The Truth Spinner – Rhys Hughes

The Complete Adventures of Castor Jenkins
by Rhys Hughes

A Real-Time Review started 9 August 2012

A book that I purchased direct from the publisher.

Wildside Press 2012

CAVEAT: Spoilers are not intended but there may be inadvertent ones. You may wish (i) to take that risk and read my review before or during your own reading of the book, or (ii) to wait until you have finished reading it. In either case, I hope it gives a useful or interesting perspective.

All my real-time reviews are linked from here:

My previous reviews of Rhys Hughes books:

There is no guarantee how long it will take to complete this review, whether days or years.


1: The Münchausen of Porthcawl

Castor on Troubled Waters

“…seductive cloud formations, alterations in the shape, colour or tensile strength of the horizon line.”

An intro with not exactly a re-run of the the Epimenides Paradox, but with a new Rhys-Hughesian philosophico-conceit concerning lies (white or black), truths, truisms, fibisms, fictions et al. But here in the first story, I am even more taken with the ambiance of the comrade-ship of a Welsh pub. My Welsh granddad was reputed to have spent most of his time in Llanelli (not too far from Porthcawl) during the 1920-1950 era with a pint in his hand and the pubtalk (pubtalk being neither lies or truths) in his mouth or in his ears as he sat amid the environs of a working-class saloon bar.  All true.  This story takes this a stage further: both intellectually mind-boggling and hilarious to the nth degree. A tall story to end all pub talk, particularly as our protagonist finishes up telling about being ‘tall’ in a ship’s crow’s nest employed by pirates. For fear of spoilers, I won’t tell you about the rationale and purpose of this tall story or about the astonishing Child-is-Father-of-the-Man conceit involved or the way-station for messages-in-a-bottle. It is just simply high-quality, readily comprehensible literature that will sharply awaken your philosophical-absurdist buds and make you think seriously, too, about life and existence and those conversational gambits in the territory of fib-excusement and truth, i.e. thus making you think seriously between the laughter you will be forced to emit when reading it. No exaggeration. (9 Aug 12 – 11.00 am bst)

Canis Raver

“Have you any idea what it feels like to be tickled from the inside?”

Only by reading Rhys Hughes fiction, I suggest!  This fascinating story extrapolates on ‘the molecular interchange theory’ with the example of bicycles and their human  riders … then glove puppets and their manipulating hands, and, inspired by this, I, in turn, extrapolate on author and reader in that respect. But seriously — even though this story is sufficiently unserious to be enjoyable from the way-station of the Welsh pub and its pub talk whereby the (my pretentious Latin term, not the story’s) ‘genius loci’ of Swansea is radically manipulated so as to manipulate who visits it or returns to it — I am no glove puppet type of reader!  I think you, too, will discover this – especially with Rhys Hughes, I feel, cutting any readers worth their salt some intellectual slack, thus making his stories rather more like a provocative synergy than a freak’s control. (9 Aug 12 – 1.55 pm bst)

The Plucked Plant

“How does one commit suicide without committing suicide?”

Those who are in a frame of mind to do so, read this! But wait a moment. I’m sure my old granddad in Llanelli didn’t have pubtalk quite like the rarified version into which the pubtalk in this book is gradually developing … as if pubtalk itself can reincarnate… Or synergise like Plato and Socrates, or vice versa, whichever is the glove puppet.  This story, meanwhile, is an intriguing Dialogue in the Platonic Form of Pubtalk, with the prose style now more textured, and the jokes arguably more sophisticated, including the funniest ever Pythagoras Theorem joke that happens to be relegated to a footnote! The story’s plucked plant, you ask? Just one stage in the karmic pecking order of stooges, I suggest. Reincarnation, meanwhile, if necessarily in slow motion, seems to go much quicker when some of its stages or stooges are forgotten (plucked?) during any process of Regression: just like the Wise to someone’s Morecambe? (9 Aug 12 – 3.15 pm bst)

When Wales Played Asgård

The glory days of Welsh rugby were in the 1970s, everyone knows that,…”

