Up and Vanished Podcast Review

up and vanished podcast review, erick mertz

I picked up Episode #1 of this podcast for one single reason: a missing person cold case. What could be better? Well, this “Up and Vanished Podcast” review will sort out whether or not Season #1 lived up to its eerie premise.

In order to get quickly up to speed, Season #1 of the “Up and Vanished” podcast came out in 2016 and in a two-part, twenty-four episode format it covers the real life missing person case of Tara Grinstead. Hosted by Payne Lindsey and based out of Atlanta, the show has already been optioned as a television series by the Oxygen network.

What Works?

I’m the target market. I am a sucker for missing person cold cases. Ever since I was a youngster watching Unsolved Mysteries, my spine tingles and my hair raises at a story that starts with a person that has mysteriously vanished into thin air. And Ms. Grinstead vanished.

The production on “Up and Vanished” is quite clean. From the early podcast episodes it feels streamlined and well put together.

The Grinstead case is a creeper, too. All of the missing persons tropes are at play and work their magic on the podcast.

What Doesn’t Work?

First off, Lindsey jumps into the Grinstead case right away. From Episode #1/Season #1, he’s talking to witnesses and sorting evidence.

The right into it approach works… I guess.

I barely knew anything about who Tara Grinstead was as a person before people were hanging up on the host. There was little to no sense of anticipation built into the podcast’s first few episodes. Sure, I knew she was a teacher involved with beauty pageants but I need a little more backstory to get my curiosity up.

As I stated previously, I simply love missing person cold case stories. The phenomenon is a staple of my Strange Air supernatural mystery series. But “Up and Vanished” seems to play fast and loose with the necessary component of mysterious circumstances.

Another issue I’ve had with the show is that it’s not a clean publication. My iTunes library is littered with so much bonus and extra content it’s really difficult to feel what is necessary and what is extraneous.

What Does It All Mean?

Early on, Payne Lindsey tells his listeners how we all got to Ocilla, Georgia. He was in love with the Serial podcast and out of that love, he started looking for a subject for an investigative podcast.

And here we are.

Everything about the “Up and Vanished” podcast feels constructed to me. There isn’t the organic sense of discovery from something like S-Town. There isn’t the spellbinding storytelling of Serial either.

How to summarize “Up And Vanished” podcast review? It definitely fills a void if you’re looking for a missing person cold case podcast to hammer on. But it’s first season isn’t going to keep you from searching and listening to your friends for more recommendations.

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Do Writers Listen To Music When They Write?

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Ornatorpet’s album, Hymner Fran Snokulla is the perfect album for writers to listen to while working on a story set in winter.

Do writers listen to music when they write? The answer from me is a resounding, yes, they should.

Ornatorpet is a electronic/ambient outfit from Boras, Sweden and really all you need to know about this album is right on there the cover. Hymner Fran Snokulla is a deep dive into winter’s bluster and cold.

Truth be told, I don’t get enough of winter. I spend three months out of the year enjoying it and nine months wanting it back. Hymner Fran Snokulla gives me a burst of cold whenever I want it.

What Works?

From my first listen to Hymner Fran Snokulla I felt like I was dropped into the middle of a D&D campaign. Suddenly, I was circling down into murky dungeons and there were torch lights and a strange radiance.

Ornatorpet conjures strange contradictions. The songs here are dark. But at the same time, they’re not grim. Although the tracks explore widely they are also riddled with a claustrophobic feeling.

What Doesn’t Work?

Really, there isn’t much not to like about Hymner Fran Snokulla. Everything on this album comes together quite nicely.

The tracks take the listener on a polar adventure. The sounds are evocative of not only a place but a feeling of depth and solitude.

On a musical level, the production is robust. It’s not a minimalist recording. Instead its full and deep and every tone is satisfying.

What Does It All Mean?

They call the genre Ornatorpet performs “dungeon synth” which for me is as accurate a musical description as I have ever heard.

This record is one of my favorite ambient recordings ever. That makes it one of the most indispensable albums for writing in my collection.

Do writers listen to music when they write? They should, and one of the first albums they should go find is this one.

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Where Should I Write?

