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The Incomparable Ian Miller

Posted: 2 June 2024

Ian’s novel, ‘The Broken Diary, Fragments of Something Real’, has had an excellent review by John Wombat of Wombat Wargames. See below.
Copyright © 2024 Wombat Wargames.

With his prolific career dating back to the 1960’s, uniquely unorthodox and joyfully unconventional, renowned artist Ian Miller is one the world’s most well-respected fantasy, science fiction and horror illustrators. Noted for his highly detailed and sublimely surrealistic style, along with countless other collaborations, the artist’s extensive career has seen him produce iconic works for the likes of Games Workshop and Fighting Fantasy books, as well as working with pioneering animator and filmmaker Ralph Bakshi.

Perhaps overshadowed by the success of his illustrious career as an artist, what people may not know about Ian Miller is that he has penned his own novel, too. A juxtaposition of poetic prose and succinct statements, Miller’s debut book, The Broken Diary: Fragments of Something Real, was first published by Oneiros in 2014. In 2023, via Incunabula, the book was reissued. This review offers an insight into what readers can expect to find within the book’s pages.

Blending fact with fantasy, as poignant moments sit next to extraordinary events, Miller’s debut novel brings to mind a plethora of other books and creative types, including Andy Warhol’s Diaries, George and Weedon Grossmith’s The Diary of a Nobody, and Tom

Baker’s autobiography, along with the varied works of Monty Python, M.R. James, Lewis Carroll, and Terry Pratchett, all while holding to a uniqueness which is entirely the author’s own.

In a book devoid of chapters or explanations of any sort, The Broken Diary: Fragments of Something Real opens with a dedication to the writer’s wife and son, before quoting Dutch artist and writer Theo van Doesburg, as well as English writer and art critic G.K. Chesterton.

Among others later quoted in the book are Albert Einstein, William

Blake, and Robert Louis Stevenson. Indeed, with references, directly or otherwise, to his classic Treasure Island, Stevenson serves as one of the book’s key shadow characters.

On a basic level, this book is split between various diary entries (in which chronological order is lay to the wayside) and the fantastical adventures of the novel’s protagonist, Mr. Thomas. However, it should be noted that there are no actual ‘basic levels’ to this book, indeed, the entire work is far more nuanced. The book describes a journey, or rather it tells of a series of journeys, in which emotional openness overlaps with the exciting exploits of Mr. Thomas. Never making his true identity fully known, throughout the book the reader is left to contemplate who Mr. Thomas really is. Are we to assume that Mr. Thomas is, at least on occasion, Ian Miller himself, or is he as fictious as some of the other characters within the book, such as Rabbit Kong, Commander of the Bursting Bunny Brigade?

“Day brightened, depression persists however. Nothing seems to work. Acute sense of isolation… The drop to my left was a real bone breaker and for the briefest of moments I toyed with the idea of jumping, just for the hell of it, you know how it is… I was being watched, so what’s new? People have been watching me all my life… I’m coming apart. Moths are hovering.”

Excerpts from The Broken Diary: Fragments of Something Real by Ian Miller.

At times succinctly detailed, other times poetically penned, throughout this highly original book, Miller touches upon some very personal points, as, for example, he tells of the profound sadness around the loss of a beloved family pet, his mixed feelings around his son leaving for university, as well as financial pressures and the weight of depression. Woven into the fabric of this compelling book are snapshots of Miller’s past. The writer recalls a number of childhood details, such skullcap pills, living with his mother in a top floor flat in Whalley Range, Manchester, and his Aunty Crippen, her sweet shop, and her daily cleaner, who had a penchant for loaves of Nimble bread and copious cups of tea. Further real-life recollections include Miller’s time at primary school in Chiswick, while he later goes onto reference his friends at university, Mal and John.

Interspersed between descriptions of airport lounges and hotels, dog walking and cups of tea and coffee, along with the writer’s wonderful noting of “rat rain,” it is Miller’s many observations of unreality which are, perhaps, the most intriguing, and it is for the reader to deduce his or her own meaning. What do Jesus Christ’s marbles represent? Why is there an omnipresence of crows? Who is the dog with the ink-stained collar? What is the meaning behind talking dolls? And how many other writers have looked to bring in James Puckle, inventor of the famous Puckle gun, as a character of their own stories?

“The eyes of the crow glowed fiery bright. It yawned; head and beak extended, cawed loudly three times, and then cocked its head as though listening for a reply. There was a loud drawn out ripping sound above us, followed by a cascade of blue flakes.”

Excerpt from The Broken Diary: Fragments of Something Real by Ian Miller.

This engrossing, factual-fictional frolic is an addictive read, written in a way that both captivates and delights. There are many high-comic moments, as well as heartstring-pulling pieces, all glued together as part of a wider surrealistic literary collage. If readers are expecting to read detailed explanations of Miller’s approach to his drawings or his painting techniques, they will be disappointed. Though there are occasional references to his artwork, such as his Treasure Island pieces, or listings with Sotheby’s, this book is comprised much more of personal insights into Miller, the man, while also describing the madcap mishaps and anarchic adventures of Mr. Thomas. Exciting and invigorating, accented with points of triumph over adversity, this book is a joy to read and highly recommended.

Published by Incunabula, The Broken Diary: Fragments of Something Real is available via www.lulu.com, priced £13.00 + P & P.

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