Posted by Leisl Kaberry
Will Macmillan Jones may not be the next Gary Moore but he does manage to entertain people with his engaging series of comic fantasy books The Banned Underground. This Fantasy Sci-Fi Network author released book six in the series on August 24th 2014.
Have Frog, Will Travel
The Banned underground
“The council use potholes to encourage people out of their cars.”
“Yes. Through the windscreen, sometimes.”
“Tolkien Meets Spinal Tap!” More speculative fiction from The Banned Underground collection: Grizelda the off-white witch is forced to speculate about her future in fiction when the Dark Lord tempts her with his cookies, and threatens her with eviction from her cottage if she doesn’t join The Dark Side.
Tempted, Grizelda sets off on a journey of self-discovery, but whatever is she likely to find, apart of course from a few frogs?
Is it Good to be Bad? Or is it Bad to be Good? Or could there be a Third Way? Frogs, Vampires, and assorted Witches all have a different view on her predicament; and the only certainty is Grizelda’s uncertainty … and the usual stream of gags, one-liners and slapstick jokes provoked by her thoughts on philosophy.
What fans are saying about the series…
“I’ve read all the Banned Underground books and love them, so I was looking forward to this. I wasn’t disappointed.
Now I’ve just got to rein in my patience and wait for the next.” 5 Stars.
“If you haven’t read The Banned Underground, you should start right away. This series is seriously worth reading. These books are lots of fun.” 5 Stars.
“That’s a great gag,” said a certain Jasper Fforde, leafing through a copy of Bass Instinct at Bristolcon Fantasy convention 2 weeks ago….
A Chapter for you to sink your teeth into…
The Cast List
Archlord Lakin King Under The Mountain, a great job
Guard Captain Verin Not in his right mind, or the right job
The Steward Needing a drink, his traditional role
Assorted Dwarf Guards Trying to avoid their traditional role.
Grizelda A veritable powerhouse
(aka Mrs Dorotea Westinghouse)
The Tuatha Possessors of powerful appetites
Maddy The Prior Wants power -but responsibly
The Grey Mage Thinks Dirty Deeds should be dirt cheap
Gloria It’s not easy being a teenager in love.
Ned, Bill & Ben Their minds are on higher things.
(Or higher wages, more likely)
Henry Seeking higher things
Mister Wilberforce In the service of a Higher Authority
AND THE UGLY
The Banned Underground
Fungus The Boogieman Leader of the band
Haemar Banned from leading the Banned
GG Being led into bad ways
Scar Playing the Bad Boy boogie
Felldyke Imagining he is a bad boy
Dai Working on his bad boy image
DEFINITLY NOT UGLY
Freya Too good to be forgotten
Erica Hoping Grizelda might forget
Henry arose from his seated posture of meditation outside the garden gate and took a deep breath. He ran his hands over his shaven head, adjusted his glasses and gently dusted the dried grasses and sheep droppings* from his flowing saffron robes. Using his newly restored astral balance and inner harmony he opened the garden gate and walked along the narrow path to the door of the cottage, taking care to keep off the grass as the sign warned. He knocked firmly on the door. The doorknocker sneered at him, making him take a hasty step backwards.
* [One hopes the malefactors felt sheepish about their offence.]
“Hang on, I’m coming!” called a voice from within the cottage, and despite the warm day, Henry shivered inside his orange habit. ** The door creaked open slowly, making the sort of noise that would keep a Hollywood sound studio in work for months.
** [Saffron, orange, they are the same colour to me, OK? It is not my fault. And they are both edible anyway.]
“Yes?” asked Grizelda, the off-white witch.
“Om. Have you a moment to hear the Word of Surdin?” asked Henry politely.
“One word? Really?”
“No,” admitted Henry. “It’s quite a few words, really.”
Grizelda stared at him, then finally nodded.
“Aye, well then. Come into the kitchen and have a cup of tea.”
“Om, thank you.”
Henry bowed, and followed the witch into her kitchen. He looked around with interest. As a professional accountant, he had seen a few thieves’ kitchens, but this was the first witch’s kitchen he had been into. Somehow, he had expected it to be cleaner.