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David Mamet Playwright & Cultural Critic

I see the question asked frequently in a variety of writer chatrooms, social media groups and bulletin boards — where should I write?

Usually, the person asking is a writer. They either find themselves unable to work on their project at home, or are perhaps looking for some variety in their creative venue.

The question is one I ask myself quite often. Home is another confinement. Writing is, I believe, unlike most other creative pursuits in that where it is performed and under what circumstances affects the outcome.

The World According To Mamet

“My alma mater is the Chicago Public Library”

– David Mamet

One of my favorite answers to “where should I write” comes from famed Chicago playwright and cultural critic, David Mamet (who actually graduated from Goddard College).

When asked by a room full of eager graduating students what he recommended they do about grad school, he advised them to save their money and instead find a bar. When prodded further, he described the bar as ideally a pool hall without a television or loud music where they can listen to how people talk.

How very brilliant. How very Mamet-esque. After all, the man wrote a book on the subject, Writing In Restaurants.

The idea is to find, if not quiet, the right noise. Writing in public would be different than writing in the safety of home if it wasn’t for the voices.

Where should I write? Find a place that’s beyond the noise of every day.

Give Me A List?

I’ve traipsed around the Portland area in my writer costume for a more than twenty years. Most of that time I am seeking solitude.

Here is a small list of the places that fit the “Mamet principle”.

1.) The Oregon City Public Library.

2.) The cafeteria in Powell’s Bookstore in downtown Portland.

3.) The student union at Clackamas Community College.

4.) The tree house bar at the Woodstock New Seasons.

5.) The Sterling Writer’s Room on the third floor of the downtown Multnomah County Library.

6.) In my car with a note pad on my knee — often with windshield wipers sweeping back and forth.

7.) The lobby of downtown office buildings.

8.) Gino’s in Sellwood.

9.) A little cafe in Hollywood, Petite Provence where they play classical.

These are only my haunts though and a short list of them at that. You likely don’t live in Portland, Oregon.

Where Should I Write?

Writing in public is an opportunity. The best place to write in public is as close as your next discovery.

Go to your library. Find that one cafe in town without noise. Dress in your finest writer clothes and hang out in a lobby somewhere.

They’ll think you’re a spy. Which you are, in a sense, right?

Circulate them. Move through a list. Find a different place for every single different mood, from fiery tiger days to your more watery moods.

Part of why we write in public is to feel ourselves circulating, as opposed to the sometimes idling feeling of your own safe home.

Risk discovery. Risk exposure.

Have a favorite writing spot already?

Share it in the comments below. I would love to know where you go. Perhaps I’ll see you there.

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The Magnus Archives Review

The Magnus Archives, Presented by Rusty Quill Productions

Everyone has that friend. You know the one I am talking about. The friend who knows about cool stuff before anyone else. In my world, one of those people is Jim. We can leave that right there at “Jim”.

I had not seen my Jim in a long while, but after some years, we had that long anticipated catch-up drink and during that session he introduced me to a new podcast. The Magnus Archives. Jim knows horror. Jim knows my affinity for horror as well, and it only took a few sniffs of strong ale and a burger before Jim got me excited about this podcast.

Here are the basics.

The Magnus Archives is a horror anthology podcast. Episodes come out weekly (on Thursdays) from Rusty Quill Productions and the story centers on a fictional London archive that catalogs weird and esoteric happenings.

The main character is a man named Jonathan Sims. In the podcast’s first season, he is new in his role of head archivist, having taken over for a predecessor who vanished mysteriously. His Sisyphean task is to organize an archive of accounts that has been left in shambles.

Sims is funny and filled with snarky bits. Most importantly though, the main character is a keen observer of strange and unexplained phenomena. As of the writing of this Magnus Archives review the podcast has featured over one hundred and thirty episodes and they are still going strong.

This Magnus Archives review will cover some of what works, what does not work and what that all adds up to.

What Works?

magnus archives review, erick mertz, supernatural fiction
A fan’s rendering of Jonathan Sims

First off, the podcast is among the more consistent productions available on the market. Consistency is a challenge in any storytelling (in the horror genre especially) and Rusty Quill shines through.

The writing is strong. The character voices are unique, which is critical, because every episode centers on Sims reading an account. This necessitates a different “voice” every time out.

