To celebrate this week´s Invisible Hand blog tour, there´s a free Shakespeare´s Moon short story available on Wattpad. Click here to read PlayFight (originally published in Dark Lane Anthology 6). It´s about a young Syrian girl who wonders if the other students at St Francis´ School really know what war is like.
Thanks to everyone who came out to the library workshops during Shakespeare Week – I had a brilliant time. Support the libraries!
Cold Fire, Shakespeare´s Moon ACT II, will be published worldwide by Lodestone Books on August 31st, 2018.
Based on Romeo and Juliet, the book is now available for pre-order on Amazon UK and US. You can read three free chapters at Instafreebie here.
It can be ordered from Gardners by following this link: (note, not yet available).
The Invisible Hand, the first book in the series, based on Macbeth, was published by Lodestone on February 24th, 2017. It is available from Amazon UK here and Amazon US here. There are three free chapters at Instafreebie here.
10 Quick Questions about Cold Fire.
Do you have to have read The Invisible Hand to understand what´s going on in Cold Fire?
Not at all. It´s a standalone novel although the action takes place in the same universe, in the same school and even involves some of the same characters. Each book in the series deepens and explains the mythos of the Shakespeare´s Moon series.
Why Cold Fire?
Like The Invisible Hand, the title is lifted from the text of the play it´s based on. Cold Fire describes the chaos of love and passion.
Is it a romantic book?
It´s a book about love. Any book based on Romeo and Juliet has to be about love. But I started the book from a strange angle – I thought, “love doesn´t exist, it´s just a survival device” and went from there, trying to convince myself I was wrong.
Is the book only for teachers and students?
The book is for anyone interested in Shakespeare, the plays, and a good adventure story. There are elements of time-travel, romance and suspense in both books – and plenty of history and fantasy. I love the plays I write about but the books are not intended to “teach” anyone anything. They are another way to look at the play and the characters, another way in to what can seem dense and forbidding texts. I think anyone studying – especially struggling – with the plays, might get something out of the books – but they should appeal to anyone reading this, because if you´ve got this far you´re probably mentally stroking your chin, thinking, “hmmm…maybe…”
Why Shakespeare´s Moon?
The moon, and the phases of the moon in particular, play a huge part in the plot of all of the books in the series. Some of the how and why is explained in Cold Fire.
Do you believe in love?
Most definitely, in all its guises and for all its purposes, known and unknown. Some aspects of love are amazing, warm and incredible. Some are cold, horrible and terrible. Love, as a word, encompasses many, many things.
How many books will there be in the series?
Five. Each novel is an “act” and so there has to be five.
Which plays are the other books based on?
Not telling. What I will say, though, is that lovers of the Sonnets will find some interesting stuff in Cold Fire. The third book is also set in the future and tells the story of what happens to St Francis and The Book.
1979´s Live At The Witch Trials LP from new post-punk group The Fall began with a track Mark Smith had written when he was 16. Frightened immediately set out his stall: “I’ve got shears pointed straight at my chest, and time moves slow when you count it. I’m better than them, and I think I’m the best. But I’ll appear at midnight when the films close…” The films, not the movies. Dark streets. Industrial wastelands and pubs filled with long-hairs one up-manning each other about the right groups to like.
We are in Manchester now, a bleak late-seventies Manchester where men still trailed into the factories like something from a Lowry or Tressell´s worst nightmare – a point underlined by Industrial Estate – “we´ll tap each other as we walk in the gate”. But this was a new voice – a new take on the proletariat´s plight: bitter, cynical, defensive and aggressive. This is Mark Edward Smith, child of Prestwich, already delivering his poetry in what will become his trademark manner-ah. The band are knowingly rudimentary, the music repetitive and unprofessional but it is unremitting, bludgeoning and uncompromising.
Dragnet, Grotesque (After The Gramme) and Hex Enduction Hour which follow are showcases for Smith´s wordplay and are for the ages. Gone is the 60´s Beatlesy happy-drug whimsy and gone, too, is the friendly mien of the Mersey poets or the dreaded rural, Sunday-TV , Pam Ayres isn´t-poetry-lovely tripe. This is a literate pavement dweller. Someone at the bottom of the pile who can write and is not afraid to write what they see and feel.
Smith´s literary influences are on show and his own writing style emerges, boosted by speed and marinated in booze. History predominates, a strong sense of place, great humour and biting, caustic put-downs. Mark´s love of spooky, eerie and uncanny (he thinks he has precognitive powers and will, later in life, be interviewed at least once by the police for weirdly prescient lyrics) manifests in Spectre Vs Rector, which opens with the incantation, “MR James be born be born…Yog Sothoth, rape me lord…”.
Grotesque contains a gorgeous, embittered freeform rant against the English groups he and The Fall encounter in America, “they act like peasants with free milk”, rudderless and pointless, “on a route to the loot”:
Five wacky English proletariat idiots
Californians always think of sex
Well think of death
Five hundred girl deaths –
A Mexico revenge, it’s stolen land
They really get it off on
“Don’t hurt me please”
Rapist fill the TVs
And the secret of their lives
I have dreams, I can see
Carloads of negro Nazis
Like Faust with beards
Hydrochloric shaved weirds
This was going to be called crap rap fourteen
But it’s now Stop Mithering
The things that drain you off and drive you off the hinge
Boils, dirty socks, the ceilings collapse
The Sunday morning loud lawn mower
The upstairs Jewish girl damn hoovering, with Valium cig
She wants communal, fluent flat household
I want privacy
The bastard dentist doctors surgery
Clip, clop, ring, knock, ring
The estates stick up like stacks The estates stick up like stacks
The residents keep wild dogs
And on that father’s bedroom closet top
Electric blanket boxes
Surplus jonnies, demob pictures
To their children they sing
You think you’ve got it bad with thin ties
Miserable songs synthesized, or circles with A in the middle
Ake joke records, hang out with Gary Bushell
Join round table. “I like your single yer great!”