“Do yer want tea?” asked Grizelda, and made herself busy at the stove.
Henry observed her. Middle-aged, average height, and…he stopped. A gentleman does not comment on a lady’s weight, he reminded himself. Even though the industrial quality boots she was wearing considerably increased her weight. In one corner of the kitchen, a broomstick leant against a cupboard. The scrubbed pine table, surrounded by chairs, lay in the centre and behind him – Henry jumped and stepped away from the fridge which was suddenly a lot closer to his back than he had thought.
He felt a cold shiver run down his back, then the fridge door closed again. “Om. Tea will be…lovely. Thank you.”
Grizelda grumbled to herself, and then tapped the stove with her forefinger. The hotplate promptly opened, and she glared at the kettle until it sidled over onto the heat out of sheer embarrassment.
“Sit yerself down,” Grizelda said amiably.
Henry carefully stepped away from the fridge and sat down on one of the chairs. Grizelda busied herself with cups, and then turned around with a wooden spoon in her hand. She leant across the table towards him and Henry went pale at the view… but Grizelda only smacked the fridge hard with the spoon.
Henry twisted round in his chair and banged his elbow hard on the side of the fridge. “I hadn’t realised it was so close,” he said apologetically.
“She weren’t when you sat down,” replied Grizelda, and started pouring boiling water into the teapot.
Henry looked closely at the fridge, which quivered and then stilled. Grizelda dropped some mats onto the table and added sugar, mugs and the teapot. Then she walked around the table and Henry quivered slightly. Grizelda raised her wooden spoon defensively and opened the fridge door. Henry peered inside, but apart from a stack of red yoghurt pots and two bottles of milk, it seemed empty.
“She needs filling up again really,” said Grizelda absently as she picked up one of the two bottles of milk. “She gets a bit frisky when she’s hungry.”
“Hungry?” asked Henry.
“Mmmm. Well, empty. Mebbe.”
“I think so,” replied Grizelda, speculating to herself. “Actually, after what went on with her and the Electricity Meter Reader last year I hope so.”
Henry regarded Grizelda as she walked back around the table. A small scraping noise startled him and as he turned around the fridge seemed to shimmer a little closer towards him. He leant towards the fridge and started whispering. The fridge jerked backwards, and scraped its way back to the kitchen wall, a flush of rose colouring the silver sheen it normally affected.
“Well!” exclaimed Grizelda in surprise. “I’ve never seen it do that before! How did yer do that?”
The fridge trembled slightly. Henry looked down at the table, mildly embarrassed. “I told her a dirty joke about a washing machine, I’m afraid.”
To his amazement, Grizelda started laughing. “I must tell me husband about that, when he gets home!”
Henry felt unaccountably relieved.
“Next month that’ll be, he’s away on business yer see.”
Henry felt unaccountably nervous as Grizelda treated him to an alarming smile, and sat down at the table.
“Sugar?” she asked, pouring two cups of tea.
“Om. No thank you. Sugar is karmically unsound.”
“Oh.” Grizelda took three spoons full in her tea. “Still, Karma’s not out to get you until yer dead, is it?”
“Om. It can be instant, karma, you know.”
“Anyway, what did yer want to tell me about?”
“I’m here to sound you out,” started Henry.
Grizelda tapped the back of her hand with the teaspoon. The sound failed to ring out across the kitchen, and she looked mildly accusing.
“Not like that,” said Henry. “I want to tempt you.”
Grizelda looked at the slim, shaven, orange clad monk critically.
“What did yer have in mind?”
“The Dark Side and our cookies?”
Grizelda looked a little disappointed. “Oh.”
Henry looked around the kitchen and sipped his tea. Years of rigorous training and self-discipline allowed him to smile afterwards and put the mug down gently.
“It’s much more fun in the Dark, you know.”
“Are we still talking about the Dark Side and cookies?” demanded Grizelda.
“Grizelda, have you never sat alone in your kitchen at night, and dreamed of the things you could do with your power?” asked Henry.
“I’m never alone in my kitchen. There’s always the fridge. And sometimes me husband, too.”
“Have you never felt the urge to be…” Henry waved his hands expressively: “…more than this?”
