Thursday, 12 October 2017

The Momentously Mouthwatering Maximilian Hawker

I dreamt of rats as big as dogs scratching at my skin, they clawed and ripped at my skin causing my flesh to burn.  In desperation I pulled myself from sleep and into the horror of my reality.

The sun blazed in through my bedroom window, waking me me from my deathly slumber and scorching my pale skin which was unused to daylight.  It's not that I'm a vampire, I'm just a miserable bastard who hates going out in the daytime.

I cursed Manson for drawing the curtains so early, and resolved to find and flog him before breakfast.  Throwing back my blankets I rolled from my bed, and landed with a thud on the floor.  I was not a morning person.

Face down on the floor, I looked through the space between the floorboards and could swear I saw a movement.  Rats! I thought.  It was obviously time to call in the ratcatcher again, he came to the Castle of Despair a couple of times a year, to flush out the vermin.  Sometimes I would let him take some of the wasting bodies from the dungeon to use as bait - it was a Quid Pro Quo type of arrangement.

I hauled myself to my feet, and staggered to my the end of my four poster where my bathrobe had been laid by Manson earlier in the morning when he had brought me my obligatory pot of high caffeine coffee and a dozen horse tranquilizers - The breakfast of the Damned.  I rang the bell and sat on the end of my bed waiting for Manson to attend.

It was as I sat there, contemplating my navel, that I heard scratching sounds coming from the floor.  They were louder than normal - 'rats as big as dogs' - it dragged on the wood and thumped and fumbled as if too large to crawl and scuttle through the underworld of the castle.  I stood and followed the sound of the rats, they were over by my dresser.  I waited for their sound again, and when I heard it jumped on the spot, making a loud bang.

'Oi!' came a voice.

Rats don't talk, I thought and jumped once more.

'Stop it!'  came the voice again.  'That's my stomach.'  I jumped again. 'Oof!' the intruder said.

I got down on my knees and tried to see through the gaps in the floorboards, there was an eye, wide and bloodshot, staring up at me.

Our conversation is recorded as follows;

Good grief!  How did you get under the floorboards and who in the blazes are you?

Dear God, man! I can see right up your dressing gown from down here and what you have under there is banned outside of Germany! How did I get here, you say? Why, you only double-locked the portcullis – such lax security positively invites scoundrels in. I am Maximilian Hawker and I am looking for people to preorder my book. I had hoped you might harbour a small group of bibliophiles under your floor as I do, but you disappoint me, sir.

You’ve done what?  You’ve actually written a book?  Tell me all about it.  Break it down for me into words I can understand.

Ah, interested in my novel, eh? Well, you know the Troy of Greek myth? It was, in fact, a real city and it was called Wilusa. When I was younger, I wondered whether the stories surrounding Troy had any basis in historical fact, so I did research. For years. And from my research I have written a completely fresh take on an ancient tale that does away with the myth in favour of documented evidence and archaeological breakthroughs. So, my book is about Troy, but not remotely as you think you know it.

I demand a present from all of my visitors.  All those that do not comply with my demands are thrown into the darkest cell in the dungeon with only the spiders for company.  Tell me what have you brought me today?

You find a stranger under your floorboards and demand a gift of them? What kind of an oddball are you? Never mind.  Okay, a gift… Aha! I offer you the gift of knowledge. In ancient Wilusa (aka ‘Troy’), it was legal to make sweet love to a horse. Truly, these people were passionate in matters equine. There – I have enriched your life.

I am a generous man.  I have something for you also.  I present you with the gift of Trump.  You can say anything and for some reason lots of people will believe you.  You can tell people how brilliant you are and they will worship you for it.  Tell me, how would you use your newfound power for lying?  Would you use it for good, or for mischief?

Your gift trumps mine. Boom, boom! Ahem. Righty-ho then. I have a silver tongue as it is, but if I had that added Donald-stamped assurance then I would be mischievous on a truly petty scale. However, it is tempting to use the power of lying to do good on an industrial level instead.

You’re a superhero.  Really you are.  Unfortunately for you, you have been blessed with the most useless superpower ever.  What is your odd power?  How would you use it to fight crime?

Did you ever see the movie Super? Chubby bloke runs around in a costume hitting petty criminals with various odds and ends either killing them or giving them life-altering injuries all while yelling, ‘Shut up, crime!’ If I could fight crime, I would do it like that. But if you want to push me on a particularly useless superpower, I would have to plump for the gift of being able to imitate a cat. Living in Croydon, we have the infamous Croydon Cat Killer on the loose and he has become notorious in these ‘ere parts. I would wander the streets at night yowling my head off and crouching on all fours to try and attract the bastard. Then I would lamp ‘im!

I used to love Joe 90 when I was a kid.  I liked the idea of a machine that could insert skills and knowledge immediately into your brain without the need for all that learning and endless hours of practice.  It was quite unfortunate that the Matrix nicked the idea to give Keanu Reeves Kung fu skills.  If you could have one skill inserted into your mind and immediately make you an expert in your field what would it be?

I’ll be boring and honest here: I work in frontline children’s social care, so I would want complete knowledge of all social care, housing, immigration and welfare legislation implanted into my brain for easy retrieval for the rest of my career.

There is a desperate lack of water in the world.  Regional water companies have been taken over by fizzy drinks makers.  They offer a choice of different types of drink that will be the only thing that you’ll be able to bathe in.  What type of pop do you fill your tub with?

Tizer. Do you remember the advert for that drink? The crazy dude with his head being opened and Tizer poured inside. If it does that to your head, think what it would feel like on your boll– Ahem!

A fantastic new car race has been introduced, think Wacky Races crossed with the cannonball run.  You have decided to enter in order to get the chance to win the $100m prize.  Tell me about your car?  What modifications would it have to give you an unfair advantage over your rivals?  Will you have a co-pilot?  And most importantly of all, what is your vehicle called?

My car would be called Gary. Gary would basically be the red-and-grey jeep from the original Jurassic Park with an enormous cannon mounted on its roof with the ability to fire explosive livestock at rival vehicles, as this would surely be the most effective means of preventing others from winning; it’s a real bugger to drive an amped up Porsche 944 with a gore-soaked udder caught in your windscreen wipers, dontcha know? And I would be more than happy to have Katie Hopkins as a co-pilot – if I run out of livestock, I’ll send her up into the cannon.

