A soul, a soul, a soul cake
Please, good missus, a soul cake
An apple, a pear, a plum or a cherry
Any good thing to make us all merry
One for Peter, two for Paul
Three for Him who made us all
God Bless the master of this house, the mistress also
And all the little children who around your table grow
Likewise your men and maidens, your cattle and your store
And all that dwells within your gates
we wish you ten times more
The lanes are very dirty and my shoes are very thin
I've got a little pocket I can put a penny in
If you haven't got a penny, a ha' penny will do
If you haven't got a ha' penny, then God bless you
Now where I was? Ahhhh, having a pint of Headless Jack's Pumpkin Spice Halloween Ale while enjoying this fine late October evening -- first frosts and earthy leaf-mould and the bitter tang of wood smoke, and the smell of coming winter -- while thinking of what there is for Halloween songs -- of course, everyone knows 'Tam Lin', and a Welsh muso who plays in the Neverending Session is of the opinion that 'Soul Cakes' was originally an All Hallow's Eve song, not a Christmas carol at all, and Loreena McKennitt's 'Samhain Night' is a modern one... But I'm looking for other songs so drop Green Man a note if you know of any!
In the meantime, all four of our featured reviews this edition are of bleedin' good tales of things which go bump in the night -- headless horseman, hideous transformations, restless ghosts, and ghoulies most foul, and we have a look at how Green Man gets ready for Halloween! Read on!
Gus, here. All Hallow’s Eve is less than a fortnight away, and the Staff is deep in preparations. Mind you, a lot of those are just fun and games: putting up decorations and scurrying around with secret costume plans. Some of the more inventive around here won’t be able to move for the weight of their guisings on the night itself. Those who are already done are creeping about vying for dibs on copies of Charles Vess’ The Book of Ballads - we’re giving them away this coming month, and they are the most anticipated Treat in the place: a entire book/bag of bittersweets by the likes of Jane Yolen and Neil Gaiman.
It’s a busy month in the gardens, but I am leading from the rear at the moment; sitting here and watching the main courtyard, wondering if the great oak there is going to win this year’s contest with my lads pruning deadwood. Our esteemed cook Mrs. Ware has requested my feedback, as it were, on an experimental batch of triple Brie and fig scones for the annual Halloween feast, and it’s my pleasure to sit and give it my deepest attention. That woman brings inspiration to a plate of crackers and cheese; what she does to a risen dough enters the realm of the sacred …
For the Kitchen Staff, Reynard’s Tap Crew, and for my own lads in the garden, there’s a lot of real work leading up to Samhain celebrations. Mrs. W. is, as I said, already cooking: she’s been laying aside a veritable treasure trove of pickles, relishes, butters, marinades, sauces, curds, creams and other culinary conceits -- when the freshly baked and just roasted masterpieces hit the tables, they will be accompanied by her usual astonishing condiments. Do you fancy pork roast rolled in leeks and apples, with whipped sweet potatoes in a cognac sauce? And new bread? Well, plan to move fast when it’s served, then, because so do I.
Reynard, of course, is both laying in appropriate potables and fretting over the batches brewed here specifically for All Hallow’s. All this month he’s been serving Headless Jack's Pumpkin Spice Halloween Ale in the Pub. Come try a pint, but be careful! I’m told the name is not only seasonal, but a fair warning of the effects of over-indulgence. And there are the porters, the stouts, the dark brews like liquid bread that are required for this holiday; the cider and perry and aged brandies to keep off the growing chill and light the holiday bonfires in us all.
The Endless Session has been having night ceilidhs in the gardens, before the nights get too cold and they retreat to the Pub for the winter. Autumn evenings the wind rises in the woods, and gives the music in the courtyards a special pace and chorus … the secret’s in the pruning, of course, though I doubt the Session has figured that out. But I go out and do the trimming myself, tuning the oaks like an Aolian harp, so their voices will be clear on All Hallow’s night.
Most of all, though, my lads and I are responsible for the bonfires. No one cuts wood in my gardens except me and mine, and at this time of year I’m just as particular about the fallen wood as I am about the trimmed. That wood's been gathered and stacked with great deliberation, you know. The Halloween bonfires have to be carefully planned, and meticulously built; I daresay the mix of firewood I use is as complicated as Mrs. Wares' pumpkin butter or Reynard’s Samhain Stout. It needs a particular scent, a notable stamina and even special colour … which is why that one oak has to be pruned just so. The eastern boughs have seen soaking up the salt mist and should burn like tourmalines. It will make the perfect King Log … if that fool Andrew doesn’t hang himself with that guy rope!
Hi! Look sharp, lads! What are you about? We don’t do that anymore...
As I noted previously, all of our featured reviews this edition are of bleedin' good tales of things which go bump in the night -- headless horseman, hideous transformations, restless ghosts, and ghoulies most foul. So get yourself another pint of Headless Jack's Pumpkin Spice Halloween Ale and settle in for some truly chilling reviews...
Our first featured book review this week comes from Cat Eldridge who has high praise for the final book in Deborah Grabien's The Haunted Ballads series: New Slain Knight. Without giving any of the mystery away, Cat says this last volume is 'the best in the series, and quite possibly one of the finest ghost stories ever told.' To see how Grabien has so thoroughly hooked Cat, read his review!
Kestrell Rath looked back into the mists of American history for our next featured book review, a story familiar to many of us, Washington Irving's 'The Headless Horseman.' Kestrell opens her Excellence in Writing Award-winning review like so: 'It is difficult to think of an American ghost story more well-known than that of Washington Irving's short story 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.' Though Irving's original sources for the stories may have been local folklore based on the same stories which the Grimm Brothers would collect and publish back in the Old World, Irving's tale would emerge as one of America's first and most familiar stories until, like the best stories, it seeped into the American consciousness the way wellwater rises from some hidden source deep underground.' Read the full review for a fascinating glimpse at this oh-so- familiar tale.
Our last featured book review comes to us from Michael Jones, who brings us Christopher Golden and Mike Mignola's graphic novel Baltimore: or The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire. Jones says that 'Baltimore is certainly a success for them both [Golden and Mignola]. It may have its flaws, but all in all, once I got into it, I couldn't stop reading, eager to find out what manner of twisted horror would be thrown at the characters next, and whether they'd see a victory over the vampires terrorizing the world. All I can say that for these men, a happily ever after isn't entirely on the books, even if they do survive the final encounter. So despite my initial hesitations regarding this book, I'm happy to say that Baltimore is well worth checking out, especially if you happen to like your stories dark, disturbing, and Gothic.' Check out his full review for more details on this timely collaboration.
Our featured film review is of the BBC six-hour mini series, Jekyll, again, ably reviewed for us by Kestrell Rath. '...this version is not so much a remake as a retelling of the Jekyll/Hyde story. The story is relocated from Victorian Edinburgh to contemporary London and follows one of Jekyll's descendents, a research scientist named Tom Jackman (James Nesbitt).' Kestrell concludes that 'While I found this re-telling of a traditional story exciting and exceptionally well done, I would suggest that this series is not for everyone. Viewers looking for a remake of the original story will not find it here; those viewers who prefer American Hollywood effects may also be disappointed.'
Camille Alexa opens our book reviews this week with a look at Neil Gaiman work that first started life as a television concept: Interworld. And Camille feels it should have stuck to its roots: 'I can't help feeling it wasn't meant to be a book, at least in its present form. It's as though this is still a literary rendering of a movie or television concept . . . I can't help thinking that same audience would enjoy this even more as a television series or movie. For me, it didn't quite shine as a written work. The writing simply feels too uneven. If, however, the aim of Interworld is to show just how wrong those television executives who 'don't read books' actually were in declining the Interworld concept to begin with, it succeeds admirably.' To see what the fuss is about, read her full review!
Camille enjoyed Perry Moore's debut novel Hero, saying that she was won over by the 'absolutely brilliant use of Thom's struggle to understand himself and his place in the world as a superhero paralleled with his struggle to understand himself as gay.' For more on Thom and his superpowers, read the full review.
Kage Baker takes us swashbuckling with a look at Colin Woodard's The Republic of Pirates. Being something of a pirate aficionado, Kage's quite pleased with Woodard's work: 'Good entertainment, solid scholarship. This one rates ten skulls and crossbones out of ten.' To see why it merits such high praise, go read her full review!
Donna Bird focuses this week on two travel magazines, Cornucopia and Steppe, which she says 'are printed on relatively heavy, glossy stock, which renders the numerous photographs even more glorious. Both use lots of photo layouts, including many full-page and double-page spreads. Talk about eye candy! Lest you wonder, they both feature fascinating and remarkably well-written articles, as well.' Sounds like these might be worth investing in, if you have an interest in Turkey and Asia! To see if you might, read her review.
Denise Dutton sunk her teeth into Ellen Datlow's horror anthology, Inferno: New Tales of Terror and the Supernatural. She says ' This is a smorgasbord for any horror reader, regardless of where his or her interests may lie; horror, terror or gross out. And a small word of warning, those who are not quite as used to graphic violence as I am may find themselves truly grossed out by a few. But mostly, and more importantly, this book serves up excellent, high-quality creep.' For all the gory details, read on -- if you dare!
