Books – The Violent Century

Posted Posted in Reading

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.

Hiding the ventriloquist*

Posted Posted in Writing and publishing

“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 […]

I used to stand in bookshops pt 2

Posted Posted in Writing and publishing

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 […]

They followed their mercenary calling…*

Posted Posted in Writing and publishing

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 […]

Cliffe Fort Jetty

Books – The Bone Clocks

Posted Posted in Reading

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.

Slaine has a warp spasm

How Sláine and a handful of mushrooms defined the magic of Snakewood*

Posted Posted in Writing and publishing

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!


I used to stand in bookshops…

Posted Posted in Writing and publishing

…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.

The Children Act

Books – The Children Act

Posted Posted in Reading

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 […]

Hawk Helen MacDonald

Books – H is for Hawk

Posted Posted in Reading

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.


Books – The Goldfinch, The Liars’ Gospel

Posted Posted in Reading

“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 […]

Girl with all the Gifts

Books – The Girl With All The Gifts

Posted Posted in Reading

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 […]

Tooze Deluge

Books – The Deluge

Posted Posted in Reading

I’d been putting off trying to articulate my thoughts on Adam Tooze’s masterful analysis of global history from 1916-1931, The Deluge, because, being so ignorant about that era, I wasn’t sure what I could say other than ‘read it, it’ll educate ya’, for fear of drawing incorrect or misleading conclusions from this densely detailed and […]

Stannis Baratheon

Stannis Baratheon is not the Mayor of Casterbridge

Posted Posted in Misc.

This post contains Game of Thrones spoilers, for, well, almost all of it, along with the movie adaptation of The Mist and the opening of the Mayor of Casterbridge, oh and possibly King Lear.  Yep, I think that’s it.

Banner Saga

The Banner Saga

Posted Posted in Games

I was captivated by the gorgeous artwork when it first popped up in my Steam shop window.  A quick scan of some reviews was enough for me to buy it.  Then, as I’ve been rather busy, I shelved it until now. After ten minutes I was utterly immersed.  The Banner Saga, by the Texas based […]

Quantum Thief Rajaniemi

Books – The Quantum Thief

Posted Posted in Reading

This book has no right to be a debut.  It’s exhilarating, a tour de force. The Quantum Thief is a heist thriller the threads of which are woven into a sinuous and densely realised future.  It’s a challenging read, I’ll admit hard to follow in places, as Hannu Rajaniemi displaces the awesome intelligence and agency […]

Joe Abercrombie

Books – Rivers of London, The Blade Itself

Posted Posted in Reading

I recently read, back to back, Ben Aaranovitch’s Rivers of London and Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself, the latter a long overdue read for me as a fantasy author. It was because of their similarities that I’m writing about (and recommending them) together.


Burning a million pounds

Posted Posted in Misc.

It had been a long time since I listened to The KLF’s ‘Chill Out’ album.  I was trying to drown out one of the many satirical teenage comedies on Nick Jr. my daughter loves in order to get a redraft of my novel finished. It’s a beautiful album, but hearing it after so many years made […]

Hobbit Jackson

Peter Jackson’s ‘Ring Cycle’ – a love letter

Posted Posted in Misc.

I’ve read a lot of complaints over Peter Jackson taking a short book and making a trilogy out of it merely to screw us all for extra cash. Bullshit.  Well, mostly. I don’t doubt it makes Time Warner a heap more money and I don’t doubt that to get all the big stars on board […]

Here Richard McGuire

Books – Here

Posted Posted in Reading

Here, by Richard McGuire, is no less than the zenith of the graphic novel as an art form. It is one of the most profound things I’ve read.

Ethics Gaza Sudan

Proximity and the manipulation of moral feeling

Posted Posted in Misc.

News coverage of Isis and Gaza recently has reminded me of Henry Fonda.  Specifically, the Henry Fonda thought experiment in Judith Jarvis Thomson’s landmark (and quite brilliant) paper ‘A Defense of Abortion’.1 For Thomson it’s a quite ghastly aside, the rejection of which (proximity to a moral issue has a bearing on one’s moral feeling) […]

Miéville City

Books – The City & The City

Posted Posted in Reading

Hopefully all China Miéville’s novels are as original and engaging as this one.  The City & The City is on one level a standard ‘detective investigating death of girl uncovers big conspiracy’ story, but Miéville has decided to weave the tale into a quite unique milieu.  

Housing Philosophy World Trade Center

Knowledge – a few helpful questions for the internet age

Posted Posted in Misc.

How do you know what to believe? The internet has fragmented the ancient institutions that have shaped and disseminated knowledge and it has democratized facts in a way never before seen in human history. When deciding what to believe, and by corollary what moral and practical courses of action derive from those beliefs, anyone with […]

House Danielewski

Books – House of Leaves

Posted Posted in Reading

If the horror genre is a journey, then House* of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski, is its destination. I say this not only because it is an attempt to get at the fundament of what is horrifying, but also because the nature of the attempt is an audacious, remarkably intelligent and emotionally satisfying weaving of […]

Gabriel García Márquez

Books – One Hundred Years of Solitude

Posted Posted in Reading

Hearing that I hadn’t read any of Gabriel García Márquez’s work, when his death was announced, a friend kindly bought me this, as he had Wolf Hall.  Clearly, he knows what’s good for me. This twentieth century classic in the magical realist tradition was my first foray into the realm, unless Calvino’s If On A […]

Derek Gervais


Posted Posted in Misc.

Ricky Gervais’s new series of Derek has once again divided viewers and critics.  The show is a sentimental ‘mockumentary’ following, principally, four characters in a nursing home for the elderly.  I loved the first series, the final episode being as moving as the christmas special of The Office.  Many of the criticisms stem from a […]

Grimwood Replay

Books – Replay

Posted Posted in Reading

Replay, by Ken Grimwood, tackles the classic ‘What if…’ scenario: “What if I could live my life over again?” It treads a path between the wonderful Star Trek episode ‘The Inner Light’ and Groundhog Day.  Jeff, the book’s protagonist, is going to ‘replay’ his life more than once, unlike Picard; but unlike Phil Connors, he’s […]

wolf hall mantel

Books – Wolf Hall

Posted Posted in Reading

Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel, is a masterpiece.  It is one of the best books I will ever read. I know this because I’ve lost count of the times I’ve paused over a page, muttered ‘Fuck off’ at the sheer and dazzling quality and control of the form and the narrative, and then carried on reading, […]

reading books

The Reader’s Gift

Posted Posted in Writing and publishing

As someone learning the craft of writing, and leaving it rather late to do so, I need to read widely, and read writing of good quality so that I may learn from it.  It was inevitable I would become a neurotic reader. Anyone with a passion for books has or will come to the realisation […]

murakami norwegian

Books – Norwegian Wood

Posted Posted in Reading

So, I’ve popped my Haruki Murakami cherry, having heard from a number of different sources about this writer and his cult following and magical prose. Norwegian Wood is a story, set in Japan, of a teenage boy, Toru Watanabe, in love with a girl, Naoko, who we learn is schizophrenic and with whom he shares […]