Thursday, 31 December 2015

BOOK REVIEW: The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes – Stories From the Golden Age of Gaslight Crime

Fictional detectives don't came more famous than Sherlock Holmes.

The deerstalker be-hatted creation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is the seminal star of sleuthing.

And that is kind of the point of The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes – Stories From the Golden Age of Gaslight Crime, no-one, least of all the book's compiler Nick Rennison (pictured), is trying to claim otherwise.

But what this book does is highlight that Holmes was not the only or indeed the first of his kind.

As revealed in the anthology The Strand magazine was at the forefront of a newly-insatiable thirst for detective and mystery fiction, thanks to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's denizen of 221B Baker Street.

But Conan Doyle's inability or unwillingness to to write a Holmes story for every issue of the magazine in the 1890s opened the door for others.

There were copycat Holmes' as well as more eclectic sleuths, including those who battled supernatural enemies, 'New Women' crimebusters and even Catholic Priests-turned PIs.

There was lawyer-turned detective Martin Hewitt, by Arthur Morrison – a character that smacked of Holmes thanks to illustrations by Sydney Paget, who also drew the deducing consulting detective.

Female crime solvers were aplenty, including another Strand regular – Lois Cayley – a creation of Grant Allen.

While none of the rivals matched Sherlock's stratospheric success they all contributed to the burgeoning crime and mystery genre and many other magazines embraced detective fiction.

And it was not just London or UK sleuths.

The anthology features tales from three US writers and a story featuring Eugene Valmont, a French detective exiled in London, who was created by Robert Barr.

The Gallic gendarme appeared in The Windsor Magazine and Pearson's Magazine in the 1890-1914 period, which was something of a golden age for the genre.

William Hope Hodgson's Carnacki is also in the book, battling paranormal foes.

But, despite the fantastical and often far-fetched plots, these detective stories give a very real insight into the era in which they were set and vividly illustrate how the ability to read had mushroomed to a wider population in the late nineteenth century.

  • The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes – Stories From the Golden Age of Gaslight Crime is published by No Exit Press (@noexitpress) and priced at £9.99.
    For more information click here

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

BOOK REVIEW: The Rivals of Dracula - Stories from The Golden Age of Gothic Horror

Think of vampires, you think of Dracula – at least you would have done before TV shows like True Blood brought the genre hurtling into the modern era.

But it is because of the success of Dracula that an obscure, mainly Slavic, piece of folklore has endured so long.

But Bram Stoker's bloodsucking blueblood was not the first exsanguinating fiend to stalk the fictional landscape.

Nick Rennison, pictured below, illuminates a dank corner of vampire lore before and contemporary to Stoker's opus, with fangtastic fables from so-called 'penny dreadfuls' and short stories consumed by a voracious, newly-literate 18th century audience.

Rennison's ability to contextualise and then let the obscure writers do the talking in this terrific anthology is a real triumph.

It blends fact, fiction, history and legend in a darkly spellbinding 287 pages, which touches on themes such as sexuality, hysteria and primal fear.
The book features virtually unheard of delights like MR James' Count Magus, Richard Marsh's The Mask and Frank Norris' Grettir at Thornhall-stead.

The many faces of the vampires in the anthology show archetypal fanged eastern European noble is not the only embodiment of a supernatural idea, which goes back to ancient history.

Count Magus explores the dangers of meddling with and prying into history, a theme which Dracula also used with the conflation of Dracula with Vlad Tepes, or Vlad the Impaler as he is infamously known.

Vampire legend is shown in the context of Norse mythology in Grettir at Thornhall-stead as an undead Icelander fights with Viking heroes in the days of the sagas.

The calm and calculating Count Dracula is also a million miles from the homicidal maniac portrayed in The Mask.

This book is a must for anyone with a penchant for the supernatural and a thirst for Gothic horror.
  • The Rivals of Dracula – Stories from the Golden Age of Gothic Horror is published by No Exit Press (@noexitpress) and priced at £9.99 (also available as an ebook). For more information click here

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

We Are WHSE presents: Cream Ibiza - Vandit Records, with Paul van Dyk, John '00' Fleming, Giuseppe Ottaviani and others

A bill featuring the likes of Paul van Dyk, John '00' Fleming, Guiseppe Ottaviani and Solarstone is difficult to avoid for trance fan like me, writes TopReviews4U editor Paul Christian.

  • Scroll down for videos and more pictures
I'd never seen J00F play before and really love the driving progressive and psytrance sound he has made his own for many years at the forefront of cutting edge electronic music.
But, leaving aside his fantastic set, I must turn to the rather odd venue.

