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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, May 12, 2011 - 01:36 pm:   

Four books on the go at the minute:

'The Complete Tales And Poems Of Edgar Allan Poe' - half way through and become a bit bogged down in the middle section of satiric comedy shorts (possibly written as newspaper articles?) that were obviously very clever and witty for their time but come across as painfully antiquated now, to this reader. Needless to say the horror, sci-fi, fantasy & crime stories are of a dark poetic excellence that time cannot wither. 'The Murders In The Rue Morgue' is probably my favourite so far.

& three seriously unputdownable novels that have me ricocheting backward and forward after each finished chapter:

'That Hideous Strength' (1946) by C.S. Lewis - the unabridged version and final volume of his brilliantly imaginative 'Space Trilogy'. An earthbound horror/sci-fi conspiracy thriller on an epic scale, with husband and wife protagonists unwittingly caught up in a battle between science and mysticism for the future of the human race - and they're on opposite sides. Roughly a quarter through and still no sign of Ransom or any direct link to the first two volumes, which has me all the more intrigued. The book is a lot grimmer and darker than anything else by Lewis I have read and shows a surprising empathy for pagan mysticism and the paranormal (representing spirituality) while presenting science as necessary but a cold and dehumanising force if left unchecked.

'The Glass Cell' (1964) by Patricia Highsmith - she's done it again, already a quarter through and feeling every ounce of poor Carter's anguish as he suffers relentless brutality and a slow death of the soul in one of those nightmarish Southern States Penitentiaries, an innocent man, hopelessly naive and good natured, framed for financial fraud and banged up with a stinking mob of thugs, killers and rapists. The hanging up by the thumbs sequence and its crippling aftermath has my own thumbs aching in sympathy with every pulse of pain the character experiences. Brilliant writing that makes Stephen King's 'Shawshank Redemption' look like a Sunday school picnic by comparison.

'Rosemary's Baby' (1967) by Ira Levin - also a quarter through and hopelessly addicted to the story all over again. The extra little details in the dialogue and descriptive passages are making this even more of an immersive experience than the movie. Beautifully controlled storytelling by a master craftsman at the absolute top of his game. Sorry for stating the obvious but already this is easily one of the greatest horror novels of the last century. It's making me appreciate all the more what a flawless job Roman Polanski (as writer and director) did in adapting the story for the screen. I wonder if he's ever read 'Harvest Home' or 'The Ceremonies'? Last year's 'The Ghost' proves he's still got it in spades... go on, Roman, read another great horror novel and do your stuff, pretty please.
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Playloup66 (Playloup66)
Username: Playloup66

Registered: 05-2011
Posted From: 87.112.185.255
Posted on Thursday, May 12, 2011 - 03:31 pm:   

reading a few.

mao: a life - by philip short

mao: the unknown story - by jung chang and jon holliday

a treasury of mark twain from the folio society

the odyssey by homer

the boston strangler by gerold frank

the bonfire of the vanities by tom wolfe

churchill: a biography by roy jenkins.

iv'e also got a few others i haven't yet started on.
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 212.219.63.204
Posted on Thursday, May 12, 2011 - 05:03 pm:   

Steve

"Harvest Home" was adapted into TV series in the late 1970s if I remember correctly but I didn't see it so I can't comment.

I've just read Eric Brown's "Starship Summer" and was swept back to my teenage years and all those great old sf novels. There as something of Bob Shaw and Clifford Simak in this novella.

Cheers
Terry
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Frank (Frank)
Username: Frank

Registered: 09-2008
Posted From: 82.210.134.81
Posted on Thursday, May 12, 2011 - 05:58 pm:   

Reading Jack Finney's wonderful 'From Time to Time,' and then I'll have the joy of reading Nicholas Royle's 'The Director's Cut,' which has a great quote form Joel.
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 212.219.63.204
Posted on Thursday, May 12, 2011 - 07:20 pm:   

Is the Jack Finney novel about a time traveler who goes back to 19th Century New York? If it is, I read tht about fifteen years ago and loved it. Vivid and authentic.

Regards
Terry
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Frank (Frank)
Username: Frank

Registered: 09-2008
Posted From: 85.222.86.21
Posted on Thursday, May 12, 2011 - 08:40 pm:   

Terry - this is the follow-up, written 25 years after the original, but set in the same period(s), and our hero, thrust into the year of 1912. Sadly, Finney died shortly after completing it. Yes, authentic. Some serious research went into it, though Finney himself might have had plenty to drawn on considering he was born in 1911.
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Rosswarren (Rosswarren)
Username: Rosswarren

Registered: 11-2009
Posted From: 86.157.64.135
Posted on Thursday, May 12, 2011 - 10:22 pm:   

'Terran Damnata' by James Cooper arrived today, I shall be carefully devouring it tonight.

A gorgeous book that i'm a little frightened to handle lol
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 82.6.90.22
Posted on Friday, May 13, 2011 - 12:30 am:   

Steve

I went striaght to Amazon after reading your comment and found a hardback of "Harvest Home" for a fiver and ordered it there and then. It has an awful 1970s, film-tie-in cover but who cares, its the words inside I'm after.

And Frank, I will definitely be looking out for the Finney novel.

Cheers
Terry
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, May 13, 2011 - 10:52 am:   

I only read it last year for the first time, Terry, and it's one of the Top 10 best horror novels I've ever read.

I also have fond memories of the 1970s TV mini-series, with Bette Davis perfectly cast as Mother Fortune - the show terrified me as a kid. I do think it is such a great novel, though, that it deserves the big budget cinema treatment with a quality director and cast.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, May 13, 2011 - 12:59 pm:   

Half way through 'The Glass Cell' now and the story has taken a very interesting and unexpected turn. That's one of the things I love about Patricia, you never know where she's going with a story. This is what Graham Greene called the sense of "personal danger" one got from reading her novels.

What impresses me most is the constant understatedness of her prose. She never over-eggs the emotional reactions of her characters, as a lesser author would, but builds up a painfully detailed picture of their innermost being by the cumulative minutiae of their every thought and action. This patient approach to character development is what makes her psychological insights all the more powerful and convincing, so that one is wholly subsumed into the protagonist's experiences. The result is never less than emotionally devastating.
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Carolinec (Carolinec)
Username: Carolinec

Registered: 06-2009
Posted From: 92.232.199.129
Posted on Friday, May 13, 2011 - 01:25 pm:   

Is that Tom Tryon's "Harvest Home" you folks are talking about? A brilliant book. I read it as a teen, and it's definitely on my list of favourite novels. His "The Other" was excellent too. Bought "The Lady" expecting it to be similar, and was really dissapointed that it wasn't horror at all. Later, I realised it was still an excellent book - it was just that I was expecting horror.

Anyway, what am I reading? Switching between various things at the moment. Still finishing some of the things I got from Johhny Mains' Japan auction - "The Obverse Book of Ghosts" was great, as were the chapbooks I got by Alison Moore and our very own Joel Lane (Johnny, if you're reading this, I haven't started on "With Deepest Sympathy" yet). Last night, I started on Rhys Hughes "The Brothel Creeper" - nicely surreal, with a wicked touch of humour, from what I've read so far.
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.178.81.136
Posted on Friday, May 13, 2011 - 01:38 pm:   

Just started 'Caught' by Harlen Coben. :-)
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.153.150.117
Posted on Friday, May 13, 2011 - 02:58 pm:   

I have two copies of Harvest Home - an old US hardback (lovely cover) and this tasty 7os UK pb, also tasty too. Only read it once, though, back when the series was on - 'The Dark Secret of Harvest Home' (which I loved).
I've just started John Fowles' The Magus - absolutely frikkin' brilliant! Felt sad, though, for chucking King's 'Just After Sunset' in my charity box a story from the end though. I only liked maybe two at best, and that was being generous ('N' was about the best, though I didn't like the monster descriptions - he's hopeless at them).
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, May 13, 2011 - 03:06 pm:   

'The Magus' is another one of my all time favourite novels, Tony, and long overdue a re-read. Have you got the 1977 expanded edition? It's superior imo.
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.153.150.117
Posted on Friday, May 13, 2011 - 03:14 pm:   

I have. I'm also a bit depressed about it because a book I've just written almost a hundred pages of is basically it.
:-(
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.153.150.117
Posted on Friday, May 13, 2011 - 03:14 pm:   

Only, of course, not an iota as good, and set in Scotland.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, May 13, 2011 - 03:16 pm:   

A few nice little extra incidents have crept into 'Rosemary's Baby' (I can't think of the story as a single entity but as novel & film combined). The concerned phone call from Ro's sister, sensing something bad was about to happen on the night she is raped, and her falling out with Guy (after the "necrophile" incident) and trip to Hutch's cabin to get away from him for a while. Half way through and apart from those the novel has been virtually a screenplay of the movie in itself. And I mean that as a compliment to both artists.
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.153.150.117
Posted on Friday, May 13, 2011 - 03:24 pm:   

http://www.fowlesbooks.com/Letter.htm

http://www.fowlesbooks.com/Game.html

Fuck. I've just wasted all my writing of that story.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, May 13, 2011 - 03:29 pm:   

Don't be daft, Tony, 'The Magus' is unique as a novel - deliberately labyrinthine and full of twists and tricks that fuck with the reader's mind - so there's no way your story could be a copy of it. There may be some thematic similarities but I'm sure they're nothing more than exist between 'Rosemary's Baby & 'Harvest Home' say. Keep at it, man...
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.153.150.117
Posted on Friday, May 13, 2011 - 03:42 pm:   

I might do, as themes are universal. But my story involves a man going to live far away and then having all these odd, reality-bending things happen, his mind changed. In the end he just gets into the flow of the things and sees no difference to this odd fantasy place to ordinary reality. It sounds just the same (though like I said, I have only minimal knowledge of The Magus. Or do I? How much have I inferred from all the snippets I've gathered of it in passing? Are we all just pigeons?).
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.153.150.117
Posted on Friday, May 13, 2011 - 03:51 pm:   

My feelings are to stop reading the book until I've written mine.
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Jamie Rosen (Jamie)
Username: Jamie

Registered: 11-2008
Posted From: 99.241.220.139
Posted on Friday, May 13, 2011 - 10:39 pm:   

I have a hard time reading and writing at the same time (well, you know what I mean.) If reading the Magus is making you uncomfortable with your own work, by all means set it aside for the moment.

I've never been able to finish it, myself, despite owning two copies! May just not have been in the right mindset.
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Mark_lynch (Mark_lynch)
Username: Mark_lynch

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.40.254.59
Posted on Saturday, May 14, 2011 - 07:08 am:   

Reading Paul Auster's INVISIBLE right now. Auster's a writer I have an odd reaction to. Although i kind of enjoy his books, I don't quite enjoy them as much as I should. He's good, but not as good as I think he ought to be.

Just finished RUNAWAY BLACK by Ed McBain, which I have in a great blacksploitation cover paperback edition dating back to 1971. McBain is as good as he ought to be, and more than that.
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Stu (Stu)
Username: Stu

Registered: 04-2008
Posted From: 82.14.61.230
Posted on Saturday, May 14, 2011 - 10:32 am:   

‎70 pages into Hell's Bells by John Connolly and so far it's absolutely brilliant.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Monday, May 16, 2011 - 12:13 pm:   

It was a close run thing but 'The Glass Cell' has streaked ahead of the other two books and I'm nearly finished it now. As gripping a thriller as I have ever read and most of the action takes place inside Philip Carter's tortured mind. Absolutely stunning characterisation, as ever from Patricia, and I still have no idea how things are going to turn out. The carpet has already been pulled out from under me twice and I've given up trying to second guess her or Carter.

I would rank this the second greatest book about prison, and what it does to a person, I have read, following Marcus Clarke's 'His Natural Life'.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.176.105.35
Posted on Monday, May 16, 2011 - 12:21 pm:   

cue another bloody list...
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.176.105.37
Posted on Monday, May 16, 2011 - 12:23 pm:   

Read The Blunderer next Stevie.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Monday, May 16, 2011 - 12:56 pm:   

Don't have a copy, Weber, but it's one I'm keeping an avid eye out for.

This is turning into my fav Highsmith novel, between it and 'A Dog's Ransom' anyway.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Monday, May 16, 2011 - 01:04 pm:   

It's how she keeps our sympathies always with Carter no matter how bitter and brutal he has become. His actions are tragic and unforgiveable but because we've followed him through everything that brought him there it's impossible not to empathise and feel sorry for the guy - and ultimately hope that he gets away with it.

Writing of this quality is why I read fiction in the first place.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.176.105.43
Posted on Monday, May 16, 2011 - 01:21 pm:   

That's probably what I like most about her as well. Other writers can take us into the heads of psychopaths pretty effectively, but only Highsmith (IMO) makes you sympathise with them to the point you want them to get away with it.

Even the Landlord has never pulled that trick off.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Monday, May 16, 2011 - 03:00 pm:   

And harking back to what Graham Greene said this presents the reader with a feeling of personal danger as they read the story. Like their own conscience and value judgements have been thrown to the wind by the seduction of empathy. I do love her you know.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, May 17, 2011 - 12:06 pm:   

Finished 'The Glass Cell' and the ending was perfection itself after several chapters of nail-biting suspense in which Patricia played my emotions like a violin. The pay-off is so chilling, in what it implies, it leaves the reader feeling almost as guilty as Carter. We too start the book naively innocent and end it irrevocably sullied and looking deep into our own conscience. Stupendous writing!

Now for 'A Study In Scarlet'... nuff said.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Tuesday, May 17, 2011 - 01:22 pm:   

Weber, I always want them to get away with it. No matter how poor the novel or film. I want Jason to get away with it.

Er, do other people not feel the same way?
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.27.30.64
Posted on Tuesday, May 17, 2011 - 01:27 pm:   

Doesn't Dexter qualify here, Weber?

I thought the Count of Eleven came close.

Joel, I want to take Jason aside and ask him just why he feels the need to hide behind a mask. I'd stroke his arm, remove the cleaver from his hand, and discuss rehabilitation pathways. I'd thumb through the Adult Social Care book of telephone numbers and give him a leaflet.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.27.30.64
Posted on Tuesday, May 17, 2011 - 01:36 pm:   

Stevie, may I ask you kindly to stop being so effusive? It's playing merry hell with my jaded spirit. I keep thinking there's joy in the world, which can never be. So pay heed.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.176.105.47
Posted on Tuesday, May 17, 2011 - 01:58 pm:   

The difference between Dexter and any of PH's killers is that you fully understand and empathise with the killers in Pat's work. In the books at least you can't empathise with Dexter. He's a very funny but ultimately dislikeable narrator. Yes, you want him to get away with it (because he only kills bad guys), but you don't fully understand where his urge to kill comes from.

Pat gives the full package so to speak. You fully understand the character's need to kill and you're right there with them. There's also none of the predictability of Dexter where you know he's always going to find a way out.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 195.166.117.210
Posted on Tuesday, May 17, 2011 - 02:01 pm:   

I empathise fully with Dexter. But maybe that says more about me than it does the show.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.176.105.41
Posted on Tuesday, May 17, 2011 - 02:22 pm:   

I was talking the books, not the TV. On TV he's a lot more likeable, they really tone down the darker side of his personality (honest).
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.176.105.43
Posted on Tuesday, May 17, 2011 - 02:25 pm:   

In the TV show Dexter has genuine feelings for Rita and the children. In the books, he has nothing but disdain for her and is training the children as killers.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 195.166.117.210
Posted on Tuesday, May 17, 2011 - 02:31 pm:   

I read the first book, and empathised fully with the character there, too.

Maybe I really am a serial-killer-in-waiting, as my wife claims?
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.176.105.37
Posted on Tuesday, May 17, 2011 - 02:41 pm:   

Fair enough. I just never get the same sensation of walking round in the character's skin with Dexter as I do with a Highsmith killer.

Plus there's the lack of unpredictability with Dexter.

Don't get me wrong, I'm on book 5 in the series, I do enjoy them. I just don't think Jeff Lindsay has Patricia Highsmith's special touch.

Take that statement whatever way you want to
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, May 17, 2011 - 03:53 pm:   

Joel, I'm always on the side of the Van Helsing's or the Rosemary's or Brody up that mast or even the screaming teens being chased.

**** SPOILERS ****

What makes 'The Glass Cell' so memorable is the way we start the book rightly empathising with Carter as an innocent man suffering monstrous injustice and then continue to root for him even after he has become an embittered homicidal monster himself, who doesn't even exact a straightforward or "justifiable" revenge. In order to survive he becomes another one of the hardened murderous thugs he was incarcerated with and Patricia pulls no punches in showing this tragic decline. In many ways the book explores the same themes as Greene's 'The Heart Of The Matter'... that we all live and die in a cell of our own making.

Gary, great literature is always worth enthusing over. I empathised more with Jack's family in 'The Count Of Eleven' as I didn't want to see them discover he was a deranged killer. Even though he was clinically insane, and only killed unsympathetic characters, I still wanted him to get his comeuppance but for his crimes to remain undetected - thus sparing his family's shame. Jack's puritanical judgementalism made him unsympathetic to me and I trust this was Ramsey's intention?
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.132.93.209
Posted on Tuesday, May 17, 2011 - 05:51 pm:   

Joel - yes. I used to like Norman Bates as a person. I used to think of him as friend material. In fact, once I had a friend who said he killed another kid before he moved house and buried him. I didn't fall out with him. It seemed normal in kid world. :-(
Shit, after reading that book about Dennis Nielsen I nearly wrote to him, too.
It's that bloody empathy with outsiders again, whatever shape or form - it'll kill me in the end.
Zed - people have urges hey never act on all the time. Lewis Carroll kept his paedo side in check, people never act on their homosexuality, and some would love to kill but never will. I think it's fascinating.
Ha - sounds like I'm lumping gay folk with killers and paedos! I'm not, I hasten to add - just trying to illustrate how folk hide stuff.
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.132.93.209
Posted on Tuesday, May 17, 2011 - 05:53 pm:   

Stevie - I'm with whoever the focus of the script/story is on for the most part, though.
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.132.93.209
Posted on Tuesday, May 17, 2011 - 05:54 pm:   

And my missus said I was him from Count of Eleven. :-(
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, May 17, 2011 - 06:04 pm:   

Gulp...

I can't see you going round incinerating people with a blowtorch, though, Tony.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 - 10:35 am:   

First time I've read 'A Study In Scarlet' and the introduction to Holmes makes it quite clear he suffered from a form of autism, most likely Aspberger's Syndrome. In many ways he was quite thick but with the limited genius of an idiot savant when it came to processing the information in front of him and solving crimes. Like all autistic people his character veers between childlike innocence and infuriating arrogance. All that and he was a jazz violinist before jazz even existed!
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.176.105.41
Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 - 02:20 pm:   

Nearly finished Disgrace - very good it is too.

Next book will be Shifting Skin by Chris Simms - a pleasant chap I ran into in Waterstones at the weekend signing copies of his books. I bought one and missed my stop on the bus going home because I got engrossed. He writes crime thrillers set in and around Manchester. From the twenty pages I've read so far, he's pretty good at it too.
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Jonathan (Jonathan)
Username: Jonathan

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 91.143.178.131
Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 - 02:58 pm:   

I'm reading In a Dark Dream by Charles L. Grant. Despite the fact that it took some getting into (Grant's frequent switch of POVs in the same chapter without breaks isn't a common device) I must say he writes some of the most convincing characters in horror fiction. This novel has a real warmth to it.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.176.105.51
Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 - 03:09 pm:   

If that's the one I'm thinking of, the last chapter sent a shiver right down my spine... A fantastic book.
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Jonathan (Jonathan)
Username: Jonathan

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 91.143.178.131
Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 - 03:21 pm:   

I'm liking the slow build so far Weber. Not many horror novels now would be half way through and only hinting at things. Grant's restraint is much to his credit. The cover of the novel, however, is not.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.27.2.245
Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 - 03:33 pm:   

Does it have a skull on it?

I loved Grant's novels: The Orchard, etc.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.176.105.43
Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 - 03:34 pm:   

Is that the one with the one sentence chapters at the start of each section?
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.176.105.41
Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 - 03:37 pm:   

The Orchard is 4 novellas isn't it? Excellent stories every one of them.

Grant was a brilliant writer. His humour books as Lionel Fenn are well worth tracking own as well. The only Grant books I didn't like were his x-files books.
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Jonathan (Jonathan)
Username: Jonathan

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 91.143.178.131
Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 - 04:20 pm:   

Not only does it have a skull, but it also has a knife and some lightning.

Nope Weber, that must be a different one. Yes the Orchard is a collection. I've heard his X file books are crap.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 - 04:21 pm:   

Read three of his horror novels back in the day; 'The Nestling' (1982), 'Night Songs' (1984) & 'The Pet' (1986), and several short stories - I found them all extremely effective. 'The Nestling' remains one of my all time favourite horror novels. For me he belonged in the same bracket as Robert R. McCammon or George R.R. Martin.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.27.2.245
Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 - 04:27 pm:   

Not The Orchard. I meant one with a horse in it.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.176.105.39
Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 - 04:35 pm:   

The Pet (my introduction to his books and still one of my favourites. Long overdue a reread)
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.176.105.43
Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 - 04:35 pm:   

Jonathan, you've got the same edition of in A Dark Dream as I have.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.27.2.245
Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 - 04:37 pm:   

The Pet it was! Good book, that.
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Jonathan (Jonathan)
Username: Jonathan

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 91.143.178.131
Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 - 04:38 pm:   

I've only read one McCammon and that was the Night Boat. Didn't endear me to him any.
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Jonathan (Jonathan)
Username: Jonathan

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 91.143.178.131
Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 - 04:38 pm:   

Or him to me even
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 - 04:44 pm:   

McCammon started off in the same enjoyably pulpy style as James Herbert, and I read all of his early novels, but from 'They Thirst' (1981) on his writing really went up several notches imo. It's one of the Great vampire novels and long overdue some serious reappraisal.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.27.2.245
Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 - 04:45 pm:   

I liked some McCammon: Mine, Boy's Life, and Blue (collection). The other seemed a bit crowd-pleasy.

I liked V P Somtow. He's on Facebook, you know - he's a composer now.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.27.2.245
Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 - 04:47 pm:   

Another neglected master of the 80s PB horror novel: Michael McDowell. In Ramsey's class, he was. The Elementals and Cold Moon Over Babylon are outstanding, as is Black Water.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.176.105.43
Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 - 04:55 pm:   

Do you mean SP Somtow (otherwise known as Somtow Sucharitkul) writer of Vampire Junction, Moon dance, Darker Angels, the Riverrun trilogy etc
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Jonathan (Jonathan)
Username: Jonathan

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 91.143.178.131
Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 - 04:55 pm:   

Aye, McMahon's told me that later McCammon is well worth checking out. I shall give him another go when I get the time.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.27.2.245
Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 - 05:03 pm:   

Yes, That's him. Moon Dance was great.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.176.105.49
Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 - 05:09 pm:   

They're all great. Somtow is one of my all time favourites.

He did one called The Shattered Horse - it isn't horror, it's a sort of sequel to the oddyssey whiere the last prince of Troy goes on a quest to steal back the eternal Helen. It's brilliant. I can't recommend it enough.

The Timmy Valentine Trilogy is possibly the best series of vampire novels ever written. Vampire Junction is in my top 3 (TM Wright's the Last Vampire is one of the other two, number 3 keeps changing)

His zombie novel - Darker Angels - is probably the most original zombie novel to date.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.176.105.39
Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 - 05:09 pm:   

Oh, he also directed the film The Laughing Dead...
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 195.166.117.210
Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 - 05:12 pm:   

McCammon was great - started out as a bit of a King copyist and then blossomed into his own man.