April Gutierrez reviewed Will Shetterly's Gospel of the Knife, a sequel to Dogland, which she had been quite fond of. Alas, the sequel didn't sit quite so well with her: 'I had a very difficult time with Gospel of the Knife, in that I had no emotional investment in either the characters or the content. So the novel doesn't work for me on either an intellectual level, or as a straightforward fantasy novel.' To see why it just didn't click for her, read her review.
Michael Jones started a new series with Diana Pharaoh Francis' The Cipher. Michael believes 'it's shaping up to be a remarkably intriguing twist on the usual fantasy setting. Instead of hewing to the medievalesque timeframe most fantasies find most comfortable, Crosspointe seems to take its inspiration from the heyday of the British Empire, circa the 19th Century (though history not being my strongest point, I may be a little off, here), and more importantly, from a time when trading ships and merchant vessels made up a vast part of a global economy. It's a refreshing change of pace, and a setting that seems ripe for exploration. Francis throws in a healthy dose of manipulation, corruption, intrigue, and politics to go with the surface trappings, presenting an environment always on the verge of explosive, unpleasant change.' For more about the characters and plot that fit into this setting, read Michael's full review.
Next, Michael looks at the latest in Simon R. Green's Nightside series, The Unnatural Inquirer, of which he avows 'this book has everything you've come to expect from the series: a bizarre mystery, eccentric and dangerous characters, and yet more outrageously inventive locations to help flesh out the Nightside . . . as well as appearances from all the usual suspects and miscreants. ' Go here for more!
Michael started another new urban fantasy series with John Levitt's Dog Days, and says, 'I thoroughly enjoyed Dog Days. It's proof that there's still a heck of a lot of potential for variation in the urban fantasy genre, and it's a highly satisfying read.' For the scoop on this novel, read the review.
David Kidney looks back into the past at a collection of George Herriman's Krazy Kat comics, The Kat Who Walked in Beauty, a book that he says is 'well titled.' Indeed, David goes on to say that '[t]his is a gorgeous book, for Herriman lovers, for fans of the comics medium, and for anyone who wants to discover Krazy Kat and Ignatz Mouse for the first time. Highly recommended.' Read his full review for greater detail of this lovely book's contents!
Next, David turned to Laurence Hyde's Southern Cross, which he says is '[n]ot a graphic novel, as we've come to understand them, but a series of 118 wood engravings that when 'read' together in sequence tells a story of the atomic bomb tests by the USA in the South Pacific in the days following World War II.' His Excellence in Writing Award-winning review makes the book sound quite moving -- read it and judge for yourself!
Rock 'n roll grabbed David next, as he looked at Dennis King's Art of Modern Rock: Mini #1 A-Z . Referencing the original Art of Rock, David says, 'They call it the 'feisty kid brother of the epic, doorstop-sized volume.' And that's about right. It contains some of the best posters from the original, PLUS a whack of new material, in this handy new format. So it's not designed to replace the big one, but to enhance it, to add to it, to complement it! And it does so with humour, and order!' Check out the rest of his review for more details.
David looks at a definite first for GMR: the Bible. In this case it's a version of the bible illustrated by Marc Chagall, about which Dave says 'the size of the book is very useful. It fits in the reader's hands, almost like a prayer book. While the text is presented in easy to read blocks the images fill the pages, sometimes spread across two pages. You can read, then contemplate the story by gazing at the painting, comparing your interpretation of events with the artist's.' For more specifics about this most unusual item, read on!
Kestrell Rath dove into Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi's The Nixie's Song, 'which is the first book in a new series titled Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles.' She says that though 'there is a new setting and a new cast of characters. It is apparent from the very first lines, however, that this new series contains all the style, wit, and rich complexity of the original.' To see what all she liked about this new entry into the Spiderwick world, take a look-see here.
Robert M. Tilendis' first review this week is a look at the latest in C. J. Cherryh's Fortress series, Fortress of Ice. He concludes that he 'can't consider this one of Cherryh's better efforts. She seems to have composed a sequel that magnifies all the flaws of the series and incorporates few of its virtues.' For all the details as to why, you'll need to read his insightful review.
Robert's second offering this time around is a collection of Philip Jose Farmer's works called Up from the Bottomless Pit and Other Stories. Robert feels this collection reveals 'the range of Farmer's thought -- no subject was out of bounds, and no mode was outside consideration.' And he concludes that 'there are some gems here. There are some that don't sparkle quite so much, but I think this is a collection worth reading.' Read his review for more info on the stories in the collection.
