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I’m going to talk about a couple of Western movies, but in case any of you don’t like Westerns, I’ll get the plug in first – my short story collection, Music in the Bone (Alchemy Press), has had very good reviews, such as these –
– as well as on Amazon. It’s available in paper and kindle versions. There is a Western in it, but only one, so you can ignore that.

So anyway, recently with a friend I watched a double bill of Zane Grey Westerns from the 1940s, both starring a very young “Bob” Mitchum. “Nevada” has Mitchum as a young man involved in dirty doings over mineral rights; the villain’s girlfriend falls for him, she being innocent of villainy, but she runs the saloon and (implied) brothel, so she has to die heroically saving the hero’s life. So far so standard, except there is a small plot twist easily guessed by those with a little knowledge of history. The hero has a couple of sidekicks, one of them half Irish and half Mexican, who sings to a guitar given half a chance.

The other film, “West of the Pecos” (where there is notoriously no law), I remember seeing many hundreds of years ago when I was quite small. Mitchum is again a young cowboy, with a sidekick. Mitchum’s character is quite a different person from the character in Nevada, and the setting is Texas – but the Mexican / Irish sidekick is the same character – same name, same actor, same back story, same guitar. OK, bit confusing, but hey, why abandon a perfectly good sidekick just because you’re somebody else. The plot features a banker whose doctor advises a long break away from the city, and he and his daughter go to a property he owns but has never visited in Texas (daughter played by Barbara Hale, who if I mistake not played Della Street to Raymond Burr’s Perry Mason. However, I digress).

The daughter is engaged to the old man’s lawyer, and they seem quite cheerful about the idea and are planning the wedding, but he happily waves her off to Texas with Pa. She discovers that women get no respect west of the Pecos, and disguises herself as a boy. Oh, and she’s brought her French maid with her.

In the middle of the desert, the hired wagon loses a wheel and the horses. Enter Mitchum and sidekick to the rescue; sidekick starts romancing the maid; Mitchum is entirely fooled by the disguise, but Hale clearly likes the look of him. Now here’s where it starts, in my view, to get a bit odd – Pa, though apparently happy back in Chicago to give his daughter in marriage to the respectable and no doubt wealthy lawyer, here in Texas seems almost straightaway to start eyeing the penniless cowboy as a potential son-in-law. There is a period during which Hale has to conceal her gender from Mitchum while clearly fancying the socks off him, which I personally found remarkably erotic, culminating in a scene where Mitchum starts getting his kit off to go for a swim; he gets naked to the waist before she panics and slaps his face – yes, well, that’s clearly why I remembered the film fondly for fifty years. Phew. Quck rub down with a damp copy of the Radio Times…

Soon after this, Mitchum discovers she’s a woman, and they start falling for each other in earnest – with enthusiastic encouragement from Pa. The party reaches the ranch, the two cowboys stay and work for them – and the lawyer arrives. The fiancé, you recall. Mitchum accepts defeat and prepares to leave the ranch – but Pa persuades him to stay and persevere. He does so, and Hale happily changes her allegiance – and the jilted suitor not only stays on, with no demur, but nobly exerts himself to defend his replacement against a trumped up charge of robbery and murder.

And I think – what? Isn’t he even upset? Was it to be a marriage of business convenience, with neither party’s heart engaged? Was he marrying her for her father’s money, and has he got a richer prize in sight? Is he in fact gay, and was she simply his beard? And what’s Father’s role? It’s all very odd. I don’t know if Zane Grey often did this sort of thing – I may have to read the book….

My mother never got over her disappointment with marrons glacés. She didn’t reckon smoked salmon was anything to get excited about either. I recently had a similar feeling about lobster mayonnaise – I’d seen it mentioned in novels, as something wonderful and divine – and it turns out it’s cold lobster with mayonnaise. That’s it. I mean, lobster’s quite nice, and so is mayonnaise, but…  Maybe together they exceed the sum of their parts.

I once stayed in a bed and breakfast where the landlady seemed to be constantly boiling lobsters. The smell was dreadful. I’m not sure I want to eat something that has to be boiled alive anyway – seems to be overdoing the nature red in tooth and claw bit – which of course the lobster is, once it’s been boiled. Before that it’s blue in tooth and claw. Assuming it has any teeth. Question for homework – do lobsters have teeth?

In case anyone hasn’t noticed, My short story collection, Music in the Bone and other stories, is out now from Alchemy Press. Available from me or from other booksellers. You know you want one! There aren’t any lobsters in it though. Excuse me while I go and sugar my hair.

From my friend Veronica. Thought provoking.

The Reversed Standard Version

At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, ‘Listen, he is calling for Elijah.’ And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, ‘Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.’ Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’ (Matthew 15:34-39)

This is by way of a postscript to last week’s comments. Never mind the bystanders whose grasp of Hebrew/Aramaic is less than perfect (my grasp…

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I always used to say that writing poetry was like manufacturing high class gas mantles, however good they were no-one would buy them. (Those of you too young to know what a gas mantle is are young enough to google it.) But poetry is now – well, not fashionable exactly, but no longer as outcast and derided and obsolete as it was thirty or forty years ago, and apparently today is National Poetry Day. So here is a poem. I wrote it about thirty years ago, after an all-nighter at the Scala, if I remember rightly, of Benjamin Christensen’s Häxan and two Kenneth Anger films, Scorpio Rising and Lucifer Rising. Hence the images in the first stanza. The second is – well, what it says. I’m rather inclined to agree with Charlotte Bingham, that the devil won’t turn out to be suave or glamorous, he’ll just be a complete weed, with wet hands.


old women
burn the witch
young men
the devil
devil with horns
flickering tongue
the old snake
satan’s cock is cold and scaly
Burn the witch.

Is the devil a gentleman?
no way.
The devil’s a liar
the devil’s a bastard
the devil never kept a promise in his life.
Only one man ever beat the devil,
got out of this world alive.

Marion Pitman

Been a long time – life seems to have got away from me again, this year seems to have been dominated by the struggle for a new boiler – which still goes on – got the grant, moved humungous tons of stuff out of the way so boiler and boilerfitters could get into the house – only to be told humungous more tons of books must be removed from the bedroom or the man and the boiler couldn’t get through to the bathroom. Ho hum. He’s coming again on 21st October.

However, that is not the blogworthy news. I have a book coming out! A collection of short stories, all by me myself, from the entirely wonderful Alchemy Press. When someone teaches me how I shall post a link, with any luck. The title of the book is Music in the Bone; it is due to launch at Fantasycon on 24th October, and an e-book is available for anyone who would like to review it 🙂

It’s mostly ghosts, supernatural, horror and weird stuff, with the odd bit of SF and fantasy here and there. And, I hope some humour. Oh and a great cover. Put it on your Christmas present list. Better still, buy it for all your friends for Christmas 🙂

Possible controversy ahead. OK, deep breath – and please keep reading – I was raped once. It wasn’t the worst thing that ever happened to me, and it didn’t ruin my life. But that isn’t the point. As it happened, I didn’t go to the police – because I was young and unsure of myself, and because it was the early 1980s, and I didn’t have bruises or witnesses, and I went to the man’s house of my own free will (I was supposed to be valuing books for him), and I didn’t think the police would be interested. But if I had gone to the police, and he had been prosecuted, the fact that he didn’t ruin my life would have been irrelevant. You shouldn’t do that because you shouldn’t do it, however the victim feels about it.
Every time I read a report of a trial, and there is evidence given of how it has ruined the victim’s life, or the lives of the victim’s family, I get twitchy. Because, OK, it sounds fine, you have done a terrible thing raping this person or murdering this person, and you have caused all this grief, and that should be reflected in your punishment. BUT – where does reason take it from there? Does it follow that if, as in my case, the victim copes well, or maybe, in the case of a murder, no-one like the victim much, or knew them well, and no-one misses them – what then? Does that make the crime not so bad? Are we saying, in fact, it’s OK to murder unpopular people, that people who cope well with trauma can be raped with impunity? Of course not, no-one would say that. But the fact is, the act is what must not be allowed. The after-effects are not the business of the law. People have said and done things to me that went far closer to ruining my life, because they had a specific effect on me. I’m not asking for those people to go to jail. The law should be concerned with what the perpetrator did, and not, frankly, how anyone feels about it.

I decided to treat myself to one day of Picocon on Saturday. Both guests very good, Frances Hardinge and Cory Doctorow – Cory gave a disquieting talk on electronic surveillance which I still think I mostly understood. I am now reading Frances’s Gullstruck Island; she is one of those writers who make me feel I have no imagination by comparison. If you haven’t read her books, do, they are amazing.

After some mind-boggling turkey reading and viewing, the day ended with a showing of Galaxy Quest, always enjoyable. Rather sad I couldn’t go again on Sunday and see Kari Sperring and Ian McDonald.

Must try harder next year.

History is never what we suppose. I have just sold a scrapbook of political cartoons from the Daily Graphic, from 1912 and 1913. The three topics that seem to crop up most often are Irish Home Rule, National Insurance, and the Disestablishment of the Church of Wales. So the last really was a big thing – I never knew it was a thing at all except from Chesterton’s poem – Are they clinging to their crosses, F. E. Smith? Where the Breton boat fleet tosses, are they, Smith?

Nothing is ever entirely what we suppose.


Very sad to find the estate agents Vanderpump and Wellbelove seem to have become merely Vanderpump. I think something similar happened to Button, Menhenitt and Mutton, though I may be wrong. One wonders if there is an agency matching up wonderful names for estate agents, lawyers, accountants… I remember with delight Bacchus, Gathercole and Partners, not to mention Alabaster, Stray and Clogg. And of course who could forget Hotblack Desiato?
Then there’s lorries. I believe many people collect Eddie Stobarts, but I incline towards Norbert Dentressangle, ever since I first saw one when being driven across France on a school holiday. My absolute favourite, however, which I have seen twice, is F. Pratt & Co, Independent Banana Ripeners of Hemel Hempstead. Who knew there even were independent banana ripeners, let alone in Hemel Hempstead?
While I see that there may be a case for streamlining, and having a name that’s easy to get on the notepaper, it so often diminishes the glorious variety of life. And all too often it results in something unmemorable and often incomprehensible, like those charities that rebrand themselves so as not to actually mention, or even hint at, what they’re trying to achieve.
When I had a shop, I thought long and hard about what to call it, and eventually decided that the only thing I felt comfortable with, that wasn’t misleading or twee, was Marion Pitman, Books. Not exotic, but does what it says on the tin.
This post has neither moral nor message. Thank you.

Should have commented earlier on Fantasycon, in York on the first weekend of September. It was, in fact, great, with good speakers, including the lovely Charlaine Harris; the Alchemy Press books launch, one of which (Urban Mythic 2) has a story of mine; a good poetry session, and lots of meeting up with friends old and new.

But it was without Graham Joyce, who died two days later, and I am very sad. I knew Graham slightly from previous Fantasycons and the British Fantasy Society; he was a brilliant writer, and someone with so much passion, energy, intellect, humour, generosity, wisdom, and downright goodness. So much the sort of person we need more of. If you don’t know his books, find and read them.