Southwark's Great Suffolk Street Warehouse, or We Are WHSE as it calls itself by virtue of repeated lighting effects, was bizarre.
I have been to clubs in disused or repurposed Victorian railway arches before, but they had always had a door and were actually inside.

This venue was essentially like The Arches in EastEnders and I expected at any moment to see Phil Mitchell sliding out from under a car, brandishing a monkey wrench.
I still haven't decided whether this was a fantastic or truly terrible place to host events.

What was fantastic was the atmosphere generated by John '00' Fleming, who provided the highlight, as well as a certain Mr van Dyk's pulsating peak-time performance, which began with his own seminal trance banger For An Angel.

Fleming ended his early set with the incredible RITMO remix of The Prodigy's Smack My Bitch Up, to a stunning light show.

It was clear that the main 'room' or Arch One as it is literally and aptly known had been lavished with the greater care.

The second arch suffered from a lack of lighting and low volume, and the basic mixing desk looked sparse and unprofessional, rather than stripped back and retro.

Other bugbears were the queueing and toilets.

We waited 30 minutes for a cloakroom berth for one coat, which meant a large slab of the action was missed entirely.

And the toilets were basically portable cabins and open stand-up festival urinals.
In fact the entire operation was like a cheap (almost) indoor festival, complete with infuriating drinks token system – which meant waiting in line again.

But I can't grumble too much as the music was spectacular and more than made up for the terrible/awesome/not really sure venue.


Thursday, 12 November 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Zombies - A Cultural History

Zombies are everywhere these days, in shows like The Walking Dead, Hollywood blockbusters like World War Z and I Am Legend and the ambling and shambling undead were one of the most popular Halloween costumes this year.
But it was not always so and a brilliant new book charts the rise of the zombie from Voodoo tradition virtually unknown outside of Haiti and other Caribbean islands to the all-conquering relentless phenomenon they are today.
Robert Luckhurst, Professor of Modern Literature at Birkbeck College, University of London, explores zombie-lore through colonial history, comics, pulp fiction, B-movies, medical records and Hollywood films to examine the rise of the zombie, in his eminently readable Zombies – A Cultural History.
As well as the cultural and almost mass hysteria hunger for zombie fiction, Professor Luckhurst also looks into the facts behind the myth.
Are zombies real?

The author studies Haitian accounts were people are convinced the superstition is very real indeed.
There is the fascinating case of Felicia Felix-Mentor in 1936, who it was claimed had been brought back from the dead and was walking along a dirt track to her father’s house despite allegedly dying in 1907.
It was said her body had been reanimated by the terrifying power of Voodoo.

The 224-page hardback book is a must-read for all zombie fans and is available through Reaktion Books and priced at £16.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Plant Power! Zeos For Men's QU3 Range

Choice is a great thing, but with a now dizzying array of men’s grooming products available it can be difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff – especially for a busy man about town.
So, with that in mind, allow me to recommend a range of products I hadn’t heard of, but which are made specifically to combat the harrowing effects of city life.
Leicester-based Zeos For Men’s Urban Living QU3 Skin Care range is just the ticket after a long day spent being bombarded with waves of pollution, stress and lazy food options.
All these assaults can leave skin looking haggard – and it is here that our new friend QU3 comes to the rescue.
The products, which include face wash (150ml for £7.95), face scrub (150ml for £7.95), face and body moisturiser (150ml for £8.95) and hair and body shower gel (150ml for £4.95), feature super ingredient Resistem.
The mysterious recently-discovered plant extract is obtained from the stem of the Globularia cordifolia plant and mimics the skin’s own defence mechanism.
On the first application of the all the products I was struck by the immediate feeling of protection and regeneration and this was no placebo effect.
The products moisturise and repair skin before your eyes.
My personal favourite was the absolute bargain hair and body shower gel, which incredibly, is yours for under a fiver.   
If you lead a hectic lifestyle, dealing with endless urban endurance, do yourself a favour and opt for the QU3 range.
For more information click here 

Thursday, 22 October 2015

A luxury villa stay in Ibiza - a true all-year-round destination

Ibiza is well-known for hedonistic summer excess, wild nights, soaring temperatures and downing drinks.
But, while I’m all for the abandon of the height of the season, there is another side.
Ibiza really is an all-year-round destination, with flights cheaper than patatas bravas around October and some great weather on offer too.

