TAXI DRIVER. (1976) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

TAXI DRIVER. (1976) DIRECTED BY MARTIN SCORSESE. SCREENPLAY WRITTEN BY PAUL SCHRADER. MUSIC BY BERNARD HERRMANN.
STARRING ROBERT DE NIRO, JODIE FOSTER, CYBILL SHEPHERD, LEONARD HARRIS, PETER BOYLE AND HARVEY KEITEL.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

So much has been written and said about TAXI DRIVER, one of Martin Scorsese’s best and most memorable movies. It’s too violent. It’s a vigilante film, but one in which the vigilante is experiencing a severe existential crisis. Travis Bickle is an anti-hero-slash-murderous thug. Jodie Foster as Iris was too young to be witnessing such violence as takes place in the climactic shoot-out. The film’s too dark/too bleak/too grim. It has no redeeming features. Well, these things might be true or they might not be true, but one thing is for sure. TAXI DRIVER is an unforgettable slice of cinema pie.

Robert De Niro is superb as lead character, Travis Bickle, an ex-Marine and Vietnam veteran who’s trying to find his way back to the world after the horrors of war. Even if we didn’t know he was a Vietnam veteran, we’d still know he was someone who’d been away somewhere for a while- prison, maybe, or a mental asylum- and who was having trouble adapting or acclimatising back to real life. He looks at the world and its occupants like he’s seeing them for the first time and doesn’t quite know what to make of it all.

He lives in one room, a room which he doesn’t know how to make comfortable for himself or how to make it feel like a real home, which surely he must have had once. Travis Bickle suckling on mother’s milk? Hey, everyone, even a half-baked vigilante assassin-type, had a mother once…

He works nights as a taxi driver because his nights are miserable, too long and fraught with insomnia and over-thinking. He occasionally mixes with the other cabbies, who’ve all been in the cabby-ing game for a long time now. He even confides in the much older, worldy-wise driver Wizard, but Wizard hasn’t got the answer to Travis’s problems.

After messing up his fledgling relationship with posh girl Betsy (a gorgeous Cybill Shepherd), who’s working on the political campaign to elect Senator Charles Palantine as President, Travis’s existential crisis comes on him like a cloak of fog on a country road at night. What the hell is the point of living, anyway? What’s it all about?

Travis stocks up on guns and teaches himself to shoot in order to fill the emptiness inside him that started long before Bitchy Betsy left him outside the porno theatre where he’d taken her for an ill-judged night out.

God Almighty, Travis man! You don’t take your classy Uptown Girl to a seedy porno cinema where the only other customers are sleazy old men with their hands inside the raincoats they wear to cover their shame! That’s Dating 101, that is. It’d be like taking the fucking Queen to see Roy Chubby Brown in fucking concert, that would.

Anyway. Alone Again, naturally. Travis spends hours alone in his untidy, uncomfortable bedroom, which resembles at this stage a sort of overnight army camping spot, practising his moves with his guns in the mirror and perfecting his by now iconic speech:

“You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? Then who the hell else are you talkin’ to? You talkin’ to me? Well I’m the only one here. Who the fuck do you think you’re talking to?”

He’s the only one here. How very true that is. Travis is desperately lonely, unsure of his purpose in life. He sees the people all around him interacting effortlessly with each other, and wonders in the back of his mind why he can’t manage to do the same himself. Is it the post-Vietnam PTSD that’s responsible? Or maybe Travis is autistic and doesn’t know it. It would explain his difficulties talking to people, his lack of social skills.

Travis then attempts to save twelve-year-old prostitute Iris, played by an already competent and professional Jodie Foster, from herself, her grim situation and her manipulative pimp Matthew (Harvey Keitel, but he’s not running around in the nip in this one, that’s THE PIANO you’re thinking of!), nicknamed Sport. She hasn’t asked to be saved, by the way.

It’s Travis’s way of going some good in the world, of making his mark, whether little Iris wants to be returned to her parents or not. After all, didja see ‘em in the newspaper? They’re no spring chickens, I’ll say that for them…!

Travis may even be feeling that he won’t come out of the showdown alive. He could be contemplating suicide-by-cop, or suicide by lowlife, drug-dealing pimping scumbags. He might equally be thinking of taking his own life.

Either way, Travis Bickle will meet his destiny in the scruffy, ill-lit landings of the shabby brothel where Iris works. He acts like a man on a mission that must be kept secret at all costs, a man preparing for a war that only he knows about. God help us all.

What kind of guys do you think carry out school or mosque shootings? Guys like Travis, maybe, who think that society has abandoned them and nobody cares about them? If only we could look into everyone’s bedrooms and see which people are standing in front of their mirrors trying on guns for size and practising the speech they’ll make if they ever get the audience they crave. But of course privacy laws wouldn’t allow it. We will have to figure out some other way to identify these ‘involuntary celibates,’ as they’re becoming known, before they commit their ill-judged crimes.

What do you think of the very last scene, anyway? I prefer to pretend it doesn’t even exist, lol. TAXI DRIVER ends when Travis Bickle puts his fingers, gun-shaped, to his own head, and don’t you be telling me any different. Are you talkin’ to me, or what…?

I adore the musical score, composed by Bernard Herrmann, who also did the iconic theme tunes to Alfred Hitchcock movies, PSYCHO, VERTIGO, THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH and NORTH BY NORTHWEST. He also did the music for the stone-cold classic film, CITIZEN KANE. What fabulous stuff to have on your CV. There’s one guy I’d like to play Celebrity Dinner Party with.

