Robin Williams & Mort Sahl

This interview, conducted with Chris Murray for Showtime’s sadly defunct The Movie Club, is very close to my heart for obvious reasons.

Robin Williams was incredibly generous with his time and a genuinely lovely person to be around. After the interview, I told him I really wanted to interview Mort Sahl, one of his close mates and the pioneering force in modern American comedy.

Robin very kindly set it up and this profile resulted for the very excellent Men’s Style magazine.

MORTSHOT

Click here to read the article

Music To End The World By – Part 3 – The Last Place

The Last Place sees Danby switching to full auto. She’s been through hell and now she’s unleashing hellfire. I listened to a lot of dark and brooding sounds while writing the book, along with a few classics that lent their titles to the book’s three parts.

  1. Gotham’s Reckoning – Hans Zimmer

Okay, I admit there’s been an overload of Hans Zimmer’s brown-sound bombast in blockbuster cinema lately, but I’m still a total sucker for this suspenseful instrumental from The Dark Knight Rises soundtrack. It bristles with dark energy, just like Danby as she prepares to spring her trap.

  1. Gimme Shelter – The Rolling Stones

The first part of The Last Place is named for my favourite Rolling Stones song because it’s brooding, epic and tortured and, like Danby, similarly aggressive and vulnerable. “Oh children, we’re just a shot away.” But from what? Bonus: brilliantly, this YouTube clip sets the song to scenes from Apocalypse Now. See the first post in this series for how that film influenced The Last Trilogy.

  1. My Way – Frank Sinatra

One of the most surreal interludes in The Last Place has Danby encountering other survivors who’re enjoying a bit of Frank by doing post-apocalyptic karaoke. Does it end well? No, it does not.

  1. President At The Train – John Carpenter

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, John Carpenter made some of the best sci-fi and horror flicks ever. His The Thing is a masterpiece and in my all-time top 10. But I love the soundtrack to his Escape From New York, in which anti-hero Snake Plissken has to choose whether or not to save the world from itself. This driving electro track was the perfect accompaniment to writing The Last Place scenes in which Danby infiltrates an abandoned city. Bonus: Earlier in the series Danby is told “I thought you were dead” as a homage to the similar line Snake hears all throughout Escape.

  1. (Don’t Fear) The Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult

This awesome epic lends its title to part two of The Last Place. It’s the perfect track for Danby to play to her young friend as a distraction from violence because it’s not just loud but soothing (if sinister) in its embrace of death as the gateway to eternity. Bonus: Stephen King cited this song as an inspiration for The Stand, which is my favourite book and a major influence on The Last Trilogy. Bonus bonus: It was used to terrific effect in the opening of the TV adaptation of The Stand by director Mick Garris. One question: does it need more cowbell?

  1. Kick Out The Jams – MC-5

The title of part three of The Last Place. If you’re going to have a high-intensity urban conflict with automatic weapons, then you’d be hard-pressed to find a better battle anthem than MC5’s proto-punk masterpiece of wild untamed energy… motherfuckers!

  1. Jesus Built My Hotrod – Ministry

Just about any song from Ministry’s Psalm 69 album would go well with The Last Place‘s full-tilt final showdown. But this one turns up the industrial energy to 11, with the sort of absurdist reversals that I loved peppering through the book. Dang-a-long-ling-long!

  1. This Ain’t No Picnic – The Minutemen

I discovered these big-hearted Californian punks during the writing of The Last Place—about thirty years after they disbanded in the wake of lead singer D. Boon’s tragic death. Double Nickels On The Dime is a truly great LP, showcasing a stunning vocal and musical range. It’s another ripping track that’d contribute its big sound to confusing an enemy.

  1. Somewhere Over The Rainbow – Judy Garland

Whenever I think of eternity, I think of this song. It’s simultaneously heart-breaking and uplifting. Bonus: all three books of The Last Trilogy are studded with references to the 1939 movie version of the The Wizard Of Oz, from Danby donning red boots to her mum’s painting of a yellow brick road. Super-squirrel bonus: each book contains a hidden quote from the movie. What does it mean? Oz only knows.

