Tag Archives: Bill Jones

The Life & Times of Algernon Swift

The first time I met Bill Jones was in the Stroud High Street, where he tried to sell me a pun. The pun in question was on a postcard. Since then, I’ve followed Bill round a fair bit – well around Stroud at any rate. He gigs more widely but I’m not an especially dedicated stalker. He does performance misery that often turns out to be strangely amusing. And now, this. The Life & Times of Algernon Swift.

This is a small novel, so heavily illustrated and possessed of word balloons that it is classified as a graphic novel. The illustrations are all black ink, which works well for all the comments about colour in the landscape. Bill is very good at catching moods – gloom, anxiety, perplexedness, worry… as Algernon Swift nervously makes his way through a cloudy world.

The cover warns that the book contains over 200 puns. Readers of a delicate disposition need to be aware of the dangers. I hurt myself reading this book – my sides, mostly. Some peculiar and unexpected noises came out of my face while reading – hooting, snorting sounds of amusement, and a fair sprinkling of punished groans. (For reasons of decency I am limiting myself to just the one pun in this review, and that was it.)

If you like whimsy and wordplay, and have a decent tolerance level for double meanings, and were not viciously bitten by a pun at a tender age, this may be just the thing for you.

You can find it here on amazon, and no doubt other places as well.

Friday Reads (again)

Things I’ve read recently that I think other people ought to read, too.


Hall of Misery, by Bill Jones. A small, illustrated text you have to buy directly from Mr Jones, which you can do on his website – or in the streets of Stroud. If you’ve been missing Edward Gorey, this, quite simply, is the book you’ve been waiting for. Dark and funny, making comedy of existential angst and putting it all into perspective. Usually the perspective involves tiny human figures in vast, oppressive landscapes. If you’re still not sure whether this is for you, poke around www.hawkerspot.com until you succumb. I laughed out loud, repeatedly. (And yes, that stalking poem a few weeks back, this is *that* Bill Jones.)


House of many ways – Diana Wynne Jones. I read this cover to cover on Tuesday night because I needed some escapism, and this delivered. It’s book three of a series that starts with Howl’s Moving Castle – ideally you need to read all three in order.

Plotty, clever, imaginative, its charming.  Diana Wynne Jones favours stories in which young people discover that they had good things going on in themselves all along. Values, qualities, strengths and skills they hadn’t recognised, worth not previously identified, alongside their flaws and foibles. I like this about her work.

Available all the places one can find books.



Your Faery Magic by Halo Quin, published this month, this is a book I was asked to read well ahead of the release date. It’s a gentle introduction to things faerie that acknowledges the darker and more dangerous bits. You could read it entirely as a pathworking book – the journeys Halo suggests would work very well from a purely meditative perspective. It’s also I think a very good book for enthusiastic teens – enough good content to be worth their time, but unlikely to get them into serious trouble! If you are a gentle soul, or starting out and wanting not to get out of your depth, I think this is a good place to start.

My adult self rather suspects that my early teens self would have utterly loved this book.

You can order this or find it online anywhere that sells books. More about the book here.

Stroud Short Stories

It all started last year, when a chance encounter on twitter alerted me to the twice yearly event that is Stroud Short Stories competition. In a fit of inspiration, I wrote a piece of the right length, sent it in, and entirely forgot about it. Consequently, I was very surprised some weeks later to find I had been picked as one of the ten authors reading at the event. I hadn’t been on a stage much for years at that point, and was nervous, but it went well and I enjoyed it.

Along the way, John Holland (author and organisational powerhouse who took on running this event last year after Miserable Poet Bill Jones set it up in 2011) kept saying ‘and there won’t be a print version’. I’m perverse. There’s nothing like saying a thing can’t be done to get my interest. And really, a book of short stories? I can edit, I’ve put books together before, I live with a cover artist, how hard could it be?

80 stories and more than 50 authors. I’m nervous about stating an exact number for fear that, like Rollright standing stones and May Hill trees, they will prove uncountable in practice. I started in January, and there was a lunatic mad dash at the end to include the people who read on the 19th. Only three authors declined to participate. One straight ‘no’ and no reason given, but Adam Horovitz declined because he’d worked his into a much longer piece and is doing things with it (how awesome is that?) And one of the chaps who read in October is still looking at placing the story elsewhere. So, the odds are we’ll get him in volume 2 a few years hence. At least one other story became the basis for a novel.

The authors span ages, styles, genres and just about anything else it might occur to you to span in 1500 words. Even distance, because while most have a Gloucestershire connection, some are further afield now. There is genuinely something for everyone, and during the editing process I developed a deep affection for many of the stories and become fond of all the others. It has been a labour of love (which is to say, no one will become financially rich out of this, but other riches have definitely been forthcoming). We launch officially on the 8th of May at the Ale House in Stroud (all being well, I shall be chewing finger nails until books turn up.) There will be some copies to buy on the night, and otherwise, a saunter to www.lulu.com/will provide!

And there’s a lovely post from Debbie Young, here who read on the 19th.

One way or another I’ll be throwing myself at next October’s event, and yes, there will be another anthology a few years hence.