Saturday, July 31, 2010

Pretty Little Dead Things by Gary McMahon

Pretty Little Dead Things by Gary McMahon is due this November from Angry Robot (£7.99); for the electronically minded, it will also be available as an ebook. Q: What's it about? A: Thomas Usher, a man who can see the dead.

Thomas Usher, a normal, average man, is involved in a tragic accident and his wife and daughter are killed. But then: "Usher is no longer normal. Or average. Now he can see the dead, and the dead can see him. They seek him out to help them, to usher them to the next level so they might face whatever comes next. The lost. The lonely. The departed. They never speak to him; they only ever demand his attention. [And] he is compelled to help them in the hope that he might once again see his family. But sometimes, just sometimes, it isn’t enough and his efforts make things worse.

His name is Thomas Usher. He is an usher for the dead. It’s who he is. It’s what he does."

Christopher Fowler says: "Pretty Little Dead Things is a very disturbing read. Gary McMahon seems intent on taking readers through the looking glass and tearing down the walls between the living and the dead. He creates dark, hallucinatory images that burn in your brain forever."

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Dark End of the Street

Coming in September from Bloomsbury, The Dark End of the Street is a new crime anthology, edited by SJ Rozan and Jonathan Santlofer. Yes, that's right: Bloomsbury is publishing an anthology. Excellent news! According to the blurb: "a glittering line-up of some of today's finest writers weave fresh and memorable stories from the classic themes of sex and crime [ provide a...] suspense-filled cocktail of dark-haired vixens and cold-blooded killers, of crimes of passion and premeditated revenge." It adds that this book is "a rare treat for fans of great fiction."

It certainly looks very promising and I aim to start reading it a.s.a.p. There are 19 original stories in this book, including tales by Lawrence Block, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, Jonathan Lethem, Val McDermid and Joyce Carol Oates. I especially like the title of the last story in the book: "The Creative Writing Murders" by Edmund White. (I've just realised: the stories appear in alphabetical order [by author]; don't think I've noticed that in an anthology before.)

In addition to all the words, the book is illustrated by Jonathan Santlofer -- noirish pictures that suit the subject matter.

I hope the book sells well for Bloomsbury, if only to encourage them and other publishers to do more of the same, please. Out on 6 September as a paperback original at £7.99.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Stephen Deas: new three-book deal

John Jarrold has has announed a four-book World Rights deal with Simon Spanton of Gollancz, for fantasy novels by Stephen Deas, for a high five-figure figure. Deas’ debut novel, The Adamantine Palace, was published by Gollancz in March 2009; it was followed by King of the Crags this past April. The third volume in this series, Order of the Scales, will follow early in 2011.

The first book in this new deal is a one-off, The Black Mausoleum, related to his dragon fantasies, which will be followed by three further adult titles that entwine that series with Deas’ YA fantasies. The Black Mausoleum will be delivered in the summer of 2011, with the other books following at yearly intervals.

"Simon and I did our first three-book deal for Steve at the end of 2007," said John Jarrold. "With the immediate success of The Adamantine Palace in early 2009, we were able to follow that up with another three-book deal that May. And now Steve’s third multi-book deal in two-and-a-half years – which is remarkable testimony to his writing and story-telling, and to the fact that Simon and Gollancz know a good thing when they see one!"

Where the Heart Is edited by Gary Fry

Where the Heart Is: A Guided Tour of British Horror, edited by Gary Fry, takes an alternative tour of Great Britain. Authors are often told to write about what they know best … and what do they know better than their own homes? In this anthology, nineteen writers of dark fiction reveal some of the less palatable elements of their native environments.

This anthology includes new stories by Stephen Volk, Rhys Hughes, Gary McMahon, Paul Finch, Joel Lane, Simon Bestwick, Gary Fry, D F Lewis, Andrew Hook, Allen Ashley, Stuart Young, Simon Kurt Unsworth, Carole Johnstone, Michelle James, Stephen Bacon, John Travis, Mark Patrick Lynch, Mark West and Mike O'Driscoll.

“There’s blood where the heart is. Much blood.”

Available as a paperback for £8.99 / $16 plus p&p from the Gray Friar Press website.

The Dogs of Rome by Conor Fitzgerald

"It's one of the hottest days of the year. Chief Inspector Blume is enjoying a rare solitary lunch when an unwelcome phone phones call intrudes with news of a brutal killing. Arturo Clemente is no ordinary victim. His widow is an elected member of the Senate. Blume must fight to gain control of the investigation.

When shortcuts sanctioned by one of his superiors are uncovered, it seems events are being manipulated. The complex and uncomfortable truth Blume unravels will shock him, and his struggle for justice may yet cost more innocent lives."

The Dogs of Rome by Conor Fitzgerald is published by Bloomsbury on 9 August (trade paperback, £11.99). The author has lived in Ireland, the UK, the US and Italy -- but probably not simultaneously. In fact, he currently lives in Rome with his wife and two children.

Conan painting sold for $1.5 million

If you had $1.5 million spare, what would you buy? Someone has just bought an original Frank Frazetta painting "Conan the Destoyer" for that sum. Phew! This and other Frazetta paintings helped to create the image of sword & sorcery/heroic fantasy in the 1970s. The painting was sold at a comics convention in San Diego.

Frazetta's paitings of Conan graced the Lancer editions of the Robert E Howard's books, published in the 70s (and on the UK reprints, if memory serves correctly).

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Bone Mill by Nicholas Corder: now available

The Potteries,1829. It's a harsh world and nowhere is it harsher than at the Bone Mill, where animal bones are ground down to be made into fine china. It's a stinking world of foetid carcases, clanking machinery and tough men. This is Joseph Ryder's world. A teenage orphan, Joseph lives hand-to-mouth, keeping one step ahead of the workhouse. And he’s trying to contact his dead mother through his landlady and medium, Gerda. When offered a chance to earn a few extra shillings, Joseph jumps at the chance and is soon dragged into the deadly sideline business at the House of Recovery with the slimy local anatomist. Joseph is soon embroiled in a life of crime from which there seems to be no escape.

The Bone Mill is aimed at teenage/ young adult readers, but will appeal to all who enjoy a fast-paced drama (and you'll also learn something about the ceramics industry, which is no bad thing). Written by Nicholas Corder, The Bone Mill is available from Emerald Publishing for £5.99 plus p&p. Corder is an OU creative writing tutor with credits including non-fiction books, articles and several stage plays.

Never Again edited by Bird & Lane: due this September

This promises to be an important anthology. Important because Never Again, edited by Allyson Bird and Joel Lane, voices the revulsion of writers in the weird fiction/horror genre against political attitudes that stifle compassion and deny our human inheritance. The imagination is crucial to an understanding both of human diversity and of our common ground. Weird fiction is often stigmatised as a reactionary and an ignorant genre -- but we know better. The book will be published in September 2010 by Gray Friar Press .

The anthology is a mix of original stories and reprints, including tales by Ramsey Campbell, Lisa Tuttle and Joe R Lansdale. Never Again is a non-profit publication; any profits made from sales will be donated to anti-racist or human rights organizations, such as The Sophie Lancaster Foundation.

Between the covers (artwork by Daniele Serra) you'll find: Nina Allen -- 'Feet of Clay'; RJ Krijnen-Kemp -- 'Volk'; Lisa Tuttle -- 'In the Arcade'; John Howard -- 'A Flowering Wound'; Tony Richards -- 'Sense'; Alison Littlewood -- 'In On The Tide'; RB Russell -- 'Decision'; Mat Joiner -- 'South of Autumn'; Rosanne Rabinowitz -- 'Survivor’s Guilt'; Rhys Hughes -- 'Rediffusion'; Simon Kurt Unsworth -- 'A Place For Feeding'; Joe R Lansdale -- 'The Night They Missed the Horror Show'; Kaaron Warren -- 'Ghost Jail'; Steve Duffy -- 'The Torturer'; Gary McMahon -- 'Methods of Confinement'; Rob Shearman -- 'Damned If You Don’t'; Carole Johnstone -- 'Machine'; Stephen Volk -- 'After the Ape'; David Sutton -- 'Zulu’s War'; Thana Niveau -- 'Death of Dreams'; Andrew Hook -- 'Beyond Each Blue Horizon'; Ramsey Campbell -- 'The Depths'; Simon Bestwick -- 'Malachi'.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Creatures of Light & Darkness back in print

At long last it's back in print! Roger Zelazny's Creatures of Light and Darkness (Eos $13.99) is a story that encompasses the whole of the universe, from the House of the Dead and the House of Life at the extremes, with the Midworlds teeming with the six species of humanity. Then there are the immortals, almost 300 of them.

Zelazny uses and abuses (in the best possible way) the Egyptian myths: there's Annubis, Osiris, Set, Horus, Isis, Thoth... And to complement and complicate everything, there are others such as the Steel General who rides a mount, Bronze, with eight legs. Its every pace is double the previous. It's said that given time Bronze could circumnavigate the universe with one stride; but what happens with its next step?

All of this in under 200 pages. And amid the sparse prose there's still room for the odd purple passage; heaven knows how many pages -- or books -- the story would take up today. Zelazny's paucity of style adds to the sense of awe. Creatures is one of my favourite novels, ever, and this edition comes too many years too late (my copy was in all but in tatters). I believe a UK edition is due from Gollancz later this year.

Three book deal for Rowena Cory Daniells

John Jarrold has announced: "Jonathan Oliver, commissioning editor of Solaris Books, has concluded a three-book deal with Australian fantasy writer Rowena Cory Daniells. The agent is John Jarrold, and the deal is for world Wnglish language rights. The books are due for publication in 2012.

Solaris have just published the first volume of Daniells’ King Rolen’s Kin trilogy, The King’s Bastard successfully in July 2010, with the second and third volumes following in August and September this year. The new series is called The First T’en and follows the fate of a tribe of dispossessed mystics, the T’Enatuath.

Rowena Cory Daniells first became involved in speculative fiction in 1976. Since then she has run a bookshop, then a graphic art studio where she illustrated children's books, had six children in ten years, sold nearly 30 children's books and an earlier fantasy trilogy internationally, established R&D Studios and served on the management committees of state and national arts organisations. She lives by the bay in Brisbane with her husband and children, and has a Masters in Arts."

The Choir Boats available as an e-book

Daniel Rabuzzi writes: "My debut fantasy novel The Choir Boats (ChiZine Publications, 2009) is featured as WOWIO's July 2010 Book of the Month. During this month, only, the e-book version is free. Click here for details.

The Choir Boats was selected by January Magazine as a Top Ten YA Novel for 2009. Reviewers describe it as 'Gulliver's Travels crossed with The Golden Compass and a dollop of Pride and Prejudice,' and 'a muscular, Napoleonic-era fantasy that, like Philip Pullman's Dark Materials series, will appeal to both adult and young adult readers.'

This special edition of the novel includes bonus illustrations by Deborah A. Mills. It's also DRM-free, so it can be read on any device compatible with PDFs, and shared with friends just like a regular book."

The author's bio and other information can be found here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Subterranean: online magazine

The summer 2010 issue of the on-line magazine Subterranean is now available. This issue includes fiction by KJ Parker and Cory Doctorow and others. Details can be found on the Sub Press website.

Michael Moorcock signing

If I need an excuse to visit London, here's a good one. On Thursday 21 October, from 6.00 pm, Michael Moorcock will be signing his new Doctor Who novel The Coming of the Terraphiles at the Forbidden Planet Megastore, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8JR.

The press release says: "There are no words to describe the massive effect that Michael Moorcock has had on the growth of the fantasy genre – and on all our lives. He has won the Guardian Fiction Prize for The Condition of Muzak, and been shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize for Mother London. He’s best-loved through, for the epic characters he has created Elric, Jerry Cornelius and Colonel Pyat. This is rare opportunity to meet the genre’s own Eternal Champion." Can't say fairer than that. Oh yes, Moorcock also won several British Fantasy Awards plus other SF/fantasy awards.

Back in 1970 I read my first Moorcock novel, Behold the Man. I recall the year, if not the precise date, because I had just started working in the pathology labs at Portsmouth and one of my new colleagues loaned me the book. From that moment I was hooked by the mercurial mind of Michael Moorcock (as they used to say), and bought every MM title I could find. Fond memories...

Saturday, July 10, 2010

SF & fantasy bookshops

Today, I came across a YouTube video of a mass book signing in the Mystery & Imagination bookshop in Glendale, LA. Jan and I visited that store during our too-brief stay in Los Angeles a couple of years ago. When we visited the store it was all but deserted -- but that was okay: it provided a lot of space to browse, browse and browse. In the video, authors Ray Bradbury, Bill Nolan, Dennis Etchison and others are beseiged by fans brandishing piles of books.

The clip reminds me of Birmingham (Britain)'s Andromeda Planet, run by Rog, Ped and others. When I lived in Brum weekly visits to Andromeda were a routine. It was a very sad occasion when this shop shut. When was it? Five years ago? Now, we've also lost the wonderful Fantasy Centre in Holloway Road, London. All very depressing.

Even if Amazon is less expensive, buying books on line just doesn't compensate.

The link is to a clip of Bradbury talking about his early days. Fascinating.

Interzone 229 has arrived!

Good news day: my copy of Interzone 229, edited by Andy Cox and Andy Hedgecock, has just arrived.

This issue includes fiction by Paul Evanby, Antony Mann, Toby Litt, Rochinta Loenen-Ruiz and Jim Hawkins (with the wonderfully punning "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark Matter"); and commentary by David Langford, Tony Lee, Nick Lowe and others. Also included is an interview with Jeff VanderMeer. The cover is by Warwick Fraser-Coombe.

For information see

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Network by Jason Elliot available soon

Jason Elliot's The Network is published by Bloomsbury on 12 July 2010 (at £11.99):

"The world is about to change. In the months leading up to 9/11 the intelligence community is on high alert for terrorist threats. Former army officer Anthony Taverner is recruited by the Secret Intelligence Service for an apparently straightforward mission: to destroy a cache of the CIA's precious Stinger missiles in Taliban-held Afghanistan. But in the kaleidoscope world of spying, nothing is what it seems.

SAS meets James Bond in this extraordinary thriller by an award-winning writer."

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Hellblazer signing

Simon Bisley and Peter Milligan will be signing Hellblazer: Hooked at the Forbidden Planet Megastore, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8JR, on Saturday 7th August at 1.00pm. According to FB's press release:

"Chain-smoking occultist anti-hero John Constantine is back in this new volume! After getting dumped by his girlfriend, Constantine goes to extremes to get her back. But will he sink to a new low by using a love potion? Constantine’s enemy, the Babylonian shape-shifting demon Julian, and the hot young alchemist-gangster’s daughter Epiphany will certainly have something to say about this turn of events."

I doubt I can make this event. Nevertheless, my copy is on order.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Thomas Burnett Swann revisited

Long time ago (ie, in the 1970s and early 80s) I lapped up everything by Thomas Burnett Swann -- at least everything I bought at the time. There were three titles that escaped me then: The Goat Without Horns, Wolfwinter and Queens Walk in Dust. I managed to obtain them over the years and promptly filed them on the shelves waiting to be read. Yesterday, I finally started on Goat. I wish I could say that I'm enjoying it as much as I enjoyed TBS' work when first encountered.

The story is narrated by a dolphin -- and yes, that does seem odd. But if you've read Swann you'll know that he plundered various myths and legends for his exquisite fantasies. However, because much of the action takes part on dry land, the dolphin is telling the story from a distance -- and that distance makes the tale feel stilted (not finished it yet and so it may improve). The story is set in the late 19th century -- and the attitudes displayed by the English about lesser souls is telling. And it's a little uncomfortable to be reminded of those attitudes.

However, reading Goat has encouraged me to revisit Day of the Minotaur and The Forest of Forever.

Under the Dome by Stephen King

The paperback edition of Stephen King’s massive tome, Under the Dome, is released this week by Hodder at £7.99. This 880-page volume is published with four different covers – it will be interesting to see which is the most successful (assuming fans don’t buy one of each). Luckily, my edition's cover is probably the best of the four alternatives. The story must be familiar to everyone by now: a small Maine town is cut off and separated from the world by the dome of the title. The town’s people come to terms with this and then “the power struggles begin”. It sounds like a larger scale The Mist but without the monsters hammering to get in (I haven't yet read the book so I may be wrong in that aspect).

Stories edited by Neil Gaiman & Al Sarrantonio

With Neil Gaiman’s name on the cover you always expect something special. In this case, Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio have teamed up to edit an anthology called, simply, Stories. The flyleaf says, “Stories is a groundbreaking anthology that reinvigorates, expands, and redefines the limits of imaginative fiction.”

The book contains 27 all-new stories by: Richard Adams, Kurt Andersen, Lawrence Block, Jonathan Carroll, Jeffery Deaver, Roddy Doyle, Jeffrey Ford, Neil Gaiman, Elizabeth Hand, Joanne Harris, Joe Hill, Kat Howard, Diana Wynne Jones, Joe Lansdale, Michael Moorcock, Walter Mosley, Joyce Carol Oates, Stewart O’Nan, Chuck Palahniuk, Carolyn Parkhurst, Jodi Picoult, Tim Powers, Al Sarrantonio, Michael Marshall Smith, Peter Straub, Michael Swanwick, and Gene Wolfe.

With such a line-up expect something special, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it heading the ‘best of’ lists for 2010. The book is already available from Headline, at £18.99.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Black & white portraits

If you have access to FaceBook, you may have noticed that I've posted some of my photos of writers, artisits and editors -- after converting them to b&w images. I've always prefered monochrome photographs -- I think they help show the person without distracting colours getting in the way. This photo is of Paul McAuley, Stephen Jones and Ian Watson larking around at EasterCon 2009. Photo (c) Peter Coleborn

Jack of Fables volume 7 now available

I have mentioned before now that entry points into many comic series can be very difficult due to long, over-arching story lines. The Fables saga, including the spin-off series Jack of Fables, is one such example. Fortunately, volume seven of Jack (it collects issues 36 to 40 of the monthly comic) is an ideal jumping-on point. The preceding massive and involved conflict, in which Jack helps to save just about everything, ended in volume six. This book is a light-hearted start at a new arc. Jack of Fables: The New Adventures of Jack and Jack by Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges, Chris Roberson, Russ Braun and Tony Akins is published by Vertigo and costs $14.99. A review of this graphic novel will appear in the BFS' newsletter, Prism.

White Cat by Holly Black

White Cat (The Curse Workers Book 1) by Holly Black
Gollancz 2010. Trade pb £10.99 / hc £18.99
Reviewed by Jan Edwards

Holly Black describes this as ‘...a novel about capers, curse magic and memory.’ I am not sure I can put it a lot better than that, but I shall try. Cassel is the only non-worker in a family of Curse-Magic Workers, and his elder brothers look down on him as a result. His father is dead and his mother is in jail for ‘working’ a sting on a millionaire with her ‘emotion’ touch. In fact, since Curse Working is illegal, many Workers are employed by a Curse-Worker Mob boss. Surely enough for any 17 year old to cope with, you would think? But Cassel has a lot more to contend with. His sleepwalking results in his being suspended from school, and he was haunted constantly for the past three years by memories of his murdering his girlfriend, Lila – who is the only daughter to the afore-mentioned Mobster.

With an opening like this you know life can only get complicated and so it does. A white cat is communicating with him through his dreams, and then it turns up in 'person'. The magic in White Cat is consistent throughout and the place and people are totally believable.Cassel himself is not just a crook by default. He enjoys the thrill of chasing down his mark, even without the aid of magic. He’s a con-man and you know you shouldn’t like him; yet you can’t help yourself.

Like many of the Paranormal Romance titles this is marketed as YA but can be found as easily among the adult novels, with characters, intrigue and pace of a high quality that sets the page-turning quotient on high (I read White Cat in one sitting). I would also say in passing that Gollancz cover (shown) is more fitting than the ‘Twilight’ cover of the McElderry US edition. Red Glove, the second Curse Workers Book is expected May 2011.