Archive for May, 2011

Lovely reviews for “The Radiant Boy – Four Ghost Stories from the Age of Sail” on Amazon!

I should really pay more attention to the sales of my books. I missed that magical moment when I jumped from Amazon Bestseller Rank 3’799’608 to 908 (I was there for 722, though. Good times!)

If I’d check my statistics more than twice a year, I would have seen the two lovely reviews left for “The Radiant Boy” earlier.

If you like good historical fiction, or good ghost stories, or good character-driven tales, or simply well-written fiction, then this is the book for you. It is a book full of atmosphere, that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end without curdling your blood or spilling too much gore.  – Topsy Reader

Thank you so much! And also thanks a lot to fellow author Alex Beecroft for leaving positive feedback. Today is a good day!


Four Ghost Stories from the Age of Sail
by Emma Collingwood
Illustrations by Amandine de Villeneuve

At the annual meeting of the “Young Bucks Club”, four officers serving in the Royal Navy during the Age of Sail share ghostly naval tales.


The second book in Emma Collingwood’s and Amandine de Villeneuve’s “Penny, Dreadful and Tarbottom” series, “The Radiant Boy” is an eerie and touching tribute to the classic English ghost story and the Royal Navy.

“The Radiant Boy” contains four stories, one b/w sketch, 10 colour drawings by the wonderful Amandine de Villeneuve and “Author’s Notes for the Curious”.

Oh, and a book curse. That one is included for free…

By the way, if the book should be sold out, no worries. Return in two or three days; that’s the time Amazon needs to re-order. Or order directly through my website.

26 May, 2011 at 8:15 pm 1 comment

Young Mr. Garrow with a Squirrel (1765) or Andrew Buchan, re-incarnated

Regular readers of this blog will be acquainted by now with Mr. William Garrow, groundbreaking British lawyer, as portrayed by the very dashing Andrew Buchan in the highly successful BBC TV series “Garrow’s Law” (no, I don’t get paid to promote it. I just really love that show).

Here’s a picture of Mr. Garrow/Buchan  (without a squirrel, as you’ll notice):

While trawling the internet for information on children’s lives in the 18th century, I came across the following painting by John Singleton Copley. It was painted in 1765, and is titled “Boy with a Squirrel”.

I saved this picture under the name  “Young Mr. Garrow and his pet squirrel Silvester”. And I do admit that I’m beginning to have second thoughts on the subject of re-incarnation…

As we’re already talking about “Garrow’s Law” – please confirm series three officially already, BBC! The peasants are getting restless; I’ve already bought anti-rust spray for my pitchfork!

24 May, 2011 at 10:56 am 4 comments

The Rapture has cometh – and all that’s left of Molly Joyful…

… are happy cats.

22 May, 2011 at 1:53 pm Leave a comment

Don’t play with this Lady: extremely rare 18th Century Doll

Full disclaimer: I’m not a doll person. Especially not when it comes to those porcelain collector dolls which look like adults. You know the type – their eyes follow you when you cross the room, and at night, you can’t sleep because you wonder if that beastly thing might walk around and look for the letter opener to stab you. My beloved childhood friends (which I still have!) were Beanie the donkey and Fritzi the monkey. Cuddly, friendly and not interested in letter openers.

But dolls are also miniatures and mirrors of their owners. They can tell us about family life, society and fashion of times long gone by. Their shoebutton eyes have witnessed laughter and tears; they have given comfort in times of grief and kept the lonely company. A much-loved, often-patched clothdoll with painted eyes made during the Great Depression tells of a child’s love for her probably only toy, and I’ll never forget the post-mortem photography of a little girl, holding her doll on her last journey.

Scary or touching – dolls are fascinating items, and I can understand why so many people collect them. Most dolls have been played with, and even if they had very careful owners, time took its toll. Waxen faces melt or crack, porcelain breaks. Antique dolls in good condition are rare, so they are very expensive and valuable. But thanks to, once again, the Antiques Roadshow, I can share with you an extremely rare visitor from the past today.

A lady brought that doll along to have it valued. Legend in her family was that the doll, carved from a single piece of wood, had been modelled on the Dutchess of Kent, the mother of Queen Victoria. However, the fashion of her dress – a saque – was very obviously 18th century.

Legs and arms have joints and can be moved.

The hands have been carefully carved and are very detailled. Please note the wonderful lace on the sleeve!

The dress, made of yellow silk, still shows intricate, colourful embroidery.

The face is very expressive, especially the eyes. The expert didn’t mention it, but I think the eyes were made of glass. Please note the cute little lace bonnet!

A close-up of the embroidery. Looks like two swans to me – does anybody have better eyes and can tell me what it could be?

On the back, the fabric hasn’t faded. Just look at this beautiful, beautiful yellow, and the flower pattern! That’s simply amazing!

The doll has real hair (aww, look at the ringlet!), sewn in single strands to the head.

Under normal circumstances, I’d object to see a lady’s skirt lifted, but that’s the only way for you to see the red (!!!) drawers and the green petticoat.

And she even wears a white pannier – still in great condition.

So, how old is that doll? And what is she worth?

You better sit down – that doll dates from 1740. 1740! The lady in yellow is 271 years old! And it would cost you about £ 20’000 if you’d want to win her in an auction!

No wonder she looks so smug…!

