Friday 21 November 2014

Nunslinger Review

Nunslinger Stark Holborn

Nunslinger: The Complete Series by Stark…

The true tale of how Sister Thomas Josephine of St. Louiis Missouri, began to cross the Overland Trail to Sacramento, California with the help of one Abraham C. Muir … So starts a remarkable set of books, first serialised and now collected together in one volume for your delectation. The books recount how Sister Thomas Josephine becomes the “Six-Gun Sister”, a fugitive, running from the law, the bluecoats and the church in civil war era United States. She is waylaid on her way to the promise of a new life in Sacramento California when her wagon train is attacked by Indians. There she meets Lt. Carthy, a handsome cavalry officer and Abraham C Muir a mysterious drifter, two men that fate ties her to. Spurred by a desire to do good in a difficult world Sister Thomas Josephine embarks on a set of adventures that will keep you turning the pages.

There is some beautiful writing here, very evocative and you can almost smell the sweat, leather, beans and coffee that pervade the book. Because it was a serial it does of course feel episodic, but this is a bonus as you can rest between each novella length adventure or gorge on the whole thing as the regular cliffhangers draw you ever onwards. Full of memorable characters and places this is a must for any fan of the Western and a great place to start if you’ve never explored the genre before.

Overall – Great Western which ticks all the boxes and yet also manages to feel fresh. It also has a beautiful cover

Thursday 20 November 2014

Crowdfunding a book

Regular readers will know that I've been running a Fundsurfing campaign to get the North Bristol Writing Group anthology published:

We have gone over 50% and we have 22 days left - so we need a big push for the last three weeks!

I'd like to publicly thank everyone who has pledged so far but ask that if you haven't pledged to please do so. The minimum pledge is £1 which is less than a cup of tea in most cafes and £5 gets you the ebook and £10 gets you a copy of the physical book both of which will have your name in for being a supporter. There are plenty of other rewards so please do check out the link above.

I've also been interviewed about it over on Judy Darley's excellent SkyLightRain blog -

Thursday 13 November 2014

Interview with Jonathan Oliver - Editor of Dangerous Games

Jonathan Oliver is the multi-award winning editor of The End of The Line, Magic, House of Fear, End of the Road and Dangerous Games. He’s also written a couple of novels and a bunch of short stories. He lives in Abingdon with his family and their cat.

We asked Jonathan a bunch of questions about the latest anthology Dangerous Games

UK: 9781781082652 | 4th December 2014 | £7.99
US: 9781781082683 | 4th December 2014 | $7.99

Available in paperback and ebook

In a world ruled by chance, one rash decision could bring down the house, one roll of the dice could bring untold wealth, or the end of everything.

The players have gathered around the table, each to tell their story—often dark, always compelling. Within you will find tales of the players and the played, lives governed by games deadly, weird, or downright bizarre.

In this anthology of the weird and the macabre, multi-award-winning editor Jonathan Oliver brings
together a diverse collection of voices from some of today’s finest writers, to create an original and fresh collection that’s unlike anything you’ve read before.

Dangerous Games features new works from Hugo award-winners, brilliant new talents and best-selling authors, including: Chuck Wendig, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Lavie Tidhar, Benjanun Sriduangkaew, Paul Kearney, Libby McGugan, Yoon Ha Lee, Gary Northfield, Melanie Tem, Hillary Monahan, Tade Thompson, Rebecca Levene, Ivo Stourton, Gary McMahon, Robert Shearman, Nik Vincent, Helen Marshall, and Pat Cadigan.

Roll the bones at your own risk December 2014…

The Joy of Cross Genre-ing a guest post by Erik Williams

Erik Williams: Website / Twitter

Erik Williams is a former Naval Officer and current defense contractor (but he's not allowed to talk about it).  He is also the author of the novel Demon and numerous other small press works and short stories. He currently lives in San Diego with his wife and three very young daughters. When he's not at his day job, he can usually be found changing diapers or coveting carbohydrates.  At some point in his life, he was told by a few people he had potential.  Recently, he told himself he's the bee's knees.  Erik prefers to refer to himself in the third person but feels he's talked about himself enough and will grant your eyeballs the freedom they deserve. 

