Tag Archives: audiobooks

Doctor Who and the Detective – It’s the Starkey Stratagem!

The man who is Carnacki, inside the recording studio, being Dr Who’s Strax, weird fiction and more. Today we’re delighted to be joined by actor and great guy Dan Starkey in another exclusive greydogtales interview. Are we cool, or what? (Please DO NOT answer that question.)

Dan stands out for us, and for many of our listeners, because of his recent, superb audio performance as William Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki the Ghost Finder. His is really the first proper rendition of the role as it was written, and we are not the only ones who have called his performance definitive.

Dan-Starkey

He is, however, a man of many parts (some of them hidden under mounds of prosthetics) and we shall try to do justice to his range by probing away…

greydog: Dan, welcome to greydogtales. Given that you have a background in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic studies, a constant source of interest with us for mythic inspiration, we have to start with one crucial question. Why acting?

dan: Thank you for having me! Yes I did my undergraduate degree and MPhil in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic initially on a whim. I was going to do English Literature at university, but then I saw the subject in the Cambridge prospectus and it captured my attention, as it combined a lot of my other interests apart from “pure” literature, such as aspects of linguistics, history and archaeology.

In the end I realised that my interests ultimately lay more on the literary side of things, but I was very glad to have taken a more round about route in that realisation, acquiring a reading knowledge of four mediaeval languages in the process. I think I probably had at the back of my mind a self-image of some M R James type antiquarian, or slightly less energetic Indiana Jones substitute, but that’s only with the benefit of hindsight.

HmronjIi
copyright idil sukan/draw hq

Certainly when I finished my degrees and returned to reading literature in my own language I was extraordinarily grateful at how relatively straightforward it was to appreciate! Old Irish, for example, is immeasurably more distant, aesthetically as well as linguistically. Acting was always something I did at school, and is the flipside to these rather monkish, hermetic parts of my character. I have had times – especially when I was contemplating becoming an academic which was an obvious career path having studied such an esoteric subject – when I’ve tried to ignore the “actor” side of my nature, but it honestly drives me nuts. I’ve learned to embrace my inner show-off, and thankfully it’s enabled me to pay my rent for most of the last ten years, so I’m doing something right…

fitzrovia radio hour
fitzrovia radio hour

greydog: We think you must be. We’ve been digging. You were nominated as Best Male Performance at the Off West End Theatre Awards (Offies) in 2012. You’ve been involved in the Fitzrovia Radio Hour, classic radio plays of the 40’s and 50’s performed in front of a studio audience, and much other audio work. And of course, you had numerous appearances on Dr Who and Wizards Vs Aliens. Which do you prefer? Treading the boards, TV or audio?

dan: It’s great to have a mixture of things to do, though it seems inevitable that the grass on the other side is always greener: I’ll be doing a play, and I’ll think, wouldn’t it be nice to do some TV, or I’m doing a talking book and I feel the urge to get on stage and experience the crackle of live performance. As I’ve mentioned above, I think different media allow you to satiate different impulses you have as a performer, whether it’s the intimacy of an audio performance when it’s just you and the microphone, or the adrenaline rush of doing live theatre on stage in a thousand-seater auditorium.

On a purely mercenary level, it’s worth noting that the most fulfilling jobs aesthetically are not necessarily the best paid, whereas saying three words in a voice-over for a Skoda commercial – to pluck an example out of the air – could pay your rent for a few months, so being a bit “pick and mix” is a necessity!

strax-deep-breath

greydog: We want to hear more about you, Carnacki and Hope Hodgson, but we feel we should address the Sontaran in the room. When we announced you were joining us, rather a lot of listeners went “Oooh, Strax. We love him!”. The character is enormously popular. Was your transition from multiple Sontarans to Strax himself by accident, or something you actively went for?

dan: I had no idea prior to getting the script for “A Good Man Goes to War”, the story in which Strax makes his debut, that I was going to have more than a token couple of lines in the background as another Sontaran, and in that story Strax did appear to die. He was a character who leapt off the page, as did Vastra and Jenny, and clearly they struck a chord with both the production team and the viewers. When you get given the opportunity to play such a fun character that people love, you’ve got to go with it!

the-paternosters-being-epic

greydog: We know that there are a lot of folk out there who are glad you did. We write weird fiction, but sadly, we’ve never come up with a female Silurian detective, married to a young Victorian woman, who is supported by a literal-minded alien warrior with nursing credentials. Is it fun to perform your role in the Paternoster gang, or just work?

