These last few weeks have been strange ones here at the CFZ. Not only have I been particularly unwell, and as mad as a bag full of cheese for a large portion of it, but also I have had to cast aside my madness as best as I can and co-ordinate the running of the Guyana expedition blog (see the link on the side of the page).
I have spent much of the rest of the time in bed, and I have been re-discovering the writings of an old friend of mine: Sir John Verney. He is probably best known for his semi-autobiographical book Going to the Wars, which recounts his spectacularly exciting military career, but he has always been most important to me through his alter-ego, journalist and harassed father Augustus “Gus” Callendar, one of the central characters of a series of children’s books which were written between 1959 and 1972. Much to my grave disappointment, they remain spectacularly obscure, and very few people have heard of them. However, they all have a worthy message to those of us of a fortean persuasion, and have peculiarly surrealchemical plot twists and anarchistic themes, which are all the more peculiar when you discover that the author is not only a notable war hero, but also a minor Peer of the Realm.
The five books are:
Friday’s Tunnel (1959)
February’s Road (1961)
Seven Sunflower Seeds (1968)
Samson’s Hoard (1972)
The last three books, in particular, are very fortean in their outlook, in that at every twist and turn of the plot you find out that, as Lloyd Pye said, “everything you know is wrong”. And all preconceptions are demolished, as Verney plays surreal word games worthy of Tony Shiels upon the hapless reader. Whereas, on the surface at least, these books appear to be stuck well within the genre, which was popular 50 years ago of ‘middle class children, with ponies, having adventures and thwarting the adult world’, in reality these books are far more complex. Where else in the canon of children’s literature do you find two novels about a mythical global anarchist group founded in Italy by an Italian aristocrat posing as a pop singer (who has always reminded me of the late Richard Chanfray, who alongside a not very successful career as a third rate Jacques Brel or Claude Francois, copyist, claimed to be the immortal and invisible Count of Saint Germain)? And, furthermore, where in the canon of children’s literature do you find novels in which the concept of anarchism, at least as practised by the CFZ, is portrayed not just in a positive light, but as a jolly good idea?
Although I hope that you will all continue to follow the adventures of the Guyana Five (as Nick Redfern has dubbed them), to download my latest album from www.cfz.org.uk/music and watch On the Track (see the new link on the side of this page), if you have a few quid left during the inexorable run-up to what is euphemistically described as the festive season, I urge you to go to Abe Books www.abebooks.com and have a look for one or more of the above titles. I guarantee that you will not be disappointed.