Cross genre novels?  I guess you could say all genre novels, in some form, are a cross genre novel.  I mean, there is no such thing as a pure horror novel.  Often there are elements of historical fiction (like Interview with the Vampire), or crime and mystery (like Falling Angel), or even military fiction (like my recent novel Demon). 

The point is, genres overlap.  They always have.  However, there are that stand out more than other. 
You can see them practically bleeding multiple genres, and with awesome results.

So, here are five cross genre novels worth your time:

  1. Dying of the Light by George R. R. Martin.  I was going to list Martin’s Fevre Dream here (historical fiction meets vampires on the Mississippi) but Dying of the Light just sticks out more as a cross genre whammy of a book. It’s got blood magic, the resurrection of the dead, the world coursing toward apocalypse, while at the same time being a “hey, we’re getting the band back together” story.  It’s equal parts horror and strange love letter to 70’s era rock.Dying of the Light by George R. R. Martin                                                                                                                             
  2. Song of Kali by Dan Simmons.  Simmons has really delved, in recent years, into a lot of historical/horror fiction but, for me, Song of Kali is still his best.  It’s got horror!  It’s got mystery!  It’s got the most unflattering travel journal of Calcutta you’ll ever read!Song of Kali by Dan Simmons                                                                                                                            
  3. The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers.  When you think about it, Tim Powers is probably the greatest cross genre writer ever.  You can take his whole catalogue and throw it up here.  But I’ll stick to what is probably his most popular book.  Time travel, Victorian London, murder, Egyptian mythology mixed with sorcery, people that might be immortal, disfigured crazy people living in the London sewers, oh and duplicates of people.  Yeah, try classifying this book under a single genre                                                                               .The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers                                                                                 
  4. VALIS by Philip K. Dick.  I don’t even know how to describe this book.  Sci-fi meets religious thriller?  Modern thriller meets philosophical exegesis?  Or simply a fantastical autobiography (I mean, Philip K. Dick is two characters in this book: the narrator and Horselover Fat (which is the German translation of “Philip” and “Dick” respectively).  No matter how you cut it, it’s a strange book but also fantastic.                                                                          VALIS by Philip K. Dick                                                                                   
  5. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess.  You might say, “Hey, this is dystopian fiction. It’s not cross genre.” I respectfully disagree.  This is more than dystopian fiction.  You could also call it a psychological thriller.  A horror novel.  Hell, you could call it social commentary meets sci-fi meets crime.  However, to me, it is also an early rendition of the modern serial killer story.  I don’t say that because Alex is a serial killer (he isn’t).  I say that because he is absolutely a person who has an anti-social personality (a key ingredient in serial killers).  The novel’s examination of his personality (and attempts to alter him) is just as effective as any rendered in Thomas Harris’s novels                                                                  .A Clockwork Orange
Many thanks to Erik for the interesting post!

Monday 10 November 2014

Thoughts on Interstellar

Spoilers definitely ahead.

"So you're the guy who hates films?" - That was the comment I got when I was introduced to a friend of a friend. Perhaps I should start crowing about films I like as much as ranting about films I hate? I'm passionate about my likes and dislikes.

Interstellar though? It's another hate, and let me tell you why.

Although there were a lot of science errors that wasn't the reason I walked out of the cinema with almost an hour left of the film to play. It was down to the implausibility & unbelievability of the plot, the lack of characterisation, the clumsy childish script and it was just plain dull.

It's supposed to be all emotional, but without putting the work in to make us care about the characters all that emotion on screen just leave you cold, seems like annoying whinging rather than pulling at your heartstrings, like Nolan obviously wants to.

The film starts with a Death of Grass plot - although set firmly, and only, in the USA - the situation in the rest of the world is not discussed but the US is a dustbowl with corn being the last viable crop. There is an anti-science thread, the government hide the fact they are spending money on a space program, the world needs "farmers, not engineers" (although it seems McConaughey's character Cooper, as a former astronaut, is the only local who can fix the robotic combine harvesters and everyone still drives everywhere).