Music To End The World By – Part 2 – The Last Shot

The Last Shot amps up the The Last Girl‘s post-apocalyptic action.

Here’s how it sounded in my head as I wrote the book. (With bonus Repo Man clip)

  1. Ana Ng – They Might Be Giants

There’s so much mysterious cause and effect here: a bullet pierces a desktop globe to make an exit wound in a foreign nation; from there the world is turned upside down; graffiti spells out “I don’t want the world, I just to want your half.” What does it mean? I don’t know but it’s fascinated me for over 25 years.

  1. Hounds Of Love – Kate Bush

“It’s in the trees, it’s coming!” – one of my favourite-ever samples, taken from the freaky 1957 British horror movie Night Of The Demon. I’ve always loved this song and Kate Bush’s imagery suits Danby’s trip through the Blue Mountains, which is simultaneously about her being hunter and hunted, having feelings for Jack and wanting to blow him away.

  1. Miss World – Hole

Rock-dog Jack leaves Danby a bunch of T-shirts. She chooses Hole’s Live Through This because it’s what she hopes to do. But Miss World is where she’s really at: lonely, ready to lie, ready to die in the bed she’s made.

  1. Welcome To The Jungle – Guns + Roses

Jack is next seen in a T-shirt for Guns + Roses’ album Appetite For Destruction. She’s reminded that her mum told her Guns + Roses were named for the misogynist man who’ll woo a woman with roses but resort to guns if he’s rejected—Jack, in other words. She really hopes he has an appetite for destruction because she intends to feed it with his.

  1. Life During Wartime – Talking Heads

This one’s supposedly about living in New York during the late 1970s. But it’s always struck me as a vision of urban peeps suddenly plunged into guerrilla warfare: eating rations, burning notebooks, evading roadblocks and whispering about trucks loaded with weapons.

  1. Dad’s Gonna Kill Me – Richard Thompson

I came to this one via Sons Of Anarchy because they used it in a season finale. Man, what an evocation of the mindset of the modern soldier, with the Dad of the title being Baghdad in this searing portrait of bloody wars where death comes as quickly via the enemy’s improvised bombs as via self-incineration with white phosphorus. Above it all, it’s the landscape that stalks—“It must be old Death a-walking”. I explicitly homaged this song in Danby’s later description of minions as “muzzle monkeys”.

  1. Fujiyama Mama – Wanda Jackson

The pioneering rockabilly chick is one killer woman and Danby encounters her in poster form as she prepares for battle. “I’m a Fujiyama Mama and I’m just about to blow my top/when I start erupting ain’t nobody’s gonna make me stop” and “Well, you can talk about me, say that I’m mean/But I’ll blow your head off, baby, with nitroglycerine.” Hell, yes.

  1. Let’s Have A War – Fear

This one’s referenced right at the start of The Last Girl, but it’s at the end of The Last Shot that it really fits. This pioneering LA punk band’s paean to humanity’s extermination isn’t for the faint-hearted—and it’s definitely not politically correct—but it’s what the war of all against all might sound like.

Bonus: I first heard it on the Repo Man soundtrack, which is a favourite film containing a very funny sequence where a character named Miller muses on telepathy by using plate of shrimp as a reference. I homaged it in the book because it fit the “cosmic unconsciousness” idea and reflects the telepathic connection that’s about to happen with the waiter.

Excerpt:

That night Dad, Evan and I went to Rubber Thaime, Beautopia’s slow-food–Asian-fusion experience. Stephanie didn’t join us because she was catching up with an old schoolfriend who’d arrived in the city unexpectedly.

‘What’s everyone eating?’ Dad asked, eyes on his phone as it whooshed like a missile. Either he’d just sent a message or he was piloting an American drone bombing Iran.
‘Fririce!’ Evan squealed, chewing on his napkin. 

Dad disappeared behind his menu. ‘Plate o’ shrimp and a Miller for me. Danby?’

  1. Won’t Get Fooled Again – The Who

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Fits the ending of The Last Shot perfectly. *emits unearthly howl*