dan: It’s both! I remember the first time I played a Sontaran, Commander Skorr, back in 2007. It was my first television part anyway, but after getting used to the surreality of wearing a rubber suit for the best part of fifteen hours a day, and having my head poked in fascination by David Tennant, I remember spending the best part of an entire day running around a warehouse, shooting soldiers with a zap gun and laughing insanely. At various points it did occur to me that I was actually getting paid to do it as well, and reeling in incredulity, although that might have been due to overheating in my foam latex mask. With Strax, I’m always very well served by the writing, and even if I’ve only one line in a scene, I know it’s likely to be a memorable one.

paternoster gang, dragoon23, deviantart
paternoster gang, dragoon23, deviantart

greydog: Let’s shift through time and space, avoiding the comment that Madam Vastra isn’t far from being an occult detective herself. Carnacki. Producer Scott Handcock spoke to us about the background to the audiobook a few weeks ago (see  carnacki lives!). He said that you were immediately interested when you heard about the plan for Hope Hodgson’s tales. So you were already quite a fan?

dan: I had read a couple of the Carnacki stories, having been introduced to the character by his appearance among the 1910 grouping of Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the various iterations of which are a marvellous primer for different types of weird and pulp fiction over the last century or so! I believe that the former Doctor Who script editor Andrew Cartmel had referenced Carnacki in some of the Doctor Who spin-off literature of the 90s, so I had been aware of him for a while.

century

Reading the stories a bit closer, in preparation for performing them, gave me a deeper appreciation for the character and he’s quite fun in that he’s a balance of the bluff and vulnerable. He affects his listeners in that he lets them into his thought processes, the shame and terror, as well as his rational, methodical attitude to the supernatural – or ab-natural as he dubs it. I love all the references to stories we haven’t seen as well. I’m always a sucker for a bit of world-building…

greydog: As editor/publisher and media enthusiast James Bojiacuk recently said, “(Starkey) is able to take Hodgson’s thin characterization and – with nothing more than acting and emphasis – make Carnacki a compelling, full character. It’s exceptional.” How did you manage to bring such life to the role?

dan: I’m delighted with how well it’s all gone down. I hope it doesn’t sound glib, but I used the techniques I always utilise in these occasions: I read the text closely and use my imagination! I think the feeling of the period is evoked very clearly in the writing, and that is very helpful in locating the voices for me. Carnacki’s obviously an Edwardian gent judging by his diction, and I think that rather being an impediment, the rather florid language in some passages gives you more to chew on and play with, than a bit of bland neutral prose would. The supporting characters are also quite boldly drawn, especially in the case of the Irish characters in The House in the Laurels, being written in an almost phonetic Edwardian stage Irish, so that really necessitates you go for it in terms of characterisation, as something half-hearted just wouldn’t make sense of the text at all!

a typical recording studio last week (courtesy effectrode)
a typical modern recording studio last week (courtesy effectrode)

greydog: For the uninformed, like ourselves, what’s it like when you get into the recording studio? Serene and solitary, or surrounded by tutting sound engineers and producers looking at their watches? Hard chair and a gun to your head, or a comfy sofa and a pot of tea?

dan: It depends on the nature of the recording. For Carnacki, as it’s a solo read for the most part, it was just me in the booth with Scott outside giving notes over a microphone and Neil Gardner – who runs the studio – at his sound-desk, making sure all the technical details are ok. I’ve done audiobooks with just Neil though, so it can be an oddly intimate business, talking to yourself for eight hours or so on the trot. It’s also quite a darkened little room and especially after lunch, I sometimes take a power-nap in between chapters to keep myself fresh. I’m very good at napping, which I learnt how to do on touring theatre. With a full cast audio drama, of the type I’ve done for BBC Radio and Big Finish Productions, it’s much more convivial, with a green room and studio full of other actors to interact with.

josephkloska
joseph kloska

On that note it was lovely to see Joe Kloska again – who plays Dodgson – who I first met and worked with many moons ago when we were both recent drama school graduates. I’ve met very few actors who don’t enjoy doing radio. It’s quick and fun, and whilst you’ve got to be on your toes, it does allow you to play a wider range of parts than you might do on screen or stage, as the main criterion is how you sound as opposed to what you look like. I always find it hilarious when I’m playing some 6’10” heavy on the radio, as in reality I’m only 6’7”…

greydog: And outside of Hope Hodgson, are you an enthusiast of other period authors and classic supernatural or strange tales?

dan: I try to read widely, and I’ve certainly got a taste for the weird amongst other literary flavours. Lovecraft scared the hell out of me when I was about fourteen and I’ve returned to him many times since, as I did to M R James, who I also love. I’ve dabbled in Poe and recently enjoyed The King in Yellow by Robert W Chambers. There are a lot of modern writers who are riffing off the “weird” tradition I enjoy, like China Mieville, or Ian (M) Banks, and there are a lot of intrusions of weird subject matter into “literary” fiction, such as Thomas Pynchon, or Will Self.

9780312426057

I recently finished a Hilary Mantel novel from 2005 – before she had such massive success in historical fiction with Wolf Hall and its successors – called Beyond Black, which is a semi-satirical novel about mediumship. It provides an interesting perspective on similar subject matter that Carnacki deals with, transposed into an acutely contemporary setting; it was a nicely mundane and down-at-heel counterpoint to Hodgson’s somewhat more gentlemanly Edwardian vision of the spirit-world.

thethinginvisible

greydog: Yet another book for our ‘to read’ list. With six Carnacki tales under your belt, what would be your next choice audio role? Are there any other notable characters who you would really like to play?

dan: I’d definitely like to do the remaining Carnacki tales. The Hog in particular is fantastic. Outside that, I’d love to do some of the writers I’ve mentioned above, although I imagine that Lovecraft’s prose would provide even more tongue-twisters than Hope Hodgson’s…

greydog: We may nag Scott Handcock and Big Finish about The Hog at some point, in case they forget. Finally, any acting plans or news for 2016 that you can share with us?

d8eaec_2a34eea8d35d42e186-000
the london improvathon

dan: I should be taking part in the 50-Hour London Improvathon at the end of April, which this year is set on the Orient Express (details at: http://www.improvathon.co.uk) There’ll also be the second series of a Children’s BBC comedy programme I was involved in last year, called Class Dismissed which will film in the summer. Apart from those there’s nothing too definite in the diary. In my job I expect the unexpected, like Carnacki!

greydog: Thanks very much for taking the time out to contribute to greydogtales, Dan, and we wish you every success in the future.

####

Don’t forget that you can hear Dan as Carnacki by picking up the new audio collection from Big Finish. Click the image at the top of the right-hand sidebar for more details. Five hours of occult detective goodness!

If you’re feeling Dr Who-ish, you can see Dan being made up as Strax here:

And you can get even another Dan Starkey audio fix by having a listen to Jago, Litefoot and Strax:

“The worlds of classic and new Doctor Who combine, as one of the favourite associates of the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors – the Sontaran Strax – encounters Jago & Litefoot – the Victorian friends of the Fourth Doctor.”

ycb4rkrg37dtrjndgsvejago, litefoot and strax – amazon

Next time on greydogtales: Weather anomalies in Namibia. Or the knitting pattern for a life-size model of David Tennant. A lurcher in a space helmet. We really don’t know. But we will try to keep it weird…

Share this article with friends - or enemies...

Lurchers, Carnacki and other Bulbs

Welcome, dear listeners, to our usual mid-week medley. Lurcher versus daffodil, the new Carnacki audio reviewed, weird scout badges and odd links. No change there, then.

We start with Django and the daffodils, mainly because it’s driving us mad at the moment. He is a large dog, a fine dog, but he has an issue which may be verging on OCD. In fact, verges are part of the problem. Let us explain…

daffodils-716847_960_720

We live in what you might call a market town sellotaped onto the edge of a city. And in this little town, people plant daffodils. Everywhere. The roundabouts, the sides of roads, the bits of grass outside their houses, the municipal displays, the pots along the high street… it never ends. We suspect there are even locals walking round with daffodils growing in their jacket pockets at this time of year. In case someone’s been missed out, or not got the message, the local shops sell masses of cut daffodils as well. All very nice, we suppose, if somewhat obsessive.

But anyway, Django. He is a dog who counts. He counts the hours and he uses numbers. Impressive for a dog who runs into trees and can’t find his teddy.

You may remember we posted a chart of his daily routine some while ago( see days of whine and lurchers ). He knows what time of day it is, and he knows what he wants in each time-slot. What we didn’t mention is that he counts his treats. His supper-time treat, which cannot be missed, runs to three pieces of whatever has died recently or is lounging in the fridge – liver pieces, chicken slices and so on. The other dogs stand there with gaping maws and take as much as they are given, presumably until one of them explodes. Django eats three pieces every night, and then assumes that’s it. Time to go and pee. A longdog of very precise habits.

Unfortunately he also counts daffodils, and this habit is out of control. Every single walk now consists of patrolling from one eruption of daffodils to the next and christening them. Sniff sniff, cock leg, move on. There are least two hundred plantings of these bloody bulbs on our street alone. We’re not kidding. Every verge has a line of them in separate clumps, and every clump has to be tallied.

djangotongue

This may sound mildly amusing, until you have to do it twice a day with another (disinterested) longdog in tow and all the pedestrians and motorists staring at you. We weave backwards and forwards, smiling awkwardly at the people who planted the bulbs outside their own houses, or explaining Django to staring schoolchildren. We tremble for the moment when someone shouts “Daffodil killer!” and the mob reaches for its pitchforks.