The world hails you as the foremost authority on food and drink.  You have unlimited power in this regard.  Tell me one food that you will consign to the pits of hell never to be eaten by another living soul on this planet, and the food that you would make compulsory and a crime not to eat on a daily basis.

I would consign salad to the pits of hell as I am not a hamster and do not wish to dine as one. If I had to make one food compulsory to eat on a daily basis I would have to choose chicken vindaloo: Armitage Shanks would have to completely rethink toilet design for our entire species.

Stalking is underrated.  You are now on my list.  Where can I find you on the World Wide interweb?  Do you blog?  Insta? Snapchat?  Tweet?  Any other places that I can find you online?

Well, you can preorder my novel ahead of its Autumn/Winter 2017 release over at and if you’re a fan of Twitter you can follow me at @MaxHawker. I do not blog, Insta or Snapchat though as it ain’t my cup o’ tea. Now, if you’re quite done with me, I have other floorboards to infiltrate.

'Er... Sir?'  I was distracted by Manson's voice behind me.  He was stood with a tray carrying my breakfast.

'What is it?'  I snapped.

'I was wondering who you were talking to, My lord.'  Manson looked edgy, he knew it was often a mistake to question me.

'Why the man under the floorboards, stupid.'  I snarled.  'Who else would be under there?  Rats?  Rats as big as dogs?  Do you think me mad?'

'Of course not.'  he murmured.  'The man under the floorboards, I think I might have heard of him.'

I looked down again, the wild staring eye had gone, replaced by darkness.

I jumped to my feet and snatched the tray from him, taking it to my bed an.d throwing the bedclothes over me again.  'Get out, Manson!'  I screamed.  'Leave me to my breakfast!'

Later that day I investigated further this book that he had mentioned, and I would strongly encourage you to do the same.  If only to prove that I hadn't dreamt it all.  Rats as big as dogs.

If you have enjoyed this blog interview and wish to star in your very own episode please get in touch at

You could also do me a huge favour and give your support to my own book  Domini Mortum, which can be found here

Friday, 6 October 2017

The Ostensibly 'Orrible Oli Jacobs

It had been a long and tiring day, in 'the most terrible place on earth' (Awful Places Weekly Summer edition 2009).  

For some reason, the current batch of ‘guests’ in my cellar were particularly feisty and refusing to submit to treatment which normally would have them begging for their lives.  It was a mystery, and it was quite annoying. 

Normally I love a good mystery, something to ponder over, something to tax the brain a little.  When it came to my guests however, I liked them to be predictable.  If I used my cattle prod on someone hung by their ankle from the ceiling, I expected them to shriek and wail, not grit their teeth and not make a sound.  If tied someone to a rack and tickled them endlessly with feathers, I expected them to laugh and writhe until they sobbed for mercy, not remain expressionless and tell me that they were not ticklish.

This was not because I hated a challenge, I love to work hard on a guest and to finally break them.  But this was different, it was insolence of the highest magnitude, rebellion and mutiny, and I was somewhat stumped as to how to snap this newfound hardiness in my guests.  I blamed society, people were just uncaring and too worldly nowadays.  When I presented them with a glowing brand, which I had heated in the fire until it shone bright orange, and threatened to press it into their foreheads, all they would say was “seen it on YouTube. It don’t scare me.”


When I am set a conundrum I tend to pace the long dark corridors of Holbrook Towers.  Pipe in mouth, fluffy slippers on feet, striding thoughtfully.  I was on my third circuit of the second floor landing when I heard a noise come from further down the corridor.  A thumping noise.  I paused for a moment;  Manson the butler was spending a quiet evening in the Iron Maiden as punishment for forgetting my mid morning coffee,  Dahmer, the chef had gone out to ‘fetch’ some dinner ingredients, and my new member of staff, Gein the gardener had left for the day, to do a bit of moonlighting at the local graveyard.  I should have been alone in the castle.  I stood deathly still, waiting for the sound to come again.


There it went again, coming from, of all places, my bedroom.

I crept along the landing until I came to my bedroom door, I pressed my ear to the wood.  There was defiantly someone in there.  I pulled a spiked mace from the hands of a suit of armour at the top of the stairs and stood outside the door, mace above my head.  Two deep breaths later I charged, kicking, kicking in the door, screaming at the top of my lungs, and swinging the mace with all the effort that my arms could muster. 

The room was empty.

Had my ears deceived me?  Had the madness, inherent in my family, finally caught up with me?


The noise came again.  It was coming from my wardrobe.

‘Who’s there!’  I cried.  ‘I have a weapon.  I have killed before, don’t test me.’

Suddenly there was a muffled thumping and fumbling noise.  The doors rattled.

‘Hello?’ Came a voice.  ‘I’m stuck.  Can you open the doors for me?’

I approached the doors and opened them a crack.  I could just make out a pair of wide frightened eyes, hidden between my winter overcoats.  I slammed the doors again.

‘What are you doing in my wardrobe?’  I asked.

‘I don’t know.’ came the voice. ‘One minute I was sat in a pub, having a little drink.  I got up to go to the gents and found myself stuck in here.  It’s very dark, and I’m frightened.  Where am I?’

‘Well you’re not in Bleedin’ Narnia!’  I cried.  ‘Who are you? Are you another one of those Author types?  Answer me, before I come in there and stove your head in!’

Our conversation, through the door of my favourite wardrobe, was recorded as follows;

Who’s there?  What are you doing in my bedroom?

This isn’t the Belle Vue pub… How much did I drink while tapping out that book?

Ooh, you’ve written a book have you?  Tell me a little about it?  Persuade me to invest in it with your smooth marketing skills.

I have indeed! It is called Deep Down There and is a Horror Comedy about a hole. Well, more horror than comedy… the hole appears in a gated community and begins to drive the residents mad. Mad, I say. MAD! Dark times begin when they start to remove it, and finally investigate it. It’s being published by Unbound ( and if you like words, you’ll love this. Because it contains many words. So many. With many syllables and all.

Have you brought me a present?  What is it?  Will it be useful to me and make me smile?