This is one of my personal favourites of Martin Scorsese’s films. I love GOODFELLAS too, of course, and CAPE FEAR, CASINO, MEAN STREETS and RAGING BULL. Robert De Niro’s association with the director has done him no harm at all, and vice versa. Travis Bickle is a guy we can alternately pity, admire, identify with and be repulsed by. He’s a complicated mix of good and bad, scared and fearless, repugnant and loveable. Love him or hate him, you won’t forget him.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
 
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO
Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://amzn.to/3ulKWkv
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://www.amazon.com/Thirteen-Stops-Sandra-Harris-ebook/dp/B089DJMH64
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
 https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thirteen-Stops-Later-Book-ebook/dp/B091J75WNB/
 
 

A GOOD MARRIAGE. (2014) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

A GOOD MARRIAGE. (2014) BASED ON THE NOVELLA BY STEPHEN KING.  SCREENPLAY BY STEPHEN KING. DIRECTED BY PETER ASKIN. STARRING JOAN ALLEN AND ANTHONY LAPAGLIA.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I’ve recently watched some absolutely terrific Stephen King film adaptations- DR. SLEEP, GERALD’S GAME, 1408, 1922- but this one is really disappointing, even weak. We know almost straight away who the killer is, when the protagonist discovers proof early on in the film.

Then the killer finds out almost immediately that the protagonist knows their secret. There are no twists, no more secrets, no more mysteries left to unearth. All that remains is to see what the protagonist does about the terrible knowledge they’ve acquired.

Joan Allen plays Darcy Anderson, a woman with two grown-up kids who’s just celebrated a milestone wedding anniversary with her husband, Bob, played by Anthony LaPaglia. (Does anyone else think that he could play George Bush Jr. in a biopic about, well, George Bush Jr.?)

As a couple, they still seem to have love and affection and even lust for each other after all this time. I mean, they still have sex with each other, despite their advanced years. Eeuw, wrinkly, old people sex, lol. Can you imagine…?

Anyway, Bob is always popping off on business trips and leaving Darcy alone for the night. On one such night, there’s a storm brewing when Darcy pops out to the shed in the rain and the dark to get batteries for the TV remote control, which has left her stuck on an unsavoury slasher horror film, tsk tsk. Whoever watches those must be properly out of their tree, ahem. (Don’t look at me, don’t looooook at me!)

And isn’t that terrible planning on the family’s part, to keep batteries for the TV remote control across the garden in the shed, instead of somewhere in the house, like in a kitchen drawer or something? People in horror movies are crazy.

I mean, you don’t keep your phone charger in next door’s attic, do you, or in the bird feeder down the end of the garden? You keep it somewhere to hand. Jeez. That’s housekeeping 101, is that. Unless the film-makers are using it as a device in order to give Darcy a reason to go into the shed while Bob is away, which they are…

(My housekeeping advice still holds good, though. Keep things close to the place where you’ll be using the things, and you won’t go far wrong. No doubt you’ll be using your boyfriend, husband or significant other for sex and suchlike bedroom shenanigans, so store them upright during the day when you’re not using them in a wardrobe or similar. I keep mine in a tall, narrow alcove when I’m not using them. Dustsheets are optional, but are especially useful if you’re going away without them, say, and won’t be needing to use them any time soon. That way, they should be still in pristine condition when you get home.)

Whilst rootling about for batteries, Darcy accidentally uncovers the identity of the serial killer of women who’s been operating out of their area for a good few years now. Let’s call him Mr. X, shall we, so as not to give away his identity? When Mr. X comes back from his business trip… No, that’s no good. It’s immediately obvious who the killer is from that.

What about this? Try this. While Bob is away on his business trip, Mr. X spies a woman he likes the look of on the road and follows her in his car. When Bob returns home from his so-called business trip, he makes it clear to Darcy that he knows she knows. About Mr. X being the killer, I mean.

Now it’s up to Darcy to decide what her next course of action is going to be. Staying married to Mr. X, erm, I mean, to, um, Bob, of course (Mr. X isn’t Bob, and Bob isn’t Mr. X, how could you possibly infer that from what I said???), isn’t going to be easy, under the circumstances.

By the way, how dare Mr. X keep his murder souvenirs and trophies in a special super-secret hiding place in Bob’s shed, which no-one ever goes into or uses but Bob Anderson? Damn and blast you, Mr. X! Get your own damn shed! Oh Lord. You all know who the killer is, don’t you? It’s just so obvious. We might as well wind this up, lol.

And I will, except to say that the film seems to be setting Busty Betty, Darcy’s younger, sexier friend, up for a bit of the old ultra-violence, courtesy of Mr. X, but then it simply never comes to pass, which feels like a massive swizz.

The whole feeling I get from this movie adaptation is one of incompleteness, or of something that isn’t properly finished or that someone hasn’t put enough thought into. Or a massive swizz, if you prefer.

Joan Allen is great in it, to give her her due, but the script is weak and the finished product is not as good as it could have been. Sorry, Steven King! I- mostly- love everything else you’ve done, but this one, erm, sucks a bit. Over and out.

  AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
 
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO
Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://amzn.to/3ulKWkv

VERY SUPERSTITIOUS… A POEM BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

SUPERSTITIONS.

A POEM BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Don’t walk under ladders

As far as you’re able

Whatever you do, keep

New shoes off the table

Spilled salt from the shaker

Goes over the shoulder

Saluting the magpie

Assures growing older

Don’t open umbrellas

While still in the house

It’s unlucky for you and

Could be for your spouse

Don’t hang a horse-shoe

With ends pointing down

The luck will run out

And you’ll look like a clown

Black cat on the road?

Hurry out of its way

And don’t say ‘good luck’

To a friend in a play

When you’re inside the theatre;

It’s rotten bad luck

Let’s hope when the chandelier

Falls, they can duck

You do have to live, though,

And not in a bubble

But, whatever you do, don’t

Set eyes on your double

Be third on a match

See the Number Thirteen

Or a looking-glass break

‘Cause your end won’t be clean

When rejoicing with friends

At the Christening feast

Check the scalp of the child for

The Sign of the Beast

Three small Number Sixes

There, under the hair

But it’s best for mankind if

You don’t find it there

Don’t kill a ladybug

Under your nose

And pretend not to notice

That murder of crows

You’re best to do nothing

Considered bad luck

Though that leaves doing nothing;

Goodnight and good luck!

