'Books are my passion, not only writing them and every once in a
while even reading them but just having them and moving them around
and feeling the comfort of their serene presence.' -- Fred Buechner



 26th of October, 2003


Hello, this is Matthew Scott Winslow, Assistant Book Review Editor and general layabout, coming at you today. Everyone else is over in the pub listening to the Neverending Session, so I'm here in the break room all on my lonesome... well, that's not true: I'm the only human here in the break room at the moment. But if you were to look around, I wouldn't blame you for thinking I was the only creature here. The brownies are hard to spot as they quietly go about cleaning, but I'm pretty sure that I've seen one when I was resting my eyes and contemplating a review.

So, I hear you asking, what is the break room like? It's like most everything else here in the GMR office building: a dazzling blend of the modern and the ancient. The floor is hardwood with a beautiful tessellated design that works its way around the edges of the room, leaving the center a nice plain checkerboard diamond pattern. Covering much of the floor, however, are carpets that have made their way into the room. Next to a lovely Turkish rug is one whose design is actually the artwork to the Red Book of Westmarch. The north wall is mostly bay windows looking out onto the courtyard and across it to the north tower where the library is located. The south wall is mostly concert posters and other announcements that have been posted there over the years. Rumor has it that the architectural design of the break room shows it about a foot wider than it now is. They say the lost space is due to poster after poster being tacked to the wall.

Along the west wall is a small kitchenette which is used mostly for making hot drinks, although there is a small selection of beers for those who can't always make it down to the pub. Next to a modern hotplate is the old coal-burning stove. The break room brownies also keep the refrigerator well-stocked. Where's the fridge, you ask? Look carefully to the right of the stove. Yep, that wooden door. Pretty clever, eh? When we found the need for an actual fridge instead of a larder (after that unfortunate incident with the sushi that no one to this day is willing to claim was theirs), Cat managed to find a fridge exactly the same size and shape as the old larder. Yet another example of modernity and the old living side by side in harmony.

The furniture is an odd assortment of chairs and coffee tables scattered around the periphery. While there are no pieces of furniture that belong to any one individual, no one to my knowledge has ever sat in the wicker chair except Liath -- it's the one she always sits in when she's down here in the break room. Also in here are a wide variety of overstuffed chairs for staff to crash in when they're just too plain tuckered out to sit up straight in front of their 'pewters, or when they're working through yet another bloated fantasy epic.

Off in the corner is our card table, where we've had some pretty vicious games go on. Hint to our visitors: never get in a game of Go Fish with Spike. The man is ruthless. But if you're up to a more relaxing game of cards, might I suggest jumping into the eternal hand of rummy? At last count, Grey was up by only about 1,345,333,405 points over me, but I'm sure I can stage a comeback any decade now.

But that's just a description of the physical space. What makes the break room so special is that it is where a lot of the important discussion goes on. Ryan was in here the other day sharing photos of his dog and its mohawk. Craig flew in all excited about his writing appearing on a can of coffee grounds. And then there was the great 'what percentage of the GMR staff wear corrective eyewear?' debate that raged for a good couple hours before we all decided to head down to the pub by way of the kitchens. Occasionally we even get serious and have deep discussions. Most of the great insights you read about in our reviews had their start here.

Well, I could go on and on and on about the break room, but we've got a great lineup of reviews for you this week. Next week we'll be taking a break from our regular reviews to announce our new Oak King and let him give his speech. I've seen a preview of what he'll be saying, and let me tell you... Wow!

Ahhh, a Christmas album from Jethro Tull. What the %$#@?!? Now, do drink some of your Northumbrian Ale before you choke. Tull has done Christmas songs before, such as 'Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow', which is covered here. Well, so it's not your typical Christmas album. So what did David Kidney think of it? Let's ask him: ' The music is classic Tull, solid rock, with Celtic and classical flourishes. Special guests include Dave Pegg and the Sturcz String Quartet. It's quite wonderful actually. The sound is beautiful, the mood seasonal, and the message timely. Not your everyday album but after all...it's The Jethro Tull Christmas Album -- you were expecting Bing Crosby?' (I certainly wasn't.)

Errr... getting back to Hallowe'en... Grey here, with this week's featured book review. Need a little horror for your holidays? Try this unique collection: Tooth and Claw, Volume One, edited by J.F. Gonzalez and Garrett Peck, published by Lone Wolf. What's unique about it? Reviewer Craig Clarke says, 'Tooth and Claw, Volume One is a true multimedia experience. Available only on a limited run of three hundred CD-ROMs signed by the authors and editors, this anthology of horror stories 'focusing on tales of consumption' not only features fine writing, but also filmed interviews, the script adaptation of one story, contributors' e-mail and Web links, copious photographs, and accompanying -- and appropriately horrific -- illustrations with a separate art gallery by artist Allen K[oszowski].' Yes, it's an ebook with lots of extras, and Craig wins an Excellence in Writing Award for his thorough review of it!

In addition to the horror collection for adults reviewed above, Craig Clarke has also reviewed a book our younger readers might like to read for Hallowe'en. The Picture of Morty and Ray, written by Daniel Pinkwater and illustrated by Jack E. Davis, is a funny take on an old creepy story. 'And, really,' says Craig, 'how can you go wrong when Oscar Wilde himself is quoted on the back cover saying, 'Pinkwater and Davis are great!'?'

David Kidney is one of our premiere reviewers of musician biographies. This week, he reviews Hardcore Troubadour: The Life and Near Death of Steve Earle by Lauren St. John. David says, 'As well as showing us the personal flaws and demons that haunted Earle, St. John tracks his musical career, which was also filled with 'bumps'.'

Jason Erik Lundberg has nothing but praise for a new collection of stories by rising star Tim Pratt, Little Gods. 'Pratt's love of myth, legend, and folklore is represented well in these stories and poems, and the nice introduction by Michaela Roessner explains where it all began,' says Jason. 'His career is just starting, and if this collection is any indication, it will be a long and fruitful one.' Little Gods will be officially launched on Hallowe'en at World Fantasy Con, so look for a copy in your local book store soon.

Maria Nutick has been waiting and waiting for Spiderwick 3, and it finally arrived! Was The Spiderwick Chronicles: Lucinda's Secret, written by Holly Black and illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi, worth the wait? You betcha! As Maria says, 'I can gleefully report that Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi have succumbed to none of the potential 'middle book' stumbling blocks... Black's writing never falters: her dialog remains real conversation and her narrative flows effortlessly. DiTerlizzi's illustrations are as charming as ever, with his drawings of faery being so perfectly rendered that one cannot escape the notion that he has been drawing from life.'

Lenora Rose reviews an oddly charming young adult fantasy book this week: Growing Wings by Laurel Winter. 'The prose is stark, plain, and very simple; deceptively so,' says Lenora. 'The world changes in simple sentences; poetry would make the story artificial. This is no angel. This is a girl, frightened enough to wrap herself in the comfort of her own feathers, yet brave enough to stand in the open air.'

Rebecca Scott likes Celtic Memories, a collection of stories, songs, blessings and charms retold by Caitlín Matthews and illustrated by Olwyn Whelan. Rebecca thinks this book would work wonderfully for reading aloud to children, and 'Whelan's pictures are charming, with bright, bold colors and a very Gaelic fondness for spirals and swirls.'

We've been reviewing several Sherlock Holmes pastiches lately. This week, Kelly Sedinger takes a look at The Disappearance of Sherlock Holmes by Larry Millett, a novel in which Holmes leaves his customary London to follow a case to America. Kelly loves what Millett has done with 1900 New York City: 'one gets a distinct feel for the city's sprawling growth and the political corruption Holmes and Watson face there'; but he's not so sure that Holmes is portrayed well: 'His insights, when they come, seem to have more of a sense of inspiration and intuition than the deduction for which Holmes is so famous, and in the second half of the book Holmes actually becomes something of an action hero...' Read the rest of Kelly's review to see why he calls this book 'a mixed bag'.

Alright, we've reviewed some adult horror and a funny/creepy kids' book. How about something scholarly for Hallowe'en? Try the new Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night, written by Nicholas Rogers and reviewed for us by Thomas Wiloch. 'While much of this information may be familiar,' says Thomas, 'Rogers manages to unearth much that is fresh and even unexpected.'

Matthew Scott Winslow reviews a novel based on a subject perhaps even more popular than Sherlock Holmes -- the Matter of Britain. Lillian Stewart Carl's Lucifer's Crown 'effectively combines Arthurian legend, Grail myth, and British folkways to create a powerful novel,' says Matthew. In fact, he goes so far as to say, 'The highest praise I can give this novel is that it reminds me strongly of Charles Williams, but it succeeds where Williams always failed.' How did Williams fail? How does Carl succeed? Read Matthew's review to find out.

Leona Wisoker was so entranced by the cover art of The Milk of Almonds: Italian American Women Writers on Food and Culture that she almost didn't get around to reviewing the book! Once she got past the cover, however, she was equally impressed with the content, ably edited by Louise DeSalvo and Edvige Giunta. 'Fennel and oregano, dandelions and rosemary, the sweet and bitter greens of life are strewn across these pages for us to inhale and experience... Curl up with this book, a cup of your favorite hot beverage, and a luxurious snack; you'll have a treat that satisfies both body and soul.' Leona wins an Excellence in Writing Award for this review (and she includes a Web site for the cover artist, as well)!

