Saturday 30 April 2011

I don't want to boast...

But I'm in the top ten again.......admittedly I'm right at the bottom of the top ten but, hey, any sales figure you can walk away from as they say. This is the Guardian Top 10 Hardback chart, apparently the Sunday Times won't have a weekly chart tomorrow so I'm going to do all my serious gloating today.

Thursday 28 April 2011

The May Fayre

It’s on a day like this that a young man’s mind turns to romance, ice cream and Punch and Judy shows.
Rivers of London, Chapter 6

This Sunday the 8th of May Covent Garden will host the annual May Fayre in celebration of puppets in general and Punch and Judy in particular.

The event is held on the closest Sunday to the 9th of May when in 1662 Samuel Pepys noted in his diary...

Thence to see an Italian puppet play that is within the rayles there, which is very pretty, the best that ever I saw, and great resort of gallants.

The whole thing kicks off with a grand procession at 10:30 and from 11:30 there will be as many Punch and Judy shows, in their myriad forms, as can be crammed into the gardens of the Actors Church.

The Actor's Church, whose true name is St Paul's of Covent Garden, is situated on the West side of the piazza and is worth a look whatever time of year you happen to be there.

And as if your excitement could not be stoked further I and my fellow author Susanne McLeod will be signing our Covent Garden themed urban fantasies at the nearby Waterstones between the hours of 2 and 4 pm.

Saturday 23 April 2011

Signing at Romford Waterstone Today!

I will be signing copies of, well anything that gets shoved in front of me but hopefully, copies of the newly released 'Moon Over Soho' today at 13:00 PM so that we can all get it out of the way before rushing off to watch Doctor Who.

Waterstone's Romford

Lockwood Walk
Town Centre
+44 (0)170 874 7482

All you lot up in Birmingham will just have to go without.

Thursday 21 April 2011

...a book with words in it!

People, those that know me well, have been asking me where I stole the '...novel with words in it!' joke from. The answer is from the following Mitchell and Webb Sketch.

The basic idea of satirical publicity quotes I stole from Monty Python's Big Red Bok (which was blue).

Radio London Interview

My interview on Radio London can be heard here it starts at 1 hr 36 minutes in.

Moon Over Soho - Out Now in the UK

Moon Over Soho is out today: 373 sizzling hardback pages of murder, magic, mystery, hot sex, cool jazz and cream cakes. A book that the critics are already calling '...a novel with words in it!'

'Some of the characters are the same as the last book.'
Pedant's Weekly

'No really I just can't patronise this book enough...'
Sue Perkins

'The humor, the world-building, the action, the magic, the mystery, the procedural—all are top-notch.'
Ranting Dragon

'Moon Over Soho is a ton of fun.'
My Bookish Ways

'Moon over Soho is one of the most entertaining books I’ve read in a long time.'
Fantasy Literature

...the climax is both exhilarating and emotionally affecting...'

'...a tale full of magic, mystery and humor, set in a city that lives and breathes with its own living history.'
Owlcat Mountain

'...highly readable and hugely enjoyable. Definitely a book not to miss!'

On BBC London Today

I shall be on the Robert Elms show on BBC Radio London today talking about jazz, Soho and the background to the book Moon Over Soho. I'm arriving at one thirty pm so the best thing to do is tune in then and just stay completely still until I've finished.

Wednesday 20 April 2011

My Hovercraft Is Full Of Eels

According to my agent my munificent ocelot is to be translated into Hungarian for the delight of its inhabitants. In tribute to this, no doubt, epic task I provide the following Monty Python sketch...

The Hungarian publisher is Agave who don't seem to have a website I can locate. Still I'd just like to say that my nipples are exploding with delight.

Monday 18 April 2011

Stephen Walter

Many people have commented on how much they like the Gollancz covers of Moon Over Soho and Rivers of London. The element that I think gives the covers their unique look is the work of artist Stephen Walter. His master work The Island - a psychogeographical redrawing of Greater London as an Island - suits the tone and the content of the books perfectly.

It also means that as long I keep stories with the boundaries of the city I love then I never have to worry about cover design again. Result!

Stephen Walter has a website here and feature in the British Library's online exhibition here.

Monday 11 April 2011

My Non Review of Sucker Punch

The Evil Monster Boy wanted to go see Sucker Punch really badly and not just in an ordinary digital print but in super migraine inducing size at the IMAX cinema. I on the other hand, possibly because I am not a 15 year old boy, found myself vaguely repulsed by the trailer and decided that seeing the film was, in the language of marketing, a non-aspiration.

So non-aspirational was this film that yesterday I paid for the Evil Monster Boy and his friend to go see it without me. Unfortunately I still had to take myself and my credit card down to Waterloo to get the tickets so that left me with a couple of hours to kill. I migrated first to the second hand book stalls under Waterloo Bridge and thence, as if drawn by magic, into the BFI restaurant. I took a window seat and enjoyed a braised pork and garlic mash main course followed by coffee and cake(1) for about £2 less than I would have paid to see the film.

Outside the sun set over the Thames while the Kinks fought with GLaDOS for my mental soundtrack and waves of tourists washed up and down the embankment. So go see Sucker Punch if you want to, you might even enjoy it, or perhaps treat yourself to a decent meal instead.

(1) This was a triumph!

Wednesday 6 April 2011

Support Your Local Film Industry

Strictly speaking the UK no longer has what you'd call an actual 'film industry' but occasionally a good script will fight it's way through the army of gibbons to make it to your local multiplex.

It is said that 'Attack the Block' is such a film and so I told the Evil Monster Boy that we mustn't miss it when it does its, no doubt, blink and you'll miss it national release. Not just because it looks like a really good film but because it's important to support British talent.

The Evil Monster Boy agreed because, what with the last Harry Potter film being finished, there's a lot of spare talent lying around. So if you don't want to spend the rest of your life wondering where you're own culture went(1) - go see Attack the Block.

(1) Unless you're an American or something obviously.

Monday 4 April 2011

Writing Below Your Pay Grade

Now you can criticise Bonekickers for many things and indeed it's actually quite hard to see where one would stop criticising Bonekickers but most of those things arose out of positive decisions on the part of the production team. In other words they did it to themselves. Like many TV professionals before them they chose to ignore real history, politics or archaeology so in order to tell a better story. That the series proved a turgid disappointing muddle is down to their, surprising given their track record, short comings as writers and is beyond the scope of this blog.

What was most disappointing was the fact that the scripts were so slackly written and nothing illustrates this point better than the scene in Episode 2 when a document from the late 18th Century is discovered which refers to a group of black revolutionary war soldiers as 'political prisoners'.

Now I'm not an expert in the historical use of language but that stood out like a bum note. I'm pretty certain that any writer with a historical sense that stretched back beyond their old copies of the Beano would hear that bum note too. The trouble was that it used to be very hard to know for sure.

Until now and this is where the blog really starts....

Because those nice people at Google have provided lazy writers with the Ngram Viewer which allows you to check the frequency of the use of a word or phrase against book contents going back all the way back to the dawn-ish of publishing. So let us enter the phrase 'political prisoner' into the magic engine so...

As you can see the phrase doesn't really occur with any frequency before the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Even so there is one occurrence of the term listed in a book dated 1798 so I think I'm going to give Ashley Pharoah the benefit of the doubt in this case(1). Which proves how useful this thing is for the jobbing writer.

Bonekickers, wretched waste of budget that it may have been, is not the reason for this blog which was actually prompted when a script for the TV pilot of "Poe" fell into my hands(3).

The premise for this series is strong - Edgar Allen Poe a fine mystery writer pursues a crime fighting career in Boston in the early 1840s complete with spunky female sidekick and traditional antagonistic relationship with the Boston P.D.(4). Jumping out of page 4 comes the term "boogie man" not used for the supernatural killer before the 20th century or was "out of the box" in anything but it's literal meaning.

Now it can be fun to throw in anachronisms, to have our hero be 'ahead of the curve' and invent idioms a century or so early - but this approach only works well if everybody else routinely speaks in the appropriate historical idiom - which they don't. For example the police commissioner[sic] refers to "crime scenes" not in use before the 20th Century. And spunky female side kick refuses - to reinforce some "fairer sex" stereotype... Until the 1920s stereotype was strictly a printing term.

But the point where my willing suspension of disbelief, a quite sturdy edifice I assure you, collapsed was when Poe suggested that a particularly dim police officer should return to the academy[sic] for a refresher course (not in widespread use until the 20th century again). Anachronism piled on anachronism.

Can I point out that it took me all of a minute and a half to look up these words and check when the Boston P.D. was established. So the argument that writers don't have time to do this basic research is total bollocks. These leads us onto...

Like Who Cares Dude?
Good question. Does it matter that some piece of fluff TV show has any historical accuracy, or even a close approximation? I would forgive Poe if I thought that the producers had taken a decision to be interestingly anachronistic in the manner of 'A Knights Tale' but the truth is I believe it's down to either basic incompetence or because they just don't care enough to do the work properly. I think it matters on a purely professional level as a writer that if you're going to be paid to do work you should at least do it to a certain minimum standard.

I think this represents a failure of historical imagination so that all periods of history collapse down to a sort of dog's dinner that's essentially indistinguishable from how the present is represented. When this happens the past becomes mute, it teaches us nothing through allegory or contrast it exists only as another flavour of processed mechanically recovered meat. Fit only for dogs.

So yeah - I think it matters. I think as writers we should strive to work above our pay grade(5) not below it.

(1) I still think it's really unlikely that the British authorities would refer to freed slaves that had fought for the Continental Army(2) as 'political prisoners' in an official document.
(2) In exact reversal of what actually happened but given that none of the rest of the script made any sense I suppose that's a moot point.

(3) I really will do just about anything rather than work
(4) Founded 1854!

(5) 'Above your pay grade' comes into use in the 1960s and "pay grade" itself after 1900.