Posts Tagged ‘John Lenahan’

Burt 1995 – 2011

25,October, 2011

Burt is dead.

For those of you who don’t know who Burt is – he was a cat.  I’m tempted to say my cat but he never was mine.  He lived with me but we were not owner and pet and we were certainly not friends.

If you never met Burt, let me tell you bit about him.  First of all, he was the biggest funking cat you have ever seen.  When he jumped on your lap he would frequently knock some wind out of you.  People often commented that they had seen smaller dogs.  He was also spectacularly handsome with the purr so loud it could drown out the sound of the television (as could his snore.)  He was a striking creature that drew in admirers with his looks and seemingly docile countenance.  Then he would strike.

I’m tempted to describe Burt as vicious but that would be untrue.  He certainly, in his younger years, was the bane of every small mammal, bird and cat in the neighbourhood.  Several times I awoke to find him feeding on a couple of pidgins in the kitchen.  I once came down in the morning to find the kitchen floor completely (and I mean completely) covered with back feathers from the half a dozen blackbirds he had plucked before devouring.  But I wouldn’t call that behaviour vicious – that was just a big cat being a big cat.

Several of my friends and neighbours who left my house with bleeding extremities would certainly label Burt as being vicious.   Burt would saunter up to a stranger and look for all the world to be one of those people loving cats.  He would purr and rub against your leg and let you pet him – but only on his head.  As soon as a foolish hand tried to rub him down his back – he would strike.  Like lightning, a blur of fur and claws would leave four red streaks down the back of a wounded hand.  As a matter of health and safety, the first thing all of us who lived in our house would do, was warn any new arrival to the danger that was Burt.  I can’t tell you how many people who claimed that “all cats love them,” would leave bleeding and humiliated.

Later in life he began to tolerate the long pet but he would not tolerate inattention.   He would grant one the privilege of letting you stroke him as long as you focused on him.  If the poor pet-ie were to turn their attention to say, answering a question – they would bleed.  I once offered my 13 year old son ten pounds if he would pet the sleeping Burt on his exposed belly.  He declined.  Even at that tender age he knew there were easier ways to make money.  Like coal mining.

Still I won’t say Burt was vicious – he was more like the dumb thug that smart and vicious gagsters keep nearby to do their dirty work.  Burt just didn’t realise his own strength or the sharpness of his claws.

You may think after reading this that Burt was unloved but you would be wrong.  He had many admirers and was certainly respected in the local.  But he was unconditionally loved by three.   My son loved the kitten and never stopped loving the cat.  And then there are the two women who have loved me the most: Caroline my late wife loved Burt despite… no maybe because, of his faults.  She loved Burt with the same love that keeps a mother visiting her murderous son in jail.  I wanted to bury Burt with her like the Egyptians pharaohs did but no one would let me.   The other woman in the exclusive Burt fan club is my current love, my partner Nadine.  She is a veterinarian.  Early in our relationship I tried to get her to put Burt down after he started pissing in the living room.  Instead of killing him she fixed him.  As the new woman in my life she thought it was unwise to kill my son’s late mother’s favourite pet.  I guess she had a point.

Burt is gone now.  I no longer have to fight for my space on the sofa or jump back in terror when I hear his daily hiss.  I feel like Batman after The Joker died.  I’ve lost a nemesis and maybe a bit of purpose in my life.   Friends often accused me of secretly loving Burt – I didn’t – but I will miss him.

John L

Burt tangling with a fox - and winning!

A Lifetime of Advice

21,February, 2011

My son went on what the Brits call a “gap year”. He took a year before starting university to work, save some money and then travel the world. He picked exciting destinations, three months in India and a month in Thailand.

As a parent one worries when his son goes off into the wild world. I kept thinking of a song from the play, the Fantastics. A duet between a wide eyed innocent boy and a manipulating vagabond:

Beyond that road lies a shining star
Beyond that rode lies despair
Beyond that road lies a world that’s gleaming
People who are screaming
Never a thought or care
He’s liable to find a couple of surprises there

I wasn’t too worried. I thought I had taught him well but still I wondered if I had properly prepared him for the real world.

At the very end of his journey I flew out and met him in Thailand. While sitting in a Phuket restaurant he regaled me with the details of his trip. It was fascinating and funny. Then he said the thing that would make any parent’s chest swell with pride.

“You taught me something when I was young, Dad, that practically saved my life on this trip.”

What was it? I thought. What pearl of geopolitical, or even scientific wisdom had I imparted on the boy that so helped him during his first solo walkabout. Or maybe I had bestowed on him some moral tale that helped better place him in the shoes of the fellow human beings that he encountered in far-flung cultures.

“It especially came in handy in the Himalayas,” he continued, “when I was on a ten hour bus journey.”

“What was it?” I asked.

