Sunday, 13 February 2011


Okay...I admit it. I like cowboy movies. But this doesn't take anything away from the brilliance that is the Coen brothers' 'True Grit'. This film is a masterpiece and that is not an accolade I bandy around easily.

Without doubt this is the best film I have seen in...oh,, ten years. It's that good. There are SO many good things about it.

It is worth seeing (or hearing, rather) simply for its dialogue. The charm, the concerns and the mores of late nineteenth century America are wonderfully recreated by the speech and the vocabulary used by the characters, and their unemotional, matter-of-fact attitudes to death, disfigurement and misfortune brilliantly portrayed. But when this dialogue is given to some truly wonderful actors then magic happens and you are transported back in time. And the acting IS wonderful. Much has been made of Jeff Bridges' Rooster (and he is marvellous) but to my mind Matt Damon as the repellent Texas Ranger, LaBoeuf, is the stand-out performance, though, I suppose, it has to be said that Hailee Stenfeld as Mattie Ross is also terrific. Truth be told, there isn't a weak turn in the entire cast.

But in the end it's the attention to detail that won me over: Rooster's bed at the back of the Chinese eating house; the state of Ned Pepper's teeth; that Mattie was knocked backwards by the recoil of her revolver...the list could go on and on and on. But together these, the dialogue, the acting the wardrobe and the cinematography created a realism that was quite irresistible.

Good though 'The King's Speech' was if  'True Grit' doesn't win the Oscars for 'Best Film' and 'Best Director' there's something seriously wrong in the state of Denmark.

You've got to see this movie!

Saturday, 12 February 2011


This is the third of the pieces I wrote for Quercus regarding 'The Demi-Monde: Winter' and it's a description of the Coven, which is, perhaps, my favourite of all the DM's five Sectors. It is also the main location for the action taking place in the thrid book of the series 'The Demi-Monde: SUMMER'.

US Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC)

Fort Jackson, neoFight Briefing Area, 8th June, 2018

‘Now those more astute members of Platoon Charlie have probably spotted that you all have one thing in common, you’re all women...’

‘Not according to their urine tests,’ came a voice from the back of the room.

It was a sentiment Badowski had some sympathy with: Sergeant Stella Fitzroy, the girl in charge of Platoon Charlie, was a big, big woman who looked as though she was built to kick-start jumbo jets.

‘Yeah, we’re deploying an all-girl Platoon in the Coven and the reason for this is simple: the Coven is the Sino-Japanese Sector of the Demi-Monde where the gender mix is skewed 2:1 in favour of females – or Femmes as they are called in the Coven - Femmes led by a wacked-out ultra-feminist Singularity called Empress Wu. Wu is the lunatic Dupe who has developed a screwball religion called HerEticalism, the creed that promotes female supremacy and the subjugation of men.’

Cheers from Platoon Charlie. Stella Fitzroy blew Badowski a kiss. ‘You wish,’ he yelled back.

Captain Simmons waited until his audience had settled down. ‘The belief of HerEticals is that Demi-Mondian-wide peace and prosperity – an idyllic outcome they tag “MostBien” – will only be realised when men accept a subordinate position within society. Of course to the rest of the Demi-Monde the sexual proclivities of the Femmes in the Coven are seen as unnatural and obscene and, as such, Covenite Femmes are lampooned as “LessBiens”.’

‘Gonna be a home-from-home for the girls from Platoon Charlie,’ came a shout from across the room but the Captain ignored it.

‘But don’t think that just because this is a feminist Sector that it’s a soft touch.’

Ironic laughter.

‘No, there are some tough cookies in the Coven. HerEticalism has a more aggressive sister-religion known as Suffer-O-Gettism – itself a contraction of Make-Men-Suffer-O-Gettism - which espouses violence as the only means of bringing change in the Demi-Monde and removing men from positions of power. Suffer-O-Gettes are anarcha-feminists who preach that the elimination of the male of the species from the breeding cycle is a vital concomitant to the securing of MostBien.’

More cheers from Platoon Charlie.

