White Witch Scarier Than Mr Toppit?

Posted in Press with tags , , , , on January 20, 2009 by mrtoppit

Telegraph Article
Upon hearing of Penguin’s publication of Charles Elton’s Mr Toppit, I was struck by a gamut of emotions. Surprise, fear, anger, intrigue, hunger. Upon reading it (I am now almost half way through the copy kindly sent to me – a full review will follow, but I must say I am rather enjoying it) I was deeply moved to see the world of Arthur, his family and his creations brought vividly back to life.

Mr Elton might just succeed in doing today what Laurie Clow achieved all those years ago across the Atlantic: breathe fresh life into the dormant majesty of The Hayseed Chronicles.

The signs of success are already apparent. The Telegraph ran a story this weekend about the scariest villains from fiction past and present. The White Witch sealed the top spot, but the report claims that “Mr Toppit…originally in The Hayseed Chronicles…narrowly failed to make the top ten”.

In publicising Mr Toppit, Penguin cannot help but introduce a new legion of fans to The Hayseed Chronicles as more and more people will see the name of Arthur Hayman and his creations, back where they belong, amongst the well-kerned type of the forth estate.

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Songs in the Key of Darkwood

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , on January 16, 2009 by mrtoppit

to Dr Bumble’s Magic Drone Machine and the Colony of Bees Perform Songs from the Darkwood

This, my readers, is a truly awful record. I discovered it digging through a second hand vinyl shop on Berwick Street and was instantly drawn to the sleeve illustration. At first glance it seemed to be inspired by the original jacket for Arthur Hayman’s final book in The Hayseed Chronicles, Darkwood. Lifting the record from the rack, my suspicions were confirmed.

Darkwood by Arthur Hayman

I immediately snapped it up and spent a giddy half hour on the bus home wondering what on earth it might sound like. However, the subsequent 62 minutes of actually listening to Dr Bumble’s Magic Drone Machine and the Colony of Bees performing Songs from the Darkwood was a little less fruitful. I was left feeling as if an hour of my life had been irrevocably lost and that the blame for this intense melancholy lay squarely on the shoulders of this so called ‘Doctor’.

Let me try to explain. The album consists of five songs or ‘movements’ in which the narrative of Hayman’s Darkwood is set unconvincingly to music. The album progs through one and a half sides of terminal mediocrity before culminating in a 15 minute finale consisting of Arthur’s now legendary closing line

And out of the Darkwood Mr Toppit comes, and he comes not for you, or for me, but for all of us

repeated ad nauseam in a delivery that makes David St. Hubbins sound Shakespearean by comparison. These words are violently accompanied by a quintessentially Wakemanesque keyboard and Theremin solo.

That said, its rarity is intriguing. I wonder how many are out there. Has anyone else had the pleasure?

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And out of the Darkwood Mr Toppit Comes

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , on January 13, 2009 by mrtoppit

This package from Penguin arrived today…

Package from Penguin

…complete with a message from the helpful gentleman in publicity

Message from Joe

…and a copy of Mr Toppit by Charles Elton.

Mr Toppit - Front Cover

They have reproduced the image from the boxset on the inside;  how did they managed to clear this with the Hayman Estate?!

Mr Toppit - Inside Front Cover

I wonder what Arthur would make of all this? I will get reading at once.

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The Life and Death of a Nearly Man

Posted in Investigations with tags , , , on January 12, 2009 by mrtoppit

Arthur Hayman Obituary

During a recent research trip to Dorset, I unearthed this gem at a local library (apologies for the reproduction, but the microfiche was slightly damaged). The obituary originally ran in the Dorset Evening Echo and was then syndicated for those nationals who deemed Arthur’s life and passing worthy of comment.

It’s humbling to note the brief mention of The Hayseed Chronicles, described here as ‘too dark and uncompromising to achieve success’, for Arthur was never to see how just many lives his extraordinary books touched.

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Mr Toppit

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , on January 7, 2009 by mrtoppit

Mr Toppit

Thanks to Steve’s comments earlier today it has come to my attention that Penguin Books are planning to publish Mr Toppit, a novelisation of Hayseed phenomenon, in February of this year. After also receiving the following email from a fellow Hayseed fan, I decided to look into this a bit further.
 
I am awaiting with some trepidation Penguin’s publication of Mr Toppit which purports to tell the story of the creation of the Hayseed Chronicles and the aftermath of Arthur Hayman’s death. The author is apparently some TV producer called Charles Elton who works for ITV. Not a good sign. He has produced TV versions of classic children’s’ books like The Railway Children. How could anyone remake the classic film? This doesn’t bode well.
 
The National and Local press are a little more optimistic than our friend here, with the Observer,  Daily Express , and thelondonpaper, claiming it to be a potential highlight of the literary year.
 
To rectify my ignorance, I telephoned the Penguin Press Office, and spoke to reasonably helpful gentleman called Joe. Even after outlining my credentials and expertise on the subject he seemed slightly apprehensive to divulge too much, but he did agree to send me an advanced reading copy to review on the blog. I will keep you posted.

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Love Travels at Illegal Speeds

Posted in Press with tags , , , on January 5, 2009 by mrtoppit

love-travels-at-illegal-speeds

The excellently monikered Larches Lento from Urbana, Illinois sent in this racy clipping from an American Supermarket glossy. The piece (click on the picture to enlarge to read) details with some journalistic license, one of the many instances enfant terrible Rachel Hayman managed to besmirch her family’s good name during her stay in L.A.

 

The death of Rachel’s “drug crazed lover” is treated with typical tabloid sensitivity, while the recap of the Laurie Clow allegations border on the preposterous. Still, a fascinating historical document.

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Mr Toppit Zerstört Mein Leben

Posted in Merchandise with tags , , on January 5, 2009 by mrtoppit

I am currently working my way through the many emails and responses I have received and I will endeavour to get them all up on the blog soon.

 

I start with this haunting vignette, included in full below, from someone who wishes to remain anonymous…  

On the way back from Frankfurt this year I decided to spend some time in East Berlin. After taking brunch in the Berlin fashion I took the advice of one my colleagues and strolled up to Prenzlauer Berg to visit Flohmarkt am Mauerpark.

For the uninitiated, it’s an intense experience as thousands of people search and shovel though millions of items and curiosities from cracked crockery to antique art. Weaving through this labyrinth of hawkers I came across a forlorn looking man crouched at the back of his stall enshrouded, despite the heat, in a large woollen jumper.

The Hayseed Chronicles Annual

His ruddy stand presented little of interest at a glance, but on closer inspection I saw the very tip of the 1985 Hayseed Chronicles Annual sticking out from under a stack of aging German comics. I quickly rescued it from the pile and rummaged through the rest of the stall looking for more.

The Hayseed Chronicles Plate

My efforts were rewarded and I discovered a rather dirty Luke Hayseed dinner plate (which after a comprehensive clean, looks in rather good condition).

When I asked the man for a price for the deuce, he stirred from the folds of his jumper and muttered something I couldn’t catch. When I asked again, he jumped up from his position and started shouting ‘Mr Toppit zerstört mein leben’ with a wild look in his eyes and spittle from his cries catching in his rough beard. I quickly pulled Five Euros from my wallet, grabbed the items and left the strange, haunted man shouting at his stall. Mr Toppit zerstört mein leben…Mr Toppit ruined my life…

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