Elizabethan London

Elizabethan London
Tyburn was an infamous execution spot west of London, used since medieval times. The Tyburn "tree" - a unique, multi-person gallows - erected in 1571 became a popular public spectacle, drawing crowds of thousands.Tyburn Tree blog is less blood-thirsty but hopefully topical, interesting and informative, if slightly bent to my personal topics of interest - books, writing, history, technology, with a smattering of politics and dash of pop culture, science and the downright strange. So "take a ride to Tyburn" and see what happens...

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Monday, December 12, 2016

Shakespeare at the Movies: Forbidden Planet

Forbidden Planet (1956)

Director: Fred M. Wilcox
Stars: Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, Leslie Nielsen

“This thing of darkness I 
acknowledge mine.”
– Shakespeare, The Tempest

Forbidden Planet is bit off my usual beaten track for Shakespearean films.

The movie retells Shakespeare’s The Tempest, replacing Prospero’s magical isle with the strange and mysterious Altair IV, once home to an ancient and long-defunct race of alien beings called the Krell. Marooned on the planet is Dr. Morbius and his daughter Altaira, the sole survivors of a scientific expedition that vanished 20 years before.

The starship C-57D (not really the most evocative of names) arrives with a crew of eighteen under the command of Commander John J. Adams (played with perfect seriousness by a young Leslie Nielson). Tasked with investigating the scientific expedition’s disappearance, the crew lands on Altair IV, quickly making contact with Dr. Morbius (played by Walter Pidgeon), his robot minion Robby and his now grown daughter (Anne Francis). Morbius is increasingly put out by Altaira’s fascination with the young men and their commander (well, as “fascinated” as you can be for the 1950s censors, I suppose….). In turn, Adams and his officers are puzzled by the sophisticated technology that Morbius seems to control, including his robotic servant Robby (who rapidly ends up serving as a bootlegging source of whisky for the crew).

“Another one of them new worlds. No beer, no women, no pool parlors, nothin'. Nothin' to do but throw rocks at tin cans, and we gotta bring our own tin cans.”

Morbius reveals that the planet was once home to an alien species, the Krell, that vanished nearly 200,000 years before, leaving their technology, their underground network of machines and a special learning library behind. Morbius has used the learning library to extend his intellect far beyond that of normal men, enabling him to master new technologies.

In the meantime a strange invisible intruder has sabotaged the starship, an incident that rapidly escalates to the murder of a crewman. Protecting the starship with a special forcefield, the crew ineffectively battles the strange invisible monster, ending up with several dead. Strangely the creature vanishes when Morbius awakens from his sleep. One of the ship’s officers, Ostow, suspecting Morbius, sneaks in and tries out the Krell “educator” and is fatally injured by the alien technology. Before he dies, he informs Commander Adams that the Great Machine was built to provide the Krell with anything they could imagine, but that they had made a dreadful error: “Monsters from the Id!” The creature was a manifestation of Morbius’s subconscious mind brought to life by the Krell technology.

    “And yet always in my mind I seem to feel the creature is lurking somewhere close at hand, sly and irresistible and only waiting to be reinvoked for murder.”

“And so those mindless beasts of the subconscious had access to a machine that could never be shut down. The secret devil of every soul on the planet all set free at once to loot and maim.”

Adams and Altaira declare their love, Morbius naturally enough, oppose it, the monster rampages anon, the lovers escape in the starship, poor Robbie is fried by his own programming, and Morbius finally admits his mistake and guilt in destroying, unconsciously, the first expedition. He sets off a chain reaction in the Krell reactors, destroying Altair IV and the Krell monster forever.

The film doesn’t not so much directly channel Shakespeare, but certainly provides one of the many, many derivative works inspired by and leveraging the famous works of the Bard. Most of the key roles are almost directly transferable: Morbius as Prospero, Altaira as Miranda, Adams as a wooden-faced Ferdinand, and Robby the Robot as the mischievous spirit Ariel. Released by MGM in 1956, it was, at the time, the most expensive science fiction film ever attempted, and pioneered a number of special effects and tropes that went on to become staples of the genre.  The film served as a break-out role for Leslie Nielson, who later leveraged his dead-pan delivery to his more infamous comedy roles as the doctor in Airplane and the hapless Frank Drebin in the Naked Gun series. Prior knowledge and experience of his comedic roles lends a certain hidden verve to his fairly flat, melodramatic and square-jawed space commander.

Forbidden Planet became a hugely influential science-fiction classic, directly contributing to the development, look and feel of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek series in the following decade and numerous other television shows and films. It ushered in an era of more serious, more grounded science fiction film, and introduced possibly one of the most influential depictions of a robot in film, laying the groundwork for 2001’s HAL9000, the personable and murderous computer support for the doomed Jupiter expedition.

Among other notable achievements, Forbidden Planet’s unique musical score – the first totally electronic composition – paved the way for a long list of science fiction musical compositions including Vangelis’s terrific score for Blade Runner.

In short, Forbidden Planet is a fairly shallow and derivative, but fascinating, spin-off of  The Tempest, one I suspect Shakespeare would recognize readily enough. Don’t expect the same depth of character, dialogue or an evocation of the “rough magic” The Tempest provides, but if you watch carefully, you can glimpse it in key moments, flashing past like flickering quick-silvered starlight.

How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, that has such people in it!
― William Shakespeare, The Tempest

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Holiday Sale!

Thought I would give everyone a holiday heads-up!

THE JESUIT LETTER holiday sale is running in the US and the UK from Dec 5-12, with the Kindle version available for only $.99!!

Regrettably, Amazon's system still doesn't allow me to offer discounts to the Canadian market, so please accept my apologies.

Have a great holiday and a happy new year!

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2cURPlk

Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2gejksz

Friday, October 21, 2016


Check out my new article on the ideas and sources that inspired THE JESUIT LETTER, posted on Mary Anne Yarde's terrific book blog Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots.

"You might think, given the subject matter, that the primary inspiration for THE JESUIT LETTER was William Shakespeare, however, in actuality it was his father."

For more...


Sunday, October 2, 2016

Psst.... Forgot to tell you. BLACK DOG is free for Kindle until Oct 5th!


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Birthday Sale!

I'm celebrating my upcoming birthday by saving you money!

Grab THE JESUIT LETTER for only $.99 on Oct 1!


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Indie BRAG Interview!

My first real author interview as a IndieBrag Honoree is up!

Please go have a look! And tell your friends!

Kind of exciting (at least to me!). Check it out!


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Free Summer Read!

Looking for a dastardly summer read?

My novella BLACK DOG is free on #Kindle Jun 29-Jul 3rd!


Monday, June 6, 2016

IndieB.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree!

It's official!

THE JESUIT LETTER is now an @IndieBrag Medallion Honoree!

For those that haven't run into this before, “indie” refers to self-published books and B.R.A.G. is an acronym for Book Readers Appreciation Group.

The IndieB.R.A.G. Medallion is a quality mark that is applied to independently published books that achieve a high standard of quality - covering  writing, plot, characterization, dialogue, style, editing, formatting, cover design and more. Only about 10% of the books submitted for review walk away with a Medallion, so hitting this achievement is a significant mark for any book.

So. YAY!!!

Go see: http://bit.ly/1tcXWI4

And I get some fancy foil logo stickers for my printed books!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Rodents of Unusual Size

Headed to High Park for the evening dog walk. Nothing to do with looking for the escaped capybara currently at large in High Park.

Really. Seriously.

Okay, we were looking for capybara.

Saw the one that was left in the zoo - he is now The Loneliest Capybara, and a nice sunset over Grenadier Pond.

Otherwise nothing.


Monday, May 23, 2016


As much as I dislike Facebook, I've decided to pull together a Facebook Page for my books.

While I will continue to post articles and info here on my blog, I will also be posting on The Tyburn Folios Facebook page.

If you are on Facebook, I recommend you check it out and follow along!


Friday, May 13, 2016

M.M. Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction - Finalists!

Always a bridesmaid, but never a bride! Oh well!

Congrats to the Finalists for M.M. Bennetts Award for ‪#‎HistoricalFiction‬!

Finalists are Helena P Schrader, Stuart Blackburn & Kermit Roosevelt!

Go forth and read them!! Read them NOW!

Monday, April 11, 2016

"...that is the question"

It's #ShakespeareWeek on #Goodreads from April 18 - 22!

As "The Jesuit Letter" features an eleven-year old Will Shakespeare as a key character, feel free to drop in any questions on my Goodreads author page (or here for that matter!) you might have about the Bard, and how I've woven him into my fictional creation.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Still Pretty Good‬....

Well, THE JESUIT LETTER unfortunately didn't advance to the "final four" in the 2016 ‪HNS‬ Indie Award, but still did pretty damn good for a debut novel, making it to the Short-list!

That puts it in the top nine books out of the 300-odd indie books the Historical Novel Society reviewed in the last year...so YAY!


Here are the Final Four!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Shakespeare at the Movies: Macbeth

Macbeth (2015)

Director: Justin Kurzel
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jack Madigan

I am in blood, stepped in so far that, should I wade no more, Returning were as tedious as go o'er."

Macbeth is a dark ride.