Well I am known as the generous sort. You look like the type who likes a good space adventure, so try this big old collection of my Kirk Sandblaster series of books. Think Terry Pratchett & Douglas Adams walked through a wormhole and got gorily, disgustingly, but hilariously combined into one organism. Be aware, though, the series contains instances of space piracy, ice pirates, a planet-wide Hunger Games, and sandwiches. Lots of sandwiches.

I have a gift for you also, for I am in a giving mood.  I give you the gift of the chameleon.  You are able to change your colour, dependant on your surroundings, able to become more or less invisible at will.  What will you do with your new found power?  Where would you go and what mischief would you get up to?

Oh, the possibilities… One would be tempted to use this power for evil, thieving and getting up to all sorts of dark vagabondery. However, I feel at first I’d use it to escape the overall hustle and bustle. Get out of situations where someone is talking to you and you need to suddenly get away would be handy as well. Imagine their faces as you slowly faded from view. I’d also probably raid a till or two. Hey, I never said I would use it wisely all the time…

It’s the end of the world, I tell you!  The stars have aligned, Jupiter is in the ascendency and Nigel Farage still lives and breathes.  According to my charts we have about a week left until Emperor Trump finally snaps and slams his forehead onto the big red button.

Tell me your plans for the final week of earth as we know it?

What?!? That came out of nowhere… I’d probably throw a party, one to end all parties. Invite all my friends and family around, and enjoy one last hurrah. That would be a couple of days, then maybe a day of resolving old feuds, before finally spending the last few days with my wife and pooch, sipping cocktails and seeing in the apocalypse with a bang.

Earth is at the centre of an intergalactic war and, as leader of the planet, it is up to you to throw your hat in the ring and decide whose side we’re on.  The choices are as follows;

The Jhakkar – a large insectoid warlike race, who are intent on total and utter control of the universe.  They enslave all planets that they take over and drain the resources of each world, before using their massive green Boomcannon to reduce it to rubble.  Billions have died at their hands, mercy is seen as a weakness.  They have promised you that, if you side with them and turn the war in their favour, they will provide the earth with the resources needed to eliminate poverty and hunger, make war and violence a thing of the past, (and also give you a palace of your own to live in, with slaves to do your every bidding).

The Floof – A race of small cuddly bear like creatures who are the universe’s one true hope of freedom from the Jhakkar.  They want peace and happiness for the whole of the universe, with free cake for all and jelly beans as the currency.  They offer the earth a seat at the table of governance of the universe if they win, however they do insist that everyone follows their religion (whose beliefs include worshipping the holy hamster of Gnaarthock (blessed be his fur), absolutely no alcohol, enforced meditation for three hours each day, and all reading and writing is the work of the Floof’s version of the devil, The Dark Monkey H’rrrgunth, and as such totally banned and punishable by being cuddled to death).

Choose your side, the fate of the universe is in your hands.

We side with the Jhakkar, obviously. Long term, it just makes sense. Peace and prosperity? Lovely stuff! The Floof are weak-minded fools who utilize their inherent cuteness to sway the thoughts of those present. They are the true evil in this scenario, and should be stopped by any means necessary.

Plus, that palace would be very nice…

Poetry can heal the greatest ill’s.  I have a bunion which irks me, can you cure it with four fantastic lines of rhyme?

Let’s have a close look.
At the rot on your foot.
It’s a really vile wound.
I’m afraid, sir, you’re doomed.

If I look out of my castle window I can see the villagers impaled on spikes all the way down my front drive.  I am indeed a lucky man.  Tell me, if you could look out of your bedroom window on the greatest piece of scenery in the known world what would you see?

There’s a place called Hughenden Park in Wycombe, where at the right angle, you can see fields for miles. I would gaze at that vista for a while, before looking to my right and seeing the combined beaches of Southampton, Bournemouth, and Swansea beckoning to me, along with the soothing crash of waves. Ah…

Hurl yourself forwards to two hundred years in the future.  You have travelled a thousand miles in your search, but finally, in the middle of a remote moor you find it, ‘The last pub in Britain.’  You enter the doors and find it to be empty, no one goes to pubs any more, they are too entranced by their mobile phones and have become immobile at home.  Able only to order take always and scan the interweb for the latest celebrity gossip.  You walk up to the bar and speak to the wizened old crone at the taps.  This is the last bender.  Tell me your plans for the evening in this old relic of the twentieth century?

Let’s be honest, I’ve travelled a long way, so why not start with a swift kick of energy in the form of half a cola, before moving onto the ales. I like them dark, but starting with a stout is a surefire way to kill the palette. So one of those, and onto the likes of golden ales & craft lagers. They’re good for a few hours, but as the bender comes to an end and I’ve talked the ear off the barmaid about all my word-based ideas and general conspiracy theories, I point my finger at the dusty bottle of Bowmore Darkest scotch buried in her shelves, and grab a glass and a small bowl of ice to bring out the flavour. Splendid.

Where are you on the internetty thing?  Where can I find and stalk you?  Do you tweet?  Insta? Snapchat? YouTube? Blog?  Where are you, in heavens name?

Hey, you gave me the chameleon power… But to keep up with my shenanigans, you can find me tweeting as @OliJacobsAuthor (, Open the Book of Faces and find the Oli Jacobs Author Page (, look over my Instagramic efforts as @olijba (, read my works in progress at and then buy them at

Oh! And don’t forget to pledge toward Deep Down There, of course. Be rude not to…

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to find my way out of this bedroom and back to the pub. Wait. Why is the door locked from the outside…?

Our discussion over, I cautiously opened the door.  My fear of the man inside had lessened, but I knew better than to ever fully trust my senses when you discover a man hiding in the your wardrobe.

He gingerly stepped out.  I need not have been so scared, he seemed like quite an amenable chap after all, and I decided to invest in his lovely work.  I would strongly advise you to do the same.

Together we checked the back of my wardrobe and it did indeed lead to a set of pub toilets. 

We shared a drink, Oli and I; him having a beer, me on my normal tipple of Babycham and Special Brew with a twist of lemon.  I left him, somewhere in between his eight and my ninth.  I had wandered to the toilets and suddenly found myself back in my bedroom.

I fumbled my way back through the overcoats, only to find the hard wooden back panel of my wardrobe.  Had I imagined it?  Was it all a fantastical fantasy?

I decided not, as I was perfectly drunk and desperately needed to relieve my bladder.

If you have enjoyed this blog interview and would like to take part yourself, then please contact me at

I would also ask that you consider supporting my own book Domini Mortum which is availabel to view here

Thursday, 28 September 2017

The Downright Devilsh Dom Conlon

The terrors of the night had come to me.  I tossed and turned within my suffocating bedsheets, which were sodden with my sweat, the cotton constricting around my chest and throat like a damp white snake.

I existed within a limbo slumber, lurching between terrible, brutal dreams and short periods of half-waking.  Each time I thought myself escaped from my nightmares, they would claw me back into their wicked embrace, their savage laughter assaulting my mind with a hissing snarl.

Such was my lot, nowadays, pede claudo ‘seldom has punishment, on limping foot, abandoned the wicked man’.  My past, and also more recent, indiscretions of morality now haunted me in the night, sending hell borne creatures of torment and devilment to batter my inner self, and curse my evenings where any normal, and God fearing man should be content in restful sleep.

If I were a better man I would have long since tried to settle my account, to repay what I had taken from the world in such a gluttonous and self serving manner, but better man I am not, and as such my crimes would make me suffer - until such time as I was dragged broken into the arms of hell.

When I did wake it was with a start, I was not alone in the room, and at first I thought that the devil himself had come to take me to his home.  It was not Satan however, but my butler, Manson.

‘I heard screaming, sir, and for once it was not coming from one of your house guests.’  He said, a look of genuine concern on his face.  ‘Would you like me to fetch you a cup of tea? … or perhaps some ether?’

‘No!’  I cried, still unsure as to whether I was woken or simply taken to another nightmare.  ‘I fear that if I imbibe anything at this time of night, then I shall surely vomit.’  I released myself from my clinging bedsheets, with difficulty, and not a little anger.  ‘Tell me, do we still have that odd fellow in the cellar?  He was one of those authors who came here wishing to peddle their wares.  You know the one, called himself Conlon or something, funny looking man with beard?’

Manson looked a little confused.  ‘I think so, my lord.  What I mean is that he is certainly here, but whether he lives or not I cannot say.  You told me to throw him into the deepest dungeon and throw away the key.  I doubt her has survived the past three weeks - you also told me not to feed him.’

‘Go and have a look anyway, if he lives bring him to me and tell him I want a story to help me sleep soundly.  Oh, and Ive changed my mind, bring me a tea, one sugar, no milk.’  I stood and noisily used the chamberpot, whilst I waited. It’s my age you know.

It was twenty minutes before the butler returned.  By his side, and still in chains, was man I had sent him for.  I was surprised for, although dirty, with matted hair and the eyes of a man who had visited the dark side, he looked well fed.

‘Rats, sir.’ Said Manson as if reading my mind.  ‘Rats, and fat spiders. He seems to have developed a taste for them.  I think perhaps he would have eaten them whether I’d have taken him food or not.’

I laughed aloud, and asked him to sit at he foot of my bed.  Manson left in somewhat of a hurry.

Our conversation, on that terrible night, is recorded as follows:

Did you bring me a cup of tea?  Oh and… Who are you, and where is the butler going?

I am the blot on your landscape, the mote in your eye, the stone in your shoe. I bring you tea squeezed from a dream-bruised night and it stands steeping in the sweat of your fears. The butler has run away with the spoon but he did ask me to bring you some cake, so let’s tuck in.
Image result for dom conlon

A book?  I adore books, especially ones with pictures.  Has your one got pictures in it?  Tell me all about it in no more than 20 words.

Badtime Stories is fifty glimpses into the fears of twins, Jacob and Jacob. Fully illustrated it’s Gorey meets Burton.

I love a good villain, some would say that I’m one, but I’d disagree shortly before locking them in the dungeon and letting the rats have them.  Who’s your favourite villain either literary or Film and TV? Would you be happy being one of their evil goons, or would you want the crown for yourself?

Everyone is a villain from somebody’s perspective and watching them struggle against those who would stand in their way is endlessly fascinating. Like spiders in a jar. But my favourite villain is Jack. You know, the Jack who played with fire by jumping over candlesticks, the Jack who defiled pies with his thumb, and the Jack who (in a most magnificently dark deed) murders a giant after stealing his gold and his goose and his harp and then gets away with it! Jack is the trickster god, on his way to becoming the devil.

I’m thinking about starting my own cult… I mean club.  Only the most select would be able to join my club, they must of course worship me (or a lesser god such as Bobby Davro) and there would be very strict rules on bad behaviour and acceptable clothing (I’m thinking must have criminal record and wear ladies underwear). What would be the name of your club?  Tell me a little more about it, I may wish to join.

My club is called Schemes and Dreams and admission is granted to anyone who has a drawer full of half-formed ideas. Novel outlines, snippets of poetry, plots to kill people, these are the orders of business with us. These are the fuel which will power us to the stars where we plan on drifting forever in an infinite sea of what-ifs and wouldn’t-it-be-marvellous.

My castle is apparently haunted.  I’m not so sure, as it might just be sightings of me prancing through the halls dressed in a toga.  Would you be prepared to stay the night in a haunted house?  Would you scream and quiver like a terrified monkey, or would you be there hero of the night standing up to the ghosts and pulling off their faces like some pesky kid from Scooby Doo?

As much as I write about fear - like the clowns who laugh in Jacob and Jacob’s wardrobe, or the shadow spiders on their wall, or what happens in the house after they have been put to bed - I’m not great with scares. Fully awake I might be able to rationalise the bumps and moans but true horror patrols the half-light between consciousness and slumber. That is when the cracks appear and the events you thought well behind you manifest into lipless gardeners and genies made of ash. So no, sorry. You’re on your own. In fact you have been for the past twenty minutes. That husk sat in front of you, veiled in shadows, that is something else entirely.

Serious business now. Let’s talk sandwiches.  It’s late at night, your stomach’s rumbling harder than an elephant on an out of control treadmill.  You go to the fridge and find that the fridge fairies have filled it with all of your favourite food items.  You grin excitedly and decide to make the greatest sandwich ever known to man.  What is in it?

