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My Dark Places, or, The Mall

Rio conchosLatest lootin' update - Anne and I had an adventure in the wilds of West London, braving the hordes to snoop around some of the Notting Hill shops.

Naomi Mitchison's Memoirs of a Spacewoman and George R. Stewart's Earth Abides were both recommended to me by... someone or some site. Anyway, they both look great. Oxfam also coughed up a more, uh, modern tasty treat - Elmore Leonard's Raylan (American edition, too). It has Olyphant on the cover, lookin' foxy.

The Book and Comic Exchange is always worth a pilgrimage. We blitzed through in twenty minutes, and left with a stack of treasures, including a proof copy of James Ellroy's My Dark Places and a first edition (with dust jacket!) of Jeff Noon's Pollen. (I'm now super prepared for his upcoming signing...)

I also found a stack of Fawcett Gold Medals (sadly all British editions, but still great finds): Howard Rigsby's The Reluctant Gun, Will F. Jenkins's Dallas, Clair Huffaker's Guns of Rio Conchos and Murray Leinster's War with the Gizmos. Gold Medal (as you may have noticed on this blog) is my all time most favouritest publisher, and finding new-old books from them is always a delight.

Plus, a few random ones: Sax Rohmer's The Quest of the Sacred Slipper (I keep writing that as "Scared", and it is, frankly, just as nonsensical a title), Jonathan Craig's Morgue for Venus, W.R. Burnett's Mi Amigo (Burnett wrote old school noir and Westerns, one of the great crossover writers) and, to join my collection of "tragic games", Steve Jackson's Fighting Fantasy RPG.

Although there were a lot of wonderful events last week, I managed to miss all of them. Fortunately, we did get to catch both Sarah and Savannah Lotz and get a stack of Lotzes signed. Lotzim. Lotzkas. Anyway, Pompidou Posse, The Ward, Deadlands, Death of a Saint and, of course, The Mall. To the shelf of honour!

Everywhere but here...

Adventure RocketshipThe occasional post in which I explain why there isn't a post...

Over on, The Folding Knife reread hits chapter four. Violence! War! Family! Politics! Cows! 

Anne and I each have pieces in the first volume of Adventure Rocketship (with China MiĆ©ville, Michael Moorcock, Liz Williams, Lavie Tidhar, Jon Courtenay Grimwood and a host of other incredibly intimidating names). Anne's piece tackles Ladyhawke (and its famous soundtrack), my bit rambles on about Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie's Phonogram. Adventure Rocketship is out later this month.

I've also submitted in a piece tentatively called (ahem) "Heart of Grimdarkness" to the BFS Journal. That should be fun.

Next week! We're trying to hit the Terry Brooks, Chris Beckett and Ian Whates signings at Forbidden Planet and Joseph D'Lacey at Big Green Books. We're going to need a bigger boat... For the discerning reader, Big Green Books also have signed copies of A Town Called Pandemonium in stock. 

Speaking of which, we fussed a bit with the Jurassic London site. Mostly because the "Books" page was becoming slightly untenable. We've swapped 'cluttered' for 'long'. All the rage, dontchaknow.

Nerveless, inane and a nuisance

598px-Ignition_of_a_match"Well, my friends, one of the wants of the cities is a great bonfire of bad books and newspapers. We have enough fuel to make a blaze 200 feet high. Many of the publishing houses would do well to throw into the blaze their entire stock of goods. Bring forth the insufferable trash and put it into the fire and let it be known in the presence of God and angels and men that you are going  to rid your homes of the overtopping and underlying curse of profligate literature.

"The printing press is the mightiest agency on earth for good and for evil. The minister of the gospel standing in a pulpit has a responsible position, but I do not think it is as responsible as the position of an editor or publisher... 

"I have to tell you that the greatest blessing that ever came to the nations is that of an elevated literature, and the greatest scourge has been that of unclean literature. This last has its victims in all occupations and departments. It has helped to fill insane asylums and penitentiaries and alms-houses and dens of shame. The bodies of this infection lie in the hospitals and in the graves, while their souls are being tossed over into a lost eternity, an avalanche of horror and despair. The London plague was nothing to it. That counted its victims by thousands, but this modern pest has already shoveled its millions into the charnel house of the morally dead. The longest rail train that ever ran over the tracks was not long enough or large enough to carry the beastliness and the putrefaction which have been gathered up in bad books and newspapers in the last 20 years.

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Underground Reading: Branded Woman by Wade Miller

This is the latest installment in our scheme to review each and every Hard Case Crime publication, one every week. You can follow along here. We're still travelling the world this week, in the company of #11, Wade Miller's Branded Woman.

Branded WomanBranded Woman was originally published in 1952. The author, Wade Miller, is actually a writing duo - Robert Wade and H. Bill Miller. The two met as children and wound up collaborating for most of their adult lives, writing over thirty novels under various pen names, including Touch of Evil and the Max Thursday mysteries (also the delightfully named Kitten with a Whip).

Branded Woman features Cay Morgan, a beautiful smuggler on a secret mission. The book opens with Morgan touching down at Mazatlan airport and it quickly establishes the book's tension: she's both huntress and hunted, beautiful and vain, villainess and victim. Her pursuers find her immediately - she's attacked in the airport itself and, were it not for her own henchman (a private eye named George Hodd), Branded Woman would be a very short book.

Still, Hodd is very much a henchman, not a white knight. He's the muscle, obeying Morgan's (often confusing) orders. Hodd's only reticence is the potential illegality of it all. He's a working stiff, after all, and whatever Morgan is after, it seems a bit dodgy.

We soon learn that although Morgan is a dashing thief, she's not in Mexico on business. Five years ago she crossed another smuggler - the mysterious figure known as the Trader. As punishment, the Trader kidnapped her and "branded" her - carving a "T" in her forehead. Morgan's spent the time since then trying to find where he is, for "he had done worse to her than kill her", and she wants revenge (24).

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Everywhere but here...

The Folding KnifeNo reviews today, but if you're looking to kill some time, why not saunter over to for this week's installment of The Folding Knife? We're up to chapter three and now Basso is going political. #OccupyVesaniRepublic

Elsewhere, there's a nice round-up of Clarke Award links over on Strange Horizons. As is the tradition, everyone is leaving their predictions in the comments. The shortlist is announced on 4 April. If you haven't voted yet, it is because you can't. But the judges really like it if you email them to remind them of your favourites.

On awards, thanks to everyone that turned out on Wednesday night to listen to Donna, Kim, Anne, Duncan and I talk about the BSFA shortlists (and a few other things on the way to talking about the shortlist). There's good stuff there. I definitely recommend spending a few pleasant hours working your way through the short stories. They're (almost) all online and free and, as mentioned on the night, they showcase the crazy range of "science fiction" (and "short story").

Here's Robert Jackson Bennett on "Excess".

Speculative Fiction 2012: Contributor List

Speculative Fiction 2012Over on Staffer's Book Review, Justin Landon has unveiled the lineup for Speculative Fiction 2012 - the first in an annual series that collects the best online reviews, essays and commentary.

It is one hell of a list.

We're really pleased that all these great people bought into the big, goofy vision and are letting us include their work.

We've also announced the 2013 editors: Ana and Thea from The Book Smugglers. They're two amazing bloggers: passionate, honest, intelligent and, best of all, not us. The goal with Speculative Fiction is that the editorship rotates every year. It isn't possible to capture the blogosphere in a book, but at least this way, we get a new, fresh perspective every year. 

Speculative Fiction 2012 will be released on 25 April. All profits from the book will be donated to Room to Read, an international charity focused on literacy and gender equality in education.

(How great is that Sarah Langton cover?!)

Underground Reading: Plunder of the Sun by David Dodge

This is the latest installment in our scheme to review each and every Hard Case Crime publication, one every week. You can follow along here. This week, we're back to our regular running order with #10 - Plunder of the Sun.

Plunder of the SunDavid Dodge's Plunder of the Sun (1949) takes us back out of the United States again, this time to South America. Al Colby, the book's protagonist, was a short-lived series hero. Plunder is the second of his three adventures. (It was filmed in 1953 with Glenn Ford and Patricia Medina. Oooh.)

Colby is a sort of generic adventurer. He's American, we gather he's a roving exile (for some unspecified reason), and has been for some time. He's well-connected, fluent in Spanish and, generally speaking, one tough hombre. At the start of Plunder of the Sun, Colby is hired by an exhausted older man, Berrien. Berrien is an antiques dealer and he needs to get a package from Chile to Peru. Berrien tries to keep the contents secret, but Colby wins the macho standoff between the two men (Colby wins all macho standoffs, take that for granted). The package is some sort of rare artifact. It belongs in Peru (according to Berrien), but the Chilean authorities would confiscate it. Berrien thinks it would be safer discreetly transported by an American.

Berrien agrees to the deal. He's looking to move on, he could use a bit of a money and, perhaps most of all, Berrien's nurse is hawt. Who knows...

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Review Round-Up: Three More Novels of Note

Another round-up: Chris Marnewick's The Soldier Who Said No, Gail Carriger's Etiquette and Espionage and Robert Jackson Bennett's American Elsewhere. Three more unequivocal "yes" reviews.

The Soldier Who Said NowIt is hard to believe that Chris Marnewick's The Soldier Who Said No (2010) is only 310 pages. So very, very much happens, but it never seems rushed. Pierre De Villiers is a South African expatriate, living in New Zealand. As the book opens, he's suspended from his job as a policeman for a fit of temper. At exactly the same time, someone makes an attempt is made on the life of the Prime Minister. The assassin uses a Bushman weapon, and, as the coincidences stack up, De Villiers becomes the prime suspect. 

Shockingly, Pierre has even worse things to worry about. His health is rapidly declining and the doctors confirm the worst: cancer. It is hard to find a man with more going wrong in his life.

Yet even this isn't even the low point for Pierre. That came years before, when he was a soldier assigned to do some of the military's more secretive mission. Upon refusing to complete one particularly unpleasant assignment, Pierre became "the solider who said no" - a man hunted down by his own countrymen. 

The Soldier Who Said No cycles between Pierre's past and his present as he works to solve a mystery that spans two continents and time periods. Pierre's a man falsely accused. In the present day, he's hunted by the (hilariously bumbling) New Zealand authorities. In the past, he's pursued by more predatory figures. In both times, he's debilitated - by cancer, starvation or inury. Yet even with all this happening, Mr. Marnewick writes at a surprisingly languorous pace. There's never sense of rush, everything unfolds smoothly and at a natural pace. Despite the action, this isn't a Bourne-style thriller. Pierre's life is certainly packed with drama, but Mr. Marnewick expresses it subtly, and often through the little things: examining street signs, discussions at meals, casual discussions with his radiotherapist...

Mr. Marnewick leaves the reader with the sense that the entire assassination plot was simply a device to explore a fascinating character, and not the other way around.

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Spring is for signings

Even without Amazon, my shopping hasn't slown down any. Some purchases over the past two weeks:

The Holy Machine USAThe BSFA 2012 Awards. Not really a purchase, but a nice little thing that the BSFA mails through every year. It contains all the short stories, screenshots of the non-fiction and samples of the cover art. I like that the BSFA does this - it means that, even if not everyone has read every novel, they can vote in a vaguely-educated way in all the other categories. Good stuff.

Glen Cook's Chronicles of the Black Company. I've never read any of the Black Company books and this big fat compendium seems to be just what the doctor ordered. (Oxfam)

Fairest #12 and #13. The one comic book I collect as single issues. Obviously I'm a shameless Beukes fanboy, but I love the art as well - and the Adam Hughes covers are amazing. (Delighted that two finally don't just feature "naked Repunzel". DC! Progressive!) Anyway, enjoying this series, will be sad when it ends. (Forbidden Planet)

Supergods by Grant Morrison. I love this book. Reviewed it, ran an extract (first time we ever did that!), did a giveaway, etc. Had a inscribed copy from his Foyles signing - then made the rookie error: leant it out. Alas. I've wanted a new copy for ages, and this one is signed, so... that's halfway back to where I was. (If you see a copy signed "To Jared" in a charity shop, snaffle it for me, will you?) (Forbidden Planet)

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