PLATINUM DREAMS. (1984) THE SCREENPLAY BOOK BY MICHAEL ARMSTRONG REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS.

PLATINUM DREAMS. (1984)

PUBLISHED IN 2021 BY PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Michael Armstrong is creating history by being the first film-maker to publish his entire screenwriting output. With the original uncut screenplays in print for the first time ever and peppered with a mixture of wildly entertaining anecdotes, astounding behind-the-scenes revelations, creative and educational insights and brutal ‘no holds barred’ honesty, these books are guaranteed to provide a completely new kind of reading experience while offering a unique insight into the movie industry. Starting from his first professional screenplay written in 1960 when he was only fifteen and which he subsequently directed in 1968, the books will ultimately encompass a career that has spanned over fifty years. The books will include not only those screenplays which made it onto a cinema screen but, for the first time ever, all those that didn’t- and the reasons why…’

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

My readers will be well familiar with Michael Armstrong by now, if they weren’t already. He is, of course, the famous British director and screen-writer who wrote the screenplays for the following films:

THE DARK- 1960.

THE IMAGE- 1964. Starring a young David Bowie in his first screen appearance.

THE HUNT- 1965.

MARK OF THE DEVIL- 1970. A gruesome but frighteningly real depiction of eighteenth century witch-burnings.

THE SEX THIEF- 1973.

ESKIMO NELL- 1974. A riotous sex comedy starring beloved English actor Roy Kinnear and a young and handsome Michael Armstrong himself.

IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU- 1975.

THREE FOR ALL- 1975.

ADVENTURES OF A TAXI DRIVER #2- 1975.

ADVENTURES OF A PRIVATE EYE- 1976.

THE BLACK PANTHER- 1976. The story of Donald Neilson, the British armed robber, kidnapper and murderer who abducted wealthy British teenager Lesley Whittle in 1975.

HOME BEFORE MIDNIGHT- 1979.

SCREAMTIME- 1981.

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS- 1982. The only film in the history of cinema to star horror legends Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine all together.

LIFEFORCE- 1983.

That’s quite an impressive back catalogue, isn’t it, and that’s only a fraction of the screenplays Michael has penned over the years. As with all screen-writers, a few scripts are bound to fall through the cracks the odd time and not get made into films. This, sadly, was the case with PLATINUM DREAMS, the screenplay I want us to have a closer look at today.

As Andrew Porter, a good friend of Michael’s, says in his excellent foreword to the book, ‘Michael’s first task with PLATINUM DREAMS was to expose and satirise the hypocrisies of Hollywood- the platitudes hiding between the façade of show business glamour- the dream that is, in reality, no more than a mirage.

‘And the characters he created, similar to those in Fellini’s classic, LA DOLCE VITA, were doomed to live this pretence, prisoners of their hopeless ambition, eventually succumbing in a downward spiral of self-destruction…’

Cheerful, innit, lol. Michael himself, in the section of the film script book entitled A History of the Screen Play, says the following about his lead character Diane: ‘It was written to expose her interview, in hindsight, as a chilling and dangerous set of evasive platitudes hiding behind the façade of a glit & glam show business that, in reality, is no more than a mirage created to sell product…’

Let me explain what Michael means about ‘her interview’ in the lines above. PLATINUM DREAMS has a female protagonist- hear, hear!- called Diane Hayden. Diane is an attractive young English secretary to a minor music mogul.

She has no intention of remaining a humble PA forever, however. She wants to be the mogul, not just the assistant to a mogul. She’s fiercely ambitious, and she’s even prepared to be ruthless if she has to be.

She tries to advance in the company she works for, Centaur Records, but her progress is blocked every which way by the glass ceiling. In other words, the male executives progress up the ladder while Diane is patted on the head and told to be a good little quiet secretary and, look, here’s a nice bunch of flowers to keep you sweet, darlin’.

Diane explodes. She quits her job, breaks up with her boyfriend- after telling him unceremoniously that she was faking it pretty much the whole time- and catches a flight to Los Angeles on Centaur Records‘s tab. She doesn’t even tell her parents that she’s leaving. When they finally find out about it, it’s already a fait accompli.

Diane makes it big, really big, in the music industry in the City of Angels. Throughout the book, there are snippets of her being interviewed by a major showbiz magazine. (That’s the interview Michael is referring to above.) She’s quizzed about her life and her meteoric rise to the top, but the answers she gives are not the real ones.

She puts a glossy spin on everything and sanitises it, saying how lovely and polite and civilised everything was when we know from the rest of the narrative that her rise to fame was excruciatingly painful and head-wrecking and mired in drugs, booze, aimless thrill-seeking and sex with all the wrong people. (Erm, where do I sign up, please…?)

Not to mention the fact that you seem to have to kiss your values goodbye when you’re clawing your way to the top in an industry like the music business, in a city like Los Angeles, where all that glitters is almost certainly not gold. It’s much the same in the film and television industry and the modelling business as well, I imagine, though I’m no expert on the high life, haha.

Diane: ‘Money, sex, drugs and movies. Aren’t there any other topics of interest in this town…?’ That’d be a ‘no,’ love…

The story takes us through Diane’s relationships with the various men who populate her life as she goes on her journey to find fame, money and success in L.A. There’s Mel, a ‘lecherous ex-junkie songwriter,’ in Diane’s own words.

There’s a very funny bit where Diane is telling the interviewer how ‘spiritual’ Mel was, and how their relationship always remained ‘a purely professional one,’ on account of his wife and all. It was just all innocent fun and good hard honest graft.

What’s so funny is that her words are sandwiched in between two scenes where we clearly see Diane and Mel rutting like wild boars on the Apocalypse. There are many examples of this hilarious inter-slicing in the screenplay, and it’s just one of the many reasons it would have worked so well as a movie. Even in the book, though, you can actually see the irony…!

Anyway, then there’s the Jewish plastic surgeon with an extremely interesting background, Jerry Golba, who would be happy to make Diane his ‘kept woman,’ but Diane wants more than that. We get an insight here into the women who use Jerry’s services as a plastic surgeon, the ageing but rich women who will go to extraordinary lengths to ‘keep young and beautiful.’

