Archive for December, 2016


William Shakespeare, Crime Scene Cleaner.
By F J McQueen. Urbane Publications, 2016.

Out now in paperback.

Amazon review:

By Mark Mayes on 25 Dec. 2016

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase

A novel of extraordinary wit and imagination. A tour de force of language and inventiveness. I have simply never read anything like it. Told in quite a baroque style, and replete with a cast of Shakespearean characters and scenarios, not to mention old Will himself, but set in modern times, “Out Damned Spot!” really stands on its own, and deserves a genre all to itself. A unique tale, told in a unique style, highly stylised, you might say. I have listened to the author’s adaptation of Zola on BBC radio recently, and found the dialogue and description in those plays equally compelling and memorable.

Highly recommended.


WARNING: Contains big concept story-line, and huge metaphors.


Now available on Kindle!


Kindle book ready and waiting!
Roll up! Roll up!

So what’s it about?
It is about how stories, poems, texts, were structured in a certain way from early times, and to the present day. The structure works as a memory system. I investigate how this structure fits into the now well-known Arts of Memory. The book also looks at how the structuring works, and was passed down through time.

Great Xmas Present!

Meaning Gwyn son of Nudd (pronounced Nith); the forename carries the meaning of light.
So who was Nudd? Many now think the name comes from the old Celtic god, Nodens.
Nodens, in turn, is associated with the old Irish first king of the Tuatha de Danann, Nuatha.
And Nuatha is related to the legendary Finn Mac Cunhail (Finn MaCool).

The Tuatha de Danann were the most successful invaders of Ireland. Some sources give their origins as ‘formorian’:
The Celts have been traced back to Iron Age central European regions: ... the people of the Iron Age Hallstat culture  in central Europe (c. 800–450 BC), named for the rich grave finds in Hallstat, Austria.  

The names Finn, and Gwyn are related.
Gwyn is often described as a being of light, with a darkened face.

What is especially interesting here about the Tuatha de Danann connection is that, as Wiki says, The Tuath Dé eventually became the Aos Si or “fairies” of later folklore.
Gwyn ap Nudd became, in turn, the king of the Tylwyth Teg or fair folk and ruler of the Welsh Otherworld, Annwn.
Nodens and Llud seem to be cognates. See below for confusion and consternation.

FALSTAFF: Heavens defend me from that Welsh fairy, lest he/ transform me to a piece of cheese
:  The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act 5, Scene 5.

The Welsh, Scottish and Irish fairy, unlike the English, were not to be trifled with. They were dangerous, and no lover of humankind. The concept of Seelie and Unseelie, that is, benign and malign influence, is closely related to the Irish and Welsh fairy.
We know most about Gwyn ap Nudd from the Welsh Mabinogion (the title, the  purists would say,  only strictly relates to the First Branch, the first four tales of the book. Anyone who has read my discussion of the first of these, Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed, in GIFTS OF RINGS AND GOLD
will  see how they fit the description of teaching tales).
He occurs mostly in what is considered the oldest of the tales, The Tale of Culhwch and Olwen, as part of King Arthur’s band. His expertise is later called on in the hunt of the terrible wild boar, Twrch Trwyth. (Once again, see my  book  above.)
The Mabinogion tales make us aware of another two siblings to Gwyn, Edem, another of King Arthur’s party, and Owain. Nothimg else is known of these two.

Gwyn ap Nudd was king of the Underworld
– and connected to the later Wild Hunt, as ‘psychopomp’, a phrase from psychiatry that describes a symbolic receiver and transporter of the dead.
Before what some see as attempts to tame and lesson his powers, Gwyn ap Nudd was a mighty warrior. He was connected with one of the three pointless battles according to the Welsh Triads: the Battle of the Trees, Cad Godeau.
Wiki relates that his skill as a warrior, as described in The Black Book of Carmarthen’s The Dialogue of Gwyn ap Nudd and Gwyddno Garanhir, had long brought him great renown.
In Culwych and Olwen it is related that Gwyn abducted Creiddylad, the daughter of Llud (his sister?). She was betrothed at the time, to Gwythyr ap Greidawi, who then roused a great host to get her back.
Wiki gives us this result:  Gwyn was victorious and, following the conflict, captured a number of Gwythyr’s noblemen including Nwython and his son Cyledr. Gwyn would later murder Nwython, and force Cyledr to eat his father’s heart. As a result of his torture at Gwyn’s hands, Cyledr went mad,[1] earning the epithet Wyllt.
As we know from a previous post Wyllt denotes madness:  see my The Madman in the Woods: Lailoken
King Arthur intervened in their fight, and ruled that the two contestants for Creiddylad meet every May Day to continue their fight for her.Every year, forever.
This was sufficient evidence for Robert Graves in his The White Goddess, to read these two contestants as Holly Kings, solar gods of the old and the new year, battling for supremacy, and the hand/blessing of the muse goddess.
In The Life of St Collen of Llangollen, we glimpse him again, this time connected with Glastonbury Tor or Ynys Witrin as it was known (
St Collen denied him, and so was invited to dine with him in the hill top’s palace. There he was regaled with Gwyn ap Nudd’s splendour, only to banish it all with a dash of holy water.
Fairy as demon. This was the edict of the later middle ages: all supernatural agents were categorised as demons. (See :