Maria Nutick here. Like Letters Editor Craig Clarke, I've a fondness for minimalist horror films. As Craig says, 'this kind of film cannot be made with a large budget. The inability to show violence (due to expense) is part of the draw because what happens is unseen and all the scarier. Consider the following titles: Psycho, Halloween, Blair Witch -- all movies made on the cheap, and yet always in the top of fright fans' favorites lists in terms of fright power. It is most often in the scripts that the quality lies.' This week Craig brings us a review of another quality film in this tradition: The Collingswood Story.

Denise Dutton expands on Craig's observations with an Excellence in Writing Award winning look at two of the classics of frightening cinema: Halloween and Halloween II. 'Halloween', Denise explains, ' drove home the consequences of bad behavior better than any lecture my parents could have given me. How could I light up, drink up, or play around? I knew that if I did, some psycho killer would find out about it, and I'd be doomed. Worse, the Boogeyman would get me. And thanks to these films, I knew exactly what was in store for me if he did.'

The Halloween franchise continues to this day, most recently with Halloween: Resurrection. Not all of the films are as good as the first two, but the third...well, the third is a special form of torture for horror fans, as Denise goes on to explain: '[I]f the folks responsible for this garbage really wanted to depart from the first two films and create something authentic, this basic story could have been an interesting movie. The idea of performing a mass sacrifice of children for the Festival of Samhain could have been a suspenseful tale; the movie Dark Secret of Harvest Home carried off the idea of pleasing old gods with new blood with wit and style. Instead, Halloween III comes off as a poorly written Movie Of The Week that Columbo and Kojak wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole.' Denise wins an unseasonable but unavoidable Grinch Award for her brutally honest look at Halloween III: Season of the Witch.

The only thing scary about the last film review this week is David Kidney's virtually inexhaustible knowledge of all things bluesy. Here he talks about a DVD/CD set well worth any blues fan's time: 'Ground Zero is a club readers of Green Man Review will remember from the DVD Last of the Mississippi Jukes. It's a faithful recreation of an old style juke joint, owned in part by actor Morgan Freeman. Bobby Rush is a regular there, and has videotaped one hot show for this release. Deep Rush has packaged it as a 2-disc set. Disc one is a DVD live video of the show, and disc two is the accompanying CD soundtrack. Whether you just listen, or take in the video action, Rush has provided an exciting, and, well, invigorating programme.' Read the rest of his review of Bobby Rush: LIVE at Ground Zero to find out more.

And finally, a few of us were sitting around the Break Room drinking jasmine tea and ruminating on the horror genre in general when the question came up: what's the creepiest horror film you've ever seen, and why? We've compiled our answers as well as some film recommendations into a little essay we're calling The Scariest Movie Ever? Go on, go find out what gives some of the Green Man staff the chills -- other than bad books, films, CDs and performances, of course...

Multitasker extraordinaire Maria Nutick must hold the record for largest age range of letter writers. First came the deluge of pre-teen mail regarding her derisive review of David Clement-Davies' books Firebringer and The Sight. And now this week's issue features a letter from 82-year-old Welshman Trevor Evans about her review of another Davies -- Norman Davies' Celtic history tome, The Isles.

Busy Maria, in addition to her other responsibilities here at Green Man (Film Editor, Copy Editor, Music Production Editor, Senior Writer, and All-Around Good Egg) also found the time to research a question about the film High Spirits posed by reader Kerr Brand.

Reviews from Green Man have often garnered praise from readers thanking us for showing them a new side of an old favorite. Robert Dickie's letter regarding Jack Merry's review of Songs from the Wood by Jethro Tull, is one to add to that growing collection. And Elayne Harmer adds to the already vast praise Grey Walker has received for her review of Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising series.

Elsewhere, reader Rebecca agreed with Christine Doiron's view of the lackluster Owl Mage trilogy; and Stephen Hunt's review of Straight Furrow's Free Time prompted band member Jon Leff to give his thanks -- in addition to passing on a separate, more solemn, announcement.

I'm Reynard... Do come and sit with me, lass. Ale and nibblies are in the hamper over by the window. Help yourself! Yes, I found a great place to do these notes -- the Robert Graves Reading Room in the middle of the evening when the Library is barely used. Most of the staffers are in the Pub or in their offices at this time of day, so I can sit here and think about this commentary without getting too distracted. Or at least I thought so before you showed up!

Yes, that's a Billy Pigg CD, The Border Minstrel, playing on the sound system, and we've each got a Northumbrian Ale at hand on the oak library table we're sitting at, so let's get started...

Opera? You're surprised it's reviewed here? Why not? It's folk music of a sorts. That's why Eric Eller is reviewing a Sony Classical release, Marcelo Alvarez and Salvatore Licitra's Duetto: 'Opera too often receives an undeserved pass from many listeners. This is unfortunate, because opera has a lot to offer if one will only give it a chance. Attracting new listeners by promoting individual singers (e.g., the Three Tenors), rather than the material itself, is the method of choice for mass-market commercialization. This is a great way to showcase some tremendous singing talents but the need to appeal to a more 'pop'-oriented audience to generate sales can short-change the albums and, ultimately, opera itself.' Now was that a good idea in this case. Yes. No. And perhaps. Read his review to sort my comment out!

(Eric will soon have a review of Massenet Manon, another Sony Classical released Opera.)

Nordic did the trick for Scott Gianelli this outing as can be evidenced in this quote from his Excellence in Writing Award winning review: 'Although still a relatively new band on the Nordic music scene, Vilddas have quickly established themselves as a musical force to be reckoned with. Very few contemporary musical acts could attempt to cover as much musical ground on one forty-minute CD, and pull it off as successfully. The instrumentalists complement their flexibility with no small amount of skill, and Hirvasvuopio provide the band with a strong voice and a charismatic presence up front. Háliidan more than holds its own among the new releases from some of the genre's heavy hitters, including Värttinä's iki and Väsen's Trio. Any fan of Wimme or Mari Boine will find much to like here, as will anybody looking for quality new Nordic or Finnish music, or fresh, eclectic world music in general.'

(Barb Truex noted earlier today that her review of Väsen's Trio is coming along nicely.)

Kim Bates tells me that we've reviewed a fair amount of Indian classical music, so I wasn't surprised to hear it late one night coming from the office of Tim Hoke. All three of these CDs he's commenting on in his Excellence in Writing Award winning review (Hariprasad Chaurasia & Kumar Bose's Flute Deity, Purbayan Chatterjee's New Dawn Mind, and Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Salil Bhatt & Sandeep Das' Mohan's Veena) are on Sense World Music, a label focused on recordings of Indian classical musicians. Read his review to see why he's looking forward to more releases from this label!

Time for a little jazz/bluegrass/Jam music as Master Reviewer David Kidney has a treat for all of us: 'Little Worlds is the latest three disc extravaganza from the master of the banjo, Bela Fleck, and his band of jazz maniacs, the Flecktones. It is also available in a scaled down single disc version, but Green Man Review has gone for the gusto with the deluxe set. A child prodigy, Fleck has been winning banjo contests since he was knee-high to the proverbial grasshopper. Rather than allow his choice of instrument to limit him to one kind of music, he joined with the Flecktones to take the banjo into realms never before dreamed of by the children of Scruggs. Little Worlds is like a ticket to exotic places with Mr. Fleck and associates as our tour guides.' (Actually the Sony publicist, bless him, is the one that sent the 3-CD set!)

Oh David -- tell us about that Blues 4-CD set you got a few weeks ago from us: 'For the sake of argument, let's say you were watching television the week Martin Scorsese's The Blues came on. You were overwhelmed by the power of the blues, and amazed by the breadth of sounds and emotions the blues covers. You ran down to the record store to start compiling your own library of blues recordings, and were boggled by the number of new compilations available. You stood there in a daze. You didn't know if you should buy the Scorsese imprints because you'd heard them on the show, or if you should look further. You went home in a blue funk because you just didn't know how to spend your hard earned cash to get the most bang for your buck. You read Green Man Review because you know we'll tell you! But every week we cover another couple of new blues CDs...simply because that's what we do! You sit on the porch, you're a bit depressed. The moon is shining in the dark sky. You moan. Your friend, (male, female, choose appropriately) pats you on the back and smiles at you sympathetically. That's the blues...and now you're ready to go back to the store and request this amazing four disc anthology of blues, Box of the Blues, from the archives of Rounder Records.'

Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull fame has a new solo CD, Rupi's Dance, which David claimed for review. David obviously liked it: 'Anderson was criticized when he released his first solo album that he had overreached his abilities. It is only by over-reaching that we stretch ourselves far enough to touch those things out of our grasp. Rupi's Dance shows an artist ready to grow again. Subtle and emotive, Ian Anderson is producing some of the best music of his career. The album concludes with the lead track from the newly released Jethro Tull Christmas Album. Bonus!'

David also fond of an outstanding Celtic CD: 'Irish blues guitarist Rory Gallagher grew up in County Cork. (That happens to be where the Kidney Clan comes from, but that's not why I like this new CD.) Gallagher passed away seven years ago. He had long talked of doing an all acoustic album [Wheels Within Wheels]. He was in the habit of including an acoustic song on his albums, and long-time fans appreciated these tidbits! His brother Donal, searched through boxes of old tapes to come up with a new collection of unplugged blues and guitar workouts. And it's a Corker!'