One such woman tells Diane: ‘I say, if you’ve got imperfections, get ‘em fixed. Guys out there don’t go looking for women with imperfections. Ain’t that the truth?’ If it is the truth, then it’s curtains for the ninety-nine-point-nine percent of us with so-called imperfections…!

Jerry himself says of the ‘self-delusion and pretence’ that holds Los Angeles in a stranglehold: ‘It’s what I call the L.A. ‘disease’- a state of mind similar to being stoned. You lose track of what’s real and what’s an illusion.’ And of the lights of L.A. itself: ‘They’re nothing but bright lights, Diane. They may look pretty at night but they soon lose their glitter in the daylight.’ And ain’t that the truth…?

Finally, there’s Bobby, a very good-looking teenage gay guy with whom Diane has what could be termed a strange and unhealthy relationship. Things happen between them sexually that might have been called ‘rape’ had a man been doing them to a woman.

But Diane seems obsessed with Bobby, even though his much older millionaire lover, Paul Farrell, strongly disapproves and fears losing Bobby to this sexually aware and sophisticated English woman.

It’s a bizarre set-up, but it’s probably no more bizarre than any of the other sexual shenanigans that go on in the city of ridiculously lavish parties and anything-goes-as-long-as-you’re-young-and-beautiful-and-having-fun. I just despair of where it’s all going to end, that’s all…

I love the bit about the Charlie Manson-style ‘Children of the Avenger’ cult murders. Okay, yes, lol, I’m a ghoul, all right? Even though it’s gruesome and violent possibly beyond anything I’ve read before, I still loved it. I also love but kind of abhor the clear message the screenplay sends out that everyone in this city is disposable and no-one is irreplaceable.

For example, a guy who stars in a crime drama gets killed in the book. We’ll never forget him, everyone solemnly vows. Will the series he stars in be scrapped? Will it f**k. Here’s what someone in the ‘industry’ says: ‘Aw, they’ll find a way. Shoot round it like they always do. Use a double. Whatever. A few re-writes, no-one’ll miss him. Insurance’ll cover it. No big deal. Get their accounts department on it, they’ll probably even turn it into a tax loss.’

So much for ‘we’ll never forget him…!’

I’ll leave you with the following quote from Diane:

‘It’s all about winning, here. And if you’re not a winner, you’re some kind of lesser human being…. In Los Angeles, everyone comes- not to be the best at anything- but to be rich and famous- because that’s what making it’s all about.’

And so much for: ‘What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his soul…?’

PS, if you happen to meet Michael on the street some day, ask him from me if he’s got a female Rambo yet, he’ll know what it means…!

You can buy this book and all of Michael’s other books as well at the following links:

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

CRAWL. (2019) A TERRIFIC CREATURE FEATURE REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

CRAWL. (2019) DIRECTED BY ALEXANDRE AJA. WRITTEN BY MICHAEL RASMUSSEN AND SHAWN RASMUSSEN. CO-PRODUCED BY SAM ‘THE EVIL DEAD TRILOGY’ RAIMI.

STARRING KAYA SCODELARIO AND BARRY PEPPER.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Wow. Note to self. Never, ever go to Florida, for any reason. Florida has two things I can well do without in my life: Category 5 hurricanes and giant alligators. The movie CRAWL contains both these elements. It’s a film about a young woman called Hayley Keller, her injured father Dave and their adorable bow-wow, Sugar, who are all trapped in the crawl space of their house during a hurricane.

Thanks to the hurricane, their town’s levees have burst their banks and the town is flooded. Ergo, the crawl space in question is rapidly filling up with water. They might have known this would happen; their town is rather tellingly called ‘Coral Lake.’ Coral Lake, people? Lake equals water equals flooding in a hurricane equals, well, drowning.

What makes Hayley and Dave’s situation even worse- trust me, it can get worse- is the fact that their crawl space is also rather swiftly filling up with giant alligators, nature’s most amphibious predators.

I mean, sharks are scary but you’re not likely to meet one in the Walmart car-park, are you, whereas alligators… You see what I mean? Stay the hell out of the water and JAWS won’t get you. (Yes, I call the shark Jaws, lol; do your worst, JAWS purists!) But alligators are a double threat.

Things Hayley and Dave have going against them: the hurricane, the flooding, the giant alligators, Dave’s injury, the fact that the giant ‘gators have broken Hayley’s phone, the little blighters, and eaten the one person who might actually have helped/saved them. The peril/danger/tension has been ratcheted up to the highest level, pretty much.

Things in Hayley and Dave’s favour: Hayley is a superb swimmer, the ‘apex predator,’ whatever that is, of the school swim team. Also, Hayley is courageous to the max and as resourceful as MacGyver trapped in a pressure cooker with only a woman’s brassiere and a stick of gum about his person to help him find a way out of his predicament.

Hayley is gritty and determined. She’s going to get her old man out of the crawl space and away from the giant ‘gators if it costs her every limb on her body and, judging by the way the ‘gators are snapping and chomping on her like she’s the piece de resistance at the buffet table, it just might come to that.

Also, she and Daddy have been somewhat estranged since Daddy broke up with Mummy- it’s not really either of their faults; sometimes this shit just happens- and she’s not going to let him die before she’s had a chance to properly thrash out her unresolved feelings of guilt and anger towards him. Can she save both her father and their troubled relationship…?  

The alligator action is superb and consistent. Unlike in JAWS, where you only catch glimpses of the shark before the grand finale, there’s no shortage of toothsome action, which I like.

CRAWL will deservedly take its place amongst other terrific croc-and-shark creature features such as ROGUE (2007), BLACK WATER (2007), 47 METERS DOWN (2017) and BAIT (2012), DINO CROC AND SUPER GATOR (2010), THE REEF (2010), OPEN WATER (2003) and OPEN WATER 2: ADRIFT (2006).