Worse, naturally, is the fact that each night other dogs smell his mark and decide they’ll add their own little note. So the next day Django has to start all over again, either answering their comments or obliterating them. A twenty minute walk takes an hour, until you wonder just how large his bladder is. How can he possibly contain enough pee to mark the one hundred and eighty fifth clump? Surely he’ll get bored soon?

He doesn’t. Another few weeks of this and we may go out one night and dig up the damned plants, but this is a risky and heretical thought. They say that an old lady was burned at the stake around here in 1958, just for saying she preferred tulips.

There are, we expect, daffodils planted on her grave.

####

houseamongthelaurels

Now, for our weirder listeners, a quick review of the Carnack audio collection which came out last week from Big Finish Productions. Last week we had the producer Scott Handcock talking to us about its making  (see carnacki lives! ). In a couple of weeks we’re delighted to say that we will have Dan Starkey, the lead actor, saying his own piece in another exclusive interview. So, is it any good?

Uh, yes. It’s great.

We don’t usually do reviews, so we’ll keep it short. There are six stories, as listed before, with a run-time which varies between forty two and fifty seven minutes, so a good five hours of Ghost Finder pleasure in total.

The stories are perfectly framed as separate sound files, with a nicely understated score which only serves to enhance the general mood at key points of each story. You might hear the gentle crackle of the fire behind Carnacki’s voice as he recounts his adventures after dinner, or a subtle eeriness on the air which reminds you of what he is facing. The score is always there to support the narrative, never to detract from it.

thethinginvisible

This is a straight, very faithful rendition of the original stories by William Hope Hodgson, and very well produced. No unnecessary updating, no loss of Hodgson’s period language or descriptions. Spot on.

Dan Starkey is, to be honest, fantastic in the role. He has given a definitive voice to the Ghost Finder, one which has you believing immediately that you’ve met the real Thomas Carnacki. Starkey shares the detective’s feelings of funk at facing monstrosities, his suspicions and his courage with equal facility, and his performance breaths new life into the text.

He is also very good at giving character to the people Carnacki meets. He has a talent for accent and delivery which involves you in an extremely satisfying way, and again this only enhances the whole story. The nearest equivalent we can think of is one of those classic one-man shows.

Without being mean to Joseph Kloska, who provides a fine Dodgson where the original introductory or interrogative sections need to be included, buy this for the new Ghost Finder.

Dan Starkey is Carnacki.

####

Those of you who dared to read our latest Sandra’s First Pony story, ‘The St Valentine’s Day Mascarpone’, may have noticed that the local Girl Guide troop played a larger part than usual (see  bad love: the return of sandra’s first pony). In the process you will have met their leader Adelaide Cleggins, whose addiction to ginger beer and Brasso has often worried Sandra. Adelaide is “a big girl, with three badges for unarmed combat and one for advanced police driving, which was unusual for a twelve year old.”

Subsequent to posting that, our invaluable ICT guru Trevor provided us with a rather appropriate link. Alternative Scouting badges, by artist Luke Drozd. We feel that Adelaide would approve.

set3_photo_setluke drozd

####

A last word for Matt Cowan and his blog Horror Delve, a hoard of weird fiction articles and reviews. Matt recently asked a number of writers and enthusiasts to comment briefly on their favourite weapons in fantasy. greydog crept in somehow, choosing Terminus Est from the Gene Wolfe novels, and it was rather fun. Check out Matt’s blog here:

horror delve

executioner-sword

Tired now, as Mr Bubbles would say. If the winds blow fair, then we’re back later this week with Stranger Seas 3, featuring a terrific interview with ace horror writer Ray Cluley!

Share this article with friends - or enemies...

Carnacki Lives!

Joyous news, dear listeners (except for the lack of longdogs today, boo!). We return to our William Hope Hodgson roots, with a super exclusive. Producer Scott Handcock talks about his brand new Carnacki production, what Sontarans think of Hope Hodgson, and what Mark Gatiss will be doing next. Yes, we’re back on The Voice of Horror. Be still, our ex-sanguinated hearts.

whhmike2

Some will already know Big Finish Productions because of their Dr Who audio stories, but the company’s range expands every year, and includes Dark Shadows, The Avengers (no, not Thor & Iron Man – the proper UK ones, silly) and many others. We’ve long been fond of The Scarifyers series, a somewhat tongue-in-cheek look at occult mysteries with the renowned David Warner and Terry Molloy (the early episodes also starred the late Nicholas Courtney, the renowned Brigadier from Dr Who’s UNIT).

scari009_thekingofwinter_1417_cover_large

With both direct adaptations and adventures inspired by original stories, the Big Finish catalogue already includes Sherlock Holmes (with Nicholas Briggs and Richard Earl), the Confessions of Dorian Gray, and Frankenstein. To our delight they are now adding Carnacki to their range, covering six tales of the Ghost Finder:

The Gateway of the Monster
The House Among the Laurels
The Whistling Room
The Horse of the Invisible
The Searcher of the End House
The Thing Invisible

The collection stars Dan Starkey (Thomas Carnacki) and Joseph Kloska (Dodgson), with music by Ioan Morris & Rhys Downing. Let’s turn to the producer, Scott Handcock, to explain things in more detail…

466e39882b23e5ea1e04b75525211fcb

greydog: Welcome to greydogtales, Scott, and thanks for putting time aside for us. We’ll get straight down to it. You’ve chosen six of the nine Carnacki stories for this collection. We can understand you not using The Find, which is a bit of a throwaway, but that leaves The Hog and the Haunted Jarvee. These two are rather strange and disturbing tales. Any plans for them?

scott: No plans at the moment – but never say never. I’d love to tackle the remaining tales at some point, but for the initial release, it made sense to stick with the six core stories that act as a foundation for the character and his world.

audio clip from “the gateway of the monster”

greydog: Did you find you could take the stories and translate them easily to audio needs, or did you have to re-interpret the original text to achieve the effect you wanted?

scott: The Carnacki stories work so well because of Hodgson’s original style – they’re direct, intimately told, and filled to the brim with glorious language. Yes, we could have had a stab at translating them into something akin to a full-cast audio, with guest characters popping up, but you’d have needed to invent so much new dialogue for those characters, it would have detracted from Hodgson’s writing.

In that sense, no work at all was needed. Hodgson’s work serves as a perfect monologue, performed in character, with an occasional external commentator in the form of Dodgson. We toyed with a bit of sound design, but again, that weirdly undermined the beautiful language that makes the original stories so unique, so even that was pared back. The result is that Carnacki is unlike most Big Finish ranges, in that it’s really stripped back to the text and performance alone, supported by a lovely, brooding musical score from Ioan Morris and Rhys Downing.

carnacki_cover_large

greydog: Someone once described the setting of the Ghost Finder stories as akin to M R James’ tales, to be told around a roaring fire in a safe place. It sounds like that’s the result here.

scott: As I say, the Big Finish Carnacki stories are more straightforward productions than adaptations – we take no liberties with the text at all – and I like that fact. Hodgson’s format is, after all, why people love the Carnacki stories, and why they still serve as the ideal introduction to the character over a century later. The stories themselves are so dependent on mood, and the thought processes of Carnacki himself, I think you’d have lost a great deal by trying to extrapolate a larger world from these original stories.

So yes, these feel very much like fireside reminiscences, as each case is recounted and relived by Carnacki himself, taking us through the events of each mystery, blow by blow. And because we let the writing take centre-stage, each and every listener will experience the stories differently depending on how they interpret the words and temper the scares to suit them. I love that!

dan_starky_biopic-1
the talented dan starkey

greydog: Dan Starkey, who’s rathered cornered the market in Sontarans (sorry, Dan, you’re great in other roles as well!), is playing Carnacki. We have to say that he really sounds the part. Are we right in thinking that Dan was already familiar with the Carnacki stories?

scott: Dan Starkey is a brilliant, brilliant actor. I’ve worked with him a few times at BBC Wales, where he appeared frequently on Doctor Who, and as a regular in Wizards vs Aliens, as well as Big Finish’s production of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. He’s simply delightful to have around – utterly professional, fun and hugely talented. Plus, his radio training with the BBC’s Radio Drama Company means you can throw all manner of characters, accents or voices at him, and he’ll tackle it with aplomb!

How he came to be Carnacki was slightly strange. I’d recommended Dan to another Big Finish producer, James Goss, who was pulling together some DVD extras for BBC America about the Daleks and Cybermen and needed a presenter. I knew Dan was the man, and thankfully we got him, which meant a very enjoyable if hard day’s work at the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff, filming with all manner of sets and props – including a Dalek voice coaching session with Big Finish’s executive producer Nicholas Briggs.