His apocalyptic horror epic Swan Song is better than The Stand.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 195.166.117.210
Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 - 05:26 pm:   

Stinger...I wish I'd written that novel. Literate pulp. Loved it.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.27.2.245
Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 - 05:32 pm:   

I never got through Stinger. "Too many notes."
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 195.166.117.210
Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 - 05:42 pm:   

Notes?
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Mark West (Mark_west)
Username: Mark_west

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.39.177.173
Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 - 06:07 pm:   

Loved a lot of McCammon's output (best one, "Boy's Life"), but didn't really go for his medieval, Matthew Corbett books. Now's he come back with a contemporary horror (called "The Five") but at Ł12 equivalent for the paperback, it's a bit rich for me at the minute.

Currently reading Mark Kermode's "It's Only A Movie"
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Thomasb (Thomasb)
Username: Thomasb

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 75.25.141.120
Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 - 06:49 pm:   

For me, it's back to sampling from Peter Straub's "American Fantastic Tales." Also reading a wonderful book about California's ecological past: "A State of Change."
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.27.2.245
Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 - 08:54 pm:   

Too many notes c/o Amadeus. You know. Gasping for your attention by flinging tons of horror scenes instead of building to the chills.

Just an opinion.
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Jamie Rosen (Jamie)
Username: Jamie

Registered: 11-2008
Posted From: 99.241.220.139
Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 - 09:03 pm:   

I'm reading John Saul's The Devil's Labyrinth. My first exposure to Mr. Saul's work (although I read the first half-dozen chapters or so once before), and I must say it's not bad. I'm partly reading it just to study the way he puts the book together, as I've been fumbling with novel structure lately, but I'm also enjoying it on a purely entertainment level.

I think it may be an example of what Larry Block talks about in some of his writing on writing -- that moment where you enjoy a book and think "I could do this" at the same time. It's been a while since that's happened.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 - 09:07 pm:   

GF - ah, yes, I see what you mean now.

I thought Stinger was a fast-paced thrill ride. Cross-genre long before the term existed as a marketing phrase. I never really found any of McCammon's books scary, but they were always exciting and emotional and went off like a rocket.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 - 09:08 pm:   

Jamie - Saul gets villified a lot, but I always thought his early bestseller, Suffer the Children, was a great example of modern pulp horror flirting with mainstream mystery.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, May 19, 2011 - 10:13 am:   

I thought McCammon could be very scary at times. 'They Thirst' is one of the most thrillingly frightening novels I have read. It gave me the most entertaining nightmare of my life back in 1981. It's the 'Dawn Of The Dead' of vampire novels and I'm still amazed it was never given the big budget Hollywood treatment, being set in LA, and all... then again, perhaps that's a good thing.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.4.19.77
Posted on Thursday, May 19, 2011 - 10:53 pm:   

Another memorable Sherlock Holmes quote that should be better known: "When a fact appears to be opposed to a long train of deductions, it invariably proves to be capable of bearing some other interpretation."

Half way through and just about to start Part 2 of 'A Study In Scarlet'. The structure of the book surely must bear some postmodern scrutiny, having the mystery solved in the first half and explained in the second. Arthur Conan Doyle deserves more credit for his originality of narrative style imho.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, May 20, 2011 - 11:57 am:   

**** SPOILERS ****

Seriously, if you've only seen the film of 'Rosemary's Baby' don't read this!

Finished the novel last night and the final chapters are a tour-de-force of blinding suspense. Even knowing the story as well as I do the pages were still flying by and I was beseeching the author for a different happier ending for poor Rosemary. You know what, I got it. The climactic final chapter is markedly different in several telling respects from the film and makes it quite clear that Rosemary won in the end. A satiric horror masterpiece that has no equal imo.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, May 20, 2011 - 01:05 pm:   

What to read next? Not horror, not sci-fi, not crime... hmmm. Mop up a classic perhaps?
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Protodroid (Protodroid)
Username: Protodroid

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 78.152.215.178
Posted on Friday, May 20, 2011 - 01:13 pm:   

Sounds like your diet has been too rich. Try a nice non-genre sorbet: Orwell's non-fiction maybe?
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.176.105.52
Posted on Friday, May 20, 2011 - 01:53 pm:   

Not horror, sci fi or crime... What about Dandelion Wine?
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, May 20, 2011 - 03:12 pm:   

Re-read it last year, Weber. I was thinking of mopping up a short non-genre classic. Maybe 'Notes From Underground' or 'Heart Of Darkness' or 'The Outsider'. Something like that.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.176.105.40
Posted on Friday, May 20, 2011 - 03:33 pm:   

What about I'm the King of the Castle by Susan Hill...

I read that last year/year before and absolutely loved it.
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 212.219.63.204
Posted on Friday, May 20, 2011 - 03:42 pm:   

Three quarters of the way through Paul Finch's highly entertaining "Groaning Shadows" and about to embark on Henry Fielding's "Tom Jones", I knew that Tom the Voice was old but I had no idea he was around in the 18th Century. It's not unusual I suppose...

Cheers
Terry
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Protodroid (Protodroid)
Username: Protodroid

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.79.25.206
Posted on Friday, May 20, 2011 - 04:18 pm:   

Try Riders by Jilly Cooper.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, May 20, 2011 - 04:22 pm:   

I'm going with 'Heart Of Darkness', one I've been meaning to read since my 20s.

Then I'm going to alternate Bryant & May with Holmes & Watson for the next few months and go with 'Silent Children' (must order next week) when I finish THS. Sorted...
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.176.105.46
Posted on Friday, May 20, 2011 - 04:43 pm:   

"The Minotaur accepts this temporary blessing for all it is worth. There are few things that he knows, these among them; that it is inevitable, even necessary, for a creature half man and half bull to walk the face of the earth; that in the numbing span of eternity even the most monstrous among us needs love; the minutiae of life sometimes defer to folly; that even in the most tedious unending life there comes, occasionally, hope."
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, May 20, 2011 - 04:48 pm:   

WTF ?!
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.176.105.36
Posted on Friday, May 20, 2011 - 04:55 pm:   

Extract from The Mnotaur Talkes a Cigarette Break by Steven Sherrill
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.176.105.36
Posted on Friday, May 20, 2011 - 04:55 pm:   

Minotaur
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, May 20, 2011 - 04:55 pm:   

Have a good weekend, everyone. I'm off philandering.
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.178.81.136
Posted on Saturday, May 21, 2011 - 11:31 pm:   

Finished the Harlan Coben, now reading The Dumas Club (finally).
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 01:28 pm:   

Finished 'A Study In Scarlet'. An ingenious murder mystery and a thrilling wild west adventure all in one. Holmes' summing up in the final chapter was sublime. I can't help wondering what the Mormon community have made of this book as their religion and hero, Brigham Young, don't come out of it particularly well. Interesting also to see Conan Doyle give so much sympathy to the killer, the book reading like a justification of murder as righteous revenge. Tony suggested to me that the Coen Brothers would be naturals to give the story a faithful adaptation (including the western backstory) and I think he may be on to something. A surprising and brilliantly structured novel that hasn't lost one ounce of entertainment value from the day it was published.

Already started 'The Water Room' and several chapters in. It feels like I've never been away. This case seems to be turning into a classic haunted house story with Bryant & May called in after the discovery of an old woman found drowned with muddy Thames water while sat peacefully in her living room. Then a new young couple move into the property and all manner of strange things start happening. Bizarrely there was a direct quote from 'A Study In Scarlet' in the first chapter and 'Fortean Times' has been mentioned!!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, May 24, 2011 - 11:57 am:   

Christopher Fowler really is clever in how he's set up this series of books. In the first volume he introduces the heroes at the end of their working career, after 60 years together in the Peculiar Crimes Unit. He then has the whole period from 1940 to the turn of the new millennium to dip in and out of over the rest of the books, while dropping in lots of little teaser clues about "past" cases that whet the appetite for books to come. To avoid spoilers I can't say which period 'The Water Room' is set in but, so far, at a quarter through, it's every bit as well researched and brilliantly entertaining as the first volume. This is one of those ingeniously constructed, and possibly supernatural, mysteries that has a detailed map at the start of the book that the reader is constantly flicking back to while juggling names and times... next thing you know I'll be jotting down notes. Wonderful, spellbinding fiction that I really can't praise enough!
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.145.134.216
Posted on Tuesday, May 24, 2011 - 06:52 pm:   

I'm having a wquick reread of TM Wright's Little Boy Lost. Finished Shifting Skin yesterday, very good if slightly predictable.

Tomorrow I will be taking 'Baby's First Book of Seriously Fucked-up Shit' into the new office with me. Leave that on my desk on view... don't want to give people a false impression of me now do we?
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.145.134.216
Posted on Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - 02:05 am:   

My reread of Little Boy Lost was quicker than expected. For the second time in the last year, I've read a whole TM Wright book in one day. He has a knack of building atmosphere without complicating the narrative so his books still manage to be incredibly easy and fast reads depite throwing chills down your spine whenever he feels like it.

Here's a great example of why I love his prose. This is from Carlisle Street

"Two hundred yards away, behind a nondescript, white woodframe house, the body of Christina Marchetti sat up suddenly. It was no great feat - corpses were known to sit up from time to time. But then, with the sunlight on her, she turned her head and her closed eyes in the direction of her house, and her children, and a grief so intense that it penetrated Death itself tore through her. And her vocal chords - in the first stages of decomposition - ripped themselves apart in a quick, tortured scream.

And then she lay down again."





I read prose like that and I wonder why I bother trying...
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 195.166.117.210
Posted on Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - 11:28 am:   

Terry's a masterful writer, isn't he, Weber? Brilliant stuff, that.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - 12:42 pm:   

That does sound great, Weber.

I must post 'A Manhattan Ghost Story' back to you and I'm really looking forward to the rest of the trilogy: 'The Waiting Room' (1986) & 'A Spider On My Tongue' (2006). I've been wondering what became of Abner...
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - 04:40 pm:   

Just read Joseph Conrad's 'The Congo Diary', written as a private document when a young man before he ever aspired to become an author, and about to start 'Heart Of Darkness' proper, which was based upon the experiences recorded therein.

One gets the impression Conrad started out as a romantic adventurer, fired by the exuberance of youth, and wishing to explore all the uncharted regions of the globe. But his experiences up that awful river brought him back down to earth with a bump, rather sharpish. So I expect a story of shattered dreams and soul-sapping disillusionment... here goes.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Friday, May 27, 2011 - 04:13 am:   

I'm needing an antiseptic for the mind, after reading a big stack of crappy screenplays. So I'm reading Nietzsche's very short Twilight of the Idols again. He always puts me into a good mood, I must say....
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Karim Ghahwagi (Karim)
Username: Karim

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 193.89.189.24
Posted on Friday, May 27, 2011 - 10:36 am:   

I'm reading Glen Hirshberg's'The Book of Bunk' from Earthling which is just excellent. And I am also dipping into the Chomu edition of 'The Man Who Collected Machen,' by Mark Samuels which is just excellent as well.
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Thomasb (Thomasb)
Username: Thomasb

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 75.25.141.120
Posted on Sunday, May 29, 2011 - 05:53 pm:   

"State of Change" by Linda Cunningham; "The Diviner's Tale" by Bradford Morrow; "The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay" by Michael Chabon.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.145.133.174
Posted on Sunday, May 29, 2011 - 06:12 pm:   

Currently reading Twilight...


So far it's very good.

Not really!!! I'm reading book 3 of the Night Watch Trilogy - Twilight Watch - which is indeed very good so far. At some point I will get round to reading the final book in the trilogy - The Last Watch...
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.4.19.77
Posted on Monday, May 30, 2011 - 03:33 pm:   

Finished 'Heart Of Darkness'. On one level a directly autobiographical and simple tale of youthful naiveté slapped in the face by the filth, death and horror of darkest Africa, and on another level a weirdly ambiguous exploration of charismatic extremism and madness, in the ultimately pathetic figure of Kurtz.

I believe Conrad was saying that even the strongest willed and most driven individuals (nevermind the rashly adventurous) count for nothing, in the end, when faced with the untameable immensity of the African wilderness.

A return from the reality of that physical heart of darkness leaves one forever changed, shorn of any illusions about one's own importance or the sanctity of life. While, if one stays there, in defiance of all good sense, only a surrender to brutal primitivism (the literal law of the jungle) can ensure physical survival, at the cost of whatever western view of sanity one once held dear.

"The horror, the horror..." was, I believe, Kurtz's last flash of mental clarity, and the realisation of how his friends and loved ones back home would be bound to react once they learned the truth of what he had become. For a great man, who promised so much, this would indeed be the ultimate comedown, the ultimate horror. Better for such a man to have died in the impenetrable jungle, his name and memory enshrined as a romantic mystery.

That's my theory anyway... and his desperate ordering of the attack on the boat, his final pitiful attempt to crawl off into the bush, and that poignant coda back in London would seem to bear it out.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.4.19.77
Posted on Monday, May 30, 2011 - 06:10 pm:   

Now for 'Mother Night' (1961) by Kurt Vonnegut.

One of the few of the great man's I have yet to read...
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, May 31, 2011 - 05:20 pm:   

Hooked and already a quarter through. No other voice in literature gives me the same warm glow of recognition as Kurt Vonnegut's. Reading one of his books is liking catching up with an old friend you haven't seen in years, and picking up exactly where you left off.

'Mother Night' has already made me laugh out loud and wince with an almost physical pain at the brutish folly of mankind. Misanthropy has never been more entertaining. Love the three morals in the intro: (1) if one had been brought up in Nazi Germany one would undoubtedly have been a Nazi and done whatever it took to survive the War, no matter how good a person inside, (2) when you're dead you're dead, (3) make love as often as you can, it's good for you.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, May 31, 2011 - 05:53 pm:   

Nearly finished 'That Hideous Strength' and structurally it is the most complex and ambitious work by C.S. Lewis that I have read, interweaving several different characters, locations and plot lines in a way that reminds me, yet again, of Clive Barker's epic cosmological fantasies.

The vast supernatural entities of chaos - what he calls macrobes and Barker dubbed the Iad Ouroboros - are the real power behind the cold scientific barbarism of The NICE. And the beings of light - the Eldil - ally themselves with the questers after spiritual truth, of which Lewis takes pains to present Christianity (in its many forms) as one path. Science (manipulated by Evil into putting progress above morality) is the villain here, while Belief or Faith (arrived at individually through free will) is the hero.

Barker presented a more even balance in 'The Books Of The Art' while the theme came full circle in Philip Pullman's 'His Dark Materials' with Science as the knight in shining armour and Religion the big bad villain. All three trilogies (come on, Clive!) are magnificent feats of the imagination and deserve equal credit for their authors' visionary brilliance and sheer storytelling skill, their ability to juggle character and incident effortlessly - irrespective of who one may think is closest to the "truth".
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 86.169.200.167
Posted on Thursday, June 02, 2011 - 01:01 am:   

I'm currently reading "Tom Jones" by Henry Fielding. What a funny, witty readable novel this is - especially as Fielding went on to form the basis of the modern police force in London.

Cheers
Terry
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, June 02, 2011 - 12:25 pm:   

**** SPOILERS ****

Finished 'That Hideous Strength' last night and - as with 'Voyage To Venus' only more so - it ends in a protracted sequence of unrelenting horror. It's hard to believe that the same mind who dreamt up the Narnia books wrote these final chapters. The climactic battle between good and evil shows the forces of light unleash a series of shockingly gruesome retributions, fitted to each individual enemy, that reads like something from the Old Testament. All the horrors of scientific experimentation and vivisection performed by The NICE, at first on animals, then on condemned prisoners and finally on anyway who dares oppose them, pale into insignificance compared to the vengeance Lewis has his Divine Power unleash on them. I seriously wouldn't have thought he had it in him...

And again the utter annihilation of Belbury & Edgestow - sucked deep into the fires of the Earth while the army of hapless minions scramble up the collapsing walls of the crater to escape - chimes with Clive Barker's destruction of Palomo Grove in TGASS.

But the most fascinating feature of this trilogy is Lewis's creation of his very own cosmological mythology that mirrors Christianity without ever explicitly tying itself to that one faith. The allegorical allusions are there and just as thinly disguised as in the Narnia books but he wisely gives credence to non-dogmatic faith, pagan nature worship and even the old gods of classical mythology, with everyone from Jove to Merlin making an appearance on the side of spirituality, and witches and fortune tellers amongst the good guys. An interesting balancing act that he just about pulls off if one ignores his own beliefs and reads the story for what it is... a thrilling fantasy adventure.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, June 03, 2011 - 12:44 pm:   

Almost finished 'The Water Room' and it's been an absolute joy to read. There is a wonderful warmth about Fowler's writing that I'm rather falling in love with.

The chapter in which Bryant takes the cossetted and unhappy 10 year old, Brewer (what a name, poor kid), out on an adventure in the London sewers, risking his life and sending him home to his la-di-da parents covered in shit and slime, is a lovely piece of fiction I can't imagine any other author getting away with - thrilling, mysterious, very funny and full of irresistible heart. My eyes were dancing along with the kid's while reading it.

After playing with the haunted house theme brilliantly this has turned into an even more classically structured whodunnit than 'Full Dark House' with every resident of Balaklava Street a suspect. I think I've worked out who the killer is but remembering how devious the last plot was I'm not taking anything for granted. The mystery now is how did he/she do it - all the murders appear to have been Omen-like freak accidents. Or is there a supernatural explanation after all? Mind-bogglingly wonderful entertainment!!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.4.19.77
Posted on Friday, June 03, 2011 - 11:14 pm:   

Finished it... ingenious!

Though perhaps not in the way one might expect, having been brought up (like John May) on Agatha Christie novels.

I so want to say more but this book is so wonderful that even inadvertent spoilers would be a mortal sin.
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Allybird (Allybird)
Username: Allybird

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 202.73.198.32
Posted on Saturday, June 04, 2011 - 08:30 am:   

Reading E. Annie Proulx, Accordian Crimes. Love her exquisite attention to detail. The Shipping News is a favourite of mine.

Just finish Sarah Waters...Tipping the Velvet, under the questioning gaze of my husband. Waters tells a bloody good story came my reply.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.155.221.219
Posted on Saturday, June 04, 2011 - 11:28 am:   

Just finished The Twilight watch last night. A worthy addition to the series started with Night Watch and day watch.

I think I'm either going to read Ysabel by Guy G Kay or Gone by Mo Hayder next...
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.4.19.77
Posted on Saturday, June 04, 2011 - 12:33 pm:   

A first reading of 'The Sign Of Four' for me... and I have 'Silent Children' ordered.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.158.57.31
Posted on Sunday, June 05, 2011 - 04:54 am:   

Already half way through Gone by Mo Hayder. This is one of the fastest moving of her books to date and is very enjoyable. A lot better than Skin was (the previous Jack Caffery book).
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.4.19.77
Posted on Sunday, June 05, 2011 - 05:53 am:   

Bloody hell, but 'The Sign Of Four' has to have the most shocking opening pages of any novel I've come across. It's no wonder Sherlock Holmes has remained such a fascinating character with contradictory revelations like this!

And the great detective's criticism of "Dr Watson's" book 'A Study In Scarlet', as romantic nonsense that should have had more of him in it, was a great answer to Conan Doyle's critics lol.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Monday, June 06, 2011 - 04:50 pm:   

Have any of you here ever had such a feeling of dread from the opening chapters of a book that you're not sure you're going to be able to continue reading, the horror is just too close for comfort or too depressing.

That's how I feel about the, frankly terrifying, opening chapters of 'The Death Of Grass'. After a beautiful prologue introducing us to the principal characters as children, with not a care in the world and a bright future ahead of them, the action jumps forward 25 years to a situation I can only describe as like watching the News headlines we're all getting used to at the minute. And this is only the start of what I can feel is going to be an unremittingly bleak nightmare scenario of total apocalypse. Crops are failing on a global scale, British supermarket food prices are going through the roof, famine is decimating Asia, food aid packages are incapable of plugging the hole, masses of people are displaced as they move toward the more affluent areas in their starving millions, governments are unable to cope, law and order is breaking down, and the hero has just noticed the first patch of dying wheat on his own farm in the heart of the English countryside. If ever a book's time came round again it is this one. Disturbing is an understatement...
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Mark_lynch (Mark_lynch)
Username: Mark_lynch

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.40.254.204
Posted on Tuesday, June 07, 2011 - 06:06 pm:   

Yes, Ramsey's Face That Must Die, Steve. One of the hardest novels of the old lad's that I've read. Rewarding but not a happy chappy, is he, the ole protagonist.

I'm reading a couple of Robert B Parker books at the moment, whizzing through them. Double Play, which is, peripherally, a baseball novel so not my favourite, and Small Vices, a Spencer novel. Haven't read him in years and then heard he'd died so promised to go back to him. He was a champ.

Also rereading Arthur C Clarke's A Fall of Moondust, which is still incredibly tense, years after I must've read it ten times and more as a kid.

And in proof copy, Thomas Enger's Burned. Which is interesting and Scandinavian.
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Thomasb (Thomasb)
Username: Thomasb

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 75.25.141.120
Posted on Wednesday, June 08, 2011 - 01:44 am:   

"The Diviner's Tale" by Bradford Morrow has just taken a sudden twist for the better, toward a ripping, gripping read. I'm also still working on " State of Change: Forgotten California Landscapes."
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.181.83.109
Posted on Thursday, June 09, 2011 - 05:53 pm:   

Finished "The Dumas Club" - now on to "Full Dark House", as Stevie's writeup sounded interesting.
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Stu (Stu)
Username: Stu

Registered: 04-2008
Posted From: 82.18.199.133
Posted on Thursday, June 09, 2011 - 08:54 pm:   

>>I'm reading a couple of Robert B Parker books at the moment, whizzing through them. Double Play, which is, peripherally, a baseball novel so not my favourite, and Small Vices, a Spencer novel. Haven't read him in years and then heard he'd died so promised to go back to him. He was a champ.

Parker's great. I thought Double Play started off quite interesting as he was trying something a little different but about 2/3 of the way through it turned into a Spenser novel in period costume. Not read Small Vices yet but I'm told it's one of the better later Spensers.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.4.19.77
Posted on Thursday, June 09, 2011 - 10:47 pm:   

I envy you reading 'Full Dark House' for the first time, Mick.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.4.19.77
Posted on Friday, June 10, 2011 - 12:28 am:   

Just started 'Seventy-Seven Clocks' (the third Bryant & May mstery) and it's set in a particularly nostalgic era for me.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, June 10, 2011 - 03:45 pm:   

Having read the intro to 'Seventy-Seven Clocks' (2005) I was unaware of the controversy surrounding the novel.

Apparently the bones of this novel existed as one of Fowler's earlier supernatural horror books, 'Darkest Day' (1993), and he decided to rework the novel as a Bryant & May mystery, removing the original "solution" and changing the time period and setting. He says he took some stick for this from his "die-hard horror fans" but stands by his decision, as he was never entirely happy with the earlier work. A brave decision and one I haven't heard the like of before. Anyone know of any similar artistic about faces, to negate an earlier published work by completely rewriting it?

Whatever the loss of 'Darkest Day' may mean, I have to say the opening chapters of SSC are as instantly captivating as the first two volumes.
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C_j_fenwick (C_j_fenwick)
Username: C_j_fenwick

Registered: 06-2011
Posted From: 2.25.113.52
Posted on Friday, June 10, 2011 - 04:24 pm:   

I'm currently reading Jeremy Dysons excellent short story collection 'Never Trust a Rabbit'; specifically 'The Cash-Point Oracle'. A great collection so far, particularly 'A Last Look at the Sea' which reminded me rather of Aickman's 'Ringing The Changes' which is no bad thing. For the record I reckon his best short story so far is 'Michael' from his later collection 'The Cranes That Build The Cranes'. But I am getting greedy though; when on earth is he going to get around to writing some more? Oh and my girlfriend is currently reading 'Lost Places' by Joel Lane - by heck does she like her fiction fucked-up!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, June 10, 2011 - 04:31 pm:   

Must read some more of Joel.