Trouble In The Kitchen's When the World Was Wide is an Australian Celtic album which in part explains why Peter Massey liked it: 'In all honesty I don't think I ever heard a bad Celtic album and this one is no exception. It reinforces my amazement of how many young talented musicians there are all over the world who are so tuned in to Celtic folk. No longer is it confined to the shores of Scotland or Ireland to provide the very best; if indeed there is such a thing! Sometimes it seem that every time I put a new album in the player from an unknown band, it is just as good if not better than the last.'

Big Earl Sellar and his friend Spike are both great lovers of the Blues, so I'm not surprised that Big Earl's quite fond of the roots of the Blues, African music. Certainly Habib Koité & Bamada's Putumayo CD was to his liking: '[Mali musician} Koité's voice is quite well known in World circles in the West right now, and with such an approachable disc as Baro, I hope he breaks out of the World clique and into the mainstream. This is a superb album, in it's performance and content. Fantastic stuff.'

Christopher White says that '[Kreg] Viesselman has been compared to a laundry list of bluesy singer songwriters including Guy Davis, Keb' Mo', Corey Haris, Shane McGowan. David Olney, Greg Brown and Taj Mahal. (Taj is himself quoted on the site as saying, "This guy is goood…he is writing some great stuff.") Among names not on the list, but which make equal sense, are Dave Van Ronk, Chris Smithers, Tom Waits and (wait for it...) Dylan. In short, Kreg Viesselman is a somewhat gruff voiced singer whose great strength is the ability to craft story songs which combine honest emotions with poetic, yet accessible, language. He's a damn fine guitarist and harmonica player, too.' See what else Chris has to say in his review of Kreg Viesselman's self titled debut CD.

Now I'd say it's fair to say that Gary Whitehouse, like most of the Green Man music reviewers, has seen far more CDs than most mortals see -- the good, the bad, and the really awful, all have been seen by reviewers like Gary. Sometimes that means that they get a bit blasé.. Sometimes very blasé. But Gary found one he likes: even if he some reservation ('...Keen pegged as just another good-time Texas music maker who likes to cite Townes and Guy as influences but whose music is closer to Toby and Garth...'): 'So if like me you've written off Robert Earl Keen as just another Texas country-rocker with three names, check out Farm Fresh Onions. It's as fresh and sharp as its title, and it does Texas proud.'

Gary liked two other country-style CDs, Shelley Miller's Tear Me Down and TS Baker's Through the Shadows: 'Both Shelley Miller and TS Baker play lightly country-inflected folk music, with slightly different perspectives on the usual singer-songwriter topics of love, relationships and getting by in a hard world. In fact, both have good, descriptive Anglo-Saxon names that seem to provide a clue to what their music is like: Miller, as in one who grinds grain into flour, is a bit more coarse and earthy; and Baker, one who turns that flour into bread, is a little more homey and comforting.'

Yet more country (alternative that is) is up next for this reviewer: Brett and Rennie Sparks, a.k.a. The Handsome Family, have been releasing records for the better part of a decade now. Singing Bones, their sixth regular release (not counting the internet-only rarities disc Smothered and Covered in 2002 and a live set, Live at Schuba's earlier this year), is their first since moving from Chicago to Albuquerque. ... Singing Bones has a transitional feel to it, as though the Sparkses are still finding their new voice in their new desert home. I'm curious to see where their twisted muse takes them next.'

With a note of sadness, Gary provides an Excellence in Writing Award winning coda to the music reviews this issue: 'I don't believe I've ever before cried when preparing a review, but Warren Zevon finally did it to me. With The Wind, his final album, he touches one raw nerve after another.'

Now we should get down to the Great Hall as Ymyl Danheddog (Serrated Edge) is getting ready to do a midnight dance with the new Welsh fiddler that's been living here for a few weeks. Rumor has it that the caller is Tim Hoke, a fine dancer in his own right! Good lassie -- you brought along your soft soled shoes! Shall we go?

I hope you've enjoyed the tours of the building we've given this past month. It's always a pleasure to let our devoted readers see behind the curtain as to what really goes on at GMR. We need to do this again sometime soon, perhaps giving you a look at some of the other corners of our lovely offices. And don't forget to check back next week to see who our Oak King is and hear what he has to say. Oak King? How do we choose our seasonal royalty here at GMR? Each of the honored parties are chosen in a different way, of course; some by staff vote, some by more traditional means, and sometimes we just get a little crazy and make things up! I believe our current Oak King was chosen after beating out several other contenders in a contest involving Jello shots and Twister...



19th of October, 2003

'So instead of getting to heaven at last,
I'm going all along.'
-- Emily Dickinson, from Poems (VI, A Service of Song) [Preaching]

Welcome back to our tour of the Green Man grounds. Kim Bates here, Music Editor, and your tour guide of some of the offices. Now why did our esteemed editor in chief suggest that I give the tour of the offices? I can't imagine that it is my missions through the back hallways, nooks, crannies and attics where our staff have taken root, searching for staff whose reviews I covet, carrying discs that have been waylaid by the post with requests for expedited reviews. Yes, I've seen some strange and wonderful sights on these forays, not all of which have been observed. One staffer thinks he's got me fooled, but I've seen him opening that trap door in the hallway leading to the kitchen!

Now, enterprising readers will be wondering about the big "T". How do so much magic and so much technology coexist? After all, in the mundane world, computers are designed as feeble imitations of ultra modern designers, although most of the designs for boxes seem to be more like Ikea knock-offs. It's a dirty little secret that the technology only takes this exterior form because of the dreary world inhabited by folks who work in buildings whose windows don't open, inhabited by mass produced furniture. Here in the Green Man headquarters we ask for more in the design of technology, and we get it, with a little help from our friends across the border, who are vastly amused by computing, although they rarely need it themselves. In our offices flat screens are cradled lovingly in ornate Renaissance-inspired frames, or in sturdy, simple Roycroft oak. They pop up out of desks when called, and adjust marvelously to suit the mood of the writer. Of course the wireless network has helped solve some of those nagging design problems, and we love voice recognition, along with discrete, curvy keyboards with smooth keys inspired by old ivory piano keys (but much kinder to the elephants!).

Now that we've got that out of the way, let's begin our tour of a few of the offices. Yours truly has her heart's home in the Arts and Crafts movement of design, so my office features sturdy, cross cut oak, lots of built-in shelves, some lovely stained glass windows and lamps, and great beams across the ceiling. It's a simple affair really, with everything you'd expect: a lovely little fireplace, a cozy rug, inlaid flooring, and lots of leather cushions, softened by some chenille pillows and throws. My desk is situated overlooking our garden, and conveniently located midway between the library, the pub, and the kitchen. Persistence pays, my friends! I share my office with my nineteen year old grey and white alley cat (retired) and my scruffy lab-bouvier cross, who looks a lot like a small blond wolfhound or a very large Benji. Books and CDs are always at hand, although the wicker baskets holding the discs waiting to be distributed to tend to spill over from time to time. It's just comfy.

Now, on to Rebecca Scott's home. She seems to have ended up with one of the odder spaces in this peculiar building. Somewhere on the western end, it's only about twelve by twelve, or at least the floor is. The ceiling, however, is at least twenty feet up (I suspect it's twenty-four, making this a double-cube room in an odd direction). The bookshelves go all the way up and cover all the walls (excepting only those odd spaces taken up by windows of peculiar shapes, a door, and a fireplace), with ladders up to various heights in various places. Supposedly, the bookshelves hold infinite numbers of books, but somehow, Rebecca says she still has three boxes full piled on the floor waiting for her to find space for them. I suspect that the shelves are having a little joke at her expense. Starting about ten feet above the floor, there are various padded platforms and small hammocks suspended from the ceiling, left by the previous occupant (one wonders what sort of person that might have been!). But at least they're comfy. Sitting near the fire is a small cauldron, the spiced cider in it filling the office with a lovely aroma. I can vouch that Rebecca's willing to share this lovely treat with visitors.

Michael Jones has found his office moved into the old dungeons. Small, cramped, with floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall bookcases, and a locked door with a slot through which food, drink, and more books are slid several times a day. But to be fair, he has a lovely view of the ocean, through a tiny barred window, and we do let him out for exercise and fresh air if he turns in his reviews... But enough of the denizens of the basements and sub basements. We'll just pass on Spike's lair, which he shares in the second subbasement with our esteemed David Kidney. I'm not sure what the two of them are up to in there, but it does seem to shake the building on occasion. Let's just move upstairs... we'll pass Grey's office, it's next door to the staff break room.

Mia's office used to be in the tower, but she moved down to a nook next door to the library, because it's far more convenient for getting a book or speaking to Liath. The door has no signage to indicate it's her office... more often than not it's confused with a linen closet, but it's very roomy inside. Mia just doesn't like to be disturbed. But you're always welcome if you've been invited.

Oh, and look at this! The best feature of Tim's office is the door to the left. It opens into a small screening room for the viewing of films. It will seat four people comfortably, six people more snugly, but he has to really like the other five. It's a fair chance that at any particular point in time he's in the screening room, probably watching something old, in black and white, maybe with subtitles.

