BBC Radio 4: The Three Knots

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Radio Times - Afternoon Play: The Three Knots - reviewed by Jane AndersonBBC Radio 4Next 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.

BBC Radio 4 - Afternoon Play: The Three KnotsAfternoon 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?

[Thanks Roy!]

Posted by Jesse Willis

BBC Radio 4: The Ingoldsby Legends by Richard Harris Barham

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Radio Times - The Ingoldsby Legends - reviewed by Danny ScottBBC Radio 4Apparently the Radio Times pre-Christmas issues are on sale a bit earlier than the normal ‘one week ahead’ of schedule. So, thanks to that, we’ve got data from that early issue for the week of December 12-18, 2009 and it has one article that BBC Radio 4 fans will be definitely interested in reading.

According to Wikipedia: Richard Harris Barham (1788 – 1845) was an English novelist, humorous poet, and a Cardinal in the Church of England. But in the 19th century he was better known by his nom de plume: Thomas Ingoldsby.

In 1837 Barham began a series of stories published in Bentley’s Miscellany (a magazine then edited by Charles Dickens). Described as “grotesque metrical tales” The Ingoldsby Legends became very popular and were later collected into a book.

BBC Radio 4 - The Ingoldsby Legends by Richard Harris BarhamThe Ingoldsby Legends
By Richard Harris Barham; Read by Nicholas Murchie and Lucy Robinson
10 Broadcasts – Approx. 2 Hours 30 Minutes [ABRIDGED]
Broadcaster: BBC Radio 4
Broadcast: December 14-18 and 21-25, 2009 @ 22:45-23:00
A collection of myths, legends, ghost stories and poetry supposedly written by Thomas Ingoldsby of Tappington Manor, but actually penned by the Rev. Richard Barham, first published in book form in 1840.

Stories included:
The Leech of Folkestone
In the depths of Romney Marsh, an avaricious woman, bored with her tedious husband, plots with her doctor to rid herself of her spouse. But it seems that more than normal medication is to be employed.
-First published in 1840.

Bloudie Jacke of Shrewsberrie: A Legend Of Shropshire
A grisly and comic poetic tale concerning a local Bluebeard, intent on causing havoc wherever he roams.

Jerry Jarvis’ Wig: A Legend of the Weald of Kent
Is it possible for a wig to be possessed? And can it, in turn, possess a person foolish enough to wear it?
-First published in Bentley’s Miscellany May 1843.

The Specter Of Tappington
-Adapted into an episode of Weird Circle (1945) |MP3|
-Reprinted in Weird Tales October 1928.

The rest of the “Legends” are detailed over on the Wikipedia entry.

[Thanks Roy]

Posted by Jesse Willis

BBC7: The Scarifyers – The Nazad Conspiracy

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BBC Radio 7 - BBC7The Scarifyers: The Nazad Conspiracy (2006)
3 episodes beginning on Sunday, September 7 at 1800GMT
Starring Nicholas Courtney and Terry Molloy
Written and directed by Simon Barnard
Produced by Cosmic Hobo Productions

Detective Inspector Lionheart, veteran (don’t say old!) crime-fighter based at Whitechapel police station, and Edward Dunning, professor of Ancient History at London University (and prolific writer of ghost stories), become, somewhat unwittingly, paranormal investigators for the “very new” MI-13.

Dunning & LionheartAided by, among others, Aleister Crowley, “the wickedest man in the world,” Lionheart and Dunning must follow enigmatic and often ghastly clues, infiltrate mysterious secret cults and foil the darkest of diabolical plots against England and humanity.

But not without a grand sense of British humor. The Scarifyers, set in the late 1930’s, combines deadpan wit and Lovecraftian themes with the result being nothing short of hilarious. The writing is charming, delicious, surprising and never cornball, and the character performances are superb. Indeed, it’s my favorite audio play series in years.

The Nazad Conspiracy is the first Scarifyers adventure.

Christmas 1936.

Professor Dunning (Terry Molloy) doesn’t believe in the supernatural. So he’s more than surprised when an invisible winged demon appears in his drawing room.