“Er… what exactly are yer getting at?”
“Grizelda, you are an enormously powerful witch. Everyone around here knows that.”
“Well,” Grizelda smiled modestly at the table (which was not misled by the smile).
“Yet you are being held back by superiors who are not capable of licking your shoes…boots… clean,” wheedled Henry.
Grizelda looked down at her boots. In truth, the last tongue capable of licking her boots clean had died out with the dinosaurs.
“You owe it to yourself to get the best use out of your power.”
Henry took another drink of his tea, despite the very real risk to his health. Behind him, the fridge shifted restlessly.
“I’m tempted,” agreed Grizelda.
“Just think about it, no more complaints when you turned someone into a frog. We would even encourage it, as long as it was the right someone.”
“That’s the problem though, isn’t it?” said Grizelda slowly.
“Who the right person is? And who decides that? Besides me.”
“Caer Surdin – the Dark Coven – is your natural home, Grizelda. We would honour your talents, your skills, your attitude to life.”
“Grizelda, what has being Good done for you? Has it brought you riches, honour, fame? Your neighbour, your coven leader, she lives in wealth and comfort whilst you… don’t.”
“Being Bad hasn’t given you those things either though,” objected Grizelda. “Look at you: poor, working fer The Grey Mage, and dressed like Ghandi on a bad day!”
“Om. That is my choice, to work on my bad karma.”
“Well, I think you’d be better off with a good korma. And some proper clothes. No, I’ll stick with the White Side. Me husband would never forgive me if I turned black.”
Henry decided not to mention quite how much of Grizelda was black already.
“Om,” he answered, bowing his head. His hand slipped off the table, and to cover the movement he drank some more tea. Henry took something from his pocket and pressed it hard to the undersurface of the table, where it stuck fast.
“I’m flattered by the offer, of course,” Grizelda added.
“I am instructed to tell you that it will remain open.” Henry put both hands on the table and leant forwards towards her. “The Dark Side wants you, Grizelda.”
Henry stood up and bowed. The fridge scraped the floor, and before Grizelda had managed to stand and bow back politely, Henry was out of the door. The fridge quivered in anticipation of a chase.
“Settle down,” Grizelda told it. “Settle down.” She herself sat down, but felt unsettled: the offer had more attractions for her than she liked to admit, even to herself.
“I wish Ben were here,” she muttered to herself. “It all makes more sense when he’s here.”
The fridge shifted uneasily.
“And you can keep quiet,” she told it firmly.
Outside the cottage, Henry leant back against the closed door in relief, to still his racing heart rate.
“Hey, that’s not nice!” said a muffled voice.
Henry jumped away from the door as if he’d been bitten, and his heart rate accelerated.
“That’s better,” said the doorknocker. “Thought I was going to take me last breath then for a nasty moment.”
“Om, I am sorry!” said Henry, holding his chest with one hand in case his heart made a separate bid for freedom.
“We’ll say no more about it,” replied the knocker generously. “See you again!” it called after Henry who was walking carefully along the path towards the garden gate.
On either side of the path, the grass waved happily at his waist height. Near the gate, the rambling rose waved back. Henry stopped, and regarded the rose bush. Long branches with enormous thorns trailed out towards the path, and seemed to surround the gate. Henry took a deep breath. Those years of watching Kung Fu repeats on the TV were about to pay off after all! Adopting the famous Grasshopper pose, he moved along the path as if it was made of rice paper: his feet left no marks. The lashing limbs of the rambling rose failed to touch him, and he left the dangerous garden safely. He was promptly and colourfully, sick.
Half an hour later Henry walked into the reception of the offices of
TGM Accountants and Taxation Advisors
Gloria, the disguised dragon receptionist,* looked up from her desk. She had been cleaning her nails, which were a fetching grey colour to match her dress and skin tone.
*[She was disguised as a human, of course. Business clients can be alarmed by a receptionist who looks like a fire-breathing dragon, whilst being quite accustomed to receptionists who behave that way. You never have a second chance to make a first incineration, she believed.]
“You look like you’ve had a near-death experience, Henry,” she told him.
