My Frantic World

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Book Critic's Final Cut

Author and Journalist Iain Finlayson and I were at Ritz Newspaper university together, which in retrospect offered the best crash-course journalistic training a scribe could ever hope to have.

Iain, who is currently the non-fiction critic on The Times, and also the book editor on Saga Magazine has just created a compelling new literary book review blog titled New Blog In Town.

But is Iain Finlayson mental?! Why should a prolific author and book critic bother to create a blog?

'I've been told often enough that I need 'presence' (charisma is the next step), so I've finally managed to work up a blog,' he tells me modestly.

But, what a beautifully written Blog! New Blog In Town includes Book Reviews, The Power of Ten (Iain Finlayson's current top favourites) and an End of Year round up of books titled Lives & Letters.

'An abridged version of this end-of-the-year round up was published in the Books pages of The Times on 3rd December. Here’s the full thing,' he blogs.

But doesn't The Times object?

'I'm allowed to post my weekly 'In Short' non-fiction review column from The Times, so not too much trouble to do that (and it gets legally round the News International firewall) and I'd actually like to review some books I don't have room for in The Times or Saga,' Iain says.

Personally, I think the 'New Blog In Town' has more future potential than The Times Literary Supplement.

John Gross
However, if the ex-TLS  editor/my one time fan: the late John Gross was resurrected, then there could be some cut-throat competition as to which man is the best read man in Britain.

By the way, Iain Finlayson is not just any old hack!

His laundry list of books include the wonderful Tangier. City of the Dream, which will be reprinted soon and biographies on lofty subjects such as Boswell, Churchill and Browning.

If Iain has any sense, he now has the perfect opportunity to self-promote his brains out by blogging about his own books on New Blog In Town.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I treated Myself to A Personal Astrologer For Christmas

I was on the verge of treating myself to some bespoke perfume for Christmas, but decided to get my astrological chart done instead after reading Victor Olliver's astrology column in The Lady magazine.

My horoscope was so uncanny, I thought Victor Olliver could well be a rival to the late Patric Walker, who once wrote the compelling Celeste column in Harpers & Queen.

In fact, I was so impressed with Victor's forecast of my horoscope that I decided to consult the ex-showbiz journalist for a private consultation.

I cautiously decided to first ask Victor do my Birth chart and solar returns. If I thought he was accurate, I would then hire him to do my birth chart (normally about 5-6000 words) followed by a solar return chart which 'identifies major themes ahead'.

The first thing Victor Olliver asked me was the location and date of my birth.

'Please note a horoscope is based entirely on time and location of birth. If the birth clock time is not accurate then the chart won't be accurate,' he warned me.

Luckily I knew which time of day I was born, and after he assured me my personal information - i.e. my birth date would be strictly confidential I gave him my personal details.

Literally a day later, I received my Birth chart and solar returns analyses complete with my own astrological chart.

Fortunately, Victor used to be a prolific showbusiness journalist, renowned for identifiable well-written prose. So my 'basic introduction to my birth chart' was beautifully written in comprehensive Astrology Speak.

I was so impressed by the accuracy of Victor Olliver's Birth Chart and solar returns analyses, I immediately hired him to do my in-depth chart and be my own personal astrologer.

I thought I would get my request in quickly, now that Victor Olliver is already regarded as an accurate and fashionable astrologer.

Madame Arcati

Victor recently closed down his notoriously controversial and outrageously funny Madame Arcati blog, which had so many louche scoops about his victims: disgruntled hacks, shamed politicians, convicted showbiz pedophiles (Jonathon King) that the National Press, all of whom openly subscribed to Madame Arcati printed the stories immediately afterwards.

One of Madame Arcati's pet subjects was actor/Old Victor Artistic Director Kevin Spacey, who was so provoked, he eventually banned Victor from his Twitter page.

It was thanks to Victor Olliver's legendary Madame Arcati blog, that Rachel Johnson, hired him to write The Lady's astrology column.

'It happened by accident. Rachel read Madame Arcati and loved my review of her Channel 4 documentary The Lady & The Revamp. She wrote me a lovely fan letter wishing that the likes of me endured forever.

'Then, she wrote another letter pointing out that Madame Arcati was mentioned in her book, A Diary Of The Lady. A number of tweets later she asked me what I would like to write for The Lady and I replied that what the mag needed was a horoscope. She instantly asked for a sample, loved it and hired me – through Twitter.

'When we talked later on the phone, before I started the column, she plainly did not realize I was an actual astrologer. She said, ‘You’re not really an astrologer, are you? But all astrology is rubbish, isn’t it?’ She thought that as Madame Arcati, I was posing as a stargazer for satirical purposes. I firmly believe to this day that my hiring was a lovely misadventure on her part. She always calls the horoscopes the ‘horrors’.'

I remember the jealousy surrounding Victor Olliver when he was anointed as the features editor of the defunct Woman's Journal at the age of 'twelve' in the Eighties.

'It was a dissolute place. My favourite person was the Martini-sipping deputy editor Betty Reyburn who sadly became incontinent before her enforced retirement. One always knew where to find Betty – follow the trail!" Victor fondly reminisces.

Victor was originally trained to be a lawyer and was even called to the Bar.

'The law didn’t interest me. I much preferred reviewing magazines every week on Lorraine Kelly’s old LBC radio show.'

Besides working for IPC, the Mirror Group and the Daily Mail and General Trust in various editorial roles, Victor was also once editor of The People's magazine supplement.

'Robert Maxwell would fly in on his helicopter and drown out phone conversations as he hovered aloft.'

Victor, who also pursued a freelance writing career and won two PPA awards in the 90s even worked for Teletext for a while.

'I swanned off to Cannes every May for seven years on ludicrously high expenses. No wonder the company died (almost)."

Becoming an astrologer is a complete juxtaposition from Victor's showbusiness hack days culminating in his infamous Madame Arcati blog, which Olliver describes as, 'a potty-mouthed media warrior who took on all comers and engaged in psychic warfare with swine, bullies and useless c.....k c......ters. I am now above all that sort of thing.'

I couldn't resist asking Victor why he decided to become an astrologer.

'In my teens I was fascinated by astrology and read books but was put off by all the calculations – this was pre-personal computer wizardry. In any case, how could planets influence life? I thought it was rubbish.

'I just couldn’t see how celestial bodies could influence Earth life. A modern view of astrology doesn’t speak of influences any more, but of ‘correlations’. In a sense, the skies and life have come to reflect each other through long evolutionary development. I firmly believe that one day physicists will be able to explain these correlations in scientific terms. I can’t believe astrologers, who are usually highly educated, intelligent people, are all deluded.

'Then in my 40s I took a course at the respected Mayor School of Astrology in London, and was instantly intrigued at how accurate astrology could be, provided you have the correct time of birth. I passed the Mayo’s advanced certificate course, and am now in the final stages of the diploma.

'My family is steeped in Spiritualism. My brother reads Tarot cards. My mother is clairvoyante and has uncanny predictive powers. But astrology is a practical divinatory tool and may have nothing to do with mysticism. I once had my chart done in Sri Lanka on a travel trip and the astrologer said I’d end up being a guru – whatever that means. At the time I thought he was rubbish but perhaps he foresaw my astrology career.'

'Media astrology is very different from casting birth charts, much simpler as a methodology, but tricky to interpret. It’s been a huge learning curve and I am delighted to be The Lady’s debutant astrologer – the first in its 126 year history.

'The Lady is my first media gig as astrologer and naturally I intend to break into other markets and media. I have had private clients via The Lady but I can’t mention names.

Laura van Wormer 
'I am however allowed to mention the American author Laura van Wormer, who wrote the Dallas novels and co-wrote a history novel with the Duchess of York.

'Laura van Wormer found my astrological birth analysis and forecasts to be spot on and it’s generous of her to offer me a public testimonial.'

Currently, Most of Victor Olliver's private clients are based in New York but as I have now alerted all of my London friends about his clairvoyant astrological reading, I predict he will be shortly doing charts for people on both sides of the pond.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Frantic at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

Tom Bushnell. Photo Credit: John Bonehill

I know this stinks of self-promotion, but I was amazed when I saw some of the audience at this year's Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival reading my novel Frantic.

John Bonehill

Austin de Lone, Bill Kirchen & co. at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

It's probably not all that surprising as Frantic, which is partly set in San Francisco during the early Seventies is also stuffed with (hopefully unrecognisable) musician characters.

So thanks to John Bonehill (co-owner with his wife Neva Joy Bonehill of Barking Lot Grooming) for taking photos and helping spreading the Gospel!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Christmas Jug Band is Live Streamed

For those deprived unfortunates who are fans of the Christmas Jug Band, the Christmas Cracker 'kings of 100 per cent acoustic folk-skiffle-swing holiday highjinks', and are unable to physically attend their December tour around the San Francisco bay area .... do not wrap a Christmas stocking around your head and fret.

Thank God for technology as You can order a (click on:) live steam of the group's Wednesday December 14 show at the Freight and Salvage show in Berkeley. (Special guest is Jo McDonald).

I personally shall cement myself to my screen on that date as I am still recovering from attending an unforgettable Christmas Jug Band's 'tongue-in-cheek seasonal' performance during a recent Christmas in Mill Valley.

Paul Rogers and Austin de Lone

If you haven't witnessed their musically eccentric antics courtesy of washboard, washtub, bells, whistles, accordion, guitar, piano, bass, drums, and assorted reeds and brass, you haven't lived!

Gawp at the group's genius musicians whose line up usually includes the legendary Austin de Lone, Paul Rogers of Those Damned Accordions infamy, Dan Hicks, Greg Dewey, Ken Jacobs and Tim Eschliman of Rhythmtown-Jive ... and just count yourself lucky, 'it's that time of year' again!