This is a big chunk of my latest newsletter. I’ll drop them in here from time to time so you can see the kind of things that my subscribers have agreed to be sent to their inbox, those lucky/weird people (delete as appropriate)… Continue reading Newsletter #4 – Scythians, Gods and Rogues
I love Jeff Vandermeer’s work because I love HP Lovecraft’s work. But I enjoy Vandermeer more.
Horror describes the ways in which people strive to escape the painful and grisly annihilation of the self. It can be personal or impersonal, understandable or insensate. It can also describe our confrontation with the unfathomable. Continue reading Books: The Southern Reach trilogy
Here’s the contents of the first newsletter I sent out recently to my first couple of subscribers :)
If you’d like some of this in your inbox occasionally, you can sign up via the link on the left!
The future is quieter. Continue reading Newsletter #1
…aka ‘Why I’ve decided to boycott Facebook and Google.’ Continue reading Every step you take…
I’m reading a bit of sci-fi at the moment as I’m woefully under-read in the genre. How lovely to have these two line up back to back. Continue reading Books – Aurora and Ninefox Gambit
Dark Tales, by Shirley Jackson, is a hugely effective collection of short gothic horror stories written in the fifties and sixties. She died in ’65.
I confess, like many I’ve spoken to about this book, not to have heard of her until a recent review of this collection, many of which were originally published in The New Yorker. Continue reading Books – Dark Tales
“But preserve your mistrust of the page, for a book is a fortress, a place of weeping, the key to a desert, a river that has no bridge, a garden of spears.” Sofia Samatar
I’ve long been fascinated by virtuosi and recently I’ve read two almost without equal. Continue reading Books – The Familiar Volume 1 & A Stranger In Olondria
I do almost all my reading on the bus. Thus, my go-to indicator of a great read is how surprised I am that I’ve reached my destination. Continue reading Books – Senlin Ascends & The Sudden Appearance of Hope
“I was brilliant. Not just your run-of-the-mill brilliance either. I was extraordinarily brilliant.” Continue reading Books – The Name of the Wind
In the last few weeks I’ve read two great books; both are clever and both feature a strong central trio of characters. Continue reading Books – Beyond Redemption and Hunters & Collectors
Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant bolsters the list of fantasy genre writing that pushes its boundaries and should invigorate the genre’s authors and fans. Continue reading Books – The Buried Giant & The Quarantined City
They’ve always seemed easy to parody, the Abstract Expressionists. ‘They just flicked paint about’, ‘can’t they draw?’ etc.
So I was as surprised as anyone to fall in love at the RA exhibition last weekend. Continue reading Last week: Art, devils, witches and death
Brian Catling’s The Vorrh is a very beautifully written book, with the most unforgettable first chapter I’ve read in years.
All my life, on a clear night, I look up. The vast, hypnotising beauty of eternity surrounds us; unmediated, glorious, silent. A tilt of my head pinions me helplessly on the spear of my curiosity, my meaning. I want to explore. Continue reading I look up
Where do I begin? While this is not my favourite book, it is the best novel I’ve read. Pynchon, for me, is the most accomplished writer in English alive. Here is my impossible benchmark. Continue reading Books – Against The Day
If the awards and critical acclaim have not steered you towards the fractious company of the two foremost English magicians of the nineteenth century, then it is unlikely my meagre addition to the chorus will tip the balance. Nevertheless, I exhort you to go get this enchanting novel. Continue reading Books – Jonathan Strange & Mr.Norrell
Amy Winehouse had voice to burn, a sound burnished by a drunk god showing off, like He took a bet to make another Billie Holiday and won the bet with a sad contempt. Continue reading Billie and Amy
David Simon’s The Wire is high on all lists of unmissable television. I’ve heard many people describe season 2 as the weakest season. I completed it over the weekend and hope this is true, if only because it was riveting. Continue reading Frank Sobotka
This is a story about superheroes in the second world war and beyond, a counterfactual fantasy.
At first you will rightly think of Watchmen and X-Men but Lavie Tidhar has created something here that is more bleak and more noir, as though the X-Men had been re-told by John le Carré. Continue reading Books – The Violent Century
“My name’s Gant and I’m sorry for my poor writing.”
So begins chapter one of Snakewood.
As I planned out the book I fretted a great deal over how to immerse readers in the lands, cities and lives of the world of Sarun, in which the story is set. I recalled how vividly I daydreamed myself into Middle-earth as a teenager, following paths and roads hinted at in the texts but never walked. Tolkien’s were the first of many books I would admire over the years that followed for their ability to transport me utterly to an unfamiliar, magical place. Continue reading Hiding the ventriloquist*
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I was gearing up for March 17th, when I’d finally see my book sit quietly on a shelf alongside hundreds of others, as though it was the most ordinary thing; just a book, on a shelf.
I was preparing myself to be, well, a bit underwhelmed? The anticipation couldn’t possibly deliver a satisfying payoff, so monumentally had I wished and dreamed of seeing it. Continue reading I used to stand in bookshops pt 2
The poem ‘Epitaph On An Army Of Mercenaries’ by AE Housman** is one of my favourites, and graces Snakewood as its foreword. It was an influence on the novel not so much because it happened to be about mercenaries, but because I had challenged myself to tell a story about them such that a reader might find sympathy with them, and engage with them in their attempts to right their own self-centered wrongs. Continue reading They followed their mercenary calling…*
The title of David Mitchell’s marvellous book almost fully encapsulates it, as all its characters, deathless or otherwise, serve its dominant theme: the misery of ageing. Continue reading Books – The Bone Clocks
My debut fantasy novel Snakewood, due out in March, is the realization of a world I first dreamed up as a teenage boy. I’d like to introduce you to the way magic works in that world – no lightshows and fireworks, just thick bad-tasting gloop known as ‘fightbrew’ that makes you superhuman! Continue reading How Sláine and a handful of mushrooms defined the magic of Snakewood*
…as a teenager, then a man in my twenties and thirties and I used to look at the science fiction and fantasy novels and believe I, also, was a writer, when I wasn’t. Continue reading I used to stand in bookshops…
I’ve written here about my miserable realisation I wouldn’t read more than a couple of thousand books in my lifetime, if I really went for it. I thus struggle to read more than one or two books by any author because there are so many more authors to read. How could I read another Philip K Dick while I’ve not yet read The Odyssey? Continue reading Books – The Children Act
Helen Macdonald has opened her soul, and unlike most of us, is able to articulate its pain and its healing with a beautiful and haunting power. Continue reading Books – H is for Hawk
“if our secrets define us, as opposed to the face we show the world: then the painting was the secret that raised me above the surface of life and enabled me to know who I am. And it’s there: in my notebooks, every page, even though it’s not. Dream and magic, magic and delirium. The Unified Field Theory. A secret about a secret.” Continue reading Books – The Goldfinch, The Liars’ Gospel
Minor spoilers regarding early part of novel ahead…
I’ve not personally overdosed on zombie movies/games/books/TV shows/tee shirts etc. but because the rest of the world has, I’ve got a second-hand kind of weariness of it, so much so I have tried to avoid it. I’ve done the odd George Romero, loved Shaun of the Dead and 28 Days Later, but then I’d had enough. Continue reading Books – The Girl With All The Gifts