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Gormless: a book of poems by Rich Davenport

This blog is a review of Gormless by Rich Davenport (ISBN 987-1-913256-14-2). But first, some history.

My first encounter with Rich Davenport came by way of a poetry slam. I was in the middle of touring my collection ‘The Book of Colin’ before an official launch. My good friend, Big Charlie Poet, had recommended I have a go at the Spotlight Slam in Lancaster, so myself and my partner Heather decided to make a night it. We book a lovely little B&B close to the venue and, armed with a comedy poem entitled ‘The Sexual Olympics’ ventured forth to see what all this poetry slam thing was about.

I had been up and performed my piece with the tittering response from the audience I wanted then returned to my seat, feeling quietly confident at placing in the top three for the night. Then stepped forward, Rich Davenport. H.G. Wells would probably describe him as a ‘Hulk, bigger than a bear.’ I would then add, but twice as cuddly.

As soon as he stepped onto the stage, it was his; delivering quickfire poems filled with nonsense and wit. The audience loved him. I loved him. Laugh out loud, smart and wonderfully performed. His work appealed to me in the same way as Spike Milligan’s poetry does.

That night, after he picked up his winnings, I booked him for the book launch. His work had the same effect that night as well. It was a fun year attending the same nights as Rich. A lovely generous soul and a brilliant performer. The only problem was, Rich Davenport has M.E.

It is a cruel disease that strips people of all their energy and leaves them unable to pursue their passions. This affliction caused Rich to drop out of the poetry and comedy scene for too many years. In this hiatus, I tried to get him to publish some of his work, but it never came to pass. Time moved on, and I lived in the hope that Rich would feel well enough one day to venture onto the boards once again.

But then something amazing happened; he announced the publication of a small book of poetry. Chin Beard Books had achieved what I had failed to do; they had got him into print. With a limited run of just 100 copies (unless it sells faster than Usain Bolt dashing to the toilet because of the sudden onset of the squits), I was quick to the ‘here, have my money’ button.

And thus it arrived, forty-three pages of daft poetry that had me laughing at over breakfast, much to my partner’s annoyance. ‘The Ballad of BLOODY NORA’, about a nit nurse who just loses her mind one day and goes on a killing spree (honestly, it’s BLOODY funny), ‘A Flutter Of Petticoats (or Cop This Jane Austen)’, which is a collection of three fart oriented couplets, and ‘Pantalones De Amor (Trousers of Love)’ with a direction for it to be read with the voice of Antonio Banderas, all had me spitting my Linda McCartney sausages across the table.

These wonderfully funny words are complemented with some beautiful artwork from Minty B. His drawings, published in colour throughout the book, add a cheeky smile to the work. The painting of ‘Bloody Nora’ is an image I would love to wear on a t-shirt. 

To sum up, I loved this book, but then I am a massive fan of Rich. However, I am also someone who doesn’t just blow smoke up someone’s botty. It is a thin book, he doesn’t write long poems very often, but the stuff that is in these pages is hilarious and something you will go back to again and again; especially when you need a cheering up.

For me, Rich Davenport sits alongside other great comedy poets: Spike Milligan, Pam Ayres, John Cooper Clark, Ashley Lister, and John Hegley.

If you manage to get a copy of Gormless, you’ll be one of the lucky ones, and if you manage to catch him live ever, you will be in for a treat. The following is a limerick taken from Gormless with kind permission of Rich Davenport. Enjoy.

An ambitious young gymnast called Fritz
Tried to force himself into the splits
But he pushed down too hard
Ruined his leotard
With a violent attack of the squits

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The Day I Met Here

As ‘Blood Ink’ is a book made up of short stories I thought I’d share one from a while back. I hope you enjoy it.

The Day I Met Her

It was a sunny day when I met her. I’d been wandering about in the overgrown fields adjacent to the council flats, on the South Downs, that I called home. Deep into the six weeks of school holidays my friends were either away with their parents or staying over at elderly relatives houses to give their tired guardians a break before the ensuing madness that accompanies the start of every school year. This September would be the beginning of the end for my friends and me. The last year of Middle School before the big step up.

Coming from a household where the family holiday included the visit to the previous generation, our away time was now done. Now, seemingly the only child on the estate, I freely explored the surrounding area, which to be quite frank, was boring as hell. Though the sunshine was beautiful and the truly amazing experience of meeting a slow worm in the long grass was the stuff my dreams would typically be full of, without my band of brothers and sisters, time just ticked away so slowly.

