But what I really want to do is direct…

I was watching a movie t’other week on the telly-box starring that wunderkind of nineties indie films, Ethan Hawke, when I suddenly remembered that he had also written a novel that I had actually enjoyed reading. And so I wondered “How many other bona fide movie stars have written novels”?

My idle musings started well as Carrie Fisher’s work immediately sprung to mind. Postcards from the edge would have to be her most well-known book (due to the successful film starring Meryl Streep) but she’s also penned The best awful and Surrender the pink. Her latest non-fiction work, the punnily titled Wishful drinking, hit the library shelves just recently.

And then my movie star novelist list ground to a halt. There are plenty of actors of varying degrees of fame in both films and television that have written novels, but none that I really judged to be “stars”. Until I came across Steve Martin, who in addition to acting and directing has written several novels and plays. One of his novels Shopgirl was made into a film of the same name starring…Steve Martin, natch.

I did discover in my poking around in the catalogue and Googling that there are a healthy swag of British thesps who have written fiction. What is it about British comic actors that makes them more likely to pen novels than other actors or actresses I wonder? Amongst the field are such names as – Michael Palin, Ben Elton, Ardal O’Hanlon (aka Father Dougal), Julie Walters, Meera Syal, Nigel Planer (Neil, when he was a Young One) and the inimitable Stephen Fry. I’m also intrigued by the novels of Rupert Everett, luvvie playboy extraordinaire, but sadly we don’t have any of his, though I may try out his autobiography. It sounds a hoot.

And back to Ethan Hawke, which is where we sort of started.  His book The hottest state is now a movie, written, directed by, and starring Mr Ethan Hawke.  Maybe writing a novel is a good way of securing yourself a directing gig?

Does anybody else have any favourite actor-slash-novelists to add to the mix?

Exotic Creatures of the Deep

The Sparks’ new album, Exotic Creatures of the Deep, is referred to on wikipedia as “chamber pop,” and on my first listening I found myself describing it as Philip Glass does pop-vaudeville. Repetitive, kooky and almost posingly “original” (with titles like “I can’t believe that you would fall for all the crap in this song,” and “(She got me) pregnant”, this bunch of rather silly pop songs are most enjoyable if you don’t try to listen to them all in one sitting.

Apparently The Sparks have been influencing the evolution of popular music since 1970 and have always stayed one step ahead, changing their style, defying genres and avoiding classification. I’ve only just discovered them, but my colleague Hugh remembers them from their younger days as “mismatched brothers – one was the good-looking one, with long ringlets and the other one looked like Adolf Hitler’s bastard son.”

They are playful and bold and sort of horribly, post-modernly cool-because-they’re-n0t-cool (2 very straight-looking brothers in suits). I … like them … I think.

Necrology, March 10 – March 20

Necrology – a list of notable people who have died recently. Now a regular feature on our blog.
  • Robert Anderson, 1917-2009
    Author of Tea and Sympathy which proved a hit for Deborah Kerr both on Broadway and the big screen
  • Geoff Moon, 1915-2009
    New Zealand naturalist and photographer who has produced many award winning books, particularly on New Zealand birds.
  • Anne Brown, 1915-2009
    Original star of Porgy and Bess who turned her back on the US, claiming racial discrimination
  • Natasha Richardson, 1963-2009
    Actress who escaped the shadow of her thespian dynasty to become a star in her own right
  • Eric Simms, 1921-2009
    Naturalist who became a familiar voice on the BBC and created a nature reserve on the A1
  • Alan Stripp, 1924-2009
    Wartime codebreaker who later lifted the lid on his secret work in books of both fact and fiction
  • Donald Trounson, 1905-2009
    Diplomat and amateur ornithologist who attempted to complete an index of Australian birds
  • James Whitmore, 1921-2009
    Award-winning actor with a social conscience and the tough guy looks and style of Spencer Tracy

Sci-fi scene in good health

Who’d be a literary judge? A thankless task if every there was one – everyone thinks you’ve been bought, are pandering to populism or just chose the book that had the prettiest pictures.

The Sir Julius Vogel awards, which honour New Zealand writers of fantasy, science fiction and horror, avoid that by having fans vote, with the winners announced at the National Science Fiction Convention.

It’s a cunning move, epsecially as this year the competition is fierce. The young adult section is typical – Helen Lowe (who’s Thornspell broke into the American market) battles it out with Margaret Mahy, Ella West, Fleur Beale and Glynne MacLean. Lowe and West are also up for the best new talent award.

Whoever wins, the fans are the ones who voted for it, and they can battle it out with hexes, light sabres and Vogon poetry if they want. Armageddon, anyone? Love it or loathe it, it seems this slice of New Zealand genre writing and its fan base are in good health.