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English Heretic - Anti-Heroes

Anti-Heroes is a publication coupled with a CD from English Heretic, an organisation dedicated to maintaining, nurturing and caring for the psychohistorical environment of England. The starting point for Anti-Heroes is Dr Robert Vaughan, the fictional psychopathic scientist from J.G. Ballard's novel Crash.

Several years ago English Heretic initiated a Black Plaque scheme to "commemorate and draw public attention to historical figures in such diverse fields as sorcery, the Royal Art, left hand path occultism and witchcraft, as well as the mentally infirm: tortured poets, psychopaths and village idiots". It was during their investigation into Robert Vaughan that English Heretic became aware of other spectres in the vicinity of Ballard's Western Avenue and in doing so they mapped a luna constellation of death stars in the suburbs of West London, including warlocks, paranoid schizophrenics, dissidents, cads and horror films. At the centre of their Anti-Heroes investigation is J.G. Ballard.

Featuring biography, theory and field studies English Heretic's research within these 60 odd pages brings together an impressive and singular take on the occult, Ballard and popular culture, with particular dispensation to UK television and horror films from the sixties and seventies. The opening chapter 'The Mangled Destinies of Carriages and Men' which draws upon Andy Sharp's (who, in truth, is English Heretic) early childhood in Kenya, succinctly entwines Ballard's Crash with the horror films Doctor Terror's House of Horrors and the Hammer film Taste The Blood of Dracula as a prelude to the blasphemous indulgences that took place at Sir Francis Dashwood's infamous Hellfire Club in West Wycombe, and, in particular, the sadistic and necrophiliac activities of George Selwyn, one of those mad monks of Medmenham.

There are interesting diversions to be found on English Heretic's Anti-Heroes death trip. 'Names that Widdershin Around The Mega Therion' chronicles the pseudonymous appearances of the "Great Beast", Aleister Crowley in pulp horror flicks leading onto an episode of The Avengers loosely based around a Hellfire Club. This episode, A Touch of Brimstone, featured Peter Wyngarde, who during WW2 was a fellow inmate of J.G. Ballard in the Lunghua prison camp in Shanghai. It's these intersections that English Heretic illuminate that make their writings so essential. A further chapter, 'Gnostic Doctors: Vaughan and Evans' drags both Kenneth Grant and Doctor Who into their orbit, cast against intriguing pop culture detritus, proposing an imaginary synergy between the two. While that may be wishful thinking, further links between The Tomorrow People and TV psychologist Dr Christopher Evans are explored along with the influence of the writings of H.P. Lovecraft and Kenneth Grant on one particular episode of the seventies children's sci-fi series described as featuring "a Gnostic Lovecraftian Ragnarok" before teatime.

Other chapters identify English Heretics' Anti-Heroes of West London. These include Ian Ball, the dangerous working class dissenter of Uxbridge, who attempted a kidnap of Princess Ann, and Robert Cochrane, a Slough based witch-cult leader who committed suicide. The elderly actor and cad George Sanders, another suicide victim, performed his final role in Psychomania, Don Sharp's brilliant cult 1970's low budget horror biker flick. In Psychomania a group of bikers, lead by the leather clad Tom Latham, take their own lives in order to become immortal; a trick swiped from Latham's mother (played by Beryl Reid) and Shadwell, her ageing butler played by George Sanders. Latham's trip to the other side was filmed on the M3 corridor, with chase and crash sequences filmed at the MOD Military Vehicle Test and Evaluation Track at Barrow Hill - revealed by English Heretic to be an ancient burial ground. "If Crash is Ballard's Wasteland" then trash cult horror Psychomania, according to English Heretic "is the author's sleazy low brow brother".

But it's the locations of the hospitals Broadmoor and Ashford that provide the most striking parallels with Ballard's Crash. Ashford Hospital featured in Crash while Crowthorne is home to both Broadmoor, where Ian Ball still languishes, and the Transport Research Laboratory where simulated car accidents are an everyday occurrence. With regards to Ballard, it is Crowthorne, in the eyes of English Heretic, which provides "a collision of locations that perhaps holds the key to the author's ultimate transgressive surrealist operation - the marriage of car accident and sexual psychopathology".