A circle of low IQ’s
There are three rules of audience
My journalist acquaintances, go soft, go places
On record company expenses
I lose humour, manners become barbed, righteous, don’t know it
The smart hedonists, same as last verse, allusions with
H in electronics, on stage false histrionics
Corpse mauling dicks, pose to a good film, him, him
I’m not joining conventional rock band
The conventional is experimental, the conventional is now
And is no way noble, and I’m no chock stock thing
So stop mithering
Engineers save up for cars
I try to let down their tyres with matches to make them molten
They say I rip off Johnny Rotten
They always strike for more pay
They say “See yer mate..Yeh…see yer mate”
To their mothers they sing
Even the drowned penile tissue test
He hangs out for sex
He enters magazine contest
White tan horror in the mirror
Spotty exterior hides a spotty interior
He’s not your enemy
He’s not your enemy, his name is not Harry
The secret of Cash and Carry
Later albums would showcase fantastic one-liners and witty stories – Athlete Cured (on Frenz, 1988) is a case in point:
The German athletic star was continually ill.
For months doctors were puzzled.
The star would complain of the smell in his room.
On visiting him this was found to be true.
An odour resembling hot-dogs permeated the whole bedroom.
A solution was only discovered by my closely Watching his brother Gert. Gert was handsome, well-meaning, but slightly a careless type. Not malicious, I hope you understand and grasp. (No chance).
But on returning from his clerical job, Gert Would park his Volkswagen at the end of the day Willy-nilly in the driveway, usually the wrong way round So that the exhaust fumes would flow upwards right through The open windows of the athletic star’s upstairs bedroom.
I also discovered that Gert would turn his engine
Over for up to an hour. I don’t know why.
Citizens in my street are also partial to this.
Mid and late albums by The Fall all contain more examples of imaginative wordplay – often in their titles – than lesser writers, rock and pop writers especially, but most novelists and contemporary poets manage in a career. Sadly, Mark knew this, and it embittered him and his writing. His refusal to properly play the media game, say the right thing, and the more antagonistic elements of his character his substance dependence exaggerated, meant he wasn´t to get his dues during his lifetime. But he knew he was good, and he will be recognised as such. There is too much good writing there to be ignored.
Thankfully, he didn´t end up like Bono or Ian McShane so there was no need to cut his throat with a vegetable or garden tool.
When I’m dead and gone
My vibrations will live on
In vibes on vinyl through the years
People will dance to my waves
The digitalisation of our lives will be a godsend to future biographers and historians.
Big data will provide unlimited, all-area access to subject´s lives. There will be no escape.
Private messages, emails, search histories, browser histories, phone calls, likes and dislikes, daily movements, bank accounts, spending details, medical and financial records will all be available at the touch of a button. Today politicians, artists, the famous and the infamous might have the cushion of security but the information is out there and it will be found. Firewalls will be scaled, security breached, information bought and sold.
The data we create will outlive us, replicating, duplicating and existing potentially forever. Future biographers will have access to their subject´s lives to a degree unimaginable these days. Gone will be the need to clear things with the family or hope for access to private papers. In the future there are no private papers. Your private messages and calls are and have been recorded. You are on record. Anyone can track you down via your digital footprints.
This can only mean honesty and transparency when it comes to future historians and biographers: it will be pointless to present the information in any other way. But what will be revealed? For the first time in history the dichotomy between public and private lives will be exposed: there will be no rumours, there will be fact. There will be proof.
In the future the present will have no place to hide.
Heart of Winter, translated as Cuore D´Inverno by Sebastiano Inama, has hit number one on two Italian Kindle charts! The link to the Shakespeare´s Moon short story is here. It´s free for a limited time.
This follows a Spanish number one earlier in the year for Corazon de Hielo, translated by Gemma Fernández Parera and Eve´s Christmas hitting number one in early December.
Corazón de Hielo, the Spanish translation of Shakespeare´s Moon prelude Heart of Winter spent the weekend at Number One in the Amazon España Kindle charts. Free until Halloween, Corazón de Hielo debuted at 18 and raced up to number 5 by Saturday night. An early rally on Sunday morning brought top spot.
¡Gracias a todos – amigos, amigas, amigos de amigos!
Special thanks to Gemma de Premia for her translation, Jane Appleton for editing, Lpixel for the brilliant cover and Ana Gomez for overseeing the whole project.
A brand new Shakespeare´s Moon short story called PLAYFIGHT will be published in the next Dark Lane Anthology, due early 2018.
The story is about Miriam Alawi, a young Syrian girl at St Francis´ School, who finds she is a Writer. Miriam has suffered with the civil war in her own country and feels people at the school are not paying any attention to what is going on in her part of the world.
She decides to take action.
If you would like an exclusive read of PLAYFIGHT, send an email to email@example.com or visit James Hartley Books on Facebook to see how.