Who, when faced with a fridge of endless joy, thinks about sandwiches? Sandwiches are the smalltalk you have to endure before going out to play, and play is in the eternal park of cake. A Victoria Sandwich would be my only nod to your frankly odious choice. My fingers would be grasping for cream filled patisseries, great slabs of almond iced frangipanes, and sticky gob-fulls of jammy donuts.

Image result for funny victoria sandwich funny
I’m going to give you the power of Goldblum, and turn you into a fly.  Whose wall do you land on?  Would you annoy them and try to land on their food, or would you just sit there and watch them with morbid interest?

I would land on Ursula Le Guin’s wall and marvel at how she has created some of the most beautiful stories with the most sensible worldview there is. I would watch her work in the hope that one day I might regurgitate some of that skill into the food of my own writing.

Father Christmas is Real!!!  It’s true I tell you, I caught him climbing down my chimney last year and have put him in the dungeon for safe keeping.  I’ve promised to let him out in time for Christmas Eve, but only if he provides my guests with presents. What do you fancy?  Only the most creative are rewarded.

I need no convincing, each year I write a slightly dark Christmas story because he leaves me a note asking me to tell it from the other side. I ask nothing in return but I would quite like a Bubble of  Missed Past to sit in when life becomes a little difficult. These Bubbles are filled with yesterdays when you didn’t realise how lucky you were or when everything was peaceful but you were too impatient to DO something or BE someone. There are no words in a Bubble of Missed Past, only the perfect soup of silence.

You are travelling by train on a long journey.  There are five other people in your carriage.  The train breaks down and you are stuck for hours.  Who would you want stuck in the carriage with you?  And how long before you thought about persuading them to draw lots to see who gets eaten?

Being stuck in a carriage for hours sounds like heaven. I’d like nothing more than to sit back and dream and write and read. So this needs to be a carriage without any phone signal - that pretty much covers the Manchester to London route. As for people, well I’d rather there were none. I don’t need much to eat and humans are, in my experience, tasteless. The temptation would be to choose people I admire but I admire them for the things they’ve done, the books they’ve written or the cakes they’ve made. I’m not too fussed about meeting them, although perhaps that would make it easier to kill and devour them. Wait! What am I thinking? Pastry chefs! I’ll have five of those please. Fully stocked with ingredients.

Where else in the whole bleedin’ World Wide Web can I find out more about you? Do you Insta?  Tweet? Snapthingummybob?  Tell me where I may stalk you further.

I’m everywhere. You can read stories and poems on or follow me on Twitter @dom_conlon or on Instagram @domconlon. I do the Facebook thing half-heartedly but I can be found there - just look for my name and a beard. Also, I should warn you, I’m stood outside your house now, watching you...

Image result for dom conlon

My questions finished, I settled down in my bedclothes and asked him to tell me a story.  I will not recount the exact details of the tale he told, for that you must support his book, but I will say that I slept soundly that night, for the first time in weeks.  It was a deep dreamless sleep, the like of which I had not experienced for such a long time.

When I woke the next morning, refreshed and happy, he was still at the foot of my bed (although he was curled up in slumber like a cat).

I rang the bell for Manson and ordered him to take Mr Conlon, bathe him, feed him (something other than rats and spiders if he wished, perhaps a jammy doughnut) and to set him free.  I resolved to give my support for Badtime Stories, something which I would encourage you to do in the strongest possible terms.

I watched him trot merrily over the drawbridge, a bag of rats over his shoulder given as a present, and hoped that it would not be too long before he paid me another visit.  I would probably not lock him up next time.

If you have enjoyed this blog and the others in this series, please consider supporting my own work, Domini Mortum, which can be found here 

I need all the help I can get, and yours will be gratefully received.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

The Delicately Dodecaphonic Jessica Duchen

Contrary to popular belief, I am a person imbued with culture.  I positively ooze refinement and taste, and can often be seen hob-nobbing with the upper echelons of society at the theatre or the opera.

On one particular night this week I became inspired after seeing a performance at the ballet.  I can't quite remember what it was called but it involved some dancing and... there was also some music.  Anyway it was great and I was filled with such inspiration that I decided to arrange for some people to come and play music at the castle for me.  In return I promised to show them my amazing dancing skills.

No one came.

I'm not quite sure why, perhaps it was my reputation for misery and murder, perhaps it was because most who came to visit me at Holbrook Towers often did not leave with their lives (or at least all of their limbs).

I was in a funk, and it was not the funky kind.  It was a morose, grey misery which left me alone in the tallest tower with only my butler, Manson, for company.  I had discovered that Manson was not a great musician.  The only instrument with which he could make any type of musical note were the bagpipes (and they only added to my misery).

I had just begun to contemplate how I was going to end my butler's miserable life, when there was a knocking at the doors of the Castle.  I leapt to my feet, snatching the bagpipes from the butler and striking him around the head hard with the first thing that came to hand (a table lamp made from the skull of my dance teacher).

I ran down the stone steps to the doors, flinging them open, ready to kill...

Who’s that knocking on the castle door? Didn’t you see all the signs warning you against coming here?

Hello! Yes…but that’s what I do. The more people toe party lines – “don’t you dare crowdfund a book/take up jogging at your age/say you don’t like some overplayed composer” – the more likely I am to sign up, fasten the running shoes or write a perverse article saying X is a pompous windbag. So please can I come in and have a cup of tea? I’ll do a lot for a really good cuppa.

You’re a writer are you? Have you written a book that I can read? I like reading, it makes me feel relaxed. Will your book make me happy?

Depends what makes you happy. If you like thinking about stuff, then maybe give it a whirl. If you want fluffy-bunny romance, try elsewhere. My latest book is Ghost Variations and it’s about the rediscovery in the 1930s of the Violin Concerto by Robert Schumann. It languished in a Berlin library until the great Hungarian violinist Jelly d’Arányi [YELL-i, in case you wondered] received a spirit message on a Ouija board asking her to find it…only to have the Nazis hear about it too and decide to use it for propaganda. This is a true story – honest, guv. A nice lady at a party once asked me “How did you manage to make a romantic story out of that?” No, ma’am, it’s about the rise of fascism. See also: present-day relevance; place of women in the music field; and worlds, people and pieces of music poised on the edge of madness. Still, the ending might make you happier than you expect.