“You always told me,” he replied, “‘ Go to the toilet when you can and not when you have to.’ So even in the dead of night I always got out to have a pee. Some of my friends didn’t and almost exploded.”

So there you have it – a lifetime of teaching, molding, imparting, caring and sacrificing – and the most important thing I ever taught my son was – have pee at rest stops.

Go figure.

For all of you who think my life is one long holiday.

25,October, 2009

A little note for all of you who think my life is one long holiday – maybe it is – but often it’s a holiday in hell…

One of my goals in life is to never spend any time in an Egyptian jail. If not for that I would have killed the little kid who kicked the back of my airplane seat all the way to Cairo. The internal flight to Alexandra was uneventful except for an unexplained sharp and frightening dive to the right. The entire flight was completely turbulence free except for that moment. I had an image of The Three Stooges in the cockpit momentarily taking their hands off the wheel. Even though the flight was late, that mental image meant that sleep was impossible.

Customs in Alexandria examined my bags with a completely open x-ray machine that reminded me of some old fluoroscope device from the 1040’s. I’m sure that I received a lethal dose of radiation from this one (and hopefully only) visit.  I’m surprised the customs officials didn’t look like extras from Zombieland.  I was supposed to be met and taken to a hotel for the night, then taken to the cruise ship the next day. My non-English-speaking driver was having none of that. He hared around back roads, where it seemed that the terrifying custom is to turn off your lights as a car approaches. So when a pair of headlights appears in the distance you and the other car go into complete blackness until somehow you miss each other.

Since the ship had docked a half an hour before, at 1am, the driver insisted to take me to it and not the hotel where I was booked. I tried to point out that my cabin in the ship would probably not be ready until tomorrow but my Egyptian guide would not be turned. It made me wonder if Carter had this much trouble with his guides while looking for Tutankhamen. At the gate of the port we picked up another man carrying a clear plastic bag of pita bread and fruit. I thought he was a delivery person until he asked for my passport.

I then had to wait an hour in a customs office that even Bob Cratchet would have deemed filthy, while a customs officer had to get out of bed and dress. Eventually I was surrounded by my two Egyptians, two security/policemen and a grumpy/sleepy customs official all yelling at each other and pointing at me and my passport. I got the distinct impression that none of them had done this before. Finally, the customs man instructed me to open my bags. I’d never before been through customs leaving a country but he looked in no mood to argue. There was no one to translate but I imagined he said, “If you are f-ing going to get me up in the middle of the night I’m going to look through your f-ing bags.” So I opened my bags. As he stared at my pile of magic props he spoke the first English I had heard all evening. “What is this?”

I know from experience that there is no way to explain what a “magician” is without doing a trick – so did a couple of snazzy shuffles and said I was a “fakir” which was the wrong thing to say since it also has mystical and criminal connotations. Finally, after I made a card magically rise out of an unattended deck of cards, did the smiles and the laughs come. Then the customs guy got on his walkie-talkie and I had to wait another 20 minutes for all of the night guards on the dock to drive up so I could perform a 3am impromptu show on the Alexandria docks. Historians will tell you that The Lighthouse of Alexandria was one of the Seven Wonders of the World but me getting through customs that night is the eighth.

Eventually at the ship, I had to wake up the head of security to be allowed onboard, and then they had to wake the accommodations officer to get me a room. Everyone I met asked me why I wasn’t in a hotel. I finally opened my room to find the bed filled with a crew member who was temporarily using it for the night because he was sick. I had to go back and re-awaken the accommodations officer and finally get another room. When I finally put my head on my pillow I said one of the only phrases in my tiny Arabic vocabulary, “al hamdulillah” –which means – Thanks Be to God.

Shadowmagic is on the Kindle

12,October, 2009

It looks like I have definitely joined the 21st century.  Shadowmagic is available on the Amazon Kindle for $5.81.

I use a Sony ebook reader and i love it.  If your thinking of giving ebook readers a try – go for it.  You will be surprised how much you will like it.
John L

The Celtic Balloon Knot

26,September, 2009

I just spent a couple of days at the International Brotherhood of Magicians’ convention in Southport England.  I did two performances and as part of my contract I got a table in the dealer’s hall to sell my novel Shadowmagic.  The dealers hall at a magic convention is a strange and wondrous place.  People selling all sorts of magic devices from: collapsible animatronic bunnies, to full sized guillotines.  All day magicians picked up my novel and asked, “What does it do?”  By the end of the day I was screaming, “It’s a book!  You read it!”  I sold about 70 of them.

In the stall next to me, selling balloons for balloon animal twisting, was latex sculpture extraordinaire – Gerry Luff.  He saw the Celtic knot on the cover of Shadowmagic and sculpted it with balloons – have a look.  Thanks Jerry.