Keeping time was not my strong point. You could go as far as to say I was as good at keeping time as a Rally Grifter was at being a mode of public transport. My dad had tried to get me to wear a watch once.

“This will stop you coming home late,” he said, strapping it to my wrist. But the bulkiness of the thing felt uncomfortable and, within the first hour of wearing it, the poor thing came to a rather abrupt end. Though I must admit, had I not had it on, my wrist would have taken the full impact of the collision with a concrete fence post as I fell out of the tree.

So on this bright, warm, sticky day, as time moved slowly across the sky, I was disconnected from the world of people, and lost in the lonely, dull life of no one to play with; that was until I met her.

I’d wandered across the field, down the concrete steps leading to the noisy grey factories of the industrial estate, across a yard full of discarded wooden pallets, and up the hill on the other side. Being as it was the school holidays, the road was quiet and crossing over to the Stammer Woods was relatively risk-free. The small path, made by years of walkers, was overgrown, only the slight balding of grass at its start gave away the entrance.

As an experienced adventurer, I found myself a suitable swishing stick and headed into the dark shadows of the trees. Under the canopy the sun’s heat, though significantly reduced, still warmed the thick sticky air. In these shadows I was no longer on the South Downs, now I was in the Orc infested forests of Doomladen from the Rune Quest adventures run by my best friend, Dylan.

He was away in Cornwall, so the campaign was currently on hold. My Dwarf character, Thorach, along with his party, the majestic elven wizard Trintus, the fierce barbarian hunter Maxim and a curious scholar thief Grangdon, searched the lands for treasures of legend so that their feats would be written in song.

Now, separated from the party, it was up to me to find adventure and get out of this dark and mysterious place, handsomely rewarded and alive. My swisher was now my double-headed battle-axe, which I held with both my hands. I was ready for any battles that might befall me. With great care and bravery, I ventured forth to take on evil.

Time was even more removed from my conscious mind as I moved deeper and deeper into the belly of the woods. The trees whispered around me, telling stories of times gone, and battles fought. I had no time for idle chit-chat: there was a wrong somewhere that needed righting. Suddenly my attention was taken by something white poking out of the undergrowth.

The closer I got, the more I could see. A girl, older than me but not an adult, was lying on the ground. Most of her body was hidden from view by branches and torn up bushes that looked like they had been dragged there. I could see her white blouse was soiled and torn, her shoeless feet marked by the brambles, her flowery skirt mixing with the foliage to hide her legs. I approached with caution. Her eyes were closed. Softly I reached forward with my axe and pushed her shoulder. There was no response. I did this a second time.

“Are you OK?”

She opened her eyes and breathed in deep with the shock of being woken up. In turn, I jumped and let out a loud yell. The moment passed. It was a combination of valour and curiosity that gave me the strength not to run away.

Without using the axe as a prodding stick, I asked again, “Are you OK?”

She glanced around at the forest, “I can’t move my legs,” her eyes moved towards her body. “Or my arms.”

She started to cry. I quickly moved across to her and took her in my arms, offering comfort.

“I need to go and get help.”
“No!” She was frightened. “Please don’t leave me.”
I brushed my hand across her muddied, matted brown hair. “Shhhh, it’s ok.”
“But the Orcs, they…”
“They can’t hurt you now.”

Killing Orcs was my speciality. I told her tales of castle raids and massive battles. How once, using my magic reloading, five-bolt crossbow, I cut an Orc clean in two with a single shot.

“Oh, the gods were smiling on me that day.”

She smiled. The presence of a hero, albeit a short, wide, very hairy bearded one, had made her feel safe. I knew the song that would tell this tale over many a tankard of ale would be joyous indeed.

Her attention became sharply taken by the snapping of a twig not far from our position. I looked up to see many men, some with dogs making their way through the trees. The thick trunks broke the lights of their torches as they scanned the area. When I looked down to tell her everything was going to be alright, she was no longer in my arms. She was again under branches, barely visible in the dark. I was crying and screaming, “Help!”

Once the people got over to me, I was quickly taken away from her. My mother was waiting when the police returned me to the flat. She held me in her arms so tightly that it felt like she never wanted to let go ever again. I could hear her crying, and every so often, her grip would tighten. Soon my father returned from the search party, which allowed my mum to relinquish her hug, allowing me a moment of breath before he similarly embraced me.