The characters evolve too. Jonathan settles into his role as archivist. His snarky tone stays consistent but he accepts things as he progresses.

Another surprisingly satisfying aspect is the use of body horror. The production team employs a fair amount but do so judiciously. A few episodes involve some deeply grotesque subjects and images.

Usually body horror isn’t my thing, but the producers of the Magnus Archives are careful not to over do it. The storyline is not about body horror. Instead, they use those elements when the story warrants.

Lastly, the concept of a podcast centered on a single paranormal archive would seem limiting. All of the statements come from Londoners, but the writers have been keen to ensure that is not claustrophobic. They work in a few accounts taking place at sea and in different countries (which includes my favorite, Episode #31, First Hunt).

What Doesn’t Work?

The baseline premise in The Magnus Archives of an archivist working to clean up a messy, disorganized archive really works for me.

For me, that is enough to hold it all together.

Through Season #1, a meta-narrative insinuates it’s way into the story. Not only are we experiencing these random accounts the archivist reads for our entertainment, there is something else going on in the archive.

I suppose that is fine. It’s not a clumsy meta narrative by any stretch of the imagination. My thinking, however, is that it doesn’t really need this to hold together. It’s fine as it as as a series of vignettes.

On a storytelling angle, I am not crazy about how modern most of these tales are. The accounts that the archivist reads for us are contemporary. That limitation makes me want for more variety.

Like geography, however, I think that the producers and writers of The Magnus Archives do a good job of pulling threads here and there in order to explore older times. This is a matter of my taste though. I like older times in fiction. The modern day holds less appeal.

I’m down to quibbles now, but it’s worth mentioning that as the meta-narrative develops into Season #2, it necessitates a few interruptions. This means, ss Sims is reading an account, someone from the office butts in.

Again, this is a quibble, but with a story flow that is often so good, I’m not happy when I’m pulled out of it.

What Does That Mean?

I could hardly recommend a podcast any higher than this one. It’s among the cream of the crop. It’s not only horror podcasting at its finest. It’s contemporary horror writing at it’s finest.

A Google search of The Magnus Archives reveals that fans are out there and many of them are already rabid.

Any Magnus Archives review would be incomplete without mentioning it’s binge worthiness. I often find myself going deeper than expected.

I might go for a walk expecting to listen to one, only to find myself two episodes in and wanting to loop back around the neighborhood for a third. My sincerest thanks to Jim for that.

Have you listened to this podcast? Want to add something to this Magnus Archives Review?

If so, leave a comment below.

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Bukowski On Libraries

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The original cover of the 1982 Black Sparrow Press edition of Ham On Rye by Charles Bukowski

Powerful influences are critical for the burgeoning writer. We must draw on the wisdom of pioneers before launching down this strange path. One of those powerful influences for me was Charles Bukowski, specifically an idea in a quote by Charles Bukowski on libraries.

As a young writer, Bukowski’s allure was in his boozing and womanizing. Terrible to look back on now, there was a sort of romantic idea behind drinking wine all day and carousing with fans that (unfortunately) appeals to youth on the brink of an unconventional career.

Growing on from that though, Bukowski’s allure feels quite different now. Bukowski was a genuine gallows poet. Bukowski was brave and persistent in his pursuit of his writing.

Charles Bukowski knew how to be alone. And that’s what this pursuit is.

Bukowski On The Power of Solitude

For me, Bukowski’s renown as a drinker has always been overemphasized. Certainly, Bukowski was one of the “great drinkers” of our times, known to booze morning, noon and night whether or not he was writing on a book. That is only a small part of his overall appeal as a literary figure though.

What makes Bukowski a genuine touchstone is how he championed the importance of solitude. Other writers have lauded the need to separate and get away, but precious few in the modern age have been so vocal and articulate on the subject. Bukowski died before social media and cell phones were invented, but he bristled appropriately on any incursion into his solitude in an era which to us now would seem quaint.

Bukowski understood, I think, better than anyone in contemporary literature, the importance of being good at being alone.

The art of solitude and the need to thrive in it is more challenging now than it has ever been before. There are more of us walking around out there. There is fewer space where you can flee. Other people are everywhere. They’re in our lives even when we’re alone.

Charles Bukowski knew the importance of rising above the noise. More than this though, he understood how importance of finding a place to go.

Bukowski On Libraries

Charles Bukowski wrote frequently about his surroundings. Environment was an integral part of his fiction and poetry. Bukowski on bar life is classic. Also on women. He is one of the great writers about horses and gambling.

Nowhere in his writing is his love more elegant than his love of libraries. Already a great thinker, Charles Bukowski on libraries is especially moving.

Charlies Bukowski spent almost every day between his late teens and early 20’s in the public library reading and writing. Broke and going nowhere, Bukowski understood that libraries provided an important place for the down on their luck people from all walks of life. Whether as an escape into free books and music, or a nexus of opportunities, this quote from Charles Bukowski on libraries is my favorite.

“First paycheck I get, I thought, I’m going to get myself a room near the downtown LA Public Library.”

– Charles Bukowski, Ham On Rye

This quote has been transformative for me for quite a few reasons. First, it is simple. It is humble of purpose. Understanding the importance of a library to all peoples is critical. The hallowed book lined halls have always been some of my favorite places. But Charles Bukowski understood that a library’s importance was beyond money and that is especially moving.

When I decide to bring my writing outside the house, I think quite fondly of this quote from Ham On Rye. I can afford the cup of coffee or the beer to work in a cafe or bar. I can probably afford to rent a little space down in the industrial inner Eastside to write while overlooking the water.

Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Everyone loves a nice cup of coffee and a view.

But that would be missing the point for me. It’s not really about the money. It is about the surrounding. Not just about solitude. It’s about a certain kind of solitude. One I learned from Bukowski.

It’s about knowing where you belong and fitting yourself in there.

Recently, I wrote another blog about libraries, check it out.

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Oregon City Library Summer Reading

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As I get older, summer’s return makes me pine for simpler things. I spent many warm days in my youth cooped up indoors. Well, not exactly cooped up, I had the Oregon City Library at my disposal.

Maybe that meant I was a strange kid. Well, that alone wasn’t exactly the tipping point in that direction, but the library stacks were always more inviting than actual vistas because at least there was the possibility of a railroad heist or a dragon lurking inside.

Summer is different now. The world doesn’t pause for imagination anymore. This is OK though. Everything in its time, right? I had my time for summer memories. Now my son will have his.

I get to a different summer simple now. When I can, I like to read outside. If I’m lucky, whenever possible, I like to write outside, too.

My mother volunteers at the Friends Of Oregon City Library Book Store. This is what she does now that she doesn’t really need to do anything.

The book store is a good gig for her. She has her regular group to hang out with and she also spends her whole day around books.

The upside for me is that I have an inside connection.

It’s not uncommon for my Mom to show up at my house with a stack of paperback books. Usually when I’m working on assembling a series, all it takes is one phone call. After a few years my exploitation of this connection has gotten a little ridiculous, but so far there is enough room.

So far.

The Return of Ellery Queen Mystery

The other day my mom showed up with a stack of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazines. Ten issues in total, scattered over a few years.

Can you use these? She asked. As though there was a usefulness sunset on a hard boiled short story delivered on newsprint.

The whole exchange brought me back in time to summer days of old. Nothing to do but read and daydream. Perhaps some of these issues were ones I read already, cross legged in the Oregon City Library when it felt naive not to believe in the power of crazy stories.

The idea of time travel has always held an appeal for me. There should be no surprise that I have incorporated a weird element of time travel into my supernatural mystery fiction.

Maybe it’s not so far fetched. School isn’t out for another hour. This means I have got a little sliver of time. The weather is delightful.

There is also an Ellery Queen rolled comfortably into my pocket.

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Erick Mertz Author – “Koko”

erick mertz author, portland, oregon, supernatural mysteryIn every possible way, Koko mesmerizes all five senses. If Erick Mertz Author had an unofficial soundtrack for this dreary final winter chapter it may be this album.

What I like about Koko is how many distinct places the sixteen tracks (which are relatively short for ambient) travel in a short amount of time. Some evoke images of nature. Others feel cold and technological. The sound travels from space station to rain forest in the flutter of a heartbeat.

I can get lost in this album. The tracks bleed in and out like rain streaking down a water color painting. Over the year that I’ve had Jobanshi as regular background music for writing, I’ve never had the same experience twice. Jobanshi has crafted something like a recurring dream. Each listen may be relatively similar to the last, but it reveals something different at the same time.

Bedlam Tapes is among the best sources of music for writing on the internet. No surprise this album is featured on Bandcamp in their massive trove of music. The album is labeled electronic and experimental, which makes sense, but there are also some nonsense terms like “ghost tech” and “field recordings”.

Whatever the genre, Koko builds into a trance like state, the perfect waking dream for your writing time. You can download the album by Jobanshi here on Bandcamp.

Want to know maybe the best part? It’s free.

Are you a supernatural fiction author with a favorite album to listen to while writing? Have you had an opportunity to listen to Koko by Jobanshi?

erick mertz author, portland orego, supernatural mysteryLeave a comment below or suggest a writing album & I’ll cover it in my next “Music For Writers” column.

Meanwhile, check out my book page for the latest Oregon supernatural mystery Erick Mertz Author is working on.

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Best Of 2018 – Music For Writers

Usually by mid-December my email and social media feeds are filled up with a lot of “Best of 2018” lists. Not wanting to leave my readers out, I thought I would offer another one.

If you are a writer like me though this list may actually be of some use to you. I have taken a moment to compile a list of my favorite albums to write by of 2018. Anyone who has read my blog before knows I write supernatural mystery, so naturally, I like my musical accompaniment dark and minimal.

Just as a caveat… these are not necessarily the best new albums of 2018. Only a few were released this year (one comes out January 2019). These are my favorite personal discoveries in minimal ambient, dark ambient and classical of 2018.

Enough with the handwringing… here it the list.

A-Sun Amissa, Ceremony In The Stillness

erick mertz, best of 2018, music for writersFar and away, I listened to this album more than any other in 2018. I still use Apple iTunes for music on my laptop, so I come away with a pretty accurate read on how influential an album was on my creative process. I’m a bit embarrassed to say I’ve listened to it over a hundred times, which probably represents like half of my writing days.

One reason this four track album has been so deeply influential on me is that A-Sun Amissa achieves a gloomy mood through an effortlessly minimal blend of key boards and guitars. There are a few stirring peaks on the track list and there are also a few moments where the sound simply leaves you alone. On Ceremony In The Stillness there is depth and woe and a few times glimmers of the surface. Best writing album of the year.

Do yourself a favor and download Ceremony In Stillness here on A-Sun Amissa’s Bandcamp page.

Tsunxmi, Digital Paradise

erick mertz, best of 2018, music for writersEven now, I can feel the swirling, seasick atmospheres on this record. They’ve settled down in the very depths of my coffee filled belly.

I’ve struggled to capture the feeling here, but I’ll do my best. This recording feels as though it was culled from a box of warped records discovered at the bottom of a lilac colored cosmic ocean.

Yeah, Digital Paradise comes together in bizarre ways. It is definitely an album for crafting other worlds. This is the kind of suggestive album that a writer can put on as a vehicle to get lost in their creative process.

You can download Tsunxmi’s Digital Paradise for free here at their Bandcamp page.

Spurv, Myra

erick mertz, best of 2018, music for writersPost-metal may seem like an odd fit as an accompaniment for writing, but hear me out. There were precious few heavy music releases of 2018 that were this murky and triumphantly emotional while grinding as hard as it did. Leave it to the Norwegians, am I right? The guys from Spurv crafted a record in Myra that is satisfying on one hand as a heavy metal release and on the other as a work of damp atmosphere.

Usually, I break up my writing music into two camps. There is music I use for writing and there is music I use for thinking about writing (which in my process is two separate times). This album falls comfortably into the latter. I wouldn’t drill down into the line with this on, but the doom laden atmosphere on this is a wonderful porthole for exploring the hell you want to put your characters through.

You can download Myra from Spurv’s Bandcamp page.

Black To Comm, Seven Horses For Seven Kings

erick mertz, best of 2018, music for writersFor my next favorite record we head to Deutschland for the dark mastery of Black To Comm. Anyone familiar with the music site Bandcamp will attest to the fathomless depth of content contained on the site. It’s also worth noting how many artists with massive backlists are out there churning out outstanding albums.

Black To Comm is one of the many projects of audio artist Marc Richter. This album is an experimental blend of horror inspired electroaccoustic and psychedelic tinged electronics in a funhouse atmosphere. The tracks on this album really get under your skin and push the creative needle. There is also a subtle element of magic on Seven Horses that I’m at loss to put a finger on, even more than thirty listens in.

Black To Comm releases Seven Horses in January of 2019. You can pre-order it here on Bandcamp.

Monplaisir, Loops

erick mertz, best of 2018, music for writersAs noted above, Bandcamp houses an endless supply of fantastic music. Monplaisir’s album Loops was an exciting early year discovery that managed to hold up through the last turn of the calendar to 2019.

Call it “vaporwave” or call it “ambient” either way the results from repeated listens of this album are out and out dreamy. As a writing companion album, Loops gives you freedom to tune everything else in your surroundings out. Got a kid? Not anymore.

Often when I put music on while writing it’s to block out noise… other times it’s to isolate one noise in particular. We lose sight that the proper auditory conditions are often subjective. This record offers an almost perfect balance. I can put it on and tune out everything but this and my story. The songs here are really a tightrope I traverse between ideas and content.

You can download Monplaisir’s album Loops for free on Bandcamp.

Oly Rafle, Notes From Another Sea

The last record on my list comes from the under-appreciated world of contemporary classical music. There are few records I have listened to in the last year that can match the beauty on Notes From Another Sea… make that the last decade. What Oly Rafle does while seated at the piano is quite simply a sublime divination of tranquility.

Often it feels like you’re in a room by the sea with him as he plays.

In college I had a roommate who felt that the aesthetic quality of the music he listened to while studying had a direct influence on his retention of information. I don’t believe that. I think great ideas can come from anywhere (as this list reflects, I am fond of introducing a lot of darkness to my process). If my roommate was right though, and he had this album, he would have ended up a Rhodes Scholar.

You can find Oly Rafle’s record, Notes From Another Sea on his website. 

Are you a fiction author with a favorite album to listen to while you’re writing? Have you given any of the albums on this “Best of 2018” list a listen? supernatural fiction, erick mertz, portland, oregon, best of 2018

What do you think?

Leave me a comment below or suggest a writing album that I can cover in my next “Music For Writers” column.

Meanwhile, check out my book page to see the latest Oregon supernatural mystery I’m working on.

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The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward Review

erick mertz, charles dexter ward, supernatural fictionRecently the BBC dropped a new adaptation of The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward based on the horror novel by HP Lovecraft. First written in 1927, this story was never published in Lovecraft’s lifetime but in the 90 years since it has become one of his canonical weird tales.

For those unfamiliar with the source material, Charles Dexter Ward is a young man in his mid-twenties. The story drops us in at a crucial point where he is locked up in a “mental asylum”.

Ward’s psychological infirmity stems from a burning obsession with Joseph Curwen, a distant relative. Charles physically resembles his relative (an accused wizard) and he works to resurrect his relative’s occult spells.

The BBC has chosen to reinvent the story using a modern true crime style. Doctor Willitts (also investigating in the original) works to understand his disturbed patient. The podcast interviews begin further back in the form of recorded conversations with the boy. Willits contacts Ward’s teachers as well as a cast who knew the young antiquarian when he was into hanging out and playing video games.

Clearly, the BBC was disinterested with preserving HP Lovecraft’s tone.

erick mertz, charles dexter ward, supernatural fictionIt is critical to note the difference between podcast and audiobook. The latter format is defined as a simple dramatic reading of the text. The former however implies episodic and dramatic, and it lends itself to a broader and more adventurous story interpretation.

The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward has been adapted into an audiobook numerous times. It is available on Audible and here. It was also broken down admirably with performances on an early episode of the HP Podcraft Literary Podcast.

The BBC ventures pretty far from the source. Their adaptation feels more like the wildly popular Serial that took the podcast world by storm than it does an audiobook. For one thing, the story is updated to the modern day. The story is also told using a female point of view. It views the titular character as a disturbed boy. Episode One even alludes to a most modern plague: school shootings.

It is critical to note the inclusion of a female character because Lovecraft almost never wrote female characters. Certainly none of those token mentions was given a point of view.

Another distinction is the inclusion of examination of an in depth child character. Once again the BBC is going somewhere the author rarely did. Aside from the fantastical creation of Wilbur Whateley in The Dunwich Horror children are largely left out of Lovecraft’s fiction.

For Lovecraft purists, the BBC’s adaptation may sting a bit. Some might take the view that it was unnecessary. My bristle is a bit more with how this adaptation employs too many stock horror motifs. We get a lot of female protagonists. Disturbed children are the genre’s bread and butter.

Scholars postulate that Ward is HP Lovecraft’s biographical character. I think of this this story as Lovecraft’s most purely psychological. While his tales often involve insanity, the ancestral stain that afflicts Charles is a little more relatable. This is less about monster myths and more about an inborn psychological frailty therefore this story stands as pretty modern and stands up to adaptation.

The BBC’s adaptation of The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward works because it reminds us of a key aspect in understanding HP Lovecraft: the open source nature of his work. The author wanted new generations of writers to tinker with his worlds and this should be viewed as a reflection of that desire.

If Lovecraft were alive today (a phrase that launches countless debates) I am pretty sure he would listen to podcasts. He might even produce one.

I would hazard a guess then that had The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward been written in 2018, it might sound a little more like this.

Want to check it out for yourself? Here is the link to the BBC Sounds presentation of The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward.

Have You Listened To The Podcast Version of The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward already? 

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Heck, I’ll even give you a free short story from my Strange Air series of supernatural mysteries to get a taste of what all the hullaballoo is about.

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Music For Authors – Black To Comm

dark ambient, erick mertz, music for writersThis Black To Comm album is as dark as the darkest night.

Allow the collection of sour psychedelic and electroacoustic sounds on Black To Comm’s newest record, Seven Horses For Seven Kings to have their way with your imagination, however, and they spin into an oddly beautiful tapestry as well.

Black to Comm is a mysterious (and prolific) electronic performer out of Hamburg, Germany. Over the last decade Marc Richter — the man behind the mask — has produced a string of recordings that make bleak atmospheres and cinematic sonic experimentation his signature.

What Works?

Seven Horses For Seven Kings is layered with an array of distorted and harrowing electroacoustic sounds. The experimental aspects are rich and full of complexity. They stand out front and are deeply satisfying.

The thirteen tracks on this record wash together into a labyrinthine mix. There are only a few sonic swells and punch through on the record that may prove distracting to the creative process.

This album is best listened to at lower volumes. The resulting background gloom fills up a writing session with bits of cosmic ponder as well as terror.

What Does Not Work?

This album can be pretty sour. It opens with a series of grim horns and from there it delves into even weirder places.

Also, Seven Horses For Seven Kings is not a record that thrives on a flow. That can be a tricky quality because I usually like to put something on and let it go for 40-60 minutes while I get into the muse.

What Does It All Mean?

I would recommend this Black To Comm album to anyone who writes a dark brand of fiction. I think this would be especially appealing for those working in the horror or supernatural thriller genres.

There are a host of scary emotions throughout and the visuals are difficult to set aside. The run time clocks in at just over an hour, making Black To Comm’s Seven Horses For Seven Kings ideal for exploring a haunting sequence or breaking out a kill scene.

You can get the digital version of Seven Horses For Seven Kings here from Thrill Jockey. Also, check out Black To Comm’s Bandcamp page here for their extensive back catalog.

Are you an author with a favorite writing album? Have you given this Black To Comm album a listen?

Leave me a comment below, or better yet, suggest an album for writing and I’ll cover it in my another installment of my “Music For Writers” column.

Want More Like This?

Follow on my Author Mailing List by clicking this link here.

Cross my hear, I promise that I will not SPAM you to death.

You’ll find out more about the fiction I’m working on.

Heck, I’ll even give you a free short story from my Strange Air series of supernatural mysteries to get a taste of what all the hullaballoo is about.

emertzMusic For Authors – Black To Comm
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