‘The Suffer-O-Gettes are led by a dame called Jean Dark; though those of you who can read might know her better as Joan of Arc, the girl who fought against the Brits in the fifteenth century. Stay out of this dame’s way: she’s a real mean mother who believes that the only good man is a castrated man.’

Now that shut the men in the audience up. Even Badowski.

But what in his opinion was even more unnerving was the way the Captain kept talking about these PreLived Singularities as though they were real people. If a guy like Simmons – who had the intellectual grunt of a salad - had started thinking of them as real then things were really screwed up. Maybe – just maybe – the Demi-Monde might be even more freaky than the Captain said it was.

And then it got worse.

‘Yeah, you won’t be seeing that many men – nonFemmes - in the Coven. The HerEtical belief is that men are beset by an instinctive inclination towards violence and mayhem – this is termed MALEvolence in the Coven – so after coming to power Jean Dark decreed that any nonFemme working in the Covenite Civil Service, serving in the Covenite Army or having duties and responsibilities within the walls of the Forbidding City – the Coven’s capital city - had to be a NoN, a fully castrated eunuch. NoN is a contraction of the phrase of “he ain’t got none” which, I think you’ll agree, is pretty self-explanatory.’

Badowski felt his scrotum contract; the thought of all these crazed feminists making with the slice and dice action on his tackle did not appeal.

‘And as for how you ladies will be dressed...and yeah, you are all going to have your heads shaved.’


‘I know it’s a sacrifice but it’s necessary if you’re gonna fit into life in the Coven. HerEticalism abhors the sexual objectifying of Femmes and demands that all Femmes respect themselves and refrain from dressing and acting in an immodest or provocative manner which may be construed as having the intent to inflame the heterosexual libido.’

‘Fitzroy’s way ahead of you,’ came another anonymous observation. ‘She couldn’t inflame a can of gasoline.’

The Captain turned a diplomatic deaf ear. ‘So, ladies, your mission is to keep the portal in Beijing open.’ The Captain flagged up the next 3D image. ‘But it ain’t all bad news. The one advantage you’ll have when you’re operating in the Demi-Monde is superior firepower. The US Military insisted that the simulation displayed a fairly primitive technological modality - the same type of f*****-up technology available to belligerents in real Asymmetric Wars. So the Dupes’ technology is held at a Victorian-era level of competence and that’s why they’re still using gas lights, why they haven’t figured out how to harness electricity and why the most heavyweight piece of ordinance you’ll be coming up against is an armoured steamer like the one in this picture.’

Badowski eyed the steamer suspiciously. Sure it might be a mucho de weird and wonderful piece of kit but it still looked like it could ruin somebody’s Sunday. Maybe these Dupes weren’t the pushovers Simmons was suggesting they would be.

The Captain pressed the remote. ‘Okay, moving on,’ and here he smiled an evil smile. ‘Platoon Delta – and Badowski – get the shitty end of the lollipop...NoirVille.’

Check out the Demi-Monde of

All images © Rod Rees/Nigel Robinson

Wednesday, 9 February 2011


Lilith features quite heavily in the second book of the DM: 'The Demi-Monde: Spring' so when Quercus asked if I had any ideas for the cover of Spring, Lilith naturally sprang (sorry!) to mind. Here she is:

I won't go into the imagery - it'll give too much away - but the one thing you won't be seeing on the cover are her nipples...apparently they are a real no-no, so Nigel will have to do something of a cover up. I am also working on her symbols. I'll be using the laguz rune - it signals the female - but I'll combine both the sinister and the dexter aspects. This is laguz.

Monday, 7 February 2011


The Rees clan went to see 'Tangled' yesterday. Not my sort of thing, but there was sod all else on and I was outvoted anyway.

If you haven't heard this is Disney's take on the Rapunzle story, with eponymous heroine saved by a rascally hero from internment in a tower. It's a coming-of age story in 3D. It has all the ingredients of a Disney cartoon: blonde, slim and doe-eyed heroine...check; dark-haired, street-wise and quipping hero...check; cute animal side-kicks; a horse and a chameleon (I kid you not); evil crone...check; instantly forgettable songs...check; third act parting of the erstwhile lovers...check; happy ending...check.