I had been to the White Isle 10 times before the trip I took earlier this month, but had never seen it out of season.
It was with no little amount of trepidation, as I imagined rows of shuttered windows and doors, closed shops and chilly days.
What I discovered was a revelation.
Myself, and at one point nine others, stayed in a huge villa with a fantastic pool and sprawling grounds in semi-rural and picturesque San Jordi, near to Ibiza Town, the airport and Playa D’en Bossa.

While the big nightclubs had shut their doors by the time I arrived, there were still an array of local bars and small lively clubs in Eivissa (Ibiza Town), great restaurants (including excellent tapas at La Cava and well-populated but spacious beaches.
There was a closing party at a plush local club Loolapaloosa, in Ibiza Town.
And an evening stroll alongside the fantastic harbour and historic Dalt Vila is wonderful at any time of year.

The days were warm and pleasant and the pool was a definite option, as was the sea at beautiful Salinas, which was also a short taxi ride from the villa.
San Jordi itself was a great base, with a series of bars and restaurants, which were still open and serving delighted diners even though winter was taking hold back in the UK.
If you want to see the whole of Ibiza, you should try it out of season, there really is so much to see and do.

And, as you prepare to fly home, why not enjoy a mojito at CafĂ© Del Mar’s lounge at Ibiza Airport?

Flights in October: Around £65 return via Skyscanner from and to London airports.

Accommodation: I stayed at the fabulously luxurious Villa Amador. 

Monday, 12 October 2015

Bulldog Skincare for Men Anti-Ageing Moisturiser

The secret of eternal youth has vexed mankind for centuries, with legends of mythical pools, lost cities and arcane rituals abound.

But this is 2015, don’t waste your time with all that.
If you want to look young you can now for under a tenner, thanks to Bulldog Skincare for Men.
Their Anti-Ageing Moisturiser is a snip at £8 and works too.
Ok, we're not talking Portrait of Dorian Gray stuff here, but the blend of five essential oils, millet seed and oak apple tannins help deliver visibly smoother and more nourished skin. 
My haggard 34-year-old visage was left supple and replenished thanks to the fulsome, but not too thick cream. 
And there are no harsh chemicals or animal products (despite the Bulldog moniker) in this fantastic product. 
For more information and to order this and other great Bulldog male grooming products, click here

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Nicoccino is now an even easier alternative to cigarettes

Swedish brand Nicoccino is now even easier to use to fight those nicotine cravings. 
The firm's packaging has been revamped and is much easier to open, with the same great taste and effect. 
TopReviews4U editor Paul Christian put them to the test. 
He said: "I always found Nicoccino a great product, but there was a knack to getting into them.
"You had to tear in an upside-down 'L' shape. 

"But now all that has been sorted and you just tear them open and place the small tab onto your gums - it couldn't be simpler."

  • For more information, click here 

VIDEO: Future of trance 'as good as always' say Super 8 & Tab, who talk genres, favourite venues and a mishap following The Prodigy

Super 8 & Tab answered questions from TopReviews4U editor Paul Christian and others tonight. 
The electronic music duo took part in a live Q&A session on Facebook and were quizzed about their lives, their music and their work. 
Asked how they saw the future of trance, they replied: "It's as good as always I think :).
"Trance is now [a] much wider thing that [sic] 10 years ago when we started Super8 & Tab so that's good in my books."

They were also asked their favourite venue, which proved tricky as there were "too many to mention", but mention them they did. 
"Avalon, LA, Pacha, NY, Amnesia, Ibiza, Zouk, Singapore, Home Sydney", all made their list. 
But they also said they'd be equally happy in a "small local club here in Finland too".
And they were asked about mixer mishaps and whether they'd ever not understood the DJ set up after arriving for a gig. 
They recalled one such "unique" occasion in Bucharest, Romania, where they played in the same tent as groups like The Prodigy.

"We played at the tent where they only had a 24 channel mixer, which is not ideal for DJing," they said. 

  • Check out Super8 & Tab's remix of Aalto - Liquid Sweep below. 

Friday, 4 September 2015

Stunning images of SW4 2015 festival on Clapham Common released by organisers

Organisers of last weekend's amazine SW4 weekender on Clapham Common have released a series of images which captuyre the essence of the spectacular two-day bash.

The pictures include Faithless, Fatboy Slim, Green Velvet and Skrillex among others.

They images also captured the fabulous pyrotechnic crescendo of each day's festivities. 

  • Read TopReviews4U editor Paul Christian's review with videos and more pictures here