Category Archives: Literature

Braveheart – The Authorised Version

His question was impertinent
That is – it was not pertinent
But I answered it anyway, starting with a question of my own;
Maybe the question should be; Why is your hair not braided?
Do you think that what I have done is a tonsorial conceit?
Do you think that I seek admission to The Venerable Order of Hipsters?

Let me tell you that the Hipsters are not a war-like people
They will probably inherit the Earth
But my ancestors were indeed war-like. Bellicose. Martial
They were Celts, Gaels and Normans descended from Norsemen
They were Gallowglasses (Elite mercenaries. You can Google them up)
And they braided their hair for war

And my Caledonian and Hibernian forebears  fought many wars
Not just, as Mel’s Wallace did, against Edward’s armies
But later against Hanover and the Campbells
And across the Irish Sea, against Henry and John Lackland
Elizabeth, Gloriana, sent her pretty Essex
Churchill sent the fucking Black and Tans

And so I told him; It has a cultural context. Historical hubris if you like
I could have said I’m a muso and there’s an expectation….
I could have said I’m losing it on top and compensating…you know?
But the poet in my Celtic heart needs a badge of some faded glory
It needs free passage along the limbic channel to collective memory
Well, that’s my story to stick to. And it’s me that’s paying, boyo.



From Q to Il Papa (Fragment from an Imaginary Western)

That’s some speech padre. But it won’t save you.
I don’t want to be saved, Manolito. Do what you have to.
That’s why I’m here. To do what I must. To finish what was started 20 years ago.
You want your revenge?
Not as simple as that, padre. Compensation, justice, release. Yes, most of all, release.
You want your release? You give me my release. The perfect deal.

His arid laugh was somehow a product of the border town’s inescapable dry heat as it echoed thinly around the adobe walls. Manolito, though, looked coolly at the old man. He had spent his pity long ago. At his core now was an implacable will – a longing to put right a great wrong. To restore some balance to this skewed and twisted part of the universe.

You have no remorse for the things you taught me to do? You have no sorrow for the lives you infected? You have no shame for the betrayal of your faith?
What good is innocence if it cannot be corrupted, Manolito? Temptation is not the province of the evil. It is the justification of innocence. That’s the true meaning of the gospels. Faith is cynicism dressed up by scholars. I am only a herald of the true apocalypse. An acolyte of the Day of the Dead.

Manolito drew his pistol and pointed it at the old man.

Then you won’t need any last words?
No. Adios cocksucker.

Manolito saw the blinding light from beneath the old man’s poncho and in that final, desperate instant knew the world’s fury. Understood the anguish of the departed.

Adventures With The Briscoes Lady


As we sat on the terrace at Versailles and watched the fountains playing,  I glanced over at Tammy. She had never looked lovelier. Or happier. The early autumn sun, as it filtered through the sparkling fountain plumes, caught the highlights in her auburn wig and gave it hints of dying embers and Oloroso sherry. She caught me looking at her and then that cupid bow smile, the tilting of her firm jaw and those sparkling eyes announced that she was about to speak.
‘It’s gorgeous, isn’t it darling? And we got 30% off the whole trip in the sale.’
I nodded my agreement, content to look into those liquid brown eyes that had captivated the hearts and minds of so many retailers and customers over the last 25 years.
We both looked up as a footman, wearing the livery of the Bourbon regime, appeared and offered Tammy the autumn season catalogues of Galeries Lafayette, Monoprix and Printemps.
‘Merci’, she frothed at the man, tossing her head gaily, causing the wig to bob and shimmer as he retreated backwards, bowing as he went. We both noticed that the servant looked somewhat confused as he walked away – peering over the terrace wall as if looking for someone – and then back at Tammy. He stood motionless for a moment, then shrugged perplexedly before disappearing to wherever such people go.
Tammy sighed deeply. ‘I should have never agreed to that bloody voice-over transplant. He knew that wasn’t me speaking. He bloody knew.’
I summoned up my best comforting smile and kissed her lightly on the lobe of her left ear. I explained to Tammy that style icons, exemplars of wholesomeness, heralds of a consumer paradise – such as herself – would inevitably carry the burden of necessary artifice in order to satisfy the cravings of the hordes of television viewers who tuned in each day just so that they might see her and hear about the latest ‘specials’.
‘That’s all very well’, she ventriloquized, ‘but I can’t even remember what my real voice sounds like – I’ve been stuck with this call centre patois for so long!’
I placed my hands against her shoulders and pressed them reassuringly. I whispered my understanding and sympathy into her ear, once more lightly kissing that delicious lobe. Her agitation eased, the flame in her cheeks abated to its usual peach hue and her breathing became more even, more measured. She was back in control.
I chose the moment to remind Tammy that tomorrow was Mombasa and that she needed a good night’s sleep before the journey. I suggested that she might like to unscrew her right leg so that I could massage her stump before she retired for the night and she gave me that sincerest of smiles that had melted the hearts of so many in the last quarter of a century.
I’m a lucky fellow.

Widow’s Walk


I knew her as Mrs Wraith. Winsome Wraith was her name. She came in the night while I slept and saw to it that I knew of her distress. It seemed to me that her great sorrow defined her existence rather more than her Nantucket provinciality. Living on an island that the native Algonquian people  called ‘a faraway place’ was one thing – but mourning for a man, a mysterious man, who had sacrificed himself to Mishibijiw, the Water Panther, was quite another.

Walter Wraith had courted and married Winsome Coffin in the summer of 1830. Walter was a newcomer and Winsome was old money. Her ancestor, Tristram Coffin, was one of the island’s original owners. A friend of John Smith’s. But Walter had a shaman’s ways and soon convinced his bride to fund the building from live oak of a 300 ton whaler, ‘The Starbuck’ – of which he would be the master.
How do I know this? Winsome has told me of it on those many occasions while I stared up at her from my narrow bed. Stared into those spectral, eternal eyes, framed by a glowing yellow moon. Listened as she paces around the belvedere at the top of the harbourside mansion where I have been transported in my dreams. Listened as she beats her breast and cries Walter’s name. Watched as she arches her body, thrusts back her head and entreats the moon, the unforgiving sea, the dissembling breeze to return her errant husband; restore him to her arms, to her cold bed.

And then she returns. Implores me. Holds out those wasted, pitiful hands. The anguish in her voice cannot be borne. She recounts once more the story of her lost child, William. She describes Walter’s despair. His rage. How he took ‘The Starbuck’ out into the fury of a New England storm. And how she is consigned now to stand duty each night, hopelessly staring at an unyielding horizon, waiting for her love’s return. Her only companion, her dead son, William.

Ali The Killer

He came dancing across the canvas
With his poems and his puns
Fighting for the new world
And a place to share the sun

On the floor lay the Draft Board
With their orders and their laws
By himself he often wondered
About their secret world

And his followers stood round him
Some sat at his knee
He saw their many colours
More than the Gods could see

And the ideas all were beautiful
And the principles were strong
His freedom would be sacrifice
So others could go on

So hate might be a legend
And war be never known
That peoples work together
And together lift the stone

The fight he took to many lands
Some died along the way
He built up with his gloved hands
What can’t be built today

But I hope he’ll be remembered
For what he did that day
When he killed the men who wanted
To send him on his way

He came dancing across the canvas
Ali, Ali
What a killer








The Sound of Music – 3 Short Stories

I can outrun them. They’ll never catch me.

After all, I’m driving the same car that Steve McQueen drives in ‘Bullitt’ – a 1968 Ford Mustang 390 GT 2+2 Fastback. In the same Highland Green colour.
So they’ll never catch me. What have they got than can do a quarter-mile in 13.8?

I’m wearing the dark blue roll neck jersey; the Lucky Strikes are on the passenger seat and the Colt Diamondback is in the glove compartment. The customised 8-track is blazing out its message to the countryside as we growl and hiss  along the highway.

Such a cool ride. The Mustang is a beast that I’ve tamed. Yeah! But, hey, where did the Dodge Charger come from? It’s alongside me. A black ’68. Two guys in it. Ramming the Mustang. Damn! Brakes. Brakes. No! No! Spinning. End-on-end. Roof crumpling. Steering wheel in my chest. Such searing pain. Blood. My blood. I see the sky. I’m outside of the car.

I cannot move. The 2 guys are standing over me. One looks like Lee Marvin, the other wears glasses. Looks like an accountant. They seem kind of concerned. They’re talking;

‘This ain’t a movie kid. The Charger does the quarter in 13.6. Faster than that Ford piece of shit.’
‘Tough as hell stereo though, Jerry. Still playing’
‘Yeah. And what is that shit? Should be Lalo Schifrin, huh?‘ He laughs dryly.
‘I know what it is, Jerry. It’s, uh, classical they call it. Tchaikovsky I think. Yeah. Tchaikovsky – that’s it.’
‘No shit? Kinda inappropriate wouldn’t ya say?

I saw his boot but I never felt it.

