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6 December 2012

and since Steve’s let the feline out of confinement I guess I should announce that I’ve sold another story to Whortleberry Press for their 2013 Valentine anthology. Slightly Potty was one of those stories that comes from something you do. I belonged for several years to a local group that did pottery-making (and produced the following conversation when a friend rang me. “Will you be home this afternoon if I drop in?” “No, I’m going to pot in the village.” As my friend said after a pause to digest that.”Well, you know yourself best.) But making and firing clay vases – and a number of fake hen eggs to put in nests – generated a story. As do very many of the things in which I get involved.

In November I had the chance to purchase some DVDs very cheaply, I did so, settled to watch them and noticed that casting people of a realistic age seems to be a problem in some TV series and movies. One of my purchases was the box set of Agatha Christie’s series of the Tommy and Tuppence stories on DVD. These were filmed over 1982-4. I’ve always liked the written tales and looked forward to watching them. I was therefore the more irked to find that where, in the original book it’s made abundantly clear that Tommy and Tuppence would have been in their early 20s, and during the early tales would have remained about that age, in the TV series the actors playing them are a good fifteen years older. It isn’t that the two actors aren’t normally very good, usually they both are, but with this series both fail to convince. Here you have two people in their late thirties and who look that age acting like giddy young people, freed from many restrictions immediately after a major war, and almost drunk on the freedom from danger and fear, and having found each other. The silly comments, the excitement, the giddy atmosphere would be convincing if the main actors were indeed in their early 20s. In this series they came across as staid mutton dressed as prancing lamb and merely looked rather silly when they said a fair proportion of the lines. I watched the first and longest of the episodes, and two of the shorter ones before deciding to pass on this box set without watching the other eight episodes. I was disappointed, not so much at the actors who can only work with the material for which they’ve been signed, but with the casting people, who should have seen that this wouldn’t and didn’t work.

A week later I watched the Australian movie, Tomorrow When the War began, based on the series by John Marsden. I have the entire book series and love them. Unfortunately this didn’t apply to the movie. Again one of the main things that bothered me was the casting. Almost all of the actors were in their twenties, but in the books they are around 17-18 at most and somehow, having actors who were years older speaking the lines just didn’t gel. It can be done, I’ve seen plenty of movies and TV series where you know that the convincing ‘teenager’ on screen is years older in reality, but here it just felt fake to me. The film did extremely well in Australia, well here, but not well elsewhere and it looks as if the projected sequels may not happen. With which, sadly, I’m in agreement. The books are far better and given the option I’d rather read them again than watch the movie/s even if they were free. I thought the acting patchy, unconvincing in too many places, and not a patch on the books, the more so as I was kept too conscious that the ‘teenagers’, weren’t.

I had the same problem years ago when I watched the BBC adaption of Rosemary Sutcliffe’s book, The Eagle of the Ninth. The two main characters were played by men around 30, whereas (again) they should have been teenagers. The newest version of this book appeared in 2011, and again (sigh) both actors were too old, one being 31 and the other 25. What is it with casting directors, can’t they see that having an actor who is very visibly much older than the book character is implausible for fans of that book or series. At least and thanks be for it, the Harry Potter series had actors which were pretty much the age the characters were in the books. But I’ve come to the conclusion that in future I’d do better to stick with the books and ignore many of their film adaptions. Unless, that is, some casting directors pull their socks up.

guest review by Steve Johnson.

Another very solid anthology from Whortleberry Press in the USA. As usual since Lyn has a story in this I’m reviewing and can say what I like without anyone blaming her. In this case there isn’t much blame likely. There was only one story that I really didn’t like, and several that weren’t badly written but didn’t have that much of an impact. However a lot of the stories I really enjoyed. Arthur Carey’s, The More Things Change, I found poignant, amusing, and fun. I loved Lyn’s story, Arafel. But then I too am a cat lover and enjoy a good ghost tale so this one hit both my buttons. Elf in the Attic by Ray Rebbman and Dead People’s Stuff by Dianne Arrelle, both had all the right ingredients too. I liked Best Gift and it’s nice to see a Christmas other than on earthAnd finally A Legend of Christmas Past was a very well-written and gentle ghost story with a perfect ending.

Six out of 19 stories were tales that I really enjoyed. That’s a pretty good average for an anthology. So let’s look at some of the others. I found A Seabolt Family Christmas a little plotless. A New Tattoo For Christmas relied on a punny ending, apart from which it too didn’t have much of a plot. The Stellar Snowstorm, Death of Santa Claus, and A Christmas Tail were all pleasant enough but not outstanding. Proof didn’t impress me a lot, although it was readable, ditto Trees, and all of the other stories unmentioned for that description, save The Christmas Collection. Yes, I know people still do awful things at Christmas, the same as they do at other times. This story was well-written, but frankly I don’t need to be reminded that there are serial killers out there, not in a collection of Christmas stories. Okay, maybe that’s unreasonable but I can only write as I find and for me, this particular story almost put me off continuing to read the anthology. However when you consider the numbers this is a good anthology. I really liked six stories, found twelve pleasant and readable, and only disliked one. And that one is the victim of personal preference, other readers may love it – my wife did. Lyn tells me that she has work in the next anthology from this publisher and I look forward to borrowing it.






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