Up the close and doun the stair,
But and ben wi’ Burke and Hare.
Burke’s the butcher, Hare’s the thief,
Knox the boy that buys the beef.
—19th-century Edinburgh skipping rhyme
There may never have been a blacker comedy than this horrifying (and horrifyingly funny) audio drama about a pair of real life murderers. William Burke and William Hare apparently killed sixteen people in the early 19th century selling the corpses to an anatomist named Dr. Robert Knox.
This audio drama, which I found in the Moonlight Audio Theatre podcast feed, is well written, smartly acted, and full of ripe innuendo. Burke And Hare is clever and creepy. If you’ve seen the 1999 horror/comedy film Ravenous, also based on a true story, you know how disturbing this kind of mix can be.
Burke And Hare
By Terence Newman; Performed by a full cast
2 MP3 Files – Approx. 77 Minutes [AUDIO DRAMA]
Podcaster: Moonlight Audio Theatre
Podcast: June 2013
This is the story of the infamous 19th Century Scottish Grave-robbers who weren’t Scottish and didn’t rob graves. They were actually Irish and as robbing graves to supply the needs of Edinburgh’s anatomists proved to be rather hard work, they just took to murdering people – usually their neighbours – for profit. In collaboration with their common-law wives they set about supplying corpses for Dr John Knox an eminent Scottish surgeon with considerable enthusiasm and gusto. The play follows their business exploits from small beginnings, through their days of peak output to the final reckoning – set against a world that is becoming recognisably modern.
Podcast feed: http://moonlightaudio.libsyn.com/rss
Edited by: Joe Siddons
Directed by: Robert Valentine
Music by: Adam Bernstein
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about on today’s show:
the classic Tarzan yodel, the dum-dum service, Tarzana, California, those beautiful Burroughsian run-on sentences:
“From this primitive function has arisen, unquestionably, all the forms and ceremonials of modern church and state, for through all the countless ages, back beyond the last uttermost ramparts of a dawning humanity our fierce, hairy forebears danced out the rites of the Dum-Dum to the sound of their earthen drums, beneath the bright light of a tropical moon in the depth of a mighty jungle which stands unchanged today as it stood on that long forgotten night in the dim, unthinkable vistas of the long dead past when our first shaggy ancestor swung from a swaying bough and dropped lightly upon the soft turf of the first meeting place.”
A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain (and SFBRP #151), Edgar Allan Poe should be read aloud, The Return Of Tarzan, racism, Esmeralda, Gone With The Wind, minstrel shows, Chicago, Arizona, the mammy archetype, radio drama racism, Jar Jar Binks, Star Wars: Episode III, October 1912, historical dialect, Jane (the white lady), “you just shot a woman in the head”, cannibalism,
Conan Tarzan lynches his mother’s killer, rope tricks, out of context vs. in context, Tarzan as a god, Ballantine Books, the dum-dum scholars, Project Gutenberg edition, ERB Incorporated, Tarzan The Censored by Jerry L. Schneider, Tarzan Of The Apes censorship and “improvements” since the original publication, “an English grammar Nazi”, The Heathen by Jack London, taking out or changing a few words can hurt the story, Earnest Hemingway and William Shakespeare are “too wordy”, Tab Cola, Tarzan’s relationship with the cannibal villagers, “mankind and civilization aren’t”, colonialism, the Belgian Congo, King Leopold II, contemplating cannibalism, “the white god of the woods”, Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984), Wisconsin, Tarzan’s ape father is driven away by Kerchak (and turned into a museum exhibit), “the Evil village of Scotland”, the sadness that comes with the deaths is powerful, Paul D’Arno, Obi Wan Kenobi, “Tarzan was the blockbuster hit of the twentieth century”, A Princess Of Mars, Ruritania, The Mad King, “complete in one issue”, All-Story, the scanty Science Fiction elements, feral children, Romulus and Remus, Mowgli, Tarzan is a wild child, “this line from a book”, all of Burroughs characters are excellent language learners, when Tarzan writes a note, Lord Of The Jungle (Dynamite Entertainment), the mistaken dual identity, “Jane has massive bosoms”, Green Mansions (starring Rima, The Jungle Girl), Johnny Weissmuller, “the Sheena of South America”, Audrey Hepburn and Anthony Perkins, Psycho, significantly more significant, the primary driver of fiction of this period is character, Nancy Drew, book serials, Rudyard Kipling dissed Burroughs’ writing and grammar, White Fang is kind of like Tarzan Of The Apes, first person vs. third person, you can’t admire the character from afar if the story is told first person, Sherlock Holmes, “that turn towards character is a turn towards the third person omniscient POV”, “that heroic