But although this is Disney by numbers there are some great touches. The animation is superb, the movement they can bring to the characters now is simply astonishing. Some of the scenes are quite breathtakingt: the pub interlude is brilliant, as is the moment when Rapunzle is beset by indecision.

The main problem is that the film is at least 20 minutes too long - the younger elements of the audience were becoming VERY restless by the time the final credits rolled.

All in all a good movie but not a great one. I'm not sure if it's scary enough for boys but I'm certain girls will love it (Kit cried!), so if you've got a ten year old...

Nelli: 6/10
Kit: 9/10
Ellie: too cool to score it
Rod: 6/10

Friday, 4 February 2011


Finished it!

The Demi-Monde: Summer, the third volume in the quadrology, went off to John Jarrold (my agent) at lunchtime. This has been a real - make that a REAL - exercise: the version I sent must have been the fifteenth iteration of the book...I have edited and edited and edited until I'm sick to the back teeth of the bloody thing. Originally, I wrote around 175,000 words and then decided that it was too flabby so, with the help of Nell, I've been culling the book. What finally went out was a more streamlined 149,000 words. For comparison, Demi-Monde: Winter weighed out at 150,000.

I think this slimming exercise was worth it. In the end, everything is about pace and, although, even now, there are moments when the plot pauses for exposition, I don't think these slow the story down too much. And there are things I really like about the book. The Coven has been a great setting for the action. Fresh Bloom Dong E and PhilosopherNoN Xi Kang have been characters I've enjoyed writing. And putting together a nuJu patois has been interesting too.

I've also been persuaded to add a more up-beat ending. Probably the book I originally wrote was on the dark side of dark, so I've brought in a touch of optimism at the end.

Now it's eyes down for the edit of 'Spring' and the writing of the PollyPaedia entry for nuJuism. And then there's young Shelley to contend with...

Thursday, 3 February 2011


With the pub the Renegades usually meet at still being refurbished, we all met at my house yesterday evening. It's no hardship, it's more relaxed than the pub and Nell and I enjoy the company. It was an especially good evening for writing too.

Peter C brought just one page but it was an important one being a reworked opening to his 'Tumbling Dice' story. I think this is a good strategy: keep worrying away at the opening until the thing clicks, then these opening 500 words will inform the tone of the rest of the story. He's getting closer but I still don't think he's got under the skin of the main character. He sounds much too reasonable. My reading of psychotics is that they are unbelievably self-centred and self-obsessed, viewing every event and action as a personal assault or insult. It'll be really quite exciting though to see how this develops and how far Peter will be able to push himself.

Jan brought back her 'Cider-o-Wessail' - spelling? -story. She's redone it as 1st person and it works much, much better. The content was good too, the detail and the atmosphere really well worked. Now for the difficult bit: she's got to give her lead character a, er, character and I think she'll need a muse too. If she can do this I think Jan might really be onto something: the setting is great - and original! - and the situations quite thought provoking.

Tim brought a poem - 'With Nothing To Do' - which I struggled to comment on. I'm no poet and the subject matter was so personal that it seem churlish to make any observations about it. There were some interesting lines tho': I especially liked 'Whilst choosing bread at Tesco' sort of summed up the every day nature of death.

Interesting evening tho', especially as I learned that Loudon Wainwright's first two albums are now available again.


This is one of the pieces I wrote on the Sectors of the Demi-Monde. The Quartier Chaud will be the setting for 'The Demi-Monde: Spring', the second of the four books of the DM series (and the one I'm just about to start editing!)

US Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC)

Fort Jackson, neoFight Briefing Area, 8th June, 2018

Captain Simmons smiled, ‘Okay, Platoon Bravo, you’ve drawn this week’s star prize, an all-expenses paid tour of the Quartier Chaud. Why’s it a prize? Because the Quartier Chaudians – most of whom are of Mediterranean stock - follow a religion known as ImPuritanism which is a staunchly hedonistic.’

