I‘ve had a few requests for advice on which of the nearly 100 posts on this blog to read first. So here, in no particular order, are six stories which remain memorable for one reason or another.
The Almighty Gaylords of Chicago is by far the most popular piece I’ve written on the blog. This brief summary of a white Chicago street gang was prompted by running across its unusual name on some website and digging deeper. It’s subsequently garnered a whole lot of views and spawned two sequels. I don’t think many who come here to read it go on to buy my books or look at posts about Raymond Chandler, but I’m glad of their company.
Welcome to the Scriptatron 5000 was a slim few hundred words of wondering about the future automation of written content on the internet. Ironically perhaps, only about five people have ever read it. It’s not especially deep, although the subject is important, especially as some Youtube creators now apparently make videos based around an algorithm throwing up topics that snag viewers. Stick around for an interesting CPG Grey video at the end.
If WordPress had a Huh?? button then readers would be mashing it after getting through Fictional Painters of 1926. A few paragraphs pointing out that both HP Lovecraft and Evelyn Waugh created fictional painters active in the same year (although now I’m not even sure if Waugh’s Belgian Futurist is ever explicitly described as a painter, but y’know …) serve a launch pad for concerns about the sustainability of post-modernistic appropriation in our culture. And there’s a robbery at a museum. Shorter and less deep than it sounds. I still think it’ll make a good movie.
A Kidnapping in Poland runs to nearly 7,500 words. I first heard about the case around 2009 when there was renewed interest among Poles about the Krzysztofa Olewnik kidnap murder. They saw a resemblance with an unsolved crime from the 1950s. A couple of years later I bought a few books on the original case and wrote up a lengthy essay for my (now mothballed) brightreview.co.uk website. It was as long as it needed to be to tell the story of a fascinating kidnapping in communist Poland.
Anything involving American killer cult leaders is going to be controversial. Add in hippies, the Rolling Stones, and occultist film makers, and that controversy reaches weapons grade. I still get emails about Charles Manson at Altamont, 1969 from groupies, Hells Angels, and people who were there. Some like it; some hate it. They’re not shy about telling me. The article patches in some lesser known links between Manson, the Stones, the Beatles, Kenneth Anger, and Altamont. Enjoy.
Difficult one. I guess my favourite post is probably In Search of Dominique Borella, about a French mercenary who died mysteriously in Lebanon. I put it together through the usual detective work, but what makes it special is that Borella’s son got in touch. He didn’t know much about his father (unhappy ex-wife turned protective mother) and wanted more information. I pointed him towards people in Lebanon, which led to old friends of Borella presenting his son with the dead mercenary’s personal effects. Sometimes you can make a difference, I guess.
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