Balloon knot

George and the Ukes

15,September, 2009

The versatility of  George Frideric Handel as demonstrated by The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.

I’m a published journalist now.

14,September, 2009

I really have no idea where they got that picture – I have no memory of it ever being taken.

A video – Where am I?

3,September, 2009

Little Ideas

31,August, 2009

John Scalzi’s wonderful science fiction blog, Whatever, has a section called Big Idea, where authors discuss the idea that sparked their novels.  I submitted an essay for Big Idea but John said that since Shadowmagic  is published in the UK that his American readers would find it too difficult to buy it (even though it’s sold through Oh well, Whatever’s loss is Gratuitous Socks’ gain.

Here is my essay   Little Ideas.

Paperback cover 3

Little Ideas

There was no Big Idea for Shadowmagic, just a lot of little ones that added up.

I have always loved first person narratives about a serious situation where the main character keeps his/her sense of humour: Corwin in Nine Princes in Amber, Jim diGriz in the Stainless Steel Rat and (even though, John, I read your book after I wrote Shadowmagic) John Perry in Old Man’s War.  For my first Little Idea, I wanted to create a character like that.

My second Little Idea was to try and create a book that would be as captivating for my 12 year old son as Roger Zelazny’s Amber series was for me at that age.  While writing Shadowmagic I spent half my time trying not to just transcribe Nine Princes in Amber – hopefully I succeeded.  What I did take away was a first person character that was transported into a fantastic situation where he didn’t have a clue as to what was going on.   The reader learns at the same time as the character.

Little Idea three, came from a video game I used to play on the Atari ST – Dudgeon Master.  DN had an interactive map that only revealed new areas of the dudgeon after you found them.   The idea of a land that appeared fully formed only after the rightful king found it was a big part of the first plotting of Shadowmagic.  As the book became fully formed, that idea almost disappeared.  But if I can give a reader just a tiny experience of the feeling I had, in the wee hours of the morning, as I screamed at the sight of a giant dungeon rat appearing on my monitor – I’ve done my job.

Four, Macbeth.  Don’t worry folks, there are no thys and forsooths in Shadowmagic but the idea of a character that allows a soothsayer’s prophesy to shape their life -only to find that the prophesy was completely different to what was expected – has always intrigued me.

Five, and this is a biggie, was a play I saw, years ago, in a little theatre in Cork, Ireland.  It was called Women in Arms and I don’t even know who wrote it.  It was a play about a group of people who told stories from Irish mythology to keep their spirits up.  From that I learned of the ancient Irish texts like: The Tain and the Ulster Cycle.  Stories, that I think, put the Arthurian stuff to shame.  Through my love of Irish mythology I found the myth from the O’Neil clan about how the Red Hand of Ulster came to be on the flag of Northern Ireland.  Telling it would be a spoiler but trust me – it’s a good one.

Six, I wanted Conor, my main character, to realise that his father was much more than he thought.  I’m a dad- cut me a break.

Lastly, I wanted it to have humour.  I make my living as a stand-up comedian and humour is literally my life.  I’m a firm believer that there is no situation so dire or so tragic that still doesn’t allow or need a good joke.  It gets me in trouble at funerals sometimes but I still hold firm to that philosophy.

I wrote Shadowmagic just to see if I could.  I didn’t even expect it to be published but the response I have received from it has been amazing.  It’s given me faith in my writing and (if I may be overly dramatic) it has changed my life.  I won’t make that claim for you readers but I’m sure you will like it.

John Lenahan


Product Description from

A Lord of the Rings for the 21st century. Only a lot shorter. And funnier. And completely different. Conor thought he was an average teenager. OK, so his father only had one hand, spoke to him in ancient languages and was a bit on the eccentric side but, other than that, life was fairly normal. Until, that is, two Celtic warriors on horseback and wearing full armour appear at his front door and try to kill him. After that, things get pretty weird. Shadowmagic is a fantasy adventure for young adults (although grown ups will like it too). Written by one of the most popular magicians in the country it brings a fresh approach to the genre and will have a broad appeal beyond the fantasy sections.

About the Author
John Lenahan is a popular TV magician who became the first person in 85 years to be expelled from the Magic Circle. He has had a prime time BBC1 TV show called ‘Secrets Of Magic’ and also a BBC2 series ‘Stuff The White Rabbit’. He was the voice of the toaster in ‘Red Dwarf’ and has made guest appearances on numerous variety shows. He has toured with Jack Dee, Lenny Henry and Victoria Wood. Shadowmagic was an award-winning podcast novel prior to being signed to Harper Collins

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Danny & Me

29,August, 2009

Britain’s finest broadcaster, Mr. Danny Baker was kind enough to have me back on his BBC Radio London show to promote Shadowmagic.

danny baker

Have a listen here if you missed it and then never miss another one of Danny’s shows again.