The Metropolitan Police’s longest-serving officer, Inspector Lionheart (Nicholas Courtney), doesn’t believe in the supernatural either, wings or no wings. So he’s less than impressed when Russian emigres begin dying impossible deaths all over London.

Together, Lionheart and Dunning must face quarrelsome Generals, sinister clowns and Russian demons as they unravel THE NAZAD CONSPIRACY.

The first episode of The Nazad Conspiracy will air on Sunday, September 7 at 1800GMT in the 7th Dimension time slots. Episodes 2 and 3 will follow on consecutive Sundays. Listen to the trailer for the show here.

The Scarifyers is produced by Cosmic Hobo Productions and stars Nicholas Courtney as Lionheart and Terry Molloy as Dunning. Many will remember Courtney as Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart (The Brigadier), and Molloy as Davros (creator of the evil Daleks), both from the Doctor Who TV series (and the occasional Big Finish production). Also, David Benson, “man of a thousand voices,” appears as the reoccurring character, Aleister Crowley, always giving a memorable and “spirited” performance.

For more information about The Scarifyers, including actor bios, character and story info, announcements, downloadable content, and series ordering info –3 adventures so far: The Nazad Conspiracy, The Devil of Denge Marsh (2007) & For King and Country (2008)– be sure to stop by the Cosmic Hobo Productions website.

And if you want to hear the best radio show theme song since Dick Barton: Special Agent, check out The Scarifyers theme by Edwin Sykes here!

Posted by RC of RTSF

Review of The Dark Worlds of H.P. Lovecraft, Volume 5 by H.P. Lovecraft

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Horror Audiobooks - The Dark Worlds of H.P. Lovecraft, Volume 5The Dark Worlds of H.P. Lovecraft Volume 5: Haunter Of The Dark, The Thing On The Doorstep, The Lurking Fear
By H.P. Lovecraft; Read by Wayne June
3 CDs – 3 Hours 20 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audio Realms
Published: April 2006
ISBN: 9781897304259
Themes: / Horror / Science Fiction / Collection / Heredity / Supernatural /

I have seen the dark universe yawning
Where the dark planets roll without aim–
Where they roll in their horror unheeded,
Without knowledge or luster or name.
–HP Lovecraft, “The Haunter of the Dark”

Seminal horror author H.P. Lovecraft may have a loyal following, but he also gets a lot of flak for his style–which some describe as overly archaic and distractingly adjective-laced–or by those who approach his short stories looking for a scare, but leave disappointed that he’s not frightening enough.

I think both points have some validity though largely I don’t agree with them. I love Lovecraft’s style, mainly because it’s so darn unique: All it takes is one or two sentences and you know exactly who you’re reading. It also perfectly fits the atmospheric, slow-to-build horror for which he’s known. As for the second criticism, Lovecraft really doesn’t scare me, either. You’re not going to get nasty shocks out of his stories, though I would describe them as occasionally unsettling: He can deliver a good chill and at times evoke strong feelings of dread.

But people who pick up Lovecraft for simple scares are missing the boat. Think of him instead as a dark spinner of stories set in a detailed and grotesque universe of his own creation, a world of dark cults, evil tomes, ancient curses, and formless, tentacled monsters from space. His subject material is just plain cool. Also, Lovecraft has the ability to draw you effortlessly back in time. Born in 1890, Lovecraft set his stories in the 1920s and 30s, when America was a bit wilder and stranger than the place we know today, a country of deeper woods and darker mountains and strange phenomena that science had not explained away.

With that in mind, it’s no surprise that I enjoyed the heck out of The Dark Worlds of H.P. Lovecraft, Volume 5, an audiobook read by Wayne June. The 3 CD set contains three Lovecraft short stories: “The Lurking Fear,” “Haunter of the Dark,” and “The Thing on the Doorstep.” I’ve read quite a bit of Lovecraft, but this was the first time I’ve ever had his tales read to me, and it was a very enjoyable, immersive experience.

All three stories are excellent. “Haunter of the Dark” tells the story of Robert Blake, a horror writer/artist who becomes obsessed over a far off, decrepit church spire spied from his rented studio window. Blake’s investigation reveals the place to be an abandoned, ruined church once used by a dark cult, and now inhabited by something far, far worse.