My new book might make you happier. It’s a 21st-century fairy-tale based loosely on Swan Lake. Odette, the Swan Princess, is blown off course in a storm and crashes through someone’s window in 2016 eastern England. She is still trying to break her spell, which makes her a woman by night and a swan by day. People in traditional publishing thought this was a bit whimsical, and apparently that was tricky for them. But friends who read it long ago (I first drafted it in 1992) sometimes say it’s their favourite of all my books and ask me what happened to it. It’s provisionally entitled Meeting Odette. I hope the crowdfunding will reach its target so I can finally get the story out of my system.


My hobbies are writing, reading and casual torture, what could I find you doing when you are not working?

Oh, I’m into casual torture as well. I went hiking this summer and came back with tendinitis in both achilles heels. Someone said yoga would be the best remedy, so I tried it. It worked! It made everything else hurt so much that I stopped noticing the ankle pain.

Apart from that, I love ballet, opera, theatre, music (classical, and jazz too) and poking about in antique shops and second-hand book stores. After writing Ghost Variations I’m hooked on 1920s-30s memorabilia. The other day an antique store in Aldeburgh declared “We’re closed now” at 5pm on the dot, but if they’d bothered to say “can we help?” or “do you need five minutes to choose?” they could have sold me vintage moonstone earrings, four engraved champagne bowls and a 1937 George VI coronation mug that was only a fiver. Instead, they kicked me out. Not that I blame them.

Are you afraid of the Zombie apocalypse? I went to the supermarket today and I could swear that it’s already happened. How would you react when it happens? Would you be a runner, a fighter, or would you give in to the inevitable and join the undead horde? If you were to run away, where would you go to be safe and what would be in your rucksack that you couldn’t be without.

I agree, it’s going on right now. Have you ever seen a load of bigger zombies than our current political leaders, striding towards the cliff edge saying “WILL OF THE PEOPLE” while everything collapses around them? Brexit is the biggest disaster of my lifetime. The referendum was chronically mismanaged, it was supposed to be “advisory”, not binding, and the Leave campaign was based on lies, lies and more lies, so I don’t see how the vote could be accorded legitimacy. Leaving the EU is totally against the national interest, it will wreck our economy just when the country desperately needs integration and healing, and no politician in his/her right mind should allow it to continue – simply because to admit it’s a mistake will make them lose face. How do I react? Disbelief. Often lost for words, which is bad because I’m meant to be a writer.

I like to think I’d stand and fight, but the reality is that I’d probably retreat under the desk for a bit and hope the danger would pass. Then, once it’s all over, I’d sit down and write the true account of what really happened… The words “internal exile” come to mind. I’d be tempted to run away to Germany, as my husband has dual nationality – but I don’t know if we could take the cats, and we cannot be parted from them. Still, if you spot a novelist and partner scurrying towards Leipzig with a violin and two very fluffy kitties, you’ll know what happened.

I used to teach short story and novel writing, and used to use a graph to demonstrate emotion, tension, crisis, resolution etc. A bit like this. Can you draw and photograph a similar graph, for your perfect piece of music? Just a scribble on a piece of paper would do.

See attached…I don’t know if it makes any sense, but it is sort of meant to be the shape of the Chopin Polonaise-Fantaisie, one of my favourite pieces. Apologies.

What’s your favourite sound in music? Mine is strings in E minor, it’s a bit sad, a bit soppy, and has the power to bring a tear to my eye. If your latest book was a note or a chord, what would it be and with what instrument?

Hmm. That’s difficult, because I’m a musician by training and spend most of my working life writing about it in one form or another, and I like a lot of different sounds. At one point most of my favourite pieces were in G major. There’s something about that key that’s gentle, warm, refulgent, slightly other-worldly, redemptive. Pieces like Schubert’s G major Piano Sonata, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.4, Brahms’s Violin Sonata No.1. More recently, though, when I’ve sat down to practise the piano (which I don’t do enough) I’ve been picking works in F major or B flat. Bach’s Italian Concerto, Mozart’s Sonata K332, Schumann’s Waldszenen, Brahms’s Handel Variations.

The piano is my instrument and I still love it to pieces. The violin, which my OH plays professionally, is a close second. Given the choice of any concert to attend, though, I’d probably pick chamber music or a song recital. Collaboration between people is the most inspiring thing.

Ghost Variations is a chord of D minor, on full orchestra with solo violin. OK, that’s cheating… that’s the Schumann Violin Concerto. But Meeting Odette is different. I think it is probably in G, with some harmonic ambiguity, swinging between major and minor. And I think it would involve an oboe and a cello: oboe for Odette, the Swan Princess (because of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake) who is plaintive but characterful and bubbly, and cello for Mary, the expressive, angry, screwed-up journalist through whose window she crashes.

Describe to me the perfect room or environment for writing? What furniture lives there? Do you listen to music other sounds? Are there pictures on the wall, are there windows and what can you see out of them or do you need zero distraction?

We moved into our house nearly 20 years ago and I’ve written almost everything in my study here ever since. It’s lined with bookshelves, and on the non-book-covered spaces I have a Chagall reproduction, a poster from a Korngold exhibition in Vienna, the covers of old music magazines, a framed Ghost Variations poster and a little painting of my late ginger cat, Solti, kindly done by the friend of a friend. We do, however, have aircraft noise from the Heathrow flight path, screaming kids in the nursery school over the fence and mechanical grind from the garage round the corner, and usually my husband is practising the violin downstairs. I don’t like writing with music on most of the time, because I listen instead of concentrating. I’m more likely to put in earplugs. And I love writing on holiday (over 5 years I worked on Ghost Variations in seven different countries). Therefore my ideal is this:

Transplant my study to a quiet chalet in the Swiss mountains, complete with my substantial collection of books, my computer and the South African pigeon-wood desk that was my late dad’s. Give me a big window with a glorious view and fresh, cool mountain air. Bring the cats. And leave all the mess behind! While we’re about it, please, I’d like a green leather chaise longue to recline on in moments of leisure, a tea urn that magically refills itself from 9am to 5.59pm and the 6pm equivalent of a Teasmade that does Aperol Spritz instead.

What are your greatest fears? Are you very phobic, and are they normal ones, or have you got a very irrational fear? My new favourite is Nomophobia which is a fear of not having your mobile phones.

