Tuesday 30 August 2011

Things to do this week!

Signing at Covent Garden Waterstones
On Thursday the 1st of September from noon till two (12:00-14:00)

View Signing at Waterstones Covent Garden in a larger map

Signing at Waterstones Romford
Saturday 3rd of September from one till three (13:00-15:00)

View Signing at Waterstones Romford in a larger map

Wednesday 24 August 2011

I wanted to be a Paperback Writer

At last the thing that was previously released big is now being released small - with a slightly different cover(1)

For months now people have been coming up to me in the street and saying: "I'd really like to buy your book if only it was smaller and cheaper." Well WISH GRANTED! From today the travel sized version of Rivers of London is available from WH Smith, Waterstones, the non-snobby branches of Daunts, a nice bookshop I just discovered in England's Lane and many other worthy outlets.

(1) Obviously it's been small in America for some time.

Monday 22 August 2011

Cursed Among Sequels

This is my Amazon review for Cursed Among Sequels by Nev Fountain

Having torn through the previous two titles in this series, Geek Tragedy and DVD Extras Include: Murder I did entertain a fear that the series might flag. I mean just how much trouble can the former script editor of an 1980s cult Sci-Fi show get into? The answer is: more than you'd think.

This time Mervyn Stone, whose career in TV didn't so much implode as trickle away while he wasn't looking, is down in the wilds of Cornwall where an American company which specialises in resurrecting the corpses of bygone TV shows is about to shoot electricity into the mummified remains of Vixens of the Void. Mervyn is there as a consultant, which means he ranks below the caterer in status, but instead of spending the shoot having his suggestions ignored he finds himself the target of a series of increasingly bizarre murder attempts.

I can't say any more without spoilers but lets just say it has, mentally unbalanced writers, five flavours of desperate actor, malfunctioning plots, props and costumes and a nightmare of a director. Not to mention the monkey and toaster explanation for why British television has not been particularly brilliant of late.

I read it in one sitting.

Sunday 21 August 2011

Currently Reading: Nemesis

Change of pace as I switch into Nemesis: The Battle For Japan 1944-1945 - a fascinating if grim and occasionally eye-popping account of the last days of the Pacific war.

Max Hasting, a man I would cheerfully strangle (politically speaking) is a superb historian capable of coupling proper scholarship and objectivity to a clear and entertaining prose style.

Saturday 20 August 2011

Currently Reading: Cursed Among Sequels

As you can probably tell from the fact that I already have the next book up I'm tearing through these in a hurry.

Just started but I have to say that the monkey with a toaster metaphor for commissioning editors is worth the price of admission alone.

Word Verification Now Operating

I don't like word verification but I'm getting seriously spammed here.

Friday 19 August 2011

Coming Up

Things to look forward to in the next month or so.

25th August: Rivers of London Paperback release.
In these tough economic times I know there are many of you who can only gaze whistfully at your richer friends as they read their hardback editions of what people are already calling '...that book you wrote.' From the 25th August it will be available in the convenient travel sized paperwork version. So you'll have no excuse.

WH Smith's Promotion
Apparently WH Smith will be running a promotion as soon as I know details I'll let you know.

1st September: Signing at Waterstone's Covent Garden
12:00 to 14:00
Be the first on your block to have a personally signed copy.

3rd September: Signing at Waterstone's Romford
13:00 - 14:00
Be the second on your block etc etc.

10th September: Lewisham Literary Festival
Details to be announced.

Thursday 18 August 2011

Currently Reading: DVD Extra Include Murder

I should have been reading this yesterday but the crack team of Royal Mail spotters ensured that the delivery took place during my breif absence from my home - still collecting it from the depot this morning was probably good exercise.

Nev Fountain brings you the further adventures of Mervyn Stone, former script-editor/writer this time solving a mysterious poisoning at Television Centres. Religion, blasphemy, Vixens from the Void - who could ask for anything more.