“I should have been so lucky,” he replied. “Is the Boss in?”
“Yes, he’s free. I’ll let him know you’re on your way.”
Gloria pressed the black button on her intercom and said loudly “Henry’s back, Boss. He’s on his way in to report.”
“Is he all right?” asked The Grey Mage through the intercom.
“Just a bit pale, Boss.”
“Send him in, then.”
Gloria nodded at Henry, who smiled back and walked down the corridor. Henry knocked on the office door, and entered the inner sanctum of The Grey Mage: Accountant and Dark Lord of Keswick.
“Ah, Henry,” said that worthy from behind his large desk. “Sit down, and tell me how it went!”
“Thanks, Boss.” Henry sat down gratefully. Gloria appeared moments later with coffee for the Boss, and a mineral water for Henry.
“So how did it go, Henry? You got out alive, anyway.”
“I did take that all purpose generic poison antidote you gave me first, Boss.”
“Sensible man. I always drink some before trying my wife’s cooking. I’m convinced it’s saved my life a few times.”
“Well, she took me into her kitchen.”
The Grey Mage shuddered. “I’ve not been in there myself, but Ned has been inside her cottage before.”
“It was dreadful, Boss. That fridge is something out of a nightmare. It moves around on its own, you know.”
“Really? I had heard rumours.”
“But I am sure that you are right, Boss. She is not firmly wedded to being Good. In fact…” Henry paused and shuddered violently.
The Grey Mage pushed a wastepaper basket closer to him, just in case Henry was about to be sick. Henry shook his head, and gulped some more water. “No, it’s too horrible to contemplate.”
The Grey Mage looked intrigued. “Henry, she didn’t….did… you didn’t…?”
“No, Boss. Can you imagine how many incarnations as a frog I’d have to suffer to work off that karmic burden? But she came close to considering your offer, Boss. I reckon if you keep some pressure on, she’ll crack and come over.”
The Grey Mage nodded thoughtfully. Then he opened the drawer of his desk, took out an envelope and gave it to Henry.
“Just a bit of a bonus. You’ve earned it, without any doubt. Take the rest of this week off too, on full pay.”
“It’s Friday afternoon, Boss.”
“Then don’t hang about. I’ll have something interesting for you to do next week.”
“Thanks, Boss!” Henry left, walking on air.
“And stop levitating in the office! It unsettles the clients.” The Grey Mage yelled after his retreating employee. He leant forward and pushed the red button on his desk intercom. “Gloria? Just ask Ned to come in, would you? But first, get me Councillor Davies on the phone. Yes, him on the Planning Committee.”
“Right, Boss. Is this going to be another cunning plan, Boss?”
“I expect so, Gloria. Why?”
“I’ve got some leave coming, Boss.”
“Don’t worry, there’s time for this book to end before that”
Other books in the series…
The Vampire Mechanic
“The Council said I had that Mad Cow in my burger van.”
“Yes, but I’m divorced now.”
The third stand-alone volume in The Banned Underground fantasy collection finds our friends – the dwarf rhythm-and-blues band known as The Banned Underground – in trouble again. For once, they can claim that it wasn’t their fault. After all, they didn’t suggest Santa’s Little Helpers should borrow The Sleigh to get to their gig whilst Santa is on his summer cruise, did they? And they certainly didn’t crash The Sleigh into a mountain in Wales on the way, did they?
But they can’t let their friends down, so the Banned are on hand to help get The Sleigh repaired—by the only remaining mechanic who has a workshop manual. After all, Vampires don’t throw things like that away.
However, The Sleigh has triggered computer alerts around the world, and one such alert was on the Dark Lord’s computer. As his Mercedes has seen better days, the Dark Lord sends out his minions with orders to recover The Sleigh to be his new personal transport.
Warlocks, Druids, Vampires and Witches (and the occasional accidental frog) combine in a laugh-a-minute roller coaster as the Banned struggle to save their friends from the wrath of Santa.
The Banned Underground collection has been described as ‘Lord Of The Rings, as written by a stand up comedian to the sound track of led Zeppelin IV’
“When Dragons mate, we mate for life.”
“Really? Isn’t there someone you can complain to about that?”
Bass Instinct is the fourth book in The Banned Underground collection of comic fantasy books. Each is a stand-alone novel, needing no previous acquaintance with the characters. The Banned Underground are a dwarf rhythm-and-blues band, led by a luminous green, saxophone playing bog troll with a passion for mushrooms, beer and pizza … and more beer … and for playing jazz, blues and rock ‘n’ roll, of course. The latest addition to the group is a bright red Welsh dragon that plays bass guitar. But he’s in trouble. Dai the Drinking Dragon has been kidnapped by the Dark Lord for nefarious purposes, and by the Dark Lord’s dragon receptionist for even less reputable reasons. Without their bass player, the Banned Underground are now in deep trouble with their record label. They have to produce a set of recordings for an album, and someone has stolen the tapes from the last gig. Can they make some more recordings, or will Freya, the renegade dwarf bass player hired by the Dark Lord, distract the boys whilst the Dark Lord’s evil schemes come to fruition? The Dark Lord has found some thugs to help him in his latest plan to invade the underground Dwarf Mansion he would like to own (as an alternative to his garden shed as a place to hide from his wife), but they have other things on their minds – like looting and pillaging the locals – and it’s all going wrong for him again. Described on The Guardian newspaper’s book review pages as ‘Lord of The Rings as written by stand-up comic Milton Jones to the soundtrack of Led Zeppelin IV’, The Banned Underground series is an underground hit, full of both crackling one-liners and more subtle jokes.
The Satnav of Doom
“The computer says: User error – replace user and press enter.”
The SatNav of Doom, the fifth in the Banned Underground fantasy collection is now released. This is a stand-alone work; previous experience is not required. Something always seems to happen when the Banned Underground, a dwarf rhythm-and-blues band led by a jazz-loving bog troll, are playing. Sadly for them, it is rarely anything good – for them at least. The rest of us always seem to get a good laugh at their predicament. But their world contains more than just pubs and pizza places. There is a Dark Side to some of the people they know: and to one in particular, of course: the Dark Lord of Keswick. Once again, the Dark Lord has a cunning plan. And once again someone else is going to have to carry it out for him: that’s what henchmen are for, isn’t it? To hench? Oh, and to be sent on the risky missions … Not that this mission should be risky. What could be easier than secretly inserting computer spyware into a laptop, using a Banned Underground gig as a diversion? The Tax Office probably does it all the time. But the Tax Office is not normally being chased for an unpaid credit card bill for a huge round of drinks. (That’s our politicians. And the Dark Lord’s henchmen, of course.) And it isn’t just any laptop the Dark Lord wants to spy on either. The Government is struggling to find the way out of the Recession without a road map, and what better aid than a SatNav linked to an economic forecasting computer? If the Dark Lord can get inside information on future economic policy, maybe he can clean up and buy a new Mercedes at last. Then there is a mystery: where did the time-travelling SatNav come from in the first place? What if the original owner wants it back? Magic, mayhem and macro-economic policy collide in the latest surreal instalment of the acclaimed comic fantasy collection, The Banned Underground.
About the author…
Will Macmillan Jones lives in Wales, a lovely green, verdant land with a rich cultural heritage. He does his best to support this heritage by drinking the local beer and shouting loud encouragement whenever International Rugby is on the TV. A fifty something lover of blues, rock and jazz he has just fulfilled a lifetime ambition by filling an entire wall of his home office with (full) bookcases. When not writing, he is usually lost with the help of a satnav on top of a large hill in the middle of nowhere, looking for dragons.
Why Will writes…
“I’ve always wanted to be an entertainer. But I can’t sing, can’t dance, and when I pick up my beloved Les Paul guitar and try to pretend that I can play like Gary Moore, the dogs run howling for the kitchen and hide with their paws over their ears. So I have to do something that doesn’t make as much noise, and only frightens the animals if someone reads passages aloud to them. Writing lets me entertain, without all that tedious having to perform in front of people and risk having either abuse or fruit (or worse) slung at me. It’s great fun!”
His major comic fantasy series can be found at:
and information on his other work and stuff in general at :
There’s a blog. There’s always a blog, isn’t there?
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