'The Earth Wire' is a fabulous collection. Enigmatic and eerie, rather than horrific, and with a beautiful sense of aching sadness.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Friday, June 10, 2011 - 05:15 pm:   

I've been reading Joel for over 20 years. And his fiction. It's wonderful.
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C_j_fenwick (C_j_fenwick)
Username: C_j_fenwick

Registered: 06-2011
Posted From: 2.25.113.21
Posted on Friday, June 10, 2011 - 05:51 pm:   

I must admit I've only read the one story from 'Lost Places' as recommended to me by my better half;'Coming of Age' it was and a pretty excellent tale it was too. In fact I got pretty much the same kind of feeling from reading it that I got from your very own 'Do Not Be Alarmed' ('Dirty Prayers' has got me through many a dark night working on the railway I can tell you)
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Friday, June 10, 2011 - 06:25 pm:   

Why thank, you, CJ. That's very nice of you.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Friday, June 10, 2011 - 06:29 pm:   

You mean The Lost District, CJ – though in retrospect, The Lost Book would have been a more accurate title. Beautiful cover, great production job in general. Rumour has it so few copies sold that the publisher suspected the ISBN number was some kind of cabbalistic curse and reproduced it on a tiny card they sent to anyone who had harmed them.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.31.134.158
Posted on Friday, June 10, 2011 - 06:46 pm:   

I think you mean The Lost Places, Joel. You have mistakenly named C J's mistaken name. Honestly, you guys . . .
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C_j_fenwick (C_j_fenwick)
Username: C_j_fenwick

Registered: 06-2011
Posted From: 2.25.123.143
Posted on Friday, June 10, 2011 - 07:03 pm:   

Oh dear god I mentioned the wrong title! I was of course getting 'The Lost District' mixed up with that other fine tome 'Lost Places' by Simon Kurt Unsworth. Shocking error - won't happen again! In the meantime I'm trying to find a copy of 'The Earth Wire And Other Stories' for my girlfriend but outside of re-mortgaging my flat I fear pricewise its going to be an impossible task. I mean honestly where do Amazon and all the rest of them get their prices from?
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Simon Bestwick (Simon_b)
Username: Simon_b

Registered: 10-2008
Posted From: 86.24.209.217
Posted on Friday, June 10, 2011 - 08:08 pm:   

Speaking of which, Joel... is there something you want to tell us?

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B001E437CY/ref=dm_sp_adp?ie=UTF8&qid=13077291 77&sr=8-9

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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.24.7.223
Posted on Saturday, June 11, 2011 - 12:57 am:   

Never ever buy second-hand books on Amazon: the vendors are amateurs who overcharge and lie outrageously about the condition of the books they are selling. Oddly I can't find the book on abebooks, which is a more trustworthy source. If it's now become 'scarce' (and it took ten years to sell 500 copies, partly because Waterstone's declined to stock it) then maybe it's worth trying for a new edition. It's hard to gauge demand though, and second editions can easily end up as remainder shop (or landfill site) fodder.
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C_j_fenwick (C_j_fenwick)
Username: C_j_fenwick

Registered: 06-2011
Posted From: 2.25.107.64
Posted on Saturday, June 11, 2011 - 07:23 am:   

Waterstones refused to stock it? The short-sighted fools! Probably they couldn't find a place for its dark brilliance amid all those hordes of paranormal romance books that seem slowly but surely to have squeezed the honest to goodness horror tome right off of its rightful place on the average bookshelf. Am I moaning then about an element of change in modern life? Yes. Am I therefore becoming an old fart too? Sadly more than likely.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.4.19.77
Posted on Saturday, June 11, 2011 - 11:12 am:   

That advice just isn't practical in this day and age, Joel, with even second hand bookshops becoming a rarity.

More often than not the only way I can get copies of books I am desperate to read - such as; 'The Earth Wire', 'Silent Children', 'Seventy-Seven Clocks', etc. - is by ordering them on Amazon Marketplace or Abebooks or eBay.

The thought of having to go through life deprived of the works of some of my favourite authors, due to idealistic principles, just isn't worth considering.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Saturday, June 11, 2011 - 11:21 am:   

Stevie - I get loads of books from Amazon Marketplace, too. 1p + postage. A bargain.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.24.30.66
Posted on Saturday, June 11, 2011 - 11:24 am:   

Stevie, sorry bab, but I actually said not to trust Amazon as a second-hand source for good reasons, not to avoid all online second-hand sources. Abebooks is reliable enough, though it helps itself to the database of some online booksellers who don't want to be included in it. I have bought two second-hand books on Amazon, both described as being in 'very good' condition when their actual condition should have been classified as 'poor' or 'reading copy only'. My favourite second-hand genre outlet is Cold Tonnage Books, and you could ask for no more honest trader.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.4.19.77
Posted on Saturday, June 11, 2011 - 11:35 am:   

Yeah, sorry, I should have made it clear it was really only Amazon Marketplace I was talking about. To refuse to use that source of books - where I found all three of those I mentioned - would be cutting my nose off to spite my face.

But I agree, it is more of a gamble on there than Abebooks or eBay (where you can at least see the book). And thanks for that recommendation. I'll be checking out Cold Tonnage from now on.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.24.30.66
Posted on Saturday, June 11, 2011 - 11:38 am:   

CJ, thanks for your kind comments. Regarding The Earth Wire, they didn't consider it in any serious way: they just looked on their database and saw only minor sales figures for the publisher and nothing for me, so said no. The decision took about two minutes. Agents always advise writers not to bring out collections, and never to bring out books with small press publishers, because it will kill their chances of getting future titles stocked by Waterstone's. Once they have you pegged as a loser that's it. However, since then Waterstone's have adopted the policy of destroying unsold copies rather than returning them to the publisher, which means that no small publisher can afford to deal with them. A publisher has to pay thousands of pounds to get a book onto their '3 for 2' or similar promotion list and accept that if they don't do that, the book will have poor and short-lived distribution. So the gap between 'winners' and 'losers' continues to widen, and the 'market' dictated by one bookseller and a few commercial publishers continues to decay.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.4.19.77
Posted on Saturday, June 11, 2011 - 11:52 am:   

I didn't realise such a nightmare scenario existed, Joel. The destruction of books to save the cost of returning them. What a shower of capitalist cunts!

Your writing will survive, Joel. People like me will make damn sure of it.
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.181.8.4
Posted on Saturday, June 11, 2011 - 12:32 pm:   

Cold Tonnage is a very good bookseller. I was first introduced to Andy in the 'eighties when he was a postie still living at home with his mum (with piles of books through the house!), and have bought (and sold) many books through Cold Tonnage since then.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.4.19.77
Posted on Saturday, June 11, 2011 - 01:50 pm:   

I've just been browsing the site, Mick, and it looks excellent. I've saved it to my online shopping favourites. Thanks again, Joel.
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.181.8.4
Posted on Saturday, June 11, 2011 - 02:52 pm:   

Andy's also on eBay as "coldtonnageman" and that's worth a browse too, although he usually has a couple of thousand books up at any one time.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Saturday, June 11, 2011 - 04:25 pm:   

Cold Tonnage is great - Andy's a gent and never fails to impress.
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Hubert (Hubert)
Username: Hubert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 178.116.49.162
Posted on Saturday, June 11, 2011 - 04:48 pm:   

never to bring out books with small press publishers, because it will kill their chances of getting future titles stocked by Waterstone's

How so? I fail to see the logic of that. I can see why they would prefer novels - short stories don't sell - but I always thought being published in the small press was a excellent springboard.
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Hubert (Hubert)
Username: Hubert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 178.116.49.162
Posted on Saturday, June 11, 2011 - 04:50 pm:   

aN
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Jonathan (Jonathan)
Username: Jonathan

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.25.240.60
Posted on Saturday, June 11, 2011 - 04:51 pm:   

"However, since then Waterstone's have adopted the policy of destroying unsold copies rather than returning them to the publisher, which means that no small publisher can afford to deal with them"

I'm actually 99% sure that this doesn't happen. All our UK books get returned. In the US, however, if they don't sell a book they actually destroy it.
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John Forth (John)
Username: John

Registered: 05-2008
Posted From: 82.24.1.217
Posted on Saturday, June 11, 2011 - 05:12 pm:   

I'm reading The Ritual by Adam Nevill. It's extremely lean and pacy, and really quite chilling. I also have the last Black Static to get through before the next one comes out!
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Saturday, June 11, 2011 - 06:14 pm:   

No publisher has discouraged me from bringing out a small press book - indeed, Angry Robot are actively encouraging my forthcoming collection of Thomas Usher stories from pendragon Press.

The small press has acted as an invaluable springboard for me. If it wasn't for the books I'd had published by some great indie publishers, the mainstream publishers would never have heard of me. I know for a fact that Jon Oliver wanted me to write Hungry Hearts, my first mass market novel for Abaddon because he enjoyed Rain Dogs so much. The small press opens doors.
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Des (Des)
Username: Des

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 81.153.252.217
Posted on Saturday, June 11, 2011 - 06:20 pm:   

The small press opens doors.
==================

It also opens and shuts them in your face in playful abandon.
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Simon Bestwick (Simon_b)
Username: Simon_b

Registered: 10-2008
Posted From: 86.24.209.217
Posted on Saturday, June 11, 2011 - 06:30 pm:   

John- The Ritual is superb. It's Adam's best work yet, absolutely gripping, disturbing and unrelenting. I liked it much better than Apartment 16, to be honest, which I admired without falling in love with. The Ritual I both admired and loved.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.24.39.139
Posted on Saturday, June 11, 2011 - 06:32 pm:   

The Waterstone's selection mechanism is purely sales-based. If your last book sold 300 copies because only 300 were printed, Waterstone's will see that sales figure and decline to stock your next book. A commercially successful writer who has a book of poems or a small press collection published will pay heavily for it in terms of distribution of the rest of their work.

Jon – Serpent's Tail told me the reason why my second novel went out of print without having sold out its print run was that Waterstone's had destroyed over a thousand copies as 'returns'. I'm relieved to hear that doesn't happen in all cases, but it leaves me unsure as to what did happen to my second novel. Also my agent accepted their explanation, and he's worked in the field for a long time...
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John Forth (John)
Username: John

Registered: 05-2008
Posted From: 82.24.1.217
Posted on Saturday, June 11, 2011 - 07:03 pm:   

Simon - I haven't read Apartment 16 yet. Banquet for the Damned I read, but didn't get on especially well with, despite there being a lot to enjoy in there. The Ritual, however, I think is wonderful. Unrelenting is the right word!
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Jonathan (Jonathan)
Username: Jonathan

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.25.236.236
Posted on Sunday, June 12, 2011 - 10:07 am:   

Damn right the small press opens doors. I'm constantly on the lookout for the rising stars of the field and have published quite a few now who have come up through the small presses. But I still also buy small press books myself as it's where all the best short story and novella work is being done. I actually think the small presses are stronger, in terms of quality, than they've ever been. I was really impressed, when Gary and I went to Texas, by people like Chizine and Dark Regions. People with real passion and commitment to publishing quality material. This should be a lesson for all mainstream publishers. Yes, I work for a business but I always try and publish what I love reading myself.

Joel - that is really odd. I've genuinely never heard of Waterstones destroying books. I'm not even sure they have the facilities to do so. The US definately DO as they destroy all returns... well they strip the cover and send the guts back but it amounts to the same thing.
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C_j_fenwick (C_j_fenwick)
Username: C_j_fenwick

Registered: 06-2011
Posted From: 157.203.255.1
Posted on Sunday, June 12, 2011 - 01:49 pm:   

Well if that means they're in the habit of doing the burning round the back of all Waterstones stores nationwide then, I'd better start hanging around them pronto. Hell, what some may call weird I call committed!
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.24.38.125
Posted on Sunday, June 12, 2011 - 02:12 pm:   

Jon – thanks a lot for clarifying that. I can't go into who told me about the book-destroying and in what context but it was not an informal chat. I'll look into it.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.24.38.125
Posted on Sunday, June 12, 2011 - 02:15 pm:   

However, I am more sure of the Waterstone's selection process: they base each purchasing decision primarily on the sales of your last two books. If one of those is a small press book the relatively low sales figure is noted and affects their decision. It may be that the process has become more nuanced since I was first told that (a decade ago) and they give more weight to the publisher of the book in question.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.24.38.125
Posted on Sunday, June 12, 2011 - 02:18 pm:   

In fact, it has come to my attention that I don't necessarily understand anything.
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Hubert (Hubert)
Username: Hubert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 178.118.72.58
Posted on Sunday, June 12, 2011 - 03:36 pm:   

If your last book sold 300 copies because only 300 were printed, Waterstone's will see that sales figure and decline to stock your next book.

Possibly, but I can't believe they're all iconoclasts at Waterstone's. Surely they know about small print runs? As for America: I've been in at least one cellar of a major NY bookstore which was chockful of new books, some of them unopened review copies, offered up for sale at half price. Who in his right mind would destroy a book if it could be sold anyway?
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Monday, June 13, 2011 - 01:01 pm:   

I hope you're right, Hubert, because what Joel suggested is happening sent a psychic shock through my very being.

'Fahrenheit 451' or what!!
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Hubert (Hubert)
Username: Hubert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 178.116.51.159
Posted on Monday, June 13, 2011 - 01:15 pm:   

It happens in other industries, of course. Literally tons of food are being destroyed every day to keep those prices up. But books? New ones at that? I'm not saying it's impossible, but it seems unlikely.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.4.19.77
Posted on Monday, June 13, 2011 - 10:35 pm:   

Finished 'The Death Of Grass'. Words are inadequate. It has gone straight into my Top 10 favourite novels of all time list.

Everyone who cares about literature at all needs to read this book. It is the single most prescient and frightening work of science fiction that the golden era of such works produced, as well as being one hell of a gripping narrative, with characters who are now engrained in my psyche as the definitive figures of the post-apocalyptic landscape. Nuff said - and you know I always mean exactly what I say.

Just about to start 'The Hook' (2000) by Donald E. Westlake.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.145.134.138
Posted on Monday, June 13, 2011 - 11:48 pm:   

There must be a lot of books in your top ten by now Stevie!!!
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Jonathan (Jonathan)
Username: Jonathan

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 91.143.178.131
Posted on Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - 09:04 am:   

Currently on the mahoosive fourth book of Erikson's Malazan epic, House of Chains. I bloody love Erikson. Epic fantasy at its best.

Next up, The City and The City by my old China.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.156.210.82
Posted on Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - 09:58 am:   

The Well by Jack Cady. Astonishing so far...
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Huw (Huw)
Username: Huw

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 61.216.48.121
Posted on Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - 10:11 am:   

His other stuff is good too, Zed. I loved McDowell's Ghost, The Jonah Watch, and his various short story collections, such as The Night We Buried Road Dog. His writing is full of vivid characterisation and atmosphere and historical authenticity (I think he's especially good at conveying a real sense of place).
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - 10:23 am:   

I was being a tad self-depracatory there, Weber (nuff said).

'The Death Of Grass' is one of those books that will flit in and out of the upper reaches of my Top 10 - out of probably thousands of books I've read in my lifetime - which I consider praise indeed. It's an astoundingly accomplished novel and the finest, and most convincing, post-apocalypse nightmare I have read, ousting even the mighty 'Farnham's Freehold'!! Like all the great works of literature it is a deceptively simple tale of survival and increasing desperation that works as straight narrative "adventure" and as stark allegory of the human condition - showing the beast that lurks within every man, woman and child at its most savage. The theme has been done to death since but Christopher's novel is the defining example of the form, made all the more poignant and shocking for being set in nice middle class England during the 1950s.

The guy who wrote the intro hit the nail on the head when he compared it to 'Lord Of The Flies'. It is so powerful and well written, so perfectly structured and with such strong, even iconic, characters that it deserves to stand alongside that work (my favourite novel of all). The ending is every bit as devastating and the book has so many hidden depths and resonances it will reward just as many re-reads, I have no doubt. John Christopher peaked early with this one and could never hope to recapture its stark unforgettable power imho. A genuine 20th Century masterpiece of science fiction and, I'll say it again, one of the best reads of my lifetime.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - 01:01 pm:   

Almost finished 'Mother Night' and once again I'm baffled and awed at how Vonnegut gets away with it. The books walks a fine tight-rope between the blackest of black humour, with more than its share of laugh-out-loud moments and quotable lines, and a crushingly depressing indictment of human nature at its worst.

The "heroes" are all tainted by their ambivalence toward Nazism but are somehow more credibly human, than those who persecute them, because of their acceptance of people as warts-and-all creatures driven by pragmatic necessity and redeemed by Love - the "nation of two" that lies at the heart of the book's message. The author's own experiences during the Second World War certainly gave him a jaundiced but even-handed view of humanity. This book, written in 1961, deserves to be mentioned alongside 'Catch 22' as one of the great satirical novels to have come out of that awful War.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - 11:40 am:   

Well I finished it. That final chapter is a choker. And the last two words of the novel sum everything up perfectly. Only Vonnegut could have brought things to such a wise yet understated conclusion.

I'll miss Howard W. Campbell Jnr, perhaps the most morally ambiguous and pathetically human of all the author's protagonists, but impossible to dislike, for all his sins.

I can't believe someone had the nerve to try and film this novel. Without Vonnegut's voice, and nod-and-a-wink asides, and the most delicate of directorial touches this story could all too easily come across as some kind of clever-clever apologia for Nazism. The deceptively rambling subtleties of the text are what bring across the author's humanitarian stance, the belief that even the most outwardly monstrous of us are still human and in reality no better or worse than the apparent saints... given the vicissitudes of circumstance. In the end are any of us truly what we appear to be?
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - 11:58 am:   

And, come to think of it, that same message chimes perfectly with the survivalist horrors of 'The Death Of Grass' and, indeed, 'Lord Of The Flies'.

People are complicated. Driven by the practicalities of day-to-day survival and partly redeemed by love - when convenient.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - 12:14 pm:   

Thank heavens for Bryant & May. I'm in need of something a bit more life-affirming and this latest mystery has the boys called in to investigate the one-by-one killings, in various imaginatively sick ways, of members of an aristocratic family by some unstoppable supernatural entity out of their past. So far it's like a mixture of 'Dr Phibes' and 'Kind Hearts And Coronets' by way of 'The Throwback' - and just as entertaining as that would imply.

I love how Fowler respects the reader's intelligence by using Biblical quotations and snatches of lyrics from Gilbert & Sullivan, amongst other sources, to seed clues to the unravelling of the mystery. And these books are "solveable" which is just another one of their great joys.
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Seanmcd (Seanmcd)
Username: Seanmcd

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 193.113.57.163
Posted on Thursday, June 16, 2011 - 01:46 pm:   

Just started Ramsey's 'The Grin of the Dark'. Only chapter 4 and already starting to get that all too familiar sensation of the creeping dread. Love it!

Stevie, did you get all those Bryant and May books online? Your reviews have me excited about this series and I just don't see them anywhere in town.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.147.142.232
Posted on Thursday, June 16, 2011 - 04:43 pm:   

Just finished Gone by Mo Hayder. I really do hope that she doesn't bring back Flea Marley as a character again. She really doesn't ring true - the scrapes she gets into with her frankly unbelievably stupid behaviour are starting to wear thin.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, June 17, 2011 - 11:44 am:   

Sean, I picked up three of them together second hand and I'm ordering the rest online as I need them. They're just superb! The kind of books that make you fall in love with genre fiction all over again.

Arthur Bryant is a misanthropic curmudgeon (the Victor Meldrew of police detectives) with a weird and wonderful brain that makes the most abstract of links between seemingly unrelated events and clues. He's also a staunch believer in the supernatural and his detection methods can only be described as eccentric and somewhat antiquated - he frowns upon CSI-like modern methods as time wasting poppycock.

John May is the polar opposite. A clear-headed logical detective with a razor sharp mind and the ability to read people and coax information out of them. He has no time for Bryant's "absurd" theories and denies the existence of anything remotely supernatural. He's also a ladies man and likes to keep up with all the latest fashions, youth culture, and technological advances, etc.

The two of them are like chalk and cheese and constantly bickering and getting in each other's way. It's a miracle they ever solve a case. But solve them they (usually) do... and over the years a grudging respect for each other's instincts and talents develops between them. They really are magical creations imo.
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Thomasb (Thomasb)
Username: Thomasb

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 75.25.141.120
Posted on Friday, June 17, 2011 - 11:06 pm:   

Finished "The Diviner's Tale" by Bradford Morrow. It was just OK, nothing to really write about. After reading another five stories in "American Fantastic Tales" (note to self: ask PS about John Crowley's story), I'm now on "Judgment on Deltchev" by Eric Ambler. Also reading "Moonwalking with Einstein" by Joshua Foer; "Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay" by Chabon; and "A State of Change."
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.145.129.232
Posted on Saturday, June 18, 2011 - 12:57 am:   

Just started Ysabel by Guyy kay - his first book to at least start in the real modern world since the Fionavar Tapestry 25 years ago... Christ on a bike, is it that log ago...
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Allybird (Allybird)
Username: Allybird

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 27.252.149.15
Posted on Saturday, June 18, 2011 - 07:40 am:   

Been to the small town book sale in the Wairarapa...Modern Masters of Horror edited by Frank Coffey, Mountolive, Balthazar and Cleo by Lawrence Durell, and Darkness Demands, Simon Clark. Daughter bought many books including The Reader's Digest Great Encyclopaediac Dictionaries. 3 1964 volumes. I said if she could carry them she could take them home..well we did between us.
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Allybird (Allybird)
Username: Allybird

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 49.227.85.249
Posted on Saturday, June 18, 2011 - 10:16 am:   

And got Possession by A.S. Byatt. Perhaps should have called myself I.C.A. Bird.
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Allybird (Allybird)
Username: Allybird

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 202.73.198.32
Posted on Saturday, June 18, 2011 - 10:17 am:   

Daughter was going to be called Iona...
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Hubert (Hubert)
Username: Hubert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 178.116.55.41
Posted on Saturday, June 18, 2011 - 04:18 pm:   

How's life in New Zealand, Ally?
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Saturday, June 18, 2011 - 05:21 pm:   

1/4 of the way through Bradbury's DEATH IS A LONELY BUSINESS. It's quite florid, with Bradbury caught in endless sentimentalizing, fantasizing (i.e., rendering memory into fantasy), seemingly, his growing up in Venice, California, in the 1940's. Compelling, even if taking its time to tell its story.

Dedication page says to the memory of Hammett, Chandler, Cain, and (Ross) McDonald. Bodes well: for American crime/detective, could you pick a fifth as superb?
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Hubert (Hubert)
Username: Hubert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 178.116.55.41
Posted on Saturday, June 18, 2011 - 07:19 pm:   

Craig, there's a lovely part concerning smelly armpits in Death is a Lonely Business. I'm not kidding and hate to spoil the book by saying more.
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Allybird (Allybird)
Username: Allybird

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 49.227.75.249
Posted on Saturday, June 18, 2011 - 10:32 pm:   

The place is beautiful, Al has his third (nothing happens quickly here :>) interview for a great job this week, and the rental is fine. I'm missing all back in the U.K. but am adjusting slowly. Thank you for asking, Huw!
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Allybird (Allybird)
Username: Allybird

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 49.227.75.249
Posted on Saturday, June 18, 2011 - 10:33 pm:   

Sorry. Meant to say Hubert....just woke up.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.4.19.77
Posted on Sunday, June 19, 2011 - 12:15 am:   

Craig, I would nominate; Patricia Highsmith, Jim Thompson and Donald E. Westlake as the three great American crime writers missing from that list (that I have read).

And once I've read some Cornell Woolrich I imagine (from all I've heard) that he'll belong in the same company.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.24.18.104
Posted on Sunday, June 19, 2011 - 12:41 am:   

Also John Franklin Bardin and David Goodis. But Bradbury's list is not a Top 10.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.4.19.77
Posted on Sunday, June 19, 2011 - 12:59 am:   

Strange coincidence me getting home to hear talk of Ray Bradbury, after just picking up 'The October Country' (at long last) in town today.