Silence. ‘For the lame-brains in the audience hedonism is the pursuit of pleasure.’
There were cheers and whistles around the room. ‘Okay. Settle down but, yeah, you heard me right: the pursuit of pleasure. But these sex crazy Quartier Chaudians have gone further than this; they believe that communion with their god can only be achieved during the ultimate orgasm they call JuiceSense. So you better believe that they take their bump and grind action mighty seriously in the QC, they even have a scale to measure their sexual appetites and ability. The ratings are...’ A list appeared on the Flexi-Plexi.

• Pianissimo: very soft

• Piano: soft

• Mezzo-piano: moderately soft

• Mezzo-forte: moderately hard

• Forte: hard

• Fortissimo: very hard

Badowski couldn’t resist. He stuck up his hand. ‘Hey, Captain, how come you’re sending those dickless pianissimos from Platoon Bravo into the Quartier Chaud? Sounds like a waste of beaucoup de good poontang to me. Gonna be a mess of disappointed chicks of the hedonistic persuasion after those guys have failed to lock and unload.’ It took the Captain a full minute to quiet his audience after Badowski’s interjection.

‘No more observations from you, Badowski, otherwise you’ll be cleaning the heads with your tongue.’ The Captain took a deep breath to settle his temper. ‘Okay...where was I? Oh, yes, how they dress in the QC reflects the passion they have for all things erotic, so, ladies, if you aren’t of a mind to show some serious flesh then now is the time to think about buying yourself out of the Corps.’ An image of Quartier Chaudian fashions appeared on the Flexi-Plexi, to whoops and hollers from the audience. ‘And as for you, Badowski, I’ve already put in an order for “Cod Piece, extra small”.’
The Captain tapped at the screen with a pointer. ‘As you can see these Quartier Chaudians also have the custom of wearing masks and veils. When the Quartier Chaud first adopted ImPuritanism as its religion many of the Sector’s Citizens were uncomfortable and embarrassed by the sexual obligations placed on them and hence took to wearing masks in order to be better able to assume a new and more sexually enfranchised personality. Over time it has become de rigueur for all Citizens, when in public, to wear a mask or a veil as this allows them to project any personality they chose to the outside world, even personalities diametrically opposite to their normal, public ones. Hence the famous QC saying: “Masks are dangerous things as behind a mask I am anonymous and there is nothing more dangerous than anonymity”.
Badowski leant across to Sergeant Bowman, the guy in charge of Platoon Bravo. ‘Hey, Sergeant Bowman, it’s your lucky day. You get to go to the Quartier Chaud where no one’s gonna know how pig ugly you are.’
He was rewarded with the finger.

Oblivious, the Captain continued. ‘Okay, I can see from the expressions on your faces that the dime has dropped. But don’t get carried away, you ain’t been sent to the QC for a few weeks f****** and frolicking. No sirree. Your mission is to make sure that the badnik Dupe trying to take control of the Quartier Chaud, a real slime ball called Maximilien Robespierre – who, when he was living in the Real World was the Singularity who organised the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution – doesn’t succeed in gaining control of Paris and closing the portal we’ve got there.’
The Flexi-Plexi mutated again to show a beautiful, bemasked woman. ‘But the one thing all you cats and kittens in Platoon Bravo had better be careful of when you’re in the Quartier Chaud are the dames known as Visual Virgins. These girls are Auralists; they can read auras, the invisible penumbra of colours which surround our bodies. Intelligence tells us that they can spot a Real Worlder like us easy as blinking and as the Demi-Mondians ain’t over impressed with Daemons – yeah, that’s what they call us – coming to their world to mix and mingle if you don’t wanna have a close encounter of the turd kind keep outta the way of Visual Virgins. They’re easy to spot: they wear red robes and are kinda nice on the eye.’
Captain Simmons pressed the remote. ‘Okay, Platoon Charlie, you’ve drawn the Coven...’

Check out the Demi-Monde of

All images © Rod Rees/Nigel Robinson