Oh gawd…I am totally phobic about transport, in most forms. I can’t get into a train or tube without expecting to be trapped motionless between stations for the rest of my life, without a loo. I can’t get into a bus without expecting someone to pull a knife on me. I can’t drive a car, or be a passenger, without thinking it’s going to crash. I don’t completely flip on aeroplanes, because they’re usually a relief after the airport, but I always ask for an aisle seat so I have an illusion of freedom. I daren’t get on a bike, either, or a horse, or an elephant. As I’m alive and well after half a century (touchwood), that probably means all this is irrational.

If you had the choice to become a superhero, or gain some kind of super powers of some kind, what would you want? Would it be the normal kind (strength, flying, invisibility) or would you choose something obscure and seemingly useless? Also would you don a latex outfit and use your new found powers for good or mischief?

I’d like the superpower to play the piano like Martha Argerich, but without having to practise, please. And I’d have a mega-career, but without getting nervous and without having to get into a mode of transport – so with music-superpower, kindly include the magical ability to dematerialise upon the command “Beam me up, Scotty”.

Latex? Concert pianists wear all sorts of crazy stuff these days, so I’d probably go for purple silk. If people think my playing is a power for good, that’s great. But I’d play Bach on a modern Steinway concert grand, and I’d use dynamics and I’d use the pedals and I’d make it expressive, and in the classical world that is definitely mischief.

Where can I find you on the World Wide Web thingie? Are you on Facebook? Insta? Snapchat? Twitter? Let me know where I can find out more about you, don’t be too afraid…

Ghost Variations page here:
(includes info about the concerts I give with my delectable music partners, violinist David Le Page and pianist Viv McLean, based on the book. Nice dates for this new season include Live at Zédel (Piccadilly Circus), 23 October; Artrix Arts Centre, Bromsgrove, 3 November; Burgh House, Hampstead, 19 November; Lampeter House, Pembrokeshire, 2 January; Leicester Lunchtime Classical Concerts, 22 February.)

Twitter: @jessicaduchen

Instagram: jessica.duchen

And my music blog, JDCMB:

Thank you ever so much. And thanks for the tea. It was just the ticket.

I had decided to let my visitor live.  Both of her books sounded intriguing and I had promised myself to invest in both.  

I let her finish her tea, and walked her to the door, telling her to mind the crocs in the moat on her way out.

I would encourage you to get yourself a copy of Ghost Variations too, and please pledge your support for Meeting Odette.  

If you have enjoyed this interview, and the others which I publish every week, then please support my own project at 

If you would like to enter the torture chamber yourself, then email me at

Friday, 25 August 2017

The Nefariously Naughty Niall Slater

Silence.  Blessed silence.

All of the sounds which had harangued my ears and battered my senses earlier in the day were gone, and I was left with nothing but the numbness of silence, the tranquility of peace.  There were no more screams for mercy, no cries of pain, no pleading to be let free again, no begging for death.  It had indeed been a busy day in the torture chambers at Holbrook Towers, but the day was ended, the heavy oaken doors locked once more for another night and I could start my evening with a period of peace and nothingness.

All of my senses had been deadened.  I could see nothing, I could hear nothing and the only thing I could feel was the warmth of the salted water on my skin.  It was a grand day indeed when I had installed my flotation tank, and I cherished each precious moment that I spent in the darkness.

On this particular evening, however, there was a problem.  A problem which suddenly appeared before my eyes, lit by a tiny torch, I was not alone in the tank, there was another.

"Hello."  He said.

I screamed.  He screamed.

I'm not sure if you've ever had the displeasure of screaming at the top of your voice in a Flotation tank but I can assure you that the sound is quite deafening.  Like a knitting needle being forced at speed into each ear.  From utter silence came utter cacophony.

I reached for the handle and opened the door to the tank, an action which brought further pain, as the bright light of my spa room came flooding into both of our eyes.  I leapt from the tank, my wet feet slipping on the stone floor causing me to drop to my backside with a thus which further set free all of the senses which I had spent the last hour attempting to shield.  I was a little angry now.

I dragged the intruder out of the tank and dragged him out of the spa room and down the stone steps to my dungeon.  This would not be allowed to go unpunished.

My intensive torture session with the intruder, is recorded as follows;

Take a comfy seat in the Iron Maiden and tell me a little about yourself, be quick man, your life hangs by a thread!

Oh, hi! Sorry, er, my name’s Niall. I thought… is this part of the conference? The lady said the panel discussion was this way. I’m supposed to be talking about my book and- sorry, I can’t… I can’t see you. It’s very dark in here.

The conference was last week.  You're late.  I killed everyone that attended as they displeased me.  You are not doing so well, either.   Luckily for you I love books, and am looking for a good read.  What’s yours called?  Sell it to me, make me desire it!

I - yes. Let me just sit - ouch. Okay. Er, my book’s called The Second Death of Daedalus Mole. It’s a very weird kind of space opera where a failed historian in a rusty spaceship tries very hard not to get into any adventures, while his fugitive passenger tries very hard to do the opposite. 

It’s a black comedy of sorts, and really it’s about losing people, and about the horrible things that happen to men who let their feelings just fester away, thinking they aren’t turning themselves into ticking timebombs. It’s also about space lesbians debating whether you can bring into being a galaxy-wide socialist paradise through violent revolution without incurring an irreversible personal cost. This chair feels weird. Do you have another one? I think I’m stuck.

So your book is set in space, eh?  Would you like a trip up there?  And if so what would be the first bit of zero gravity high-jinx that you would involve yourself?

I’m not joking. I think I’m stuck. Space? Er, I mean, sure. Did you know you can survive in the vacuum of space for up to twenty seconds and afterwards just be basically fine? After that all sorts of bad things start to happen. My top tip for surviving in space is to exhale completely and immediately, otherwise the pressure differential will cause your lungs to rupture.

Also, I know zero-gravity sex is the first thing most people think of, but trust me when I say the novelty wears off fast and it soon becomes more frustrating than anything else. Even disregarding the momentous clean-up, the act itself is kind of like spinning around on a desk chair, upside down, trying to catch eggs being fired at you from a tennis ball machine. I’d much rather try my hand at zero-gravity rock climbing. You know, get some impressive-looking pictures for facebook, convince my old school friends that being a writer means more than just sitting in the dark drinking gin and hating yourself.