The addition of dozey looters Marv, Stan and Lee (geddit???) is a nice touch and, of course, the movie is co-produced by Sam ‘EVIL DEAD’ Raimi. Kaya Scodelario is an excellent actress and she has no trouble at all carrying off her leading role with grit and panache.

It’s been suggested by some that the climate change element of the film is more troubling than the alligator storyline. Given what’s happening in Europe at the moment with the flash floods that have actually destroyed homes and taken lives, and the unaccustomed heat here in Dublin, Ireland that has me confined to the chaise-longue all day, one could well believe it. But, credit where credit’s due, the giant ‘gators steal the day.  

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

ORPHANAGE. (1980) THE SCREENPLAY BOOK BY MICHAEL ARMSTRONG REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS.

ORPHANAGE. (1980)

PUBLISHED IN 2021 BY PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Michael Armstrong is creating history by being the first film-maker to publish his entire screenwriting output. With the original uncut screenplays in print for the first time ever and peppered with a mixture of wildly entertaining anecdotes, astounding behind-the-scenes revelations, creative and educational insights and brutal ‘no holds barred’ honesty, these books are guaranteed to provide a completely new kind of reading experience while offering a unique insight into the movie industry. Starting from his first professional screenplay written in 1960 when he was only fifteen and which he subsequently directed in 1968, the books will ultimately encompass a career that has spanned over fifty years. The books will include not only those screenplays which made it onto a cinema screen but, for the first time ever, all those that didn’t- and the reasons why…’

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

This fantastic screenplay was intended to be written along the lines of the humongous ‘sleeper’ hit of the era, FRIDAY 13TH, and, yes, there are certainly loads of ‘killings’ in it, but, Michael being Michael, he actually put some great believable plot in there as well and gave one or two of his characters some genuinely heart-rending back stories and life issues.

And, knowing what we know nowadays regarding pretty much every state institution ever, from Mother & Baby Homes and industrial schools to children’s homes and Magdalen Laundries, it’s not difficult to imagine traumatic starts in life and horrific emotional scarring for all the poor kids who find themselves living in a state orphanage through absolutely no fault of their own.

The plot is set in an English orphanage, not an Irish one, by the way, and, thankfully, the kids aren’t being abused by the staff like they might have been over here, but, as it’s horror fiction, the protagonists do have a rather pressing problem of their own to deal with, namely a slasher-cum-paedophile killer who cuts a murderous swathe through their numbers like… well, I was going to say like a knife through butter but that’s not very original, is it? Think of something that’s very effective at cutting that’s not a knife and we’ll use that instead, lol.

Michael Armstrong, by the way, is the famous British director and screen-writer who wrote the screenplays for the following films:

THE DARK- 1960.

THE IMAGE- 1964. Starring a young David Bowie in his first screen appearance.

THE HUNT- 1965.

MARK OF THE DEVIL- 1970. A gruesome but frighteningly real depiction of eighteenth century witch-burnings.

THE SEX THIEF- 1973.

ESKIMO NELL- 1974. A riotous sex comedy starring beloved English actor Roy Kinnear and a young and handsome Michael Armstrong himself.

IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU- 1975.

THREE FOR ALL- 1975.

ADVENTURES OF A TAXI DRIVER #2- 1975.

ADVENTURES OF A PRIVATE EYE- 1976.

THE BLACK PANTHER- 1976. The story of Donald Neilson, the British armed robber, kidnapper and murderer who abducted wealthy British teenager Lesley Whittle in 1975.

HOME BEFORE MIDNIGHT- 1979.

SCREAMTIME- 1981.

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS- 1982. The only film in the history of cinema to star horror legends Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine all together.

LIFEFORCE- 1983.

I’ve said this before, I know, but Michael Armstrong’s writing is an absolute joy to read. Reading the pictures he paints with his words is actually not much different to seeing them played out in front of you on the cinema screen. ORPHANAGE is particularly vivid. You’ll enjoy it, I promise you, although I must warn you all that the subject matter is very, very dark and some people just won’t be able for it.

We are all of us orphans in one way or another. All of us alone, isolated, looking for someone to hold onto, to love- and all of us are frightened of that shadow, that terrifying something, forever lurking just out of sight; that unexpected moment of death. It is the only thing in the world of which we can be certain; that it will always be there waiting to strike when we least expect it…

You know that guy? He’s sent the police this letter saying he’s going to do a whole load of murders next time. It was on the news.

The girl steps from a bus and crosses the road to start across some wasteland; a shortcut to her home…

Oh, horror films don’t frighten me. It’s when things are real… I mean, that’s different, isn’t it?

It doesn’t take long- especially if I cut through the woods…

Come and meet some of the kids, why don’t you? Mike is the hero, a teenage boy struggling with the twin unexploded bombs of the murder of his mother and his confusion regarding his sexuality.

Mike really likes an older guy called Brandon, but we don’t know yet if Brandon swings that way… Mike is someone with whom we can truly empathise, a decent young fella just trying to cope with the rotten curve-balls life keeps chucking at him.

‘I keep trying to fit in with the others but- all I really want to do is run away and curl up in a cave somewhere far away where no-one can ever find me.’ Poor Mike.

Terry is a bully, and, in particular, Mike’s very own special personal bully. The scene in which Terry forces Mike to act out some particularly graphic scenes from the book they’ve been studying in school, LORD OF THE FLIES, made me want to call Childline, and no kidding. Terry makes Mike’s life a misery, but Mike’s life is already tough enough. Someone should really put Terry back in his box.

‘Right! We’ve caught the pig! Now we do like they do in the book: we’re gonna stick him! Stick the pig and make him squeal! Make him wriggle! Stick him and kill him!’

 The little bollix, seriously.

Jan is a young black girl and she’s kind of Terry’s girlfriend. The scene involving their disastrous attempt at sex puts me in mind of Rachel screaming the following at Ross in FRIENDS: ‘It IS a big deal, it DOES matter and it DOESN’T happen to everyone…!’ Yeah, I think we can all guess what she’s talking about there, lol.