distance” (1910-1950), Raymond Chandler, “I read Chandler”, Tarzan is the only Burroughs series that doesn’t turn to first person narration, John Carter’s character, why is Tarzan such a big character, Tarzan Alive: A Definitive Biography Of Lord Greystoke by Philip José Farmer, Tarzan as a quiet sophisticate, Doc Savage, The Green Odyssey by Philip José Farmer, Farmer is a fan of character, a stranger in a strange land, what ruined Julie for religion, The Mastermind Of Mars (is PUBLIC DOMAIN), “Tur is Tur.”, copyright, copyfight, jungle Tarzan vs. cafe absinthe drinking Tarzan, “the machine”, the Weissmuller Tarzan, where does he get his razor?, “that knife was his father”, “next book please”, Tarzan And His Mate , “lots of wet people”, “skin friendly”, melon-farmer vs. motherfucker, Boy and Cheeta are Hollywood, Scrappy-do, what did Tantor have to say?, Sabor the lioness, “there are no tigers in Africa, Ed”, Crocodile Dundee, Beyond Thirty, The Mucker, yellow peril looking dudes, The Girl From Hollywood, The Man Eater, early road trips, The Land That Time Forgot, The Lost World, the Caspak series, WWI, “sheer headlong adventure”, The Asylum, closing words, “it’s not what you think”, “really really good fun”, baby ape skeleton in the cradle, a classic of writing, a touching story, “and vengeance is his”, serialization in newspapers, cliffhangers, Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins,
Posted by Jesse Willis
The Summer Isles
By Ian R. MacLeod; Read by Steve Hodson
Audible Download – Approx. 13 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audible Frontiers
Themes: / Alternative History / Dystopia / History / Fascism / Homosexuality /
I have always been intrigued by alternative histories. Unfortunately my knowledge of history sometimes limits my enjoyment, being more of an overview of the subject. I often can’t tell if an event has been changed, and if so, whether it is significant or not. In some of the better alternate histories you can get away with not knowing too much about the period and still enjoy the story. Thankfully, in this case, I had recently been reading a history of Europe covering the same period from the early 1910′s to 1940.
MacLeod’s The Summer Isles is set primarily in a 1940 where Great Britain lost The Great War in 1918. America doesn’t enter the war and France makes an appeasement with Kaiser Wilhelm II’s Germany. The result is that Britain, not Germany, is left in a state of shock, feeling betrayed by their supposed allies. A young soldier, John Arthur, rises to power in the bleak years that follow, suggesting a parallel to Hitler, who gets only a single reference, never having the opportunities to gain power that losing the war afforded. The great Empire that was Britain is stripped away in the reparations following the war. That sense of betrayal is used to fuel Arthur’s rise to power as he brings in his political movement “Modernism”. John Arthur’s portrait hangs everywhere, even in the men’s public toilets.
Modernism is a very British take on fascism and drove several of the same horrors that Naziism did in our own history. Jews, homosexuals, intellectuals, the Irish and any and all other ‘deviants’ are persecuted and ultimately removed from the new Modernist society. The Jews in particular are sent to be “resettled” on the eponymous Summer Isles.
The story is told by Geoffrey Brook, a secretly homosexual Oxford history Don, who had some prestige for having been a favourite teacher of John Arthur as a child. Brook is in his 60′s in 1940 when he receives the news that he has at terminal lung cancer.
Brook, in trying to reconcile himself with his past, recounts in flashbacks the one true love of his life that he lost in the Great War. More flashbacks fill in the years before and after that war; several of the scenes flowing together with the present day as Brook’s mind drifts in and out of his reminiscences. Particularly when he visits some of the same locations.
MacLeod’s writing is excellent, at times didactic, as the historian narrator recounts past political and social events, yet by turns touching, confused, detailed and frightened as more personal or recent events are recounted. Slow at times, this fits will with the drifting recollections of the narrator as the hidden story is gradually revealed. The final act of the novel moves at a much faster pace, while still holding convincingly onto the character of the narrator. The Summer Isles was nominated for the John C Campbell Memorial Award, the Sidewise Award for Alternate History and the World Fantasy Award.
The audio narration by Steve Hodson fits the character perfectly. The weariness with life, the broken rapture at prized but lost moments of love and of lust are all perfectly portrayed. He even nails virtually all of the Scottish pronunciations; a pet peeve sf mind, being Scottish myself, with several other narrators.
Posted by Paul [W] Campbell
Macbeth: A Novel
By A.J. Hartley and David Hewson (adapted from the play by William Shakespeare); Read by Alan Cumming
Audible Download – Approx. 9 Hours 45 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: June 2011
Writing directly for audio, co-authors David Hewson and Andrew Hartley have taken Shakespeare’s Macbeth and fleshed it out into a full-blown work of historical fiction. It’s an original, gritty take on one of literature’s greatest stories. The authors add inventive details and key scenes that for centuries have played out offstage, delivering new insights into the motivations and actions of almost every character. Emmy Award nominee, Audie Award winner, and experienced Shakespeare performer Alan Cumming (TV’s The Good Wife) plays it all to the hilt, complete with engrossing (and authentic) Scottish accent. This is Shakespeare as you’ve never heard it. Includes a introduction by David Hewson and an afterword by A.J. Hartley.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Here’s another pair of recent arrivals. Ummm… 2008 is recent right?
The final book in Rankin’s long running Inspector Rebus series. “Gritty Scottish urbanism” and “tartan noir” never get old right? Right?
By Ian Rankin; Read by James MacPherson
6 CDs – Approx. 7.5 Hours[ABRIDGED]
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Published: September 2008
It’s late autumn in Edinburgh and late autumn in the career of Detective Inspector John Rebus. As he tries to tie up some loose ends before retirement, a murder case intrudes. A dissident Russian poet has been found dead in what looks like a mugging gone wrong. By apparent coincidence a high-level delegation of Russian businessmen is in town, keen to bring business to Scotland. The politicians and bankers who run Edinburgh are determined that the case should be closed quickly and clinically. But the further they dig, the more Rebus and his colleague DS Siobhan Clarke become convinced that they are dealing with something more than a random attack – especially after a particularly nasty second killing. Meantime, a brutal and premeditated assault on local gangster ‘Big Ger’ Cafferty sees Rebus in the frame. Has the Inspector taken a step too far in tying up those loose ends? Only a few days shy of the end to his long, inglorious career, will Rebus even make it that far?
Author George Pelecanos wrote for The Wire, narrator Dion Graham was an actor on The Wire. Perhaps Pelecanos asked Hachette to get Graham to do the narration after seeing the fine actor, in a scene from one of the best episodes (below) – be the only actor in the room without a line.
By George Pelecanos; Read by Dion Graham
5 CDs – Approx. 6 Hours [ABRIDGED]
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Published: August 1, 2008
On a hot summer afternoon in 1972, three teenagers drove into an unfamiliar neighborhood and six lives were altered forever. Thirty five years later, one survivor of that night reaches out to another, opening a door that could lead to salvation. But another survivor is now out of prison, looking for reparation in any form he can find it.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Next Tuesday BBC Radio 4′s Afternoon Play is The Three Knots. This atmospheric drama is set against the backdrop of the “Disruption” during which Scotland’s church split in two. It’s inspired by a real community who, having been refused any land to worship on by the laird, commissioned a floating kirk which they harboured in Loch Sunart.
Afternoon Play: The Three Knots
By Linda Cracknell; Performed by a full cast
Broadcaster: BBC Radio 4 / Afternoon Play
Broadcast: December 22, 2009 @14:15-15:00
Drama about faith and the supernatural by Linda Cracknell, set in 19th-century Scotland. Two men stranded on a mountain on a stormy December night meet a mysterious old woman who believes she can control the elements.
Angus …… Finn den Hertog
Thomas …… Robert Jack
Old Woman …… Gerda Stevenson
Elizabeth …… Hannah Donaldson
Minister …… Jimmy Chisholm
Directed by Kirsty Williams
Sez the author, Linda Cracknell, on her blog:
I spent two days at the end of last week at the BBC in Glasgow to sit in on the recording of my new play The Three Knots. It was great fun to return to that world after several years away. I heard the words I had hounded down and harnessed through numerous drafts springing into new life, was awed that they could mobilise five actors, a Director, three audio staff, an administrator and a whole world of electronic sound effects into a collaborative act of creation. To witness the nuances of meaning and subtext teased out through the sensibilities of the actors and Director; to remember that fewer words often mean more power; and to find that a terrifying storm can be invoked by layerings of sound, is a huge privilege. For the solitary fiction writer, this is a radically different, and a most exciting way of working.
The Three Knots is the realisation of an idea seeded at least three years ago when, while looking through back copies of the Scots magazine in the National Library of Scotland for something else, I stumbled upon an engraving of a remarkable vessel arriving on Loch Sunart in the West Highlands in 1846. It remained anchored there for ten years, and played a highly significant role in the spiritual and political life of the local community. I was intrigued. I have written about how it captivated me before, here. I walked the hills there, and started to inhabit the place with my imagined characters, until they grew, gathered to themselves relationships, conflicts, mythical associations, and so shaped a story.
Sounds like it might be good eh?
Posted by Jesse Willis