On reading the foreword I was surprised to learn that this book was originally published as 'Dark Carnival'. I always thought they were two different collections. Are all the stories the same?

And thanks for another couple of author recommendations, Joel. I tend to trust your judgement and have heard of neither of them before. Happy days!
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.150.143.176
Posted on Sunday, June 19, 2011 - 01:01 am:   

And Bradbury's list is a list of obvious influences on that particular book. I think it would have been a much different book if there'd been a Highsmith influence in there...
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.24.1.255
Posted on Sunday, June 19, 2011 - 02:15 am:   

Stevie, that's a long story. Most of Dark Carnival became the October Country, but several stories from the former were left out (a few of those appeared in the UK paperback collection The Small Assassin), the latter contained two fine new stories, and most of the reprinted stories were significantly revised, with both 'The Scythe' and 'The Emissary' becoming much stronger stories. A classic of pulp horror fiction was turned into a classic of literary horror fiction. Both books are superb but, all in all, The October Country is better. It remains, to my mind, the supernatural horror genre's single greatest book.

Getting hold of Dark Carnival will cost you (there's the Arkham House first edition which will cost you an arm and a leg, the UK edition which is incomplete and will cost you a hand, and the more recent complete Gauntlet edition which will just cost you), but it's worth it. But get The Small Assassin first, that has the best of the 'lost' stories.
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Hubert (Hubert)
Username: Hubert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 178.116.55.41
Posted on Sunday, June 19, 2011 - 09:00 am:   

If you haven't read anything from either collection I envy you, Stevie.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.24.13.230
Posted on Sunday, June 19, 2011 - 11:56 am:   

Stevie, do you have the whole book (19 stories) or the UK paperback edition? In the latter case you need The Small Assassin for the rest.

In complete form The October Country is a stunningly original book that changed the genre profoundly. Imagine its impact in the 1950s. As a model for American weird fiction it superseded Lovecraft and set the agenda for the next half-century of writing – for Etchison, Grant and others it's a foundation text.
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Hubert (Hubert)
Username: Hubert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 178.116.55.41
Posted on Sunday, June 19, 2011 - 03:01 pm:   

I sometimes wonder where Bradbury got his unique style. It's almost minimalistic in places, bordering on haiku and other forms of poetry and yet evocative of a gloom so genuine it borders on the transcendental. Even his science fiction has that quality. I find similar effects in Faulkner and (some of) Lovecraft. Etchison's stories are so Bradburylike in places he doesn't appear to have a voice of his own.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.4.19.77
Posted on Sunday, June 19, 2011 - 03:05 pm:   

Thanks for the info, Joel & Marc.

I picked up the 1998 edition, published by Earthlight. It has 19 stories, illustrations by Joe Mugnaini and a foreword by Ray, written in 1996.

I've read the stories; 'The Next In Line', 'The Emissary' & 'The Man Upstairs' in the Pan/Fontana anthos. Exceptional all.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.24.5.148
Posted on Sunday, June 19, 2011 - 03:23 pm:   

The whole book then, and with the original illustrations, a nice edition as I remember. Get thyself offline, disconnect the phone, brew up some coffee and prepare to be scared.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.150.143.176
Posted on Sunday, June 19, 2011 - 03:56 pm:   

You've never read the October Game???? Possibly the greatest horror short story ever written. certainly the greatest closing line.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.24.13.176
Posted on Sunday, June 19, 2011 - 05:20 pm:   

That story's not in The October Country, Weber. Yes, it's pretty disturbing. So much so that Bradbury didn't include it in a collection for about 25 years after its first publication! It's the kind of violent, grim horror story he abandoned but eventually admitted back into his portfolio.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Sunday, June 19, 2011 - 06:36 pm:   

Yes, going off "The October Country"'s not being in THE OCTOBER COUNTRY - Stephen King too notes (in DANSE MACABRE) how some of the stories from DARK CARNIVAL were not included in TOC, and then how stories from that period he had published were not included in either; King describes some with wicked delight, and seems to infer Bradbury was basically embarrassed by these early pieces, because they were so wicked and "flat" (purely gruesome horror).

I came late to THE OCTOBER COUNTRY, and wish I had read it earlier, it's a wonderful single-author collection of horror, yes probably the one to beat. Close seconds for me would be King's NIGHT SHIFT and Ramsey's DARK COMPANIONS.

I'm now over halfway through DEATH IS A LONELY BUSINESS, and note how many of the stories from THE OCTOBER COUNTRY are mentioned, stories the narrator is getting published; there's some I don't recognize, and I can only assume they're stories that do indeed exist in the Bradbury universe, but that I've not yet read. The style of this novel, so strange and minimal-surreal at first encounter, I've become acclimated to, and now am delighting in; it's a rich, visionary style so unlike anyone else (though I note scents of King and Avram Davidson; this being published in 1985, are they beneficiaries of Bradbury, or influencers?...) A novel of nostalgia, sentimentalism, the persistence of memory... and of the inevitable anxiety of all those same things....
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.150.143.176
Posted on Sunday, June 19, 2011 - 07:39 pm:   

Whoops. Of course it isn't. It's in Long After Midnight. I think I just linked the Octobers in the titles.

My bad. I shall now write 500 lines.
I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.etc
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Sunday, June 19, 2011 - 07:42 pm:   

You know, one more, and I might've believed you were actually sincere about it....
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.150.143.176
Posted on Sunday, June 19, 2011 - 07:49 pm:   

I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.I must Not get my Bradbury collections mixed in my head.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Sunday, June 19, 2011 - 08:11 pm:   

You know, you were doing good, but it was that LAST one there at the end, that put it over the top into sarcasm.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Sunday, June 19, 2011 - 08:18 pm:   

Going back to single-author horror story collections published in the author's lifetime (so assuming they had a hand in it somehow, either through selection or approval), I wonder what other books I'd put on a 10-best list? I mean, of the creme-de-la-creme of horror story collections?... At this moment in time, I'd probably include

IN A LONELY PLACE, Karl Edward Wagner
NIGHT'S BLACK AGENTS &/or HEROES AND HORRORS, Fritz Leiber
THE SPECIALTY OF THE HOUSE, Stanley Ellin
DARK GODS, T.E.D. Klein
THE BOOKS OF BLOOD, Clive Barker

... but I'm hardly as well read to be relied upon. I wonder what someone else might put in their top 10, in order?... (I mutter, trailing cheese on a string past Stevie's mouse hole...)
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Monday, June 20, 2011 - 04:45 pm:   

Half way through 'The Hook' (2000) and it's as if Westlake has been possessed by the spirit of Patricia Highsmith. This is an ingenious, moral dilemma based, psychological suspense thriller she would have been proud of.

I'd recommend it to any of the writers on here as a deliciously clever satirical sideswipe at the vanity and paranoia that drives the authorial ego, and at the increasingly profit driven publishing industry - that literary talents (like Joel, etc) rightly bemoan.

A talented writer of genre fiction finds himself without a publisher, due to poor sales of his previous works. Faced with the fact that "if you're not on the computer list, you don't exist", this critically acclaimed cult author faces depression, financial ruin and the possible end of his marriage.

Meanwhile the biggest selling and most prolific genre writer in America (based, no doubt, on Stephen King) is going through a costly divorce, the stress of which has brought on complete writer's block, while the deadline for his next volume is rapidly approaching, and his legal costs and personal pressure are mounting, with his venomous wife looking set to take half his fortune.

These two men come together by chance and, after comparing notes on their respective woes, half-jokingly (at first) come up with a desperate plan. Mr Can't Get Published gives his latest unread manuscript to Mr Writer's Block who will submit it, after a few agreed tweaks, under his name and split the million dollar payout from his publishers. Thus helping them both out of a crippling financial hole.

The only problem is keeping this arrangement secret, particularly from their wives, and what form of insurance can Mr Nobody get from Mr Bigshot that he will indeed pay up... inevitable ego clash and labyrinthine Highsmithian complications ensue leading to paranoia, double cross and murder. A supremely entertaining and darkly humorous psychological thriller with a relentless pace and beautifully timed twists that have me gripped and flummoxed as to how it will all come out. Vintage DEW.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Monday, June 20, 2011 - 05:27 pm:   

Craig, Clive Barker's 'Books Of Blood' would top that list, for me. I also agree with 'Night Shift', far and away SK's greatest collection, and Ramsey's 'Dark Companions' - my favourite of his (though I haven't read 'Alone With The Horrors'). I've also yet to read 'Night's Black Agents' or 'Dark Gods' but feel sure they'll be up there, along with 'The October Country'.

In fact most of the best such collections I have yet to read!
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Huw (Huw)
Username: Huw

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 61.216.200.252
Posted on Monday, June 20, 2011 - 08:22 pm:   

Here are a few to mull over...


Who Fears the Devil? - Manly Wade Wellman
Nine Horrors and a Dream - J.P. Brennan
Night's Black Agents - Fritz Leiber
E Pluribus Unicorn - Theodore Sturgeon
The October Country - Ray Bradbury
Ghouls in My Grave - Jean Ray
Sub Rosa - Robert Aickman
Deathbird Stories - Harlan Ellison
The Ice Monkey - M. John Harrison
Dark Gods - T.E.D. Kleini
In a Lonely Place - Karl Edward Wagner
The Jaguar Hunter - Lucius Shepard
Dark Companions - Ramsey Campbell
The Sons of Noah (or any other by Jack Cady)
A Nest of Nightmares - Lisa Tuttle
Grimscribe - Thomas Ligotti
The Two Sams - Glen Hirshberg

Not to mention earlier classics like Machen's
The House of Souls and similar landmark collections by M.R. James, Hoffmann, Poe, Le Fanu and others.
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Huw (Huw)
Username: Huw

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 61.216.200.252
Posted on Monday, June 20, 2011 - 08:24 pm:   

Kleini? Not sure how that happened!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.4.19.77
Posted on Monday, June 20, 2011 - 10:20 pm:   

Great list, Huw.

I'm embarrassed/excited to admit I've read only one of those - 'Dark Companions'!

What about; 'The King In Yellow' by Robert W. Chambers, 'The Country Of The Blind And Other Stories' by H.G. Wells & 'Widdershins' by Oliver Onions. I've read none of those either...

I'm beginning to realise most of my short story knowledge comes from anthologies rather than single author collections.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.4.19.77
Posted on Monday, June 20, 2011 - 10:28 pm:   

Actually 'The Collected Ghost Stories Of M.R. James' tops my list - closely followed by 'The Books Of Blood'.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Monday, June 20, 2011 - 11:22 pm:   

Huw's listed several of my own favourite single-author horror collections right there...

But I'd also add the following:

The Dark Country - Dennis Etchison
Red Dreams - Dennis Etchison
Waking Nightmares - Ramsey Campbell
Black Butterflies - John Shirley
Peaceable Kingdom - Jack Ketchum
Kiss Kiss - Roald Dahl
Strange Wine - Harlan Ellison
The Songbirds of Pain - Garry Kilworth
The Country of Tattooed Men - Garry Kilworth
Demons by Daylight - Ramsey Campbell
The Illustrated Man - Ray Bradbury
Fruiting Bodies - Brian Lumley
The Lost District and Other Stories - Joel Lane
Blue World - Robert R. McCammon
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.145.130.47
Posted on Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - 12:55 am:   

SEveral of my favourites already listed. I'll add Charlie Grant's For Fear of the Night into the mix as well. Also Jonathan Carroll's Panic Hand has to have a mention here - any collection with Mr Fiddlehead, Tired Angel and A Quarter Past you in them is straight up near the top.

Let's not forget Graham Joyce's Partial Eclipse either.

A touch of Chill by Joan Aiken.

By Bizrrre hands - Lansdale

Strange Relations - Philip Jose Farmer...

I could go on for ages like this

Leaving Genre out of it, there's some corkers in Never Trust a Rabbit by Jeremy dyson or exhibitionism by Toby Litt
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - 06:13 am:   

But yeah, that's just it, Weber, I was more seeking the BEST of the best of the best. I think, or would tend to think, that list would be small. Though these are all fine books for me to keep in mind, I've been looking for a good list of single-author horror anthos. And Huw's looks the closest to what I had in mind....

But others that come to mind - yes, A NEST OF NIGHTMARES by Tuttle, alternately TALES FROM THE NIGHTSIDE by Charles Grant, or THE GORGON AND OTHER BEASTLY TALES by Tanith Lee - I'm not sure they rise to the level of super-superb masterpiece collections... Etchison's THE DARK COUNTRY might (I'm not sure I've read it completely, but I've read much from it); also Aickman and Ellison's probably would, from what I've sampled....

Oh, and I'm sure if I got around to finishing it, Joyce Carol Oates' NIGHTSIDE would qualify - the few stories I read from it, blew me away!
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - 07:00 am:   

Finished Bradbury's DEATH IS A LONELY BUSINESS (1984), and it compels me to comment.... (maybe some SPOILERS)

The strengths are obvious—style, spectacle, story for the most part, characters, vision, the creation of a world, and so on—it's in the upper tier, yes. But I do have some brief criticism, for why I don't think this one crosses over for me, ultimately.

This one, the book jacket says, was Bradbury's second novel, published 22 years after his first, SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES (1962). I would say, this almost qualifies at that point as a second first novel—clearly too, with Bradbury producing and producing short-stories, his strengths clearly lie there, and not with the novel as a whole. Or, it shows the weaknesses of a first novel, even if it's not.

Mainly, I found the novel's pervasive solipsism its most distancing element: Bradbury channels himself through his (unnamed?) protagonist, and he comes off as self-obsessed and absorbed to the point of nausea. He's quite driven to create, to write and get published—we get some obligatory consuming exposition, that his past was spent reading Buck Rogers and the like—but it's very little, and there's no real sense of a love for literature on the protag's part, oddly. As the pages go by, he comes off more and more as ADD, autistic, in his single-minded drive to create and be a stirring agent in life, and his lack of ability to ingest (reflect, be moved by, be deepened by) the things of life.

The lead character in the end is one of those pernicious consumers I find actually so galling, and now in our current age, so destructive to the arts as a whole, to certain mediums in particular (so maybe all this is a personal beef—and, I'm speaking as an offender as well, being myself part producer, too). The Bradbury stand-in even infects Crumley with his ego-mania, where Crumley is now picking up and writing his own novel. There's no talk of readers, no idea of an audience (Crumley says at the end he'll have at least one reader, our protag; who just laughs at that)—there's barely conception of craft, since his only concern is getting published, wealthy, rich, famous; to the point where he has a nightmare of others not loving him for being a wealthy (clearly the most important part of this particular fantasy) writer (Bradbury penning this many years after he's become a fabulously [and seemingly effortlessly, by his bio] blessed American icon).

The solipsism in Bradbury here is what unfortunately leads to the novel's by-degrees-increasingly cloying sentimentalism and nostalgia. But story suffers the more for it, and so the second act in time becomes a seemingly endless repetition of various "lonelies" meeting their ends, until the culprit is un-spectaculalry discovered, disposed-of, and novel ends. Bradbury's main character is indeed not mature at the age of 27, but he only gestures at acknowledging that: there's no author wryly or ironically pointing this out from the background, invisibly or otherwise. Our lead protag is sincere, and his sincere naivete and insular, navel-gazing world-view are lauded, applauded, and promoted. Bradbury even goes on to castigate "dark and dreary" philosophers and thinkers and writers in history—he includes Poe and... and Nietzsche?!

In sum: It was Bradbury's choice of a starry-eyed innocent as his main protagonist (a stand in for himself, and he doesn't seem to have the brave ability to cast a plain and withering warts-and-all himself, like Woody Allen does), with only a curmudgeonly romantic (Crumley), a defiant romantic (Constance), and a wry romantic (Henry)—but romantics all—that keeps it ill-anchored (the murderer is a romantic too!). It is in this respect, that the novel falls far below the work of those writers Bradbury listed as inspirations, who delved gloriously in it all, the good the bad and the ugly.

But a page-turner, nonetheless, and maybe the world Bradbury created here improves/deepens in the series' next two novels.

One last thing which bodes ill for me, and I swear I only found this out after finishing this novel: Bradbury named his detective after the writer James Crumley—and I'm on record here saying I read Crumley's novel THE LAST GOOD KISS, and that I DETESTED it. So... man, maybe Bradbury read something of his that I just didn't....
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.24.13.140
Posted on Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - 09:07 am:   

Interesting comments, Craig. I felt it was very much a novel about ageing and bereavement, using a young narratior as an ironic device: his self-absorption is a front that corrodes as his sense of mortality becomes an obsession. In that context the narrator's callow egotism also seemed ironic – from that point of view the two sequels are a lot worse, I'm afraid, but they have some of the same bleak desperation at their heart. In the 1980s Bradbury seemed to recover his sense of the essential darkness of the world, and what drove that for him was getting old and seeing a lot of his friends die. For me, reading DIaLB after the contrived and condescending optimism of The Halloween Tree felt like reconnecting with the real Bradbury.
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.31.3
Posted on Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - 11:12 am:   

"Mountolive, Balthazar and Cleo by Lawrence Durrell..."

Ally, do make sure you get Justine (the first of the quartet) and read them in order.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.66.23.11
Posted on Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - 11:12 am:   

Craig - IMO the one's I've listed are among the best of the Best. The Graham Joyce collection certainly is in my own personal top 10, as are the Aikin and the Jon Carroll
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.66.23.11
Posted on Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - 12:14 pm:   

Oh and I think I meant to say Tales from the Nightside instead of For Fear of the Night. TFTN is a pitch perfect collection. If Damon comes, the gentle passing of a hand etc etc, it's another definite in my top 10 even if I did get the name wrong.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.156.210.82
Posted on Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - 12:36 pm:   

Tales from the Nightside...yep, that would make my list, too. A sublime collection.
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.132.93.2
Posted on Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - 12:42 pm:   

Craig - I started enjoying Dandelion Wine last year but ended up furious at it and abandoning it. He does great texture and some lovely little ideas, but then goes on and really labours, and expects that we are with him all the way.
I didn't enjoy Death is a Lonely Business either.

Still going on with The Magus; I'm liking, but it's not setting my world alight, or creating the kind of mystery the comparatively overlooked Aickman might have brought to it.
This gives me an idea for a thread.
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Huw (Huw)
Username: Huw

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 61.216.46.149
Posted on Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - 12:46 pm:   

Zed, as soon as I posted my little list I realised I'd omitted Etchison's The Dark Country - I had a feeling you'd mention it! Weber, I agree, the Charles L. Grant Arkham House collection is a superior one.

I should have listed something by Richard Matheson and Shirley Jackson. Not sure which collections - maybe Shocks and The Lottery. There are many other good writers who should be included on such a list - Lafcadio Hearn, Walter de la Mare, Algernon Blackwood, L.P. Hartley, Charles Beaumont, Davis Grubb, Angela Carter, and so many more.
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Rhysaurus (Rhysaurus)
Username: Rhysaurus

Registered: 01-2010
Posted From: 212.219.233.223
Posted on Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - 12:48 pm:   

I'm currently reading too many books at the same time. Rather than list them all, it's easier just to post a photograph...

too many books

There's a competition connected with these... Details on one of my blogs here:
http://postmodernmariner.blogspot.com/2011/06/too-many-books-at-same-time-still.html
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.66.23.11
Posted on Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - 02:30 pm:   

Mountolive? Thet's where popeye got a black eye - well someone told me Popeye got a black eye when he went to Mountolive anyway...
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.132.93.2
Posted on Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - 02:39 pm:   

Arg!
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - 03:50 pm:   

Joel, perhaps indeed I'm missing the total creation of the narrator's "callow egotism," since Bradbury would be doing well keeping firmly to this P.O.V., that would of course color everyone around it in the same romantic/nostalgic flavor (to mix metaphors; though in my defense, the novel's opening words are, "Venice, California, in the old days...", etc., denoting an author indeed looking back and now reflecting). Too, the narrator does change by the end: he calls girlfriend Peg back (exiled symbolically [and to the grave, in her Mexican tombs]) and will now commit to marriage and even failure for the sake of life ("we'll starve together but by God we'll live"). Too, too, my template-mindset mentality might be further fucking me up—the title, the influences, the set-up, leads me to expect one thing, and I'm receiving another, and so thrown... foiled again!...

Ally - the Alexandria Quartet is superb! I read those back in college, and would someday like to go back and read them again.

Weber - ah, sorry. I'm woefully deficient as it is when it comes to familiarity with more recent horror writers. TALES FROM THE NIGHTSID indeed should qualify as top-o'-the-top, upon reflection: it's best qualification is yes, now that I think about it, its being "pitch perfect" in every sense of that term.

Me, I'm now turning to Joseph Conrad's novella "Youth."
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Allybird (Allybird)
Username: Allybird

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 49.227.216.211
Posted on Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - 10:38 pm:   

I'll try to get on to it, Craig! I can't put Possession down. Plenty of detail which creates wonderful imagery. The cover on this copy is crap though. Some bright spark (for whatever market) decided on a photo cover and departed from the original cover artwork (The Beguiling of Merlin) by Burne-Jones.
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Allybird (Allybird)
Username: Allybird

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 49.227.216.211
Posted on Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - 10:42 pm:   

Forgot to mention...bought the A.S.Byatt book at the same sale as the ones by Lawrence Durell.
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Protodroid (Protodroid)
Username: Protodroid

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.79.28.1
Posted on Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - 11:30 pm:   

Rhysaurus, that photo makes it look like you've spontaneously combusted into books.
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Rhysaurus (Rhysaurus)
Username: Rhysaurus

Registered: 01-2010
Posted From: 212.219.233.223
Posted on Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - 10:29 am:   

That's exactly how I feel, proto...

I should have left my slippers in the shot to complete the illusion!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - 12:04 pm:   

Great stuff!

'Silent Children' (2000) by Ramsey Campbell finally arrived in the post, so I can start it today. It does sound grim...
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - 12:15 pm:   

Meanwhile, I'm half way through 'Seventy-Seven Clocks' and have formulated a working theory as to what lies behind the killings of the Whitstable family. I only hope I'm wrong...
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.66.23.11
Posted on Thursday, June 23, 2011 - 10:43 am:   

Now halfway through Ysabel by Guy Kay. This is actually a borderline horror novel. Set in the real world, the echoes of a battle 2000 years previous are returning to haunt the 15 year old son of a famous photographer in Provence while his father is working on a new book. Visions from the past, and more physical manifestations , threaten him seemingly at every turn. No real explanations yet but I like that. There are a pair of really creepy characters who are using him as a pan in their games and we have no idea yet which, if either of them, is on the side of good.

Cracking stuff, easy to read but with more depth and genuine feeling than most fantasy authors can manage. the characters seem real and some of the running jokes between them are genuinely funny.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, June 23, 2011 - 03:48 pm:   

Three quarters through 'The Hook' and all other books have been put aside. The plot twists and turns like a sidewinder and is marvellously cruel. Chapter 21 has my fingernails bleeding it was that heart-stoppingly suspenseful.

Donald E. Westlake was always a master of ingenious plot mechanics, that leave the reader in an ecstatic whirl, but the depth of psychological insight into the vanity and paranoia of the creative process, and its eternal battle with "success", as well as all those deliciously satirical jibes at the soul-sapping vagaries of the publishing industry make this one of the most thoroughly enjoyable popular thrillers I have read (outside of her dark majesty) in recent years. Why the hell hasn't anyone filmed it?!
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Rhysaurus (Rhysaurus)
Username: Rhysaurus

Registered: 01-2010
Posted From: 212.219.233.223
Posted on Friday, June 24, 2011 - 11:38 am:   

I have now finished reading the first of the books depicted on the chair in the photograph above...

The Tunnel by Ernesto Sabato... An outstanding novel about obsession and human intensity. Sabato died earlier this year. He was yet another Argentine writer of immense talent; that country seems to overflow with exceptional writers.

The 'tunnel' of the title is a metaphor for the life-journey of the narrator, the tortured artist Juan Pablo Castel, who believes that the woman he loves, Maria Iribarne, is travelling through a similar tunnel parallel to his own: his hope is that these tunnels will meet in the future. But it eventually dawns on him that his own tunnel is the only one, that it is actually a prison and she is free outside it.

His decent into madness is treated with admirable skill. There is black comedy in the situation too and Sabato always performs a very delicate balancing act: at times we identify completely with the narrator, at other times we are repelled by his overbearing character.

This is the best novel I have read this year so far...
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.156.210.82
Posted on Friday, June 24, 2011 - 12:07 pm:   

Just finished The Well by Jack Cady.

Excellent stuff - and the first horror novel to actually scare me in ages. I was prowling about the house in the dark around 1AM this morning, checking everything was locked up before bed, and suddenly realised that I was unnerved and wanted the lights on.

Just started The Sheep by Simon Maginn. Missed this back in the day and am catching up on it now.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, June 24, 2011 - 12:09 pm:   

Read 'The Hook' right through to the end last night - it's that kind of book. The chilling denouement has that thoroughly satisfying inevitability of a true narrative craftsman. I was left reminded of Ira Levin or Stanley Ellin as much as Patricia Highsmith. The last chapters are a tour-de-force of character disintegration in the face of psychological pressure... and when the snap happens it rounds everything off deliciously.

I'd dearly love to see Roman Polanski turn this into another edge-of-the-seat suspense thriller in the style of 'The Ghost'. It could have been written for him.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, June 24, 2011 - 12:24 pm:   

And from one master crime writer to another...

I've been nervously putting this one off for a while. Partly to prolong the expectation and partly out of fear. But it's time to bite the bullet.
I'm about to start <gulp> 'I Was Dora Suarez' (1990) by Derek Raymond. The infamous fourth entry in his shattering Factory Series.

This and 'Silent Children' on the go at the same time... wish me luck, folks.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.66.23.11
Posted on Friday, June 24, 2011 - 01:33 pm:   

Just realised that Ysabel is a sort of sequel to the Fionavar tapestry. Young Ned's Aunt Kim and Uncle Dave are two of the characters who returned to our world at the end of the trilogy. Suddenly this book has taken a whole different hue...
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.66.23.11
Posted on Friday, June 24, 2011 - 02:06 pm:   

He's done it very cleverly. he's not referenced any events directly from the old trilogy. He's just given physical description of the characters and let me the reader figure it out for myself.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.4.19.77
Posted on Saturday, June 25, 2011 - 02:05 pm:   

Nine chapters in and 'Silent Children' is freaking me out just a bit. Of all the loathsome grotesques Ramsey Campbell has created Hector Woollie is by far the most repulsive (even poor old John Horridge seems merely eccentric beside him). The scenes in which he sits watching children playing and laughing in the playground, thinking his thoughts and humming his lullaby, are beyond uncomfortable and exceptionally well written.

Thank heavens for Bryant & May (again) as it's a blessed relief to return to their world after having been in this man's mind.
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Lincoln (Lincoln_brown)
Username: Lincoln_brown

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 121.214.55.206
Posted on Sunday, June 26, 2011 - 12:19 pm:   

A couple of Ramsey re-reads: finished 'The Hungry Moon' last week, and I'm currently halfway through 'The Parasite'.
Next up - maybe some James Herbert. Probably 'The Dark' or 'Shrine'. Then I might tackle the 'Rats' trilogy.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.4.19.77
Posted on Sunday, June 26, 2011 - 12:23 pm:   

'Shrine' is James Herbert's scariest book imho, Lincoln.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.4.19.77
Posted on Sunday, June 26, 2011 - 04:16 pm:   

I've been struggling to articulate my thoughts on the first two chapters of 'I Was Dora Suarez'.

To call this great crime writing is an insult to Derek Raymond (Robin Cook). I am aware this is going to sound ridiculously hyperbolic but I don't think I've ever been as emotionally and physically affected by any passage of writing in my life before. Anyone familiar with this book is sure to understand the depth of feeling those chapters can't help but manifest in the reader. I was right to be scared.

Chapter 1 is the single most sickening passage of literature I have ever experienced. Not because of any gleeful attention to detail - I've experienced that in spades with the Pan Horror Books, 'American Psycho', 'The Naked Lunch', etc, etc - but because of the palpable sense of barely controlled rage in Raymond's writing and because of his unflinching determination to create a sense of pure inhuman evil on the page. The man isn’t just writing here, he is summoning up demons from hell, he is communicating to all of us his deep-seated revulsion at the human race and what it is capable of. There is hatred and hopelessness here, a wasting sickness at the heart of the author’s soul one can feel seeping out of every harrowing sentence. We are made to live every minutely strung out mental impulse and sensation of a frenzied axe-wielding sex killer, and his victims - an attractive young woman, the focus of his lust, and an unfortunate old lady who stumbles upon the scene to become another opportunistic plaything - and none of the psychic horror and bestial excitement of those awful minutes is spared us. All other psychopaths in literature shrink and wither in the face of this unbridled onslaught. The nameless killer becomes something more than just a character, he (it) becomes the mythic archetype of all our darkest imaginings. What he does to his victims and their remains and to himself – for sado-masochistic kicks – is nothing new but is something we all care not to think about too explicitly. We’re not just made to think about it here, we’re made to feel it, and hear it, and taste it and worst of all smell it. The strength of the writing is so pungent and heartfelt and approaching to madness that I swore I felt my gorge rising and had to put the book aside at several passages in this first unholy chapter alone. I also came close to tears. Fuck but this is strong stuff!!

Then, soothingly, like a blast of redemption from heaven, came Chapter 2 and never have I been so glad to get back inside the mind of a hero – our unnamed Detective Sergeant. What this poor man has been through in the previous three books has left him a broken spirited wreck, drummed out of the force for striking a superior officer when the daily horrors and official hypocrisy he had to face finally got to him, and left with nothing but tragic memories of long gone snatches of doomed happiness. He is a man long past disillusionment and slowly sinking into decay. What hasn’t left him is his deep rooted capacity for empathy with life’s innocent victims and a steely determination to right injustice and face down evil – a modern day knight in tarnished armour if ever there was one. He comes across a newspaper report of the preceding atrocity and feels the old motivations stirring. You can probably guess the rest… called out of “retirement” for one last case, one last wrestle with Satan, once last shot at redemption. The scenes in which our hero is left alone at the crime scene to do his stuff, what his superiors know only he is capable of, follow an inverse pattern to the horrors of Chapter 1. He goes over every gut-wrenching detail and, once again, we are made to live every thought, every sight, every instinct, every jolt of empathy of this beautiful human being as he bonds with the victims, becomes Dora Suarez and Betty Carstairs, treats their poor defiled remains with utmost tenderness and silently wishes them peace and promises them justice (this sequence did move me to several flicked away tears, and an embarrassed glance round the pub I was reading it in). Then he allows himself to become the Thing, the nameless killer, his dark inverse, and we’re in the realms of existential psychic horror the likes of which I haven’t experienced since that chapter in ‘The Heart Of The Matter’, when Scobie heard the thing he had released from the bottle howling round and around the house, knocking and tapping at doors and windows to be let in (shudder). In Chapter 2 all the hatred for humanity has turned to a last tear-filled, almost devoid of hope, beseeching for love to prevail. The author has bared his soul and is on his knees to the reader, begging us to choose our paths wisely. Lord alone knows what Derek Raymond has in store for me after this!!

This isn’t crime writing. This is the greatest of great literature ever to come out of these islands. If the author had dropped dead after only completing these first two chapters the work would still be talked of in hushed tones as a masterpiece. Will I read a better book this year? Somehow I doubt it…
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Sunday, June 26, 2011 - 08:31 pm:   

Joel: I've been meaning to follow up on your offhand comment on June 19 above:

[THE OCTOBER COUNTRY] contained two fine new stories...

Was just curious: which two of the four total stories added to TOC did you think were, obviously, finer than the other two?
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.4.19.77
Posted on Monday, June 27, 2011 - 01:44 am:   

The literary excellence of Derek Raymond has inspired me to rethink my Top 10 writers who have worked within the crime genre, with favourite crime novel by each:

1. Fyodor Dostoevsky - 'Crime And Punishment' (1866)
2. Graham Greene - 'Brighton Rock' (1938)
3. Derek Raymond - 'I Was Dora Suarez' (1990) on the strength of 3 chapters and the 3 books preceding it.
4. Patricia Highsmith - 'A Dog's Ransom' (1972)
5. Raymond Chandler - 'Farewell, My Lovely' (1940)
6. Jim Thompson - 'The Killer Inside Me' (1952)
7. Dashiell Hammett - 'Red Harvest' (1929)
8. Arthur Conan Doyle - 'The Hound Of The Baskervilles' (1902)
9. G.K. Chesterton - no novels but 'The Complete Father Brown' (1911-1936) is to crime what 'The Collected M.R. James' is to horror.
10. Donald E. Westlake - 'The Hunter' (1962)

I enjoyed that...
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.24.30.82
Posted on Monday, June 27, 2011 - 09:22 am:   

Craig, mistake, sorry. I should have said four.

Stevie – yes, I was Dora Suarez is truly remarkable. It has one major flaw – an autopsy scene where it's clear Raymond has no idea about the biology of AIDS, and his editor didn't have the nerve to correct him – but otherwise it's a masterpiece that left its author (by his own account) burned out creatively and personally.

From the sublime to the ridiculous: how can you also like the smug, dogmatic and patronising Father Brown stories? They sit in your crime fiction Top 10 like a mug of sweet tea in a row of single malts...
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Monday, June 27, 2011 - 12:09 pm:   

Joel, they are wonderful little jewels of mysteries. Each one a precisely constructed puzzle box containing philosophical riches. I genuinely consider them great works of literature, in which Chesterton (a devout Catholic) wrestled with the nature and purpose of Evil in the world, and happened to create one of crime fiction's great eccentric detectives into the bargain .

As for IWDS, I'll just have to construct some absurd theory to cover over the inaccuracy. Maybe the pathologist was having a bad day?

Actually I've noticed some other fracturing of narrative coherence (what some would call lapses of logic or accuracy), particularly during the hero's reading through of Dora's diary, that only add to the sense of madness emanating from Raymond himself. Reading this book you really get the impression that the author is as disturbed and unreliable in what he relates as his characters. That's what makes the book so bloody potent, demoniacal even.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.27.14.15
Posted on Monday, June 27, 2011 - 12:33 pm:   

"The best place to hide a leaf is in a tree."
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Monday, June 27, 2011 - 01:22 pm:   

"Has it never struck you that a man who does next to nothing but hear men's real sins is not likely to be wholly unaware of human evil?"
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

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Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Monday, June 27, 2011 - 01:26 pm:   

Chesterton didn't 'wrestle' with anything, he just delivered smug homilies designed to put across the idea that neither science nor social enquiry can make sense of human behaviour, only the authority of the True Church can do that. To put his nonsense in the same category as Hammett or Thompson is a serious mistake. They were concerned with rational illumination and insight, whereas Chesterton is concerned only with the spurious dry ice of 'the human mystery' within which the church shines its unique light.
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Joel (Joel)
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Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Monday, June 27, 2011 - 01:30 pm:   

It's not just a religious thing, of course. Mrs Marple is Father Brown without the rosary beads, but with the same twisted reactionary mindset and patronising voice.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Monday, June 27, 2011 - 04:03 pm:   

To seek to understand human nature, and the evil it is capable of, we need the hunger for spiritual and philosophical truth to be part of the equation, on an equal footing with science and social enquiry. Without the belief (for me as logical a certainty as the non-existence of nothingness) that there must be something more than us in the universe there would have been no reason for morality, no reason for civilization, no reason for Art and no reason for love.

To condemn all facets of spirituality because of man's blinkered adherence to tribal dogma (which I despise as much as yourself, Joel) is to not see the tree for the leaves.

All the great works of fiction tackle this ultimate philosophical question. In crime fiction it is particularly noticeable in the differing methods of detection applied, as most clearly evidenced in the counter balancing techniques of; Sherlock Holmes (deductive) & Father Brown (intuitive), John May (logical) & Arthur Bryant (fortean), The Continental Op (professional) & Philip Marlowe (romantic).

I know what side our great unnamed Detective Sergeant belongs to... the side with wings.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Tuesday, June 28, 2011 - 06:47 am:   

Oh, okay Joel. Darn, was hoping to get your assessment of those added stories, which you thought were better than the others.

But since I "have you on the phone," so to speak, and greatly value your opinion - have you read/could you rate these Cornell Woolrich novels I've managed to get a hold of? Which would you say are must reads?

INTO THE NIGHT
RENDEZVOUS IN BLACK
THE BLACK ANGEL
THE BLACK CURTAIN
WALTZ INTO DARKNESS

Thanks in advance.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.24.28.103
Posted on Tuesday, June 28, 2011 - 09:32 am:   

Craig, the middle three are all superb, most especially Rendezvous in Black. I'm less keen on Waltz Into Darkness, an overcooked historical melodrama with some powerful content but way too much emotional and moralistic favouring ladled on top. I haven't read Into the Night, which was a novel in progress and was finished by Laurence Block long after Woolrich's death. I'm told it's good though.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

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Posted From: 194.66.23.11
Posted on Tuesday, June 28, 2011 - 10:58 am:   

Craig - what are the 4 added stories?
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John Llewellyn Probert (John_l_probert)
Username: John_l_probert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 213.253.174.81
Posted on Tuesday, June 28, 2011 - 12:04 pm:   

Mrs Marple is Father Brown without the rosary beads, but with the same twisted reactionary mindset and patronising voice.



What do you think of Poirot, Joel?
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, June 28, 2011 - 12:42 pm:   

Agatha Christie wrote entertaning potboilers while G.K. Chesterton wrote philosophical conundrums. The two aren't remotely in the same ballpark as writers.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.24.10.211
Posted on Tuesday, June 28, 2011 - 02:06 pm:   

Chesterton wrote heavy-handed, turgid potboilers posing as philosophical statements. Their bottom line is that since reason cannot fathom the 'mystery' of life, only unreason will do. Christie had less literary skill but is considerably less annoying.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

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Posted From: 2.24.10.211
Posted on Tuesday, June 28, 2011 - 02:09 pm:   

John, I've not read much (only a few short stories) of the Poirot story-cycle but it's another case of time machine plagiarism, with the author stealing from as yet unwritten Jules de Grandin stories.
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John Llewellyn Probert (John_l_probert)
Username: John_l_probert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 213.253.174.81
Posted on Tuesday, June 28, 2011 - 03:02 pm:   

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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, June 28, 2011 - 03:15 pm:   

Or even Hercule Flambeau...?

Ridicule is the lowest form of criticism, Joel.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.24.39.56
Posted on Tuesday, June 28, 2011 - 04:52 pm:   

Frivolity isn't any form of criticism, Stevie: it's just a natural reaction to the underlying sadness of existence.

I'm intensely sceptical of what might be called the capital letter themes – Humanity, Destiny, Time, Infinity, Evil, Sin – they all seem to me rather adolescent. That kind of writing is offering readers an escape from the finite. But the finite is what we are and where we are. I don't want a book to waste my time with some notion of the 'eternal verities'. It's far more useful – and far more difficult – to address more concrete questions, such as: How should our society be organised? Who should be in control? If the author answers those questions by saying that the status quo is just fine, nothing he or she goes on to say about human nature or cosmic infinity will cut any ice with me.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, June 28, 2011 - 05:07 pm:   

Frivolity is the driving force behind my existence, Joel, apart from when I'm faced with a work as devastating as 'I Was Dora Suarez'.

I've now read the AIDS scene and was moved more to horror by its Wilfred Owen like poetic insistence on the merciless physical mutilation and cruelty of the disease than by any number of worthy documentaries or po-faced dramas. Raymond's impassioned outrage at the double defiling, by a faceless universe and a fucked up shit-for-brains prick, on this poor defenceless innocent girl is one of the most shattering passages of literature I have read (again). The poetically uncharacteristic warnings by the pathologist and his almost ritualistic drawing back of the sheet to reveal the full ravaged horror of the body beneath reveal the author's true intent. I've never experienced what it is must be like to witness the slow cruel destruction of a loved one's body by this vile disease but thanks to the genius of Derek Raymond I have experienced the scalp prickling horror and the humbling empathy it brings in its wake. God bless that man... wherever he is.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, June 28, 2011 - 05:13 pm:   

There is no such thing as the definitely finite, Joel, only the apparently finite. That's due to our necessarily limited sensory apparatus and intellectual capacity. Do you really think that Albert Einstein or Leonardo Da Vinci represent the highest level of reasoning that this universe has been able to come up with?
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.24.39.56
Posted on Tuesday, June 28, 2011 - 06:01 pm:   

The autopsy scene is powerfully written, yes, but the specific conclusion the narrator draws from it – that the dead woman was infected with HIV by a certain route – goes on to be a major plot device, it's the chapter's defining 'clue', and it's nonsense because AIDS is not a local infection, it does not spread from one tissue area to another like gangrene, it's a bloodstream infection whose symptoms have no relationship to the site of infection. AIDS does not ever develop in the part of the body where the infection took place and then spread gradually through the rest of the body. SOMEONE should have told Raymond he was falsifying medical reality for the sake of a plot device.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.24.39.56
Posted on Tuesday, June 28, 2011 - 06:12 pm:   

"There is no such thing as the definitely finite, Joel, only the apparently finite. That's due to our necessarily limited sensory apparatus and intellectual capacity. Do you really think that Albert Einstein or Leonardo Da Vinci represent the highest level of reasoning that this universe has been able to come up with?"

Not sure I get your point here, Stevie. Do you think G.K. Chesterton was somehow a step beyond those guys? If the infinite and the eternal are beyond our reach, doesn't that support my argument? If great thinkers cannot take us to the core of the infinite, why should I accept that some dogmatic reactionary writing a novel can do so?

Let's look at a different case. J.B. Priestley wrote mystical, strange stories and plays, but they were rooted in a democratic, humanist sensibility that took revelation to be a part of the human potential denied by social norms, rather than the exclusive property of a 'spiritual' elite that happens to support the established social order. His body of work is inspiring, vital and creative, whereas Chesterton's is twisted, dead and hollow.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Tuesday, June 28, 2011 - 11:21 pm:   

I've never read any Chesterton to my best knowledge, though I'm well aware of him, of course. And to compare written work to movies based upon them, is almost always a foolish thing to do.

However, and just fwiw: the flawed film THE DETECTIVE, based on the Father Brown series, still has as its greatest strength the central character, played masterfully by Alec Guiness - really, the sole reason to watch it. And when you say, Joel...

[Chesterton's Father Brown series displays "the human potential" as] the exclusive property of a 'spiritual' elite that happens to support the established social order... Chesterton's [Father Brown series] is twisted, dead and hollow

... my goodness, the character of that movie, is quite surely not that at all! And if it's any reflection of its literary inspiration, then surely... that can't be entirely true?...

To say that Father Brown is a proponent of the status quo - isn't that any detective, who seeks to root out the malefactor who has disturbed the orderly rule of law? Isn't the orderly rule of law - the world before the murder in a murder mystery has appeared - exactly that, the status quo?...
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.24.5.248
Posted on Wednesday, June 29, 2011 - 12:50 am:   

"To say that Father Brown is a proponent of the status quo - isn't that any detective, who seeks to root out the malefactor who has disturbed the orderly rule of law? Isn't the orderly rule of law - the world before the murder in a murder mystery has appeared - exactly that, the status quo?..."

Craig, I'm sorry, but in saying that you betray a complete lack of acquaintance with the noir genre. Hammett said the purpose of his stories was to reveal the hidden corruption beneath the fabricated exterior of normality. Hammett, Thompson and McCoy were all committed Communists for whom 'the malefactor' was the capitalist system and the social norms it enforces. Such novels as The Thin Man, The Getaway and No Pockets in a Shroud make that pretty obvious. Contemporary noir writers such as John B. Spencer are clearly writing in the same vein. The malefactor is the status quo. That's what noir fiction is all about.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.24.5.212
Posted on Wednesday, June 29, 2011 - 01:28 am:   

"Chesterton's Father Brown series displays "the human potential" as] the exclusive property of a 'spiritual' elite that happens to support the established social order... Chesterton's [Father Brown series] is twisted, dead and hollow."

Er no, I said that Chesterton's writing (and in fact I was thinking more of the appalling The Man Who Was Thursday) communicates the idea that revelation is the exclusive property of a spiritual elite. Which it certainly does.

The volume of collected Father Brown stories I possess has an introduction by a Catholic writer who says a major purpose of the stories was "to show the Protestants where they get off". You can't get away from how doctrinal or how right-wing Chesterton is if you look at his crime stories in the context of his life and work as a whole.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Wednesday, June 29, 2011 - 05:05 am:   

Point taken, Joel. But we weren't specifically talking noir here - and of course, the noir detective, is a different breed altogether from the "armchair" variety. Agatha Christie and G.K. Chesterton were not writing noir; Sherlock Holmes, Lord Peter Wimsey, and Nero Wolfe are not noir detectives.

You're making a point for my template theory (I love pulling that dagger out of my scabbard ); which I would too argue, that it must as well dictate that, indeed, the noir detective reveal "the hidden corruption beneath the fabricated exterior of normality" (willingly or unwillingly) Funny, but I made the point to someone the other day, that I think the works of Chandler and Hammett should be required reading in high school, because they impart vital knowledge you almost can't get better elsewhere: the understanding that all forms of government and organized institutions of control, are so very susceptible to, and often already riddled with, abject corruption. They are anti-romantic, and that's probably why there would be such resistance to such a curriculum.

And then I'm with you again, and heartily agree: "the idea that revelation is the exclusive property of a spiritual elite," is an abhorrent ideology, and one of my own most major of beefs with the Roman Catholic religion.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.24.29.140
Posted on Wednesday, June 29, 2011 - 09:11 am:   

Indeed... 'detective fiction' is a very conflicted field, as Chandler's fine essay 'The Simple Art of Murder' illustrates. Though as Chandler noted, Sherlock Holmes is a less cosy figure than some of the others, because he is grimly aware of the ways of the world, has little regard for social conventions and hypocrisies, and has a rare capacity for strategic intervention. Conan Doyle was an influence on the 'hard-boiled' school of crime fiction, contrary to appearances.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.24.29.140
Posted on Wednesday, June 29, 2011 - 09:16 am:   

A great moment in the era of McCarthyism came when McCarthy himself interrogated Dashiell Hammett and asked: "At a time when our Government is fighting Communism, do you think it's appropriate that the works of a known Communist are being given to young people through our schools and libraries?"

Hammett replied: "Well sir, I think if I were fighting Commmunism, I wouldn't do it by giving people any books at all."
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.183.78.66
Posted on Wednesday, June 29, 2011 - 03:14 pm:   

Finished 'Full Dark House' - now reading William Sloane's 'To Walk The Night'.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Wednesday, June 29, 2011 - 08:07 pm:   

What I particularly admire about Agatha Christie's work, is when she just barely touches the fringe of landscape usually reserved for strains of the traditional "hardboiled detective" - namely, for me, when she creates "perfect" worlds of tea-cup order, that someone has come to suspect hides something sinister, something nefarious and malicious... an ancient act or deed, a persistent presence, something horrible or nasty that went unnoticed by all; but that has just touched the consciousness of an observer, who then dies trying to figure out more; or if the detective/"detective," eventually discovers it.

