Joey Hi-Fi's Weirdness Rodeo
Underground Reading: The Blinding Knife by Brent Weeks

Barbarella, Banshee, Banks and Brand

We returned from a weekend in Nottingham and the Peak District with a stack of goodies (and a bag of squash). Including, but not limited to:

Barbarella- Barbarella. Massive 1966 hardcover, printed by Transworld. It is so Sixties. The cover, the type, everything. Absolutely fantastic comic though.

- The Political Sturwwelpeter. A less massive hardcover, but from 1899. Some wits of the day used the popular book of (gory) children's stories for political satire. To quote a contemporary review: "The pictures are, however, better than the verses, which are a little commonplace." Still - the cover, the paper stock, everything. So 1890s. (You can admire it online at

- Over My Dead Body by Lee Server. An insubstantial but extremely pretty book on the 'sensational age of the American paperback'. I have a few books like this, and they are essentially coffee table books of the border-line lurid art of the paperback era. They're fun, and, if nothing else, it is always nice to see the art blown up to full page size.

- Feersum Endjinn by Iain M. Banks. Probably one of my least favourites of Banks' work, if only because his cleverpants rejiggery of the English language gave me a headache to read. That said, a first edition in very nice shape. Back when the Orbit logo was a wilting palm tree.

- The Collected Stories of Max Brand. This looks great - a 1984 hardcover in lovely shape, with a selection of Brand's stories from all sorts of genres. Westerns I knew, and I think, at gunpoint, I probably would've remembered his Doctor Kildare and the espionage works. But apparently he wrote a fantasy? I'll report back.

Murder Must AdvertiseMurder Must Advertise (1962) and the Gollancz Detective Omnibus (1951) - both for Anne's Sayers collection. Advertise is a late printing, but has a wonderfully lurid early Sixties cover. TheOmnibus collects Unnatural Death plus stories by Michael Innes and Edmund Crispin. It is Gollancz yellow-jacketing in its full commercial glory, with a strapline that challenges the buyer to "Guess the price!".

Journey to Nowhere by Nedra Tyre and Banshee by Margaret Millar - two mysteries from contributors to Sarah Weinman's Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives.

[I've already finished Banshee (1982), which is sort of a... Gone Girl / Lonely Bones type story about the untimely death of an oh-so-innocent young girl. The fascinating part is how Ms. Millar connects the whole community in a sort of macabre butterfly effect. A schoolgirl fails a test. A pastor loses his faith. A marriage ends. A cook gains weight... everything all links together. The theme: that the death of an innocent is a net gain for evil. The scary part is how a book from 1982 can feel so... dated. Do communities this interconnected even exist any more? The media and social networks help us feel short, sharp shocks of outrage, but would the death of a little still have this sort of catastrophic impact in 2013? Banshee is about loss, and how a tiny fishpond of a world copes (or doesn't), but it feels like the real loss is something Ms. Millar couldn't predict.]

- My Lady Rotha (1897) and A Gentleman of France (1895) by Stanley Weyman. Two nice old volumes, neither are first editions (and neither would be worth anything if they were). I feel half-compelled to defend Weyman like I do Robert Chambers - a fellow bestseller who has been almost entirely forgotten - but Weyman's just not quite as fun (or as good, honestly). Still, after reading a half dozen of his books on various digital formats, it is nice to have physical copies of two of them.