Friday, 18 September 2015

The Penguin Complete Rivals of Sherlock Holmes – NOT

Most people have heard of the novelist Grahame Greene. Even if they have not read any of his books they may have seen the various film adaptations of some of his work – such as the The Third Man starring Orson Welles and Joseph Cotton, or Brighton Rock starring Richard Attenborough (which was recently remade in 2010).  However the name of his brother, Hugh Greene, is perhaps not as well known; it should be but probably is not. There is more than one reason why he should be remembered.

One reason is his struggle as the Director General of the BBC in the 1960s to update the BBC and compete with the then new rival ITV. One of his main opponents in that was Mary Whitehouse. That conflict was portrayed in the BBC drama Filth: The Mary Whitehouse Story in 2008 with Hugh Bonneville as Hugh Greene.

Another reason is, perhaps, only important to fans of Sherlock Holmes. He edited four books of early detective stories featuring detectives who could be considered rivals with Sherlock Holmes. The books are:

The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes, 1970, The Bodley Head (reprinted by Penguins Books in 1971).

Cosmopolitan Crimes, Foreign Rivals of Sherlock Holmes, 1971, The Bodley Head  (reprinted by Penguin Books as More Rivals of Sherlock Holmes in 1973).

The Crooked Counties, 1973, The Bodley Head (reprinted by Penguin Books as Further  Rivals of Sherlock Holmes in 1976).

The American Rivals of Sherlock Holmes, 1976, The Bodley Head (reprinted by Penguin Books in 1978).

In 1983 Penguin Books published The Complete Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. It is a misleading title. It only contains the first three books. The American Rivals of Sherlock Holmes was not included.  I have no idea why. In publishing The Complete Rivals, Penguin Books choose to use a large typeface and stretched the text of three books to the width of 1018 large pages. If they wanted to do so, they could have done as they did in their other books in the ‘Penguin Complete’ series, such as The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes which contains nine books in one (1122 pages), and used a smaller typeface but they did not. Who knows why?

Well, yes, it is not the first time that Penguin has used the word ‘complete’ in the title knowing it to be a fib. The Penguin Complete Edgar Allan Poe is far from complete but then there is a good reason; Poe wrote far too much to ever be packed into one book. The same goes for The Complete Penguin Lewis Carroll. However, the four books by Hugh Greene cannot possibly be included in that reasoning. It is, after all, only four books. I guess we will never know why Penguin made the choice they did. You can now make your jokes about how perhaps Holmes could solve the mystery. 

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Animation Assistant

A temporary position will be available for an eight to twelve week period early next year for ‘inbetweener’ work.
Candidates must be experienced with traditional pencil and paper animation.
Rate of pay to be negotiated based on experience.
Send a CV to
This is a temporary email address and will cease to function after the 4th of September.

Unsuccessful applications will not receive a reply. 

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Martial's Juggler

Marital was a Roman author of the first through to second century AD. He wrote  a considerable number of epigrams, covering a wide range of subjects. In this epigram he describes a young juggler juggling a small shield. While I have never seen anyone juggling a shield, I have seen a juggler juggle a tea tray in the way described. Unfortunately, YouTube does not have an example specifically of that so I chose an example of non-ball type juggling by Mat Ricardo, juggling a cane and then a hat. 

From the Loeb edition of 1920.
Martial, volume II
Book 9, epigram 38.

Summa licet velox, Agathine, pericula ludus,
non tamen efficies ut tibi parma cadat.
nolentem sequitur tenuisque reversa per auras
vel pede vel tergo, crine vel ungue sedet;
lubrica Corycio quamvis sint pulpita nimbo
et rapiant celeres vela negata Noti,
secures pueri neglecta perambulat artus,
et nocet artifici ventus et unda nihil.
ut peccare velis, cum feceris omnia, falli
non potes: arte opus est ut tibi parma cadat.

Although, Agathinus, you deftly play a game of highest risk, yet you will not achieve the falling of your shield. Though you avoid it, it follows you, and, returning through the yielding air, settles on foot or back, on hair or finger-tip. However slippery is the stage with a Corycian saffron-shower, and although rushing winds tear at the awning that cannot be spread, the shield though disregarded, pervades the boy's careless limbs, and wind and shower baffle the artist no whit. Although you try to miss, do what you will, you cannot be foiled: art is needed to make your shield fall.