That night I spent in silence. My brother asked a couple of time if I was OK, to which I just nodded. I didn’t sleep that night. Every time I closed my eyes, all I could see was her face.

It wasn’t until the next day that I found out who she was; a girl named Lisa Turpnal from a council estate over the hill. She had been missing for three days. It turned out that I had also been reported as missing having not been seen since 10 o’clock that the morning.

I met her parents a few days later. They thanked me for finding her. I apologised for not being able to save her. These words seemed to make all the adults cry, so I never said them again. The rest of the holidays I spent in adult company.

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We all share a universe.

Since Marvel went all crazy on the whole fictional shared universe thing, it has become a point of interest with many people. So much so that clues and easter eggs have been hunted down to establish links between already created works. Search to see the evidence that Bladerunner and Alien share the same universe. There is also an easter egg the Star Wars prequel, The Phantom Menace, which shows the alien race from E.T.: The Extraterrestrial has a seat on the council. Maybe E.T.’s ability to make Elliot’s bicycle fly was due to his Jedi powers and control of The Force?

I love these links, these little nods to other creators as a way of showing your admiration for their work. That is why in my book Blood Ink, the mysterious Ms Nikita‘s legal representation comes from the firm Raven and Skull. A law firm so full of evil intent that it would seem folly to have her affairs handled by anyone else.

For those of you who are unaware of who Raven and Skull are here’s a little review. Raven and Skull is the title of a book by the fantastic British author Dr Ashley Lister, though most of the time he seems to drop the Doctor part on his books. It tells the tale of six colleagues from the legal firm’s offices and how they all meet up in a pub to discuss each other how bad, horrible, evil and darn right nasty their week had been. Each story is full of adultery, theft, betrayal, murder, cannibalism, black magic and death. Twisted encounters that play out like an old hammer movie. An anthology of short stories all tied together by the narrative that they all work at Raven and Skull. And it is brilliant.

I am such a fan of old school horror like Dr Terror’s House of Horrors and the Tales from the Crypt comics. This way of publishing an anthology appealed to me and was very much in my thoughts as I started to compile my collection of short stories together.

The stories I was presenting had a much broader thematic. I have stories covering going into space, time travel and the horrific outcome of when apps go wrong in the future. Raven and Skull, while having a lovely variety in its horror stakes, was less out there and thus the leitmotif of everything happening to these employees of the law firm worked exceptionally well. Blood Ink had to pull these very different stories together, hence the creation of Ms Nikita.

She is the mysterious protagonist that links all the stories. A very powerful agent/producer, her story is told by short interludes that bookend each of the tales. Even the writers of the stories are characters in the book, in her story. As each short story is ‘pitched’ to her, we the reader learn more about her true nature. So when it came to setting up a meeting between one of her writing stable, the London based Duncan Brashill, and Ms Nikita, for me there was only one place it could happen, the London offices of Raven and Skull, her legal representatives.

When I thought of this idea I smiled, t made so much sense. When you read Raven and Skull, you realise how evil and twisted this law firm is, and so it really couldn’t be any other firm. So I sent an email to Dr Ashley Lister to ask if I could do this. Remember, by saying yes, he would be placing my agent/producer in the same universe as his law firm. I was delighted with his positive response.

So that’s how it happened, the reason Ms Nikita has a meeting at the London offices of Raven and Skull. Because I liked a book and thought a link between the two other than it is an anthology that holds together like a novel would be cool. That by using this simplest thing like the name of a company, this new universe of horror has expanded and become much more extensive than we envisaged.

Raven and Skull also appear in the next novel from Ashley Lister, Doll House. It is in the background of a street scene and works well to establish the environment of the location. It’s another good read and well worth your time. 

I have started planning a sequel to Blood Ink, mainly because the few that have read it so far have been rather excited about it and have already begun to badgering me for one. So Ms Nikita will be back, and maybe she will frequent the offices of Raven and Skull again. Perhaps she will make an appearance in one of Ashley Lister’s novels, or perhaps both Ms Nikita and Raven and Skull will turn up (as long as permission is sought) in some other works. Wouldn’t it be incredible to see a universe shared by new, exciting horror authors?

Here are the important links:

Raven and Skull

Doll House

Blood Ink