At Stevie's near constant trumpeting, I've decided to pick up Graham Greene's THE HEART OF THE MATTER. Will give you a report later, Stevie....
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.4.19.77
Posted on Thursday, June 30, 2011 - 02:52 am:   

It's a carefully crafted yet heartfelt and subtle book, Craig, that offers up its beauties and its horrors by slow degrees. I have read no other book that so accurately and painfully ploughs the furrow of transcendent faith and filthy reality so unambiguously. It is the perfect counterpoint to 'I Was Dora Suarez'. A book that plumbs the very depths of one man's subconscious Hell with such nightmarish rage that all questions of "accuracy" or "genre" or even "intent" appear merely academic. Literature, and indeed poetry, cannot aspire to anything better imho.
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Karim Ghahwagi (Karim)
Username: Karim

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 193.89.189.24
Posted on Thursday, June 30, 2011 - 10:06 am:   

I am reading 'The Bottoms' by Joe Lansdale, which is just excellent. The opening of the novel completely took me off guard, and was unsettling indeed. A truly memorable autopsy scene in this as well, where three boys are hiding and witnessing the examination. Also read Brian Evenson's Dead Space novelisation, which was a great deal of fun with nods to The Abyss particularly.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.66.23.11
Posted on Thursday, June 30, 2011 - 12:22 pm:   

The Bottoms is possibly my favourite Lansdale novel to date.
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Rhysaurus (Rhysaurus)
Username: Rhysaurus

Registered: 01-2010
Posted From: 212.219.233.223
Posted on Thursday, June 30, 2011 - 12:55 pm:   

Where do you take it on dates, Weber? For a romantic meal or to the cinema?
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.66.23.11
Posted on Thursday, June 30, 2011 - 02:09 pm:   

I take it up the... No I won't use that joke.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, June 30, 2011 - 03:17 pm:   

I'm outta here.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.24.29.158
Posted on Thursday, June 30, 2011 - 10:07 pm:   

Weber, the Salford by-laws expressly forbid you from taking a book to bed with any intention other than reading it.
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Rhysaurus (Rhysaurus)
Username: Rhysaurus

Registered: 01-2010
Posted From: 212.219.233.223
Posted on Friday, July 01, 2011 - 11:51 am:   

...and the Salford in-laws want to get into bed with you...
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.4.19.77
Posted on Saturday, July 02, 2011 - 12:24 pm:   

Finished 'I was Dora Suarez'... the last chapter is as emotionally devastating as the first was sickening. Hell on Earth. I'll never be able to look at a bicycle wheel the same way again.

Joel, I'd just like something clarified. The way I read the novel it never actually states by who or when Dora was infected with AIDS, just that she was in the advanced stages and had contracted it due to long term sexual abuse at the Parallel Club. As for her insides being eaten away... I got the impression this wasn't due to the disease but to the other "alien presence" that had been introduced into her (over and over again). And, yes, my guts are heaving just thinking about it.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Saturday, July 02, 2011 - 12:45 pm:   

I might read this next, Stevie - it's been on my to-read pile for far too long, and I love Raymond's work.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.4.19.77
Posted on Saturday, July 02, 2011 - 01:11 pm:   

I can't recommend enough that you read the entire Factory Series in order. It gives the ending of IWDS a doubly emotional punch. Derek Raymond was a prose poet of outstanding ability. I'm lost in admiration for the guy.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.4.19.77
Posted on Saturday, July 02, 2011 - 01:19 pm:   

And now for a much needed change of tone. Something completely removed from grim reality!

About to start a re-read of Frank Herbert's 'Pandora Sequence', starting with my first read of the introductory volume, 'Destination Void' (1966) - telling of the generation starship's voyage through space before encountering that fateful world.
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Thomasb (Thomasb)
Username: Thomasb

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 75.25.141.120
Posted on Saturday, July 02, 2011 - 09:02 pm:   

I'm about to begin reading "Started Out Early, Took My Dog," by Kate Atkinson. Also reading a book on memory called "Moonwalking with Einstein" by Joshua Foer. "The Green Woman" by Peter Straub, Michale Easton and John Bolton (I must admite reading a graphic novel is proving a challenge for me); and "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay" by Michael Chabon.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Sunday, July 03, 2011 - 06:41 pm:   

Finished The Heart of the Matter - hardly light summer reading. I'll have to find your review of it here, Stevie. I found it quite compelling and the writing is, of course, enviably wonderful. [some SPOILERS] It's as much a novel of mental unravelling and increasing psychosis; in that respect, it's almost on the edge of being a psychological horror novel (though it's not). It's hard to say whether the novel is indeed as (pro) Catholic a novel as its reputation, or whether it's in the end virulently anti-Catholic. Or, in the end-end, whether it's just the story of one man's mind going totally mad in a unique way. I'll certainly look for more Greene though, it's about time I was properly introduced to him....
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.24.39.103
Posted on Sunday, July 03, 2011 - 08:25 pm:   

"The way I read the novel it never actually states by who or when Dora was infected with AIDS, just that she was in the advanced stages and had contracted it due to long term sexual abuse at the Parallel Club. As for her insides being eaten away... I got the impression this wasn't due to the disease but to the other "alien presence" that had been introduced into her (over and over again)."

That reading is a better version of the autopsy conclusions! But I got the impression (and so did crime writer Simon Avery) that the local internal damage was being represented as symptoms of AIDS starting at the infection site, with the appalling invasion having been the disease vector. I'll re-read the book soon, but not just now, I'm somewhat under the weather and can't cope with it...
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Rhysaurus (Rhysaurus)
Username: Rhysaurus

Registered: 01-2010
Posted From: 212.219.233.223
Posted on Monday, July 04, 2011 - 11:27 am:   

> About to start a re-read of Frank Herbert's 'Pandora Sequence', starting with my first read of the introductory volume, 'Destination Void' (1966)...

Stevie: in my late teens, Herbert was my favourite writer; but I haven't read any of his stuff since then. I'm thinking about re-reading Whipping Star, which was always one of my favourite novels of his.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.156.210.82
Posted on Monday, July 04, 2011 - 11:56 am:   

Once I finish Simon Maginn's brilliant Sheep this week, I'm going to read Peter Straub's "Blue Rose" trilogy of novels, starting with a re-read of Koko just to reacquaint myself with the novel, and then launching into the other two in their intended order.
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Rhysaurus (Rhysaurus)
Username: Rhysaurus

Registered: 01-2010
Posted From: 212.219.233.223
Posted on Monday, July 04, 2011 - 12:05 pm:   

Are you going on holiday soon, Gary?
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Rhysaurus (Rhysaurus)
Username: Rhysaurus

Registered: 01-2010
Posted From: 212.219.233.223
Posted on Monday, July 04, 2011 - 12:07 pm:   

I ask that question because you promised to read Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude when you went on holiday (you didn't specify which holiday)... Just like I promised to read Amis's Money (but haven't).
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.30.22
Posted on Monday, July 04, 2011 - 01:14 pm:   

I've just finished the collected edition of Cradlegrave (originally published in 2000 AD) - remarkably powerful stuff, for which I'm writing the introduction.
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.35.248.2
Posted on Monday, July 04, 2011 - 01:25 pm:   

Rhys - do you like Phillip Jose Farmer?
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.156.210.82
Posted on Monday, July 04, 2011 - 02:24 pm:   

you promised to read Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude when you went on holiday (you didn't specify which holiday)...

Exactly. Who knows which holiday it shall be?
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.27.14.15
Posted on Monday, July 04, 2011 - 02:30 pm:   

Zed's holidays involve a Hundred Days in Solihull.
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Rhysaurus (Rhysaurus)
Username: Rhysaurus

Registered: 01-2010
Posted From: 80.4.12.3
Posted on Monday, July 04, 2011 - 08:45 pm:   

Tony: I love Philip Jose Farmer.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.4.19.77
Posted on Tuesday, July 05, 2011 - 04:39 am:   

Rhys, Frank Herbert was a great favourite of my teens and twenties too. All six original volumes of 'The Dune Chronicles' remain head and shoulders above any other sci-fi work I have read.

'Destination Void' was written in 1965-66 & extensively revised in 1978 to include the latest theories and advances in AI technology. It led directly to the wonderful 'Pandora Trilogy' (written with Bill Ransom) but stands alone as an enthralling claustrophobic psychological thriller dressed up as deep space adventure.

The set-up, like all Herbert's work, is stupendously imaginative and intricate. The generation starship Earthling 7 (the previous six having all disappeared without a trace) is blasted out of the solar system in the direction of Tau Ceti, with a crew of six expendable clones - "property" of the company financing the mission - that are known as Doppelgangers (or 'gangers - slap on the wrist to 'Doctor Who' there) who oversee the cargo of three thousand colonists held in suspended animation.

All the spacecraft's systems are maintained by a genetically constructed array of three disembodied human brains, also cloned, making one giant cyborg organism of the ship. Within a short space of time, however, disaster strikes, cutting the crew down to three, after the ship's Organic Mental Core apparently commits suicide - although the possibility of murder, by a religious fundamentalist saboteur, is hinted at.

This leaves all automated systems without a controlling brain, and, in desperation, one of the colonists is awakened to help jury rig an artificial consciousness to take over control of all systems that are beyond human capabilities - the reflexive actions of the "organism" as it were.

Although the technological capability has existed for some time this "playing God" has been expressly forbidden following a notorious AI project back on Earth that led to psychotic mass murder by the world's first conscious (as opposed to merely intelligent) super-computer.

So we're left with four increasingly paranoid individuals (one of whom may be a malign clone), and thousands of hibernating colonists, at the mercy of an all powerful infant mind that considers them its creators as well as, paradoxically, alien entities within its own being. The philosophical ramifications are mind-boggling and brilliantly laid out in everyman terms by Frank Herbert's effortlessly readable pulp-influenced prose. This book is exciting on so many levels, while the influences on; 'Colossus : The Forbin Project', '2001 : A Space Odyssey' & 'Dark Star', amongst countless other sci-fi works, hardly need spelling out.

Knowing what's coming it's been fascinating to watch the first development of consciousness and awareness in Ship. Did I call this a psychological thriller? Make that more metaphysical... rivetingly so!
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Greg James (Greg_james)
Username: Greg_james

Registered: 04-2011
Posted From: 95.131.110.104
Posted on Tuesday, July 05, 2011 - 01:20 pm:   

The Ex Occidente edition of Mark Samuels' The Man who Collected Machen and Other Stories. Great stuff so far - Xapalpa was very atmospheric and disturbing.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.4.19.77
Posted on Tuesday, July 05, 2011 - 02:54 pm:   

**** SPOILERS ****

Joel & Craig, 'The Heart Of The Matter' and 'I Was Dora Suarez' are arguably the two most emotionally punishing novels I have ever read. Not what you'd call light summer reading, no, but 20th Century literary tragedies of Shakespearean potency. And I agree that both works can be read as borderline psychological horror novels or hellish depictions of the slow death of the soul. What Scobie, our Detective Sergeant, Dora & even, to some extent, that monster, Tony, have in common is a masochistic acceptance of their own despair, a wilful hatred of the self and reaching out for damnation in spite of the qualities that redeem them - love and empathy. More even than horror I see both books as tragic love stories.

Scobie is damned by his engrained but genuine love for his wife, after all pleasure in her company has gone. This goes way beyond the mere husbandly duty of the marriage vows, taken so seriously at the time, and condemns his lustful weaknesses to mortal sin, and the loss of hope that that pitiless judgement brings in its wake. Self loathing and hopelessness are the forces that set this poor man on the slippery slope to Hell. The book is virulently anti-Catholic dogma in this respect, while managing to be deeply spiritual at the same time. Greene was Christ-like in his determination not to overthrow the religion he had to work with but to reform it from within by cutting out all the bluff and subterfuge of dogmatic argument and taking things literally to the heart of the matter - the nature of the human soul, what defines it and redeems it.

The narrator of IWDS is damned by his love for an apparently innocent, and once beautiful, murder victim who has been hacked into pieces in more ways than literally. It is one of the great unrequited love affairs in literature... forever doomed to rejection. For the great overriding love affair of that hideous book is between Dora & Tony, victim and killer, bonded by their self-loathing outsider status and knowing only the masochistic pleasure of self-inflicted mortal agony as the only way to express their love. They looked into each other's eyes and recognised the same pain and reached out to embrace damnation together. Our hero never had a chance with her...
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.4.19.77
Posted on Sunday, July 10, 2011 - 01:36 pm:   

Finished 'Destination Void' and I doubt if any other long running sci-fi series, including 'Dune', had a more intellectually exciting introduction. The book reads like a metaphysical updating of Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein' for the dawning of the cyber age, and is every bit as mythic in its ambitions. In creating the artificial consciousness of Ship the crew have unwittingly gone past Victor Frankenstein's endeavour by creating God in their image. This puts a completely new spin on the 'Pandora Trilogy', which is set up brilliantly by the gob-smacking WTF twist ending - one of the most ingenious cliffhangers it has ever been my astounded pleasure to experience.

The suspense levels in this book are at fever pitch virtually from word go, and character development, through extreme jeopardy, is kept claustrophobically intense on every page, and, again, is comparable to 'Lord Of The Flies' in its deceptive allegorical simplicity.

Four intentionally created archetypes - the practical born leader and intellectual pragmatist, the bleeding heart liberal and conscience of the crew who would pause to ask "why" and "have we the right" before taking action, the emotionally intuitive healer of wounds and pacifier of arguments who constantly has to balance loyalties by subtle manipulation, and the snake in the grass whose judgement and priorities are completely at variance to the others due to a dogmatic mystical worldview that places faith above even self-preservation. This heady cocktail of panicking humanity is locked into a one way interstellar voyage on a malfunctioning spacecraft operated by a rogue artificial consciousness that is trying to make sense of itself and the world around it, much as a crying, confused new born baby does. The new found senses and limbs it tests are the robot servo and repair droids that maintain the ship's infrastructure, to which a human being is something they have as much conception of as a child's rattle. All that and three thousand slumbering colonists to protect...

The meat of this book lies in the mental struggle to somehow communicate with and pacify Ship while trying to ferret out the mole and fathom the company's real reason for the mission, as it soon becomes clear that certain facts have been held back from them and that each of them was genetically programmed (during the cloning process) with secret orders to be kept from the others. All these mind-boggling elements are integrated into a razor-sharp and breathlessly entertaining suspense thriller with more psychological depth and philosophical/metaphysical mindfucks than you could shake a big stick at. An unputdownable science fiction masterclass imo.

Now to get back into 'Silent Children' & 'Seventy-Seven Clocks'...
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.186.122.223
Posted on Sunday, July 10, 2011 - 03:03 pm:   

Just finished this:-

1

...which was wonderful.

Now onto this:-

2
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John Forth (John)
Username: John

Registered: 05-2008
Posted From: 82.24.1.217
Posted on Monday, July 18, 2011 - 09:30 pm:   

Just started reading SUMMER OF NIGHT by Dan Simmons, primarily because I need a nostalgic 'halcyon summer days' novel to distract myself from the frankly rank weather outside just now.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.156.210.82
Posted on Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - 12:10 pm:   

John - is that the rather gorgeous looking re-issue? I have very fond memories of that novel.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.26.155.181
Posted on Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - 12:36 pm:   

Me, too. There's a great scene in a barn - a real "shock/jolt" moment in print. I think it involves a priest.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.66.23.11
Posted on Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - 01:28 pm:   

There's a sequel out to that book now - It's got Winter in the title but I can't think offhand what it's called.


I did love Summer of Night when I first read it. Some real shock deaths - no one you expect to survive is safe...

the way good horror fiction should be
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.66.23.11
Posted on Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - 01:31 pm:   

I'm currently reading Blinding Light by Paul Theroux. The opening chapters have been a bit of a struggle, mainly because he's made the supporting characters so deliberately unlikable that I really don't like them.

I think I need to read it in more than 20 minute chunks to really enjoy it... every time I start getting into it, I have to put the book down.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - 03:53 pm:   

Quick update as my proper writing has been kind of eclipsing my reading and my waffle writing of late:

Finished 'Seventy-Seven Clocks' and it was another blindingly entertaining gothic thriller chock full of memorable characters and with a plot that makes a mockery of the word "labyrinthine" - deliberately so! Read the first three Bryant & May novels now. Solved one, was close in another and dead wrong in the other. One can hope for no more from a detective whodunnit and Mr Fowler is the modern master of the form.

Three quarters through 'Silent Children' and into the most gripping section of the novel, after a rather long drawn out but still beautifully written build up. It was Ramsey's misfortune that I came to this novel at the same time as 'I Was Dora Suarez' (shudder) so had to shelve it given the deeply disturbing subject matter. But now I am gripped as no other section of the man's prose has gripped me before. I'm not overly a fan of the contained suspense thriller format - that Stephen King became so enamored of - but Ramsey's slow, patient character development, and refusal to pay lip service to commercial constraints, is paying off in spades now. An initially punishing read has turned into what may well prove to be his most life affirming work of literature to date. Watch this space...

Also started and savouring every word of J.G. Ballard's masterful allegoric sci-fi/fantasy, 'Hello America'. I suspect this novel may have been written at a much earlier time than its 1981 publication date - given some of the "predictions" that had already been overtaken - but what a joy it is to experience this, presumably, last hurrah of the man's vision for post-apocalyptic ennui as the ultimate comment on contemporary frustration with what the body politic eternally gets wrong. Another shimmering masterpiece and one of his most deceptively straightforward narratives of adventure and exploration through imaginary landscapes of the soul.

Also started 'The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes' collection for the first time. A ridiculously entertaining stew of fascinating character development and OTT plot mechanics. Arthur Conan Doyle & his greatest creation were nothing if not unpredictable! Without saying how many effortlessly readable stories I have yet read, I have already been surprised twice by the outwitting and failure of our decidedly anti-establishment hero. And as for Watson... what a change of circumstances!
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.66.23.11
Posted on Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - 04:13 pm:   

Do you still think your theory about the true identity of Hector Woolley is correct?
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - 04:42 pm:   

I still contend that the first chapter of 'Silent Children' works as a kind of mirror image of the last chapter of 'The Count Of Eleven'. A sympathetic serial killer consigns himself to the primordial sea, knowing he has done wrong, and a truly monstrous creation appears to get his comeuppance the same way, only for him to reappear from the waves as some kind of undead bogeyman determined to complete his unfinished business. One found redemption at the end of his journey while the other perhaps needs redemption thrust upon him? A great book. One of the best Ramsey has written and the most beautifully characterised to date (something I thought also of TLVTH). Ian is the great man's most fully realised character to date imo.
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Seanmcd (Seanmcd)
Username: Seanmcd

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.176.222.92
Posted on Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - 01:12 am:   

Finished 'The Grin of the Dark' last week. What a mind fuck that was! Ramsey had me convinced that it was me losing my mind. A brilliantly original concept expertly executed. There were times when I wanted to laugh out loud at Simon and Tubby's antics but was seriously disturbed at the same time. I'm seeing slithering grins everywhere now.

I surely can't be alone here in finding Ramsey's prose utterly addictive? I've started straight into 'The Darkest Part of the Woods'.
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John Forth (John)
Username: John

Registered: 05-2008
Posted From: 77.89.154.227
Posted on Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - 02:48 pm:   

>John - is that the rather gorgeous looking re-issue? I have very fond memories of that novel.<

Nah, Gary, it's a rather tatty second-hand copy. Nicely yellowed.

About a hundred pages in so far, and it's shaping up nicely.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - 03:01 pm:   

"Ramsey had me convinced that it was me losing my mind [with The Grin of the Dark]."

Me too – especially when I dreamt of seeing the moon fall out of the sky and woke up half-convinced the world was going to drift out into space. That sequence with the clowns really made me want to say "Stop it, you're scaring me." And I've been reading weird fiction obsessively for over thirty years...
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Hubert (Hubert)
Username: Hubert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 178.118.77.144
Posted on Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - 03:31 pm:   

I have this with Incarnate. One by one the protagonists descend into unreality, and the reader follows them ever so gently and gradually, until he says "Wait a minute, how did I get here?"
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - 03:56 pm:   

"Ramsey had me convinced that it was me losing my mind [with The Grin of the Dark]."

Funny but I'm getting the very same effect from Knut Hamsun's 'Hunger'. Half way through and I'm already convinced this is the most affecting portrayal of a descent into madness it is possible to imagine. The moments of lucidity are becoming less frequent and the passages of thought and action controlled by pure impulse all the more disturbing as the non-narrative progresses. This is an astonishing book!
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Seanmcd (Seanmcd)
Username: Seanmcd

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.176.222.92
Posted on Thursday, July 21, 2011 - 01:51 am:   

Yes Joel. The 'Clowns' sequence is indeed a lucid nightmare. I found the chapter 'I Emote' particularly breathtaking in it's portrayal of being completely convulsed by laughter and not in a good way..
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, July 22, 2011 - 01:07 pm:   

Good to see the KKK getting a kicking in that Sherlock Holmes story, over 20 years before Griffith glorified them in 'The Birth Of A Nation'.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.4.19.77
Posted on Sunday, July 24, 2011 - 04:04 pm:   

Finished 'Silent Children'. The final chapters are pure edge-of-the-seat Hitchcockian suspense with the added psychological depth of Ramsey's most fully realised cast of characters up to that time imo. I was made to feel physically sick with worry for those children and finished the book emotionally drained. The inside of Hector Woollie's mind has to be Ramsey's most wilfully monstrous creation and is a place I'm glad I'll never have to revisit. A scintillating thriller that, yet again, cries out to be filmed!!

About to start a long awaited adult re-read of Volume 2 of Frank Herbert's Pandora Sequence; 'The Jesus Incident' (1979).
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Monday, July 25, 2011 - 04:03 pm:   

Just finished Knut Hamsun's 'Hunger' and have had my mind blasted to bits. Reading that book is like being sucked into a deep dark hole from which there is no escape until the last page is finished. Everyone on this site needs to read it.

I have included the book in my list of best ever horror novels because never before have I read a more powerful or true or heartbreaking or terrifying depiction of a descent into utter madness. Poe and Hamsun would have been instant soulmates had they ever met. The passage in which the weird narrator anti-hero goes through his long dark night of the soul, locked in the pitch blackness of a police cell, scared the fucking shit out of me. Jim Thompson came close in that chapter of 'The Killer Inside Me' but the sequence I'm thinking of is indescribably more frightening.

After 'Hunger', 'Silent Children' & 'I Was Dora Suarez' that's me done with "depressing" reads for this summer. I need fucking cheered up!! So next up some silly comedy with the start of a complete re-read of the novels of Tom Sharpe. Hallelujah!!!!
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.184.137.136
Posted on Monday, July 25, 2011 - 04:14 pm:   

Just finished Ray Russell's "Literary Remains" and I have to say I loved it - highly recommended.
Now (finally!) starting Thieving Fear!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Monday, July 25, 2011 - 04:39 pm:   

The central chapter in William Golding's 'Free Fall' springs to mind as well. But, again, Hamsun's writing is <gulp> superior and more terrifying. What have I discovered?

Leaving 'Mysteries' for a few months after this...
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.26.155.181
Posted on Monday, July 25, 2011 - 05:19 pm:   

Mick, beware of Pandemon . . . his house is not as others' are. Like all troubled northerners, he lives Frugolly.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.66.23.11
Posted on Monday, July 25, 2011 - 06:09 pm:   

I think I'm going to take a leaf out of Stevie's books and start reading more than one at a time. Struggling with this Paul Theroux. that's a shame because I can see it's well written, I just can't get into it. maybe I need to set more time aside for it rather than reading in small chunks like I'm doing at the moment.

I think my alternate reads will be a re-read of Guy Kay's Fionavar tapestry and Killing the Beasts - the first of Chris Simms' series of detective novels set ina and around Manchester. Might even throw in TM Wright's Last Vampire...
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.184.137.136
Posted on Monday, July 25, 2011 - 07:05 pm:   

Mick, beware of Pandemon . . . his house is not as others' are. Like all troubled northerners, he lives Frugolly.

:-) Thanks for the warning, Gary! I'm embarrassed it's taken me so long to get around to reading this, although I do have many books I've had longer that are still unread. Truth is, Grin of the Dark was just so good, I was sort of scared to read anything newer (even though I have them all, and will have two more come FCon) because Ramsey's more recent novels have a hell of a lot to live up to now! I've always loved his books and for me, until Grin... it was The Darkest Part of the Wo(o)ds that was my favourite.
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.184.137.136
Posted on Monday, July 25, 2011 - 07:07 pm:   

...Ramsey's more recent novels have a hell of a lot to live up to now!

I think I could have left out "now" there - it suggests that before Grin... Ramsey's novels weren't that good, which of course is not the case!
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.26.155.181
Posted on Monday, July 25, 2011 - 08:03 pm:   

Grin is hard to live up to for sure, but Thieving Fear has its own insidious power. Patience required, as in much late Ramsey, but the final chapters are as dark as it gets.
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Pete_a (Pete_a)
Username: Pete_a

Registered: 07-2011
Posted From: 75.85.10.161
Posted on Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - 02:11 am:   

"late Ramsey"

Oh, "mid-period", surely? I for one am trusting that the old bugger's got another thirty years to keep freaking us out.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.26.155.181
Posted on Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - 07:40 am:   

A good point, that. :-)
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Hubert (Hubert)
Username: Hubert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 178.116.56.66
Posted on Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - 07:48 am:   

Been browsing through Prime Evil, an old collection I haven't touched since it came out. Jack Cady's "By Reason of Darkness" blew me away - again. Must try to read more by him.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - 08:35 am:   

3/4's of the way through Gene Wolfe's An Evil Friend (2010), and I'm still baffled by it. It's not that it's difficult to understand - it reads quick and easy and is absolutely lucid-clear. But I just don't get what it all is; it's like a Joan Crawford rags-to-stardom tale of a struggling actress who suddenly becomes famous; but then all with these nonchalant dashes of scifi, and horror, and fantasy; and the plot has no real point to it, not yet. But it's Gene Wolfe, and he can do no wrong, even when he's baffling....
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 166.216.226.44
Posted on Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - 08:38 am:   

Whoops - that should read An Evil Guest.
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.184.137.136
Posted on Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - 11:48 am:   

I've not read Wolfe for years, since Free Live Free which I loved. I feel the need for more of his work.
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John Llewellyn Probert (John_l_probert)
Username: John_l_probert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.176.105.138
Posted on Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - 12:00 pm:   

I'm not a fan or Mr Wolfe, having read all 4 volumes of Book of the New Sun twice and The Fifth Head of Cerberus a couple of times as well and I still don't really understand what any of them were about!
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.184.137.136
Posted on Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - 12:38 pm:   

I liked the torturer series - I learned a lot of new words reading that!
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John Llewellyn Probert (John_l_probert)
Username: John_l_probert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.176.105.138
Posted on Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - 03:27 pm:   

That's certainly true - but if you can explain Cerberus to me the drinks are on me!
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - 04:31 pm:   

Wolfe's certainly in the Aickman world of tales that don't just readily or easily explain themselves; his work is usually not as complex or difficult to read, like Aickman, or Henry James, but the summation of it all is often up to interpretation. But not always.

The fifth of the New Sun series, The Urth of the New Sun, is an absolute jaw-dropping time-travel/bending story -alas, for it to fully be appreciated, you have to have read the other four beforehand. His "Soldier in the Mist" series is among my favorites of his: a high-concept fantasy set in ancient Greece that predates MEMENTO (and I think may have inspired it), it's nevertheless a challenging set of novels.

An Evil Guest is not by any means bad - just odd; genre-bendiing, template-breaking - maybe that's why it's anxiety-inducing to me. It's like watching, oh, say, TORCH SONG with sudden moments of hyperspace travel, and the Cthulhu mythos, appearing here and there, until they slowly start to overwhelm it. Anyone who's read his phenomenal horror story "The Tree Is My Hat" will recognize the character Hanga, who makes an appearance here....
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John Llewellyn Probert (John_l_probert)
Username: John_l_probert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.176.105.138
Posted on Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - 04:41 pm:   

Btw I'm currently reading To The Dark Star - Volume 2 of Subterranean Press's massive handsome hardcover series of the collected stories of Robert Silverberg. He's amongst my favourite novelists for The Man in the Maze, Tower of Glass, Dying Inside, Up the Line, The Book of Skulls & many others but his stories are often as good. Last night was the original novella that inspired Hawksbill Station, and the nebula award-winning Passengers, which is just a marvellous story about love and parasitism
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.24.18.204
Posted on Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - 05:45 pm:   

"which is just a marvellous story about love and parasitism"

What an anthology theme that would make:

The Lonely Tapeworm
Amoeba Mon Amour
Typhoid Mary
From the Gut
You Give Me Fever
Next To the Skin
The Love Bug
and other stories...
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - 07:57 pm:   

Are those real story titles, Joel?

I'm sorry to say, I've never read any Silverberg.... One of many I must get to, but then, if I like them all, that makes my job in catching up on my life's reading immensely more difficult....
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.24.13.197
Posted on Wednesday, July 27, 2011 - 12:30 am:   

Craig – no, they're not.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.24.13.197
Posted on Wednesday, July 27, 2011 - 12:31 am:   

Neither is Ludvig Prinn's erotic novel Mistress of the Worm.
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John Llewellyn Probert (John_l_probert)
Username: John_l_probert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.158.78.71
Posted on Wednesday, July 27, 2011 - 07:52 am:   

Oh, Joel...

Oh, Craig...

Oh, Joel...

Oh no, this sounds vaguely like the soundtrack from a film that must never be made.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Friday, July 29, 2011 - 04:28 am:   

Uh, er...

*Ahem*. Anyway, I'm now 3/4's of the way through RED HARVEST, and I must say - totally loving it! What a blast this is. And I must also say, comparing Hammett to Chandler, Hammett wins the gold every time (though I do love Chandler, too)....

And I know that this novel was serialized in "Black Mask" first, but it needn't have been; and so, it's to me a true "portmanteau" novel: some might say episodic, but the stories are far too entangled to be described as such. And I've been searching my mind, for a similarly structured novel - any genre, any time - and I simply cannot come up with one at all like this (though, again, it's a structure that's easily replicable). There are plenty of episodic novels (the first most famous one is one, DON QUIXOTE), but are there any that are structured like this? Novels with a set of characters and situations and threads that continue on throughout the course of the novel; and yet, along the way, they go through various "stories" that have their own beginnings, middles, and endings; but always surrounding and affecting the grander one/s?... if so, tell me, I'd like to read another!...
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 212.219.63.204
Posted on Friday, July 29, 2011 - 11:15 am:   

I've jsut finished reading Stephen Baxter's "The Time Ships" which is an epic sequal to "The Time Machine" - and I loved every minute of it. A great page-turner and a truly epic novel. I've read Baxter before and was not impressed, but this is recommended.

Halfway through "The House on the Boarderland" by William Hope Hodgson - wonderful,wonderful,wonderful. Why oh why didn't I read this years ago?

Cheers
Terry
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Des (Des)
Username: Des

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 81.153.251.119
Posted on Friday, July 29, 2011 - 11:20 am:   

Halfway through "The House on the Boarderland" by William Hope Hodgson - wonderful,wonderful,wonderful. Why oh why didn't I read this years ago?
===================

Yes, great book. I first heard it read aloud with pig noises on BBC Radio London in the early 1970s (read by Tom Vernon).
Boarderland: that conjures up some images of digs I once had in Morecambe, in the 60s!
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.178.81.140
Posted on Friday, July 29, 2011 - 12:04 pm:   

The House on the Borderland was broadcast on Radio 3 some time in the 'seventies; I had a recording on cassette for many years - I recall it was read, along with sound effects, so it may well have been the same recording you heard, Des.
They broadcast a couple more of Hodgson's stories too - one was "The Hog", but I can't recall the other.
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Des (Des)
Username: Des

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 81.153.251.119
Posted on Friday, July 29, 2011 - 12:20 pm:   

Mick!
I've been trying to find someone else who heard that recording for years and years. What a relief. I sometimes have imagined I imagined it.
Thanks so much. You are the first person to remember it.
Mine was definitely on BBC Radio London. Didn't know it was originated or repeated on Radio 3.
And yes, indeed I recall the reading of THE HOG in the same series (and THE PURPLE LAND by WH HUDSON)
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, July 29, 2011 - 12:34 pm:   

Anyway, I'm now 3/4's of the way through RED HARVEST, and I must say - totally loving it!

Told ya so, Craig. It's the best of the three Hammett novels I've read to date. Try 'The Dain Curse' next. It's not quite as good but has the same episodic structure - like three novellas set in different locations with different characters but linked by the Continental Op, a particularly beguiling femme fatale and the Curse, of course...
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Friday, July 29, 2011 - 01:10 pm:   

The House on the Borderland is quite a novel, yes. Strongly influenced by Wells and achieving his trick of compressing an epic into a brief narrative. It's the one Hodgson book where everything good about his writing comes together and everything tedious is left out.

The invasion of the narrator's house by swine-things makes me wonder if Hodgson ever ran into a Young Conservative drinking club on the rampage.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.31.203.97
Posted on Friday, July 29, 2011 - 01:13 pm:   

The audacious juxposition in that novel of pearls and swine is astonishing.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Friday, July 29, 2011 - 01:58 pm:   

Mind you, I've always thought 'pearls before swine' was merely an alphabetic truism.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.31.203.97
Posted on Friday, July 29, 2011 - 02:00 pm:   

Unlike age before beauty?
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Des (Des)
Username: Des

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 81.153.251.119
Posted on Friday, July 29, 2011 - 02:04 pm:   

Or wisdom before zeal.
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Hubert (Hubert)
Username: Hubert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 178.116.56.66
Posted on Friday, July 29, 2011 - 02:28 pm:   

Or amplitude before plenitude - never mind error before terror.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.31.203.97
Posted on Friday, July 29, 2011 - 03:50 pm:   

Or sex before marriage.
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Rhysaurus (Rhysaurus)
Username: Rhysaurus

Registered: 01-2010
Posted From: 212.219.233.223
Posted on Friday, July 29, 2011 - 04:05 pm:   

Or one quaternion before another quaternion... in a mirror!

reversed cayley graph
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, July 29, 2011 - 04:12 pm:   

Now finished the first three Sherlock Holmes books. Wonderfully daft and loveable mock-gothic entertainment. Here's how I'd rank the stories so far:

1. A Study In Scarlet
2. The Copper Beeches
3. The Speckled Band
4. The Sign Of Four
5. The Boscombe Valley Mystery
6. The Beryl Coronet
7. A Scandal In Bohemia
8. The Five Orange Pips
9. The Engineer's Thumb
10. The Blue Carbuncle
11. The Red Headed League
12. The Man With The Twisted Lip
13. A Case Of Identity
14. The Noble Bachelor

Now time for the fourth Bryant & May mystery - 'The Ten Second Staircase' (2006).
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Saturday, July 30, 2011 - 06:28 am:   

I will definitely be picking up the Hammett novels, Stevie. Say, have you read either THE GLASS KEY and/or THE THIN MAN and/or THE MALTESE FALCON? And seen the films? I know those so well from those same movies, but I'm wondering how the novels compare....

And when the !@#@! will they do a Continental Op movie?! My God, it's about time!
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.24.14.98
Posted on Saturday, July 30, 2011 - 11:37 am:   

Wot no 'Silver Blaze', Stevie?

I like the last book, the Casebook, which gathered together some of the weirder ones: the Sussex Vampire, the Lion's Mane, the Creeping Man. Strange and violent stories.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.25.15.51
Posted on Saturday, July 30, 2011 - 12:00 pm:   

Sherlock Holmes is rubbish.

[runs away]
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.183.79.254
Posted on Saturday, July 30, 2011 - 12:30 pm:   

Nearing the end of Thieving Fear now, and a splendid read it's been so far. Death Rattles turned up this morning so that may well be the next to read.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.25.15.51
Posted on Saturday, July 30, 2011 - 12:32 pm:   

Good stuff, sir.
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Stu (Stu)
Username: Stu

Registered: 04-2008
Posted From: 86.29.77.30
Posted on Sunday, July 31, 2011 - 11:20 am:   

Ages since I read Sherlock Holmes but I used to favour The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Sign of Four and the first three collections (Adventures, Memoirs, Return). That might change if and when I get the chance to reread them because, as Joel says, the later collections have the weird stories which would probably appeal to me more now than when I was younger. Stuff like The Creeping Man with its pseudo-scientific solution never really seemed to fit in with the rest of the Holmes stories but these days I'd probably be able to control my fanboy rage while reading the more outrageous stuff. Or perhaps not.

Either way the Jeremy Brett adaptation of the Creeping Man is excellent.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.4.19.77
Posted on Sunday, July 31, 2011 - 02:03 pm:   

Before this I had only read 'The Hound Of The Baskervilles' and a few of the short stories before - back in my teens - so this is the first time I'll have read all the stories in chrono order (alternated with Bryant & May). What book is 'Silver Blaze' in, Joel? I'll be starting 'Memoirs' next...

Craig, I've read the first three Hammett novels, all for the first time in the last couple of years, and I'd rank them: 'Red Harvest', 'The Maltese Falcon', 'The Dain Curse'.

'Harvest' has the most intriguing and exciting plot structure, packed full of incident, 'Falcon' has the most memorable characters & 'The Dain Curse' is the most fun of the three, toying with the supernatural, as it does. All three are stone cold classics, imo. Will be reading 'The Glass Key' & 'The Thin Man' sometime this year I reckon.

As great and magnificently influential as Hammett is, though, I still say Chandler has the edge.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.4.19.77
Posted on Sunday, July 31, 2011 - 02:48 pm:   

But the book that is absolutely blowing me away at the minute, so much so I'm already three quarters through, and it's a right hefty brick of a tome, is Frank Herbert's incredible sci-fi adventure 'The Jesus Incident' (1979).

I read the Pandora Trilogy as they came out back in my teens/twenties and said then it was the greatest "exploration of an utterly alien planet" science fiction work I had ever read. My opinion has not changed one whit. If anything I am finding levels of subtlety in the subtext and genuinely insightful wisdom in Herbert's philosophy (that chimes perfectly with my own) that I find myself humbled by my previous descriptions of this book as merely a great adventure yarn. It is that - what with its marooned population of humans forced to colonise a planet on which every single lifeform is primed to destroy them, its orbiting heavily armed and robot controlled sentient starship demanding worship or annihilation, a vast ocean of alien intelligence (the 'lectrokelp) they must strive to communicate with if they are ever to know peace, giant floating jellyfish filling the skies, razor-sharp poisonous plantlife, Hooded Dashers, Fast Grazers, Spinnerets, Nerve Runners (what a horrible death!) and a host of other flesh rending or blood drinking alien monstrosities out of our worst nightmares, the hideous E-Clones of the Scream Room (that surely must have influenced Clive Barker) with their stomach churning sexual appetites, The Game of having to run the perimeter, the sinister Dr Lewis with his genetic experiments carried out in secret, the maniacal Oakes with his internicine plotting and dreams of despotism, the colonists splitting into warring factions of clones & shipmen, etc, etc, etc... riches abound in this wonderful rhapsody of the imagination.

In the words of Ship (and Stevie): "The universe has no centre but an infinitude of centres of which we are all One." Choose one's path wisely...
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Stu (Stu)
Username: Stu

Registered: 04-2008
Posted From: 86.24.22.79
Posted on Sunday, July 31, 2011 - 04:20 pm:   

Silver Blaze is in Memoirs.
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 92.4.164.134
Posted on Sunday, July 31, 2011 - 06:13 pm:   

Just started a tatty old second hand bookshop version of a Henry Kuttner collection. The title tale is the very enjoyable "Clash by Night". Ah the nostalgia as I loved Kuttner when I was a kid but he forgotten everything he wrote except "The Dark World".

I've read a lot of sf lately. not by choice, I tend to simply pick up the next book on the pile when I'm not reading to review and there is a clot of sf.

Next book, however, is the story of the Wright brothers. Real life Steam Punk you might say!

Cheers
Terry
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.183.79.254
Posted on Monday, August 01, 2011 - 09:17 am:   

Finished "Thieving Fear" on saturday - wonderful stuff, 'specially the moment when Charlotte realises that the trap-door isn't actually a trap-door...
And now partway through "Death Rattles" - very good so far.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Monday, August 01, 2011 - 12:21 pm:   

I can't put 'The Jesus Incident' down... talk about captivating storytelling on an epic scale. It never struck me until now but Frank Herbert's gift of interweaving a myriad of different character arcs and locations into one cohesive plot of cosmic implications bears a marked similarity to Clive Barker & Philip Pullman's achievements in the fantasy genre. The concentration on minutely detailed character development through emotional trauma and physical horror, coupled with serious minded philosophical questing, is very much the same but Herbert has the added gift of being able to ground his adventures in hard scientific truth. His is the superior gift as a writer, imho.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.66.23.11
Posted on Monday, August 01, 2011 - 01:40 pm:   

"I can't put 'The Jesus Incident' down"

Don't play with superglue before reading... How many times do we need to tell you?
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Monday, August 01, 2011 - 03:21 pm:   

Oops...

The title 'The Jesus Incident' refers to Ship's description of, and failure to grasp why, the single most pivotal moment in human history, all of which is stored in its vast memory banks, was the crucifixion of an innocuous heretic on Golgotha. The sentient starship that brought the colonists to Pandora deems itself their God and Saviour and demands WorShip of its subjects while the colonists find themselves split into those who believe in the divine omnipotence of Ship and those blasphemers who would call it merely the ship, a particularly clever machine created by Man, a heresy punishable by Death, and one that every one of the many, brilliantly realised, major characters must struggle with - while trying to survive the horrors all around them.

The profound cleverness and endless room for manoeuvre this science fiction allegory provides needs no elaboration from me...
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.23.227
Posted on Monday, August 01, 2011 - 04:43 pm:   

"Finished "Thieving Fear" on saturday - wonderful stuff, 'specially the moment when Charlotte realises that the trap-door isn't actually a trap-door..."

Thanks, Mick! That was the image from which the whole book grew, and I'm still quite fond of it.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.66.23.11
Posted on Monday, August 01, 2011 - 05:06 pm:   

I hope that's not too much of a spoiler...
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Thomasb (Thomasb)
Username: Thomasb

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 75.25.141.120
Posted on Tuesday, August 02, 2011 - 01:55 am:   

I'm reading "Red Gold" by Alan Furst. Really good! Also "One Eye Open, the Other Red" about bootlegging in California, a clumsily put-together, but wonderful book.

Thomas
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 10:44 am:   

Finished 'The Jesus Incident' again - even better than I remembered. The whole way through reading this I kept visualising imaginary trailers for the greatest sci-fi epic ever made. The book has that kind of overwhelming effect on the senses. There's so much detail to enjoy in this creation of an entire alien ecosystem, and the colonists' desperate interactions with it, such depth to the host of principal characters (not least Ship) and emotional impact in their respective fates, that this is a book to be returned to and savoured any number of times. Like the 'Dune' series the 'Pandora Sequence' is comparable to Tolkien in sheer scale and attention to detail but the mythology created here is even more potent because we watch it evolve in the far future and know all the points of reference. A stunning achievement!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 04:21 pm:   

Engrossed again in the latest Bryant & May mystery which comes across like a black comedy Scooby Doo adventure for adults. The celebrity artists of London (based on the likes of Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst, etc) are being killed off, in ways that chime poetically with their works, by a spectral masked highwayman astride a black stallion - who appears able to ride through solid walls! A most peculiar case indeed that affords Bryant plenty of room for bemoaning the state of "modern art". Brilliant as ever!
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.66.23.11
Posted on Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 05:58 pm:   

Tony - Which PJF are you reading?
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.155.207.87
Posted on Monday, August 08, 2011 - 09:56 am:   

Weber - it's The Maker of Universes, the first in those Tiers books. It's really good.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.156.186.26
Posted on Monday, August 08, 2011 - 01:17 pm:   

It is indeed. I have a real soft spot for the world of tiers series. Shame the end was so ... not very good. Although he has written More than Fire - book 6 which may or may not tie up the loose ends. I'd have to reread the full series before I started on book 6 - It must be more than a decade (maybe 2) since I read that series.

As a point of interest - spot which character he based on himself - look for familiar initials...
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.156.210.82
Posted on Monday, August 08, 2011 - 01:45 pm:   

Yesterday I started reading 'Dark Matter' by Michelle Paver. Very good it is so far - compelling and tightly written.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.156.186.26
Posted on Monday, August 08, 2011 - 02:26 pm:   

“Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself. You bring to a novel, anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your own terms.” Angela Carter
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Allybird (Allybird)
Username: Allybird

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 27.252.166.203
Posted on Monday, August 08, 2011 - 10:36 pm:   

Like that quote Weber. I was just thinking about her as a writer I could never fall out of love with after reading the other thread about those you do.
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.183.79.254
Posted on Thursday, August 11, 2011 - 03:54 pm:   

Well, I finished "Creatures of the Pool" last night. Wow. A superb tale, and extraordinarily effective - that stumble through dark tunnels at the end is the stuff of nightmares.
I'm leaving "The Seven Days of Cain" for a couple of months until shortly after FCon - I hate reading one of Ramsey's novels when I don't have another on the shelves waiting for me!
So, I'm now reading "Just Behind You"...
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.156.210.82
Posted on Thursday, August 11, 2011 - 04:05 pm:   

So, I'm now reading "Just Behind You"...

Me, too! It's fucking brilliant.
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.30.56
Posted on Thursday, August 11, 2011 - 04:11 pm:   

Ey up, Mick - I'm releasing a new novel at Fantasycon!
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.183.79.254
Posted on Thursday, August 11, 2011 - 04:18 pm:   

Ey up, Mick - I'm releasing a new novel at Fantasycon!

Indeed, which is why I'll be starting "...Cain" a couple of days afterwards!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, August 11, 2011 - 04:33 pm:   

Just finished two wonderful novels.

'Hello America' (1981) by J.G. Ballard - an unusually playful and witty throwback to the post-apocalypse nightmares that made his name, showing all of Ballard's trademark flair for hauntingly evocative, yet impossible, imagery. An unflinching satire on the death of the American dream but without any of the mocking cynicism a lesser artist would have brought to such an obvious target. The humour has a genuine poignancy as it details the death of hope and innocence that America, at its best, radiated to the world. It was interesting to experience such a purely enjoyable narrative from the man, following the spiritual redemption and coming to terms with personal tragedy that he went through in 'The Unlimited Dream Company'. As well as a damn fine adventure the book is also rather scarily prescient in its detailing of the decline of the USA as a superpower in the early 21st Century... through mishandling of the energy crisis and the eventual collapse of the world's largest economy. The exploration of its dessicated remains, by an expedition from Europe in the 2080s, reads like the ending of 'Planet Of The Apes' drawn out into one long surreal dream sequence. After this what was left for Ballard but the exploration of his own haunted past...

'The Ten Second Staircase' (2006) by Christopher Fowler - the fourth volume of his completely wonderful Bryant & May mysteries and, for me, the finest of the series so far. I even managed to solve it by a good old fashioned process of logical deduction - that's 2 out of 4 so far. What starts as a seemingly madcap adventure involving a kind of ghostly masked and caped super-villain, dubbed "The Highwayman" by an eager Press, develops into something much more serious that chimed spookily with the events in London of this last week. Without spoiling the mystery, Fowler uses this book to expound urgently upon the disregarded youth underclass of the City he loves and the threat they pose to society and themselves in the face of rampant consumerism, the head in the sand attitude of the powers that be, the cult of celebrity and the decline of community values. To them this murderous reincarnation of Dick Turpin becomes a folk hero as he wipes out a series of morally repugnant TV & Tabloid "celebrities" and becomes the centre of a cult of the disenfranchised. For them he is a superhero, their very own Batman in reverse, ridding the night of the true criminals in our broken excuse for a society. How this all ties in with a decades old hunt for their old nemesis, the Leicester Square Vampire, and a certain Spring-Heeled Jack is nothing short of ingenious storytelling. Social commentary has never been as gloriously entertaining as this. The man is a wonder!

About to start 'The Memoirs Of Sherlock Holmes' & Patricia Highsmith's 'The Blunderer' (just for you, Weber) while having a ball with 'Riotous Assembly'.. hmmmm...
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Simon Strantzas (Nomis)
Username: Nomis

Registered: 09-2008
Posted From: 99.244.67.136
Posted on Friday, August 12, 2011 - 03:03 am:   

Right now, I'm working my way through Livia Llewellyn's Engines of Desire and Chesya Burke's Let's Play White (both highly recommended), and the latest issues of Shadows & Tall Trees and Dead Reckonings. On the stack are a billion of other books I'm trying to get to, along with some manuscripts I've been asked to take a gander at.

And, I agree: Just Behind You is excellent.
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Hubert (Hubert)
Username: Hubert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 178.116.57.88
Posted on Saturday, August 13, 2011 - 11:12 am:   

Before the Golden Age, Third Book. Introduction and commentary by Isaac Asimov. Some of this pre-war science fiction (we're talking early to mid-thirties) is fun to read, but I wouldn't trade it in for anything written in the Golden Age. Some of these authors, even big-name guys, were clearly still learning their craft. There is a preponderance - I mean they're in every story - of damsels in distress, and the stories are genrally full of wishy-washy 'science', foornotes and all.
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Thomasb (Thomasb)
Username: Thomasb

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 75.25.141.120
Posted on Monday, August 15, 2011 - 11:51 pm:   

Just started "The Devil's Garden" by Ace Atkins; his speculative take on Dashiell Hammett's involvement in the Fatty Arbuckle case.

Need to get to Ramsey's "Creatures of the Pool" soon.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.145.132.240
Posted on Tuesday, August 16, 2011 - 12:21 am:   

I finished the Summer Tree last night and launched straight into The Wandering Fire - book 2 of the trilogy. My next book will rather predictably be The darkest road. It'll be the first time I've ever read a full trilogy back to back...
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, August 16, 2011 - 05:56 pm:   

Finished 'The Memoirs Of Sherlock Holmes' at the weekend. Wondrous storytelling that raised the series to a whole new level with the unforgettable introduction of Mycroft Holmes (even more loveably barmy than Sherlock) and Professor Moriarty (the camp criminal mastermind to end them all). How can anyone fail to love these stories? Rejigged list to follow...

Waiting for 'White Corridor' to arrive as I'm suffering Bryant & May withdrawal symptoms and in the meantime a quarter through Highsmith's 'The Blunderer'. After one of the most casually savage opening chapters in crime fiction the novel has settled into a psychologically harrowing portrait of a desperately unhappy marriage that is comparable to the opening chapters of Graham Greene's 'The Heart Of The Matter' in its queasy attention to the details of bottled up despair.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.66.23.11
Posted on Tuesday, August 16, 2011 - 06:06 pm:   

The Blunderer was the novel that really made me realise you cannot second guess anything in a Highsmith book.

I'm not going to say anything more about it.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, August 17, 2011 - 11:40 am:   

I'm also nearly finished 'Riotous Assembly' (1971) by Tom Sharpe, for only the second time ever, and laughing just as loudly as I did the first time... many moons ago. The anti-apartheid satire is bang on the nose (painfully so) while the hilarious incidentals of the plot owe rather a lot to the anything goes insanity of Monty Python... as I've always insisted. The man is the greatest comedy author who ever lifted a pen, imho. Gloriously un-PC while remaining as confrontationally liberal as any of the burgeoning "right on" messages since... that's the way to do it!

And they kicked him out of South Africa just to prove it.
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.176.250.238
Posted on Wednesday, August 17, 2011 - 01:05 pm:   

Finished Just Behind You last night, and as I'm on a bit of a 'Ramsey roll' I'm moving straight on to The Seven Days of Cain.
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.21.200
Posted on Wednesday, August 17, 2011 - 01:25 pm:   

Just to revert to an earlier discussion on this thread, on crime fiction: Stevie, Joel and whoever else may have an informed view - what do you think of Dennis Lehane?
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Wednesday, August 17, 2011 - 01:30 pm:   

Haven't read any of his novels yet, but Simon B. recommends them. Over to you, Simon!
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 129.11.76.216
Posted on Wednesday, August 17, 2011 - 01:42 pm:   

Mark Lynch rates him highly, Ramsey, and he knows his crime fiction (well, all fiction, actually).
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.66.23.11
Posted on Wednesday, August 17, 2011 - 02:05 pm:   

The only one of Lehanes that I've read is Mystic river and that was very good indeed. Much better than the very good film...

wasn't he behind the original book of Shutter Island as well?
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.21.200
Posted on Wednesday, August 17, 2011 - 03:28 pm:   

He was indeed, Marc. I met him in Spain recently and he proved very genial. The only book of his in English I could find there for him to sign was Moonlight Mile, which I then read. I liked it a lot, but belatedly realised it's a sequel to Gone Baby Gone - I think his private eye series is sequential. I've now ordered all the others.
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.176.250.238
Posted on Wednesday, August 17, 2011 - 04:14 pm:   

I've read a few of his - the most recent one being Gone Baby Gone. I have yet to read the sequel but have heard good things about it.
The first I read was Shutter Island, then Mystic River. I think he's a very good writer and I shall be buying the rest of his output.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Wednesday, August 17, 2011 - 04:55 pm:   

Ramsey, I've only read the novelette "Running Out Of Dog"(1999), which was collected in The Best American Mystery Stories Of The Century (best mystery anthology ever!), and quite liked it. It made me mean to go out and get more of his work....
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, August 17, 2011 - 05:05 pm:   

Ramsey, I only know his name and reputation from the film adaptations: 'Mystic River', 'Gone Baby Gone' & 'Shutter Island' - all driven by excellent plots. He also wrote for the TV Series 'The Wire' which speaks for itself.

No smoke without fire...
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, August 17, 2011 - 06:02 pm:   

How I'd rank the stories in the first four Sherlock Holmes volumes:

1. A Study In Scarlet
2. The Copper Beeches
3. The Musgrave Ritual
4. The Speckled Band
5. The Greek Interpreter
6. The Sign Of Four
7. Silver Blaze
8. The Gloria Scott
9. The Naval Treaty
10. The Final Problem
11. The Yellow Face
12. The Boscombe Valley Mystery
13. The Beryl Coronet
14. The Reigate Squires
15. A Scandal In Bohemia
16. The Resident Patient
17. The Five Orange Pips
18. The Engineer's Thumb
19. The Stockbroker’s Clerk
20. The Blue Carbuncle
21. The Crooked Man
22. The Red Headed League
23. The Man With The Twisted Lip
24. A Case Of Identity
25. The Noble Bachelor

Needless to say I'm having a ball with these books and it's a re-read of 'The Hound Of The Baskervilles' up next.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, August 19, 2011 - 05:23 pm:   

You were so right, Weber. 'The Blunderer' is a real headfuck for the reader. Over halfway through and several times now she's led me by the nose to one conclusion only to slap me in the face the very next chapter. Where on earth this is all going to end up is beyond me but what a wild ride.

The book reads almost like a black comedy as we watch an innocent man suspected of murder, due to a series of bizarre circumstantial coincidences, dig a deeper and deeper hole for himself as he tries to prove his innocence while making a hash of acting any way normally. Ranged against him are an ambitiously dogged detective with a sadistic streak and, of course, the real killer - a loathsome egomaniac completely devoid of conscience and terrified for his own skin. But how those standard crime elements dance around each other in a seemingly chaotic whirl is something to experience. I love it!
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.66.23.11
Posted on Friday, August 19, 2011 - 05:54 pm:   

I can tell you how it ends...

How much will you pay me not to tell you?
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John Forth (John)
Username: John

Registered: 05-2008
Posted From: 82.24.1.217
Posted on Friday, August 19, 2011 - 08:33 pm:   

Well, I'm just back from a week in Devon during which I got through A FEAST FOR CROWS by GRR Martin (yes, I bought into the hype). This was the first of the Ice & Fire novels to disappoint me. Too much meandering, not enough story.

I finished off DEATH RATTLES, which has some stories by some folks in it . A lot of fun. Some very striking and troubling images in there. The climax of Lady P's story is quite nightmarish, and Simon Bestwick's tale fairly heartbreaking.

Also read MEMOIRS OF A MASTER FORGER/HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH DEMONS by Graham Joyce, which was fantastic. And started THE REAPERS ARE THE ANGELS, which I'm enjoying so far. Still hate that title though.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.4.19.77
Posted on Saturday, August 20, 2011 - 03:12 pm:   

'The Blunderer' (1954) was only Patricia Highsmith's third novel, and second crime thriller, and one can detect the joy of an effortlessly talented new young author in love with the art of spinning tales and playing with characters, while brimming over with new found confidence, on every single page.

I get the impression this was written quickly and without any set plan. The story has all the unpredictability and loose ends of a sleazy true crime report which highlights the author's preference for deep psychological characterisation over pure plot. Her stories are so hard to second guess because her characters are as real and their actions and motivations as convincing as anything from the News headlines. That is the secret of her unmatched gift as a "crime writer", imo.

She said in an interview once that she was interested in the "psychology of guilt" but I insist she was interested in people, full stop, and the awful pickles they get themselves into by not following the rational course that a lesser author would map out for them.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.4.19.77
Posted on Sunday, August 21, 2011 - 04:56 pm:   

Time for my regular fix of Bob Heinlein with the book that invented the concept of the generation starship: 'Orphans Of The Sky' (1941). Detailing the maiden voyage of the Vanguard, this is a kind of sister novel to 'Methuselah's Children', published later the same year, in which the sister ship New Frontiers set off in their wake - despite all contact having been lost. Should be interesting to compare Heinlein's vision of lives lived entirely on board ship with that of Frank Herbert's in 'The Pandora Sequence'.
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.176.250.238
Posted on Tuesday, August 23, 2011 - 02:13 am:   

I've finished "The Seven Days of Cain" now - excellent, excellent, excellent.

"Two minds with but a single thought" eh?

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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, August 23, 2011 - 12:58 pm:   

Finished 'Riotous Assembly' & 'The Blunderer' last night - two books that have more in common than is at first apparent as both are arch black comedies, imo. One a riotously silly and vicious satiric fantasy with blood, entrails and severed limbs flying in wicked abandon, the other an outrageously nightmarish escalation of misfortunes befalling a quintessential Hitchcockian "wrong man" hero figure - mostly invited by the man's own blithering idiocy. Both authors take great relish in slowly, sadistically pulling their characters' well ordered lives to pieces while leading the reader a merry dance in which anything could happen and attempts to predict the outcome are as impossible as they are pointless. Great reads both!

And now, as well as Heinlein, I'm about to start 'The Glass Key' (1931) by Dashiell Hammett, for the first time.
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Hubert (Hubert)
Username: Hubert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 178.116.57.160
Posted on Tuesday, August 23, 2011 - 01:19 pm:   

Halfway through Etchison's Darkside.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Wednesday, August 24, 2011 - 02:27 am:   

Ah, The Glass Key and Darkside, both being read by my surrogates.... I've long wanted to know how both are, so do report, you guys.

Me, halfway through Gene Wolfe's first of a two-parter, The Knight - didn't really intend to read it, read the first two pages on a whim one day, and then couldn't stop. Extremely odd fantasy novel, I find, with a high-concept core to it: teen boy is suddenly transformed into your classic adult knight, in a fantasy world. It's rich, impeccable Wolfe, sheer beauty and absolutely engaging; but then I'm a fan already, and it's hard for him to do be able to do wrong by me....
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.176.250.238
Posted on Wednesday, August 24, 2011 - 10:06 am:   

Currently I'm most of the way through "The Hendon Fungus" which I last read in the late 'sixties!
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John Llewellyn Probert (John_l_probert)
Username: John_l_probert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 213.253.174.81
Posted on Wednesday, August 24, 2011 - 10:16 am:   

I'm reading The Psychic Detective by R Chetwynd-Hayes - a book I've been trying to track down for the last 15 years. At last my collection is complete!
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 129.11.77.197
Posted on Wednesday, August 24, 2011 - 10:31 am:   

"At last my collection is complete!"
-- John L Probert

Do not go into his cellar!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, August 24, 2011 - 04:58 pm:   

Interesting that the heroes of Dashiell Hammett's novels drifted ever further away from the official law as his writing progressed. From the cold professionalism of the Agency Detective to the moral ambiguity of the Private Detective to the streetwise Gambler, bluffing his way through life on the fringes of criminality, in 'The Glass Key' - wonderfully atmospheric so far and with all the plot intricacy of 'Red Harvest' already evident, only more controlled.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, August 25, 2011 - 11:12 am:   

'White Corridor' finally arrived and after reading the opening chapter the cold turkey symptoms have mercifully abated and I feel the familiar warm glow enveloping me... all is right with the world.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.4.19.77
Posted on Saturday, August 27, 2011 - 03:53 pm:   

Bob has surpassed himself. Finished 'Orphans Of The Sky' (1941) from the halfway mark in one riveted sitting last night. You know that feeling of awestruck excitement you get when in the hands of an absolute master storyteller who is firing on every cylinder. Hair standing up on the back of the neck, goosebumps shivering over the skin, eyes dancing, braincells firing in a frenzy of wonder at each successive revelation amid a series of impromptu gasps, laughs and strangled sobs - I even had to stop and hug myself a few times. What an absolutely magnificent read!!

I haven't felt such a surge of pure adrenalin from a work of pulp genre writing since I first discovered Robert E. Howard. This tremendous adventure - an apocalyptic horror story set in deep space - has all the same strengths. A host of vividly drawn and unforgettable characters inhabiting an intricately detailed world with an entire history and culture mapped out - based, unflinchingly, on cannibalism and the hunting of people by tribal gangs as the only means of survival in a vast enclosed self-regulating starship, the nature and purpose of which has long been forgotten by its mutated inhabitants - who call it Universe. Here are astonishingly graphic and un-PC scenes of high octane action, jaw-dropping violence and almost casual horror that, to the characters, and eventually to us, are merely the facts of life. The fight scenes are some of the best I have read and we're not talking ray-guns or disintegrators, all long since broken down and forgotten, we're talking swords, knives, axes, clubs, sling-shots, hands, feet, teeth and all the bone-crunching ruthlessness of a streetfight in hell - thrilling no-holds barred stuff that isn't for wusses!

But what makes this such an intense page-turner is the thrill of knowing anything can happen to any of the characters at any moment. And what a cast. In the nightmare world they unquestionably inhabit a small group, flung together by circumstance - and who are now engrained in my soul as some of my favourite fictional characters - stumble upon a perception of the truth and embark on a journey through the vast hulk toward the fabled Control Room and Outside. What they go through, the dangers they run, the discoveries they make, their various reactions to what we know and they can barely perceive, and the ultimate fate of each of them is the stuff of every genre fans dreams. And the ending has to be one of the defining moments of science fiction. It had me on the floor at the sheer effrontery of Heinlein's manipulation of the reader's emotions. This is now possibly my favourite of his novels and - even more than 'Glory Road' !! - is his most gloriously entertaining.

"Good Bobo! Strong Bobo!".. don't ask... <choke>
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.4.19.77
Posted on Saturday, August 27, 2011 - 04:08 pm:   

That's put me in the mood for some more pulp adventure.

So it's back to Nehwon with the Fritz Leiber novel 'The Swords Of Lankhmar' (1968). I've missed those two miscreants.
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Hubert (Hubert)
Username: Hubert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 178.118.79.160
Posted on Saturday, August 27, 2011 - 04:28 pm:   

This sounds a lot like Paolo Eleuteri Serpieri's graphic novel Morbus Gravis, so he may have been influenced by Heinlein. The humans in this story have long forgotten that they're in fact inhabiting a huge spaceship. Everybody is into scoring serum lest they turn into one of the squid-like horrors stalking the nethermost regions. Druuna, the sexy heroine, follows her rapidly mutating boyfriend to the higher levels which are controlled by strangeley hooded priests, where they learn what happens to individuals deemed healthy enough to be admitted to these very much forbidden sections of their world. Recommended. The artwork is simply stunning. Unfortunately Serpieri lost the plot somewhat in the four or five sequels, wherein the gratuitous sex and violence are rather more explicit, to the detriment of the plot.

http://www.druuna.net/bienvenue-an.htm?page=album-an
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Saturday, August 27, 2011 - 05:02 pm:   

I remember greatly liking GLORY ROAD, Stevie, back in the day. Good pulp adventure sounds just delicious to me too, so I'll be scouting now for ORPHANS OF THE SKY.

Do report on SWORDS OF LANKHMAR, a novel that's remained quite, quite high in my memory, since I read it... fuck, I don't want to think how long ago I read it, that will just depress me....
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Saturday, August 27, 2011 - 07:50 pm:   

btw: Can I make a request that we again upgrade this ongoing thread to version 8.0? It's back to taking forever to load into my cell phone, etc., so....
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.4.19.77
Posted on Sunday, August 28, 2011 - 02:05 pm:   

Hubert, it sounds like the entire plot was lifted, quite shamelessly, by your description. I bet the humans inhabiting the spaceship are the descendants of those who survived the Great Mutiny - or something similar! A quest to the outer levels of the Ship populated by many limbed radioactive mutations and ruled over by a mysterious elite of "Scientists"... at least Heinlein acknowledged his own influence in the form of Dumas' 'The Three Musketeers' - the rip-roaring spirit of which OOTS brilliantly emulates, while sticking to its own bleak vision of a dead-end future.

Here's a wonderful, typically exciting and humorous, early passage from 'Orphans Of The Sky' that gives a flavour of Heinlein's unique way with story and characters:

"The trouble with you youngsters," Joe-Jim [a two-headed mutant, this is Joe speaking] said, "is that if you can't understand a thing right off, you think it can't be true. The trouble with your elders is, anything they didn't understand they reinterpreted to mean something else and then thought they understood it. None of you has tried believing clear words the way they were written and then tried to understand them on that basis. Oh, no, you're all too bloody smart for that - if you can't see it right off, it ain't so - it must mean something different."

"What do you mean?" Hugh asked suspiciously.

"Well, take the Trip, for instance. What does it mean to you?"

"Well - to my mind, it doesn't mean anything. It's just a piece of nonsense to impress the peasants."

"And what is the accepted meaning?"

"Well - it's where you go when you die - or rather what you do. You make the Trip to Centaurus."

"And what is Centaurus?"

"It's - mind you, I'm just telling you the orthodox answers; I don't really believe this stuff - it's where you arrive when you've made the Trip, a place where everybody's happy and there's always good eating."

Joe snorted. Jim broke the rhythm of his snoring, opened one eye, and settled back again with a grunt. "That's just what I mean," Joe went on in a low whisper. "You don't use your head. Did it ever occur to you that the Trip was just what the old books said it was - the Ship and all the Crew actually going somewhere, moving?"

Hoyland thought about it. "You don't mean for me to take you seriously. Physically, it's an impossibility. The Ship can't go anywhere. It already is everywhere. We can make a trip through it, but the Trip - that has to have a spiritual meaning, if it has any."

Joe called on Jordan to support him [Jordan is the mythical God who created the Ship/Universe]. "Now, listen," he said, "get this through that thick head of yours. Imagine a place a lot bigger than the Ship, a lot bigger, with the Ship inside it - moving. D'you get it?"

Hugh tried. He tried very hard. He shook his head. "It doesn't make sense," he said. "There can't be anything bigger than the Ship. There wouldn't be any place for it to be."

"Oh, for Huff's sake! [Huff is the mythical leader of the Mutiny who cast them out of Jordan's grace] Listen - outside the Ship, get that? Straight down beyond the level in every direction. Emptiness out there. Understand me?"

"But there isn't anything below the lowest level. That's why it's the lowest level."

"Look. If you took a knife and started digging a hole in the floor of the lowest level, where would it get you?"

"But you can't. It's too hard."

"But suppose you did and it made a hole. Where would that hole go? Imagine it."

Hugh shut his eyes and tried to imagine digging a hole in the lowest level. Digging - as if it were soft - soft as cheese.

He began to get some glimmering of a possibility, a possibility that was unsettling, soul-shaking. He was falling, falling into a hole that he had dug which had no levels under it. He opened his eyes very quickly. "That's awful!" he cried. "I won't believe it."

Joe-Jim got up. "I'll make you believe it," he said grimly, "if I have to break your neck to do it."


And they're off... I almost want to read it again now.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, September 01, 2011 - 05:48 pm:   

Almost finished 'White Corridor' and it marks an intriguing change of direction for the series away from a straight whodunnit into the contained suspense thriller sub-genre.

Almost all of the action takes place over a couple of days stuck in a traffic jam in the wilds of Cornwall during one of the harshest winters Britain has experienced. Our heroes were on their way to a Spiritualist's Convention in Plymouth, for a hard earned break, and due to Bryant's navigating from a road-map that predates the Great War, they end up stuck in a snowdrift somewhere on Dartmoor, with a number of other hapless vehicles. With no sign of rescue due to the ferocity of the blizzards the occupants find themselves having to huddle together and share their food and resources - with mobile reception fluctuating as erratically as their tempers.

Then one of the drivers is found brutally slain at the wheel and it becomes apparent that one of their number is a blood crazed homicidal maniac! What follows is a kind of homage to those old dark house mysteries, that Bob Hope used to star in, only strung out along a line of vehicles, rapidly being buried under the snow, while engines cool, heat dissipates and outside temperatures plunge below -20.

But as if all that wasn't enough back at the PCU in London one of the team has been found dead in mysterious circumstances and, during periods of mobile reception, they must try to unravel that mystery as well - was it accident, suicide or murder. And could there be a link to their own predicament?

The comic entertainment value of having those two old buggers stuck together for days in a car with nothing better to do but get on each other's nerves is priceless while the horror/suspense elements are handled as rivetingly as anything Fowler ever penned. Think 'The Cat And The Canary' meets 'The Thing' and you're part of the way there. Once again this is an almost ridiculously entertaining read - with all the intricacies of plot and character and circumstance quite brilliantly woven together!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, September 02, 2011 - 04:15 pm:   

Finished it and solved half the mystery. So make that 2˝ out of 5 so far. The final chapters are the most intensely suspenseful and wickedly ingenious of the series to date. Fowler's mastery of his characters (cherishable every one) and the classic plot mechanics of a good old mystery grow ever more assured. He knows how to entertain by aping the likes of Doyle, Chesterton, Christie & Marsh while lovingly taking the piss out of them at the same time. The results, I say again, are the most wondrous works of genre literature it has been my pleasure to read this millennium so far. He deserves some kind of a medal for services to storytelling, imho.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, September 02, 2011 - 04:32 pm:   

Here's how I'd rank the first 5 volumes:

1. 'The Ten Second Staircase' (2006) - spectral Highwayman killing annoying celebrities and becoming a cult hero in the process.
2. 'Full Dark House' (2003) - cast of an Offenbach musical being picked off by hideous creature that haunts the theatre.
3. 'The Water Room' (2004) - haunted house and a series of deaths by "freak accident" present an impossible mystery.
4. 'White Corridor' (2007) - group stranded in blizzard are preyed upon by one of their number, a deranged serial killer.
5. 'Seventy-Seven Clocks' (2005) - ancient death curse strikes down members of an aristocratic family.

But there's barely a hair's breadth between any of them, imo.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.66.23.11
Posted on Friday, September 02, 2011 - 05:34 pm:   

I'm reading Solar by Ian McEwan (God knows how because it's a hardback and you know how difficult they are to read) and really enjoying it.

I wish he'd switched the events in the opening 20 pages round a bit though. I was becoming intensely irritated by the lead character (or was that because I had to turn the pages by myself) at the beginning with the description of his home life. Once he started on his work life the character suddenly became interesting and I could make myself finally give a shit about his problems at home. If he'd just given us a working day followed by his home misadventures I would have liked the character from the start.

If it had gone on a few more pages about his home and love life I might have shelved the book for another try in the future.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.66.23.11
Posted on Friday, September 02, 2011 - 05:35 pm:   

I think we do need to start WAYR8 though. This one's getting a bit long.

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