However, I don’t think she’ll be sold; she’ll eventually go to a museum, and for such an important piece, that’s the perfect place to be. All I know is that, 271 years old and valuable or not, I wouldn’t want her to sit on my sofa. Those hands are small, but so is my letter opener…

21 May, 2011 at 11:35 pm 5 comments

Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – Walked the Plank and Jumped the Shark

I’ve been waiting impatiently for the latest ship in the PotC fleet to make port. I did so with a mixture of hope and reluctance, though. The first movie had been great, the second acceptable, but the third? An absolute disaster. We refer to it, not very lovingly, as “At Wits End” or “The Scottish Movie”. The only reason why I was willing to give PotC one more chance was the promised return of the Royal Navy. What can I say: I’m weak. I just can’t resist navy uniforms, beautiful ships, swashbuckling heroes, dastardly villains and battles at sea. Unfortunately, cinema nowadays doesn’t offer much in that department.

Then again, neither does “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”.

The story takes place during the reign of George II., who ruled from 1727 – 1760. The Union Jack, as flown in the picture below, was adopted in 1801, after the merging of the Kingdom of Ireland and the Kingdom of Great Britain.

“So what, it’s only a movie!” you might say. Eh, the Irish might disagree there, and I’m quite certain that there would be some commotion if the BBC would produce a TV movie set in the USA and fly the Stars and Stripes upside down. Small detail as it may be, this blunder should have been a warning voice that maybe not too much care had been put into the fourth movie of the franchise. But did I listen? Of course not.

Imagine the following scenario: you’re invited to a tea party at Scrooge McDuck’s house, along with twenty other people. Scrooge McDuck being his generous self, all guests have to share one tea bag. Got that? Good. Now, the fluid in your cup would still have more flavour than “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”. And at least the invitation wouldn’t have cost you money.

As far as the ingredients go, OST should have been a delicious meal. Stars like Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Ian McShane and Penelope Cruz. And pirates! Mermaids! Zombies! And ships! And two navies! How is it possible to have all that and still produce the movie-equivalent of a four days old McDonalds hamburger?!

The actors weren’t allowed to act. Ian McShane did his best to be a menacing Blackbeard, but the script didn’t allow him to show his skills. Rather than “the pirate all pirates fear”, he looked like Hagrid’s little brother. I can’t imagine that Davy Jones would have been afraid of him, or Lord Cutler Beckett. This pirate lacks the class and style of the former villains, but that’s not Ian McShane’s fault. Blackbeard has magic powers and can turn the dead into zombies – who gave him those powers? Or where did he get them? Tescos? Waitrose? It’s not explained, and nobody seems to care.

The zombies were just standing or stumbling around, without a backstory or purpose. The mermaids, I have to give that to the movie, were stunning, and provided the only truly captivating and thrilling scene. Jaws with boobs! But again, mermaid Syrena (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) and missionary Philip Swift (Sam Claflin) were just there, little more than props. Is Philip dead? Did Syrena save or kill him? I have no idea, but with a bit of luck, they managed to escape PotC 5 and lived happily ever after.

Oh, and don’t expect any battles at sea. If you’ve seen the trailers, you’ve seen just about all the action involving HMS Providence and the Queen Anne’s Revenge that there is.  Why have ships if you don’t use them? They might as well saved the money and stayed ashore, given everybody a donkey and called it “On Stranger Rides”.

Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow has his moments, but he can’t reach his full Sparrowpotential without a straight man by his side to play off from. He’s at risk of turning the iconic Captain Jack Sparrow into his own caricature. And when he fights an imposter in the backroom of a tavern, you can’t help but remember the rather similar scene from the first movie, where he fights with Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) in a smithy. It all looked the same to me. There was a constant feeling of déjà-vû, and that was not due to Voodoo. OST doesn’t have too many original bones in its body; like a zombie the plot totters along without spirit or life, to find eventually an unspectacular end at the Fountain of Youth. And as for the much-hyped “romance” among pirates: there are no sparks, no chemistry between Jack and Anjelica. And if they don’t care, why should we?

If it hadn’t been for Geoffrey Rush as Hector Barbossa and Kevin McNally as Mr. Gibbs, I’d probably left halfway through the movie. Barbossa makes a great privateer, and we feel with his suffering crew, especially Commodore Norrington’s (Jack Davenport) two lieutenants, Gillette (Damian O’Hare) and Groves (Greg Ellis). Much to my disappointment those two characters from the first movie both died. Some say that OST is a prequel. I don’t think so, but if that was true, Norrington would have had two zombie-officers. Cool!

As much as I hate to say this, but OST is worse than “At Wits End”. One bad clichée followed the next, from the ridiculous portrayal of George II. as a drooling fool who is two jewels short of a full crown, to the fanatically religious Spaniards.  The latter are introduced, you don’t see them for most of the movie, and then they are suddenly back and turn out to be on a mission from God. Huh? What? Quoi? How random.

The movie is dark – if you watch it in 3D, there will be scenes where you have to take your glasses off to see anything at all. That aside, the 3D effects are neat. Make sure you get seats in the middle of the cinema for best 3D results. Not that I encourage you to buy a ticket, though – the hell the no! Wait for “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” to turn up on DVD at your local thrift shop. Then at least you’ll support charity if you buy it.

There’s a difference between milking a franchise and milking it dry, and Disney is doing the latter. And as far as I’m concerned, “Pirates of the Caribbean” has walked the plank and jumped the shark. A pity.

19 May, 2011 at 6:43 pm 8 comments


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Four Ghost Stories from the Age of Sail

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Love, Suspense and Sarcasm in the Age of Sail

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Tribute to Admiral Lord Collingwood on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of his death at sea

2010 is the year to celebrate a great man.


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