This week my good chum Alistair Hughes' book comes out. In fact, it launches today/tomorrow - Halloween in the UK (oops - Sex Pistols earworm!). It is, of course, this very book:
And of course it's a thing of beauty. And wit. And stake-through-the-heart fandom, because Al's book, an infographics coffee table guide to the oeuvre of Hammer Films, is truly a labour of love.
Researched, written and illustrated by Alistair here's everything you might want to know about the van Helsing and Frankenstein family trees, the body count of Carmilla Kanstein, the many creatures of Hammer's prehistoric epics, the lunar rovers of latter-day space western Moon Zero-Seven. Elsewhere are maps - Hammer's middle-Europe, Southern England in locations and settings, a history of the world in Hammer movies - it's all pretty much there.
Beyond that, there are ample diversions - and puns surely ripped up from a grave somewhere: The Rides of Dracula details the various carriages and conveyances of the Count and his pursuers; Stalk Like an Egyptian does the same for the various mummified fiends of Hammer Studios, and The Phantom Dennis covers the various adaptations of the great Mr Wheatley. Where relevant, the works of Hammer are placed alongside other works by Universal and similar studios, placing the Undead Count, the Promethean Man, the Cursed Pharaoh and the Wolf Man alongside their alternative kin. There's no mistaking that Infogothic's focus is on hammer's works, but occasionally the lens pulls back, and there's a context involved as these creatures change and evolve before and after the rise and fall of the House of Hammer.
I'm biased, of course. Having interviewed Al for Beyond the Sofa last week, our longstanding friendship is readily acknowledged, but I think that even without our mutual interests and history, there'd be enough in these pages to feed my various interests - spaceship plans, magic circles, family crests, imaginary continents and prehistoric languages - there's fodder here for any interested modeller, gamer, fanfic writer or trivia buff - it's highly versatile
It's also splendidly illustrated. Not using official photos has brought the publication price down, but you simply don't miss them, because the line illustrations within are consistent, recognisable, and slavish in their detail. Al's work is simply among some of the best in recent NZ media, and it's wonderful to see it presented here in full colour.
My regret in viewing Infogothic is its necessary limitations - which became the limitations of my own Hammer knowledge. Wisely, Al has contained his scope to the genre-output of Hammer Studios - the horrors, fantasy and sci-fi movies. Man About the House movie fans look elsewhere - but as I mentioned in our podcast chat, reading Infogothic also revealed to me how much I have confused the works of Hammer over the years with other less-celebrated studios, such as the worthy Amicus, as well as Tigon and Tyburn. As it is, Amicus could possibly sustain a volume of its own, maybe also the Roger Corman and Vincent Price adaptations of the works of Edgar Allen Poe; but neither have the breadth nor the variety of Hammer's output (yes, On the Buses included), which becomes a strength of this book as well. Also unrealised to date, a look into the unmade Hammer films - as much as we can know about them. But other guidebooks will do for those, and maybe the fates will conspire to provide Al and us with an opportunity for a revision or a return - I know the author has plenty of ideas still, and hopefully we'll see more of them very soon.
Infogothic : An Unauthorised Graphic Guide to Hammer Horror is available from its publisher, Telos, as well as Amazon US. For a rather fine peek into some of its pages, check out Al's blog Fasmatodea, and the following video created by Monster Kid Radio: