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September 2012
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November 2012

More Shopping: Hardboiled Jewish Fantasy and Collecting Robert Chambers

Some lovely prizes this week. Anne 'needed' to go to Cecil Court for work and my bibliophile mom is in town and keen to hit all the shops. (My father, the only sensible one of us, is also visiting, but he hides in the pub with a newspaper while the rest of us plunder bookstores.)



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Charlie Human on Five Memes that Deserve to be Novelised

This week's Friday Five is very special.


Writing is hard and the Internet makes it even harder. So with NaNoWriMo around the corner I thought I’d throw out some writing ideas that actually channel the urge to procrastinate and further evade putting something down on the blank page.

Hipster Cop

HipstercopGenre: Nu Post-Scandinavian Crime Fiction
Writer: David Eggers

Hipster Cop only investigates old cases; 1973-1978 was totally the best time for crime. But when the lead singer of an Icelandic band you’ve probably never heard of is killed, Hipster Cop faces his toughest challenge yet when he is forced to go undercover in the mainstream. Will he survive or will his craving for craft beer become too much for him?

What the critics will say: “I’m not an author, just an avid reader of novels, mostly anything by Stephen Leather. This book is terrible. The worst book ever written. Rather try something by Stephen Leather. Seriously. He’s awesome. Wait, which account am I posting this from?” – User Sockpuppet648 on

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Review Round-up: Molly Tanzer, Daniel Polansky & Modesty Blaise

Three more highly recommended books (all of which deserve fuller reviews than they're getting here).

A Pretty MouthMolly Tanzer's A Pretty Mouth (2012) is easily the best collection I've read this year and, honestly, for as long as I can remember. Effusive praise, but utterly well-deserved, as A Pretty Mouth combines skillful pastiche, gut-churning horror, atmospheric weirdness and atmospheric poignancy.

The stories trace the descent of a single family through time, with Ms. Tanzer's prose changing to incorporate the appropriate Edwardian, Victorian or Gothic style for each tale. My favourite is the Wodehouse/Lovecraft mash-up, but the author does justice to every tale. But, most importantly, despite being a stylistic chameleon, Ms. Tanzer's prose is insightful, clever and distinctly her own. (I suppose the closest approximation would be some sort of prose Voltron formed from Lavie Tidhar, Kate Beaton, Jesse Bullington, Stella Gibbons and Edward Gorey. Which, now that I think of it, would be the best Saturday morning cartoon ever. TanzerForce: Defenders of the Universe! "Tanzers UNITE!")

Peter O'Donnell's A Taste for Death (1969) was my first Modesty Blaise novel, and, having now read four, still my favourite of the lot. A Taste for Death was Mr. O'Donnell's second novel, and it has a simplicity of structure (and lack of self-reference) that's absent in the later books. A collection of villains, most notably the brutal Simon Delicata, are looking for lost treasure, and need the mysterious divining ability of Dinah Pilgrim (blind / innocent / extremely attractive). One thing leads to another and both Modesty Blaise and Willie Garvin are brought in to save the day (and the girl). It seems to be the template for a Blaise adventure. Scheming, captivity, rescue, improbably odds, mano y mano combat, a touch of the supernatural, a bit of philosophising about heroism. 

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The Kitschies: 50 Day Countdown

Submissions for The Kitschies close on 1 December. 

The Kitschies, presented by The Kraken Rum, look for the most progressive, intelligent and entertaining books that contain elements of the speculative or fantastic. There is a £2,000 prize fund, divided between three categories:

Red Tentacle (Novel): The novel's first UK publication must fall between 1 January 2012 and 31 December 2012. The 2012 winner will receive £1,000, an iconic Tentacle trophy and a bottle of The Kraken Rum.

Golden Tentacle (Debut): As above, but the work must be the author's first published novel in any genre. The 2012 winner will receive £500, an iconic Tentacle trophy and a bottle of The Kraken Rum.

Inky Tentacle (Cover Art): Novels, collections and anthologies are all eligible for this prize, including reprints and new editions, as long as the cover is new for 2012. The 2012 winner will receive £500, an iconic Tentacle trophy and a bottle of The Kraken Rum.

All finalists in all categories will also receive bottles of The Kraken Rum (in case of finalists residing overseas, where shipping restrictions may apply, we may need to provide The Kraken's tentacular swag instead).

There is no submission fee for The Kitschies, but the judges require two physical copies of each title.

Publishers, if you have not yet submitted titles, please contact us at submissions at for details on how to provide books. Authors, please poke your publishers.

This year's Red and Golden judges are Rebecca Levene, Patrick Ness and Jared Shurin. The Inky judges are Gary Northfield, Lauren O'Farrell and Ed Warren.

Shortlists will be announced January; winners in February.

The Kitschies | Facebook | @TheKitschies | The Kraken Rum

The Weeks that Were, Causing Pandemonium and more book porn

The last proper recap of blog content was apparently in mid-August. If this blog's series scheduling were any more erratic, we'd be network television. (ZING!)

I'll spare you the full recap, but here's what we reviewed in September:

We had a few guest posts in as well, including Penny Schenk on the Edinburgh Festival, Jeff Norton on 10 inventions that we're still waiting for and guest reviews by Tom Pollock for Alan Garner's Boneland and  Lizzie Barrett for Rae Carson's Fire and Thorns and Benedict Jacka's Fated.

An update on our Pandemonium projects under the jump - plus a little more book porn...

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Friday Five: 15 Killer Crime Series by Female Authors

What happened to Friday Five? We suspect Professor Plum, in the library, with a wrench. Plum's always seemed like the dodgy one, but maybe that's our latent anti-intellectualism at work.

This week, Friday Five returns, aided by the mojo of Lavie Tidhar - one of the great cross-genre, cross-over (and occasionally just cross) authors, BFS winner for his short fiction and a Red Tentacle, BSFA and WFA finalist for his exceptional Osama (out now in paperback, hint!).

His topic of choice? Crime series by female authors. Lavie's joined by Anne, Bex and Jared for this one - we all wanted to chip in...


Brother CadfaelLavie 

Carol O’Connell’s Kathy Mallory novels are some of my favourite ever crime novels. Kathy is a wonderful creation – she was obviously an influence on Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander and, in a less multimillion-dollar international franchise, also on my own Milady de Winter in Camera Obscura. Kathy is complex, possibly sociopathic, with a strong sense of justice and a need to understand her own troubling childhood. It’s hard to pick favourites in this series. I have a soft spot for Shell Game, which features magicians (a personal favourite!) but the two highlights of the series are Flight of the Stone Angel – a powerful Southern Gothic in which Kathy discovers the truth about her mother’s death – and Find Me, which brings Kathy’s personal story to a conclusion when she discovers her father’s diary.

Who doesn’t like Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael? The gentle hero of 21 novels set in 12th century Shrewsbury, Cadfael is a monk and ex-crusader who now happily serves as a herbalist in the Benedictine order. Cadfael just happens to fall into murders committed around him – usually while helping a couple of young lovers on their way. Gentle, unhurried and gripping, the series follows Cadfael’s life as the war for the kingdom rages around Britain, and introduces his fellow brothers, his changing but always hapless assistants, and eventually the son he never knew he had.

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Pandemonium: Stories of the Apocalypse - The Beginning of the End

Pandemonium ApocalypseOne month from today - 4 November - Pandemonium: Stories of the Apocalypse goes out of print.

This applies to both the hardcover (which has been sold out since last December) and the ebook, which will be yoinked down from Amazon.*

From the beginning, our deal with our (generous) (daring) (kind) (talented) authors wasn't just 'first publication rights' but also a time-limited publication. Sadly, that time is now up. 

We'll be doing more about Apocalypse over the next month - guest posts, teary-eyed anecdotes, etc. etc.** But after that, it's the end of the end of the world...

Stories of the Apocalypse features original tales from Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Lauren Beukes, S.L. Grey, Scott K. Andrews, Archie Black, Chrysanthy Balis, Jonathan Oliver, Sophia McDougall, Lou Morgan, Osgood Vance, Sam Wilson, Andy Remic, Tom Pollock, Den Patrick, Kim Lakin-Smith, Charlie Human, Magnus Anderson and David Bryher. 

You can buy it here:

Amazon (US)

Amazon (UK)


*Just to be clear - we're not pulling it off your Kindles. It just won't be on sale any more.

**One thing we won't be doing is at any point is giving Apocalypse away for free. So please don't hold out for a last-minute sale or something. The proceeds from this book go to the authors and to The Arthur C. Clarke Award. We're not going to give it away.

FantasyCon 2012 & Book Snaffling

So, that was fun. It was a fairly packed few days - but saw some great panels, heard some great readings and drank a month's worth of overpriced hotel beer. Success!

Adam Baker vs HordesAdam Baker and Anne face off against the undead hordes.
(Like Juggernaut, but with even more carnage.)

Other highlights include a game of ZOMBIES!!! with other bloggers and authors Sophia McDougall and Adam Baker, getting to talk bookshelf design with Jon Courtenay Grimwood and pulp authors with Joe Lansdale, practically tackling EJ Swift to get my copy of Osiris signed and meeting loads of wonderful people that had previously only existed as virtual presences. So cool.

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Strange wolves, the old pulp and other happenings

Lupus RexThe Rebellion crew (behind Abaddon and Solaris) have entered young adult territory with the launch of the Ravenstone imprint. It looks like their goal is quality, not quantity - they're projecting one book a season, but the launch title, John Carter Cash's Lupus Rex, sounds fantastic. Watership Down (by way of Brian Jacques) with quail battling the wolf who would be king.

Meanwhile, Strange Horizons have begun their annual fund drive. This year, they've added a Kickstarter-style approach - if you donate at certain levels, you'll see the tangible results of your donation in the form of 'sponsored' reviews, articles or stories. Strange Horizons is one of the internet's most insightful publications - home to intelligent, articulate and provocate reviews and fiction. Definitely a cause worth supporting.

And another event close to my heart: The Paperback and Pulp Bookfair will be on Sunday, 28th October (10 am - 3 pm, The Park Plaza Hotel, 239 Vauxhall Bridge Road, SW1V 1EQ). This is my favourite book sale every year, with thousands of vintage paperbacks and lost treasures all on display. Crime, SF, Romance, Fantasy, Westerns... all well-represented in an infinity of cardboard boxes. (It isn't the largest venue, but it is stuffed to the gills.)

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Alan Garner's Boneland by Tom Pollock

BonelandI almost didn’t write this.

I’ve wanted to for weeks, since I finished the final part of Alan Garner’s Weirdstone trilogy, but I’ve been hesitating. It felt vaguely sacrilegious, like shouting in a crypt or shaking a friend awake when they’re smiling at their dream. Sometimes (perhaps you get this too), I’m reluctant to delve into the machinery of the books that impact me most deeply. I don’t want to look too close in case their effect collapses, quantum-like, under my observation, In case I wake the sleeper, and the dream dies.

The existence of this post is a testament to two convictions. The first is that this book is pressing so hard against the inside of my skull right now that it will start to run out of my tear ducts if I don’t talk about it. The second is that Garner’s dream is much, much too strong for me to kill.

This isn’t a review, by the way. I don’t know whether Boneland is a good book or not, I’m not sure the term really means anything for a story with so few comparators – an adult novel to conclude a children’s trilogy, written fifty years after the first two volumes came out. I do know there were times it stole my breath.

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