I wish I had been able to go to all the events on the list as they were all fascinating, but as I live outside of London and rail fares are rising and rising, I always have to choose my London jaunts carefully. So I chose this one. Journalist Mark Lawson was in conversation with writers DBC Pierre, Kim Newman and Sarah Waters. The last time we were at the Library's Conference Centre was about two years ago for a talk about crime writing also hosted by Mark Lawson - this was when the late P.D James had signed my copy of Death Comes to Pemberley, so it was a bit sad to be back at the Conference Centre last week...
I didn't know DBC Pierre before that evening, although the title of his Booker Prize-winning debut novel Vernon God Little was indeed familiar. I will be checking his work now because I really liked his calm, serene attitude and dry sense of humour. There was definitively something unusual, dark and wry about him which was quietly intriguing.
I have read all of Sarah Waters's books. I love the way she quietly creates atmospheres and conjures up characters and settings in a non-showy way. Her books are never about fast action and shock tactics: everything builds up slowly, allowing you to get under the characters' skin and explore the surroundings so you can properly immerse yourself in the story. In person, she was as I had imagined her to be: calm, thoughtful, quietly spoken and straight to the point.
I am not yet half-way through her latest book, The Paying Guests, and I really love it. Like my new novel The Book of Thoth, it is set in the 20s with the shadows of WW1 still hanging over British society, and the living struggling to shake the all-too-painful memories of the slaughtered loved ones.
The discussion was really interesting; trying to define "Gothic" is no easy task indeed. Somebody's Gothic pleasure can be someone else's detested nightmare. The genre has very well survived the passing of time, adapting to different eras and times.
I liked the way the three guests and Mark Lawson all agreed that we live in very Gothic times indeed - austerity and the ever increasingly interfering new technology that deprives us of our privacy are very conducive to (modern) Gothic plots. I also feel that the blander and glossier a society becomes the more sinister it gets. So long live Gothic!
The previous time we saw the band at the same venue, the support band had cancelled at the last minute, and a lone figure had stepped onto the stage: Jordan Reyne. She had put us under her spell after only a few seconds and had held the attention of the whole venue single-handedly. I have been a fan ever since, and I feel that I owe it to FOTN to have discovered this incredible artist.
She is also a member of another favourite of mine: The Eden House (FOTN's bassist Tony Pettitt is a founder member).
Anyway, all this to say: it was very different this time around.
As we pushed the doors to the venue and stepped inside, a huge wave of girly screams reached us: had we come to the wrong venue?
Oh, no. It's just that HIM had started their set. Yes, HIM. To be perfectly honest, I had lost track of the band since about 2005. Frontman Ville Valo had made the most of his "metal pin-up" status in the early noughties and had gone off the rails for a while. He was very present at some point whilst I was a music writer, regularly appearing in magazines such as Kerrang! and Metal Hammer, and you cannot deny that he is a genuine music fan (he is a real FOTN fan).
I had seen HIM live whilst out and about around London covering gigs, but I didn't remember them being so... well, not very good (I am being cautious here). It just didn't work at all: love songs, metal guitar solos and screaming girls. Valo looked like he couldn't be bothered and his voice was weak. Hardly the ideal build-up for a Nephs gig.
The four fifths of the venue who had come to see Fields of The Nephilim were not impressed. Nobody moved, nobody applauded. Generously, nobody booed either. Once HIM had finished their set, the girls disappeared and the night could begin in earnest.
It was good to see Tony Pettitt on stage with the always fascinating and shamanic frontman Carl McCoy, and the set was absolutely magical. There was real mystery at work here, the music conveying an energy resolutely out of this world. It was simply mesmerising.
We were treated to two new tracks (with a bit of research, I found out that they were called Earthbound and Prophecy) which will undoubtedly feature on the band's new album (it has been recently announced on the band's website that they were indeed recording new material for a release).
Go to the very comprehensive Sumerland Website for setlists (both nights).
I tried to take pictures and the results are... arty?
I cannot wait to see them again.
all pictures (c) Carya Gish