On the serious side, if Jan stays with Terry in the long-term, she’ll have a baby every year and a shiner every Friday and Saturday nights, and you can take that to the bank. Maggie is Jan’s younger, not-as-streetwise friend whom Terry delights in taunting.

Joey, an adorable five-year-old with obvious emotional problems and an unbreakable attachment to his teddy bear, is the kind of character that would just break your heart. He needs a mammy so much, and the one thing he doesn’t need is to be parted from his beloved teddy bear before he’s ready.

Anyway, one fateful night, the boss of the children’s home and his female co-worker go off to have dinner with someone who might possibly donate some much-needed cash to the home.

This makes it easier for the sick paedophile-killer who’s been stalking the home- and the kids- to gain access to the building… and the children who live in it… (Shades of Ted Bundy in the sorority house in Tallahassee, Florida, in 1978 here.)

The killer’s hand selects a knife with a serrated edge to the blade…

By the way, taking the short-cut home through the woods has never done any character in a film any good. Two of my favourite but possibly little-known movies from the early ‘Seventies can attest to this: THE APPOINTMENT and ASSAULT. In ORPHANAGE, there are some fantastically atmospheric scenes set in the woods in which characters get an overwhelming sense of impending doom.

There is someone else out there… in the darkness of the woods…

The screenplay puts me in mind of so many grisly things and serial killers. Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper. The original Jack the Ripper and his letters to the constabulary. Ted Bundy, as I said, and any serial killer in the movies who’s ever skulked through a darkened dormitory in the dead of night with murderous intent.

The two above-mentioned films, THE APPOINTMENT and ASSAULT, but also a film about a children’s home and several mysterious deaths called NOTHING BUT THE NIGHT, featuring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Diana Dors. Another film too, entitled WHEN A STRANGER CALLS. ‘Have you checked the children…?’ 

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m locking my bedroom door tonight and sleeping with the lights on…

By the way, all of these gorgeous glossy script books of Michael’s feature a chapter called: A HISTORY OF THE SCREEN PLAY. I always make a point of reading these because they usually contain hilariously funny anecdotes, cautionary tales and interesting snippets of showbizzy-type gossip from when Michael was actually sitting down to pen the film script in question. Read the one in ORPHANAGE and you’ll find out why Michael says: ‘That left me broke and stranded in Paris.’ Broke and stranded in Paris, lol. That’s such a writer thing to be…!

 You can buy this book and all of Michael’s other books as well at the following links:

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

Joey continues drawing closer…

Every step taking him nearer to the open doorway…

His teddy bear…

And the waiting killer…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

MIDSOMMAR. (2019) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©


MIDSOMMAR. (2019) WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY ARI ASTER. STARRING FLORENCE PUGH AND JACK REYNOR.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

If the young American college students in this film had ever seen the 1973 mystery film, The Wicker Man, they would never have done any of the following: travelled to Sweden to stay on some kind of hippy, culty commune at the behest of one of their mates; timed the visit to coincide with a massive once-in-every-ninety-years festival to celebrate the arrival of Mid-summer; allowed themselves to be disorientated and confused as a result of drugs pressed upon them by their so-called Swedish ‘mates’; watched an horrific ceremony involving geronticide- or old people euthanasia- without a murmur of protest or so much as a what the fuck is going on here in this fucked-up fucking place???; had public sex as part of a bizarre fertility ritual and, lastly, they certainly wouldn’t have allowed themselves to become mere kindling on the eventual, terrible fire of sacrifice…

Yes, dear reader, a quick watch of The Wicker Man would have solved those little problems for them all right. The Wicker Man did it first and The Wicker Man did it better. Midsommar is still a great watch, though, if a little long at one-hundred-and-fifty minutes.

Dani is a psychology student who falls to pieces when her sister Terri commits suicide, selfishly taking their parents into the afterlife with her. Her boyfriend Christian, a cultural anthropology student, had been just about to dump Dani for her clinginess and neediness but now, after her family tragedy, he feels like he can’t do it. But their relationship is so unhealthy and Dani so emotionally needy that it would almost be a kindness to give her the push, dead family or not, and put this unhealthy relationship out of its misery.

Instead, he reluctantly invites her along on the trip to Sweden, much to the disgust of all his college mates… all except the Swedish one, who can clearly see a place for Dani in the festivities to come. Christian, Dani, Josh, Mark and Pelle, the Swedish guy, all travel from the States to the commune of the Harga in Sweden, set in splendid rural isolation amongst some of nature’s most fabulous glories.

Christian, who’s still stuck for a subject for his thesis, decides that the secluded cult of the Harga would make an ideal subject, and that’s why he doesn’t push to leave the commune when they all witness a geronticide so appalling that it genuinely would give you nightmares.

The cult leaders explain it away and tell the shocked students that it’s actually a joyous occasion for the geriatrics involved, but it doesn’t look joyous to me, or to Dani. It just looks barbaric, completely and utterly barbaric.

One gets the feeling that the American kids, plus a young couple from London, are being gaslit, in pretty much the same manner as poor old Sgt. Neil Howie in The Wicker Man, into believing that no harm can come to them in a commune where everyone wears flowing white robes and garlands of flowers and lives off the land in an atmosphere of peace and love, learning and harmony. Drugged-up, free-love-having, non-believing-in-Jesus hippies, lol.

The Harga people’s ‘Wicker Man’ is a triangle-shaped, man-made oddity that’s curiously at odds with the scenes of nature all around it. It doesn’t take a genius to work out why these post-grads have been lured from America with the promise of experiencing the fascinating indigenous rituals and ceremonies of another country’s Mid-summer festival.

But the film is still worth watching right to the end of the one-hundred-and-fifty minutes, just to see how Ari Aster, the director of Hereditary, achieves a sort of re-make of The Wicker Man, but without actually mentioning that this is what he’s doing.