Next, Robert reviewed a classic author, Roger Zelazny, taking a look at Damnation Alley, which had him reconsidering his vision of Zelazny: 'Subtlety is not something I've often thought about in relation to Zelazny, but Damnation Alley forced me to reconsider: there's much more under the surface of this particular adventure story than one would at first suspect. It's a nice feeling.' For the full review, go here.
Closing out his reviews this time around, Robert looked at Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling's The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, Eleventh Annual Collection. While finding favour with the beginning summations, Robert had mixed feelings about the actual stories, 'The stories are kind of iffy, not because of any lack of quality, but more, I think, because of the focus (or lack of it) of this kind of collection . . . With that caveat in place, there were stories that registered highly positive.' And he concludes: 'For anyone who feels impelled to stay current with the latest in fantasy or horror or their multitude of offspring for whatever reason, the 'Year's Best' anthologies are of obvious value and interest. Datlow and Windling certainly know their business and can't be held responsible for my somewhat lukewarm reaction.' For more details, read on.
The film section kicks off with Donna Bird's review of a departure from the usual Sherlock Holmes story, Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars. 'What a disappointment it was to come to the end of this charming 2-hour DVD pilot and realize that it was over, just like that! Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars is, as the title suggests, a pastiche derived from the Sherlock Holmes stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.. Viewers get to see the Irregulars in action on a couple of 'jobs' they do for Holmes before the central plot of these two episodes really takes off. They are smart, brave, resourceful kids who look out for each other... When they don't have enough money coming in from the work they do for Holmes, they survive by stealing money and goods, including food. Although they are typically a bit grimy, they clean up nicely and can put on refined manners when they need to do so for the job.'
David Kidney provides the next review, taking a look at a documentary, charting the life and times of Ronnie Lane. 'Ronnie Lane lived a different kind of rock'n'roll life. He didn't care about the adulation and the money. He cared about the music and the fans. 'Without the audience,' he said, 'there's no show!' He taught Clapton and Townshend to turn down, to write about their own lives. He had an impact on the musicians who played with him, and on the crew who worked with him. The Passing Show is an intimate and touching story of a special man. He played the guitar. He wrote songs. And when he was failing, and the MS was wearing him down, he would still strut onto the stage, and lead the band in a cracking rendition of his best known song.' You can read David's full review here!
John O'Regan gives a very thorough account of the DVD release, Rory Gallagher - Live At Rockpalast... and plenty more besides! 'Seven sessions that Gallagher recorded for Rockpalast between 1976 and 1990, including two jam sessions, have been compiled on this eagerly awaited collection. This elaborate collection is both informative and a serious fan acquisition. It includes a fold-out package complete with booklet, photographs and plenty of memorabilia. The latter includes copies of newspaper articles, ticket stubs, backstage passes and laminates and three full length DVDs of honest, earnest and sincere rock/blues music. Featuring both electric and acoustic sets, this is the type of music for which Gallagher was famed.'
We wrap up films this edition, with another music documentary, this time devoted to the influential musician and activist, Pete Seeger. Gary Whitehouse casts his eye over Pete Seeger: The Power of Song for us. 'Far too many important artists, musicians and other cultural figures are only recognized and celebrated after they're dead. So it's especially heart-warming to see Pete Seeger receiving his due while he's still with us... Much of the narration takes place over images of Seeger, either performing in public or interacting with friends and family. The music is skillfully woven into the narrative, too.'
Our sole live review this edition is by Cat Eldridge of his visit to One Longfellow Square in Portland, Maine, where he witnessed April Verch and her band. 'Ahhhh, the perfect fiddler of Appalachian tunes... who also is a lovely singer in one of the finest venues anywhere -- what a pleasant combination on a late summer evening! How good is she live? If The Square, as it's known by most folks around here, does her again, I'll go see her.'
Really cool things arrive here at Green Man for review, some so cool that they barely make it out of the wrappers before being snatched up by an eager staffer. Sometime in the early months of next year, we'll be putting together our Best of '06 lists -- like Old Nick, we're making lists and checking them twice. Some things that'll make my list, say Deborah Grabien's Haunted Ballads series, Catherynne M. Valente The Orphan's Tale, volume one, and Pentangle's box set, The Time Has Come -- 1967-1973 have been reviewed. But other items are awaiting review such as Dreamsongs, the two volume set of short writings by George R.R. Martin which Camille Alexa's reviewing for us, not to mention the twentieth edition of The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror which Our Editor will be reviewing in our special YBFH edition. Other staffers 'ere have other picks such as Camille's noting that 'The 'best' thing from the actual GMR offerings was The Best of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet which will be reviewed shortly, and Craig picked Joe Hill's Heart-Shaped Box to name but two picks.
Now, as Charles de Lint said in Forests of the Heart, 'Have another drink and just listen to the music.'