I'm tempted to take a little detour to Jack's place, but that would inevitably mean a meal of something rare, wonderful, and filling! And being regaled with stories of his latest tour, and how he got that rare Breton disc he's been raving about. Best save that one for another day, if we want to get to this week's reviews.

Here they are.

We're featuring two reviews this week. The first is a long-awaited review, finally written by one of our newest staff members, Rebecca Scott, who accidentally volunteered to do it before she completely understood our system of swooping down on unwary reviewers who express an interest in anything. She gallantly rose to the occasion, turning in an Excellence in Writing Award-winning review of the BBC television series Neverwhere, written by Neil Gaiman (who later, of course turned the series into a novel by the same name). Yes, that's right. We've mentioned this series before, we've all discussed it at length in the staff break room. Now we've got a review of it, and a fine one.

Our second featured review was picked by Editor in Chief Cat Eldridge because, as he says, 'it's the sort of review we do better than anyone else, period.' What's that, you ask? Well, we delight in reviewing groups that hardly get coverage elsewhere, and showing why you, our readers, should try their music. This time, it's The Men They Couldn't Hang and their ninth album, The Red Cherry Jukebox. Reviewer Peter Massey says, 'The band's almost unique blend of punk rock, folk rock, blues, and country has worn well over the years and left them with a cult following.'

Faith J. Cormier says, 'Some characters are just so compelling that no one author can write enough about them to sate readers' curiosity. The readers then take up the challenge of extending their favorites' adventures, filling in the missing bits in their biographies. In science fiction this is called fanfic. In the world of Sherlock Holmes, it's known as pastiche.' This week, Faith reviews two different authors' attempts at Holmes pastiche. The first is Nightwatch by Stephen Kendrick, which also calls in another beloved detective, G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown. The second is Son of Holmes, by John Lescroart. Read Faith's review for her measured opinions on how these two stories stand on their own as mysteries, and how well they serve as tributes to Sherlock Holmes.

Liz Milner has done it! Yes! She's finally finished her review of The History of Middle-earth, Christopher Tolkien's twelve volume collection of his famous father's working papers. In her review, Liz says that Christopher Tolkien's work was 'a task worthy of Telemachus'. Well, Liz's review has been a task worthy of Auden, famed critic and fan of Tolkien. Brava, Liz! Naturally, Part 3 of Liz's review wins her an Excellence in Writing Award.

Rebecca Scott takes a much-deserved break from Gaiman this week (wait, her review of the Neverwhere TV series is featured above, isn't it? Is there no escape from Gaiman for Rebecca?) to review a book about another famous comic book writer, Alan Moore. The Extraordinary Works of Alan Moore is a tribute written by George Khoury 'and friends', on the occasion of Moore's fiftieth birthday this year. 'Extraordinary Works is a labor of love,' Rebecca says. 'It's a biography, a panegyric, a birthday card, and a retrospective.' If you read her review, you'll agree with us that there's no escape for her from Excellence in Writing Awards, either.

Lisa L. Spangenberg also takes a break -- from Celtic scholarship criticism -- to review a new novel by one of the best writers in the explosively popular area of vampire fiction. Club Dead is the third book in Charlaine Harris' 'Southern Vampire' series, and Lisa says it's just as good as the first two (Dead Until Dark and Living Dead in Dallas). The main character, Sookie Stackhouse, is the chief reason. 'She's an interesting, strong and self-aware character and not at all derivative,' Lisa says. 'Sookie grows as a character in Club Dead, becoming stronger physically and metaphysically, but largely growing as a person.'

Leona Wisoker did not like Muezzinland by Stephen Palmer, in spite of strong pressure from other sources. 'He's been featured in Locus and reviewed favorably in Vector, InfinityPlus 2003, AuralInnovations, Matrix and the New York Review of Science Fiction,' Leona admits. 'He's published other books: Memory Seed, Glass and Flowercrash. So, obviously, somebody likes the way this guy writes. I'm glad he has a lot of support out there, because I'm not joining his fan club.' Will you agree with Leona? After reading her thorough review, in which she lays out piece after piece of prosecuting evidence, you won't be able to deny that she has excellence reasons for her negative opinion. And an Excellence in Writing Award for the amount of thought and sweat she put into it.

Daniel James Wood is a new reviewer who starts with us by reviewing Fray, an eight issue comic book series by Joss Whedon, the creator of the Buffy: The Vampire Slayer series. Set in the 'Buffy-verse', Fray takes place two hundred years in the future. Daniel has a lot to say about Joss Whedon's first foray into writing a comic book 'from the ground up.' For one thing, the world of Buffy, while it was 'a breath of fresh air' on television, becomes 'unimaginative and bland' in a comic book setting. How so? you ask. Read the rest of Daniel's review to see why else he thinks this comic series ultimately falls short of what it could be.

'Welcome to Jeepers Creepers, another entry in the relentless stalker genre,' says reviewer Denise Dutton. Were you looking for something new to watch during the Hallowe'en season? Try this one, released in 2001. 'Controversial filmmaker Victor Salva acts as writer and director for this film, and proves himself a capable storyteller. This film grabs your attention in the first few minutes and doesn‚t let it go. It is a fast-paced 90 minutes with few unessential bits. As I watched the ending credits roll, I wished it had been a little longer.' High praise!

I'm Jack Merry. Reynard's busy this afternoon: the cold, blustery weather has filled the Pub up with a goodly crowd. So I'm doing the commentary for music this week. Reynard's been serving a lot of Irish coffee and the rum-laced cocoas that the kitchen prepares. Do have one of the cocoas!

Why's the Neverending Session playing Welsh tunes this afternoon? See the button accordion player? He's a well-known Welsh fiddler player who's staying here for a few days! Let's listen as they play 'Llongau Caernarfon'.

John D. Benninghouse says the Churchmen turned gospel into bluegrass: 'On the Journey Home is equal parts faith, solid musicianship, and heavenly singing. These things create a potent and joyous mix to be savored by everyone regardless of personal beliefs or their absence. Every song here is played and sung with great conviction and that is the mark of great music.'

An album, Stage Left, from Tull band member Martin Barre must simply be an attempt to trade off of the legendary Tull name? Not at all, according to John. 'Does it sound like Tull? Yes and no. Barre's sound is as loud and brash as it has been since Tull's Crest of a Knave, but he throws in his own classical and blues influences that are normally a bit diluted in Tull's songs. The arrangements are generally less complex, but this isn't really a bad thing. Without flute and voice, his talents step to the fore and he delivers the goods.'

Michelle Nixon and Drive's It's My Turn is a Bluegrass album that John really appreciates. 'Michelle Nixon has a great voice and she's surrounded herself with a clutch of musicians whose talents equal her own. The playing is tight and the vocal harmonizing tighter. And they're no slouches at penning songs either. The older songs are rendered anew with spirited performances while the newer tunes are respectful of the rich traditions of bluegrass.'

John rounds out his reviewing with a look at We Know You Know. ' For those of you not herpetologically inclined, an introduction: Reptile Palace Orchestra hail from Madison, Wisconsin and have been infecting listeners with Balkan lounge funk for roughly a decade,' says John. 'The Reptiles return after a four-year recording absence to follow up 1999's Iguana Iguana with We Know You Know, their third album for Omnium. It continues their tradition of blending Balkan folk music, rock, humor, weirdness, and whatever else comes to their minds.' So did he like it? Go read his review!

The Corb Lund Band's Five Dollar Bill and Libby Kirkpatrick's Goodnight Venus get the once-over from Judith Gennett. 'Country and Western? Contemporary folk? What do a cowpoke from Southern Alberta and an introspective, edgy girl from Pennsylvania/Colorado/Texas have in common? More than you would expect. It's all rock and roll, as someone once said. In this case, both artists have produced noir-ish albums with good lyrics, and excellent, multi-influenced arrangements.'

Cris Cuddy's Keep the Change/Nowhere Town was quite good, in the opinion of David Kidney. 'That's it. Two albums,' he says. 'Twenty-eight slices of Americana... oops, I mean, Canadiana! Or is it North Americana? The influences run deep and make this two albums of darn good music, played well. No borders. No problems. Listen up.' David picks up an Excellence in Writing Award for this review!

While it is not (hopefully) true that David has a bit of the blood of Robert Johnson in him, it is true that the Blues are definitely something he truly loves. In his latest review covering Blues material, he looks at two releases from Putumayo World Music, (American Blues and Mississippi Blues, and the latest edition of the All Music Guide to the Blues. All three are worth having, he says. 'Either of these albums provides a good first look at the Blues, or would make a welcome addition to a more in-depth blues library. Speaking of blues libraries, the booklets included in the Putumayo collections are well illustrated and informative, but if you want a more in-depth resource you simply have to get the 3rd edition of The All Music Guide to The Blues! It's fantastic. Edited by a trio and comprising the work of more than 200 writers, this 750 page volume is a wealth of information.'

Celtic group Glen Road's Round The Bend was well-received by Peter Massey. He says, 'Musically Glen Road can't be faulted. The jigs and reels are played superbly -- note perfect. One thing I really must compliment them on is the fact that the tempo that they chose for each tune is very realistic, -- no swell headed virtuoso musicians here showing off with breakneck speeds, just good honest playing that would grace any folk club or festival anywhere in the world.'

