Monday, 22 August 2022

A BRADBURYIAN BIRTHDAY

 

Remembering the 102nd anniversary of the birth of this great conjuror of words and imagery without whom we might never have tasted Dandelion Wine, A Medicine for Melancholy or The Golden Apples of the Sun; might never have been drenched on The Day It Rained Forever; might never have ridden The Toynbee Convector or met The Illustrated Man; might never have witnessed the launching of The Silver Locusts, learned of the dangers of Fahrenheit 451 or been warned that Something Wicked This Way Comes...

 

[Portrait of Ray Bradbury (from the BS&DW collection) by Barnaby Conrad, Jr. (1922 – 2013) was an American artist, author, nightclub proprietor, bullfighter and boxer!]

 

Wednesday, 10 August 2022

RAYMOND BRIGGS (1934-2022)

 

I am so saddened to learn of the passing of that brilliant artist responsible for some of the most beloved 'graphic storybooks' of the last 60 years: Raymond Redvers Briggs CBE.

Twice-winner of the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal and numerous other awards and honours for being the modest genius who created Fungus the Bogeyman, Father Christmas (and, "Bloomin' 'eck!", Father Christmas Goes on Holiday), When the Wind Blows, Ethel & Ernest: A True Story, Ug: Boy Genius of the Stone Age and, of course (among many other titles), that glorious enduring, text-less classic, The Snowman.

Oh, what great joy and delight you gave us, Raymond. Thank you!


Tuesday, 26 July 2022

THE RISE AND FALL OF NÚMENOR

If you're eagerly anticipating the September debut of Amazon Prime's The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, then you may like to know of this forthcoming publication devoted to J.R.R. Tolkien.'s writing about the Second Age of Middle-earth...

 


J.R.R.Tolkien's
THE FALL OF NÚMENOR  
and Other Tales from the Second Age of Middle-earth
 
Edited by BRIAN SIBLEY
and Illustrated by ALAN LEE

Published by HarperCollins

HarperCollins is proud to announce the publication in November 2022 of THE FALL OF NÚMENOR by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by writer and Tolkien expert, Brian Sibley, and illustrated by acclaimed artist, Alan Lee. The book will be published globally by HarperCollinsPublishers and in other languages by numerous Tolkien publishers worldwide.

Presenting for the first time in one volume the events of the Second Age as written by J.R.R. Tolkien and originally and masterfully edited for publication by Christopher Tolkien, this new volume will include pencil drawings and colour paintings by Alan Lee, who also illustrated The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and went on to win an Academy Award for his work on The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.

J.R.R. Tolkien famously described the Second Age of Middle-earth as a ‘dark age, and not very much of its history is (or need be) told’. And for many years readers would need to be content with the tantalizing glimpses of it found within the pages of The Lord of the Rings and its appendices.

It was not until Christopher Tolkien presented The Silmarillion for publication in 1977 that a fuller story could be told for, though much of its content concerned the First Age of Middle-earth, there were at its close two key works that revealed the tumultuous events concerning the rise and fall of the island-kingdom of Númenor, the Forging of the Rings of Power, the building of the Barad-dûr and the rise of Sauron, and the Last Alliance of Elves and Men.

Christopher Tolkien provided even greater insight into the Second Age in Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth in 1980, and expanded upon this in his magisterial 12-volume History of Middle-earth, in which he presented and discussed a wealth of further tales written by his father, many in draft form.

Now, using ‘The Tale of Years’ in The Lord of the Rings as a starting point, Brian Sibley has assembled from the various published texts in a way that tells for the very first time in one volume the tale of the Second Age of Middle-earth, whose events would ultimately lead to the Third Age, and the War of the Ring, as told in The Lord of the Rings.

The Hobbit was first published in 1937 and The Lord of the Rings in 19545. Each has since gone on to become a beloved classic of literature and an international bestseller translated into more than 70 languages, collectively selling more than 150,000,000 copies worldwide. Published in 1977, The Silmarillion sold more than one million copies in its first year of publication and has gone on to be translated into almost 40 languages.

Brian Sibley says: ‘Since the first publication of The Silmarillion forty-five years ago, I have passionately followed Christopher Tolkien’s meticulous curation and scholarship in publishing a formidable history of his father’s writings on Middle-earth. I am honoured to be adding to that authoritative library with The Fall of Númenor. I hope that, in drawing together many of the threads from the tales of the Second Age into a single work, readers will discover – or rediscover – the rich tapestry of characters and events that are a prelude to the drama of the War of the Ring as is told in The Lord of the Rings.