The best of the three tales is probably “The Thing on the Doorstep,” which features full-blown Lovecraftian goodness. The tale is set in the famous, fictional town of Arkham, and involves Arkham University, the Necronomicon and other assorted monstrous tomes, a strange intermingled race of men and fish-like deep ones, mind control, a descent into an unholy pit “where the black realm begins and the watcher guards the gate,” and much, much more. Although I’ve never read a Lovecraft biography (a fact I hope to rectify soon), I couldn’t help but draw parallels between the author and Edward Derby, the protagonist and victim of the tale. I would imagine that essayists looking to peer inside Lovecraft’s mind have veritable a goldmine to draw from in “The Thing on the Doorstep.”

“The Lurking Fear” is the most straightforward horror tale of the three and explores one of Lovecraft’s recurrent themes, that of cursed blood and hereditary corruption. Here an investigator of the supernatural looks into a strange massacre in the mountainous Catskills region of New York, where a deserted mansion holds the key to an unspoken horror living beneath the earth. The terrors he uncovers leave him a gibbering wreck at stories’ end, a common fate for Lovecraft’s narrators.

Reader Wayne June deserves a lot of praise for delivering the stories with a smoky, menacing, baritone voice perfectly suited to the tales. My only criticism is that I wanted to hear him scream the line, Kamog! Kamog! — The pit of the shoggoths–Ia! Shub-Niggurath! The Goat with a Thousand Young! in “The Thing on the Doorstep,” but he chose to deliver it with a half-whispered shout. But it’s probably for the best, I guess, as hearing such unutterable phrases spoken aloud may have fractured my sanity, or worse, stirred Something That Should Not Be from its uneasy sleep.

Posted by Brian Murphy

Wormwood Season One wrapped

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I received an email from Bradford R. Bowman, who among other things runs a cool blog about crossbows (it needs updating with more posts Bradford!). Bowman had this to say:

“Hey, I just thought the site [] might mark the season finale of Wormwood, which in my mind was really the highlight of the year in audio drama. They hint at plans for a second season, but it would be great if could urge them to that end. I mean, we have to know what happens to Sparrow!”

Good idea! I’ve just finished listening to the season finale of Season 1 – “It has all built to this moment…” – and boy did it finish cool, very, very, VERY cool! I previously described this show as “one part Twin Peaks, one part mystery, one part supernatural” after hearing the Season Finale I’d like to add a couple more descriptors: “Wicker Man-esque” and “Lovecraftian!”

Podcast Audio Drama - Wormwood: A Serial MysteryWormwood: A Serial Mystery – Season One
By various; Performed by a full cast
24 MP3s – Approx. 9 Hours [AUDIO DRAMA]
Podcaster: Habit Forming Films /
Podcast: July 2007 – January 2008
Tragedy forced Doctor Xander Crowe down the pathways of the occult and he was forever transformed. Now, chasing the vision of a drowned woman, Crowe finds himself in the haunted town of Wormwood, where evil lurks in the shadows and stains the souls of its inhabitants.

Subscribe to podcast with this feed and get all 24 first season episodes:

Posted by Jesse Willis

Podcast Audio Drama: Wormwood – A Serialized Mystery

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Podcast Audio Drama - Wormwood: A Serial MysteryWormwood is a new audio drama that bills itself as “a serialized mystery.” After listening to the first episode I call it AWESOME. How did this terrific sounding show manage to fly under nearly everyone’s collective radar for so long? Here’s the premise:

Tragedy forced Doctor Xander Crowe down the pathways of the occult and he was forever transformed. Now, chasing the vision of a drowned woman, Crowe finds himself in the haunted town of Wormwood, where evil lurks in the shadows and stains the souls of its inhabitants.

Its an interesting premise, but its the snappy dialogue and the confident storytelling that I like. Take one part Twin Peaks, add one part mystery, one part supernatural, then drench in Absinthe, shake the mix vigorously. Voila, Wormwood.

There are sixteen episodes out so far, of a projected 24 for season one. I also like the idea that this is a limited series, the show is set to run for only 72 episodes. Subscribe to podcast with this feed:

Posted by Jesse Willis