The review of English ceilidh band Nightwatch's Dusk to Dawn starts off with this note: 'There is a contemporary school of thought that believes that if something can't be found on the Internet, then it doesn't exist. The Green Man crack editing team did a quick Google search and found not one but TWO sites about Nightwatch and Poke Records. So while the 1997 copyright notice makes this album almost antediluvial, if you find this review makes you yearn for a copy of the album, according to current information it's still out there!' However, the CD did not, according to our dear Editor-in-Chief, arrive here for review until earlier this year. Be that as it may, what did No'am Newman think of it? '... [I]t seems most likely that Nightwatch is only a part-time occupation for the members of this group, and that even the most devoted concert goer is unlikely to come across them. I think that this invisibility is a pity, because I quite enjoyed listening to this somewhat offbeat disc, and I think that many others would enjoy it as well.'

That's it for this week. Kim Bates, our Music Review Editor, has a few words to say about some noteworthy upcoming reviews: 'I've got a mix of CDs by Celtic women, and one on cajun/roots music. Vonnie's doing a children's omni. Over a few months, the Sony re-releases of Bob Dylan will be covered by David and Gary. And Big Earl's working on an omni of five Vietnamese CDs Caprice sent us....'


Before you go, Ryan's got an office on the third floor at the end of the hall there. Upon opening the massive set of oak double doors, it is evident that they are soundproof and very solid, as mechanical clatter, beeps and buzzes suddenly fill the hall. Looking around the room, the first impression one gets would be a cross between Cyberpunk and Steampunk. Computer equipment is littered on large, wooden tables throughout the large room as well as items such as copper tubing, glass beakers filled with various colored liquids sitting atop small metal stands over oil burners. If one didn't know better, one might think there was a very high tech still operating here.

Wires hang from the ceiling around a computer workstation with several monitors displaying the status of the Green Man network, routers, computers and faerie connections. Speakers rest on the left and right side of the monitor array with gargoyles sitting next to each speaker, and a picture of his beloved, which changes according to her mood -- clever high tech gadget, you ask? Not at all, Ryan had to pay big time for this little bit of magic. There are some exposed open areas of the wall. Within the wall lies the web. If a problem arises on some of the pages, or one needs to communicate with the faerie realm, all you would need to do is ask one of the many spiders skittering along the threads...

I realize we haven't toured all the offices, but this should give you some idea of what it's like to share our work space in the border country inhabited by Green Man. I kept trying to catch Stephen in his office, but we never made it out of the pub, which as you know is quite comfortable and engaging. Makes me thirsty just thinking of it! And Cat's place... well that's another story. I'll leave that one to the editor in chief! But suffice it to say that we're quite comfortable here in this congenial place, and that goes a long way to explaining the real magic of Green Man, the one that you read in these pages each week.


 12th of October, 2003

'My jolly fat host with your face all a-grin,
Come, open the door to us, let us come in.
A score of stout fellows who think it no sin
If they toast till they're hoarse, and drink till they spin,

Hoofed it amain
Rain or no rain,

To crack your old jokes, and your bottle to drain.'

Hilaire Belloc -- 'Drinking Song, On the Excellence of Burgundy Wine'

Enjoying your tour of our fine building? Did you drop off your traveling kit and fiddle in the room you'll be staying in? You did? Good. Now Stephen Hunt is going to take you on a tour of what many here consider the most important part of the Green Man building -- the Pub.

Stephen Hunt here, glad you could stay here for a while as I've heard good things about your music.

Welcome to my favourite part of The Green Man building, come in, and mind your head on the beam! While no one's entirely sure what the original purpose of the pub was (theories include a servant's dwelling, kitchens, and err, a pub), it's undeniably very old. The pub is divided into three distinct spaces -- The Bar, The Snug and the Nook.

Walk through the door and you're in The Bar, a long room with a low, beamed ceiling and the actual 'bar' (a formidable piece of Irish bog oak), running almost the length of the left side. Four brass-topped, wooden hand pumps draw ale from casks secreted in the depths of the cellar, a territory that Evan (one of the fey we call The Gentry), who's the licensee, guards like an alchemist's laboratory. The beer served changes according to the results of a simple democratic process. Reynard chalks the names of available ales on a blackboard at the end of the bar, and customers put a tick against their favourites. Currently, there's Fellinfoel Double Dragon, Young's Double Chocolate Stout (one of Cat's choices), a rather nice mild ale from an American micro brewery (whose name escapes me) and a deceptively lethal Breton cider. There's also Draught Guinness, a Czech Pilsner and loads of marvellous things in bottles, like nettle wine, Avon Applejack and 'whisky galore'.

(The Green Man licensee has an interesting tale -- he's Viking/Irish Gentry, with black hair that has reddish tints, worn in a pony tail. Like all good Vikings he has a love for the road and the homestead. He rides a big black hog, with the entire engine chromed, a small faring, and studded leather saddle bags. All too well he knows his food and drink, with tastes honed over the ages. Evan was drawn into the human world by the restless energy of conflict, but also loving the warmth of the hearth. His music is that of a wild fiddle, and of the restless drum. A hard man, Evan, often a silent observer not noticed by those without a sensitivity to the fey. With green eyes and pale, slightly sallow skin, he's only really handsome when he wants to be.)

Take a look at all the postcards thumb-tacked to the beam above the bar. Some years ago, folks started the ongoing tradition of sending a Green Man related card to the pub, when they journeyed to far-off places. There are Green Men and foliate head cards from Llangwm, Exeter, Marburg and Cologne, Robin Hood cards from Nottingham and Hollywood and, err, an unclothed young lady smoking a suspiciously large cigarette. (The last mentioned is from Spike, who attended the bachelor party of one of his Manchester buddies, in Amsterdam...)

At the 'near' (door) end of the Bar there's an impressively large stone fireplace with a granite lintel and a built-in cloak oven. The original purpose of a cloak oven was for baking bread, but it's ideal for warming up pasties, pies, and the like. The 'far' end is dominated by a large round table, home, of course, to the Neverending Session. There's an assortment of those little wall-mounted guitar holders screwed on the back wall (Scott's bouzouki and David's dobro are hanging next to my Takamine), a bodhrán with a 'Murphy's' logo on the shelf , and some whistles and bones sticking out of a blue and white hooped milk jug. The three walls that embrace 'the session table' are covered in framed photographs of musicians. Some of those faces are internationally recognized, some known only to their families and friends and some we'll see no more. All are celebrated and honoured equally at The Green Man.

The Bar of the Green Man Pub is a truly auspicious place to play and hear music as, unlike all those ghastly, themed, faux 'atmospheric' places, dreamt up by some anonymous 'creative design consultancy team', the layout is the result of nothing more than simple expediency. Carpets, for instance, absorb spilled beer, get sticky and stink. They also deaden the music and prevent step dancing. Bare floorboards ensure that the management, the session, the dancers, the singers and the customers all stay as happy as larks.

Just now, we're having a small party to celebrate the promotion of some of our staffers. Craig Clarke, Barb Truex and Christopher White have all been with us for at least a year, doing excellent work, so we've promoted them to Senior Writers. Join us in congratulating them with a pint! Then go read some reviews...and when you get back I'll finish your tour!

Firebirds: An Anthology of Original Fantasy and Science Fiction was just published last month to celebrate the Firebird imprint, the brain child of Penguin editor Sharyn November, who also edits this exceptional anthology. Firebird is an imprint dedicated to bringing out the best in science fiction and fantasy for young adult and adult readers. All of the authors who have stories in this new anthology are 'Firebird authors'. Grey Walker, who basely kept the book for herself when it came in for review, not even thinking about offering it to any other reviewers, says, 'The list [of contributors] reads like a role call in a future Valhalla of the Greatest Writers on Earth... You have to read them all. Of course, you know that.' Read Grey's Excellence in Writing Award-winning review (in which she admits to gushing) to see why.

Cat Eldridge, Editor-in-Chief of Green Man, here. One of the joys of being involved in this zine is that I get to read top quality reviews written by writers who really know their shit. This review is no exception to that! David Kidney and Gary Whitehouse win an Excellence in Writing Award for a review that showcases why we do omnibus reviews: a look at the long, strange career of Neil Young. As they say in their review, 'Neil Young has crossed boundaries, from folk to rock, grunge, punk, and techno. He has never been afraid to take a new direction, down a deserted highway, just to see where it will lead. He has looked back, but usually just as a means of pushing the envelope a little further. He continues to be one of our most interesting troubadors. Not content with settling into a comfortable routine he consistently challenges our ears (with his music), and our eyes (with his films), and our minds (with all his art.) Not always successful... but always interesting.'

It's an amazing review that anyone interested in American Rock 'N' Roll should read! As Stephen Hunt said upon reading this omni, 'Let me just state for the record that there are 'omni's' that merely confirm that you don't really need to listen to an artist's back catologue, 'omni's' that remind you that maybe you should drag a couple of half-forgotten CDs off the shelves for old time's sake, and there are, occasionally, 'omni's' like this one from David and Gary: the kind of reviews that physically COMPEL the listener to head straight for the relevant section of their CD collection, and play everything they have by that artist, RIGHT NOW!'