Anyway a "ghost" communicates with Cooper's daughter Murph - duh wonder why it was her chosen? a set of co-ordinates which leads Cooper to the remnants of NASA who are about to launch a mission through a wormhole where Twelve brave explorers have previously gone  to find a new home for humanity. Queue an extended homage to Kubrick's 2001 which lasts until they get to the wormhole.

Apparently Cooper is the right man for the job of piloting the spaceship (it's just like riding a bike apparently) and he readily agrees although on the actual mission his fellow crewmates keep giving him the exposition in a "another thing we didn't tell you before we blasted off into space" dialogue. Clumsy. One of the things they didn't bother to tell him was that the potentially habitable planets were orbiting a black hole. Still he's only the pilot.

After all the hype that this was the most accurate black hole in the history of cinema it's a bit odd that this is where the director decided to ignore the science the most. Discarding even basic planetary orbital dynamics and using the theory of relativity was OK until you think about what being so close to that gravity well would actually do to the planet, never mind the people.

There's a plan A - a spaceship that requires a manipulation of gravity to work. And Michael Caine's character has been working on an equation for the last forty years that will get it to work. There's a big reveal later on that the only way to make the equation work would be to get information from beyond the event horizon of the massive black hole around which some of the planets the explorers have found orbit.

There's a plan B which is to seed the new world with frozen embryos and Adam and Eve it. Matt Damon plays a scientist explorer that apparently later turns out to be a bad guy (I left very shortly after his character was introduced) and apparently Cooper is the one who communicates with his daughter, and therefore his own earlier self, the co-ordinates, which send him off to save humanity by communicating with himself in the past to go off and save humanity by communicating with himself  in the past to ... yeah it's a paradox even though this isn't a time travel film. There is a discussion of relativity, because it seems that if you go down to one of the planets each hour on that planet is 7 years back on Earth.

Anyway the plot bollocks isn't the real reason I hated this film, although I'm less likely to excuse it because of the poor scripting and characterisation.

Nolan's agenda was showing, a lot, as he artlessly hammered you with it, again and again. But it's confused, because you know at the same time he's obviously criticising the way NASA is funded he is also telling you that science is dumb (in a death of grass - it's our own fault sort of way) and later in the film basically hitting you over the head with his main message. We shouldn't (apparently) use logic and reasoning because what your gut tells you is much more important, because "love" transcends time and space and is the fifth dimension. Yep that's right at the heart of this film is some seriously woo hippy nonsense.

I'm so glad I walked out whilst he was still setting up this crass message. You see Cooper chooses a rational path at first (there may be other characters in this film but they pretty much have zero agency and it's all about Cooper) which turns out to be wrong.

Apparently after Matt Damon exhibits why "the best of us" is a stupid, cowardly jerk (yes it's another brilliant scientist being dumb trope). The film jettisons any pretence of being scientific, rips off Kubrick's 2001 a bit more and Cooper enters the black hole.

Anyway that's after I left so not sure I can criticise the last hour of the film. I'll concentrate on why I walked.

It was dumb. It was lazy. I failed to engage with any character, although everyone else only existed to orbit Cooper's gravity. It was dull. Nolan spent far too long setting up things that could have been better told in narrative summary and frittered away some interesting stuff in narrative summary which would have been better in immediate scene.

I can cope with the dumb if the movie entertains me. Hell I go to Bad Film Club every month and watch 'aweful' films and enjoy them. However the key difference (apart from sobriety) is entertainment. The film was just boring, as well as nonsensical. And to me, that's unforgivable.

Friday 7 November 2014

Interview with Stark Holborn

Stark Holborn ©

Small time liquor bootlegger, purveyor of Penny Westerns and author of Nunslinger.
Stark Holborn is an enigmatic character with a six-gallon hat and a past shrouded in mystery. Nunslinger is Stark’s first published work.
We at Bristol Book Blog caught up with Stark and Hornswoggled an interview whilst Stark was busy breaking in a fractious Equus Ferus right here in the Mild, Mild West:

Book Giveaway - Nunslinger!

We've been very lucky here at the Bristol Book Blog to snatch a couple of copies of Nunslinger from under the noses of those varmints over at Hodder. Now these books are hotter than a desert full of cactus and tastier than baked beans and jerky, and you can get your hands on one before publication day.

All you have to do is recommend us your favourite book in the Western genre. Of course Bristol Book Blog likes recommendations so tell us the author, the name of the book and why it's your favourite Western and you could lasso a copy of this mighty fine lookin', (heck it's real goshdarn purty), book.

2 Lucky winners will be in the quick draw on Wednesday November 19th so get your thinkin' caps on and good luck pardners!

Urban Fantasy Magazine

The first issue of Urban Fantasy Magazine is out as a "pay what you like" download. I've written a few reviews for them, which will be in forthcoming issues. Take a look & download, pay what you like for the great content -

Wednesday 5 November 2014

Reviews - The Thicket, by Joe R Lansdale & The guest cat by Takashi Hiraide

The Thicket by Joe R Lansdale

The Thicket by Joe R. Lansdale

The story opens with Jack’s parents dying of smallpox. His grandfather decides to take him and his sister to their aunt’s and along the way they cross a set of bankrobbers who kidnap his sister. Jack hires two unconventional bounty hunters: a dwarf named Shorty and a black gravedigger named Eustace who has a Hog companion (not pet). It’s set in turn of the century Texas and the hunters must travel to “The Thicket” an iniquitous den of thieves, murderers, rapists and other ne’er do wells with several adventures along the way.

“He’s right you know,” Jimmy Sue said, “ Just a year ago I kept thinking this ain’t fair, the way things have turned out for me. Then it comes to me clear as spring rain. Life is just what it is, and it ain’t fair at all.”
“Can’t we make it fair?”
“You can try, but all that other unfairness keeps seeping in.”

There’s an underlying message that life is just what it is and a tension between God-fearing Jack and reality, as the other characters see it. There is a loss of innocence and a worry of corruption threaded throughout. Lansdale is a wordsmith, full of pretty turns of phrase (or should that be ‘purty’) and the Wild West is beautifully pictured. 

”I had a thought that if I didn’t run for it I was going to be dead next, so I broke and made like a rabbit, hit that back door so hard it came off its hinges, and me and it went out into the back there. A bullet came past me like it had to meet someone downtown and was late, and gave me a hot kiss on the ear as it passed.”

The plot is fairly standard for Westerns but that doesn’t make it any less of a page turner. It’s full of memorable characters but of course the Hog is the best one. 

Overall – Dark Western with a mean streak and gallows humour. Recommended.

The guest cat by Takashi Hiraide

The Guest Cat

A couple in their 30’s renting a cottage in a quiet part of Tokyo work as freelance writers, from home. They no longer have much to say to each other. One day a cat invites itself into their lives, visiting from next door, a “guest cat”. It transforms their lives, they begin to order their lives around the cat’s visits, cooking it special meals, playing for hours with it with a ping pong ball. Then the landlord dies and everything changes. This is a philosophical book about ownership and property and a very quick read (140 pages). It lacks a certain feeling of story, being more espisodic and without a clear structural beginning, middle and end. If you can get past that and are a cat lover I think you’ll love this book. The prose is quite beautiful and thoughtful but lack of story meant it failed to sink its teeth into my imagination. The narrator notes that he wrote a number of articles that turned into the book you’re reading and I wonder if this is autobiographical. There’s a number of translator’s notes in the back which further elucidate what could be obscure facts about Japanese society.

Overall – Cute, thoughtful and well observed cat and cat owner behaviour.

Monday 3 November 2014

Interview with Tom Greer

Tom Greer was born, raised and educated in Glasgow. He's also lived in London, Germany, Belfast and the North West of England and currently lives in the South West of England.

An Expendable Spy is his debut novel.

Follow Tom Greer on Twitter @tomgreerwriter

Visit and Like Tom Greer's Facebook page at

We asked Tom all the usual questions

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