It seems at times like the film is a bit crowded, a wee bit too busy, as the director tries to cram as many rituals as he can into the one festival, but how-and-ever. The violence in the film is hard to stomach. Some images are extremely disturbing, while others don’t make much sense or are confusing, misleading.

Some of the rituals, especially the ones that take place at the outside tables during meal-times, go on a bit too long and my mind started to wander for a bit. Male frontal nudity is in evidence in the film too, plus the fiery come-uppance of a cheating scumbag of a boyfriend, lol.

It’s a gorgeous film to look at, with a suitably unsettling score, but I said it earlier and I’ll say it again: The Wicker Man did it first and The Wicker Man did it better. That doesn’t mean that directors shouldn’t try to make a film about a pagan cult who worship the old gods and approve of group sex and human sacrifice. It just means that they have to try to make it a bit different to its predecessors. Does Midsommar succeed in this? I’ll be nice, and give it five out of ten.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

MARK OF THE DEVIL. (1970) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©


MARK OF THE DEVIL. (1970) DIRECTED BY MICHAEL ARMSTRONG. PRODUCED BY ADRIAN HOVEN. SCREENPLAY WRITTEN BY MICHAEL ARMSTRONG AND ADRIAN HOVEN.
STARRING HERBERT LOM, REGGIE NALDER, OLIVERA VUCA, GABY FUCHS, UDO KIER, INGEBORG SCHONER, ADRIAN HOVEN AND HERBERT FUX.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I absolutely love this film, but, if I tell you that vomit bags were issued to movie patrons during screenings of it in America, it might give you a teensy-weensy clue as to how violent and stomach-churning it can be at times. If you’re of a nervous or wobbly disposition, I strongly suggest you refrain from viewing it.

If, however, you’re like me and thoroughly enjoy a good witch-burning movie from the late sixties/early seventies, you’ll absolutely bloody love it. When a horror film starts with nuns being raped, you know it’s time to usher the kids up to bed, hunker down and open the wine. Some seriously adult stuff is about to go down…

The original screenplay was for a film entitled THE WITCH-HUNT OF DOCTOR DRACULA, the brainchild of producer Adrian Hoven, which (sadly?!) never got made. Instead, hot young British director Michael Armstrong was invited on board and he turned the film into pretty much the best witch-finding film ever made. It even out-witch-finder-ed Michael Reeves’s WITCHFINDER GENERAL from 1968 starring Vincent Price, and that’s a cracking film.

Although the finished product is a top-notch horror film, the production was troubled from the start. All the juicy, funny and even at times outrageous behind-the-scenes gossip can be found in Michael Armstrong’s gorgeous glossy screenplay book, MARK OF THE DEVIL, currently for sale from Michael’s own website and from his publishers, Paper Dragon Productions. I’ll pop links in at the end.

The film itself is unforgettable. Set in a village in seventeenth-century Austria, it begins with the local witchfinder, a hideous-looking villainous murderer called Albino, capturing the aforementioned nuns and one monk and sentencing them to death for allegedly practising witchcraft.

Without a shred of proof, a hint of a formal indictment or a ghost of a proper trial, I might add. But that’s just the way they did it back then. The nuns and monk die horribly, but that’s only the beginning of the viewer’s nightmarish trip back in time to witch-burning Europe.

Back in those days, you could accuse someone of witchcraft if they’d pissed you off even slightly or if you fancied taking their cow or pig for yourself. It seemed like all you had to do was point the finger and an angry mob would form behind you, baying for the ‘witch’s’ blood. Remember Homer in THE SIMPSONS? ‘I accuse Goody Flanders…!’

And these are only the locals. When the Church-and-state-appointed Witchfinder trundles into town in his carriage (which may have been used by a real witch-finder back in the day; filming was done in an Austrian castle which contained a genuine torture chamber and real, authentic instruments of torture), things are about to get a whole lot worse. Oh yes, they can get worse…!

The horrible local witchfinder Albino has accused a beautiful young barmaid called Vanessa Benedict of being a witch. Why? Because she won’t have sex with him and fights off his attempted rape of her, and who would blame her?

He’s a vicious, murdering thug who enjoys raping women and hurting people of either sex. He gets immense satisfaction out of pricking her with his infamous ‘witchfinder’s needle,’ looking for the so-called ‘Devil’s mark.’

Vanessa is brought before the ‘court’ of the new witchfinder in town, the stern Lord Cumberland, well played by Herbert Lom. Vanessa is thrown in jail to await the preparation of the formal indictment against her, much to the distress of Count Christian von Meru, Lord Cumberland’s young apprentice witchfinder.

The divinely handsome Christian (oh God, those beautiful eyes!)  is madly in love with the busty Vanessa and she with him, but Lord Cumberland advises Christian to put aside the temptations of the flesh and concentrate on ridding the world of the evils of witchcraft.

But Christian has extremely high ideals and morals, and when one fateful day he sees his adviser and mentor Lord Cumberland commit an act that no decent man of the cloth would ever so much as contemplate, he finds himself terribly torn, torn between his love of Mother Church and his love for Vanessa, a real human female who can fill his life with love, warmth and laughter. Which will he choose, and what will it cost him…?

The Austrian scenery- the mountains, the lakes, the rolling green hills- is stunning to look at (the hills are certainly alive), and I love the score as well. The film is most famous- or should that be notorious- for its torture scenes, and the reputation is warranted, I tells ya, warranted. Don’t you be telling me it’s not warranted. And if you tell me you think the film’s depiction of torture is too graphic, I’ll just say this: it all happened that way in real life, didn’t it…?

Poor beautiful Deirdre von Bergenstein and the young Baron Daumer experience the full benefits of Lord Cumberland’s dubious hospitality. What’s on the menu? Well, the thumbscrews, the rack, whipping, both on the body and on the soles of the feet, a special chair with nails sticking up out of it for the posterior and, for Deirdre, something so disgusting and terrible that vomit bags had to be issued alongside your cinema ticket back in the day. And some of them were actually used for that exact purpose, as well. By the way, I thought the water torture guy was getting off lightly at first, but, by the time we’d witnessed his total mental degeneration, I wasn’t so sure…

The film does an excellent job of showing us exactly why witch-finding was so popular back in those days. The Church benefited by confiscating the property and riches of any wealthy noblemen- or women- they accused of witchcraft.

