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Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Going to the Wars

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)
ISMO (1963)
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.

1 comment:

cuneatics said...

I entirely agree with you about the Callendar books. I have finally managed to get hold of replacement copies as our old ones went with one of my sisters. They captivated me in the 1960's and somehow were always there in the background. I quite agree too that their obscurity is wholly unmerited, but short of blazoning t-shirts and balloons over the capital what can we do?