Friday, 29 May 2015

The Old Napkin Trick in Compendium Maleficarum

Below is an extract from the Compendium Maleficarum. The tricks described are now a bit old hat, except when performed truly well. The napkin trick can sometimes be found in children's books of magic. Eschelles confession was very likely under torture. 


Coloniæ citabatur uirgo quædam, quæ mira in conspectu nobilium fecisset, quæ arte magica videbantur fieri: mappam enim quandam dicebatur lacerasse, et subito in omnium oculis re dintegrasse. Vitrum quoddam ad parietem a se iactatum, et confractum, in momento reparasse, et similia: manus Inquisitoris euasit excommunicata.

Narrat supra citatus quidam, quòd in Francia Triscalinus Circulator coram Carolo nono, aliàs laudato Rege, à quodam Nobili ab eo remoto pelliciebat cunctis videntibus torque annellos ad se sigillatim, eosque manu recipiebat aduolantes, vt videbatur, nihilominus mox torquis integer, et illæsus repertus fuit. Hic conuictus multorum, quæ, nec arte, nec artificio humano, nec natura fieri poterant, confessus est, opera Diabolica cuncta perfecisse, quòd ante obstinatua negauerat.

English translation by E. A. Ashton:

“A certain virgin of Cologne was said to have performed in the presence of the nobles wonders which seemed to be due to magic: for she was said to have torn up a napkin, and suddenly to have pieced it together again before the eyes of all; she threw a glass vessel against the wall and broke it, and in a moment mended it again; and other like things she did. She escaped from the hands of the Inquisition with a sentence of excommunication.

From the same source we hear of a conjurer in France named Trois Eschelles, who in the sight of all and in the presence of Charles IX, called the Praiseworthy King, charmed from a certain nobleman standing at a distance from him the rings of his necklace, so that they flew one by one into his hand, as it seemed; and yet the necklace was soon found to be whole an uninjured. This man was convicted of many actions which could not have been due to human art or skill or any natural cause, and confessed that they were the devil’s work, although he had obstinately denied this before.”

Friday, 1 May 2015

Juliette Binoche: Antigone at the Barbican

No two productions of Sophocles' Antigone are the same - even when the same translation has been used. There is something about the play and the issues it explores that make it a constantly ripe fruit to be repeatedly squeezed of yet another different flavour juice by directors and actors. So much so that George Steiner wrote a book called Antigones which included a critical gaze on the great range of productions and interpretations.

This year, Juliutte Binoche starred as Antigone at the Barbican; the director was Ivo van Hove and the translation was by Anne Carson.  

Newspaper reviews of the production were lukewarm and sometimes passive aggressive towards Binoche in their strangely equivocal praising put downs. Most of these articles suffer a bad case of Cleverdickitus where the journalist must appear more superior than any production that he or she reviews. A more informative review can be found at 

The BBC have broadcast the play and for another twenty-five days it can be viewed on BBC iPlayer (UK only) at 

If you are interested, watch the play and form your own judgement. 

Friday, 24 April 2015

Well, There's A Surprise...

This week I watched a thriller called Key Witness (1960). It was a random choice based on discovering that Jeffrey Hunter was the lead. Apart from the original series of Star Trek and the film King of Kings, I hadn't seen him in anything else. And so curiosity called and I watched the film. 

While not a great film, it is nevertheless a thriller worth seeing once. However, while watching the movie I noticed something that I definitely had to check afterwards.  One of the villains was nicknamed Magician. Another villain was nicknamed something that sounded like Muggles. Were my ears deceiving me, I wondered. 

As it turns out, no they weren't; the character is indeed named Muggles.

I had only ever heard of the word in connection with the Harry Potter novels/films. A little research made my jaw drop. 

In the movie Key Witness, Muggles gets very upset about Magician having stolen his 'ciggiepoos' as he calls them, more upset than would be expected regarding ordinary cigarettes - are you seeing where this is going? From about the 1920s onwards, Muggles was a nicknames for pot-smokers. 

I shall leave it to you to make up your own Harry Potter jokes about Wizards and Muggles.

Meanwhile, here is the less than enthralling trailer for the film Key Witness:


Thursday, 16 April 2015

Beckmann on Jugglers

John Beckmann's book, The History of Inventions and Discoveries, has a chapter on jugglers (magicians).  For those who are interested, there is a PDF of an 18th century English translation of that chapter which can be downloaded HERE.