Monday 15 August 2011

Translation Convention

I couple of reviewers have commented on the presence in my books of what some might call British-isms which others might call English. Sorry, cheap shot, couldn't resist it, moving on. Sometimes this is couched as a positive, sometimes as a negative but mostly as a minor drawback that is outweighed by the books good points (phew). My initial reaction, like most British people, is to snarl in unseemly fashion and go into a long rant about how 'we seem to be perfectly capable of figuring out American-isms (called by some people English) from the text why can't they' blah, cultural imperialism, moan, short sightedness, insensitivity etc etc.

I was halfway through a moan of this type when I asked myself - do we? So, in a spirit of inquiry, because it does you good to periodically test your assumptions and also because I'll do just about anything other than get down to the business of writing, I decided to check. I've taken random chapters from the British editions of American authors - sticking to books set in modern America (because my books are set in modern Britain).

King Maker by Maurice Broaddus
Published by Angry Robot (2010)
Chapter Seven (p166-187)
Actually there's quite a lot of drug jargon in this chapter which I didn't count because I suspected it was new to a lot of people on both sides of the pond(1).

American-isms: Arts and Crafts Era, Crown Royal bag, Kool cigarette, senior (high school), quarter (money), squad car, aluminium cans, section 8 housing(2), Player magazine, parking lot and hose (fishnet).

(1) Broaddus evocation of the junkie life is particularly brilliant here.
(2) I'm not sure if
this isn't Indianapolis specific or not.

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
Published by Gollancz (2009)
Chapter 7 (p176-206)

American-isms: Restonic(3), Little League Baseball(4)... and that's it. A quick flick through revealed pavement rather than sidewalk - this book has been doctored. My thesis has definitely taken a hit.

This is why you should check your facts before embarking on a good moan, especially a nationalistic one.

(3) Is this a real brand name or made up?
(4) we know what baseball is it's the 'little league' that's foreign.

The Salt Eaters by Toni Cade Bambera
Published by The Women's Press (1982)
Chapter Seven (p161-174)

American-isms: parking lot and.... bloody hell my theory is going down in flames.

Mind you it's been thirty years since I first read this book, scanning the chapter reminded me how good it was and now its been recycled into the reading pile.

Seriously I'd better choose something firmly in the vernacular to retrieve my honour...

White Night by Jim Butcher
Published by Orbit (2008)
Chapter 7 (p65-76

Surely the aggressively American (and I mean that in a good way) Jim Butcher is going to help me out here.

American-ism: sidewalk, mailbox and fire truck.

Notes: unless I'm mistaken Orbit changed leash to lead but kept sidewalk - interesting. Strictly speaking I could have included mail as an Americanism because while we use mail (as in Royal Mail) we generally refer to the post (the post has arrived, post box) but I decided that would be a sign of desperation.

Now to the last throw of the dice (or is it die?)

Lullaby by Ed McBain
Published by Pan Books (1989)
Chapter 7 (p125-152)

Surely the 87th Precinct novels, from which I learnt, in context, that an Oldsmobile was a car and that Oxfords were a type of shoe, would bear me out. Shall we have a look?

American-isms: Jakies, sidewalk, track (athletics), apartment & apartment building.

I'd say that the basis of the moan is... well marginal at best. Without comparing a range of American editions of British books I'd say it was unlikely that more American-isms were let through than British-isms going the other way.

I'm off to complain about something else.

Saturday 13 August 2011

Currently Reading: Royal Flash

Royal Flash by George MacDonald Fraser

I hadn't read any Flashman books in years and having finished the first nothing can be done but that I press on to the 2nd. This stands an aberration in the series in that it is the only one set in a fictional locale yet despite that it has the same attention to historical detail including endnotes that contradict the main text.

I'd like to see the person who wrote the phrase 'genetic code' in the Captain America film pay a bit more attention to such details.

