he'd be wrong for Jackson Lamb, and anyway, he's already done his wayward MI5 agent in David Hare's Johnny Worricker trilogy.


Another possible: Ken Stott, star of Rebus and Messiah, and specialist in crumpled hard bastards.



Or how about the always excellent actor-not-physicist Brian Cox? (Though at 71, he's also maybe a bit too old...):



Going a bit younger (though the character as written needs to be someone who was an active spook in the Cold War, so late-fifties would be about as young as you could go...) another actor with comedy/hard bastard credentials would be Lily's dad Keith Allen (64):


... though he'd be perhaps a little too intense for Lamb, who does after all spend much of the novels sitting in his chair, asleep or farting.

A few more left-field choices, not necessarily right, but with enough heft to help get a TV series green lit: Alfred Molina, Alun Armstrong, Tim Roth, Eddie Izzard (the latter two are both 56 now, believe or not).

One actor who would have been perfect (and also famously played Dalziel, a character Mick Herron freely admits was an inspiration for Lamb) is the late lamented Warren Clarke:


But if we can't have him, who should it be? I'm sure there are many more possible suggestions, but there's a few to get you started, anyway.

Oh, and Lamb's right-hand woman (though she'd never stand for you describing her as that) Catherine Standish should be played by Rebecca Front. End of.



Monday, 26 February 2018

A T. E. Lawrence Limited Edition: The Kaer of Ibu Wardani (70 copies only!)





THE KAER OF IBU WARDANI
By T. E. Lawrence

A key early piece of writing by Lawrence of Arabia, which originally appeared in Jesus College Magazine in 1913, and is now published in its own edition for the first time

With an original, hand-printed linocut frontispiece

A strictly limited, never-to-be-reprinted edition of 70 hand-numbered copies for sale

Currently available only via Paypal, via this website, on a first come, first served basis


Please use the Paypal button below to order your copy. 
IMPORTANT: POSTAGE SELECTION:
From the drop-down menu below (under 'Price incl postage), select UK if you're in the UK, or click and scroll down to Rest of World if you are anywhere else. (Price including tracked and signed for postage for Rest of World is £27.50: it is unavoidably pricey if I'm sending out of the country, apologies!). Please make sure that your Paypal account supplies me with the correct mailing address for you.


Price incl postage


UPDATE: Many thanks to the people from around the world who have already ordered copies. After a snow delay thanks to 'The Beast from the East', I have now been able to send out the first batch of copies. They are selling steadily now, so if you have not ordered yet, don't miss out!


A bit of background: 


As the summer of 1912 began, T. E. Lawrence was a 23 year-old off-duty archaeologist. With his dig at Carchemish closed for the season, Lawrence went travelling with Dahoum, the young Arab who had become his constant companion. The pair decided to take in a site of archaeological interest deep in the Syrian desert: the remains of a Byzantine palace known as the Qasr of Ibn Wardan.

The visit made enough of an impression on Lawrence that he was inspired to ‘formally’ write up the experience as an essay, which he sent back to England for inclusion in a new publication produced by his old Oxford college. Thanks to (presumably) a slight mangling of Lawrence’s title by the typesetter, the piece duly appeared as ‘The Kaer of Ibu Wardani’ in Jesus College Magazine Vol. 1, No. 2, dated January 1913.

This key early piece of descriptive writing by the future Lawrence of Arabia has been largely forgotten, and is not easy to track down. It is now presented in its own, limited edition for the first time.

The edition features an original, hand-printed linocut by Sharon Newell, inspired by the design of a wall carving at the Qasr, tipped in as a frontispiece.

A5 format, printed on uncoated 160gsm paper, 16pp plus a cover (designed to echo the 1935 Trade Edition of Seven Pillars) printed on heavy Rives Shetland paper.

The interior is set in Lawrence's preferred font Caslon, with a recreation of the striking decorated capitals designed by Edward Wadsworth for the 1926 Subscriber's Edition of Seven Pillars.

Featuring, as well as the full text of 'The Kaer of Ibu Wardani', an extract from Seven Pillars where Lawrence recalls his visit to the Qasr, plus a 'Note on Fonts' and annotations by Adam Newell, with supporting illustrations.














Acknowledgements

I'm extremely pleased with how this small edition has turned out. I have many people to thank, not least Dr. Robin Darwall-Smith, the Archivist at Jesus College Oxford, who helped me gain access to the original text. I should also thank Robert Athol, the Archivist at Jesus College *Cambridge*, whom (schoolboy error alert!) I mistakenly contacted in the first instance. He soon put me in touch with the *right* Jesus College.

Thanks are also due to Sharon Newell for labouring over 70 exquisite linocuts to act as the frontispieces, Paul Lloyd for creating a digital version of Wadsworth's bloomers, and Martin Stiff of the design agency Amazing 15 for his typically superb work.

Credits are also due to the Creative Commons photographers Fulvious, Heretiq, Jim Gordon, 'Upyernoz' and Reibai, whose work I have used for illustrations. 

Readers of the edition will see that several key biographies of Lawrence are referenced in my annotations, but in addition I would also like to mention Not a Suitable Hobby for an Airman: T. E. Lawrence as Publisher by V. M. Thompson as a useful source of information about Wadsworth's work.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Christopher Nolan's Desert Island Withnail...

Christopher Nolan directing nearly-Withnail Ken Branagh in Dunkirk.

In what I'm pretty certain is a first, a selection from the soundtrack to Withnail and I has been chosen as a Desert Island Disc. Everybody's favourite future Bond movie director Christopher Nolan includes 'Marwood Walks' as one of his eight pieces of music to be cast away with (other film-related choices include a cue by his colleague Hans Zimmer, and of course a bit of 007).

Nolan says of his choice: "It's just a lovely, lovely piece of score. We first saw [Withnail] at UCL [University College London]. These screenings we would do at the Bloomsbury Theatre, and Emma [Thomas, now his wife and producer] and I would put together all-night film shows once a year, and one year we showed Withnail and I from a 35mm print. It's just a film that I connected with, first on the level that's it's an extremely funny film, but over the years it's sort of taken on a much more emotional, much more melancholic feeling for me. I think a lot of that is to do with this beautiful music."

Hear, hear. 'Marwood Walks' is (I think) the cue heard in the film when Paul McGann emerges from Crow Crag into the daylight the morning after they arrive. Wrapping his overcoat around him for warmth, he looks at the view (which the movie cheats: he 'sees' Haweswater, which is actually miles away from Sleddale Hall).

The incidental music for Withnail, by David Dundas and Rick Wentworth, is, of course, utterly brilliant. It's easy to downplay its part in the overall effect of the film, but for me, I tend to notice it more and more every time I re-watch the film.

But what of the gentlemen who made the music? Both sound fascinating fellows. Rick Wentworth is a BAFTA-nominated composer who has worked with all kinds of interesting people, including Paul McCartney, Grace Jones and Roger Waters. Dundas meanwhile is a mate of Bruce Robinson's, in fact it was his house in Camden in which Robinson and various others lived at the fag end of the 1960s. He is now *Lord* Dundas, if you please, and must be the only current member of the upper house to have had a pop career in the 1970s. Here's a clip of his most famous tune, 'Jeans On'...




The current link to Nolan's Desert programme is HERE. The BBC usually archive DID to be available 'forever', so this famous fan's little tribute to Withnail should be there for future generations to enjoy... even when mankind has to go live on the other side of a wormhole.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

God's Glory in the Heavens by William Leitch: The First Source To Suggest Rocket-Powered Space Exploration




This evidently *very* scarce book (I can find no other non-POD copy currently for sale anywhere online) holds a very special place in the history of astronomy, and space exploration. As the Wikipedia article for its author William Leitch points out:

Space historian Robert Godwin published in October 2015 his discovery that Leitch gave the first modern scientific explanation of the potential for space exploration using rockets (1861).[1] He was said to be "a distinguished astronomer, naturalist and mathematician",[2] and his proposal for rocket spaceflight came four decades prior to more well-known proposals by Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1903), Robert Esnault-Pelterie (1913), Robert H. Goddard (1914), and Hermann Oberth (1923). Leitch's rocket spaceflight description was first provided in his 1861 essay "A Journey Through Space", which was later published in his book God's Glory in the Heavens (1862).[3] This description correctly attributed rocket thrust to the "internal reaction" (Newton's laws of motion) and correctly identified that rocket thrust is most effective in the vacuum of space.

Despite the title, this is not a 'religious' book, but a still very readable trip around the solar system as it was known then. This copy is in Very Good condition overall, with all 12 plates present (and numerous illustrations in the text). The half leather binding looks of the time, and the bookplate has a story of its own: this book's previous owner was John Whichcord, the lauded architect, perhaps best known for designing the Grand Hotel in Brighton, which, despite the efforts of the IRA, still stands to this day.

A small piece of history then. (Which, perhaps not surprisingly, SOLD before I had a chance to post this blog!)




















Sunday, 26 November 2017

The Secret Garden First Edition

As is often the case with such lovely books, between me taking these photos and posting them, this book has already sold... but I'll put them up anyway, as a record of the wonderful Rackham-esque illustrations by Charles (Heath) Robinson (brother of William) in this, the first edition of Frances Hodgson Burnett's beloved classic.













Wednesday, 15 November 2017

An Horrific Signing...



On Saturday November 11th it was to London for the signing of THE ART OF HORROR MOVIES: AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY (on which I was Project Manager) at Forbidden Planet in London. Thanks to the book's editor Stephen Jones, I had been invited to sign along with a lot of very august people: writers Anne Billson, Ramsey CampbellBarry Forshaw, Sir Christopher Frayling, Kim Newman and Jonathan Rigby, artists Steve CrispLes EdwardsGraham Humphreys and Uli Meyer, screenwriter and director Sean Hogan, actor and writer Nicholas Burman-Vince, Stephen Jones himself, and special surprise guest Dave McKean. We signed for a full two hours, and a fine time was had by all...











Author and Hellraiser actress Barbie Wilde, who had also pre-signed copies.


It's not every day I find myself sitting next to Dave McKean, so I'm afraid I shamelessly made the best of the situation, and asked him for a sketch on my name sign...


.... a great souvenir of a wonderful day.

At the time of writing, these multi-signed copies are available from FP HERE!