“Bing crooned on the speakers. The orchestra swooned. Moonlight shone through half-drawn blinds, lushly pooled with the shadowless light and the smoke. Well-heeled couples laughed and kissed, half-aglow like Christmas bulbs. Life didn’t get any better than this, even on this dreadful night.” Continue reading
Opening this crime spoof at the first page, I had no real idea what to expect. Having read several of Bill Kirton’s witty, inventive blog posts, however, I had an idea that I’d enjoy it, and I was happy to be proved right. This is a gripping and frequently hilarious read, which switches effortlessly between multiple points of view and is told in crisp, intelligent writing. Writing comedy is hard – for some of us it’s impossible – so I always admire writers who can make me laugh, and Bill Kirton is one of them. The Sparrow Conundrum is also a daring book, in some ways – Kirton defies the received wisdom put forward in a hundred creative writing courses, for example, by opening the book with an incident involving two characters who don’t play any further part in the action. And you know what? It works. Continue reading
A little while ago, author Jane Steen wrote about the much-neglected question of author ethics. Events since then have proved that this vexed issue is one we all need to think about. From one author who published an account (in a national broadsheet, no less) of how she stalked an unimpressed reviewer, to another who allegedly physically assaulted a lady who wrote a lukewarm review of his book, badly behaved authors have been in the news, confirming readers’ worst fears and indirectly tarnishing the reputation of all authors. Continue reading
Recently I read The Black Douglas by Victorian novelist S.R. Crockett, whose works have recently been republished by Ayton Publishing. Being introduced to Crockett was an interesting and enlightening experience. Here we have an author who was, in his lifetime, as popular as Dickens. Just over a century later, he’s largely forgotten (though he might be about to make a comeback, thanks to Cally Phillips and Ayton Publishing). Crockett seems to be one of the victims of changing literary tastes, a writer whose standing in his lifetime has not been reflected in the years following his death. Continue reading
As regular readers of this blog will know, I’ve been busy moving house of late, which is why I’ve been so quiet recently. But my favourite festival, Hallowe’en, is upon us, and so I decided to pull myself away from my cardboard boxes for just long enough to write a celebratory blog post. I toyed with the idea of writing a serious critical evaluation of the works of Poe or Lovecraft, but rejected it for two reasons: firstly, it would take too long, and secondly, moving house has scrambled my brains and it will be months before I can do, think or write anything even remotely clever again. Continue reading
I’ve never been a particularly materialistic person. When I was a child, I dreamed of running away with the Raggle-Taggle Gypsies, like in the old ballad. Not for me a suburban semi and a stack of debts. Oh no! I was going to live in a caravan, travel wherever I wanted, and cook over a camp fire. Later – and not long after I came to the disappointing realisation that most modern gypsies don’t in fact live in old-fashioned wagons and wear gold hoop earrings – that dream was transmuted into a burning desire to travel the world with no more than I could stuff into a backpack.
I achieved neither ambition, sadly, but I think they’ve nevertheless left their mark on my personality. I am, by nature, pretty nomadic. Every few years I get itchy feet and find myself yearning for a change of scenery. Continue reading
Historical novelist Jane Steen recently wrote this piece about the troubling question of ethics in the self-publishing arena. It’s a question that seems to me to get not nearly enough attention, and I’m glad that Steen has finally shone a light into some of self-publishing’s murkier corners. It’s about time. Continue reading