While Psychomania figures heavily in Anti-Heroes it is Blood On Satan's Claw, Piers Haggards' 1971 Tigon production, that holds a formidable presence in Anti-Heroes. 'Hell's Angel Blake' features a report on an English Heretic site visit to Bix, the film location of Blood On Satan's Claw, with a copy of Robert Graves The White Goddess as literary companion. Mixing mythology, psychogeography with the case of Mary Bell it's a fascinating study focussing on the ritual sacrifice of the classic folk horror film that picks up on the mythology of May Eve celebrations with the child killings by the 10 year old Mary Bell, which influenced the writing script of Blood On Satan's Claw.

Anti-Heroes is accompanied by a CD, split into three sections, which hones in and highlights details of the accompanying book, creating something of a mash-up. The first section Occult is largely concerned with Blood On Satan's Claw. 'The Dangerous Gift' features the voice of Kate Renwick over violins, swelling into folky realms, with words describing the ruined church of the film, interspersed by passages of Andy Sharp's spoken tones as the track swells into folky psychedelia. Taped strains of Robert Graves ruminations on mythology and The White Goddess hover over the scuzzy rock music of 'Hell's Angel Blake'. Its soaring guitar here owes more to John Camerons's soundtrack to Psychomania than the folk horror found in Blood On Satan's Claw. The voice of Peter Wyngarde culled from The Avengers episode hangs over the orchestral strains of 'Goetia AD 72' as Andy Sharp intones an imaginary litany from Dracula AD 1972, with the entire thing sounding like Current 93 meet Hammer House.

The second section Psychopathology starts off with 'Mall Timeslip' featuring a TV news broadcast about Ian Ball's attempted kidnap of Princess Ann with Andy Sharp reading Ball's Hoax Explanation over spacey guitar chords. Much more of this can be found on the English Heretic 12-inch picture disc, Plan For The Kidnap Of Princess Ann. Swinburne's poem 'The Garden of Proserpine', which formed part of Crowley's Rites of Eleusis, is recited on 'Heart Burial And Soul' (the first of some adapted Joy Division songtitles) and here in its keyboard setting it sounds not unlike that dark troubadour David E. Williams. 'Vaughan To Lose', meanwhile, is an adaptation of 'Riding Free' the acoustic folk song performed at the burial of Tom Latham in Psychomania, opening with words taken from George Sanders' suicide note.

The final section Occult Psychopathology comprises 'Fungi From Suburbs' - confusingly known as 'Vaughan To Lose' on the Black Harvest single - and 'Two Hundred And Forty Fours'.'Fungi From Suburbs' is a head-on collision of J.G. Ballard's 'What I Believe' and H.P. Lovecraft's 'Fungi From Yuggoth', delivered amidst Ballard's voice, roaring car engines, ecclesiastical choirs and electronic spectres, sounding like something akin to Current 93's 'I Have A Special Plan For This World', while 'Two Hundred And Forty Fours', appropriating and adapting another Joy Division title, channels the delusions of witch-cult leader Robert Cochrane via the voice of Andy Sharp mixed with keening guitars and rhythmic backing.

Crash had its genesis in Ballard's The Atrocity Exhibition; a book that also spawned a Joy Division song, and included a short story entitled 'The Assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy Considered as a Downhill Motor Race'. Kennedy's assassination is explored in Mondo Paranoia, a more recent release from English Heretic, which examines the thanatological synchronicities of 22nd November 1963, and the simultaneous deaths of JFK, Aldous Huxley and C.S. Lewis. I'm only touching upon the bare bones of the research excavated on Anti-Heroes, as I don't want to spoil your enjoyment. Anti-Heroes, like all English Heretic productions, is well worth your time and money. It's engaging, well researched and humorous. Like The Psychogeographical Commission, English Heretic are providing research that acts as road maps for others to follow. It may take you off the beaten track, but it's a road worth travelling. Recommended. For more information go to