Jayme Lynn Blaschke reviews Geek Confidential: Echoes from the 21st Century, a collection by columnist Rick Klaw. Jayme says, 'I can think of no better compliment than this: Geek Confidential sucked me in and refused to let go despite my best resistance. I happily re-read every column Klaw served up, chuckled at the same jokes, nodded in agreement at the same anectdotes, and then turned the page, saying, 'Thank you sir, may I have another?''

Rachel Manija Brown has two of her distinctive reviews for us this week. The first is of a Sandman spin-off, Jill Thompson's Death: At Death's Door. Rachel, who is knowledgeable about both Sandman and manga (a Japanese comic book style), says that combining them doesn't really work here. In fact, 'At Death‚s Door is like cotton candy: it looks tempting and the first bite is evanescent and sweet, but eventually you have to force yourself to finish the sickly stuff. Then it‚s gone, leaving you with a sugar rush, a stomach that‚s still nine-tenths empty, and a slightly lighter wallet.'

Rachel thinks better of the second book she reviews, Joseph Bruchac's Skeleton Man, a novel for young adults based on a Mohawk legend. We got this book for review thinking it'd be good spooky fun to recommend for your Hallowe'en season reading. Maybe not. Rachel says it's quite serious in nature. 'The lengthy uncertainty over whether this is an urban fantasy or a realistic story of child abuse makes this book fairly disturbing.' Read her review to see if you'd like to dip into this story. Frankly, we're intrigued. Rachel wins Excellence in Writing Awards for both her reviews this week.

Faith J. Cormier has mixed feelings about Louisiana Breakdown, a new novel by Lucius Shepard. On the one hand, 'Shepard has a way with description. You can open the book at random and find something rich.' On the other hand, 'Louisiana Breakdown blends music and religion and sex in one of those nasty stews where you never know what's going to end up in your bowl.' But Faith acknowledges that the very things that she found distasteful might delight another reader. See her review, and decide for yourself.

Christine Doiron has unmixed feelings about The Owl Mage Series by Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon. Christine has liked other books by Lackey, so she was anticipating good things from these three books (Owlflight, Owlsight and Owlknight). But... 'The Owl Mage books weren't entirely bad, but neither were they very good.' Christine's review is fair, highlighting the things she thinks Lackey and Dixon do well, but in the end she gives the series a thumbs down.

April Gutierrez, on the other hand, really likes William Gibson's short story collection Burning Chrome. Originally published in 1986, this collection was just re-released by Eos. April found it fascinating to read Gibson's early visions of the world's future, to see how they ended up missing or matching the world of today. However, 'while Gibson is vaunted for his leading-edge vision of technology,' April says, 'what shines in this collection is his keen sense of the human condition, technology notwithstanding. The stories that work best are those that focus on the characters' emotions and motives, even if the technology is central to the plot.' April garners an Excellence in Writing Award for this insightful review.

Michael M. Jones says that he'll read anything if he's stuck on an exercise bike for half an hour. Fortunately, this week he found something genuinely fun. Digital Knight, a new novel by Ryk E. Spoor, is 'mind candy, shameless and unrepentant, as the author himself has admitted. For that very reason, it's worth checking out; it's nice to have a break every now and again from The Next Great Fantasy or The Next Harry Potter.' We agree!

Michael also reviews something a bit more serious, even if the subject of the book is himself 'a shameless huckster, an unrepentant storyteller, a charming old man, a never-say-die opportunist whose career has spanned decades, following the ebb and flow of the comic book industry in America. He's a modern-day P.T. Barnum, part writer and part con man, but so loveable in his over-the-top mannerisms it's hard to stay mad at him for long.' You guessed it -- the man in question is Stan Lee, and the book is Jordan Raphael and Tom Spurgeon's biography, Stan Lee and the Rise and Fall of the American Comic Book. Michael wins an Excellence in Writing Award for his review of this fascinating book, which is as much a history of the comic book in America as it is a biography.

Jack Merry also reviews a biography this week. Well, an autobiography. And the subject is, arguably, the weirdest comedy troupe ever to grace (or disgrace) the planet. The Pythons' Autobiography of The Pythons was assembled by Bob McCabe. Jack says, 'If you have a seriously warped sense of reality as regards what tickles your fancy, you should own this book regardless of whether or not you like The Pythons. If you are seriously into The Pythons, what the %$#@! are you waiting for?'

Patrick O'Donnell finishes our book reviews this week with a book that will be a Hallowe'en treat for you, dear readers. Patrick tested The Skeleton in the Closet by Alice Schertle, illustrated by Curtis Jobling (of Bob the Builder fame) on his three-year-old goddaughter. As Patrick says, 'the best reviewer of a kids' book would, naturally, be someone about three feet tall whose innocence is matched only by her delight in everyday things.' And she's delighted with this book. Patrick and his goddaughter win an Excellence in Writing Award for their resoundingly positive review.

Come Hallowe'en, The Endicott Studio will publish the Autumn issue of the Journal of Mythic Arts. This issue examines and presents animal myths, featuring a group art show of 'shape-shifters and animal people' in the Gallery, and a number of never-before-published pieces of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, along with hard-to-find reprints. Also, dear readers, you might want to know that the new, extensive, beautiful Interstitial Arts site will debut by the end of November. (An 'interim' site is there now.) Midori Snyder is the editor of that site, with help from Terri Windling, Charles Vess, Delia Sherman, Ellen Kushner, and others.

Tim Hoke's review of the eponymous album from Tuuletargad brought responses from three different people associated with the band. Normally, we don't publish multiple responses to a review, but these highly interesting letters merit an exception. Read letters from Andres Peekna, his daughter Heli Peekna, and Ain Haas in addition to Tim's responses to each.

Reader Stephen Banfield wrote in about Gary Whitehouse's review of Linda Thompson's return to recording, Fashionably Late in order to agree, disagree, and credit Gary with the inspiration to purchase the album.

James Hazlerig (known as Cedric while playing with the Bedlam Bards) was pleased to find that Mike Stiles enjoyed the band's effort, Furious Fancies, especially after reading a negative going-over in another magazine.

A statement in Peter Massey's review of Blyth Power's On the Viking Station brought up a discussion with reader Martin Cook about the global selling power of Fisherman's Friend® lozenges. Discuss among yourselves if you like.


Reynard here. Like the rest of the Green Man building, the Pub has a number of cats that inhabit it. Some of them obviously think that traditional music is rather nice. The one purring loudly right now is Maeve, a splendid black and white female of indeterminate age, but at least as old as Ysbaddaden, who she's clearly known from kittenhood. Largely inactive these days, when Maeve does go for a stroll about the cellar, she does so as queen of all that she surveys. Now that Winter is nigh upon us, she spend much of her time near the fireplace here in the Pub staying warm.

Richard Condon says that he thinks Beth Boucher's Mess You Up 'is agreeable listening and makes few demands on the ears: Boucher sings in a standard contemporary female singer-songwriter style, with a good vocal range and enough technique and little tricks to sound professional, although I sensed a certain lack of punch and a monotony of delivery that detracted from the singer's emotional engagement on songs that often call for just that.'

Faith Cormier gives us a look at two CDs of steel drum music from Trinidad and Tobago: Richard Luces' Tropical Sunday and The Marionettes Chorale and Neal and Massy Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra's Voices 'n Steel . Read her review to see which one tickled her fancy! Faith also listened to Home, Boys!: 'The Sharecroppers (Guy Romaine, Mike Madigan and Ed Humber) are three teachers from Pasadena, Newfoundland. Even their Web site doesn't explain why they chose their name, since sharecropping has never been a way of life in their province. Once you get past that though, this is a fun album.'

Have you had the pleasure of reading a review done by Master Reviewer Stephen Hunt? No? Well, let's correct that injustice right now. Go read his Excellence in Writing Award winning review of these CDs -- Straight Furrow's Free Time; No Fixed Abode's Acoustic Attitude; Ben Campbell's Songs of Lost Skies; and Rum & Shrub Shantymen's From Ushant to Scilly -- right now. After you read them, meet me at the bar and we'll discuss this insightful review over a pint of Young's Double Chocolate Stout!

Who's the man over in the corner talking to a gentleman who looks an awfully lot like the thought to be dead Robert Johnson? That's David Kidney, one of our most knowledgeable blues experts. So do pay attention when he says that Michael Jerome Browne's self titled album; Ruthie Foster's Runaway Soul; and Shout, Sister, Shout! -- a Tribute to Sister Rosetta Tharpe are CDs that '[come] from that part of our musical geography known as the blues. The fan, the next generation, the descendents, the originator. Only three chords... but stir in a heaping helping of soul and you've really got something. Take your pick... there's something worthwhile on each of these CDs.'

David is also a great fan of the ailing Gordon Lightfoot, so it's not surprisin' that he like Beautiful: a Tribute to Gordon Lightfoot: 'When Gordon Lightfoot was in hospital a year ago, no one knew just how ill he was. We all started to think about what a treasure we had in this gentle troubadour. A group of (mainly) Canadian artists began work on a tribute album which would honour his lifework as a writer and singer of songs, and as a model for a couple of generations of musicians from the Great White North. Beautiful is the resulting labour of love, and it's a winner from start to finish.'