Alan Lee says: ‘It is a pleasure to be able to explore the Second Age in more detail, and learn more about those shadowy and ancient events, alliances and disasters that eventually led to the Third Age stories we are more familiar with. Wherever I had the opportunity when working on The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, I tried to imbue pictures and designs with an appropriate antiquity, an overlayering of history and of echoes of those older stories, and The Fall of Númenor has proved a perfect opportunity to dig a little deeper into the rich history of Middle-earth.’

The Fall of Númenor will be published by HarperCollins with a simultaneous global publication date of November 2022, and subsequently in translation around the world.

The streaming series, The Rings of Power, set during the Second Age of Middle-earth, will be released by Amazon Prime in September 2022.


DAVID WARNER (1941-2022)

 
I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of David Warner. It is a sign of our lazy times that he is described in several obituary headlines as 'OMEN and TITANIC actor'. Yes, he was especially excellent in The Omen as the sympathetic investigating photographer who meets an particularly nasty end, but he gave an extraordinary range of performances in many other movie: Tom Jones, Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment, The Ballad of Cable Hogue, Straw Dogs, Cross of Iron, Time After Time, The Man With Two Brains, Time Bandits and Tron to mention but a few.

He played many villainous characters but also capable of great sensitivity as can be seen in his portrayal of Bob Cratchit in the US American TV film of A Christmas Carol opposite George C Scott's Ebenezer Scrooge. But (more easily overlooked in our film/tv orientated times) he was also a stellar member of the one of the all time great RSC companies and, under the direction of Peter Hall, was unquestionably the Hamlet of his generation.
 
I was privileged to work with David on three of my BBC radio epics, beginning with my 1985 Sony Radio Award-winning dramatisations of Mervyn Peake's Titus Groan and Gormenghast in which he portrayed a tragic, languid and melancholic Lord Sepulchrave, 76th Earl of Groan. Then, in 2011, when I tackled Peke's trilogy of novels afresh as The History of Titus Groan, he played "The Artist": storyteller, character and what might, perhaps, be best described as a possible 'ghost of Mervyn Peake'; he was wonderfully moving – haunting in fact – and the series won me the BBC Radio Drama Award. I viewed David as my lucky talisman.
 
So, in 2014, I requested the directors of my six-hour dramatization of T. H. White's The Once and Future King to cast David as the mercurial Merlyn: a role he relished and played to perfection – by turn, wise, funny, solemn and playful; He was T. H. White's living-backwards-through-time wizard to a 'T' ('H' and 'W'!).
 
Had any other radio drama commissions come my way, I would have moved heaven and earth to have found him a role! I adored his acting and I loved the man. 
 
With his resigned, lived-in (almost world-weary) features, he was modest and self-effacing, but – to the delight of any dramatist or director – he was a player with a phenomenal, always surprisingly and intriguingly nuanced, talent and it was always a talent that was but lightly worn. He was, I believe, one of the great (and seriously underrated) actors of our time.
 
The signed photo below is one I took of him in the BBC drama studio during the recording of The History of Titus Groan.
 

 

Monday, 25 July 2022

"NEVER LAUGH AT A LIVE DRAGON!"

Today, I took possession of a DRAGON –– if, that is, a mortal ever CAN possess a dragon (myth and legend would suggests NOT).

He (if it is a 'he', I was away when they did "How to sex a dragon") represents The Tolkien Society's Outstanding Achievement Award for 2022. I am thrilled and indebted to the Society for honouring me with this amazing award and for the delightful lunch with many of my long-standing Tolkien friends at which this magnificent creature was entrusted to my care! 


Friday, 8 July 2022

JUDGED BY ITS COVER 1: The Beckoning Lady

This an occasional series of blog posts featuring what I consider to be great examples of book cover-art, starting with this copy (currently up for auction with a slightly battered wrapper) of Margery Allingham's 1955 detective story, The Beckoning Lady.

The splendid enigmatic dust-wrapper design is by the author's husband Philip ('Pip') Youngman Carter, who was himself both a writer of detective fiction as well as the artist responsible for the covers of several other detective writers.