Research, the Great War and Band History

IMG_5603In Kitty and Cadaver: Not the Zombie Apocalypse, I wrote in a reference to one of the former incarnations of the band: the trunk that the band carries around contains a few artefacts, including a horseshoe which Bartos, of revered memory, once used to hold ghouls at bay on a battlefield in France in World War I.

This year is the anniversary of the start of that war, and there are all kinds of solemn and striking stories being told: reminding us how it began, and why it didn’t stop sooner.

Here in London, where I am on holidays and looking for material for several books, including the next Kitty and Cadaver novel, I have seen a couple of terrific exhibitions. The Cartoon Museum has on display a number of newspaper cartoons and postcards, not only from the Allied perspective but from the Germans and their allies too. Seeing how the other side saw things is always an interesting perspective, and British cartoonists occasionally showed a human side to the nation’s enemies as well.

Public opinion, as expressed through editorial cartoons, advertising and postcards, isn’t as cut and dried as you’d sometimes think. It’s one reason it’s always a good idea to return to primary documents rather than rely on later interpretations.

The Imperial War Museum also has a Great War Gallery, proving very popular, and it threads the historical narrative with homefront conditions and some alternative perspectives as well.

All of this viewing of exhibitons and documentaries and reading of articles is essential so that I can one day write out the whole story of Bartos and the horseshoe – an idea which popped up when I was at Genrecon one year and took part in a writing exercise. This short piece was, I think, the first thing I wrote in the Kittyverse.

Now I know that Bartos is Slovakian (a country then under the power of the Austro-Hungarian empire) and Piotr is originally from Russia (then allied with Great Britain, until the Russian Revolution saw its withdrawal). I now know what those two men were doing together in France, and where they were first – but I don’t know yet who else is in their incarnation of the band, or their fates. It won’t all be happy endings, obviously.

In the meantime, here’s that exercise I wrote.

Kitty reached instinctively for the horseshoe lying in the folds of greased brown paper at the top of the trunk.

“This feels… strong,” she said, rubbing her thumb across the grains of rusted metal. The brown streak on her skin tingled.

“Good choice,” said Yuka, “Steve says it’s a hundred years old, that one. Bartos, the percussionist back then, was caught in the Somme, a ghoul was coming up from the bomb crater for him. This was all he had. That and a tent peg. But he made music with that horseshoe and his voice, and held it back until Piotr could arrive with his flute.”

There will be more stories set in the band’s 700 year history coming from my experiences on this trip – and I’ll post some of them here when I’m done.

New to Kitty and Cadaver? Find out about the project in About Kitty and Cadaver or start from chapter one at Read the Book.


Montreal and Music

One of the things on my agenda during my recent trip to Canada was to visit Montreal and scout it as a place for a potential future Kitty and Cadaver story. Montreal has a great tradition of music and performance, and several places and ideas came together to make a future story viable. I have notes and the start of a future book set there.

There are a lot of musical moments to choose from in Montreal – and I intend to incorporate as many of them as possible when the time comes.

For example, one night we were going to Les Foufounes Electriques, we stumbled across a festival for emerging music, so we stopped to listen to the DJ and dance for a bit.


We went on after that to Les FouFounes as planned (its name means ‘electric buttocks’). No live music that night, but I listened to the DJs and reflected how it reminded me of a place called The Atomic Cafe I used to frequent in Perth in the 80s.


On the Sunday, we went to two great regular Montreal events: the Tam Tams and the Piknic Electronik. The Tam Tams are a drum circle that sprang up spontaneously at the base of Mont Royal park in the late 70s. A drumming circle will be right up Yuka’s alley.


The Piknic is a summer music festival that has weekly sessions on St Helen’s Island, underneath a giant, spindly sculpture that looks like an alien insect to me. Plenty of potential in both that and the festival, which encourages people of all ages to come and dance.


One thing I loved about Montreal was its summer arts idea of putting pianos in random places around the city. I came across this gentleman playing and asked if I could film him. He gave me permission and after a while, started to sing. It was just lovely.

Montreal also has an underground city, where people can still shop and get around during the snowy winter months as well as reaching the subway trains. One intersection turned out to be a perfect little echo chamber. I sang a little of a song I wrote a while back called This Ghost.(15 second MP3 file)

The corridors near the train stations also have these signs showing the designated spots for buskers.


I’m not sure yet how all of these elements will come together for a Kitty story set in Montreal, but they are all percolating away.

But first, I need to finish Not the Zombie Apocalypse, and the second planned story (tentatively about the London underground and maybe ghosts).

New to Kitty and Cadaver? Find out about the project in About Kitty and Cadaver or start from chapter one at Read the Book.