Always one of Shakespeare's most powerful plays, Macbeth provides a heady mix of power, witchcraft, madness and malevolence. Written by Shakespeare in 1605, in the wake of the failed Gunpowder Plot to assassinate the newly crowned King James I (along with Parliament), Macbeth treads a deliberate path, tugging the political threads of the end of the Elizabethan era and the rise of the Jacobean period. The bard played on James I Scottish ancestry, his familiarity with the tale, leavened with a dark and dangerous cast of witchcraft and the occult, with which James I had a very specific interest.

The film, starring Michael Fassbender as Macbeth, with Marion Cotillard as his manipulative wife, is a solid and unsettling piece of work. By turns bleak, grim, and haunting, the film does an excellent job bringing Shakepeare's horrific tale to life, supported by terrific performances, and a washed out colour scheme that lends the film a tone like a flensed skull.

Macbeth, the Thane of Glamis, is the recipient of a strange prophecy after winning a vicious war on behalf of King Duncan. Told by the Weird Sisters that he was destined to become King of Scotland, and spurred on by his ambitious wife, Macbeth murders Duncan, framing (and executing) the household guards for the deed. Having no sons and fearing the Weird Sister's prophecy that Banquo would be come "the father of Kings", Macbeth has three assassins brutally murder Banquo and his son. The scene is brilliantly and harrowingly played, with the son escaping after watching his father's horrific death.

Macbeth is haunted by visions of Banquo's ghost and begins what is a very believable slide into madness, a madness that sends McDuff and his wife fleeing the court, but to no avail. Warned by his ghostly visions to "beware McDuff",  Macbeth orders McDuff's family hunted down and consigned to the flames.

At this point, I genuinely needed a break from the film. It is a brutal scene - not for any graphic violence - but for the pure, inescapable despair and horror the scene generates. The execution of McDuff's family sends Lady Macbeth over the brink and Macbeth wakes to find his wife dead beside him (presumably by suicide).

At this point, with encroaching armies courtesy of Malcolm (the proper heir to the dead King Duncan) and McDuff, Macbeth fires the Birnham Woods (fulfiling the last part of the witches' prophecies by bringing Birnham Wood to the castle "until Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane Hill /Shall come against him". Macbeth faces off with McDuff and is duly dispatched by the man "not born of woman", Malcolm assumes the throne of Scotland, everyone shouts "There can only be one" and the movie ends.

Well, not that last bit. Really. Sorry, I needed a bit of levity after sitting through the film.

Macbeth is an excellent adaptation of Shakepeare's dark ride and well worth a viewing, however much existential despair it generates afterwards. The acting is terrific, the setting appropriately bleak and chill, and the overall atmosphere of the film is one of unformed dread.

Go see it, but go out and have a nice cheerful dessert afterwards. You will probably need it.

 "O full of scorpions, is my mind...." Macbeth, Act III, Scene II

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

M.M. Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction - SemiFinalist!

Terrific news!

THE JESUIT LETTER is a semifinalist selection for M.M. Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction!

The list of Semifinalists 2016 in order of submission:

Helena P. Schrader – Defender of Jerusalem
Carol Anne Dobson – Hecate’s Moon
Lucienne Boyce: Bloodie Bones
Stuart Blackburn: Into the Hidden Valley
Karen Charlton: The San Pareil Mystery
Gemma Lawrence: The Heretic Heir
Dean Hamilton: The Jesuit Letter
Kermit Roosevelt: Allegiance
Nuala O’Connor: Miss Emily
Tobias: Prue Batten

The finalists will be announced in May.


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Testing. Testing. Later there will be a quiz...

Just testing a new promotional .gif idea. These all are variously optimized to reduce the file size etc.

Any feedback? Thoughts? Overwhelming urge to order my book?

Thursday, February 18, 2016


Just back from a visit to Sarasota, Florida and thought I would share some photos....

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Shakespeare at the Movies: Romeo + Juliet (1996)

Romeo + Juliet (1996)

Director: Baz Luhrmann
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes, John Leguizamo

Romeo and Juliet is probably the Shakespearean play most familiar to modern audiences due to the fact that so many schools are determined to ram the angsty, star-crossed teen lovers down high-schoolers throats, mainly I suspect, as an object lesson on how NOT to get stupidly infatuated and ruin your lives…

It has been re-made countless times (most recently in 2013) but certain film versions stand-out for their more unique vision of the Bard’s tale. West Side Story meshed Romeo & Juliet into a street-gang themed musical, while Franco Zefferilli’s lush version leveraged a bevy of 14th century locations and teen-aged stars.  Baz Luhrmann’s frentic, janky, modern-day revision of the play brings Shakespeare into the crux of the MTV generation.

Romeo + Juliet is set in the fictional location of Verona Beach, a hip, decrepit-looking beachfront city where “Two households, both alike in dignity” face off as corporate and familial rivals. The Capulets and the Montagues may be rival crime families, hiding their illegal activities under a number of fronts, but the story doesn’t explicitly note that fact. The tone is set from the start with the famous introduction intoned by a TV anchorwoman, accompanied by staccato repetitions that seem designed more to scream out how different this version promises to be, rather than for any useful purpose.

Romeo (played by a very young looking 21-year old DiCaprio) is one of the Montague boys –most of them a set of beefy, frat house-looking group of “brahs” that are intended to contrast sharply with the more Latino/Hispanic Capulets.  After a gas station altercation between Benvolio (Romeo’s cousin) and Tybalt (played with hissing enthusiasm by John Leguizamo) turns violent, the warring families are warned to hold the peace by Captain Prince, the Chief of Police.

Enter Mercutio (Harold Perrineau, more recently known for his portrayal of the gang leader Pope on Sons of Anarchy), who talks the lovelorn Romeo and the Montagues into crashing a costume ball being given by the Capulets. He also slips Romeo some Ecstasy.  Romeo wanders about like an extra from a Hunter S. Thompson book until he encounters Juliet (a luminous Claire Danes) and is instantly smitten. There is the requisite back-and-forth, some threats from Tybalt, a quick stolen kiss and the famous balcony scene when Romeo sneaks back onto the estate and proclaims his love.

This is quickly followed by the arrangement of a secret marriage between the two teens, an effort that goes somewhat awry when Tybalt intervenes and attacks Romeo. Mercutio steps in and, inevitably as one of the more interesting characters in the movie, is mortally wounded in his intervention. He curses both families and dies. Romeo, in a fury, chases down Tybalt in a car, crashes into Tybalt’s vehicle and then shoots Tybalt dead on the church steps.

Romeo, exiled from the city, stews, while Juliet frets and eventually decides (with the help of Father Lawrence, played by Pete Postlethwaite) to fake her own suicide via a drug rather than be forced into another marriage. A message is sent to Romeo but, alas, the message goes astray. Romeo finds his love “dead”, and promptly kills himself with poison (no spoiler warning here – it’s been 400 years). Juliet wakes, finds Romeo dead, picks up his Dagger 9mm, and shoots herself.  End scene. Call the coroner.

Romeo + Juliet certainly earns points for style – any movie that can sneak an iconic Prince song into a choir scene has all the requisite style points you can ever need – but it is uneven as a film at best. Baz Luhrmann’s direction is often jarring, over-saturated and chaotic, which doesn’t lend itself following the fast-moving romance or the Shakespearean dialogue.  The tempo of the film is offsetting and, bluntly, feels discordant. The best scenes are the few that he slows down in.

This off-tempo sense also exhibits itself in the cadence and style of speech in the film. There seems to be a deliberate attempt to make the language conversational at points, an attempt that interrupts the flow and pattern of the dialogue. It’s particularly notable when you contrast it with the more polished and traditional cadence of Shakespearean trained actors who can capture the rhythm and flow of the longer, archaic language. The staccato interruptions, irregular pauses and copious shouting make the play actually harder to follow.

The acting, by contrast, is mostly solid, one of Romeo’s cousins excepted… “I will bite my thumb at them, which is a disgrace to them, if they bear it.” He played this scene about as exaggerated as it possibly could be. As this is very early in the film, my assumption is that the director was deliberately "stage-setting" in his usual patented style. It would be interesting to see how this movie concept might have played out in the hands of a more subtle and nuanced director.

Both DiCaprio and Claire Danes provide very solid portraits of the two lovers. Claire Danes in particular plays Juliet as a wide-eyed, flirty, very typical teenage girl who finds herself pulled into this incandescent relationship. The Nurse (Miriam Margolyes) is particularly good and under-appreciated in a role usually played much more broadly as comic relief. Strangely enough, a massively young Paul Rudd pops up as Juliet’s arranged groom Paris.

One of the other very neat ideas the film uses is to re-brand the handguns, rifles and other firearms used by both families as variously Rapier 9mm’s, Dagger .45’s, a LongSword rifle and so forth. This is a clever and timely switch that is used to great effect as the preening young ruffians of both families parade about waving customized handguns and uttering archaic threats “Part, fools! Put up your swords. You know not what you do!

Romeo + Juliet.  Not bad.  Not great by any measure, but an interesting take on an oft-told, oft-performed piece of work.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

And gentlemen in England now a-bed, Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here...

In the U.K.?

Now's your chance to nab THE JESUIT LETTER from Amazon.Co.UK for a mere £0.99!

On sale Feb. 1 - 4, 2016, as a Kindle Countdown Deal.


Go! Now! Grab one!

And thanks! Be sure to tell your friends!