Restaurant Review by Piers Norman

‘The Groomsman’ Falls at the Final Hurdle

‘The Groomsman’ licensed restaurant. 27-29 Waverley Street, Phone 829 2337
Hosts; Ralph & Gwen Carstairs
Chef; Clementini Arbiso
Michelin Rating; 2 stars (“Table excellente, mérite un détour”)
Open for dinner; Thursday Saturday, Lunch 7 days.
Fully licensed
Starters      $10-20
Mains         $25-40
Puddings   $10-20

Food: *****

Service: ****

Ambience: *

Wine list: ****

Sound System; *

I could go on about the caramelised onions , the bouillabaisse and the 2009 Pauillac but it would be a complete waste of time. When we were here in 2013, I had occasion to remonstrate with owner, Ralph Carstairs, about the hopeless sound system in the restaurant. So much so that I was bound over to keep the peace.
When we visited The Groomsman last week, sadly, things had deteriorated further –  to the point where Escoffier himself could not have retrieved the situation.  Whatever joy my palate may have experienced was crushed by the bottom-end racket emanating from the High Street rack system that brings disgrace to Waverley Street. No matter what disc is in the player, it all sounds like Sly and Robbie Maximum Dub. I was somewhat tired and distraught that night and so I do hope that the Magistrates take that into account at the hearing next week.


Sitting in my study, sipping on a Chivas Regal and listening to Diana Krall on the Bang & Olufsen felt good. It had been a hard week and I needed to feel right, feel hip. The interview with Bono hadn’t gone as well as I expected and he had put up all sorts of barriers when I asked him why he kept looking at his watch. Still, I could touch it up a little and it would make a fine second instalment of the ‘Irish Rock Legends’ series that Rolling Stone had commissioned. It would have been the third instalment if someone could have bothered to tell me that John Cale was Welsh.
The first interview had been with Van Morrison. I say interview; it was a phone call lasting 5 minutes or so and 4 of those were listening to Van arguing with an official outside the Irish Supreme Court where he’s contesting some land ownership or a paternity suit or such like. Still, I can touch it up a little, pad it out a bit – it’ll be fine. Then all I’ll need to do is find an actual third Irish Rock Legend. I wonder if Sam Smith is Irish?



























Connery Confidential

Johnny Stomp wants to hit Lana. But the bar is busy. Mickey Cohen’s goons in the next booth. He bites his lip. She smiles.
‘Joe Kaufmann wants me to do this movie in England, Johnny’
‘Yeah. So you gotta go, huh?’
‘Yeah. Cheryl will be fine at boarding school.
Stomp combusts.
‘Cheryl! Cheryl! Cheryl! What about me, Lana?’
She reaches over. Cups his chin in her hands. Smiles again.
Stomp wants to kill her.

Stomp fidgeting in a wingback chair in Mickey’s hotel room. LA heat working on him. Italians working for Jews. But Mickey was smart. Dangerous too.
‘Sinatra shoo you off Ava G, Johnny?’
Stomp looks at his shoes. Colours up.
‘Broad’s a lush, Johnny.  And Lana’s working.’
Mickey’s dry, death rattle laugh, throwing Daily Variety to Stomp in the chair.
Front page. Lana and the Limey. She’s fucking him.

Johnny Stompanato flying the Atlantic. He flew the Pacific. Beat the Japs at Okinawa. Now he’d beat the Limey. Show Lana.
Lana’s at the Hampstead house and loves Stomp. Gives him everything. Takes his blows.
Morning. The reporter outside asks who he is. Asks if Mr Connery knows about him. Laughs. The death rattle again.
Stomp in a taxi, flying the Pacific to Borehamwood. The Studio. Cracks the old man at the gate in the head. Finds the soundstage. Another Time, Another Place above the door. Running in. There’s Lana. And Barry Sullivan. Stomp shouting.
‘Bitch! You bitch!’
Lana crying. People shouting. Then him. The Limey. Sean. Walking toward Stomp. The gun. Stomp has the gun pointed at the Limey. Screaming. Running. Chairs tipping.
‘You keep away from her!. You keep away from Lana! I’ll kill you!’
Then his hand bending Stomp’s hand back. Searing pain. The gun is gone. The Limey’s death-rattle smile and then only the cold studio floor to embrace him.

A year later. 1958. Mr Connery in Tinseltown. At the Roosevelt. Receiving guests. His star ascending. Mickey Cohen comes to settle up.
‘We know you killed Johnny.’
Mickey holds his hand up. Palm outward. Toward Sean’s mask.
‘We know Lana’s got her crazy bitch daughter to confess. But we know you did it. There’s a contract on you.’

Sean on the lam. Staying at the Buena Vista up the coast. Grows a beard. Waiting for Mickey to find someone else to kill. Waiting for 1962. Waiting for when Johnny Stomp and Mickey Cohen would be old newsreel. Waiting for fame.


Author’s Note
On April 4th, 1958, Lana Turner’s daughter, Cheryl Crane, stabbed Johnny Stompanato, Lana Turner’s lover,  to death in her mother’s Beverly Hill’s home. The court reached a decision of  justifiable homicide and Cheryl was made a Ward of State until 1961.
Stompanato was an enforcer for gangster, Mickey Cohen, and had complained to Cohen about Sean Connery’s affair with Lana Turner when the two were working together on a movie in England. Connery did go into hiding briefly when Cohen let it be known that he felt Connery was the cause of Stompanato’s death.