Quite by chance, over lunch, Nick and I were chatting about some of the things I had coming up on the Big Finish slate – one of which was the series of Carnacki audiobook readings – and Dan’s ears pricked up at the very mention of his name. Suddenly, he was gushing about the stories and the character, and was clearly very familiar with Hodgson’s work, so I couldn’t resist asking him if he wanted to actually be our Carnacki on audio. Thankfully, there wasn’t a moment’s hesitation, and he inhabits the character splendidly. I mean, Dan’s a terrific audiobook reader at the best of times, but his pre-existing familiarity and enthusiasm for the stories really has brought a lot of nuance and charm to the character. I can’t praise him highly enough!

tcdg01-2box_cover_600sqresampled_cover_large

greydog: You yourself have produced other horror for Big Finish, including The Confessions of Dorian Gray. Are you cautious about dipping your toe into this genre market, or do you think there is room for a much wider range of horror and weird fiction audio adaptations?

scott: You’re always cautious whenever you tackle something new, as you never know quite how an audience is going to respond, and if they’ll embrace it. I do, however, think that horror is ideally suited to audio. Fear is such a personal thing, as is listening to audio drama in a lot of ways, you’re able to really get into people’s heads and imaginations. With horror films, for instance, what you see if what you get – for some people it will be far too explicit, for others the same sequence can be incredibly tame. It all depends on who you are, and what you respond to.

On audio, everyone reacts differently. How you perceive the same effects and words and vary wildly, depending on how scary you want things to be. It’s what appeals to me so much about the medium. Not only can you do anything, and tell all manner of tales, but no one listener will ever see it in exactly the same way. The Carnacki tales are no different in that regard, and we deliberately hold back on any effects so as not to detract from the tale you’re being told. Carnacki is telling his stories to you and you alone, and that should hopefully make for something very special.

20140224163529frankensteincover_cover_large

greydog: And are there other classic horror works of the same era which you would like to produce if you had the chance?

scott: It’s no secret that I adore horror, and I’ve been quite lucky to have tackled the big three gothic horror novels for Big Finish Productions. In 2013, we produced The Picture of Dorian Gray with Alexander Vlahos as a tie-in to our Confessions range. Then, in 2014, I lured the brilliant Arthur Darvill into studio to play my Frankenstein, with voice maestro Nicholas Briggs as his Creature. And of course, even as we speak, I’m pulling together a dream project, as Mark Gatiss plays Dracula himself in a new three-hour production for May 2016! It’s hard to think where you go after that.

dsc_9205_image_large

If the Carnacki readings prove popular, and there’s an appetite for more, I’d love to tell some original stories with the character – stories that could be more full-cast mysteries with an element of narration to frame them, rather than full-length monologues. And there are obviously so many hinted-at cases and references from Hodgson’s own stories that we could pick up on and explore in the Big Finish universe. But we’ll see what the response is like.

greydog: As positive as we can make it. Many thanks, Scott Handcock.

This is one of those rare moments where we throw caution to the wind and say –  buy, buy this now. Not only does it sound good, but every time someone purchases the new Carnacki, a little accountant angel in Heaven smiles and whispers “Produce more Carnacki. Now!” Which would be a Good Thing. You can click below to pre-order your own copy, out any day now:

carnacki the ghost finder

####

We were also quite interested to see that Big Finish have recently released a new dramatisation of Ray Bradbury‘s The Martian Chronicles (December 2015), starring major players Derek Jacobi and Hayley Atwell. We haven’t had a chance to listen to this one, so can’t tell you much more, but we thought you might like to know.

b7-slides_015-1024x658
the martian chronicles

The full range of their productions can be found here:

big finish productions

####

Next time on greydogtales – Strangers Seas! The storm is rising, and we start with writer Steve Vernon, who tells us all about his own nautical myths and legends. Sou’westers on, everybody…

Share this article with friends - or enemies...

The Writer on the Borderland 2: The Voice of Horror

An absolutely packed post this time,  with many wonders of the airwaves for you to try out. Yes, your minds will reel, your ears will bleed, as we look at William Hope Hodgson and audio horror, plus even some pieces of weird Hodgson-inspired music as well…

(Note to consumers: greydogtales.com accepts no legal responsibility for sanguinary orifices or other side-effects of engaging with this blog. Your blood pressure may go up or down.)

whhmike2

I’m always looking out for tracks and readings which bring a shiver to the spine. I collect, in a haphazard manner, audio horror. To be more precise, I collect audio unease. It doesn’t have to be that horrifying, but it has to make the back of your neck feel suddenly cold. Some of the links below certainly do that.

The Voice of Horror has many delights. We’re missing Wayne June this week, sadly, which we hope is only temporary, but we are delighted to have been joined by Morgan Scorpion, who has narrated a whole host of WHH and H P Lovecraft stories, amongst other pieces. Read her interview later in this article. And so to that question which people ask me constantly:

“Mr Linseed Grant, sir,” they ask, “You must tell us, you must. Will your legendary and terrifying tale Sandra’s First Pony ever be released as an audiobook?”

“No,” I answer, a sad catch in my voice. “The Office of the Public Prosecutor has forbidden it. However, I do have loads of William Hope Hodgson sounds which you can enjoy instead.”

You should be able to access all of the following, in various states of commerciality and interpretation. If I’m wrong on any of the details or links, then I wouldn’t be at all surprised. I’m a writer, damn it Jim, not an archivist!

