Tag: Short Stirling Restoration

A bit of fun: My predictions for the future

This week: My Predictions the Future, Review of 1966 film Grand Prix and Progress on Short Stirling Replica project.

My Predictions the Future

JETs Fusion Reactor 007
JETs Fusion Reactor 007

And now for a bit of fun! Here are my predictions of what will happen (and what what won’t) during my lifetime. I am 51 now so let’s assume I will live another 30 years:

  1. A real Short Stirling wreck will be recovered and restored to museum standard, but I don’t think a real one will fly again. See further down the page for news on a real Stirling replica project.
  2. Fusion power will work but will not significantly affect energy prices yet
  3. Alexander the Great’s tomb will be found
  4. Whoever ordered John F Kennedy’s assassination will not be revealed and proven.
  5. NASA will not have sent a manned-mission to Mars yet

Now, what are yours?

First 5 commenters get a copy of any new eBook I publish in the next 12 months FREE! These are likely to be: a WWII/Aliens thriller, Iron III, Worlds Like Dust (book 1) and a literary fiction work.

 

Review of 1966 film Grand Prix

Saul Bass-1966 Grand Prix Title Sequence
Saul Bass-1966 Grand Prix Title Sequence

To mark death of James Garner, the 1966 John Frankenheimer film Grand Prix was shown on TV last week. If you love Formula One I am sure you will agree with me; what a film!

I first saw Garner in The Great Escape and The Rockford Files. I always found him likable although not an incredibly deep acting talent. Time has proved his ability to choose great projects to be a talent in itself. The earliest films I have seen him in are Sayonara (1957) with Marlon Brando and The Children’s Hour (1961) with Audrey Hepburn. He always seems to pick the right project and did a stirling job (if you will allow the pun) in The Great Escape. He is almost always the likable rogue with a warm smile. Only in Grand Prix does he play the anti-hero. His thoughtful acting will be missed.

Back to Grand Prix. It opens with a Saul Bass (one of the two best title sequence writers ever) intro that rivals anything else. We hear the roar of the Grand Prix engines, watch the exhausts vibrate and mechanics tightening bolts to the stirring march that accompanies the film.

Then there is a long in-car sequence, interspersed with track-side camera footage of a race at Monaco, in which Garner as the selfish and ambitious American driver, Pete Aron seems to force a BRM driver off the track and they both end up in the sea, losing Aron his drive for the rest of the year.

In fact, he defends his actions and we see that other drivers like and trust him enough to give him the benefit of the doubt, so we do too. Yves Montand is the romantic lead in the film and fights for the love of Eva Maria Saint, winning her but at a huge cost.

There are bad crashes, as there were then, deaths and fights back to drive again but in the end it comes down to the last race of the year and four drivers who can win. It’s nail-biting stuff.

What I love about the film, apart from the beautiful photography and choreography of the driving shots, is that the film doesn’t pull any punches and dips right into the politics of Formula One which we still see today. I must mention here that Grand Prix races existed before there was a Formula One World Championship. In those days, not all races contributed to the World Championship. But the Formula (Formula One being the fuel quality) is the same.

As for the politics, the Ferrari demagogue uses the driver’s wives and girlfriends as levers to put pressure on the drivers and even delivers cars too late for them to be properly prepared for the race. I sometimes wonder if second driver’s cars these days are tampered with in the same way.

Frankenheimer has put together some cinematic poetry here; there is a beautiful sequence with no location sound but only a beautiful, classical arrangement of the theme (with harpsichord if my hears serve me well). The cars are mirrored, multiplied and dance across the screen like ballerinas. It is half way between Swan Lake and the lovely sequence of William Walton in Battle of Britain.

One should note of course, that not all was as it seemed in this film. The drivers all had to drive their own cars and had intensive lessons before shooting began. Formula One cars were felt to be too fast and dangerous so Formula Three cars were dressed up to look like Formula One cars for the in-car sequences. Some of the drivers were too scared to use real Formula Three cars so the director had them towed around the circuits behind a Ford Gt 40. Garner did all his own driving (except perhaps the most difficult scenes) and was so taken with racing that he commenced his own racing career shortly after and did quite well.

Possibly the best sequence is shot at full speed in the last race of the season at Monza. The director chose to use the old banked curves, even though they had not been used for the real Formula One for a few years. It’s dramatic and documents what racing used to be like. It all adds to the feeling of a documentary and one in which Frankenheimer was trying to capture the true spirit of the old racing before it began to change. I am glad it is a lot safer now but you have to admire the courage of the drivers racing those tiny cars without roll bars, proper helmets or proper fire-proof suits.

Another thing I really like about the film is the lack of special effects. There is a lovely sequence when James Garner is talking to Pat (Jessica Walter), one of the other driver’s wives, in his new Ford Mustang. It must be one of the few such scenes where you can tell that the driver really is driving the car, and flat out at that, while performing a long dialogue in the car. Nice one Jim!

So, I may have rose-tinted glasses about the 1960s but, if you love car racing, give this old classic a go. Here is the title sequence:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5RILdsjeL_4

Short Stirling Restoration

Short stirling
Short stirling

For those who have been following my updates on the project to build a replica Short Stirling, the first British 4-engined bomber built during World War II and the only major British type to have no survivor, here is a brief update:

Recently, I came across a video on youtube purporting to show a newly discovered Short Stirling wreck near the French coast. I told John who heads the replica construction project and contacted the powers that be to get the ball rolling. Unfortunately, the news isn’t good. Here is John’s reply to recent message from me, asking how things were going:

“Not much I’m afraid, the group were helpful but French law precludes recovery of any parts from the site unfortunately”

You can read and see more about the project progress here.

Blog: The Taste of First Blood

This week: Werewolves in Mauritius, Rewards for Reviews, Short Stirling aircraft recovery, Video Blog Tour

Werewolves in Mauritius
I often feel like a rabbit in the headlights when it comes to blog time. I simply haven’t prepared anything much and I am so busy, yet I want to give something to my readers and fans. This week it is a little easier because I came across this article on Werewolves in Mauritius. Actually it’s not the original recent article I was looking for – I heard of this phenomenon back in the summer – but the frequency of reports shows just how steeped in Werewolf culture Mauritius is.

Werewolves – or Loup Garou – the French equivalent word – inhabit the Mauritian subconscious like the sea and sun of this gorgeous island. They are said to prowl the streets and night, rape women and appear as naked men covered in oil. They are also said to be able to vanish at will but despite having such supernatural powers, they are not averse to a little high-tech gadgetry in their lives. The most recent spate of sighting this year included several eye-witness accounts of the Loup Garou carrying mobile phones and even talking on them!

I am fascinated by Vampire and werewolf… shall we call it culture, for now; I hate the terms mythology and legend. To me, vampires and werewolves are part of our very deepest emotions and views of the world. I believe man has had the idea of vampires and werewolves since he could visualise his own existence. Indeed I have been slowly developing a para-world that includes this as part of its fundamental structure. They may not be part of the physical world around us but their effect is.

I am equally fascinated by werewolves and I think they fit a similar niche in our inner-most thoughts. Shape-shifters or lycanthropes all, and welcome to my world if you believe. To this category we might also add the classic zombie – a creature which is also undead and loves the taste of human flesh. Their only real disadvantage is that they are rather impractically slow. I seriously doubt zombies of the classic Hollywood type could catch a hedge-hog, let alone a terrified human. Perhaps if we allow them a little more speed they too fit this category?

Whether you believe in the benevolent lycanthropes of early Medieval culture, or Jewish views of the seductive Lilith, or the predatory creatures of Hammer Horror, they fascinate most of us.

Getting back to Mauritius, of which I now have some knowledge, this island seems to regard werewolves as no more unusual than rain storm although they engender a much greater fear. A few things strike me about the Mauritian view:

1. The sightings are often most frequent just before, during or after a cyclone. Some claim (as quoted in the linked news report above) that these rumours are circulated by the government to deflect criticism away from their Prime Minister who claims a divine ability to stop Cyclones. If so, making the people even more terrified seems a bad tactic at a time of devastation.
2. Mauritius is not the only island subjected to tropical storms which has an endemic belief in this collection of supernatural beings. Haiti is regularly subjected to these storms and has some of the most fascinating zombie tales of all.
3. Mauritius is not the only former French colony to believe in these supernatural monsters – Haiti does too.
4. Mauritius is not the only Creole speaking community that believes in these creatures. Haiti does too.
5. Mautitius is not the only culture steeped in Voodoo that believes in these creatures. Haiti, and in fact most Caribbean islands do. Some of these use Creole too. Here is the Wikipedia page on Zombies in Haiti.

I think you probably see where I am going with this; rather than the standard view that fear of and belief in shape-changers and zombies comes from backward, third-world countries, are we looking at a belief culture that is being propagated from France – indeed the France of the middle ages?

I believe so. Furthermore, I speculate in my books, Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate, and The Devil’s Own Dice, that these creatures are born of the clash of two great cultures – the European and the Eastern which met like great tectonic plates in the Balkans and forced belief systems like Catharism into being some time between the 6th and 10th Centuries.

I do believe whatever forces brought up vampires, werewolves and zombies from the very uttermost depths of our souls, are still acting as well-springs of secret desires and fears today. I’d love to hear from you. What are your thoughts?

Rewards for Reviews
I am reducing the price of Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate to £2.99 for Christmas but I still need more reviews. I also need reviews for my new book Attack Hitler’s Bunker! As you will see further down in this blog post, I am planning a Video Blog Tour for both books soon and more reviews would certainly help persuade more people to try them. So, if you submit a review of either book to Amazon in December or January I will give over my blog for one day to you to post about your book, cd or any other product (within reason!) I will also include you in my Video Blog Tours which will provide you with loads of traffic and plenty of material to post about in the form of interviews. Two things you probably don’t know about these two books:
1) There is a pass called Pas de Loup near Rennes-le-Château which I feature in The Devil’s Own Dice. To the best of my knowledge this translates as Wolf Pass. No idea why it has that name.
2) I knew the Hollywood Oscar Winner Cliff Robertson towards the end of his life through a brief correspondence. He was a very skilled pilot and owned a Spitfire for many years. He was partly the inspiration for Attack Hitler’s Bunker!

So hurry up and get reviewing!

Short Stirling aircraft recovery
stirling
If you’ve been following my blog you will know that I write about, and am mad-keen on World War Two aircraft. I first came across the Short Stirling – the first British 4-engined bomber of WWII, when I made an Airfix model of it in my childhood. Since then I have often wanted to see a real one but there are no Short Stirlings left in the world. This seems a great shame to me. The Stirling Aircraft Society is doing its best to rectify this. Time is running out now for WWII aircraft wrecks that are viable restoration projects. After 70 years those left are mostly in the sea and too corroded to lift. The recent Dornier Do 17 lifted off the English coast may be one of the last that is raised. Let’s hope its not too late for the Stirling.

Imagine my surprise then when I saw a video on youtube showing a fairly intact example, dived on my a French team. I regularly scan the web for any news about Stirlings and hadn’t seen this. I watched it again and then immediately reported it to one of the senior members of The Stirling Aircraft Society. He told me he had seen it and tried to contact the divers but nobody had replied. Knowing how tricky it can be to communicate with youtube, I was determined to try and contact them myself. After a lot of googling and guess-work I found two email addresses and fired off two friendly emails. I received two enthusiastic replies and was able to put them in touch with the Society. Things are moving along now, with both teams working on identifying the aircraft so that the French Authorities can be contacted for permission to dive the wreck. I would be very happy if anything comes of this. Let’s hope so. If you want to watch the video, it’s here. The wreck is on its back but seems relatively intact and in shallow water. If you are interested in The Stirling Aircraft Society, they are here. As an interim measure the Society is attempting to build a replica of the forward fuselage section of a Stirling and you can read about it here. Short Stirlings feature heavily in my WWII action thriller Attack Hitler’s Bunker! Click on the menu item at the top of this page if you want to grab a copy!

Video Blog Tour
I am planning Video Blog Tours – or VBTs for both Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate and Attack Hitler’s Bunker! soon. This will hopefully be a series of interviews I do about these books with the questions set by other blogs talking about related subjects. So if you are blogging about Vampires, Werewolves, WWII, the Luftwaffe, RAF, Short Stirlings or allied bombers of WWII please leave a comment and I’ll get back to you. I am now following a long list of such blogs so if I don’t hear from you, I will be in touch!