A colony of farmers watch in great joy as a starcruiser lands before them.  You have opened The Man From P.I.G. by Harry Harrison, published in 1968.  On board are the galaxy-saving commandos who are going to protect them from the hideous ghosts that have been attacking them from the horrible haunted plateau.  Only when the hatch opens, it isn’t starship troopers that come marching out — instead the door opens and a thundering wave of pigs descend to save the planet.  This is the Porcine Interstellar Guard.

Published poet and thriller writer Jack Higgins, has been popular for many years. Even at that crucial moment, when books were brand new to me, Jack Higgins filled my time with his epic volumes. Higgins wrote thrillers, but then he was a published poet and thriller writer — that is what he was known for. A poet of the war, a poet of the kind of tame thrills and well-constructed stories, that took us mystifyingly from one fight to another, via the wired mysteries of his imagination. That’s because Jack Higgins wasn’t averse to re-writing history as he went, and it sure gave him a hell of an edge.

I came across Robert Heinlein on Facebook recently, reminding the younger generation that not only was he the author of the book that inspired Starship Troopers, but that the book was significantly different. It seemed odd that he should want to do this, but then leafing through the comment thread, it seemed that most people were amazed by this revelation, previously believing that the whole thing had been dreamed up by Paul Verhoeven and his sadistic team of script genies.

There was a great television film of The Woman in Black produced in 1989, and it was the most terrifying thing on the small screen.  Although I hadn’t heard of Susan Hill then, my main concern wasn’t reading her books, but getting the image of the ghost appearing in the night out of my mind.  It was simply awful, and made worse by the hideous sound that the Granada Television production played over that fast approaching, screaming white form.  If you’re interested, see The (other) Woman in Black at IMDB here.

The Bird of Night is one of my favourite Susan Hill books, and it’s about a relationship between two men which isn’t overtly homosexual, but is still fairly obviously homoerotic. Perhaps under the hood there is something more going on, but that’s life, and especially British life for you — everything understated and locked away.

I’ve seen Where Time Winds Blow (1981) by Robert Holdstock described as ‘criminally unknown’ and while that’s true, if every criminally unknown title were hyped, filmed and thrust into the public attention, public attention would wane back to what it already is; a steady state of low level care. A novel that follows the odd urges of its author, and fails to adhere to the normative patterns of storytelling that the US film industry developed (they evolved from vaudeville, actually) will always be further down the film makers’ wish list.