The prisoners might escape with their lives if they signed their estates over to the Church, and if they refused to do so, they were burned as witches and the Church nicked their stuff anyway. Win-win, but not for the poor victims. Talk about a cast-iron, Church-and-state-sanctioned excuse for raping and pillaging. Disgusting.

I love Herbert Fux as Jeff Wilkins, the witchfinder’s heavy. He carries out the torture with such gusto! You don’t often get to see a man enjoying his job so much. Gaby Fuchs is wonderful too as the poor brutalised Deirdre, and Udo Kier and Olivera Vuco as Christian and Vanessa make an exceedingly good-looking couple. Does their story have a happy ending? You’ll have to watch this controversial cult classic to find out, folks. But keep those vomit bags handy, just in case…    
  
You can buy all of Michael’s screenplay books at the following links:
 
http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk
http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

LEARNING CREATIVE WRITING ON THE CHEAP: BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©


LEARNING CREATIVE WRITING ON THE CHEAP.
BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I nearly had a heart attack yesterday when I saw that the price for an online self-publishing course was nearly seven thousand dollars. Even in euros, that’s a ridiculous amount of money.

The online course business practically exploded during the pandemic and is still blossoming; all those people staying home and sitting in front of their computers, wanting to learn a new skill or sharpen and hone some existing ones.

I love a good writing course. I signed up to loads during the pandemic. Some of them were free- FUTURELEARN- and some were as cheap as a tenner- UDEMY. I’m not a millionaire, and, even if I were, there’s probably no way I’d pay seven grand for a course in self-publishing or creative writing.

Everyone is hustling nowadays. I sign up to a lot of writing emails and writing blogs because I’m a compulsive signer-upper, lol, and, plus, you never know what little gems of advice or pearls of literary wisdom you might come across in one of them.

Nearly every single one of those emails from bloggers is trying to sell me something. The ‘secret’ to being a successful self-publisher or creative writer, mainly. They want me to book a place on their live ‘training’ class or masterclass, and then buy a super-expensive course or ‘package’ containing all kinds of online writing-related doo-hickeys, some of which might be useful, others less so.

They want me to pay for an ‘in’ to an exclusive online writing community that will supposedly support my writing efforts and make the solitary business of writing a little less lonely. These are often held on Zoom, but I also know of a particular ‘exclusive’ writing group on Facebook that requires you to pay thirty-five quid a month to be in their snobby group.

 I’ve been offered the chance to join and ‘find my tribe,’ but I’m not paying thirty-five quid a month to be in a Facebook group, I don’t care how supportive the other members are! If I have thirty-five quid a month to spare, there’s always a gas bill or a lecky bill it can go towards.

And let’s not forget the books. Everyone’s flogging a book, and the book, like the masterclasses and ‘training’ videos and ‘bundles’ of writing aids which would normally cost thousands of dollars but are now going for a song at a mere fifty bucks, claims to reveal the ‘secret’ you’ve been waiting your whole life to hear.

The ‘secret’ to good writing, the ‘secret’ to keeping your readers engaged from the get-go, the ‘secret’ to selling a million books a year on Amazon, the ‘secret’ to being more successful than Stephen King mashed together with Hilary Mantel, even the ‘secret’ to writing a book without typing a single word, a new one I came across lately that just boggles my mind.

I’ve got news for you guys, though, and it might seem disheartening at first, but it’s actually good news. There is no ‘secret,’ no magic wand, no magic spell, no silver bullet, no special key that will unlock all the success and acclaim you’ve ever dreamed of.

And that’s good news, because it means that you’ve already got the power within you to be a good writer, and it lies in your own mind and your own hands. You don’t need ruby slippers to get there, because you’re already there. Well, nearly.

I’ve been writing for twelve years now myself and I’ve discovered that there really is only one way to do it. You have to sit down at your computer every single day, or as many days a week as you can manage it, and write stuff, and then you just have to keep doing that exact thing, year in, year out.

The more you write, the better at it you’ll get. That’s pretty much guaranteed. When I first started out, I joined a writers’ group and wrote a little something every week along the lines of the prompt they’d given us.

Physical writers’ groups might be thin on the ground at the moment due to Covid, but you can keep in touch with all your own writer friends on Facebook like I do (writing is a lonely business; that’s just the way it is), and I still maintain you don’t need to pay thirty-five quid a month to do it…!

You can also follow book bloggers and writers on social media, and read their posts exhaustively to find out how they do things. I do this, and I learn a lot about writing and books this way.

Books are an invaluable source of information. Not only is reading the number one way, next to practising, to improve your writing, but you can actually buy books- or borrow them from the library- that give you tips on writing and how to maintain good writing practices and a meaningful writing life.

My two favourites, ON WRITING by Stephen King and Anne Lamott’s BIRD BY BIRD, are frequently at the top of most peoples’ ‘Best Writing Books’ list, so you won’t go far wrong with them. You can also buy books of writing prompts, if you feel like you’re stuck and need a bit of a leg-up, or get them for free online.

You can also buy books filled with creative writing exercises, which will give you the feeling that you’re doing a self-guided course for next to nothing. Trust me, you don’t need to spend nearly seven grand on a writing course to improve your writing. (Unless you’re doing an actual degree course; that’s different.)

All you need is your writing space and laptop, a few notebooks, pens and how-to books, and, of course, access to the Internet and a positive wealth of free information on everything from good grammar to how to self-publish a book on Amazon for free with Kindle Direct Publishing.

Those are the actual physical, tangible things that you need. You’ll need other things too, like grit and courage and an absolute determination to keep going no matter how shit things get, and they can get quite shit, believe me. But you already have all those things within you, which is how I have a pretty good feeling that you’re going to be okay.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: