Monday, December 16, 2013

Facebook Page Launched

I've set up a Facebook page for my books:

I will continue to blog here, but posts may end up on FB as well. 

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Tarkovsky and Zen - A Talk in Edinburgh this Saturday

I'll be presenting a paper on Tarkovsky and Eastern Spirituality and Aesthetics this Saturday in Edinburgh. The talk is part of a conference on representations of spirituality in art. All welcome. £3 entry fee,  0930 for 1000, although my talk is on after lunch. More details are on the poster below, and a full running order can be be found below that.

Representing Spiritualities and Cosmologies in Art
Saturday 7 December 2013
From ancient times, ideas and beliefs about spirituality and cosmology have been mediated
through the arts. This one-day conference explores how artists from different cultures working
in various media have approached the problem of how to represent the world of the spirit.

9.30am-10am: Registration
10 Representing the Otherworld
Dr Louise S. Milne

10.30 The supernatural seascape of Orkney and Shetland
Erin Catriona Farley


11.30 Colouring the Divine in Celtic, Insular and Late Anglo-Saxon Art
Dr Heather Pulliam

12 Photographs and death in Athens
Dr Ariadne Xenou

12.35pm: LUNCH

1.30 From Breath to Dance: Music and Movement as Languages of Experience in an American
Dr Neil Douglas-Klotz

2.10 A World in a Drop of Water: Representations of Eastern Spirituality in the work of Andrei
Sean Martin

2.50-3.45pm: The alchemical imagery of dew
& alchemical films
Richard Ashrowan



Celtic and Scottish Studies, the University of Edinburgh, 27 George Square, Edinburgh, EH8
9LD / Registration: 9.30am-10am / Conference: 10am-5.30pm / Cost: £3
Jointly organised by the Edinburgh International Centre for Spirituality and Peace, (EICSP,
Scottish Charity, SC038996), and the Traditional Cosmology Society

Booking recommended as there is limited space:
Contact: Neill Walker:
Louise Milne:

The Cathars - New Edition, New Subtitle?

I'm mulling over the possibility of changing the subtitle of The Cathars for its first UK paperback edition, due in March 2014. I've never liked 'The Most Successful Heresy of the Middle Ages' - it's some odd form of success to get wiped out in a crusade.

So I'm wondering if 'The Rise and Fall of the Great Heresy of the Middle Ages' or something like that would be better?

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Saturday, November 23, 2013


Well, having seen a few reunions that I'd never thought would happen - the Velvet Undergound and the Doors, to name but two - I never thought this would happen. It's bound to be very silly and I hope I can get a ticket.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The German Indiana Jones, Himmler and the Cathar Grail

I am appearing in a Channel 5 documentary tomorrow night, 20 November, at 2100. The Nazi Quest for the Holy Grail details the various attempts the Nazis made to find the Aryan master race, Atlantis, etc, and also the Holy Grail, which is where I come in, discussing Otto Rahn and the Cathars.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Friday, November 01, 2013

Memories of Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground

I once had the dream, or daydream - I forget which - that I saw the Velvet Underground. Quite extraordinarily, many years later (1993 to be exact), I did see them play live, at Wembley in London. This is a deeply unattractive venue, about as charming and character-less as your average disused aircraft hanger. And yet, it remains one of the greatest gigs I have ever been to; a strong contender, in fact, for Best Gig Ever (classical aside).

They came on and opened with We're Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together. Not a terribly auspicious beginning; it's one of their lesser songs. But then Lou Reed said, "We only do this next one every 25 years", and they launched into Venus in Furs. The place went nuts, instantly and very loudly. It got worse: the next song was All Tomorrow's Parties, sung by John Cale, and I was in tears in seconds. It stayed that way for much of the next two hours. Heroin and Pale Blue Eyes were, well, what every gig-goer dreams of witnessing: something you never, ever imagined would happen. They even did a new song, Coyote.

At the end, the ghastly concrete hangar of Wembley seemed like a small club. The applause was unbelievable. I honestly think the Velvets were taken aback by this; it was the nearest I've ever come to witnessing something like Beatlemania. Lou said, after what seemed like minutes of applause, screaming and hysteria, "You have no idea what it means to be thanked like this." That's one of the most heartfelt things I've ever heard a performer say.

Now 20 years on, and it remains for me one of the best concerts I ever attended. It does not get better than the Velvet Underground on a good night. And 20 years on, it's thank you, Lou, and good night, sir. (And thank you too, Sterling.)

To paraphrase the song the Velvets played at their last ever performance in 1996,
"last night, I said goodbye to my friends."

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Illustrated Edition of The Cathars Finally Out in English

The illustrated edition of The Cathars, which has been available from Taschen Evergreen since 2009 in FrenchGerman and Spanish is to be finally published in English next month. The book is being done by Shelter Harbor Press. I don't have any more information at the present time, but hopefully this will be exactly the same as the Taschen edition, which was very nice.

In other Cathar-related news, I did an interview in London on Monday for a forthcoming Channel 5 documentary on Nazi science. What does this have to do with the Good Christians, I hear you ask? Well, my contribution is about the Cathars, the Holy Grail, and the German writer/explorer Otto Rahn, who visited the Languedoc in the early 1930s looking for the Grail, and various other Biblical/mythical artefacts. All very Indiana Jones - and some people see him as the inspiration for the Harrison Ford character.

Finally, there is to be a UK paperback of the book, due out next March. I'm not sure at the moment whether this will be an updated edition or not. There haven't been any major updates or discoveries in the world of Cathar studies of late - said grail still proving somewhat elusive. Anyway, I'll post more news about this new edition when I have some.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Seamus is gone.

Lightenings I

Shifting brilliancies. Then winter light
In a doorway, and on the stone doorstep
A beggar shivering in silhouette.

So the particular judgement might be set:
Bare wallstead and a cold hearth rained into--
Bright puddle where the soul-free cloud-life roams.

And after the commanded journey, what?
Nothing magnificent, nothing unknown.
A gazing out from far away, alone.

And it is not particular at all,
Just old truth dawning: there is no next-time-round. 
Unroofed scope. Knowledge-freshening wind.

from Seeing Things (1991)

Friday, July 26, 2013

Cathars - Amazon Summer Kindle Promotion

The Cathars has been selected by Amazon to be part of their Kindle Summer Promotion, which means you can get an e-copy for only 99p.

Heretical trivia (always my favourite part of a pub quiz): the man on the cover looks like a Cathar Perfect, but isn't. He is in fact a Spiritual Franciscan, who were outlawed in the latter part of the C13th, by which time Catharism had gone to ground in most of Europe.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Spanish Translations

Just arrived this morning: Spanish editions of The Knights Templar, Alchemy & Alchemists and The Cathars. The Gnostics is also available, as previously mentioned. They are all available from my Amazon US Store (cheaper than Amazon UK). The Templars is not based on the updated 2009 edition, although Alchemy does appear to be the revised 2006 edition.

I've also found a Spanish edition of the illustrated version of The Cathars, published by Taschen. As the author, I am of course the last to know. (This book is also available in French and German.)

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

John Cowper Powys - 50th Anniversary

While the 50th anniversary of The Beatles' first album has been commented upon, the 50th anniversary of John Cowper Powys's death has gone largely unremarked by the world at large. Powys died at home in north Wales on 17 June 1963, in his 91st year. It's probably true to say he was out of fashion even then - perhaps an unavoidable hazard when you live so long, and have a career lasting almost 70 (!) years. (Powys's first book, Odes and Other Poems, was published in 1896; his first novel, Wood and Stone, in 1915.) When commented on at all these days, it's usually to admit briefly that he is a writer who sharply divides critics one way or the other, from being called unreadable, pretentious and dated to being described as the only British writer who can hold a candle to Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky.

Pic: John Cowper Powys, around the time he wrote Wolf Solent (1929).

I am of the latter camp. Whether it's growing up halfway between Wales and Glastonbury, but Powys has always been a figure in my mental landscape, a sort of Easter Island head (he has the face for one) in the world of my imagination. Always there, whatever the weather, critical or literal. Few writers these days have the scope of Powys, who was at home in philosophy and criticism as he was in fiction, poetry and drama. (The only writer who comes to mind off the top of my head is the vastly different David Foster Wallace.) 'Epic', 'mythic' and 'mystical' are words that seem overused when mentioning JCP, but give you some idea of the Powys project, if I can call it that. A flavour of his work and outlook can be gleaned from this extract from Autobiography (1934):

"I touch here upon what is to me one of the profoundest philosophical mysteries: I mean the power of the individual mind to create its own world, not in complete independence of what is called "the objective world," but in a steadily growing independence of the attitudes of the minds toward this world. For what people call the objective world is really a most fluid, flexible, malleable thing. It is like the wine of the Priestess Bacbuc in Rabelais. It tastes differently; it is a different cosmos, to every man, woman, and child. To analyse this "objective" world is all very well, as long as you don't forget that the power to rebuild it by emphasis and rejection is synonymous with your being alive."

Despite a certain amount of critical neglect, much of JCP has now been made available again by the good offices of Duckworth and Faber. Some of the major novels from his great middle period are available from Duckworth, while Faber do a lot of the early and late work. The late novel Porius has also recently been published in its original form for the first time. General resources can be found on the Powys Society website

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

New Patrick Harpur Novel

I've been away for a month, and have returned to find that Patrick Harpur's new book The Savoy Truffle is just out from Skylight Press. The book, a novel, is black comedy about life in Surrey in the early 1960s (where the author apparently grew up). The title is, of course, a nod to the Beatles' song, and in a recent email, Patrick told me remembers seeing John Lennon's psychedelic Rolls often zipping past their house at odd hours. 

Very different territory from Patrick's early novels, the most well-known of which is Mercurius: The Marriage of Heaven and Earth (one of the best books I've ever read on the subject of alchemy), but the earlier The Serpent's Circle (a thriller about returned Cathars intent on revenge) and The Rapture (good review here), are also well worth seeking out. 

And of course, there are the three non-fiction books, which form a loose trilogy, Daimonic Reality, The Philosopher's Secret Fire and The Complete Guide to the Soul (The Secret Tradition of the Soul in the US).

If you like The Savoy Truffle, I strongly recommend you read everything else. (Heck, why not even search out Timetable of Technology!)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Bryan Forbes

As a tribute to Bryan Forbes, here is an extract from my forthcoming book New Waves in Cinema, which details BF's dealings with the then British censor, John Trevelyan:

"What was acceptable to the public was still constrained by notions of respectability that were rapidly becoming outdated. Despite wanting to encourage filmmakers, Trevelyan and his colleagues were in no way bohemian, as actor-turned-screenwriter-turned director Bryan Forbes recorded in his memoirs. Forbes was not part of the Woodfall group, but his early films, The L-Shaped RoomWhistle Down the Wind and Séance on a Wet Afternoon, could all be considered new wave through their sympathetic treatment of northern, working-class characters, use of location shooting, and using books by new, young writers as source material. Forbes’s second feature, The L-Shaped Room – based on the novel by Lynne Reid Banks and originally intended by Room at the Top producer James Woolf to be a project for Jack Clayton – received a lengthy list of required changes from Trevelyan. The story follows the fortunes of Jane (Leslie Caron), a young unmarried woman who falls pregnant but has no wish to marry the baby’s father, and ends up living in a boarding house – the L-shaped room of the title. 

While acknowledging that the script is ‘a fine piece of writing that should make a sincere and moving film’, Trevelyan predictably balked at references to abortion, as well as the usual suspects like ‘Christ’, ‘sod’ and ‘arse’. Also castigated were lines as memorable as ‘That’s the sort of thing that makes me want to fornicate right in the middle of Westminster Abbey during a Royal Wedding’. ‘Erotic visuals’ were likewise discouraged: ‘Care should be taken with the visuals of couples fondling one another... we would not want breast-rubbing or thigh-rubbing; nor would we want copulatory dancing’, and neither did they want ‘any censorable visuals especially in view of [Jane’s] pregnant condition’. Not only were direct references to fornication discouraged, but Trevelyan was not happy that John (Brock Peters) has heard his next-door neighbours fornicating: ‘This kind of thing is going to need extreme care’, and then, later in the same letter, ‘I would prefer the removal of the emphasis on the fact that he has heard their making love.’ In the end, Forbes agreed to only six [of the twenty-plus] changes [Trevelyan had asked for]."

Bryan Forbes, 1926-2013.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

In Our Time: Gnosticism

Today's episode of In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg on Radio 4 is about gnosticism. Available to listen to or download here.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Cathars on the radio (or should I say YouTube)

My episode of the Gnostic radio show/webcast Aeon Byte, is now available to listen to on YouTube. I discuss the Cathars with host Miguel Conner.

Friday, April 19, 2013

New Article Published: Breece D'J Pancake: A Short Life in the Hills

My article, Breece D'J Pancake: A Short Life in the Hills, has just been published by Thresholds: Home of the International Short Story Forum, and is available to read here here. The article was commended in Threshold's Feature Writing Competition 2012.