Peter Massey comments that 'Earlier this year I had the pleasure of reviewing the Bushwackers Australian Song Book album. Established in 1971, this marked the Bushwackers 30th Anniversary. However the 25th Jubilee album slipped through my grasp until just recently. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation recorded this album 'live' in the Longyard Hotel, Tamworth, on Australia Day 1996. What a concert it must have been; the album boasts 16 tracks of the favourite songs from the band featuring their specially invited guests, some of whom have been members of the Bushwackers at some time or other over the years.'

For something completely different, take the advice of Gary Whitehouse: 'Ardavan Kamkar is a member of a large Iranian Kurdish musical family. In his early 30s, he has risen to prominence as a soloist on the santur, a Persian hammer dulcimer. Over the Wind, recorded in 1998 in Teheran, is a knock-out showpiece of his skill on the instrument. Nearly an hour of solo hammer dulcimer may not sound like your cup of tea, but I urge anyone who likes World, Middle Eastern, and even Western neo-classical music, to give this a try. Kamkar takes this highly specialized instrument and makes it speak a universal language. Apparently, if you're familiar with the techniques and classical repertoire of the instrument, Kamkar's playing is nothing short of astonishing. But even for the novice, this can be highly enjoyable music with a small investment in concentration.'

Joel Rafael Band's Woodeye -- Songs of Woody Guthrie found an appreciative review in Gary: 'Who could have predicted that the songs of an itinerant Dust Bowl troubadour from Oklahoma would still be inspiring folks clear into the next century? But the past few years have seen an explosion in the recording of the songs of Woody Guthrie, particularly since his family opened up the archives and started allowing modern musicians to glean from its riches in unpublished and unrecorded songs. Joel Rafael and his contemporary folk band, based in San Diego, California, have been regulars at the Woody Guthrie Festival in the bard's birthplace, Okemah, Oklahoma, and now have put together a recorded tribute.'

Gary runs off his reviewing with another anthology, It'll Come to You ... The Songs of John Hiatt, which he says of: ' If any American popular songwriter is due a tribute, it's John Hiatt. He's been writing and recording his pithy, blues-influenced songs for some three decades, and had songs covered by dozens of more popular artists, but has never had his own commercial breakthrough. It'll Come to You is a curious hybrid in the increasingly crowded world of tribute discs. Most of the tracks have appeared else where, sometimes up to 20 years ago, although a few appear to have been cut for this disc. But it's a decent sampler of the best Hiatt covers that have been put to wax over the years.'

That's it for this outing. Mind that you step carefully while in the Pub as I see a half dozen more felines have arrived! Yep -- you're right: the cats are one of the reasons that the Pub's nonsmoking as they truly hate the smell!


Ah, you're back! Now, where were we? Ah, the Snug: the Snug is a tiny room to the other side of the bar (served via a sliding hatch) which has a small wood-burning stove, a couple of old armchairs, and a carved oak settle, which tends to act as a repository for copies of Dirty Linen, The Living Tradition, Buffy the Vampire Slayer Comic, National Geographic, and other worthy publications. One wall is lined with bookshelves which contain a few board games (chess, checkers, nine-man's morris), novels, collections of short stories, poetry and the like. There's a surprising number of first editions here, many of them donated and signed by the authors (some folks will do anything for a pint when they've run short of cash!)

The Snug, like all of the Pub, is smoke-free, and it's the place that you're most likely to encounter Grey, Mia and Liath. If you happen to overhear them reading aloud to one another (you pass the door enroute to the loos), wait for the inevitable laughter -- it's a music in itself! Oh, and I nearly forgot. The painting over the stove is by Charles Vess!

Finally there's The Nook, or 'the back room' as it's more often called, these days. The most important piece of furniture here is the bar billiards table. If you're a visitor here, my advice is not to play against Eric, Craig, Tim or Ryan, all of whom are preternaturally skilled at the game and should be left to compete against each other! Aside from these sporting encounters, The Nook frequently (and perhaps I shouldn't be telling you this) doubles as a committee room for various meetings of GMR editors and staffers. The bar billiard table converts to a regular table simply by lifting the plywood cover into position. One side has a wall-mounted work surface with six high bar stools ranged along its length. Take a look beneath and you'll find six power points and telephone sockets, just the things for connecting a laptop. Surprising? That's just how the Green Man Pub is. There's no juke box, no arcade games, no closing time and no arguments. Me? I do most of my best work here.

Hey, Craig's just finished editing this week's letters section and wants to know if I'll have a game of bar billiards with him -- winner buys the next Fellinfoel. What the heck, I've still got the proceeds of a well-paid wedding gig in my pocket. You set 'em up, I'll just get the ales in now.

5th of October, 2003

'In the bleak midwinter
Frosty wind made moan
Earth stood hard as iron
Water like a stone

Snow had fallen
Snow on snow on snow
In the bleak midwinter
Long, long ago

British Traditional

Winter here at the Green Man offices is something we take seriously as it's not very nice around here once it gets really cold. Like the first Jack who sought refuge here from the law, centuries of musicians, writers, actors, and others have found winters here to be quite preferable to being elsewhere. Even those of us who live elsewhere in this City can be found here for long stretches of time. 'Why so', you ask, and the answer is one worth knowing. First of all, there are the rooms on the top two floors -- each with a goose down bed, a chest for keeping your possessions in, and a comfortable chair with enough illumination to read by. At any given time, a few dozen folk are living here -- some for a few days, some for decades. Many of the Neverending Session players can found in residence as can be noted from the sounds of fiddles and other instruments being played long into the night!

Let's walk over to the Library... Yes, the Library. One of the advantages of living and/or working here is that one need not leave the building to find plenty to read, watch, or listen to. You can easily find the complete works of William Shakespeare, first folio from the collection of the theatre company here, to a recording of Nazgul made at their legendary best. The library takes up the entire north tower of the building -- which is on the far back corner, so that the windows look out over the woods in back. The archives are in the basement of the tower and on the first floor. The Robert Graves Reading Room is on the second floor. Liath's study is on the fifth floor, at the very top of the tower. The third floor contains several sound proof rooms and equipment for listening to and watching different formats of recorded media, including impression balls, sidhe glass, wax cylinders and so on up to CDs and DVDs.

The Green Man kitchens are a bit of a mongrelization of old and new. The grey slate floors have been here for ages, with paths worn into them from the feet of countless cooks rushing about and reviewers stumbling in at all hours searching for a bite to sustain them. There's an ultra modern stainless steel and glass door opening into our state of the art walk-in cooler, and a second door next to it opening into the equally state of the art deep freeze. However, there's also a short wooden door on the other side of the room which leads down some creaky, musty stairs into a cool, slightly damp root cellar, where we keep kegs of beer and various home-canned goods like the plum-nectarine-ginger marmalade sent to us by a grateful author who appreciated a thorough review. Our cooks have the finest restaurant quality six burner stove and triple oven, but there's also a spit and a pothook over the fireplace, and many a roast and stew have been prepared over an open flame. The coffee urn is always full, there's always ice cream in the freezer, and there's usually a reviewer or two writing or conversing at one of the long wooden tables that line the west wall. The kitchen is generally lit by candlelight and gas lamp, unless one of the chefs is perusing a centuries-old cookery book from the Archives, in which case they might switch on the hidden track lighting. Old red and gold brocaded curtains cover the windows and swing in the breezes that cause the candles to flicker even when the windows are closed. The room smells faintly of vanilla, cinnamon, and roasting meats.

Our featured book review for this week is Faith J. Cormier's review of the newest novel by David and Leigh Eddings, The Elder Gods. The book is due to be released on October 14, so read Faith's review for a taste of what you can expect! She assures us that 'the Eddingses excel at creating plausible worlds (once you get past the basic implausibility of all epic fantasy) inhabited by engaging characters. It's dangerous to pick up one of their books unless you know you have time to devote to reading it -- they suck you in and you emerge, hours later, bemused.'

Synchronicity is surely not an unknown here at GMR, but it's still amusing when it happens. Take this week, when David Kidney and Big Earl Sellar, each unbeknownst to the other, turned in a pair of serendipitously connected reviews. David takes a look at a documentary film made in the early 80's; he says, '[I]n the late 40s Lee Hays, Ronnie Gilbert, Fred Hellerman and Pete Seeger formed a quartet whose goal was to practice more than most existent folk groups, and therefore present folk songs in a more acceptable commercial format. That was the Weavers.' Read his review of The Weavers: Wasn't That a Time, a 'loving portrait of an important group' which belongs in every true folkie's video library.

At the same time, Big Earl takes home an Excellence in Writing Award for his review of a set of tribute CDs centered around one of the aforementioned Weavers. Says Big Earl, '[M]ost of the people I'd name as heroes to me would be scientists, thinkers, and a couple of musicians, one of whom is Pete Seeger. Fast approaching his 85th birthday, Pete has, to me at least, spent decades defining the American notion of Free Speech. Censured, censored, and even threatened with treason, Seeger never shut up: he continued to express his view of his nation, of his planet, and his fellow beings.' These three CDs -- Where Have All The Flowers Gone Vol. I+II, If I Had a Song, and Seeds -- involving such artists as Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Arlo Guthrie (and of course Seeger himself!) performing Seeger's music, meet with approval from our Big Earl.