Well, I’m not sure my old Welsh granddad (himself a pubtalker fan of Rugby Union, based on my own memory of him) would agree – especially as he never lived to see the 1970s (nor most of the 1960s!) — Meanwhile, this further tall story takes on an aspect of truth by its undercurrent of thoughtfulness regarding the nature of ‘nostalgia’: by means of an enjoyable vision of a Nationalistic rugby match between the dead and the undead and the alive with an upper trump of Norse mythology as keynote (I knew my Welsh granddad as Ki (pronounced ‘key’)). I suppose it is topical, today, to mention the Olympic Games, where such feats and ambitions and Nationalisms hold sway: except why not Rugby Union with its characteristic oval ball?  But in 2012 Olympics, our football (‘soccer’) team was not Welsh or English or Scottish, but Team GB! And all that seems to throw an interesting extra light on this highly entertaining  (on the surface level) and provocative (on a deeper level) and absurdist (on our Postmodern Mariner’s taller level) story’s need to exungulate the drogulus…or at least the bus to Porthcawl. (10 Aug 12 – 9.45 am bst)

Interstellar Domestic

“I am one of the cleverest and most resourceful men you are ever likely to meet, a devious manipulator of objects and people, a cunning and ruthless schemer, a twisted egotist…”

FTL travel by ‘illusory principle’ is wasted, I agree, if one is only going on a relatively short journey to the moon, however obsessively lovely and earth-centrist the moon’s waves or astrology control is.  There are many genuinely mind-stretching and semi-Whovian concepts in this story — too numerous to describe or put in order upon the truth-lie spectrum (and the author’s arithmetic skills are frightening) — but the main thing I shall take away from this example of the ‘on the other side of the moon’s rainbow’ school of SF literature (my generic term, not the story’s) is Castor’s two regular subjected co-pubtalkers becoming an actual part of the small talk tall story themselves. Meanwhile, I am going to start a campaign for a lighthouse to take over from that ludicrous black police box as a far more sensible, truth-friendly choice. (10 Aug 12 – 1.35pm bst)

The Cream-Jest of Unset Custard

“…for they were simple horror story background characters and took everything too seriously.”

Relatively rarely (and I have mentioned a tiny few examples of this before in my reviews), Rhys Hughes’ stories can hit the wrong note for me: like here, sometimes textually self-referential in a clumsy way and with some weak jokes, without that unique mind-stretching conceit that is his forte. A trifle’s trifle. Having said that, this story starts in an engaging Lord-Dunsanyan way and, later, there is some hilarious, rich, well-honed Horror Story pastiche prose leading to Cthulhu’s birthday party! It also has the subtext of Rhys Hughes’ well-documented, long-held  view on Horror Literature and those who perpetrate it or enjoy reading it. The question Castor Jenkins has to ask himself, however — is his presence enough to make that subtext creatively ironic? My belief is that Castor thinks the same as me: i.e. that so-called Horror Literature has many constructively blurred Venn Diagrams with SF, Fantasy, Humour, Absurdism, Surrealism and weird and/or  literary literature.  Being half-Welsh as I am,  I do not need to have created Castor Jenkins to be able to share some secrets with him of which his sponsoring author is unaware.  That the Macedonian girl was a spoiler. (10 Aug 12 – 3.15 pm bst)

The Day the Town of Porthcawl was Accidentally Twinned with the Capital of the Cheese and Biscuits Empire

“It was impossible to see anything through the windows: they were speckled with ancient trapped moonlight.”

Forgetfulness Honey allows me to forget any trifling quibbles about the previous story, as Castor goes on a shopping errand beyond Porthcawl for cigarettes as a habit-breaking theme and variations on Zeno’s Paradox – via Chaud-Mellé, wherefrom twinning is not only between horizon-breaking distant towns but also between Castor and Pollux in Gemini, plus a train made from hardened sea-salt and the running of a water-clock on urine… Hmmm, I think I need some more Forgetfulness Honey… (10 Aug 12 – 7.20 pm bst)

2. Tribulations of the Human Bean

The Monkey’s Pawpaw

“…there’s no smoke without fire, no eyelash without an eyelid, no afterimage without collusion.”

Judging by the title of this story, we have just left the Cheese and Biscuits Empire and arrived in the land of WWW.Jacobs Cream Crackers! I am relieved, more importantly, to be back in the Welsh pubtalk pub, with Castor’s two cronies and Castor himself with a story that is true genius MRJamesian tall tale of ecclesiastical roof-hauntings. As a reader, as opposed to a listener in the pub, I was all eyes with anticipation….laced with an ontological or teleological core self-perception as the nub of monstrous religion and the nature of inverted-word Dog (my extrapolation, not necessarily the story’s) – and there is the best joke of the book so far (no mean feat) concerning ‘apemen’.  The plot has a splendid core self-reversal collusion ending and, throughout it, a thought-provoking study of the synergy or otherwise of two separate but simultaneous spells being cast. (11 Aug 12 – 10.25 am bst)



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