Breece is one of the great under-appreciated writers. Read him.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

James Herbert & Basil Copper (& Iain Banks)

It's not been a good month for the world of storytelling. James Herbert died on 20 March, followed by Basil Copper on 3 April. In between, the terrible news about Iain Banks. All of these writers made an indelible impression on me over the years. I discovered Herbert in the 1980s, when I read The Magic Cottage. Recently I returned to the JH canon and read Once, the first of his books I'd read in many a year. Likewise, I first read Basil Copper in the mid 80s, as part of my then largely Lovecraft-influenced reading. The Great White Space and Into the Silence are two of the very best novels in the Cthulhu tradition, while Necropolis is a corking piece of Victorian Gothic. I also had the pleasure of meeting Basil several times in London: he was a gent of the old school, modest, warm and funny. I had long planned to interview him about his Lovecraft-inspired work, but the chance never arose, sadly.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Remembering Montségur

Montségur, the last major Cathar stronghold in the Languedoc, surrendered this day in 1244. I was going to quote from my book The Cathars: The Most Successful Heresy of the Middle Ages (I wish we'd gone with a better subtitle...), but can't actually find a digital copy... must check the haunted wing of the WD drive. Anyway, the book is now available on Kindle. See below.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Black Death in the news again

The Black Death is in the news again. A plague pit has been discovered in Charterhouse in London containing bodies thought to be from the early days of the pestilence (1348).

More info on the greatest demographic disaster in recorded history can be found in the tome below (available as hardback, Kindle and audiobook):

Monday, March 04, 2013

Alastair Reynolds reviews Dreaming at Baikonur

Leading British SF maestro Alastair Reynolds has given the anthology Rocket Science a good review in Vector (issue 217, Winter 2012). He has singled out my story, "Dreaming at Baikonur":

There are no bad stories here – even the clunkiest … has the saving grace of being likeable, which is no mean achievement. But perhaps the best story in the book, and the one that closes the volume, is the piece most clearly fixated on the past, Sean Martin’s ‘Dreaming at Baikonur’.

Well, that's a gotten the week off to a good start...

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Happy Birthday, David Lindsay

Today is the anniversary of David Lindsay's birth, in 1876. I shall be raising if not a glass, then a Violet Apple.

Drawing: Garen Ewing

Monday, February 11, 2013

Sam Eastland on YouTube

Whilst pondering the noble art of writing a series, I came across these two YouTube clips of Paul Watkins, a writer whose work I've loved for years, talking about the thrillers he's written under the pen-name of Sam Eastland. He's currently up to book 4, The Red Moth, but here he's talking about the extraordinary story behind book 3, Siberian Red.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Amazon UK Store Updated

Just updated my Amazon UK store to include the Spanish editions of The Gnostics, Cathars, Templars and Alchemy.

The Kindle edition of my pamphlet of poems, A Shewing Stone , is now also available on Kindle for free if you are a member of Amazon Prime.

Friday, January 25, 2013

It gets worse...

The Templars and Cathars are ALSO in Spanish. FFS!

Alquimia y alquimistas

My book Alchemy and Alchemists is apparently available in Spanish. As the author, I am of course the last to know.

If you want to buy a copy, go here. (And if you can buy me one while you're at it, I'd be grateful.)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Happy George Orwell Day

Today is George Orwell Day - a tribute to the great man launched on the 63rd anniversary of his death. For more info, there's quite a good article on the Grauniad's site here. There's also a lot of Orwell-related stuff - pardon the technical term - going on on Radio 4.

You can also read Orwell's seminal essay Politics and the English Language, which I remember having to do for A level English, here. (Most writers on film seem not to have read this, academics in particular!)

Friday, January 18, 2013

A Shewing Stone now in bookstores

My pamphlet of poems, A Shewing Stone, is now available exclusively at Edinburgh's very own Pulp Fiction (43 Bread St, next door to the Blue Blazer pub). It's a signed and numbered limited edition, and will no doubt one day fetch a small fortune on eBay...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Poetry Reading Tonight.

I'm reading tonight at Illicit Ink's Happy Verse Day II. Starts at 1900 at Pulp Fiction in Bread Street.

More info and (free) tickets here.

There are only 5 tickets left, so if you want to come along, please do, but be quick and reserve a ticket.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

New Book Out Soon

My latest book, New Waves in Cinema, will be out at the end of January. Somewhat later than planned, it has to be said. But I have a good excuse: in the 4 years its taken to write, I have made 4 films, 3 of them feature length, and also done a Master's degree. So I've not been idle, by any means. Even so, I did fear for my sanity on more than one occasion... The golden rule is, try to do only one thing at any one time.

In the meantime, I have various other books on the back burner, so I'm hoping 2013 will be a productive year.

Wishing you all a good one...