We maybe begin to glimpse here the importance of the role of Gwyn ap Nudd in the imaginations of earlier periods

All these written sources are from the twelfth to fourteenth centuries.
In the 1360-70 poetry of the famous Welsh poet Dafydd ap Gwilym, translator and scholar Rachel Bromwich notes of poem 26 (:DADYDD AP GWILYM, POEMS, Gomer Press, 1982): Dafydd alludes to him a number of times (for refs see E Rowlands, Ll C. V, 122-3) and always presents him in a sinister light; hence the  Owl is ‘his’ bird; the bog-hole is ‘his’ fish-pond… the Mist a deception caused by him….(page 99 op cit):
‘(The Owl) she is the bird of Gwyn ap Nudd/ Crazy Owl that sings to the robbers…’ or, for those purists: ‘Edn i Wyn fab Nudd ydyw.’ Early Welsh forms of the name Gwyn were Wyn, as here, and in some cases expanded to Windos. In those earlier periods the name denoted pure, holy, sacred.
We see his effects, but no longer the warrior – it was, after all, the time after the fall of the Last Prince, Llewelyn ap Gruddydd (1223 -1282), to the English.

These tales are uncomfortably patriarchal, they are from the long periods when the daughters of nobles, kings, were used as counters in the game of politics, pacifying potential enemies by drawing them into extensive family relationships. Family was the ultimate bond – to break that was the worst moral and ethical act.
Yet some still did step outside, broke those greatest, strongest of bonds. Only the desperate would risk that ultimate shame and banishment. Or the strongest.
If Gwyn ap Nudd did exist as an actual person in history, then we can only surmise he did something, acted in some way, that meant he chose to step outside of normal, acceptable human relations to become a mighty warrior – or an outcast, an oathbreaker.
As prime outsider he was allotted a status befitting his rank in the outside: as king, of the dead, and of the fair folk, of all who existed outside humanity, in mythical, unimaginable realms.
Andrew Lang, in his introduction to Robert Kirk’s The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns, and Fairies, strongly suggests that the otherworld of fairy is the afterlife of the dead, that the fairy mounds are in reality tumuli, resting places of dead chieftains.

King Arthur was another such dweller outside of history- not as an outcast, but one freed from history, from time, one whose story carried great potency for future generations.
The ways in which Gwyn ap Nudd were remembered marks him out as different from Arthur; Gwyn ap Nudd has the mischief about him, like the vestiges of a trickster figure: disruptive, dangerous. Arthur is the pacifier. It is possible to see that both play connected, vital roles.

Earlier I used the terms ‘seelie’ and ‘unseelie’. These are Scottish distinctions between those well-disposed and ill-disposed towards people. The seelie court are benign fairy. according to Katherine Briggs, in her Encyclopedia of Fairies, 1976. It is also thought the seelie dwell within hills, whereas the unseelie host choose barrows. Here again we have intimations of a connection with the dead and the after life. Kathleen Briggs says of the unseelie: ‘They comprise the SLUAGH, ‘The Host’…the unsanctified dead who hover above the earth, snatching up with them  undefended mortals…
It has been suggested the seelie court rule over the waxing year, whilst the unseelie, the waning year.

We can still feel his presence, though, if we approach him with respect.
The only other fairy being in literature to have such a presence must be The Raven King, of Susanna Clarke’s JONATHON STRANGE AND MR NORRIS.
Here is another hugely enigmatic presence, made more so by his absence. His effects and minions are everywhere, but his own brooding presence is felt, rather than seen, sensed rather than known.

You can consult all the odd books in your reach, and there is still the one holds great ptomise that is missing. Katherine Briggs, again, writes on Gwyn ap Nudd, ‘a more sober assessment of him is given by John Rhys in Celtic Folklore.’

Anybody willing to fill in the gaps?




William Shakespeare, Crime Scene Cleaner.
By F J McQueen. Urbane Publications, 2016.

Out now in paperback.

The best, most entertaining, gloriously funny, crazy, inventive, heart-warming, and well-written book, I have read for a long, long time.

Highly recommended.

William Shakespeare, but not as you know him: we meet him first as junior doctor, a whistle-blower on the health system’s use of divination in medicine.
His new career as crime-scene cleaner finds in strange yet familiar territory: two teens dead in a crypt, and a mysterious friar; a Scottish noble wife and husband in a grand house, surrounded by a strange forest…. The crimes begin to fill his order-book.
Who is the perpetrator?
We blend Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear, modern fantasy, and the darkest of dark humour (South Park in the background).

And then, when what the three oracles in the hospital cupboard said starts to come true….What if you could clean so deep, if you could clean the whole world?What would that world be?

So, not a straight genre-novel, then?
Nope, but probably the most inventive, subversive fiction you’ll ever read.

WARNING: Contains big concept story-line, and huge metaphors.

 See here for more on  F J McQueen: