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Trikont murder CD: all the winners

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Murder Ballads
Secret London

Thanks very much to everyone who entered PlanetSlade's competition to win one of Trikont Records' new murder songs CDs. All the entries are now in, the draw's been made, and we know who the winners are.
I asked you to name the two old English folk songs which give Knoxville Girl its earliest roots, and the answers I was looking for were The Bloody Miller and The Berkshire Tragedy. Many other songs have fed into Knoxville Girl along the way, but it was specifically its earliest roots we asked for, and nothing beats the two songs named on that count.
The competition brought in a gratifying selection of entrants from around the globe, producing winners who live in Britain, the United States and Germany. The four lucky names drawn from Stagger Lee's magic Stetson are:

David Suff of Rutland, UK;
Ryan Harris of Louisiana, USA;
Pete Flood of Hampshire, UK, and;
Gordon Baxter of British Forces, Germany

Congratulations to those four gentlemen, whose copies of the CD are on the way. It's a fine collection of what Trikont calls “songs from the dark side of the soul”, with contributions from Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, The Stanley Brothers and many more. Details of the CD - including a full tracklist - can be found here or on Trikont's own site.
Letters to Planet Slade: June 2010

May 26, 2010. Holly Gramazio of Hide&Seek writes:
“I curate the Sandpit, a monthly event for games designers, theatre-makers, writers and artists to try out new work at the intersection of games and other cultural forms. Some of them have made games before, but some are completely new to the form. There's a bit more information at
“I've really enjoyed your articles on PlanetSlade, and I thought I'd get in touch to ask whether you've ever considered making some sort of live playful event yourself. We're currently running a series of events in partnership with LIFT (London International Festival of Theatre), culminating in an event at the National Theatre on 9-11 July. If there's anything you might be interested in trying out, it'd be great to talk about it.”

[Holly and I met a week after this e-mail came in to kick a few ideas around for the July event. It's too early yet to say whether anything will come of them, but watch this space.]
May 4, 2010: Anne Renaud, of Westmount, Quebec, writes:
“I am a writer of children's books. I am currently working on a book on Anna Swan and will be visiting the Anna Swan museum in June, in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia. I will also be speaking with her great-grand nephew, Dale Swan.
“I contacted the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle for any archival documentation they might have relating to the gifts given to Anna and her husband by Queen Victoria, and of her command performances before the Queen. However, the archivist has informed me they have no record of these events. This baffles me.
“Please let me know if you have come across any documents, newspapers or otherwise that I might consult to corroborate these facts. Any assistance you can provide would be greatly appreciated.”

Paul Slade replies:
I contacted the Royal Archives while researching my own piece in 2006, and received a similarly disappointing reply from assistant archivist Julie Snelling. She was unable to find any mention of Martin and Anna in Queen Victoria's journal and no mention of the gifts in her Privy Purse records. “This is not to say that Queen Victoria did not see Martin van Buren Bates and Anna Swan during their time in London,” she said. “But, unfortunately, no relevant documentation appears to have survived.”
Queen Victoria's journal was notoriously bowdlerised by Princess Beatrice, her youngest daughter, who destroyed any entry which she considered unseemly or insufficiently flattering to her mother's majesty. All that survives is about a third of Victoria's original, which may explain why there's now no mention of Martin and Anna there.
I can't explain the lack of a reference to the gifts in the Privy Purse records, but I take some comfort from the fact that the archivists feel this can't be used to rule anything out.
My main source for the details of the gifts is the Anna Swan website referenced as point (4) in my own article. That's a museum site, which Dale Swan is associated with, and which appears well-researched and reliable in every other particular. Unfortunately, they don't give sources for their own material on the site, but Dale may be able to put you in touch with someone there who can help.
Lee Cavin's 1959 biography of Martin,
There Were Giants on the Earth, also mentions both the gifts and the presentation to Queen Victoria. On the gifts, Cavin says: “The bride wore a gown of white satin with orange blossoms. Among her jewelry was a cluster diamond ring, given her as a wedding present by Queen Victoria. The groom wore a dress suit, with a watch and chain which was also a wedding gift from the Queen of England.”
The paragraph mentioning the presentation quotes directly from Martin's own writing, and says: “We appeared twice before the Queen, once at Buckingham Palace and once at Windsor”.
Please keep in touch as your book progresses. I'd love to give it a mention on publication and tell any interested PlanetSlade readers where they can buy a copy. And if you ever get a definitive answer to the records question, do let me know.
April 13, 2010. Matt Brown of writes:
“I've just read your British Broadsides essay. It's an excellent read, so I've put a post up on commending it to readers.
“Also, I think I spotted a small error. On page 1, you have 'Returning to the Dials for his 1888 Dictionary of London, Dickens...' I'm pretty sure the dictionary was the work of his son (also Charles Dickens) rather than the master himself (Dickens Senior had died 18 years earlier).
“Finally, have you chanced across Another Nickel in the Machine's site? Although the author concerns himself with 20th century tales, the tone and story choice remind me of your own site. It's always a cracking read.
“I hope our post sends a few new readers your way. I'm looking forward to reading some of the other London essays you have on there.”

Paul Slade replies:
Thanks very much for that, Matt, and thanks also for your kind words over at
You're dead right about Charles Dickens Jr, of course, and I've now corrected my error. The facsimile edition of the 1888 dictionary I've got credits it simply to "Charles Dickens", and I'm afraid I just assumed it was the great man himself. To be honest, I didn't even know until I got your letter that Dickens had a writer son, let alone that the son had chosen such similar subjects as his Dad.
I suppose that, by the time Charles Jr began publishing, the Dickens brand was so firmly associated with London it would have been quite a valuable asset in its own right. You can hardly blame the boy for capitalising on this, or his original publishers for slipping such a famous name into their book's title and credits. If a few unwary buyers foolishly made the same mistake I did, then I'm sure that didn't hurt sales.
Sleevenote Surprise

Honorary citizenship on PlanetSlade this month goes to Peanut138 from California, USA, Seanyboy from Halifax in Yorkshire and Dave Henderson of the music magazine Mojo.
Peanut138 made the grade by thinking to mention my British Broadsides piece on StumbleUpon. That sent a couple of thousand extra visitors to PlanetSlade's door, and we want him to know it's much appreciated. Seanyboy did similar sterling work by promoting my own Ronald Knox plug from Metafilter's Projects page (where you're allowed to talk about your own work) to the main page (where you must rely on others to recommend you). Once again, many extra visitors came running this way as a result.
Dave Henderson's efforts are equally deserving. I took myself off to Brick Lane a couple of Sundays ago to have a mooch round Rough Trade, London's last big independent record shop. Browsing through the racks there more or less at random, I came across a CD compilation containing a dozen or so early versions of Frankie & Johnny, one of the murder ballads I've written about here.
I'd found the same CD once before in Rough Trade, but passed it over because I've already got quite a few of the tracks on it. This time, though, I decided what the hell, and added it to the small pile of stuff I was buying.
Half an hour later, I was in the Starbucks behind Spitalfields market glancing through my purchases when I opened up the Frankie booklet and found Dave's sleevenotes full of praise for PlanetSlade's F&J coverage, not to mention a note of the site's full web address. The CD's unlikely to sell in any huge numbers - at least by mainstream standards - but it was a cheering experience nonetheless. I think it was the fact that I'd honestly bought it as a punter, and had no idea what I'd find inside until the moment when I actually found it. So cheers, Dave, you made my afternoon.
The CD in question, by the way, has 15 excellent versions of Frankie on it, including those by Lena Horne, Louis Armstrong, Big Bill Broonzy, Champion Jack Dupree, Ethel Waters, Jimmie Rodgers, King Oliver, and Duke Ellington. It's on the ever-excellent Righteous label, and you can find full details at their website.
Message board round-up

You'll find the main sources of comments in my latest blurb column on the threads below. Sometimes there's an interesting discussion to follow there too.

Harmony Central

Charlie Gillett

Mudcat Café



Users usefully united in utterly upful ululation

On PlanetSlade
“Always fascinating topics.” - Blue2Blue,

“A Really interesting site [...] Well worth bookmarking.” - NormanD,

“What a wonderful website.” - David Suff, via e-mail.

“Very interesting website.” - Philippa, Mudcat.

On Masquerade
“It's exhaustive. I love it.” - Dan Amrich,

“Very cool.” - Madajb, Metafilter.

“An enthralling tale.” - Fleeg, Pharmacy Forum.

“A fascinating article.” - Kelly Sedinger,

“That was a good read.” - Wilful, Metafilter.

“A great article.” - JBadeo,

“An amazing article.” - Simon Carless,

“Really well-written and worth the reading.” - Sova, Metafilter.

“Excellent article.” - Dave Lartigue,

“Nice work.” - Joe Beese, Metafilter.

“Wonderful.” - - Sean the Gramophone, Twitter.

“A fantastic story for a fantastic puzzle book.” - Flatluigi, Metafilter.

“Long and engrossing.” -

“(An) intriguing saga.” - Maxwelton, Metafilter.

“Wow! Great article.” - Kbellis, Tweleve.

“I loved reading this.” - Toodleydoodley, Metafilter.