Brackett, wife to SF writer Emond Hamilton, wrote mainly screenplays in the later part of her career. During the 1940’s she made a name for herself writing lush and gaudy adventure stories set mostly on the planet Mars, like those earlier populised by Edgar Rice Burroughs – but much more decadent. These exotic romances, representing the wilder, more extravagant side of the SF imagination, are curiously nostalgic in tone, as though regretting their own implausibility in light of modern astronomical knowledge. Even so, they are magnificent escapist fantasies spiced with a hint of sad cynicism.

The Sword of Rhiannon was originally published as Sea Kings of Mars in 1949 in Thrilling Wonder Stories; Ace Books published the novel in paperback under its new author-approved title in 1953.

The action takes place on Mars – a dusky, dying world of canals and crumbling cities. Matthew Carse, is the Brackett hero. He is a powerful, imposing figure whose physical prowess is matched with a shady morality. Once an archaeologist, he is now a thief and a looter acquainted with the back-alleys of the city of Jekkara.

Engaged in looting an ancient Martian tomb, Carse is shoved by his accomplice into a ‘Great bubble of darkness. A big, brooding sphere of quivering blackness, through which shot little coruscating particles of brilliance like falling stars seen from another world.’

Long story short, Carse is transported way back in time via this bubble. He exits the tomb into a rich world of oceans and magnificent cities: a world of only rudimentary science, a world of sword-fighting sea-warriors whose galleys and kingdoms had clashed on long-lost oceans.’

Unfortunately, Carse did not go back in time alone. He has an unseen companion who is as tentative as a half-felt thought, but, oh, so very dangerous…

Michael Moorcock in his essay, Queen of the Martian Mysteries: an appreciation of Leigh Brackett, had this to say about the author:

‘Brackett has less in common with Mervyn Peake than she has with Graham Greene, Raymond Chandler and other superior writers of popular fiction. Yet common to all these writers is the sense of yearning loss, as of innocence, a nobler, irredeemable past and an uncertain future. Her heroes are often deeply aware of some moral transgression which everyone forgives them for except themselves. At the time these stories were written we had seen our sense of our history, of our progress towards real civilisation, blasted to bits before our eyes. By the time these stories were appearing in the pulps, Germany’s Nazi armies seemed unchallenged in their conquest of Europe. All those idealistic aspirations for world peace and the rule of civil law had collapsed before the cheap rhetoric of a bad journalist like Mussolini or a mediocre painter of postcards like Hitler.’

After 60 years of writing and reading I would place H.E. Bates and V.S. Pritchett as the best short-story writers of my time.

GRAHAM GREENE
Antibes, France
6 December 1988

loyal to love…

August 13, 2016

lovers

I don’t care a damn about men who are loyal to the people who pay them, to organizations…I don’t think even my country means all that much. There are many countries in our blood, aren’t there, but only one person. Would the world be in the mess it is if we were loyal to love and not to countries?

Graham Greene
Our Man in Havana

view of the sea

Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose, or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.

Graham Greene
Ways Of Escape

misery…

May 31, 2016

clown

The sense of unhappiness is so much easier to convey than that of happiness. In misery we seem aware of our own existence, even though it may be in the form of a monstrous egotism: this pain of mine is individual, this nerve that winces belongs to me and to no other. But happiness annihilates us: we lose our identity.

Graham Greene
The End of the Affair

Jeanne Mammen-untitled

Perhaps the sexual life is the great test. If we can survive it with charity to those we love and with affection to those we have betrayed, we needn’t worry so much about the good and the bad in us. But jealousy, distrust, cruelty, revenge, recrimination … then we fail. The wrong is in that failure even if we are the victims and not the executioners. Virtue is no excuse.

Graham Greene
The Comedians

night

Diary 16th March

Earlier, a sky the colour of spilled ink, carelessly puddled over sleeping fields. No memory of daylight in its oppressive blindness. No suggestion of a dawn to come…And cold, too…Shivery cold.

The daffodils are out in patches along the hedgerow. I can sense them, not see them, but I know they’re there. It’s like standing in a crypt surrounded by fat cats on the patio. Soon the bluebells will dazzle visitors.

Now, I sit and watch the steam rise from my coffee cup…
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So far this week we’ve been told that foreign travel will become more expensive if we leave the EU. Our ports and airports won’t be able to cope with the influx of “visitors”. My Aunt Mabel’s tit will catch in her mangle…And now today we learn, horror of horrors, the high-flying Prime Minister of Malta, Joseph Muscat, said yesterday that if the UK exited the EU it would “not be trusted” again.

In any negotiate, he said: “EU leaders would be keen to show to their national audiences which might warm to the idea of leaving the union that such a process would be very ugly, painful and costly.”

And therein lies one of the major problems of the EU. All the politicians recognise how unpopular it’s become – not just in the UK, but right across the board. Yet they do nothing to address this situation…Let sleeping dogs lie; the gravy train must roll on!

Never mind. President Obama is coming to the UK to save the day…
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Recently read: “The Love-Charm of Bombs: Restless lives in the second world war”, by Lara Feigel, who has created an “ensemble piece” about five novelists who endured the bombs and blackouts in London when it was getting the shite kicked out of it by the German Luftwaffe. The novelists are Elizabeth Bowen, Henry Green, Graham Greene, Rose Macaulay and…Hilde Spiel (?).

“London is extraordinarily pleasant these days with all the new spaces, and the rather Mexican effect of ruined churches,” Graham Greene told Anthony Powell in December 1940. One hopes he had his tongue firmly planted in his cheek at the time (although I doubt he did!)…?

Henry Green was a volunteer fireman, Bowen and Greene were ARP wardens, and Macaulay was an ambulance driver.

Sex was a panacea to all that death and destruction surrounding them. The blackout became a time for heavy breathing and furtive couplings. Macaulay had an intense affair with a married man who had once been a Catholic priest. Green and Greene were both inveterate womanisers. Bowen lived with a husband who tolerated her affairs with other men’…only Hilde Spiel remained monogamous in this sea of bombs and adultery…

Enjoyed this gossipy book very much.
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the-third-man-1949

In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock.

Graham Greene
The Third Man

escape the madness

January 4, 2016

womanwriting

Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose, or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.

Graham Greene
Ways Of Escape

Writing a novel…

April 8, 2015

leak

If I were writing a novel I would end it here: a novel, I used to think, has to end somewhere, but I’m beginning to believe my realism has been at fault all these years, for nothing in life now ever seems to end.

Graham Greene
The End of the Affair