MONTH END PROCESSING FOR MARCH 2013
Books: I don't want to speak ill of the dead, but, y'know, sometimes you have to. When horror writer James Herbert died in March, the tributes paid to him followed a standard format: they were all from middle-aged men who fondly remembered his sex 'n' gore-filled potboilers as the first properly adult books they read as teenagers. And that's precisely how I remember them too: my generation, hitting adolescence in the mid-70s, was the first to experience the illicit thrill of copies of The Rats and The Fog being passed around in school, some pages naturally falling open, others curiously difficult to prise apart. It struck me that I'd never read a Herbert since then, so when I found a copy of his final novel Ash in an airport bookshop, I felt it had to be done. Sadly, I discovered that you can never go back to your childhood. Herbert's good on plotting and subversively gruesome ideas - if you want a detailed description of an old Nazi being devoured by hyper-evolved maggots, he's your man - but he has (or had) an excruciatingly poor ear for dialogue. An early low point involves a female Brazilian doctor, who responds to a simple chatup line with a sociopolitical analysis of São Paulo that feels like it's been ripped straight from Wikipedia. But any part of the book where people converse is painful to one degree or another, taking all the show-not-tell rules and repeatedly ignoring them. Do I go back to The Rats now to see if it was equally clunky? To be honest, I'm scared to.
Movies: If you're reading this on the Bank Holiday Monday, I'm pleased to announce that I've contributed to yet another piece for Mostly Film today. Obscure Gems 3: Back From The Dead is the latest instalment of a regular series, in which our writers introduce forgotten movies that may have escaped you. If anything, we've done too good a job this time round, as I've been unable to find enough decent clips or trailers for our latest set of selections. So treat this here as the red button hype piece that traditionally accompanies my work for Europe's Best Website, and have a look at the Obscure Gems we've found for you - including a rare example of the genre they call Sumosploitation. You might learn something.
Theatre: Later this year, you can expect the return of this site's not-award-winning Edinburgh Festival coverage, after my traditional one year off in three last year. But I was delighted to spend a few days back there in March on business, and while I was there I couldn't resist the lure of the city's cultural attractions. Particularly when I discovered what was playing at the Royal Lyceum Theatre: it was Takin' Over The Asylum, Donna Franceschild's stage adaptation of her BBC TV serial from nearly two decades ago. It's a beautifully pitched tragicomedy, telling the story of Eddie (Iain Robertson), a soul music fan who lands a weekly gig playing records on hospital radio for a Glasgow mental institution, and gradually comes to know and love the inmates there. It's terrifically acted, and the cast manage to banish all memories of their telly predecessors. That's especially impressive in the case of Brian Vernel's portrayal of Cameron, the character played on telly by a young but charismatic unknown called David Tennant. As a play, it's let down a little by some curious lapses in pace: this may be five hours of TV boiled down to two hours of theatre, but there still seem to be a few dead spots in the production. Nevertheless, it's worth seeing whether you were a fan of the original or not. It's playing in Edinburgh until April 6th - no word on any subsequent performances elsewhere after that, though.