Friday 12 August 2011

Currently Reading: Flashman

Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser.

I lost my original copy and so this became the only one that I hadn't read in years. Flashman remains a fascinating exercise in creating a wholly irredeemable protagonist who is rendered, if not sympathetic than at least tolerable, by his one saving grace - the absolute truthfulness of his recollections. It's also very funny of course and educational.

Geek Tragedy

I don't normally review and I almost never recommend a book but in this case I'm going to make an exception. Partly because it kept me up all night but mostly because I found myself laughing out loud every two pages or so.

Geek Tragedy by Nev Fountain details the first case of one Meryvn Stone, former writer and script editor of smash hit 1980s BBC television show Vixens From The Void and reluctant amateur sleuth.

Stone, a man whose career has not prospered since Vixens was cancelled, arrives at an anonymous hotel where he will a guest at VixCon15. His low expectations are almost immediately confirmed when he is thrust back into the slightly sweaty arms of Vixens From the Void's fandom which - ...only existed so that Xena Warrior Princess fans had someone to pity. (p17)

And that's about as far as I'm willing to go without spoiling the plot, obviously there is a murder and a mystery. Our hero rises to the occasion, in more than one sense of the word. The setting will be hilariously familiar and appalling to anyone whose ever attended, guested or organised a fan convention and will be hideously fascinating to anyone who has not. The characters are well drawn and manage the difficult balance between caricature and believability - I've met some of these people, hell I've been some of these people. Nev Fountain keeps the mystery and the comedy in perfect harmony so that you find yourself laughing and second guessing the plot at the same time.

I'm off to buy the sequels - you should too.

Thursday 11 August 2011

Currently Reading: Geek Tragedy

Written by Nev Fountain who writes for Private Eye and wrote for Dead Ringers this turned out to be a happy accidental acquisition.

I wasn't planning to read it straight away but I made the mistake of scanning the first page and now it's stuck.

I'm certainly going to talk about its strengths in establishing a sense of place but that can wait - first I have to finish it.

Wednesday 10 August 2011

Spoor of the Gibbon: The Hour

Gibbons are nasty furtive creatures and it can be hard to track them. But occasionally one comes across their spoor in a form as fragrant and as delightful as a dog turd in a paddling pool. Such spoor was strong in the closing moments of episode 3 of BBC TV's The Hour.
At the end of this episode an MI6 agents pursues our hero through the corridors of the BBC before violently assaulting him. Our hero drawing upon the potent power of lower middle class rage to turn the tables and demands answers. The spy, who up until then had been terrifyingly professional, blurts out a cryptic state secret before inexplicably throwing himself down the stair well.

It's the inexplicable nature of this swan dive that, like the odour of cheap dog-food, allows us to identify this spoor. Now whatever you think of Abi Morgan as a writer she is professional enough to avoid using inexplicable suicides as a plot device. It's obvious to anyone with craft skills that she was going for a stonking climax where our, almost but not quite working class, hero is forced to kill a man in self defence.

This would fit in with the themes of the story and with the guilt he expresses in Episode 4. It also makes some kind of narrative sense. What I suspect was that a Gibbon intervened, at a very late stage, and said that there was no way they could have the hero kill someone, not even in self defence. We know that this must have been done late because there was obviously no time to do a proper rewrite before shooting.

And so our exciting climax is marred by pointless note which serves only to make life difficult for the writer, the actors, the director and poor bloody editor who has to cut together a scene that makes no sense whatsoever.

Thus do the gibbons rain excrement upon talented craft professionals and ultimately we the audience.

Monday 8 August 2011

In Praise of Big Books

Novel Got Plot by Sir Read-a-Lot
(with abject apologies to Sir Mix-a-Lot)

*Late Show Panelist*
Oh my god
Kirsty, look at that plot
It's so big!
It looks like one of those fantasy novels
Who understands those fantasy writers?
They only write like that because they're total geeks
I mean that plot
It's just so big
It's got so many pages
It's just out there
I mean, it's so gross.
Look, it's just so sci-fi

*Sir Read-a-lot*
I like big books and I cannot lie
You other readers can't deny
When the prologue sets out to give a taste
And sticks its story in your face
You get sprung
Wanna read all night
Cuz you know that plot is tight!
I know that the map is vital
I was hooked by the end of the title
Oh I just want to get you in the sack
And read you in hardback
The critics may grit their teeth
But that plot you got
Suspends my disbelief.
Oh book of vast size
You say you wanna get in my cart?
I'll choose yer, choose yer, cuz you aint that average booker
I've seen them bulging
I need indulging
It's long, strong, got it going like donkey kong

I'm tired of magazines
Saying character's the thing
Take the average reader and ask them what
Books got to carry some plot

So writers (yeah) Writers (yeah)
Has your novel got a plot (hell yeah)
Well write it, write it, write it, write it, write that lengthy plot
Novels got plot

(UK cover with a New York binding)

I like'em big and thick
On the bookshelf when I pick
I just can't help myself
I'm a literary animal
Now here's my scandal
I wanna get you home
And UH, snuggle up UH UH
I aint talkin bout no Amis
Because the TLS talks out its a***
I wanna a big long series
So write another sequel
Readalot is your equal
I'll even get the prequal
So I'm watching the Late Show
Knockin' them pundits talking like pros.
You can keep that prose
I'll keep my book with a plot that flows
A word to the trilogy writer
I wanna plot that's tighter
I aint gonna fight yer
But I gotta be straight when I say I wanna read yer
Til the break of dawn
Baby stick another sequel on
Alot of critics won't like this song
Cuz them punks get it free and a charge a fee
But I'd rather stay and play
Cuz I'm long and I'm strong
And I'm down to get the fiction on

So writers (yeah), writers (yeah)
Do you want a series on HBO? (yeah)
Then turn around
Turn it out
Even Front Row got to shout
Novel got plot.

(UK cover with a New York binding)

Yeah baby
When it comes to novels
The broadsheets got nothing to do with my selection
Two hundred and fifty thousand words
But only if its part one!

So your best friend writes a Booker
Bout a middle aged man and a hooker
His Booker aint got no gas in his cooker
My kindle don't want a lot unless you got plot, clot!
You can do philosophy or aesops, but please don't lose that plot.
Some writers wanna play that role.
And tell you that the plot ain't gold
So they say that they're post-modern
They don't know what's going on
So the critics say you're hacks
Well I ain't down with that
Cuz your print is small and your word counts kickin
And I'm thinkin bout stickin
To the English majors in the magazines
The point of books your missing
Give me a brick I like them thick
Because than that story will stick
Some knucklehead tried to dis
Cuz Atwood's on my list
He can chat his shit on Newsnight
But that don't mean what he says is right
So writers if the plot is compelling
And you wanna your books be selling
Dial 1-900 READALOT
Novel got plot
Novel got plot
Saggy in the middle but it got much plot x4

Translation for the non-British: the TLS is the Times Literary Supplement, the Late Show and Front Row are cultural arts review programmes on BBC2 and BBC Radio 4 and Newsnight is flagship news magazine programme on BBC2 whose most famous presenter once told Margaret Atwood that Oryx and Crake was not Science Fiction because it had real science in it.

Saturday 6 August 2011

Currently Reading: Ghost Story

Came via post this morning - Good luck talking to me for the next couple of hours. Let's see, coffee, biscuits, book.... farewell cruel world.


Back to work.

Tuesday 2 August 2011

I'm baaaaaaack....ish!

Just a note to say that I've been neglecting my blog while I finish a novel but pressure has eased enough to alloy me to do some blogging and start updating the, sadly neglected, websites. I won't be able to engage in long and involved conversations or respond personally to every comment until everything is done and dusted but I do enjoy getting them.