Wednesday 29 June 2022

The late, great... Ivor Cutler.

 To quote a certain musical about a certain guy with a certain technicolour coat, way way back many centuries ago, not long after the Bible began, or to be more precise, somewhere around 1987, I was sitting in a dull classroom awaiting the beginning of an even more dull English lesson. I had accepted my fate and was readying myself to sit with a fixed stare on my face whilst my teacher whiffled on about which author was their fad of the moment. I would practice one of my usual endurance tactics of counting cracks in the ceiling or spots on the face of the teenager next to me. 

However, a few minutes before the teacher walked in, something was to happen that changed, not only the next hour but the rest of my life.

One of the few guys who I actually considered to be a friend plonked himself down to me and said, “Billy! Billy! Gruts for tea!”

Now, this in itself was nothing really new. Steve was known for exploring all things relatively random, but that day I found myself somewhat intrigued so I asked him what the hell he was on about.

He had been rifling through a selection of his dad’s tape cassettes and found one by an “old Scottish guy.” The first track had been a short story which consisted of a conversation between a father and son talking about gruts.

I asked the obvious question: “What are gruts?”

Steve said that he didn’t have a clue. He guessed that they were food of some description. He fished out the tape and I listened to it. I spent the next hour contemplating what was to be my epiphany on writing. Gruts For Tea by Ivor Cutler is, for me, still one of the best pieces of short-form writing that I have had the pleasure of reading. It simply tells the story of a son complaining to his father that he hates the wretched food that his father consistently provides from foraging in the High Wood. His father tries to convince the son that it is the best they can get, but this is not good enough for the youngster as he has reached the end of his tether.

On the face of it, Gruts For Tea is a surreally humorous tale, which makes the reader chuckle at the sharply honed and precise wit every time, especially when read by Mister Cutler himself. And that was how I saw it then as a teenager. It showed me that writing does not have to be what everybody else does or what everybody else expects. The author just needs to sit down and write what is there. They need to let it flow. Don’t hold anything back, fearing what others will think. Be a true artist and let whatever is bubbling around in your head roam free on the page. And this was what saved my next hour as I sat and contemplated this very thing while my teacher prattled on about an author who meant nothing to me. In short, it set me on the path to where I am now as a writer.

However, Gruts For Tea, and indeed a lot of Mister Cutler’s work, has a much deeper level, and I think that this might be even more of a reason why they have endured with me. Tucked away in the levels of surrealism and dry wit, are comments on society and on relationships. We see people who are trying to live with cards that they have been dealt. Cards that the dealer knows are marked and uses to constantly win the game. When I read his works now, with the passing of thirty-five years or so, I still enjoy the humour, but I feel a melancholy that nothing has changed since the time that he wrote them. Working classes are still downtrodden; middle classes are still striving for prizes that they cannot ever achieve; the rich are locked in their ivory towers oblivious to the things in life that truly make us happy.

So, if you want to read works that will really change your life and make you question everything whilst doing so with a wry smile, then the late, great Mister Ivor Cutler is definitely for you. 

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Thursday 16 June 2022

Short Story - Nightingale

 Hello there and welcome to this month’s short story video.

The vampire Nightingale has long been a fan favourite with my readers and, I must admit, also with me. She always comes across as a very human character, even though she is in possession of superhuman strength, longevity and a whole collection of vampiric abilities and gifts. This short was intended to give her a standalone moment where we could really get to know her. Previously, she had just appeared briefly in The Case of the Vexed Vampire, which ties in with this short, surrounding the complicated birth, as it were, of Dave Nichols as a vampire. 

I love how she still has a bright outlook on things here. We see her and Marcus mingling at the comic convention and, whereas Marcus is quite disparaging of the whole thing, Night finds it all rather intriguing. 

The story itself took a while to write. I remember starting it when I was actually attending a comic con myself and, my overactive imagination being what it is, I wondered how a vampire would see all those densely packed bodies in their varying outfits. So, I scribbled down a rough plan and typed out the first few paragraphs. I then got ensnared in Sam Spallucci: Ghosts From The Past and the story got sidelined somewhat. I came back to it about nine months later, knuckled down and finished it off.

You can find it in its original place in Oh Taste and See, but also in my vampire collection Children of Cain: A Vampire Omnibus where it sits alongside the other stories that contain Dave, Nightingale and Nightingale’s errant brother, Justice.

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Take care and keep looking out for what lurks in the shadows…


Thursday 9 June 2022

Spalluccipedia - The Divergence

Hello there and welcome to this month’s dip into my Spalluccipedia, a growing encyclopaedia regarding the world of Sam Spallucci, Lancaster’s fictional investigator.

So, as constant readers of my books will be aware, the Divergence is the central theme of the universe that I’m creating. In short, it is an event caused by an individual that prevents Heaven and Earth from combining together. It leads to the rise of Kanor and the devastation of humanity by his army of clay golems known as constructs.


Now, that’s not to say that Kanor himself brings this catastrophic event about himself, although he certainly benefits from it. Indeed at the time of writing this blog, the instigator of the Divergence is yet to be revealed, but it has been suggested in the books that Sam himself is somewhere near the epicentre of it. As to who finally presses the big, red button, we shall have to wait and see…

I first came up with the idea of the Divergent Lands back when I was a teenager and I started to write vampire stories set in this post-apocalyptic wasteland. They were centred around a vampire known only as Claw and, indeed, he does crop up right at the end of Bobby Normal and the Virtuous Man. These original stories ended up on the back burner when I took the reins of Sam’s cases, but they were always there at the back of my mind, percolating away to form a very strong brew for the future. I think this is one of the reasons why I’ve really enjoyed writing the Bobby Normal series. They’ve let me start teasing out what it’s going to be like for the future of my universe.

The whole series will in fact reach its dramatic climax in the Divergent Lands when we see a final confrontation between the prophesied Virtuous Man and the “black dragon” Kanor. I’ve already got this more or less written out, but it will be about eight years from the time of writing this before it’s published. So, for now, sit back, enjoy the ride and see if you can work out who will bring about the destruction of humanity and why.

Don’t forget to visit my website for more details about my books. 

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Take care and keep looking out for what lurks in the shadows…


Thursday 2 June 2022

A.S.Chambers - June Roundup

 Good morning all on a rather glorious second of June.

First, the Kickstarter for Bobby Normal and the Children of Cain was an absolute success. The book is now live on Amazon. If, however, you would like a signed copy, please drop me a line through my website’s contact page. All Kickstarter rewards and Book Club editions, along with pre-orders will be heading out in the next couple of weeks.

Second, I’m now deep into the writing of three new books. Dark Education: Alec’s Story will be a companion novella to next year’s Sam Spallucci: Lux Aeterna, where we will get some backstory to Sam’s mysterious lodger. Bobby Normal and the Fallen is now about halfway through and will lead straight on from BNCC. Plus I am also working on Out Of The Depths my next short story anthology which is due out in early 2023.

Third, as mentioned last month, I now have a nice hardback edition of the Sam Spallucci Omnibus: Volume One. Containing Sam’s first three books, these are either available through Amazon or direct from me by messaging me through my website’s contact page.

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Make sure to visit my website for more details about my books. 

You can subscribe to my newsletter here for up-to-date details regarding all my writing and appearances.

You can check out my Patreon Book Club for advance screenings of my videos and free books.

Right, that's all for now.

Stay safe and I'll see you again very soon.