  1. Ghost Pirates (novel)
  2. The House on the Borderland (novel)
  3. Boats of the Glen Carrig (novel)
  4. The Night Land (novel)
  5. Carnacki the Ghostfinder (collection)
  6. The Voice in the Night (short)
  7. A Tropical Horror (short)
  8. The Derelict (short)
  9. The Stone Ship (short)
  10. The Thing in the Weeds (short)
  11. Captain Dan Danblasten (short)
  12. Inhabitants of the Middle Islet (short)

And for you alone, dear listener, dozens of greydogtales staff have worked night and day to provide you with more details and direct links. Don’t forget that if you want to know when our next WHH blog articles are out, you can always subscribe! We’re just an e-mail address away (that’s not a threat, honest)…

Librivox, the free audio provider for public-domain works, is a good source, as Librivox provides the first seven in the list above straight away, and for nothing. Some Carnacki stories have also been recorded separately.

Hope Hodgson on Librivox

Of the non-Librivox recordings, The House on the Borderland is the choice pick. The incomparable Wayne June has produced an excellent version, which we recommend highly:

The House on the Borderland

hob1

Wayne, of course, has narrated some fantastic Lovecraft tales as well, and his The Dark Worlds of H P Lovecraft readings are superb. You are, quite simply, missing out if you’ve not heard them.

I also thoroughly enjoyed Jim Norton‘s four part version of HoB, available on Youtube:

Or if you want a real marathon, you could check out the 18 hour (!) full audiobook of The Night Land from Dreamscape, read by Drew Ariana:

The Night Land

The Voice in the Night short story is also available in a number of versions. This is the Paul Wright version on Youtube:

And here’s another version from Pseudopod podcasts:

The Voice in the Night

It’s a shame that more Hodgson short stories haven’t been recorded yet. A Tropical Horror has been adapted by Julia Hoverson to provide a spiffing dramatised version which can be found here:

A Tropical Horror

ATropicalHorror700

The Derelict, a great story, is available as an audio performance by experienced narrator William Dufris and Mind’s Eye Productions:

The Derelict

And The Stone Ship was produced in 1980 as part of Nightfall, that wonderful old radio series (it’s worth trying other Nightfall episodes, too):

The Stone Ship

Nightfallheader

The Thing in the Weeds is available via The Classic Tales podcast from Audio Boom. Another short, creepy one:

The Thing in the Weeds

Captain Dan Danblasten, not horror, is a Tales from the Potts House podcast (also has a podcast of The Voice in the Night):

Captain Dan Danblasten

And the last short, Inhabitants of the Middle Islet… OK, I cheated here. There is an audio version of this story, but it’s in French. I quite enjoyed it, but then I only understood about half of it. French speakers may be able to report back to greydogtales.

Inhabitants of the Middle Islet

In the process of checking sources, I also came across a great podcast site which was new to me, Tales to Terrify.

TTTcover.2014June-250x324

Not only do they have all sorts of audio goodies, but they have a double podcast perfect for our WHH month – The Horse of the Invisible paired with Willie Meikle‘s Treason and Plot. Willie is, of course, featured in an interview in next weeks Hodgson – The Inheritors, so this is a great link. The host is the late Larry Santoro, who gives a detailed introduction to Hodgson (before you ask, the WHH death details given are corrected on the site) and the narration is by Robert Neufeld:

Horse of the Invisible/Treason & Plot

I think you’ll enjoy both of those.

####

This Hodgson blog-fest is a collaborative venture, and so our interview this week is with Morgan Scorpion, a stalwart of Librivox but more importantly for our purposes, also a lover of the weird. Morgan has narrated at least fifteen Lovecraft stories, for example, and covered many other examples of ghostly and strange fiction. Rather than rattle on, I’ll let Morgan have her say:

morganpic

greydog: Welcome, Morgan, and many thanks for contributing to this week’s  section. I understand that you began narrating stories for Librivox because you were already a fan of their free audio?

Morgan: That’s true, I love audiobooks and couldn’t resist free ones. After listening to about 70 free audiobooks I began to feel I owed them something in return, so I decided to record a few chapters until I felt I had repaid them, only I discovered I enjoyed doing them. It’s good to feel useful.

greydog: I have to ask, given this month’s theme – what do you think about William Hope Hodgson’s writings on a personal level, as a reader? Or are they relatively new to you?

Morgan: I have enjoyed WHH’s stories since I was about eleven, on a personal level, I find them deliciously horrible, especially when fungi are involved. He has a great sense of the grotesque.

greydog:  Yes, the grotesque and the unknowable. Which links nicely for us, as you’ve also recorded a heck of a lot of H P Lovecraft for Librivox. Can you tell us which piece of his stands out for you?

Morgan: With Lovecraft, almost all of it stands out. My love for his writing is pretty much hero worship, and I couldn’t chose a favourite of his without pointing out that a different tale would be my favourite next week. So it would be a choice between The Music of Erich Zann, The Dunwich Horror, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, The Rats in the Walls, or maybe…

greydog: I suppose the end result is more important to most greydogtales readers than the process, but I always ask recording artists this – do you mull over the piece first for a while and make notes to yourself, or do you throw yourself straight into the recording?

Morgan: I rarely record a story without having read it first, often several times. So although when it comes to recording, I just pick it up and read it without any notes or mental preparation. I make lots of mistakes while recording, and edit them out afterwards, I’d be terrible if I had to read out loud to an audience. Reading a story out loud is a very different experience from reading it silently to yourself, so no matter how many notes I made in advance, I doubt they’d be much use to me when it came to vocalising it.

greydog: So who is your own favourite narrator in this field?

Morgan: Vincent Price! He recorded lots of Poe, alas no Lovecraft, and you may find some online if you look. Roddy McDowall has also done a couple of horror tales by Lovecraft, and who could top Christopher Lee! I wish they had been able to do more. Of course there’s Jeffrey Combs, whose recording of Herbert West, Reanimator is wonderful. I also wish John Lithgow would record some horror tales. In a different genre, I love the audiobooks of Elizabeth Klett, so far she has done no horror that I know of, but she has recorded Edith Wharton, and done it perfectly.

greydog: Ah, the wonderful Vincent – great choice! And is there anything in the weird/occult domain that you’ve not narrated yet but which you really want to have a crack at?

Morgan: So many! In time I want to do more Lovecraft, more Poe, more E F Benson and more M R James. And there are so many that are in are in the public domain that I have been unable to get permission for, namely J B Priestley’s The Grey Ones, Anthony Boucher’s They Bite, Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived at the Castle, oh and quite a few things by Thomas Ligotti or Ramsey Campbell. I’d also love to record Agatha Christie’s The Seance. Quite the nastiest short story imaginable, but I have no hope of being allowed to do that!

greydog: We should surround the Agatha Christie Estate with villagers and burning torches, demanding it. But to finish for now, a deliberately unfair question – what’s your favourite horror story of all time?

Morgan: I’d have to refer you to answer number three for that, but must also name Poe’s Masque of the Red Death, M R James’ An Evening’s Entertainment, T E D Klein’s The Events at Poroth Farm, Michael Shea’s The Autopsy and R Chetwynd Hayes The Day Father Brought Something Home.

greydog: Thank you, Morgan Scorpion, and we look forward to your next recording! In the meantime you can hear Morgan in action across a number of genres by following either of these links:

Morgan Scorpion on YouTube

Morgan’s Librivox Page

####

As we near the end of this week’s offerings, here’s a couple of extras, to show how much I care about my listeners. Hodgson and Lovecraft have inspired a number of musicians, so let’s check out two entirely different pieces of work.

The first, which I must admit I loved, is Jon Brook‘s Cafe Kaput album Music for Thomas Carnacki.

“Utilising banks of oscillators, tape edits and analogue delays, Brooks created themes, cues and abstracts to depict the dark Edwardian setting of the story”.

Do call in and have a listen – it’s very atmospheric:

Music for Thomas Carnacki

If that’s not to your taste, then you might prefer The Boats of the Glen Carrig by ‘funeral doom’ metal group Ahab, who take inspiration from a number of maritime sources in their albums. I’m not up on Ahab, so you’ll have to find out for yourself. I’m a Metallica fan, but not sure what ‘funeral doom’ heavy metal is, so don’t ask me. The link takes you to a review and samples from the album.

Ahab-The-Boats-of-the-Glen-Carrig
William Hope Hodgson does metal!

Ahab: Boats of the Glen Carrig

And that’s almost as much ear-bending as anyone can take in one post. As Morgan mentioned Vincent Price, who could charm the birds from the trees (or just knock them off their perches), I had to add one last recent find, nothing to do with WHH but new to me:

Vincent Price: A Hornbook for Witches – Stories and Poems for Halloween. This a recording from the 1976 Caedmon LP:

Love that voice.

Please join us in a few days for some audiovisual treats, and then Hodgson -The Inheritors, in which we present a two part look at those who have grasped the torch and lifted it high again, commencing with an interview with the prolific and excellent Willie Meikle. Asbestos gloves will be available at the door…

Don’t forget, by the way, we’re heading into the last day of the October Frights blog-hop. And here’s the list for the last time. Have a browse while you can…

<!– end InLinkz script →

Share this article with friends - or enemies...