Death.  It’s a funny old game.  There you are one minute rewiring your castle so you can get Wi-Fi in every torture chamber, the next minute you’ve fried your internal organs, and you’re meeting some tall geezer with a scythe.

If you came face to face with the angel of death, how would you try to dissuade him from taking your soul?  (BTW chess isn’t allowed)

An excellent question. Obviously I would challenge him to an extensive and devious series of drinking games of my own design, each more elaborate and confusing than the last. I expect to die again of alcohol poisoning after about ninety-five minutes, which will hopefully cause another ghost-instance of myself to appear and continue the challenge. I will repeat until I have enough concurrent ghosts that I feel confident in physically overpowering Death and escaping through the window.

Ok, your plan failed and you’ve been sent to another plane of existence.  What would be your ideal destination in which to spend eternity?  What kind of daily activities would you find most heavenly to do until the end of time?

I would like to be placed inside a hermetically sealed cube with a computer and a copy of Rollercoaster Tycoon.

I give to you the gift of animorphication (is that even a word?) You can turn into any animal you like but only for a twenty four hour period.  A bit like Manimal from the 80s with Simon MacCorkindale.  Which animal would you choose and why?

Have you ever heard of the ogre-faced spider? Dinopsis spinosus. Their name means something close to ‘the prickly one with the terrible visage’. Spiders in this family are nocturnal, because they have two huge eyes that are extremely sensitive to light. Every morning the sun comes and burns away their retinas, and every night they spend an hour rebuilding them.

They’re net-casters, which means they throw webs to catch their prey. They need good night-vision to track their prey, hence the eyes, but it still seems like an awful lot of energy to expend for a quirky hunting behaviour. That’s not the interesting bit though – the interesting bit is that their eyes collect light from a wider frequency range than ours.

Our nearest galaxy is called Andromeda, and doesn’t emits enough visible light for most of us to see it with the naked eye. The eye of dinopsis spinosus, however, has just the right properties. I choose that: an ogre-faced spider that can look at the night sky and see invisible galaxies.

Don’t you find phobias interesting?  I love them.  My favourite is Globophobia – the fear of balloons.  What are your top three phobias and which phobia do you suffer from?  Also if you could invent one, what would it be?

Tropophobia: the fear of moving or being moved, but also the fear of change. Most people with tropophobia don’t realise they have it until moments before they die in the same town they were born in.

Trypophobia: the fear of small, irregular patterns of holes or bumps. Trypophobes have strong aversions to honeycomb, anthills and coral; but what they fear most is photoshopped images online created specifically to trigger trypophobia.

Astrapophobia: the fear of thunder and lightning. This is one of a few phobias we see replicated in animals. Dogs are most likely to fear thunderstorms, and cats only very rarely. It’s also one of the rare phobias for which exposure therapy is considered effective.

I myself suffer from milleniophobia, a proposed new term referring to the creeping dread felt in response to rising global fascism.

If I could invent a phobia, I wouldn’t. Are you insane? What kind of monst- wait, I’ve got one. Anagnosidikobibliodaedalophobia – the fear of not reading a specific book with ‘Daedalus’ in the title.

That reminds me: if you’re one of my old Greek lecturers coming across the transcript of this interview: please stop sending me hatemail. I can’t read it.#

The world is doomed!!!!

An asteroid the size of Bristol is heading towards the earth at high speed.  It is envisaged that it will impact in the Atlantic Ocean sometime next Tuesday (around mid-morning).  There is no escape, we must accept our fate.  What are you going to get up to?  (Other than building a shelter under your kitchen table out of blankets and cushions).

Luckily I’m answering this on a Tuesday, so I’ve got a full week. Here’s the plan: I empty my bank account and buy a red velvet suit, a bottle of champagne and a violin case. I put the champagne in the violin case. Later that night I fake my death by livestreaming a mannequin being thrown off a bridge and get on a sleeper train to Paris; when I wake up I spend the day rolling around fine perfume shops and high-class boutiques, buying nothing, so the smell of wealth rolls off me when I enter a room.

That evening I inflitrate the Philharmonie de Paris, walking in like I belong there. I go backstage with my violin case, blending right in, and go after the renowned First Violinist, Viscount Heinrich Giles-Bowyer. I tempt him with champagne and he invites me to the sleaziest afterparty in Europe, to which we immediately abscond after the performance. In the morning I steal some fineries, some leftover champagne and Heinrich’s wallet, board a train to Berlin and do the same thing there. Repeat until Tuesday.

The New World Order have taken control of the planet.  We now live in a totalitarian world where every part of our lives are controlled by our new benevolent father like leader General Farage.  In one of his first moves cementing his status as world leader and greatest human that ever lived he has banned three things, with immediate effect;
• Music
• The Internet
• All television and films (other than state produced media)

What would you miss the most?  And what piece of music do you think should be used by the resistance as their battle cry?

I would miss Twitter, which gives me the opportunity to be called a ‘cuck’ by teenage boys from all over the world. The resistance battle cry would have to be Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘Cut to the Feeling’, because fascists can’t dance and are easily intimidated by clubland bangers.

You have entertained me.  I may let you leave here with all your limbs intact.  Tell me where in the World Wide Web I might find you?  Do you Blog? Tweet?  Insta? Snapchat?  Any other sites or places where I might be able to stalk you when the mood takes me?

For briefer, more bearable snippets of the stuff I’m giving you here, follow me on Twitter @Niall_Slater. It’s my sad duty to tell you I also have a terrible website I made myself at, which features a mailing list so that I can send people long-form nonsense at far-apart intervals.

I looked at the sodden figure, sat awkwardly between the spikes of my iron maiden.  Perhaps I would let him live, perhaps I would forget his intrusion into my private flotation tank time.

His novel certainly sounded like my particular cup of tea, and I would encourage you to give his campaign your support and pre-order your copy today (if only so that I can get my copy).

I let him go on his way, with the warning that if he wished to visit me again, he should try not hiding in the flotation tank, as my heart could not take another shock like that.

The link to his campaign is here - go visit it, have a read, and give him your support.

If you have enjoyed this interview, and the others which I publish every week, then please support my own project at 

If you would like to enter the torture chamber yourself, then email me at