Are you all beginning to think about All Hallows Eve? We've got some spooky and fun books we'll be reviewing for you over the next few weeks, things you might enjoy this season.... The first is It Was a Dark and Silly Night, edited by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly. This collection of comics for younger readers is reviewed by Nathan Brazil, who says, 'There are just 47 pages of story, but Little Lit doesn't waste any space. In common with the comic book annuals of old, every available space is crammed with cartoon illustrations.'

Faith J. Cormier has a second review for us this week, of two books by Jeffrey Kacirk, Forgotten English: A Merry Guide to Antiquated Words, Packed with History, Fun Facts, Literary Excerpts and Charming Drawings and Antiquated English: Surprising Meanings of Familiar Words. Faith says, 'Kacirk's books can help explain misunderstood or mistaken meanings in almost any English book written more than a hundred or so years ago, and would be an excellent chairside reference for anyone reading Shakespeare, Marlowe or the more opaque sorts of historical fiction or fantasy.'

We've got the final installment of Rebecca Scott's Sandman omnibus review further down, but first take a look at a small treasure April Gutierrez found, The Quotable Sandman. 'This is an exquisitely tiny tome,' says April, 'measuring no more than six and half inches to a side and beautifully illustrated outside by Neil Gaiman's frequent collaborator Dave McKean. Contained between those two hardbound covers is the distillation of seven years' worth of Gaiman's noteworthy prose, drawn from the seventy-five issues of Sandman.' April wins an Excellence in Writing Award for this review.

Maria Nutick brings us two reviews this week, the first of a series that pleasantly surprised her, Meredith Anne Pierce's The Firebringer Trilogy, first published in 1985-1993, re-released this year by Firebird. 'I have to admit,' she says, 'I missed this series when it first appeared.... [and] the brief synopsis I was given -- 'a society of intelligent unicorns' -- didn't inspire quite the ooooh, aaaah reaction it might have when I was just out of high school... Well, we're not as smart as we think we are, now, are we?' Read the rest of Maria's review to see why she really likes this YA (young adult) series. Another YA book she really likes is another of our spooky books for you this season, Vampire Kisses by Ellen Schreiber. Maria says this book could inspire a sequel to the movie Pretty in Pink -- Pretty in Black. Check out her review to see why she thinks so.

As we promised, here's the final part of Rebecca Scott's massive Sandman omnibus review, in which she reviews the last two volumes of Neil Gaiman's amazing series, The Sandman: The Kindly Ones and The Sandman: The Wake. Winning another Excellence in Writing Award, Rebecca wraps up the series with reflection on the whole Sandman arc. Songer est mort, vive le songer.

Lisa L. Spangenberg also wins another Excellence in Writing Award this week, for her review of The Song of Taliesin: Tales from King Arthur's Bard by John Matthews. This is a thorough, expert review of Matthews' use of his sources and his approach to the material, much of it from the earliest literary history of Wales and Ireland.

Grey Walker dove into Steven Brust's most recent Dragaera series, The Viscount of Adrilankha Adventures (the second volume of which, The Lord of Castle Black, was just published this year), but she thinks she may have miscalculated the depth. She says that the preface to the first book in the series, The Paths of the Dead, claims that this series can be read on its own, without reading any other novels in Brust's other Dragaera series. Grey thinks this isn't quite true. Read her review for her full opinion on the matter.

Matthew Scott Winslow gives a loving report of his most recent Thursday Next fix, The Well of Lost Plots, the third in Jasper Fforde's series which has 'posited a world where 'book-loving geek' is synonymous with 'member of the human race'. As Matthew says, 'it's been an enjoyable world to lose oneself in ever since.'

And some quick news -- Author Holly Black is sending Maria Nutick a copy of The Spiderwick Chronicles, Book Three: Lucinda's Secret, so we'll have a review for you soon. Also, Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, an urban fantasy novel about a man who slips from the mundane world of London Above to the much grimmer reality of London Below, has just been issued in a trade paperback edition by HarperPerennial. It's actually a novelization of a British TV series written by Gaiman, and in this form was Gaiman's first published novel. We will be reviewing the DVD release of the television series shortly.

Kim Bates saw a fantastic performance by James Keelaghan and David Francey in September. Originally scheduled for this past spring but postponed due to the SARS outbreak, they were finally able to reschedule the show for mid-September. With the dinner theatre atmosphere of the Hugh's Room as their backdrop, Keelaghan and Francey's show covered a wide range of themes. They are both 'consummate ballad singers' who provided a high-quality performance. Read the review to see why she says Francey is a 'master of the straight-forward ballad' and Keelaghan has 'won over many fans..with his compelling melodies and finely crafted stories.'

Gary Whitehouse saw Kelly Joe Phelps weave 'his bluesy spell' in late September. Phelps is an understated performer, but when Phelps performs 'what you get is the man, his guitar, his smoky voice and his tapping feet, and it's always enough.' Phelps is a former jazz bassist, and he used improvisation to add depth to his show. Performing without a playlist but mixing in songs from several of his albums, Phelps 'amply rewarded' the one hundred or so fans who were in attendance. Read the review to understand why they got so much out of the show.

Reynard here. Just been sharing a pint of Saint Ekaterina Imperial Stout with our Music Editor, Kim Bates. She's rather excited as she 'just returned from the Galway Oyster Festival at Dora's... One -- depending on whether you know the bar man -- oyster on the half shell with each pint.' Now the oysters may have been better there, but the music definitely isn't, as the Neverending Session's far better than any other live music you'll ever have the pleasure to hear! Do listen in while I continue to write up the music commentary for this week...

Attila The Stockbroker's Live In Belfast is, according to Judith Gennett, not your usual folk release: 'Attila, who's been making a living as a poet for 20 years, is not afraid of words, not afraid to write and say words. There are a LOT of words on this highly political album, recorded at the Warzone Centre in Belfast in February, 2003. Only a minority of them are about 'No Blood For Oil,' but many touch upon the ruling classes of Britain and the United States doing things they really shouldn't. For the most part this is a simple spoken word album; sometimes the verses rhyme, sometimes they are in sentences or in rap lines. Sometimes Attila plays the guitar and sings down-home folk-punk.'

Judith also looks at Victoria Parks second CD, Wild English Rose, which she claims is '[r]ecommended especially for Renaissance-Pagan-Celtic Festival enthusiasts and genealogists, but 'folk music' listeners will like the historical songs.'

As Mattie Lennon had an absolute ball describing fellow Irishman Sean O'Neill's Odds and Sods CD, I'll not spoil his fun by attempting to quote from it. Just go read his review now!

A Flower Grows in Stone will not be cursed by Jason Erik Lundberg: 'Kyler England's newest album is a thing of beauty. Her previous album and EP dealt with the death of her mother from cancer, and of trying to comprehend how and why this could happen. Her music, while well-written and performed with enormous heart, was very melancholy and could be depressing. But it seems that with A Flower Grows in Stone, she is finally coming to terms with that loss, and moving on, learning to live again. Part folk acousticness and part pop sensibility, the new album explores themes of love, fame, and sacrifice in the modern world, and it is by far the best thing she has done yet.'

Much of the finest music out of England these days is on the Wild Goose Studios label, and so it's no surprise to me that Peter Massey found a new release from that label, Fieldwork's Tanks For The Memory, to be a cracking good album: 'This album is sure to be of interest to anyone from Dorset, but even to one who lives over 200 miles away, the album is very entertaining and good listening, and I am sure you will enjoy it too.' Oh, do read the review to see what the title means!

Robin Frederick's Water Falls Down was a revelation in many ways for No'am Newman: 'When I was a teenager, there was an expression floating around: 'Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach. Those who can't teach, teach teaching'. Maybe there is a parallel musician's version: 'Those who can, play. Those who can't, write songs. Those who can't write songs, teach songwriting (or play the drums)'. Robin Frederick is one who turns this saying on its head: true, she does teach songwriting, but she is also a successful songwriter, producer, one time record executive, and also an artist, with a voice pure and seductive.'

New Zealand performer Deborah Wai Kapohe's CD is I Unwrap You. Lars Nilsson notes that the artist 'seems to be running two careers, one classical, which includes operatic performances, and one more contemporary, of which this is an example.' Read his review to see if she's worth hearing.

Café Accordion Orchestra, On Holiday and La Vie Musette, caught the fancy of Mike Stiles: 'Here are two CDs that had this reviewer reaching for the escargot and absinthe. The Café Accordion Orchestra has preserved a style of squeezebox playing that richly deserves remembering for its historically pervasive folk character.' Absinthe and oysters, eh?

The Green Man Pub is a place that's very dear to the hearts of many of us here at GMR, so we tend to mention it rather a lot in these weekly notes. While some of our readers have visited the place, many more of you won't know what, exactly, keeps compelling us to 'mind our heads' as we duck, night after night, into this remarkable haven. To put that right, Cat asked Stephen Hunt (a pub regular) to come up with a 'rough guide' to our favorite watering-hole.

Our man duly delivered and, among other things, imparts his 'insider's knowledge' on the Neverending Session, the goings-on in The Snug, the fact that Reynard guards his beer cellar like 'an alchemists laboratory' and the names of the four horsemen of the apocalypse (of the Green Man bar-billiards table). Oh, and where the 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' comic books are kept!

Look for his guide to the Pub in the very near future!




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Entire Contents Copyright 2003, The Green Man Review. All Rights Reserved.

Updated 29 October 03, 01:38 GST (MN)