Many of the stories I've already posted on PlanetSlade began life as shorter pieces in magazines like Fortean Times or The Idler. The website's allowed me to expand and update these articles into something far more comprehensive than a printed magazine's format would normally allow, and that's been very satisfying.
Other pieces from my print career aren't really suited to this treatment. They cover the same sort of areas as PlanetSlade does, and speak in much the same tone of voice, but would rapidly fall to bits if I tried to stretch them beyond their current length. Instead, I'm presenting them here, exactly as they originally appeared in the newspapers and magazines that first carried them, scanned in from my clippings book as a series of PDFs.
Here you'll find an appreciation of the 1980s' daftest exploitation movies, a six-part series debunking various urban myths, and news of my quest to see all Shakespeare's plays live on-stage. I'm also including a chairman's letter from Claus Industries plc, a selection of surreal money-saving tips and travelogues from New York, Memphis and San Antonio. Johnny and Edgar Winter put in an appearance along the way, as does Cerebus the Aardvark and James, an 11-year-old Devon boy who yearns for nothing so much as a sackful of hand grenades. Something for everyone, in fact.
In its early days, 2000AD would fill the odd page by inviting readers to draw an alien and send it in. The ones they published got £3 each. Gnarl therefore represents a triple first for me: the first thing I ever got into print, my first by-line and my first paycheck from any kind of journalistic venture. Rather embarrassingly, I was 21 at the time.
I wrote this piece to introduce a new spin-off incarnation of Peattie & Taylorís Alex cartoon strip. For the full story of this project, please see my PlanetSlade essay The Unknown Alex.
In the 1980s, I had an unpaid sideline on a small press magazine called Heartbreak Hotel, writing reviews there under the by-line Ricky Slaughter. That's what led Time Out to commission this piece from Ricky about Troma's splendid range of straight-to-video exploitation movies.
[Note: Working from its advance sell-line alone ("Identical twin gynaecologists become involved with the same woman"), I assumed that Twins would be an utterly ludicrous schlockfest. It was later retitled Dead Ringers and turned out to be rather a good David Cronenberg horror film.]
I spent a couple of years in the 1990s working for a consumer finance magazine. My debut feature there surveyed a Devon class of 8-11 year olds on their attitudes to money. Asked what he'd spend a sudden windfall of £100 on, young James replied "hand grenades". Photographs by George Brooks.
One of my other jobs at Inside Money was to write a monthly column debunking various urban myths from the world of business and finance. It was a lot of fun, but the magazine closed after just six issues. Illustrations by Tony McSweeney.
The Myth: A disgruntled UK taxpayer in the 1930s paid his taxes with a cheque written on a live cow, which the Inland Revenue was forced to accept.
The Myth: US burger chain McDonalds makes financial contributions to the IRA.
3) Barcodes From Hell
The Myth: The retail barcodes used on consumer products all contain the digits 666 - the Biblical number of the beast.
The Myth: A conman in New York once persuaded an unwary tourist to buy the Brooklyn Bridge.
5) The Kidney Heist
The Myth: A visitor ro a Third World city was mugged there and awoke to find himself missing a kidney.
6) Ronnie Doregan
The Myth: The Japanese stockmarket plunged on rumours that US President Ronald Reagan had suffered a heart attack. It turned out to be Lonnie Donegan.
[Note: In the last of these pieces I say - wrongly - that Donegan had suffered his only heart attack to date in 1992. In fact, he'd had an earlier attack in 1976. That was five years before Reagan came to power, however, so it doesn't make the myth any more credible.]
The Investor was kind enough to give me a humour column for a while. This chairman's report from Claus Industries plc was the best thing I produced for them. Illustration by Jake Abrams.
Most of the stuff I've written for the nationals is straight-up personal finance copy, which is far too dull to reproduce here. There was the odd exception, though, like this piece mocking the surreal advice in guides to household thrift.
I had a trip to Memphis in August 1998, getting there just in time to witness the bizarre rites marking the 21st anniversary of Elvis Presley's death. I spun the visit into an article for Good Times when I got back, but the fact that I already had a column there meant the Presley piece had to run under a pseudonym. Photographs by me.
When Guitar Towns, my proposed travel book, failed to find a publisher, I set about recycling its contents to any market I could find. This piece sprang from my evening's ghost-hunting in San Antonio, Texas.
Another piece that began life in Guitar Towns, this time describing Quentin Crisp's old New York neighbourhhod in the East Village.
[Note: The spray-can memorials I mention here were dedicated to Elisa Izquierdo, a little girl who was murdered by her crack-smoking mother, and Selena Perez, a hugely famous Tejano singer shot dead by one of her own fans. The same site has since hosted memorials to the Princess of Wales, Celia Cruz and Pope John Paul II.]
In 1995, DC Comics published a Jonah Hex story featuring a pair of murderous, half-witted, necrophiliac, pig-fucking albino brothers called Johnny and Edgar Autumn. The Winter brothers sued over this depiction, and lost.
The Canadian cartoonist Dave Sim set a new standard for independent comics with the 6,000 pages of his self-published Cerebus saga. Often, this achievement is over-shadowed by his views on women. All art © Dave Sim and Gerhardt.
[Note: The Idler carried this piece with an infuriating typo, which rendered my mention of "fake Cerebus number 1s" as "fake Cerebus number 11s". I've corrected it here with a blob of Tip-ex before scanning in the page]
In June 2004, I worked out that I'd already seen 14 of Shakespeare's 38 plays live on stage, and decided I wanted to see the remaining 24 that way too. Five years later, thanks to a trip to Boulder, Colorado, my quest was complete.
In the summer of 2011, I started writing occasional reviews of blues CDs and suchlike material for fRoots, the UK's best folk music and world music magazine. The deal was that fRoots got each review to itself for a full month (two months in the case of a double issue), and then I was free to run it on PlanetSlade too. I took a break from this job in 2014, but normal service has now been resumed. For more about fRoots, vist the magazine's website here.
I'm Glad Trouble Don't Last Always, by Luke Winslow-King. Seasick Steve, by Matthew Wright. Blues for Francis, by Caroline Beecroft and Howard Rye. Let The Devil In, by Uncle Sinner. Hold On!, by The James Hunter Six. Deus Luna, by The Malingerers and The Destructors.
Free as the Wind, by Petunia. Live At Southern Ground, by Martin Harley & Daniel Kimbro. Rural Electrification, by Peter Keane. Home, by Fred Smith. Something in the Water, by Pokey LaFarge. Right Now Blues, by Dave Peabody. Stumpjumper, by Charlie Parr. Vintage Troubadour, by Steve Brookes.
Chemako, by Chemako.
The Games People Play, by Paul Lamb & The King Snakes. Push Record, by Mike Stevens & Matt Andersen. The Teaser, by Little G Weevil.
The Promised Land: A Swamp Pop Journey, by The Lil' Band O' Gold.
Middle of Everywhere, by Pokey LaFarge & The South City Three. Lucky Devil, by Meschiya Lake & The Little Big Horns. River Town, by Jack Blackman. The Skinny, by Ian Siegal & The Youngest Sons. 100 Years of Robert Johnson, by Big Head Blues Club.
The Hellhound Sample, by Charles Shaar Murray. Darling Oh Darling, by Miss Tess. O Dig, by The Woodshedders.